Man the Hunter, Leisure time in Hunter-Gatherers societies – Sans souci?

 

Epipaleolithic W-Sahara

Man the Hunter

This is an epi paleolithic arrow-point from the Western Sahara for the hunting of smaller game, certainly a highly effective projectile type in the hands of an experienced hunter.

A hunting and gathering economy virtually prevents individuals from accumulating private property and basing social distinctions on wealth. To survive, most hunters and gatherers must follow the animals that they stalk, and they must move with the seasons in search of edible plant life. Given their mobility, it is easy to see that, for them, the notion of private, landed property has no meaning at all. Individuals possess only a few small items such as weapons and tools that they can carry easily as they move. In the absence of accumulated wealth, hunters and gathers of Paleolithic times, like their contemporary descendants, probably, lived a relatively egalitarian existence. Social distinctions no doubt arose, and some individuals became influential because of their age, strength, courage, intelligence, fertility, force of personality, or some other trait. But personal of family wealth could not have served as a basis for permanent social differences.

At the 1966 “Man the Hunter” conference, anthropologists Richard Borshay Lee and Irven DeVore suggested that egalitarianism was one of several central characteristics of nomadic hunting and gathering societies because mobility requires minimization of material possessions throughout a population. Therefore, no surplus of resources can be accumulated by any single member. Other characteristics Lee and DeVore proposed were flux in territorial boundaries as well as in demographic composition.

Leisure in Hunter-Gatherer Societies

At the same conference, Marshall Sahlins presented a paper entitled, “Notes on the Original Affluent Society”, in which he challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherers lives as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” as Thomas Hobbes had put it in 1651. According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well. Their “affluence” came from the idea that they were satisfied with very little in the material sense.

Later, in 1996, Ross Sackett performed two distinct meta-analyses to empirically test Sahlin’s view. The first of these studies looked at 102 time-allocation studies, and the second one analyzed 207 energy-expenditure studies. Sackett found that adults in foraging and horticultural societies work, on average, about 6.5 hours a day, where as people in agricultural and industrial societies work on average 8.8 hours a day. The hunter- gatherer community:”without worry” / “sans souci” ?

Sans souci

Mysteriously, the song “Sans Souci” receives the alternate title “Cyprus” in some sources, including ASCAP. A composition by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee  for her 1952 album Lover. It’s worth noting that the lyrics seem to allude to a specific story – to a character who is in exile, or maybe to an illegal refugee. Here is the ultimative interpretation by Françoiz Breut: 

Sans souci, ah, sans souci
They got no room here for someone like me
Oh, the mountains start to giggle
When the springtime waters wiggle
Down the mountainside
I can hear the fishes swishing
Just as loud as I’m a wishing
When I hit the tide
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go, go
Sans souci, ah, sans souci
They got no room here for someone like me
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go, go
Try to tell me I was evil, try to trample on my soul
Try to make me think that they were righteous
But the plot of the lie was whole
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go, go
Sans souci, ah, sans souci
They got no room here for someone like me
Ah, the earth, it starts a squaking
‘Cause it knows that love is walking
And it ain’t no dream, no, you ain’t no dream
Sans souci, you ain’t no dream
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go, go
Try to tell me I was evil, try to trample on my soul
Try to make me think that they were righteous
But the plot of the lie was whole
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go, go
Feel yourselves with all laughing and talking
That used to be
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go, go
Sans souci

Suggested Reading:

Devore; I (Ed.),  Lee, RB (Ed.) Man the Hunter; Aldine Pub (1968).

Sackett, R. Time, energy, and the indolent savage. A quantitative cross-cultural test of the primitive affluence hypothesis; Ph.D. diss ( 1996), University of California.

 Basic facts about the refugees from Syria:

http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

1377 Views since 2/2016 1 Views Today

About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
This entry was posted in Plaeolithics and Neolithics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Man the Hunter, Leisure time in Hunter-Gatherers societies – Sans souci?

  1. “A hunting and gathering economy virtually prevents individuals from accumulating private property and basing social distinctions on wealth. ”

    NO!!

    “Given their mobility, it is easy to see that, for them, the notion of private, landed property has no meaning at all. ”

    NO!!

    “Individuals possess only a few small items such as weapons and tools that they can carry easily as they move.”

    NO!! In the Northern Hemisphere, virtually all hunter-gatherers had sleighs, reindeer and dogs, which rendered them highly mobile and able to move with their belongings. They had “bundles”, which were mobile, highly ritualized knowledge systems.

    ” lived a relatively egalitarian existence. ”

    NO!! Status was a factor in these societies. Protocol, responsibility, artistic ability, savoir faire regarding making of clothing and footwear, embroidery, calendar keeping, story telling, oratory skill, butchering skill, cuisine, plant gathering expertise, knowledge of where to gather certain plants, matriarchy, and success as warriors, where all ways in which individuals and families raised their status.

    “But personal of family wealth could not have served as a basis for permanent social differences.”

    No. Knowledge, skill differences and luck led to social differences. Also, these societies did take slaves (usually the conquered in a battle). And it could take generations for one to undo ones status as a slave.

    “At the 1966 “Man the Hunter” conference, anthropologists Richard Borshay Lee and Irven DeVore suggested that egalitarianism was one of several central characteristics of nomadic hunting and gathering societies because mobility requires minimization of material possessions throughout a population.”

    Saw the “Man the Hunter” session at the SAA last year in San Francisco. What nonsense. That an entire room of professional archaeologists could still swallow this romanticized bullshit hook, line and sinker, in 2015, is beyond me.

    But, it’s certainly quite useful for the corporate elite so that they can convince themselves that indigenous people did not have a concept of property or territory, and therefore do not have to have their land claims taken seriously. So I can understand why such BS theories still make it into major sessions at the SAA.

    : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *