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(P15) Comparative studies of hunter-gatherers in Asia: from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles for long-term periods (CLOSED)

Convenor: Kazunobu Ikeya, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan; Sakkarin Na Nan, Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna Nan

Abstract: Hunter-gatherers in Asia have some characteristics: they have adapted to diversified circumstances from the far north to tropical zones, and have contacted and maintained relationships with neighbours. The continuity, social changes, and historical transitions from nomadic to sedentary life of hunter-gatherers in Asia from prehistory to the present will be discussed. 

Keywords: social change, continuity, prehistory, Southeast Asia, modern nations 

Format: standard panel 

Precirculated papers: none required 

 

Among past anthropological studies of hunter-gatherers, academic theoretical contributions related to hunter-gatherers in Asia have been fewer than those related to Africa or North America. Nevertheless, regarded on a global scale, hunter-gatherers in Asia present some interesting regional characteristics: from prehistory to the present, they have adapted to diverse circumstances from the far north to tropical areas, and from terrestrial ecosystems including tundra and forests to water ecosystems including sea and lakes. It seems possible that they coexisted and had several relationships with Homo neanderthalensis and Denisova hominin during the Paleoasian period. Moreover, they maintained various relations with Chinese and Indian civilisations, some kingdoms including those of Thailand, and modern nations from advanced countries to developing nations. Furthermore, Southeast Asia and South Asia are the only areas where nomadic and semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers still exist today.  

In this session, the cultural continuities and social changes of hunter-gatherers in Asia from prehistory, i.e., tens of thousands of years ago, up to the present time will be considered mainly using examples of hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia and South Asia. Moreover, in social culture, in order to associate modern ethnography with archaeological materials, we will highlight the relationship between technologies of subsistence and their symbolic behaviours including burials and accessories. Adding to this, the historical transition from nomadic to sedentary life will be one of the central themes. Through comparison of their presentations, common and disparate features of techniques, economies, and societies among hunter-gatherers in Asia can be discussed in depth. The comparison of cases across Asia will permit us to make new contributions to the future development of research on contemporary hunter-gatherer societies. 

 Papers

Ethnoarchaeology of Neolithic Crop Resiliency and Adoption by Ancient Foragers of Taiwan

Pei-Lin Yu, Boise State University, United States. anyikui[a]hotmail.com

Short abstract: This paper uses ethnoarchaeological data about cultivation of traditional Taiwanese crops to develop an hypothesis predicting the evolutionary tempo and mode of Taiwan's foraging to farming transition.

Long abstract: The adoption of agriculture among intensified foragers occurred in many parts of Island Southeast Asia. Recently, behavioral ecologists have modeled evolutionary aspects of mixed forager-gardener economies, but the Paleolithic to Neolithic transition is not yet well understood. My ethnoarchaeological research of ancient crop types still in cultivation in Taiwan indicates that crops were not adopted en bloc by foragers. In observing differing costs and benefits of individual cultivars, foragers would initially have valued characteristics such as adaptation to local conditions and resilience to stressors that were compatible with mobility needed to maintain access to wild mountain and aquatic resources, rather than crop productivity by weight. This paper will feature a listing of Neolithic Taiwan crop types in hypothesized rank order of adoption, and archaeological implications.

Methods of collective hunting for large ungulates among the tribes of Northern Asia in archeology and ethnography

Ekaterina Girchenko, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, Russia. ekaterina.girchenko[a]gmail.com
Oleg Kardash, Surgut State University, Russia. archaeology.yugra[a]gmail.com

Short abstract: In the Far North of Asia annually from ancient times, herds of wild reindeer make meridional seasonal migrations. The system of hunting pits was a part of the complicated system of paddocks, which is fixed archaeologically since the early Neolithic. It was a new type of collective hunting, the result of adaptation to Northern conditions, that existed until the 20th century.

