Over the course of history, mankind has changed and evolved in many ways. They learned new things and accumulated knowledge over the years. To live, mankind needs food, and one of the significant things they changed was how they gather their resources. Mankind first lived as hunter-gatherers, then, as the years continued, they changed into settled agriculturalists. Therefore, this essay will compare and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of both being a hunter-gatherer and a settled agriculturalist while providing historical context.
To start with, hunter-gatherers had a subsistence lifestyle that was dependent on fishing, hunting, and foraging plantations rather than settling and creating their own food in the sense of settled agriculturalists. They lived as a tribe built on kinship. They did not settle, and they travelled continuously and they used their mobility as an advantage to survive. They usually needed extensive land to forage, and when the local resources ran out, they moved out. As they were traveling continuously, they could not carry many possessions with them. This situation led to equality for all hunter-gatherers; they spared enough food for group members to survive and provided basic shelter for everyone. There was also an equal distribution of labour in the past, with men specializing in hunting and women specializing in gathering and child rearing. As they foraged, they developed specific knowledge of edible plants and their growth cycles. Because they were both hunting and gathering, they had a healthy and balanced diet.
However, these qualities have not always been advantageous. As they grew in number, they were not able to provide food by just gathering and hunting. Some regions have reached the point where living without the cultivation of crops and the domestication of animals is impossible. Because of this, they started to settle in. The hunter-gatherers gained more knowledge about plants and animals, resulting in the cultivation of wild grasses and cereals and the domestication of wild animals. Nevertheless, this situation, which led to the Agricultural Revolution, accelerated the expansion of the population as they could now produce more calories per unit of land. The population grew, and the social structure shifted from clan-like kinship networks to larger communities with labour divisions. For example, some members of the community prepared food while others defended the settlement. Furthermore, some of the members began to craft and trade their creations for food. As the community grew, equality began to corrupt, resulting in community members having more land or wealth. A group of people had access to more luxury goods and lived in bigger and better houses. Agrarian tools were advanced, thus men were no longer involved in hunting or gathering; instead, they began to do the work of yoking animals to plows, which led to gender inequality that left the women with repetitive tasks of labour work, such as planting and harvesting. Also, differences in the roles of men and women affected the distribution of power in society. Male figures became dominant in households and communities; they also dominated females in leadership positions. These inequalities began to spread throughout the world, affecting gender relations and patriarchy (Adelman, p. 17).
To compare and contrast, on the one hand, hunter-gatherers were advantageous in many ways. They had equal labor divisions, social equality, and gender equality in all forms of society. They had free time as they spent three hours working to find enough food, and while searching for resources, they gained mobility, which their social structure depended on. They also had a balanced and healthy diet that consisted of both plantations and meat. On the other hand, they were unable to keep up with the emergence of a population increase and were unable to find sufficient resources in lands to continue their lifestyle. Despite the disadvantages of being a hunter-gatherer, being a settled agriculturalist was not advantageous either, as they were tied to the soil, and even though all their work was tied to the soil, they could not provide a healthy and balanced diet for themselves, which led to diseases. Settled agriculturalists also had a greater workload, especially for women. Compared to the fact that hunter-gatherers only work for three hours, their work, especially women’s repetitive work, was out of line. Other disadvantages of settled agriculturalists included corrupt social equality and gender inequality.
Overall, hunter-gatherers and settled agriculturalists had their own benefits and drawbacks. Even though hunter-gatherers had more advantages regarding their social status and workload, the situation changed over time as their population grew, which led to drawbacks being higher than benefits.
Adelman, Jeremy. “Worlds Together Worlds Apart I – Concise Edition.” Princeton University.