By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
- Agricultural Revolution
- Axis Mundi
- Beaux Arts architecture
- Clemente Ciuli
- Cognitive Revolution
- Greek and Roman mythos
- Henry Hornbostel
- Imagined reality
- Imago Mundi
- Lambert Sustris
- Mousterian Industry
- Religious Canon
- Sacred vs Non-sacred
- Secondary Products Revolution
- Semitic languages
- الإسلام ☾ Islam
The first humans like contemporary humans arose after the cognitive revolution. They lived as hunter-gatherers.
Evolutionary Psychology posits that the conditions of our lives tens of thousands of years ago shaped our bodies and minds. In other words, we are adapted to living as hunter-gatherers even though our societies have changed. Not only is the body shaped by evolutionary pressures, but so is the mind and its psychology. Therefore, to understand people today, we must understand the conditions of stone age people. For example, how did our diet affect our metabolism and preferences? How did our sexual relationships shape the patterns of our desires?
We know very few details about these early hunter-gatherers.
The sources of information about these peoples' lives are incomplete and rare. Our main source is archaeological evidence. This consists mainly of some fossilized bones and stone tools -- by no means enough to fully reconstruct the rich lives of people tens of thousands of years ago. In time, genetic evidence might be extracted from bone remains; this could reveal familial relationships. Our secondary source is direct observation of modern hunter-gatherers, such as those in Australia and the Kalahari. However, these remaining hunter-gatherer bands remain mainly in isolated pockets, unlike ancient hunter-gatherers. Also, modern observations can inform us of little more than fundamental, practical exigencies directly pertaining to foraging. Indeed, the only thing that can be inferred about ancient hunter-gatherers' unique cultures and lifestyles, is that there was a kaleidoscopic array of diversity.
The most notable characteristic of hunter-gatherer societies is how different they are from one another.
This was one big legacy of the cognitive revolution: thanks to fictive language, even people with the same genetic makeup under similar ecological conditions could create different imagined realities which manifested themselves in many ways. Since the cognitive revolution there has not been a monolithic way of life, but an incredible array. There is and was an enormous variety among different groups of hunter-gatherers. There were about 5,000,000 hunter-gatherers divided into thousands of tribes and bands, each with its own social structures, culture, beliefs, traditions, values, languages, norms and behavior patterns. Ecological zones likely caused differences, but even those in same conditions might have had vastly different norms.
However, there are likely some common characteristics that were and are still shared by all hunter-gatherer societies.
People lived in small bands of a few dozen to a few hundred individuals and all were humans.
After the agricultural revoltuions, most members of societies were actually domesticated animals. For example, NZ has 5,000,000 people and 50,000,000 hseep. This is important. One important exception to human socities is that the dog was the first animal that Homo sapiens domesticated.
Another characteristic of human bands was a high level of intimacy.
They were surronuded throughout their lives by friends and amily. Privacy nad loninliness did not really happen. Relations between one band and another band were probaly both hostile and friendly. They perhaps exchanged members, came together for a big hunt like surrounding a big herd, trade especially luxury items like seashells, maybe political alliances against another band or neanderthals, and they may have come together a few times a year for religious festivals. This was a trademark of Homo sapiens, which gave humans an advantage over other human species. This was what humans could do and Neanderthals could not do. Even just coming together a few times a year was a big advantage over other human species.
The dog was the first animal that Homo sapiens domesticated.
