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Horticulture Adaptations Shifting and Slash/Burn Yanomami Horticultural Adaptations Gardening, ... headhunting and other forms of violence and terror. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Horticulture

  • Adaptations
  • Shifting and Slash/Burn
  • Yanomami

Horticultural Adaptations
  • Gardening, using tools that require human power
  • Domesticated plants
  • Shift in emphasis on role of women in kinship
  • Sedentism
  • Increased labor intensity
  • Surpluses
  • Social stratification

  • Horticulture is a second method of subsisting
    that is technologically rather simple. 
  • literally means gardening, and is the label
    applied to the cultivation of domesticated plants
    with simple hand tools (hoes, spades, digging
    sticks and the like), as opposed to cultivation
    with plows. 
  • Plant domestication seems to have originated in
    the Middle East about 10,000 years ago, and about
    6,000 years ago in the New World. 
  • Once developed, cultivation replaced foraging
    just about everywhere except Australia and the
    western coast of North America, and
    anthropologists often wonder why. 
  • The answer is not obvious because under many
    conditions foraging can produce a comfortable
    living with moderate labor inputs thus, why
    people would elect to shift to a horticultural
    mode of subsistence that requires much more
    laborand more drudgery kinds of laboris a
    legitimate question. 

Shifting Cultivation
  • Many different varieties of plant cultivation
    have been developed since its origins, and
    several of those are horticultural
  • i.e., varieties of gardening that dont use plows
    and traction.
  • Some variants feature cultivation of permanent
    fieldsthat is, the same field is used year after
  • However, those occur only in special conditions
    in which soils are unusually fertile or
    periodically enriched, and the most common form
    of horticulture is a type of  shifting field
  • That is, each field is used for a relatively
    short time, then allowed to fallow, or recover,
    for a relatively long time. 

Slash Burn (Swidden)
  • The most widely practiced sort of shifting field
    cultivation is a kind called swidden cultivation,
    or slash and burn cultivation. 
  • Although its distribution today is limited to the
    rain forests of the humid tropics, it once was
    found in many temperate areas, toovirtually
    anywhere that extensive standing forest was
  • Several years ago the Food and Agricultural
    Organization of the United Nations estimated that
    300 million people depended primarily on swidden
    cultivation for subsistence. 

Swidden Technology
  • Basic swidden technology is simple. 
  • A cutting tool (such as an ax or machete), a
    digging stick, some means of producing fire, and
    some standing forest are the main elements. 
  • The cultivator selects a tract of forest large
    enough to support his family, fells the trees and
    slashes the brush, allows the cut material to
    dry, then burns it. 
  • The intention is to burn the cut wood as
    thoroughly as possible, because the wood ash
    supplies the nutrients that crops will need. 
    Crops are planted in the cleared area for
    one-three years, then that field is abandoned for
    recolonization by forest, as the cultivator
    clears another tract.
  • Depending on the environment, reforestation may
    require from five to twenty years, so a group
    needs plenty of forest in order to keep the
    system going. 
  • The practice of shifting fields discourages
    notions of private property when a cultivator
    abandons a field for reforestation, there is no
    guarantee that he ever will return to that
    particular parcel to cultivate it once more.

  • The stability of the swidden agroecosystem
    depends on a fairly high ratio of standing forest
    to human population. 
  • If cultivators have to re-use a tract before the
    returning forest is mature, less wood ash results
    from the burn, and the cultivator must clear an
    even larger field, which shortens the
    reforestation period even more, and so on.
  • Further, if re-used too frequently a permanent
    tropical grassland can replace forest, and
    perennial grassland is virtually useless for
    producing crops.
  • Thus, as human populations become more dense, and
    forest recovery times become too short, swidden
    cultivation can lead to a cycle of increased
    energy loss and environmental degradation. 
  • When swidden regimes are healthy they can produce
    quite good diets.  But because of population
    increase and more commercial use, many modern
    swidden systems arent healthy. 

Horticultural Groups
  • Swidden populations tend to be relatively
  • The location of villages is shifted periodically
    in order to keep the population near the forest
    areas being cultivated at that time but even so,
    villages usually remain in each location for
    several consecutive years. 
  • That sedentary life implies that swiddeners are
    not obliged to space children in the way that
    mobile foragers do thus, swidden populations
    often show rapid rates of increase.

  • All things equal, populations who depend heavily
    on swidden would prefer to reside in small,
    widely distributed hamlets that are scattered
    throughout the forest. 
  • That arrangement allows easy access to fields,
    facilitates protection of ripening crops, and
    encourages rapid return of forest from abandoned
  • However, there is another feature of swidden
    populations that frequently overrides
    considerations of economic efficiency and
    provides a powerful incentive to nucleate
    settlementto settle in large groups and travel
    longer distances to cultivated fields. 
  • That feature is warfare, because
    horticulturalists typically are involved in
    hostilities with neighboring groups and draw
    together for protection. 

Horticulturalists and Warfare
  • Horticulturalists are groups that are especially
    likely to exhibit a high frequency of raids,
    skirmishes, cannibalism, headhunting and other
    forms of violence and terror. 
  • Much of the violence in tribal societies begins
    as disputes about women and  then escalates into
    feuds in which revenge is sought. 
  • However, several anthropologists have pointed out
    that at least some of the terror that is
    practiced is intended to frighten neighboring
    groups enough that they will leave, allowing the
    victors access to the second growth in their
    cutover fields. 
  • Primary rain forest is very difficult to cut with
    hand tools thus, access to second growth saves a
    lot of labor, and some people think that labor
    savings are worth fighting about. 
  • Military winners usually destroy the crops and
    settlements of losers, and try to drive them off
    to live with relatives located elsewhere.  Most
    of the raids are not especially lethal but there
    are occasional reports of entire communities
    being massacred.

Yanomami, Brazil Venezuala
  • The Yanomami live in the Northern Amazon along
    the Brazil-Venezuela border. 
  • Numbering 19,000 roughly equally divided between
    the two countries, they are the largest
    indigenous nation in the Americas that still
    retains their traditional way of life. 
  • They are one of the most recently contacted
    peoples,  having very little contact with outside
    society before the 1980's. 
  • Since 1987, the Yanomami have seen about 10 of
    their entire population -  over 2,000 people -
    decimated by massacres and diseases brought by

  • The word Yanomami means "human being". 
  • They live in small villages, grouped by families
    in one large communal dwelling called a shabono
  • this disc-shaped structure with an open-air
    central plaza is an earthly version of their
    gods' abode. 
  • They hunt and fish over a wide range and tend
    gardens (horticulture). 
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