Tags:
  1. Hubardo
    Offline

    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,075
    Likes Received:
    566

    The Anthropology Thread

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Hubardo, Mar 19, 2016.

    On another forum, some cool antho ideas were sparking cool discussions. I figured you guys would appreciate a thread like this, maybe. Studying anthropology is probably helpful for worldbuilding, and like, appreciating human diversity and stuff.

    Feel free to share quotes, excerpts, articles, books, videos, or your own perspective on anthropological concepts here.

    My contribution:

    Came across this paper recently, called Women In Paleolithic and Neolithic Times (edit to add: after further investigation (see below), it looks like the 80/20 ratio in this piece may not be accurate):

    Anthropologists have surveyed nearly two hundred hunter/gathering cultures in Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and have developed some fundamental points on these studies. While hunting was almost exclusively done by males, it was inefficient as a means for providing food. Meat from the kill comes in irregularly and infrequently, and cannot be stored adequately. Kung Bushmen of Botswana hunt strenuously for a week, and rest the other three weeks. Thus, women's gathering of the food stuffs not men's hunting, sustains the tribe of these present-day Stone Age cultures. Hunting by men provides twenty percent of the nourishment, but women regularly produce eighty percent of the tribe's total food consumed. These conclusions can then be transferred backward to the hunting/gathering societies of prehistoric cultures. Women in these ancient times must not have relied on the men for food. Through teeth analysis it has been discovered that grain, nuts and fruits were the major foods not meat. It was long thought that the "Ice Man" found in the Italian Alps in 1991 was a hunter who had died on a quest for big game. New analysis of his hair shows that most of his proteins came from vegetable sources, which his teeth corroborate. He ate very little meat, and in the months before he died, his diet did not include meat. Successful gathering demanded and developed skills of discrimination, evaluation and memory. The range of seeds, nutshells and grasses discovered at primitive sites in Africa 2 indicate careful and knowledgeable selection rather than random gleaning.
    One of my favorite anthropologists, Wade Davis, talks a bunch about culture:




    A quote I grabbed from Goodreads, from Jared Diamond's super popular book Guns, Germs and Steel:

    It seems logical to suppose that history's pattern reflects innate differences among people themselves. Of course, we're taught that it's not polite to say so in public. We see in our daily lives that some of the conquered peoples continue to form an underclass, centuries after the conquests or slave imports took place. We're told that this too is to be attributed not to any biological shortcomings but to social disadvantages and limited opportunities.

    Nevertheless, we have to wonder. We keep seeing all those glaring, persistent differences in peoples' status. We're assured that the seemingly transparent biological explanation for the world's inequalities as of A.D. 1500 is wrong, but we're not told what the correct explanation is. Until we have some convincing, detailed, agreed-upon explanation for the broad pattern of history, most people will continue to suspect that the racist biological explanation is correct after all. That seems to me the strongest argument for writing this book.​

    Share away!
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
    Oscar Leigh and GingerCoffee like this.
  2. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    So I saw today and shared this link with someone else. It talks about a test that was done on several groups of people that showed that ancient humans did in fact mate with another now extinct human group called Denosivans and with Neanderthals.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/homo-sapiens-sex-extinct-species-no-one-night-012711275.html
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  3. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    One of my degrees is in anthropology. I'm going to say something that you might find knee-jerk offensive, but please read until I'm done.
    Racism gets a bad rap.
    Okay, by "racism," I -don't- mean "blacks are less than whites which are less than yellows" or anything which might smell anything like that.
    If we take evolution as a given, then does it not make sense that there would be selective pressures on a lineage of people based on their environment? This is to say that a group who has been living as pastoralists might have certain selective pressures that a group living on swidden agriculture might not (and vice versa)? Or that a group who have been sailors for a very long time (such as the Polynesians) might have selective pressures that a group living on complex agriculture might not (and vice versa)? Does it not make sense that some of these selective pressures would affect the evolution of the brain, just as we _know_ that some of those selective pressures affect other aspects of the human organism (such as adaptation to living at high altitude).
    I am NOT saying that a group of people might be inherently smarter than another group. I am saying that they might be better equipped for some mental task X due to human biological variation.
    And it makes sense that a modern society may depend on mental task X more than it depends on mental task Y.

    Of course, we must also be careful to differentiate between race and clade. When I said that "racism gets a bad rap," I meant that discussing a biological basis for performance gets a bad rap. Actual _races_ don't exist.
     
  4. Hubardo
    Offline

    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,075
    Likes Received:
    566
    One of my degrees is also in (cultural) anthropology. There are many ways in which I could respond but I feel that you may have just made it inevitable that this thread be exiled into the Debate Room, which I was really hoping wouldn't happen. Maybe you could start a new thread in the Debate Room about the definition of racism, and talk about biology, performance, ability, the brain, and all those interesting things there? Or not. Your choice. I just hate the Debate Room.
     
  5. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY

    I think you have just crossed the line. If you want to debate how you hate the debate room, maybe you need to start a new thread in the debate room.
