They were domesticated from wild wolves. This was done long before the agricultural revolution. By 15000 years ago, domesticated dogs were a part of at least some human socities. We have hard evidence from that time forward but they were likely htere early. A tool from Northern israel 12,000 years ago contains the skull of a woman next to a small puppy, and her left hand is resting on the small puppy. We also have records of dogs being buried individually in their own graves just as humans wer eburied in their own graves. What did the dogs do? They were used mainly for hunting likely and fighting too and also as an alarm system against enemies and intruders, both human enemies and dangerous animals. They could rely on dogs to sound the alarms if someone was coming. Wolves barely bark at all, very rarely, but dogs bark all the time. Scholars estimate that a selection pressure for dogs was whether they were serving as a good alarm system or not. If you raised five puppies and four hardly barked but one did all the time, and barked as an adult dog when somebody was coming, then the dog was crucial for people as it served as a kind of alarm system. THe genes of this dog that barked a lot got passed on to the next generation of dogs. One of hte main characteristics of dogs is that they bark a lot when people are coming. One of their main roles was to help protect and defend the band by souding the alarm whenever they heard something approaching. Mutual bonds of understand and affection developed ovet the generations, between dogs and people. Dogs and people co-evolved to communicate well and understand one another. Dogs that were good at understanding human wants, commands, emotions, had a better chance of surviving and passing their genes to the next generation. Also dogs taht manipulated humans by being cute and begging food etc so tht's how dogs and humans not only evolved to understand, communicate and maniplate one another. Today the dog is the animal that has the best connection and understanding with human beings, signals, emotions.
Highly varied diet
One example is our eating habits. The way we eat today, not just what but how, is shaped by a large extent to our ancestors' conditions tens of thousands of years ago.
Why does the industrial world over-eat to the point of self-harm? 50,000 years ago if a woman were walking along the Savannah and saw a tree full of ripened fruit, the most sensible thing to do was to eat as many as possible, as quickly as possible. Sweet things were very rare. It was a prize to find such a source of readily available sugars. Except for fruits, there are hardly any sweets in the Savannah. Secondly, it was good to eat as quickly as possible because their presence could not be guaranteed at a different time. A local baboon band could have depleted the fruits. People who ate as many sweet things as quickly as possible were at an advantage and passed on their genes.
Today there is an abundance of incredibly concentrated sweet treats at easy access. 50,000 years ago? More like 150 years ago. We keep reacting to food with the same basic logic that is incompatible with conditions today. Subconsciously in our deepest layers of mentality, we still live in the Savannah.
They lived in constant movement. THeir movements were dictated by changing seasons and annual migrations of animals and seasonal plants.
They generally had a territory in which they inhabited, though, of perhaps 200 km2. There were examples of seasonal and multi-seasonal settled camps, especially along lakes, rivers and seashores. Permanent fishing villages were first permanent settlements in history even before the agricultural revolutions. Permanent fishing villages as early as 45,000ya on coast of Indonesian islands. THis could have been the base from which Homo sapiens launched its first trans-oceanic enterprise, the human intrusion into Australia.
But in most areas humans were going from place to place and feeding from a variety of different food sources. Human bands did not live by eating one thing, but many things. Insects, berries, mushrooms, nuts, edible roots, trapped frogs, turtles, rabbits,hunted deer, bison and mammoth. THey did not live by just doing one thing. In terms of calories, nourishment and raw materials for tools, gathering was more important than hunting. Most food, most calories, were obtained by mainly gathering vegetable foods. Also they gathered stones, sticks, etc. Skins and flesh of animals were importnat but not as important as the gathering.
Intellect and strength
Superb physical and mental skills were required for foraging
They were as fit as modern Olympic marathoners. They had amazing physical abilities. To survive they also needed tremendous knowledge, detailed mental map of home territory. Also technical skills like making traps, making flint knives, handling dangerous situatinos, etc etc. Mastery of these skills rquired years of apprenticeshipand practice. In all probability the avreage forager had wider, deeper and more varied knowledge of the surrounding world than most people today. most people in indutrialized societies do not need to know a lot in order to survive. You need to know a lot about your tiny field of expertise, but in the greater world you rely blindly on other experts whose own knowledge is limited to their tiny field of expertise. You have no idea how to grow, harvest wheat, or prepare clothes. You have no idea how to make your shoes or who made your shoes. 20,000 years ago you had to know how to obtain your own food, prepare your own goods and even though they helped each other there was an expert, they were a member of your band who you intimately knew. At the very least you had to be initmately familiar and on good social relations with the people who were perhaps better at certian things than you were.
But it would be a mistake to idealize their lies.
