Cultural evolution

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2) What did the people of the Upper Paleolithic period eat and how did they obtain this food?

About 40,000 years ago modern Homo sapiens entered a period, labeled as the Paleolithic. The Paleolithic period refers to the Old Stone Age, which is the earliest era of human development and has been the longest in the history of humankind. The most astounding feature of the era is the transformation of the entire human species from apelike structural composition to true Homo sapiens. During this period, the Homo sapiens developed many specialized tools, engaged into cave painting, sculpture, and engraving. However, this period of evolution was not only the longest but also the slowest and got spread over the three consecutive periods of the era, the lower Paleolithic, the middle Paleolithic and the upper Paleolithic

The upper Paleolithic period, also referred as the late Stone Age, broadly dates back between years 40,000 to 10,000. Undoubtedly, this period was the blossoming of the entire Stone Age that experienced a great number of human cultures developing and coincidently marked to happen together with the behavioral modernity. Although the term stone age and the upper Paleolithic refers the same era, the former usually is indicative of the period in Africa whereas the latter to that of in Europe. The 19th century archaeology also refers the later as the Reindeer Age.

The people of this era were the first of modern humans in Europe, which were hunters and gatherers, as well as the producers of the earliest recorded art and apart from being collective hunters, they were also fishing. An international authority on Paleolithic nutrition, Dr. Cordain mentions in his book that the vegetable sources for these people were the plants, roots and tubers, berries, fruits and nuts, whereas the animal sources were the fowl, insects, fish and seafood and eggs. Cereal grains were hardly part of their food as well as the dairy food.

It may come to us as a shock that they never salted their food and quite fortunate of them was the easy availability of honey, their only refined sugar. They ate protein-rich wild, lean animal foods along with wild fruits and vegetables. Obtaining these foods was not difficult for them, as wild fruits and vegetables surrounded their living. For animals, they used to hunt and archeological evidences suggest their use of stone tools and spears and other hunting tools as well. In addition, for seafood their source was undoubtedly fishing.

1) Define historical particularism. Do you think that this approach can be compatible with investigations of cultural evolution? Why or why not?

The theory of historical particularism was founded by the most influential anthropological thinker Franz Boas. He rejected the idea of Parallel evolutionism, according to which all societies reach the similar level of development the similar way all other societies have and hence are on the similar pathway to development. He had the courage to argue that each society is the result of its historical circumstances and discarded the most dominated theory known as cultural evolutionary model.

According to his theory, societies can reach the same level of development through different means. The three traits Boas identified for the purposes of explaining cultural customs were environmental conditions, psychological factors, and historical connections. Marvin Haris coined the name, “historical” because Boas explained present in terms of past and “particular” because he acknowledged the uniqueness of every culture.

This approach seems to be very much compatible with the investigations of cultural evolution. There are a number of reasons to it. Firstly, unlike evolutionists, the historical particularists valued fieldwork and history as critical cultural analysis methods. They pull together huge amount of first-hand data through ethnographic fieldworks, based on which they present a description of particular cultures rather than generalizing their founding to all societies.

Secondly, unlike Kroeber who believes that society undergo evolution according to its own internal laws and can only be understood with due consideration to this super organic impersonal force, Boas considered the individual to be the fundamental entity of a society and the data retrieved from them, as valuable enough for the cultural analysis. Hence, his sources of information were the individual informants. The unilinear models of cultural development assume that an increase in mental capacity lead to another level of development and hence barbaric is the ones who could not have developed their mental capabilities. Moreover, they further regard the western European society to be the most civilized society and highest attainable level of progress. Boas found it problematic and held the idea that it is non-understandable to interpret cultural change without considering the perceptions of the people belonging to that culture.

However, not only the approach is beneficial because of its compatibility and individualized focus, but also because it ultimately succeeded to eradicate racial discrimination from anthropology, which was based on the evolutionist's conclusion that societies not responding to the development pace as equal to that west have lower mental capabilities.

1) Describe the social structure of chiefdom. What were the specific social rankings and how were these determined?

Anthropologists found that specific types of political and legal systems were influenced by various societal conditions and classified societies into bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states. Chiefdom in anthropology is a formalized and centralized political system that under the permanent influence of an overriding chief constitutes communities as well as villages. They are simple and complex. The differentiating reasons are scale of development, basis of finance and orientation to a group or individual. A simple chiefdom's scale of development has a population in low thousands with one level of hierarchy above the local community, it is group-oriented and its basis of finance is staple finance. The complex chiefdom has the population is in the tens of thousands with minimum two levels of hierarchy, its basis of finance is wealth finance, and it is individual oriented.

Chiefdom societies vary greatly with respect to political, economic, and cultural forms.

The social organization of chiefdom societies consisted of lineages, clans, and other descent groups, ranked in strata based on their relationship to a chiefly family. In Clans stratification, the person's hereditary status and relationship with the other branches stratify the status. Marriages were frequently endogamous within a particular stratum and tended to be patriarchal with senior males often dominating chiefdom. Often in the upper stratum chiefdoms were polygynous.

In most Polynesian societies, the principle of primogeniture prevails on the belief that the most of the parent's quantum of godliness passes into to the first-born. The offspring of the senior will be higher in status to those of all from the junior branch. However, in some cases this may not be the case. Next are the tribes, each of which, like clans, has a chief socially ranked higher than all members of the tribe however, unlike clans, the offices were attainable by personal achievement too. (Oliver, 2002)

The producers of goods cannot use themselves and chief takes them all and provides them timely with the goods they need. The idea of godliness is so much into them that marriages of higher level with that of lower levels almost cease to exist. Some form of social structure exists in almost every society but chiefdom is indeed the most complex of all.

2) What is meant by jatis and the jajmani system in India? How does a jajmani economy work? Describe two of the anthropological explanations for the origin and maintenance of jajmani?

In India, jatis is the Hindi term for caste, and jajmani is the Hindi term for the traditional caste-based economy. The Indian caste system is related to Hindu custom and tradition as well as their held philosophy and religious belief. According to it, the Indian society is divided into four main varnas: the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Brahmins hold the purest of all position whereas the Shudras, “the untouchables”, come at the end of the hierarchy. These statuses are because of their Karma of previous incarnation. Each Varna has their own set of professions: the Brahmins are professional educators; the Kshatriyas are warriors, Vaishyas are the farmers and traders, and the Shudras provide services for all the three classes.

William H. Wiser introduced the term jajmani system in the vocabulary of Indian sociology through his book “The Hindu Jajmani System” where he described in detail how different caste group helped each other in production and exchange of goods and services.

The jajmani exchange system is a redistributive system of exchange according to Karl Polanyi, whereas the functionalist view about the system is that of self-reliance, accord, unity, and permanence. Marxists hold an entirely different view according to which, the jaimani exchange system it is an exploitative one, and conflict between the two castes, upon improvement of the lower class is unavoidable.

Oscar Lewis studied the Rampur village near Delhi and criticizing the system to be exploitative. The study revealed that majorly the occupational castes do not own any lands and have meager resources to develop themselves against the privileged jajmani who enjoys both the political and economical power. However, some still believe the system to be beneficial because of its capability to maintain and regulate the labor division as well as the economic interdependence of castes.