What are some similarities between hunting and gathering societies and agricultural societies?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to The Prehistory of Food: Appetites for Change, edited by Chris Gosden, the differences between hunter-gatherer societies and agricultural societies has been overstated at times. For example, more recent research has questioned the notion of a strict dichotomy between the two types of societies and has suggested that societies can be on a continuum between the two extremes.

In addition, research has suggested that hunter-gatherer societies and agricultural societies were quite similar with regard to their social organization, population density, economy, and means of change. For example, the researcher Lourandos found that hunter-gatherer societies and agricultural societies in Australia and New Guinea had similar population densities and means of harnessing energy. Therefore, both societies were similar in the density of their populations, though some earlier experts had believed that agricultural societies gave rise to denser populations. The author also cites evidence that challenges the idea that agricultural societies were more complex than hunter-gatherer societies and that technology and innovation moved only from farmers to hunter-gatherers. Instead, both types of societies could develop in complexity, and technology was spread in both directions, from hunter-gatherers to farmers and vice versa.

Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most archeologists believe that both agricultural societies and hunting-gathering societies divide labor between the sexes. This means that men and women participate in distinct, specialized labor tasks as an expression of their gendered identity. Sexual division of labor can be observed among extant pastoral and agricultural societies. However, since only a few (small) hunting-gathering societies exist, scholars cannot know for sure how these societies organize and divide their labor. Despite difficulties in the anthropological study of hunting-gathering societies, the general consensus is that these societies organize(d) labor along the lines of gender. This hypothesis is widely accepted among scholars because it is buttressed by a large amount of archeological evidence. 

Both agricultural societies and hunting-gathering societies kept careful track of the seasons. Pre-dating written language and formal calanders, hunting-gathering societies oriented themselves to changing seasons by noting the position of stars and constellations. Attuned to changes in weather and sky, nomadic hunting-gathering groups would move to follow hunted game. Agricultural societies likewise worked with the seasons, paying attention to changes in temperature and other natural signs in order to determine the best times to plant, harvest, etc.