Thought they lived better lives than most peopl ein agricultural societies, there were periods of hardship, child mortality wsa veyr high, accidents like alling from a treecould be a death sentnece, and most people likely enjoyed close intimacy of small bandbut if other people for some reason didn't like you they couldmake your life hell and you couldn't just move like in a big city or big country, itcould be very difficutl to just leave in the harsh circumstances. At least some bands suffered from high or even very high levels of violence. It is best neither to demonize nor idealize lives of foragers. THere were good and bad asepects. Good days and bad days. But there is a prejudice today that life has been ongoing improving but that's not true. Life in the hunter-gatherers hadmany positive aspects andhistory does not always go from good to bad, from worse to better. Good things have been lost on the way. And many people reading this might be from affluent layers of society. But the typical person in a middle-class today is not a normal representative of a person today or previous centuries following agricultural revolution.
Sexuality and family
Another example is our sexual and romantic family relations. What kind of family relations and sexual habits have 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 years ago? Some scholars believe that the ancient foragers, our ancestors, did not live in monogamous nuclear families. Some believe that people lived in communes, not in monogamous nuclear families.
At any given time, a woman could have had sexual or romantic relations with several men and perhaps women. A man could have been active with various women and some men. It was not like jumping from beds of strangers, a series of one-night stands. Because they were communes, everyone was very close together, and people in those bands knew each other better than some people today know their spouses. You could see how the other behaved in extreme conditions that few husbands and wives get a chance to see how their spouse reacts when a lion attacks, or during a mammoth hunt. But 50,000 years ago people shared these extreme circumstances from time to time. People knew each other much more deeply than even married couples today. Do not imagine that these communes were like alienated promiscuous dens like in the modern world, but instead very close bands. Parenthood was very different from parenthood today. At the time the children were raised by the entire tribe, in that all adults helped take care of all children even if biological related were the primary connection. Men could never be sure if a child was theirs or someone else's.
There are in fact some tribes/societies today that have a concept called Collective Fatherhood. A child could have more than one father, the belief in those tribes is that when a child is growing in the womb of the women it is nourished by the semen from many men, just as an apple tree is nourished from the rain of many clouds. Indeed, up until recently, it was not known that one sperm fertilized one egg. In these collective fatherhood societies, a woman while pregnant had sex with many men -- a hunter, a communicator with spirits, a producer of knives/spearpoints, the best lover. Why not have my child have qualities of all these men? According to this idea, just as people are inclined to eat many sweet things quickly, people are inclined to live in communes and practice collective fatherhood. If this is true, then many problems experienced today in romantic, sexual and family lives results from a mismatch between our biological and cultural programs. Divorce, infidelity, etc stem from our bioogical inclinations and modern cultural programming being in conflict.
Other scholars insist that bands of hunter-gatherers were more communal, but that monogamy was an integral part of our development. They were composed of two-parent cells raising their children together, perhaps with some help from neighbors but with parents playing the same role as today.
Scholars cannot even agreeon most basic stuff like wehther people had private proprert, monogaous relatinships, nuclear families. One of the most rekarable findings was at Sungil in Russia. There Russian archaeologists found a 30tya burial site from a society that subsisted mianly by hunting mammoths and other arctic animals. Found skleton of 58 year old man covered ins trings of mammoth ivory beads. Altogether grave contained about 3000 such ivory beads. On head of dead man was a hat decorated with fox teeth. on his hand he wore 25 ivory bracelets. Other graves had human skeletons with far fewer grave goods. So they probably had a hierarchical society and this man was not just the leader of one band but a tribe of several bands. It is unlikely that a few dozen members of s ingle band could have produced so many grave goods by themselves. Another finding was a grave with two skeletons, buried head to head. One skeleton was a boy around 12/13 and other skeleton was a girl of about 9/10. Girl apparently suffered from some sort of severe hip deformity and had trouble walking. Boy was covered i about 5000 ivory beads of kind as chief and wore on his head decorations of fox teeth, dozens of fox teeth. Boy also was wearing a belt studded with 250 teeth of foxes. At least sixty foxes had to have their teeth pulled out for the boy's belt. The girl was coverd in abt 5250 ivory beds and all kinds of other jewlery and interesting stuff. Both were surrounded by ivory statues and other kinds of delicate and interesting objecst. It took a skilled craftmas about 45minutes to create each one of the beads. 10,000 beads over two children, not counting other objects, required about 75000 hours of delicate work by a very experienced craftsman or three years of labor by an experienced artisan just for the ivory beads. It is extremely unlikely that at just a young age the children of Sungil had proven themselves as big chiefs or powerful hunters and thus received the respect. Cultural beleifs must explain it.
