What does subsistence mean
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What does Subsistence Mean? - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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What does Subsistence Mean?. Lesson 5: Patterns of Subsistence. Ecology. A way of studying the relationship between an organism and the elements in an environment Darwinian natural selection Adaption Biological or Cultural

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What does Subsistence Mean?

Lesson 5:

Patterns of Subsistence

Ecology l.jpg

  • A way of studying the relationship between an organism and the elements in an environment

  • Darwinian natural selection

    • Adaption

      • Biological or Cultural

  • Humans cannot be studying ecologically like all other biological organisms

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Patterns of Subsistence

  • Subsistence

    • A fancy way of saying how people get their food.

  • For most of human existence, we got our food using one method, and one method only.

    • Hunting and Gathering

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What’s in a Name?

  • Aside from hunting and gathering, what other methods did these people use to acquire food?

  • What types of food did they eat?

    • NOT just nuts and berries

  • How much of each (percentage) did they eat?

  • Why “hunter gatherer”?

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Food Foraging

  • Less problematic way of labeling these groups

  • Not one uniform group, instead many different types of food foragers

  • Very small groups – 30 – 100 people

    • Linked by kinship and marriage

  • Nomadic

    • Must live near food

    • Move when food is depleted

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Personal Property

  • No notion of personal property among food foragers

    • Food shared amongst the group

    • Moving constantly

  • As a result, there is no such thing a poverty among the food foragers

    • The “original affluent society”

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A Food Forager’s Job

  • The food forager’s jobs is to procure food

  • Division of labor

    • A specialization of jobs

    • The more complex the group, the greater the specialization

  • How often must food foragers work per day in order to acquire enough food?

  • Do they have time for leisure?

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The Rise of Domestication

  • Roughly 15,000 years ago a major climatic change took place as a global warming occurred

  • This freed up new land, and lead to domestication

    • When you take a plant or animal and select specific traits to breed

    • Leads to an organism dependent on humans to reproduce

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Food Production

The Agricultural Revolution takes hold at roughly 10,000 years ago in multiple places throughout the world.

Sheep, goats, wheat and barley in the Old World

Maize, cassava, and potatoes in the New World

Not all humans abandoned food foraging

Those that did settled in permanent villages

More food = more organisms

Changing ideas about personal property

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The Birth of Civilization

With food production comes civilization and an economy



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Horticulture and Agriculture


Hand tools


Many different crops


Large Tools


One or two main crops

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Slash and Burn Horticulture

  • Also known as “swidden”

  • Practiced in places where the soil is not naturally fertile

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  • Herders turn what we can’t eat (grass) into what we can – animals, dairy, blood

    • Use domesticated animals

    • Move hundreds of miles per year

  • Herders are not stuck in the stone ages

    • Some will use GPS to track the herd

    • Others, like the Laplanders will use snowmobiles

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Exam Review Questions

  • What does the discipline of ecology study?

    • What term did we use to refer to “a beneficial adjustment”?

    • What is different about ecological studies of humans?

  • What does patterns of subsistence mean?

    • What is the difference between food foraging and food producing?

    • Can you define horticulture? Pastoralism? Agriculture?

      • What is swidden?

    • When did some human populations begin to switch to agriculture?

    • What is Jared Diamond’s main argument in “Adaptive Failure: Easter’s End”?