delanceyplace.com 02/13/06 - stone age man

In today's excerpt - life in the Stone Age.  The author, Douglass North, postulates that prehistoric pre-agriculture 'bands' of humans would sometimes reach points where their population numbers would exceed food supply, and therefore they would be motivated to prevent their numbers from increasing:

"As population grew over the million or so years of man's history ... at first, man hunted the larger animals. A number of kill sites with great quantities of bones have been found, indicating that the hunting tactic of driving large animals over a cliff was employed. It is possible that man's increasingly efficient ability to hunt the great cold-weather animals—the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros as they retreated northward—contributed to their extinction, [since their disappearance in North America coincided with the appearance of humans.]

"We should expect, however, that groups ... would initially try to develop stable relationships between the population of the band and the [food] resource base. These bands would limit fertility by taboos, infanticide, and various other means. ... Moreover, we should expect that these bands attempted to develop a set of customs and rules to regulate hunting, and in a way that would maintain stability. ... Precisely the kind of homeostatic relationships that the anthropologists have described as existing among contemporary primitive societies ..."


author:

Douglass C. North

title:

Structure and Change in Economic History

publisher:

W.W. Norton & Company

date:

1981

pages:

84-85
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