    :supercheeky:
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  6. Guttersnipe
    Offline

    Guttersnipe Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    39
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    I wonder what percentage of the total calories that Inuit woman were able to forage?

    I think that making a sweeping statement like 80% is an unsupportable generalization. A lot will have to do with how easy it was to get meat in any particular environment. I think it's a given that primitive humans would prefer meat, since it's a far more efficient way to acquire calories (otherwise predators wouldn't exist), but foraging would fill in the shortages.
     
  7. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY

    Well actually, Inuit people generally got a lot of their calories from eating whales and other aquatic animals.

    Whale blubber calories: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/ethnic-foods/8136/2

    Seal blubber calories...which is A LOT per serving: http://www.fitbit.com/foods/Seal+Blubber/18760

    Here is a list of some of the "meats" the Inuit ate:

    So they did eat some land mammals, a great deal of their diet revolved around aquatic creatures.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit_diet
     
  8. Hubardo
    Offline

    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,075
    Likes Received:
    566
    The traditional Inuit diet was extremely unique in the global sense. They subsisted mainly on marine flesh and obviously didn't have much ability to forage... although there were/are a variety of different Inuit people. Ones who lived further South hunted a lot of game and did some foraging as far as I remember, but undergrad was like 10 years ago now.

    Interesting point you're making... how do you think humans went from hunter-gatherers to industrial agriculturalists then? Based on what you're saying, it technically makes more sense for people to have remained in smaller groups, hunting and subsisting mostly on meat. Is it more inefficient to farm than to hunt?
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
  9. Guttersnipe
    Offline

    Guttersnipe Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    39
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    "Farming" includes animal husbandry as well as crops. But it's also a very different thing from foraging. Concentrating both your prey animals and your, uh, prey vegetables in one place so they can be harvested at will makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it seems to come with its own set of downsides, according to most anthropological studies.

    I was reacting more to the sweeping tone of the original post than anything else. 80/20 is entirely reasonable and possible in one set of circumstances, but the ratio would vary hugely by location and local ecology. As the extreme case of the Inuit illustrates. The breathless tone of "Wow, look at this very specific example" felt to me very much like there was a political agenda behind it.
     
  10. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    There is a theory called "economic circumscription". Basically, gathering calories from hunter gathering is pretty easy if you've got the know how. Even in the past century, there are people who live a rather modern life in Africa as farmers, but will switch over to hunter gathering when food is scare (due to drought or whatever). However, hunter gathering requires a lot of land. As population increases, that land is in more demand. People who are unable to be food producers (due to the scarcity of land) look for other things they can do and barter for food. Thus, specialization of labor emerges.
     
    Hubardo likes this.
  11. Hubardo
    Offline

    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,075
    Likes Received:
    566
    You bring up another issue which is what "hunter-gatherer" really means. The Inuit and the !Kung are both called hunter-gatherers ("by whom?" is another good question), but their environments are so different the category almost loses meaning.

    I did some Googling (I love me some Googling) -- "ratio of meat to vegetables hunter gatherers" and clicked some links. Two articles from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicate that hunter-gatherers subsist/ed on more than 50% animal food, contradicting my original post (and supporting what you're talking about). Some interesting stuff from one of the articles:

    When hunter-gatherers eventually extended their range into higher latitudes, where plant growth is greatly curtailed, they must have been forced to live largely or entirely on raw animal matter, including their own body fat. Alaskan Eskimos, for example, had an estimated total daily energy intake of 12552 kJ (3000 kcal): ≈50% from fat, ≈30–35% from protein, and ≈15–20% from carbohydrates, largely glycogen from meat (7).

    However, because some hunter-gatherer societies obtained most of their dietary energy from wild animal fat and protein does not imply that this is the ideal diet for modern humans, nor does it imply that modern humans have genetic adaptations to such diets. It does, however, indicate that humans can thrive on extreme diets as long as these diets contribute the full range of essential nutrients.

    Hunter-gatherer societies in other environments were doubtless eating very different diets, depending on the season and types of resources available. Hayden (3) stated that hunter-gatherers such as the !Kung might live in conditions close to the “ideal” hunting and gathering environment. What do the !Kung eat? Animal foods are estimated to contribute 33% and plant foods 67% of their daily energy intakes (1). Fifty percent (by wt) of their plant-based diet comes from the mongongo nut, which is available throughout the year in massive quantities (1). Similarly, the hunter-gatherer Hazda of Tanzania consume “the bulk of their diet” as wild plants, although they live in an area with an exceptional abundance of game animals and refer to themselves as hunters (18). In the average collecting area of an Aka Pygmy group in the African rain forest, the permanent wild tuber biomass is >4545 kg (>5 tons) (19).

    Australian aborigines in some locales are known to have relied seasonally on seeds of native millet (2) or a few wild fruit and seed species (20) to satisfy daily energy demands. Some hunter-gatherer societies in Papua New Guinea relied heavily on starch from wild sago palms as an important source of energy (21), whereas most hunter-gatherer societies in California depended heavily on acorn foods from wild oaks (22). - Hunter-gatherer diets—a different perspective
    The above article said it got its info from the Ethnographic Atlas, which I had never heard of.
     
