Archaeology and the Importance of Agriculture

            I never really knew about the importance of Archaeology and how complex it was. To be completely honest if someone were to of asked me what comes to mind about Archaeology, I’d tell them about  Harrison Ford running around fighting bad guys with swords, saving the damsels in distress, and reading stone tablets. But now I have gained a new respect and a better understanding what it is that archaeologists do and how their methods are used to by other disciplines.

             Archaeologist use agriculture/irrigation to help better understand ancient complex societies and this method has been adopted by a lot of past Anthropologist. Archaeologists have found that a lot places of today show remnants of ancient structures, such as chiefdoms, bands, tribes, and ancient states. Scholars go on to conclude that the development of irrigation and agricultural systems tell us a lot about origins of certain societies.In another one of my anthropology courses I read about a couple of anthropologist that uses method similar to that of the archaeologist.

The first is a man by the name of E.E. Evans-Pritchard who wrote an article on his fieldwork with the Nuer Tribe of Southern Sudan. In his article he talks about how the Nuer’s social organizations are impacted by the environment. Evans focuses on the Nuer’s environment and how they adapt and use it because it plays a key role in population, housing arrangements, and many of their cultural interactions. They have two seasons which can best be described as the Wet and Dry seasons. Due to the various harsh conditions that the Nuer face in these seasons there are customs and practices which they go threw to share food and help prevent starvation. Evans goes on to explain that it is threw vast years of the agricultural customs and practices are how this Tribe has been able to survive and maintain social order without. He uses kind of the same method as archaeologist do by showing the transition of their village life and agricultural subsistence as grounds for explaining how they have made it thus far.

The second article I read was by Julian Steward entitled “The Patrilineal band”. In Steward’s article he analyzes the cultures of the South African Bushmen, the Congo Negritos of Central Africa, Philippine Negritos, the Australians, the Tasmanians, and Southern Californian groups due to their cultures practice use of the band. Steward focuses his studies on “utility features” which are like the collection of key elements that the culture centers itself around. Steward also analyzes the cultural ecology and shows emphasis on the tribe’s human labor within the environment. He shows quite a bit of concern with the tribes technological processes and how they exploit the environment due to the fact that different subsistence strategies cause different social structures. He focuses on the interplay between the environment and the technology of the tribes because he believes that the environment determines one culture. Steward uses the past and present uses of the environment and agriculture to explain their origins of patrilineality. Archaeologists use the same methods to explain of a lot of pas ancient states came to be.

I felt that is was really interesting that I found similar connections in some of my classes and that some of the archaeologist method have been adopted by other disciplines. I also think its really cool how agriculture play such a crucial role in understanding the origins of a people.