Perhaps children owed their rank to their parents. Perhaps they were children of the leader, in a society that believed in strict rules of succession.
Perhps children had been identified at birth as reincarnations of some long-dead spirit.
Perhaps children were buried in such a mangificent way not because of how the status had while alive, but because of how they died. Maybe they were ritually sacrificed perhaps as part of burial rite of leader and buried with the same magnificence as the leader. We do have evidence of people being sacrificed inthe burial of a big chief.
The children of SUngil are among hte best evidence we have that Sapeisn could invent socio-poltiical codes far beyond the dictates of our DNA and far beyond other human species let alone other spcies at all. Burial at SUngil is tthe clearest indiciation that t least in some bands there were hierarchiies and large social inewualities.
WHat then about warfare? Was it an ancient phenonmen or a relatively new one? Did ancient bands fight their neighbors?
Some scholars imagine that ancient forager societies were peaceful and largescale conflict among groups only began with agricultural revolution when people gained large lands and assets on those lands.
Some scholars imagine that ancient forager societies were exceptionally cruel and violent and warfare and alrge-scale violence are not a result of agriculture.
Both schools of though have veyr little evidence for their arguments. only evidence we have are veyr meager archaologic remains and modern anthropological studies.
Modern studies are rich and intriguing but not informative. The societies re normally isolated with very low populatin density and opportunities to find other people are limited. People in kalahari do not fight often but maybe just ebcause they rarely meet anybody in the Kalahari. Maybe in a fertile vllaye there woudl have been wars. Alos even these isoalted societies are subject to modern state that prevent eruption of large-scale conflict. Anthropologists actually had only two main opportunities large and relatively dense population sof foragers independent of control of modern states: in northwestern north America, Canada, Alska in 19th century and in north Astrualia in 19th and early 20th century. How lots of hutner-gatherers lived in relatively fertile areas. In both cases anthropologists found a high frequency of armed conflict between the different bands. We are unable to reliably project these findings onto societies on different continents, in different climates, tens of thousnad of years ago. There is no clear evidence of large-scale violence but that does not mean that it did not happen; we have very little evidence of anything from that time. From 20tya to the outbreak of the agricultural revolution we have much more evidence. From this period 20tya to beginningof agricultural revolution we have evidence of differnet patterns. A fmaous example is a survery of400 skeletons found in Portugal from period immediately before agricutlral revolution. They found 400 diff skeletons from that period and only two showed clear marks of human violence like an arrowheaded embedded in human bones. A similar survey of 400 skeletons found in Ancient Israel period immediately before agricultural revoltuoins showed only one skull with a sigle crack that could be attributed to human violence. But that just means that we did not find hard evidence. You could slit someones' throat and that would leave no skeletal evidence. Another survey of 400 skeletns from Danub Valley, scientists found clear evidence for violence on eighteen skeletons. Eighteen out of 400 but it's actually a very high percentage. If all those eighteen people died frm human violence, then abt 4.5 percent of deaths were from human violence but in modern day early 21st century all deaths only 1.5 percent are attributable to human violence. 20th century was much more violent and we find just 5 percent. So if in ancient Danub Valley 4.5% of people died violently then Ancint Danub Vlaley wa as violent as 20th century. There are other related fidings like Jabal Sahara in Sudan, archaeologists found a cemetery 12tya just before agricultural revolution containing 59 skeletons. SOme skeletons had arrowheads and spearpoints embedded, 24 of 59, 50%, had arrowheads or spearpoints embedded in the bone or found with the skeleton. The skeleton of one woman in that cemeteyr had twelve different injuries so someone must have really tried to kill her. In a cave in Bavaria there were rmains of 38 people, foragers, mainly women/children all thrown together into two burial pits. Half the skeletons included childrena and evenbabies had clear signs of human weapons like knives and clubs. Few skeletons of older males, were theones with worst marks of violence among them. This shows the massacre of a forager band at once.
