Hunting in farming societies: the prehistoric perspective


en Anthropozoologica 16 - Pages 7-18

Published on 01 October 1992

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animals and their products in trade and exchange. Proceedings of the 3rd international meeting of HASRI, Oxford, 8-11 November 1990

This paper examines the role of hunting amongst prehistoric farming communities in Northern Europe and considers the role of products of foraging in trade and exchange from the Neolithic through the Iran Age. Recent ethnographic data suggest that hunting and gathering continues to play an important role amongst subsistence farming societies, either as (1) a risk buffering strategy, (2) for socio-ideological reasons or (3) in response to demand for furs and other wild animal products by more advanced, complex societies, or as a combination of the above factors. Mechanisms of reciprocity and redistribution, specialism for trade and exchange, as well as prestige and luxury trade would have been involved in the movement of hunting and gathering products arising from these situations. Based on a review of the ethnographic evidence, I present a model for the use of wild resources among subsistence farmers from the Neolithic period onwards, and suggest how the operation of this model could be recognised in prehistoric faunal assemblages as well as other aspects of the material culture. This model is then examined against the archaeological record of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iran Age settlement in the East Baltic, Finland and Scandinavia. I conclude that the major patterns of wild resources used conform to the model, but that unpredicted variation emerged concerning the timing and co-occurrence of the different strategies of wild resource use. While contributing to our understanding of the wild resources used among farming societies, the model requires more detailed application, which would take into account regional conditions and taphonomic factors.


Hunting and Gathering, Farming, Northern Europe, Wild Resources, Trade and Exchange.

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