Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hunter-Gatherers in Morillo's Tri-Sectoral History: Part 4

Albrecht Dürer, Rhinoceros, 1515 (about 16 generations ago)

Chauvet Cave, France, Rhinoceros,
ca. 30,000 years or 1000 generations ago

THE third part of this series looked at Stephen Morillo's portrayal of decision making and political power in prehistoric hunter-gatherer bands, particularly after the Cognitive-Linguistic Revolution he suggests took place 70,000 years ago.  This post looks at his account of some of the economic and cultural aspects of such bands:
The members of a band acted economically as a unit, with all members contributing and supporting each other. This was probably the product of cultural strictures as well as necessity, and codes of sharing would also have helped to inhibit any aggrandizement of any single individual’s status. (p.24)
In referring above to "necessity," Morillo apparently means that, given the small number of members in a hunter-gatherer band (usually 80 or fewer, he says), and the limited technological resources available, it would have been imperative to act as an economic unit in order to survive in the wild. 

Morillo argues also that sharing and cooperation were the rule because little sense of private property could develop in groups that were always on the move.  The sense for private property would emerge later, in sedentary communities, where houses could be permanently occupied by the same family, and it became possible to store large amounts of food. (p.33)

Chauvet Cave, France, Rhinoceroses, ca. 30,000 years ago
In the block quotation two paragraphs above, Morillo maintains that not only survival necessities but also cultural strictures imposed cooperation and sharing.  Morillo thus appears to take for granted that such cultural strictures were not themselves driven by mere survival necessities.  Culture was something more than a survival mechanism.  That would seem to be a good example of Morillo not reducing cultural factors to supposedly more fundamental physical ones. By the same or a similar token, he does not reduce culture to economics or politics.  Previous posts here have pointed out this aspect of Morillo’s approach.

Cultural life in hunter-gatherer bands, in Morillo's view, generally was not controlled by a single individual, group, or center within a band; it was influenced to some extent by all members. (pp. 27-28)  

The conclusion of this five-part series of posts will look, at last, at whether economic, political, and cultural life were relatively independent of one another in the ancient hunter-gatherer band, or were more or less merged. 

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