Which evidence is more important? Peaceful Portugal and Israel skeletons or violent Jebel Sahara and Ofrent? Neither is more representative. Just as foragers exhibited wide spectrum of religions and social structures likely, so too they probbaly had a variety of violence rates. Some areas in some periods may have had peace and tranquility, others may have been torn by ferocious conflicts.
It is even more difficult to try to reconstruct a particular religious movement or particular violent event.
World was as colorful, dramatic and exciting full of various varients. it is vital to realize that they had their own revolutions, ecsatic religious movements, profound philosophical theories and artistic masterpieces and keep asking these questions even if we have few answers and may never have more answer. IMportant to ask questions because we thereby ispire ourselves to look more carefully for eveidence and scholars always develop new research methods to illuminate new evidence. Genetic evidence, for example, has been a brekathrough. Today we can extract DNA from ancient fossilized bones and from this evidence we gain all kinds of new inishts about world of ancient foragers. Question of whether they lived in nuclear families and were monogamous or were in communes with multiple fathers? Previusly it was thought we would never have the answer but today it seems we might ahve a good answer soon enough. By extracting DNA from all people at Sungil or Jaba Sahara or Bavaria and then start reconstructing fmaily trees of those people who likley belonged to the same band. Did people with same mother have same father or not? This is a good way to solve a riddle about lives of ancient foragres that untl big breaks of modern genetics seemed somethign wecould never solve. Another reason to ask is to rmeind us of our ignroance. Science is built not just on knowledge but ignorace. Always remember what we do not know. We know very little about the history of Homo sapiens. History has gone on for 70ty since cogntivie revoltuion and first 60ty we know almost nothing.But those 60ty they shaped the bodies and minds we have today but world also, except perhaps antarctica. Visiting siberian tundra or amazonian rainforests or australian tundra, we imagine a pristine landscape but it's an illusion. Foragers were there in all these places and brought about dramatic changes in te ecology even of the most dense jungle and most remte and desoalte desert.
Animistic beliefs was the basis of worldview and beliefs. From latin word anima, meaning soul or spirit. Aimism is the world full of animated beings all of whom can communicate with one another directly. No separatation between spiritual and physical worldanimals, plants and inimatve objects or phenonema possess a spiritual essence. Every animal, plant, rock, has awareness, hasa mnd, has feelings and emotions. Animists may eblieve that the big rock at the top of the hill has feeling, desirse and needs. It might be angry or rejoice due to actions by the people. THey might ask it to do things or them, or vice-versa. Also an oak tree, or a stream. In the animst world, objects and living things are not he only animated beings. THere are also immaterial beings like fairies, monsters, immaterial anima. They can be spoken with, communicated with, made deals with. ANimists particularly believe that there is no barrier betwen humans and other beings. We believe that animls have emotions and minds but cannot be directly communicated to, but animists believe htat hrough song and dance and ceremony can communicate with them directly. A hunter may aska herd of deer if they may offer one of their own; and he may apologize to the killed deeer. The shaman may contact the spirit causing a sickness to pacify or scare it away, to restore the health of the person. If the spirit does not cooperate then might ask for help from other spirits to restore the health. WHat separates animism from later religions is that the entities addressed are local beings a particular tree or wolf or cloud or dmeon. They are not religions of great gods, one grreat god responsible for many trees and wolves. Main communication is with a particular entity in your valley, in your local location. THere are no barriers between humans and other beings. We may speak directly with elephants androcks. Also there is no strict hierarchy. Things around us ar enot below us. We are in a similar position. Similarly animists do not give much importance to all-powerful gods ahtat run the world as wished. The world of animist does not revolve around humans or any particular being or group like gods. It revolved around communication with a community of entities forming the world. It should be emhasized that animism is not a speciic religion. It is an umbrella name for thousands of different religions and cults and beliefs. WHat make them animist is a common core approach to the world and man's place in the world. But aside from these core beliefs there could be very big differences between different animist groups. For example many groups of belief believe in great gods, so they are all theists. From the word theos in Greek, for god. Many religions are theist like Greek, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, all are theist religions. They all beleive in great gods and appraoach the world with the basic understanding that there is a hierarchy where a single great god or gods is at the top and humans are subject to them. Most culturse after the agricultural revolution have been theist, but this does not tell us much about the particulars of what they believed or practiced in daily life. We could find Jewish Rabbis 18th century and Aztec priests from 15th century Mexico and Sufi mystics from 12th century Iran and Viking warriors 12th century Scandinavia and Roman legionnairs and Egyptian bureacruats -- al are theist. But we do not know much about their beliefs and practices just to know that they are theist or not.
