Essay, Research Paper: Pastoralism

Anthropology

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Pastoralism is an economy based on herding. Pastoralists maintain herds
of animals and use their products to support themselves directly and to exchange
with other civilizations. It is especially associated with such terrain as
steppes, rolling hills, grasslands, and the like-areas of low rainfall where
cultivation is difficult without irrigation, but where grasses are plentiful
enough to support herds of animals.1 Pastoralism was originally founded in the
old world. Pastoralists are generally nomadic and usually follow their herds in
search of food and water. Pastoral civilizations tend to be warlike and they
have a difficult time trying to live at peace with settled agricultural
populations. In areas where pastoralists and cultivators are in contact , the
pastoralists generally have the advantage in prestige due to their superior
military striking power.2 I will illustrate a few examples of pastoral groups
that are warlike to prove that the first half of the statement is true. The
Masai live among the wild animals on the rolling plains of the Rift Valley, one
of the most beautiful parts of Africa.3 The Masai are strictly cattle herders.
They do not farm the land, believing it to be a sacrilege to break the earth.3
In contrast to their peaceful and harminous relationship to the wildlife,
however, the Masai are warlike in relationship to their neighboring tribes,
conducting cattle raids where they take women as well as cattle for their prizes
and they have been fiercely independent in resisting the attempts of colonial
governments to change or subdue them.3 The amount of land that the Masai require
for their enormous herds of cattle is not appreciated by people who use and
value the land more for agriculture than for pasturage and for herds of wild
animals. Many people view the Masai as thieves, but they do not believe in
stealing material objects. They have strict laws against those that do steal
material objects. They believe that when they raid other villages and steal
their cattle it is seen as returning the cattle to their rightful owners. This
belief stems from the notion that all cattle on the earth are theirs, and any
cattle they do not presently own are only temporarily out of their care, and
must be recaptured.3 It from the basic belief, an entire culture has grown. The
ground or area that the cattle graze is considered sacred, everything from the
grass the cattle eat to the water they drink. This is why that it is sacrilege
for them to break the ground. The Indians of the Great Plains can be considered
pastoral or nomadic group. They hunted the buffalo or bison on the plains. The
buffalo regulated their lives, they followed the herds since it was their main
source for food. They would move when the buffalo moved setting up camps with
the herds. The Indians of the great plains were definitely warlike. They raided
other tribes for women, horses, and food. They would extinguish anyone who
crossed their land and attempted to raid their village. They performed war
dances or ghost dances to get themselves prepared for war. The premise of
warfare was common among all tribes on the Great Plains, but it goes hand in
hand with the buffalo herds. The Hittites of Ancient Mesopotamia were a pastoral
group that herded sheep, goats, and camel in the desert region located on the
outskirts of Mesopotamia. They were one of the first nomadic groups to domestic
the horse. Once they domesticated the horse it spelled doom for the groups in
the surrounding areas. The Hittites could move farther and faster with their
herds. They would destroy everything that got in the way of their herds. They
destroyed several agricultural city-states and wiped out several cultures in the
process. On the other hand it is true that pastoralist societies cannot live
without agricultural societies because pastoralism is not a self-sufficient way
of life. Pastoralism is a highly specialized form of food production involving
the care of large animals. It has survived mostly in places which cannot support
agriculture but can provide sufficient pasture for a herd, as well as secondary
hunting-gathering opportunities. Even though they are nomadic pastoral societies
tend to be more stratified and have more social differentiation for instance,
craft specialization--than those dependent upon food collection.1 There is also
an interdependence between the pastoral group and agricultural groups in this
area.1 This involves trade, which generally plays an important role, since a
pastoral economy is often not self-sufficent.1 Finally pastoralist are
vulnerable to food shortages, because their climates are subject to variations
in rainfall. The Basseri are a prime example of a pastoral tribe that is not
self- sufficient. The Basseri are a tribe of tent-dwelling, nomads living in
southern Iran. They raise sheep and goats, though donkeys and camels are
employed for draft work, and the more wealthier men have horses for riding.1
They have a specified route and schedule that they follow. The route refers to
the localities in the order they are visited and follows the existing passes and
lines of communication; the schedule regulated the length of time each location
will be occupied and depends on the maturation of different pastures and the
movements of other tribes.1 Hunting and gathering play no major role in their
economy( though hunting is a popular sport among the men).1 Agriculture and
trading are a very important aspect to the lives of the Basseri. The wealthier
Basseri practice agriculture indirectly. However, most tribesman must obtain
through trade the necessities and luxury items that are not produced within the
community.1 The staple items they sell are butter, wool, lambskins, rope, and
occasionally livestock.1 In conclusion, I am in agreement with the statement
that I chose. Pastoralist societies are warlike and they do have difficulties
living at peace with settled agricultural populations. Pastoralism to me seems
to be an alternative to agricultural, but since pastoralism is self-sufficient,
pastoralism is never independent of agricultural societies. I found it
interesting to learn that some nomadic and pastoralist groups, such as the
Basseri, do practice agricultural developments. I also agree with the statement
that pastoralism cannot live without the agricultural societies. If they do not
raise vegetables or some type of food they will usually acquire them through
trade.4 All in all pastoralism is a efficent means of extracting energy from a
harsh enviroment, it actually does produce less energy per acre of land than
agriculture does. Finally, I found the statement interesting, after I started to
research on the topic I found some facts and statements that that I found really
intriguing and they contributed to me comprehending the material easier.
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