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Anthropology of Subsistence and Social Organization

Part of the Anthropology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Humanity has practiced all kinds of ways of subsistence, or getting food. This table shows different modes of subsistence and the affects they've had on social organization.

Band Tribe Chiefdom State/Civilization
Subsistence: Foraging Foraging/pastoralism Horticulture or (rarely) foraging Agriculture
Mobility: High Medium/cyclic Low Lowest
Food storage: Little: days to months Little: weeks to months Medium: seasons to a few years High: reliance on stored foods
Emphasis on property: Low but present Medium: among pastoralists, herded animals are property of individuals High: elites own special items High: major differences in material possessions by economic class
Attitudes toward social ranking: Low: little stratification and generally equal access to resources for all members Medium: among pastoralists, families with more animals have higher rank High: hereditary elite class exists, but has more power to coerce than command Very high: resources allotted depend on social rank
Population: 10–150 Less than 200 Low hundreds to 1,500 Tens of thousands to millions or billions
Examples: Paiute of North American Great Basin, Inuit of Arctic Canada Maasai of East Africa (cattle herders), Saami of Arctic Scandinavia (reindeer herders) Maori of New Zealand, Vikings of medieval Scandinavia Ancient Egypt and Greece, Shang China, Maya (Mexico and Guatemala), United States
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