Comparing Paleolithic Societies A. Both the San and the Chumash preserved their ancient way of life into modern times. B. The San of Southern Africa 1. Northern fringe of the Kalahari Desert (present-day Angola, Namibia, Botswana) 2. 50,000–80,000 San still live in the region 3. Part of the Khoisan language family, inhabited southern Africa at least 5,000 years a. Gathering and hunting way of life, with stone tools b. Remarkable rock art, going back 26,000 years i. Tradition persisted into the nineteenth century ii. Perhaps reflected the religious experience of trance healers c.
Most of the Khoisan peoples were absorbed or displaced by Bantu-speaking peoples 4. The San (Ju/’hoansi) still practiced their ancient life with few borrowings when anthropologists started studying them in the 1950s and 1960s a. Use some twenty-eight tools, including digging stick, leather garment for carrying things, knife, spear, bow and poisoned arrows, ropes, and nets b. Men hunt, women do most of gathering c. Adequate dietd. Short workweek, with even labor division between men and women e. Uncertain and anxious life, dependent on nature 5. San society characterized by mobility, sharing, and equality a.
Basic unit is band of 10–30 people, connected to other bands b. Many people claimed membership in more than one band c. Frequent movement to new territory d. No formal leaders, priests, or craft specialists e. Very complex social relations f. High value given to modesty, cooperation, equality i. E. g. , “insulting the meat”: a hunter is expected to disparage his accomplishmentg. complex system of unequal gift exchange 6. Relative equality between the sexes a. Free sex play between teenagers b. Most marriages are monogamous c. Frequent divorce among young couples 7.
Frequent conflict over distribution of meat; rivalries over women 8. Belief system: a. Creator God, Gao Na, is capricious b. Lesser god Gauwa is destructive but sometimes assists humans c. Gauwasi (spirits of dead ancestors) are most serious threat to human welfare d. Evil influences can be counteracted with n/um, a spiritual potency that can be activated in “curing dances” e. State of warfare with the divine C. The Chumash of Southern California 1. Show a later Paleolithic stage than the San, with permanent villages 2. Chumash lived near present-day Santa Barbara, California a.
Richer environment than the San b. Perhaps 20,000 when the Spaniards arrived in the sixteenth century c. Chumash created new society after 1150 c. e. In response to violence and food shortages 3. Central technological innovation: the planked canoe (tomol) a. Ability to make and own tomol led to social inequality b. Stimulated trade between the coast and islands c. Made deep-sea fishing possible 4. Living conditions were more elaborate than the San a. Round, permanent, substantial houses (for up to 70 people) b. A market economy, despite being gathering and hunting peoples i. Use of money (stringed beads) i. Regulation of the money supply to prevent inflation iii. Specialized production iv. Payment for services of dancers, healers, and buriers v. Some private ownership c. Beginning of class distinctions (e. g. , bearskin capes, burials) d. Emergence of a permanent, hereditary political elite i. Chiefs (some were women) led in war and rituals, regulated trade ii. Periodic feasts for the poor 5. Chumash largely solved the problems of violence in the regionV. Reflections: The Uses of the Paleolithic A. The study of history is about those who tell it today, not just about the past. 1.
Views of the past reflect our own smugness or disillusionment 2. Paleolithic era is sometimes regarded as a golden age a. Admired by feminists, environmentalists, antimaterialists 3. Scholars have looked to the Paleolithic era in questioning explosive population and economic growth of recent past 4. Gathering and hunting peoples of today have looked to Paleolithic era in an effort to maintain or recover their identities B. A basic question: “What have we lost in the mad rush to modernity? ” C. Nobody can be completely detached when studying the past. 1. But passionate involvement is a good thing