The differences between beliefs and practices of different animists might have been just as big as between Islam and ancient Greek religion. Similarly 30tya two foraging bands might have been animists, where the world is sufused with emotions and feelings, but differences between them might have been tremendous.
There may have been revolutions -- a charismatic leader who leads a new faith tradition.
Most evidence we have coes from limited statues and paitings and no written evidence so we can't be sure how to interpret them. There are detailed accounts by modern scholars but most are a good source of information for prejudices of modern scholars. They are a poor source of information about what our ancstors actually beleived.
Lesco Cve painting
What is being depicted? WHat is meaning?
Venus of VIllendorf - many similarly statues were foud in Europe and Russia out of varios materials like clay and ivory.
Many statues of these women but barely any of men.
Hand-prints in Argentina. Cave of the hands.
We think they had religions and probably most were animist but we know nothing else.
Hunter-gather vs agricultural societies
At the collective level we can make spaceships, but at the individual level we know much less than our ancestors. The size of the average Sapeisn brain has been decreasing since the agricultural revoltuion, the size of the human brain began to shrink because survival in the era of foraging required superb mental abilities from everybody. But when agriculture and industry came along and people began to live as pesaants and city dwellers, people could rely on complete strangers and niches for imbeciles became available. People with smaller brains and less knowledge could survive in a big city by working a machine in a factory. Or in an agricultural village you could be the village idito who survived by carryig buckets from the well or river.
The hunter-gatherer way of life differed significantly from region to region and season to season. But on the whole foragers seemed to have had a mor comfortable and reawrding lifestlye han people who came after them. Theyhad bigger brains, more knowledge, more skilled set, and in other ways had better lives than peasants, laborarers and office clerks who followed in their footsteps.
People on most affluetn socities in world live 40-45 hours per week. In developing countries it's 50 - 80 hours per week. Hunter-gatherers seemed to have worked 35-45 hours per week. On average it was enough to go hunting one outof three days and go gathering nuts, mushrooms just three to six hours per dday. This was neough in most areas for most of the time to feed the band. They worked less hours than most people today. Also foragers enjoyed a lighter load of household jobs. Unlikeus, ancient foragers when they came back home did not have to wash the dishes because there were no dishes, vacuum carpets because ther were none, change diapers because no diapers, no bills to pay, not the tremendously detailed arrangements to make, so they had a simpler and easier lifestyle.
