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ANTH 495A-001 Advanced Studies in Anthropology - ADV STUDIES Nutritional Archaeology Mike Richards.

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Presentation on theme: "ANTH 495A-001 Advanced Studies in Anthropology - ADV STUDIES Nutritional Archaeology Mike Richards."— Presentation transcript:

1 ANTH 495A-001 Advanced Studies in Anthropology - ADV STUDIES Nutritional Archaeology Mike Richards

2 Outline of lecture Why study diet in archaeology and anthropology? Theoretical approaches to understanding diet and subsistence (materialism, structuralism, cultural) Food taboos What can we determine about diet from the archaeological record? Concepts to keep in mind throughout the course

3 Why study past diets? Diet and subsistence are key concepts underlying Archaeology and Anthropology The need to for food is a universal, but the way we obtain food, process food and consume food varies throughout the world and between cultures. There is a deep time depth to our food traditions

4 Diet in Archaeology The way that people obtained food is the main factor in classifying that society in archaeology We have early hunter-gatherer societies Wild plants and animals were obtained through active hunting, or scavenging, as well as collecting

5 Diet in Archaeology The way that people obtained food is the main factor in classifying that society in archaeology We then have intensification of the use of certain foods Repeat use of a resource in a specific area, such as seasonal dependence on fish, or wild plants

6 Diet in Archaeology The way that people obtained food is the main factor in classifying that society in archaeology We then have the first steps of the adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry Humans control the access to these resources, as well as the means of reproduction for these organisms

7 Diet in Archaeology The way that people obtained food is the main factor in classifying that society in archaeology Intensification of the use of resources leads to state societies Social differentiation in access to these foods Separation between production and consumption.

8 Diet in Archaeology The way that people obtained food is the main factor in classifying that society in archaeology These time periods are generally referred to as the Palaeolithic (hunter-gatherers) The Epi-Palaeolithic/Mesolithic (specialisation of wild resources)

9 Diet in Archaeology The way that people obtained food is the main factor in classifying that society in archaeology The Neolithic (adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry) The Bronze/Iron ages, as well as civilisation (social differentiation, separation between production and consumption)

10 Diet in Archaeology The way that people obtained food is the main factor in classifying that society in archaeology The reason for the focus on diet and subsistence is that these are the means of production The underlying concepts for archaeology are essentially marxist

11 Diet in Anthropology In the study of living peoples food and the means of food production is also a key way of initially classifying cultures and societies (and sub-cultures) Much more information about social concepts of the importance of food Who can eat the food, and what foods cant be eaten?

12 How to explain food choices? There are essentially two theoretical approaches used in archaeology/anthropology to understand the food choices and subsistence strategies that modern and past peoples made and used. Materialist, Structuralist and Cultural

13 Materialist approaches Usually uses the baseline dietary needs for humans as a starting point Then tries to explain human adaptations and even social rules about food using this as a starting point – looking for a practical explanation.

14 Materialist approaches Seeks to explain the reason behind food choices, and even food taboos through practical, scientific means. Often borrows from biology, and also includes evolutionary theory.

15 Materialist approaches A key concept used in materialist approaches is Optimal Foraging Theory First proposed in 1966 (MacArthur, R. H. and Pianka, E. R. (1966). On the optimal use of a patchy environment. American Naturalist, 100) Models predator behaviour E/h (energy/handling time) Predators choose prey with maximum E/h (most calories per handling unit) which is therefore the most profitable.

16 Materialist approaches Optimal Foraging Theory is one of the main concepts used in archaeology, especially in hunter-gatherer studies. Determine the calories that an average person needs in a day Determine the food resources available Calculate the minimum effort needed to obtain the maximum amount of calories (min-max)

17 Materialist approaches Evolutionary theory Explains human behaviour, and dietary adaptations, using Darwinian concepts of natural selection. Especially predominant in prehistory and palaeoanthropology (hunter- gatherers) Less successful in explaining dietary choices and behaviour in living peoples

18 Materialist approaches An extreme example of the use of materialism is to explain Aztec human sacrifice.

19 Materialist approaches Aztec human sacrifice: Cannibalism widely practiced. Some estimates put this at 1% of the population, which could be 1000 to 3000 people a year at the largest temples (Harner 1977). Michael Harner (1977) and others (Arens 1979) have applied a materialist approach to understand this phenomenon Aztec human sacrifice: Cannibalism widely practiced. Some estimates put this at 1% of the population, which could be 1000 to 3000 people a year at the largest temples (Harner 1977). Michael Harner (1977) and others (Arens 1979) have applied a materialist approach to understand this phenomenon

20 Materialist approaches Aztec human sacrifice and cannibalism Aztecs nutritionally stressed, especially for protein This is because maize is deficient in some essential amino acids Therefore, human flesh could satisfy this nutritional deficiency

21 Materialist approaches Aztec human sacrifice and cannibalism Counter-arguments: Other sources of protein! Was cannibalism exaggerated by European chroniclers?

22 Materialist approaches Aztec human sacrifice and cannibalism Alternative explanations: Ecological argument – need to limit population size so did not exhaust resources (also an argument for why there is widespread warfare at this time) Or, was it a form of social control, showing how the state had the ultimate power over the masses?

