ANTH 495A-001 Advanced Studies in Anthropology

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ANTH 495A-001 Advanced Studies
in Anthropology - ADV STUDIES
Nutritional Archaeology
Mike Richards
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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)
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)
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
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 can’t
be eaten?
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
Materialist approaches
• Evolutionary theory
• Explains human behaviour, and
dietary adaptations, using Darwinian
concepts of natural selection.
• Especially predominant in prehistory
and palaeoanthropology (huntergatherers)
• Less successful in explaining dietary
choices and behaviour in living
peoples
Materialist approaches
• An extreme example of the use of materialism
is to explain Aztec human sacrifice.
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
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
Materialist approaches
• Aztec human sacrifice and cannibalism
• Counter-arguments:
• Other sources of protein!
• Was cannibalism exaggerated by European
chroniclers?
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?
Structuralism
• Claude Levi-Strauss a key proponent
• Levi-Strauss (1966) The culinary triangle.
Partisan Review 33: 586-595
• A structuralist, borrowing ideas from
linguistics, looking for a universal underlying
structure in all human behaviour
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’
Lévi-Strauss' Culinary Triangle (1966)
Raw
Claude Lévi-Strauss
Cultural Transformation
Natural Transformation
Natural Transformation
Cooked
Rotten
Beardsworth & Keil, 1997
Structuralism
Unprepared
Raw
roasted
Structuralist Approach
looking at "deep
structures": universal
principles underlying
human behaviour
Prepared
Cooked
smoked
Rotten
boiled/steamed
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
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
Food Taboos
• Food taboos are universal, and a number of
theoretical approaches have been used to try
and explain them
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
Food Taboos
• In the 8th 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).
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.
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
Understanding diet in archaeology
• Indirect measures of diet
• Zooarchaeology (archaeozoology)
• Palaeoethnobotany (archaeobotany)
Understanding diet in archaeology
• Indirect measures of diet
• Textual evidence
• Artifact studies
• Chemical analysis
Understanding diet in archaeology
• Direct measures of diet
• Human osteology
Stable Isotope analysis
20
Marine mammals
18
•Bone protein carbon
and nitrogen stable
isotope analysis.
16
Fish consumers
Piscivore fish
14
15
 N
12
Piscivore fish
Fish
10
Carnivores
Freshwater
8
Shellfish
Omnivores
•Long-term record of
dietary protein.
6
Marine
Herbivores
4
Terrestrial
2
0
-24.0
-23.0
-22.0
-21.0
-20.0
-19.0
-18.0
-17.0
 C
13
•Carbon – marine vs. terrestrial foods.
•Nitrogen – source of protein, animal vs. plant.
-16.0
-15.0
-14.0
-13.0
-12.0
-11.0
-10.0
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?
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?
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?
Concepts to keep in mind
• McDonald’s french fries
• Why are they so popular with children?
Concepts to keep in mind
• McDonald’s 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)
Concepts to keep in mind
• Fugu (Pufferfish)
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…
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
Eating Christmas in the Kalahari
• Richard Lee’s 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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