  12. Guttersnipe
    Offline

    Guttersnipe Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    39
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada


    Current anthropological theories posit that it was the switchover to a largely meat-based diet that made it possible for our brains to evolve in the first place-- a plant-based diet would never have provided sufficient calories to support it.

    However, the bigger brains developed the concept of cutting up and cooking food, which not only made the calories easier to digest but also made the meat easier to chew. Which meant smaller jaws and associated musculature, which meant more room for brains (a fact which makes zombies happy). OTOH, cooked meat has carcinogens, and the richer calories that domesticated animals provide aren't very healthy either. BUT, all the biological machine cares about is that more calories in through this orifice converts to more babies and better brains.
     
  13. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY

    Well from a nutritional standpoint, the fats in the meats help with several functions in the body, including brain function and mood: http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/food/GoodFats/Pages/BoostBrainPowerwithGoodFats.aspx

    The fats help with your eyes: http://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/fatty_acid_1.htm

    Fats that can help your heart: http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/fats-boost-your-hearts-health

    The fats also help with building a layer of fat in your body that is essential in staying warm, which would have been very important to the Inuits.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  14. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    This is potentially unintentionally misleading. When Guttersnipe is talking about our brains evolving, he's not talking about distinctly homo sapien brains. He's talking about the fact that carnivores tend to have bigger brains than herbivores do.
     
  15. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,418
    Likes Received:
    1,980
    Location:
    Australia
    I've heard about that book. It's really cool how it explains nations having different states of progression. I would also like to point out that certain cultures, for example the Australian Aboriginals, were more advanced that the Europeans in some ares because of their lack of technology and science pursuit; they focused on other areas. Namely, hunting tactics, survival tactics, land navigation and medicine which they were sophisticated in.
     
  16. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,418
    Likes Received:
    1,980
    Location:
    Australia
    Well, it is true that increased meat-eating curves along with our development and the development of other primates like the chimpanzee.
     
  17. Guttersnipe
    Offline

    Guttersnipe Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    39
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    No, I actually am talking about Homo sap brains. The current thinking is that the switch from an herbivorous chimp-type diet to a scavenging/hunting diet when we moved to the savannah resulted in our ancestors being able to get enough calories to be able to afford larger brains. The brain takes up to 25% of our total calories, by some estimates. It's an expensive accessory, and not something you'd invest in if you're just getting by.
     
  18. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    I got my anthro degree back in the mid-90s, so I'm sure I'm a bit behind on the recent research. Still, if our larger brains were due to meat eating, then we should expect other carnivores (particularly exclusively carnivorous animals such as the cheetah who evolved in the same biome) to have brains comparable to our own.
    The most recent research that I am aware of suggests that homo sapiens were opportunistic (they ate whatever was available and followed carnivores around - like vultures).
     
  19. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,065
    Likes Received:
    5,266
    Location:
    California, US
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  20. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    I love the way that article says "Until, that is, we discovered meat" as if we just one day said, "I think I'll have some of that" and, also, "That period is when cut marks on animal bones appeared — not a predator's tooth marks, but incisions that could have been made only by a sharp tool. That's one sign of our carnivorous conversion." It is batshit crazy.

    The other things mentioned; tools and cooking, are well-established hypotheses.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2016
  21. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,418
    Likes Received:
    1,980
    Location:
    Australia
    It sounds like that because you're interpreting it that way. It's talking evolutionary time-scale where the period of spreading meat eating is the blink of an eye. Meat eating is also a well established hypothesis because it's very relevant. The nutrients are more or less necessary. So it's got to factor in in some way, even if you don't consider it an explanation per-se. I think it's probably a background enabler but I fail to see an explanation of how our brain didn't benefit from directly relevant nutrients.
     
  22. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,065
    Likes Received:
    5,266
    Location:
    California, US
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  23. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,065
    Likes Received:
    5,266
    Location:
    California, US
  24. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    Things don't just happen evolutionarily speaking. Think about the huge number of genetic characteristics an herbivore would have to develop before they could eat meat (everything from stomach chemistry to dental patterns).

    Now, the theories I'm more familiar with point to things like tool making and cooking. Tool making points to opposable thumbs which point to thumbs. It is pretty easily to see the genetic precursors to tool making. It is a lot harder to see the genetic precursors in herbivores which would lead to meat eating.
     
  25. Hubardo
    Offline

    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,075
    Likes Received:
    566
    I think the meat-brain thing is called the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis... ? I've never understood how it makes sense though, as mentioned above, if sharks and bears and cougars aren't writing poetry and stuff. Also, bigger brains don't necessarily mean higher order reasoning... elephants have huge brains but their frontal lobes aren't very big, I'm pretty sure. The question should probably be: how did humans develop the parts of the brain that allows them to think/reason/abstract/develop-language, etc? Meat eating by itself could not possibly explain any of that. Another theory I remember, vaguely, is how bipedalism reduced distance between the brain and the ground, which had some effect on evolution. I don't remember anything about that.
     

Share This Page