Pastoralism Essay, Research Paper
Pastoralism is an economy based on herding. Pastoralists maintain herds of animals and use their products to support themselves directly and to exchange with other civilizations. It is especially associated with such terrain as steppes, rolling hills, grasslands, and the like-areas of low rainfall where cultivation is difficult without irrigation, but where grasses are plentiful enough to support herds of animals.1 Pastoralism was originally founded in the old world. Pastoralists are generally nomadic and usually follow their herds in search of food and water. Pastoral civilizations tend to be warlike and they have a difficult time trying to live at peace with settled agricultural populations. In areas where pastoralists and cultivators are in contact , the pastoralists generally have the advantage in prestige due to their superior military striking power.2 I will illustrate a few examples of pastoral groups that are warlike to prove that the first half of the statement is true.
The Masai live among the wild animals on the rolling plains of the Rift Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of Africa.3 The Masai are strictly cattle herders. They do not farm the land, believing it to be a sacrilege to break the earth.3 In contrast to their peaceful and harminous relationship to the wildlife, however, the Masai are warlike in relationship to their neighboring tribes, conducting cattle raids where they take women as well as cattle for their prizes and they have been fiercely independent in resisting the attempts of colonial governments to change or subdue them.3 The amount of land that the Masai require for their enormous herds of cattle is not appreciated by people who use and value the land more for agriculture than for pasturage and for herds of wild animals. Many people view the Masai as thieves, but they do not believe in stealing material objects. They have strict laws against those that do steal material objects. They believe that when they raid other villages and steal their cattle it is seen as returning the cattle to their rightful owners. This belief stems from the notion that all cattle on the earth are theirs, and any cattle they do not presently own are only temporarily out of their care, and must be recaptured.3 It from the basic belief, an entire culture has grown. The ground or area that the cattle graze is considered sacred, everything from the grass the cattle eat to the water they drink. This is why that it is sacrilege for them to break the ground.
The Indians of the Great Plains can be considered pastoral or nomadic group. They hunted the buffalo or bison on the plains. The buffalo regulated their lives, they followed the herds since it was their main source for food. They would move when the buffalo moved setting up camps with the herds. The Indians of the great plains were definitely warlike. They raided other tribes for women, horses, and food. They would extinguish anyone who crossed their land and attempted to raid their village. They performed war dances or ghost dances to get themselves prepared for war. The premise of warfare was common among all tribes on the Great Plains, but it goes hand in hand with the buffalo herds.
The Hittites of Ancient Mesopotamia were a pastoral group that herded sheep, goats, and camel in the desert region located on the outskirts of Mesopotamia. They were one of the first nomadic groups to domestic the horse. Once they domesticated the horse it spelled doom for the groups in the surrounding areas. The Hittites could move farther and faster with their herds. They would destroy everything that got in the way of their herds. They destroyed several agricultural city-states and wiped out several cultures in the process.
On the other hand it is true that pastoralist societies cannot live without agricultural societies because pastoralism is not a self-sufficient way of life. Pastoralism is a highly specialized form of food production involving the care of large animals. It has survived mostly in places which cannot support agriculture but can provide sufficient pasture for a herd, as well as secondary hunting-gathering opportunities. Even though they are nomadic pastoral societies tend to be more stratified and have more social differentiation for instance, craft specialization–than those dependent upon food collection.1 There is also an interdependence between the pastoral group and agricultural groups in this area.1 This involves trade, which generally plays an important role, since a pastoral economy is often not self-sufficent.1 Finally pastoralist are vulnerable to food shortages, because their climates are subject to variations in rainfall.
The Basseri are a prime example of a pastoral tribe that is not self- sufficient. The Basseri are a tribe of tent-dwelling, nomads living in southern Iran. They raise sheep and goats, though donkeys and camels are employed for draft work, and the more wealthier men have horses for riding.1 They have a specified route and schedule that they follow. The route refers to the localities in the order they are visited and follows the existing passes and lines of communication; the schedule regulated the length of time each location will be occupied and depends on the maturation of different pastures and the movements of other tribes.1 Hunting and gathering play no major role in their economy( though hunting is a popular sport among the men).1 Agriculture and trading are a very important aspect to the lives of the Basseri. The wealthier Basseri practice agriculture indirectly. However, most tribesman must obtain through trade the necessities and luxury items that are not produced within the community.1 The staple items they sell are butter, wool, lambskins, rope, and occasionally livestock.1
In conclusion, I am in agreement with the statement that I chose. Pastoralist societies are warlike and they do have difficulties living at peace with settled agricultural populations. Pastoralism to me seems to be an alternative to agricultural, but since pastoralism is self-sufficient, pastoralism is never independent of agricultural societies. I found it interesting to learn that some nomadic and pastoralist groups, such as the Basseri, do practice agricultural developments. I also agree with the statement that pastoralism cannot live without the agricultural societies. If they do not raise vegetables or some type of food they will usually acquire them through trade.4 All in all pastoralism is a efficent means of extracting energy from a harsh enviroment, it actually does produce less energy per acre of land than agriculture does. Finally, I found the statement interesting, after I started to research on the topic I found some facts and statements that that I found really intriguing and they contributed to me comprehending the material easier.