The forager economy was characterized not just by people working less, but most people working more interesting careers as hunters and gatherers than peasants or industrial workers. Imagine the daily life of a Chinese facotry worker today. Making way through putrid streets, to a dreary sweatshop and operating the same machine in the same way day after day after day for ten long hours a day. The typical developing-world working day is ten hours per day. Then return home through traffic and pollution. Now time to wash dishes, do laundry, take care of baby, all these things. Now go back to 30,000 years ago and see how a CHinese forager lived. Leaving at 8am she andher companions roamed in nearby forests and swamps to gather mushrooms and gather roots and catch frogs and run away from tigers and snakes. By early afternoon they were back at camp to share the food they gathered and make lunch. That left them plenty of time to gossip andtell stories and play children and hang out. It was not ideal, of course. Sometimes they were bit by snakes or caught bylions. But there were no automobile accidents. No industrial accidents. Foraging was more interesting than factory worka nd also provided people with better nutrition than industry or agriculture. Evidence from fossilized skeletons indicates that ancient foragers were less likely to suffer from starvation or malnutritionand were generally taller and healthier than peasants who followed them.
Average life expectancy was still much shorter thna it was today. Average life expectancy was thirty to forty years, the same as 200 years ago. Also it should be noted hat htis relatively short life expecancy was due to high incience of child mortality. 30,000 years ago people lived to be 35-40 but in reaity child omrtality was vey high and your chances of reaching age 15 to 20 (about 25-33% died before late adolescence) but if oyu managed to srurive and reach age twenty then you could live to be sixty, seventy or even eighty. People who were forty were not old.
What was the foragers secret to success that protected them from staration and malnutrition? They had very vared diets. Peasants who followed, most of the population, suffered from unbalanced diets/nutrition. Especially in pre-modern times, most calories feeding omst agricultural population usually came from a single crop (or two at the most) like wheat and potatoes, or wheat and rice. If you are eating such a limitied diet then you are prone to malnutrition. In southern China peasants have been eating rice for breakfast luncha n dinner for thousands of years. In Mexico they ate maize -- sometimes more than 70% or even 90% of their calories came form a single crop. In the Middle East it was wheat. This provided calories, but not all the vitamins and minerals that they needed. Ancient foragers in most areas of the world ate dozens fo different foodstuffs. You might eat mushrooms and nuts for breakfast, then frogs and snails for lunch then mammoth steak for dinner from th ehunting party. A typical forage band ate dozens and even hudnreds of different foodstuffs, both animal and vegetable foodstuffs. This variety ensured that htey received all necessary vitamins and mineral and other nutrients. There was another beenfit for variety of foodstuffs. By not depeding on a single kind of food they were also protected from calamities that hit a particular source o food. In agricultural societies there is famine, drought or fire that destroys the annual rice crop. Then a society based on rice or wheat starves because there is nothing else. In a forager society however they were much more protected from natural disasters. They suffered from time to time with difficult periods without enough food but they could manage these calamities much easier than peasants/farmers because if they lost some foodstuffs they coudl gather/hunt larger quantiies of other sources of food ro simply move to a less affected area because their terrtory was large enough dozens oreven hundreds of km if a river flooded and washed out many goods, they would move to a mountain that was not affected. But if a river floods the wheat ro rice field then everything is gone and hte peasants might die from starvation.
Also foragers had another big advantage; they suffered less from infectious diseases. Most infectious diseases that have plagued human societies from the agricutlrual revoltuion onwards like smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, originated in domesticated animals like cattles, horses and pigs and trasnferred to humans only by agricultural domesticated animals. You have swine flu, chicken flu, which moves from our domesticated animals to humans. Ancient foragers only domesticated dogs so they did not receive these deadly infectious diseases. Ancient foragers suffered far less than their descendants the peasants/farmers did from infectious diseases. Anothe reasons they were less prone to infectious disease was because they were small roaming bands. These were not ideal places for infectious diseases to take hold and spread. In later times when people lived in permanent cities, tens of thousands of people in same place, with garbage, with toilets, with pigs, horses, cattle, these were ideal hotbeds for infectious diseases to spread. This is why after the agricultural revoltion people died in huge numbres from these diseases. Hunter-gathererrs lives in small bands that moved often, not years of waste buildingup. Also their varied diets, relatively short working week, rarity of infectious diseases, have caused these societies to be defined as the original affluent socieies. We often think of rich nations like United States, Switzerland or Japan as affluent societies; but long before, the hunter-gatherers were affleunt.