23 Structuralism Claude Levi-Strauss a key proponent Levi-Strauss (1966) The culinary triangle. Partisan Review 33: A structuralist, borrowing ideas from linguistics, looking for a universal underlying structure in all human behaviour

24 Structuralism Applied structuralism to diet and subsistence. Foods and food choices are social codes Identified three underlying, and universal, concepts that all humans use to describe food. These are Raw, Cooked, and Rotted

25 Lévi-Strauss' Culinary Triangle (1966) CookedRotten Raw Cultural Transformation Natural Transformation Claude Lévi-Strauss Beardsworth & Keil, 1997

26 Structuralism Structuralist Approach looking at "deep structures": universal principles underlying human behaviour Cooked smoked Rotten boiled/steamed Raw roasted Unprepared Prepared

27 Structuralism With this culinary triangle one can then explore how different societies subsistence practices fit within this model This can then be linked with other underlying structures, such as culture/nature, male/female to explain the nature of each society Food is not good to eat, but good to think

28 Cultural approaches Seeks to explain food choices and dietary adaptations in terms of social constructs Explores the role of ideology on food choices Symbolism is key to understanding the social roles and constructs People choose food not for practical reasons, but cultural reasons following elaborate social codes

29 Food Taboos Food taboos are universal, and a number of theoretical approaches have been used to try and explain them

30 Food Taboos Example of the avoidance of the consumption of beef by Hindus in India. Cattle are sacred in Hinduism and slaughter and consumption of cattle is outlawed in many parts of India. Why?

31 Food Taboos Historical background Earlier texts (The Vedas, from 2000 BC) describe the slaughter of cattle, but mainly for religious purposes, but it is not outlawed. The Brahmins, the elite priestly class, specifically avoid killing cattle, and this practice becomes widespread in the population ca. 200 AD. By 1000 AD eating beef is forbidden for all Hindus.

32 Food Taboos However, foreigners and Muslims can eat beef The untouchables must remove dead cattle carcasses, as higher castes cannot touch the dead animal, or else they need to go through a purification rite

33 Food Taboos Marvin Harris is a key proponent of materialism and addressed this specific issue in a 1978 article in Human Nature. He rejects religious or even historical arguments in favour of an ecological approach.

34 Food Taboos The specific cattle in India are zebu (Bos indicus) which are much better at surviving drought and subsisting on poor quality plants than European cattle. Therefore, they survive the dry periods in India well

35 Food Taboos Cattle provide milk and milk products that are widely used in Hindu cooking However, this is not the main reason for the taboo on eating cattle. Instead, Harris considers their use as traction animals as their main importance, as they can survive on poor food and in the dry periods Additionally their dung is a source of fuel and the manure helps to fertilise the fields Therefore, they provide more in terms of calories and production as traction animals, sources of manure and milk than their meat can provide

36 Food Taboos In the 8 th century AD there was an Islamic invasion of India. Muslims also consume beef, while Hindus eat pork, so there is likely a form of differentiation between these two groups manifested in food choices (the ban on beef consumption by Hindus occurred in 1000 AD).

37 Food Taboos Is this an example of social differentiation to separate out different sections of society? Does this help to reinforce the caste system? Was it originally instituted to show and reinforce the power and control that the Brahmin caste had? Muslims also consume beef, while Hindus (sometimes) eat pork, so there is likely a form of differentiation between these two groups manifested in food choices.

38 Understanding diet in archaeology The study of living peoples allows us to see the rich social rules and constructs around food This is mainly invisible to archaeology, but these two main concepts are still applied regularly to try and explain and understand diet in the archaeological record

39 Understanding diet in archaeology Indirect measures of diet Zooarchaeology (archaeozoology) Palaeoethnobotany (archaeobotany)

40 Understanding diet in archaeology Indirect measures of diet Textual evidence Artifact studies Chemical analysis

41 Understanding diet in archaeology Direct measures of diet Human osteology

42 Bone protein carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis. Long-term record of dietary protein. Carbon – marine vs. terrestrial foods. Nitrogen – source of protein, animal vs. plant. Stable Isotope analysis

43 Concepts to keep in mind Humans generally need the same amount and type of calories and nutrients, so why are some foods considered to be worth more than others?

44 Concepts to keep in mind Foie gras Is this expensive and highly prized because it is very fatty and calorie dense? Have we evolved to want foods like this, as they are so rare naturally?

45 Concepts to keep in mind Foie gras Or is it expensive and highly prized because it is rare and difficult to produce? Does it show your wealth and social position if you can afford to eat it?

46 Concepts to keep in mind McDonalds french fries Why are they so popular with children?

47 Concepts to keep in mind McDonalds french fries Is it because they are very high in fat and calories and growing children need both? (materialist and evolutionary model) Or is it because of advertising and peer group pressure? (needing to fit in, cultural model)

48 Concepts to keep in mind Fugu (Pufferfish)

49 Concepts to keep in mind Food is an essential, so unlike other aspects of social behaviour there must be underlying biological constraints on the food choices we make This must have evolved So optimal foraging theory and evolutionary theories are good starting points…

50 Concepts to keep in mind …however there are many examples where these theories cannot explain food choices and subsistence strategies So, think about both of these approaches through the course

51 Eating Christmas in the Kalahari Richard Lees fieldwork with the San in Southern Africa Led to the Man the Hunter monograph and concept Also, the idea of the affluent hunter-gatherer


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