Long abstract: The methods of collective hunting for large ungulates mainly depend on the landscape peculiarities and special features of biocenosis. In the Far North of Asia annually from ancient times, herds of wild reindeer make meridional seasonal migrations. The system of hunting pits was a part of the complicated system of paddocks, which is fixed archaeologically since the early Neolithic. Reindeer lived during the Pleistocene, but it was hard to dig a pit in the permafrost of the tundra. The resettlement to this territory set for migrants a new adaptation task, especially in case of the absence of flint, a usual and suitable stone for manufacturing the hunting tools. In the North, a new type of collective hunting was the result of adaptation, which due to high efficiency and exclusion of territory existed until the 20th century.

Defensive-residential complexes of the aboriginal population of Northern Asia in the middle I mill. BC – middle II mill. AD (origins, development, decline).

Svetlana Lips, Surgut State University, Russia. wusong[a]yandex.ru
Ekaterina Girchenko, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, Russia. ekaterina.girchenko[a]gmail.com
Oleg Kardash, Surgut State University, Russia. archaeology.yugra[a]gmail.com

Short abstract: In the north of Western Siberia hundreds of unique settlements - compact groups of defensive and residential complexes - are being revealed. These complexes appeared in the middle of the I Mill. BC. We believe that they originated from migrants from the South as a way of adapting to the conditions of the North.

Long abstract: In the north of Western Siberia several hundreds of settlements are being revealed – these are compact groups of buildings, defensive and residential complexes. In the neighboring territories of Eastern and North-Eastern Europe such concentrated settlements were not found. The ancient population of this region is related to the Small Ural race that was formed from the Neolithic by the mixture of Asian and European anthropological types. Systematic migrations from the South to the North were recorded archaeologically. Defensive-residential complexes in the North of Western Siberia appeared in the middle of the I Mill. BC, the time of beginning of the house-building tradition. We believe that these complexes originated from migrants from the South of Siberia as a way of adapting to the conditions of the North.

Braided ornaments of the Asian tribes of the Far North of Asia

Oleg Kardash, Surgut State University, Russia. archaeology.yugra[a]gmail.com
Ekaterina Girchenko, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, Russia. ekaterina.girchenko[a]gmail.com

Short abstract: Analogies to the traditional ornaments of North Siberia in the early Neolithic we can find in the materials of Vietnam and Southern China. Perhaps the braided ornaments may indicate the relations between ancient tribes of the South and the North of Eurasia and can help to reconstruct the ways of ancient migrations.

Long abstract: The early Neolithic of Eurasia is characterized by the increasing mobility of population in comparison with the Upper Palaeolithic. The adaptation to new conditions changed the economic structure of ancient tribes, but there were conservative areas of human life where traditions were stronger than any of the adaptive processes and they can be considered as stable markers of the resettlement extension of ancient man. The example of this kind of area was needlework. Analogies to the traditional ornaments of North Siberia we can find in the materials of Vietnam and Southern China. Braided ornament kept its geometrism while transferring the pattern on other materials such as fabric or bark. Perhaps the braided ornaments may indicate the relations between ancient tribes of the South and the North of Eurasia.

Technological and social interaction between hunter-gatherers and new migrants in prehistoric (Neolithic) Island Southeast Asia and Oceania

Rintaro Ono, Tokai University, Japan. onorintaro[a]gmail.com

Short abstract: This presentation explores the possible technological and social interaction between the aboriginal human groups mainly as fishing/hunter-gatherer and new Neolithic migrants who had both farming, animal husbandry and fishing/hunter-gathering skills in Island Southeast Asia and Near Oceania

Long abstract: This presentation explores the possible technological and social interaction between the aboriginal human groups mainly as fishing/hunter-gatherer and new Neolithic migrants who had both farming, animal husbandry and fishing/hunter-gathering skills in Island Southeast Asia and Near Oceania during the Neolithic times. Based on the current major hypothesis and archaeological / anthropological data, such Neolithic new migrants or linguistically Austronesian groups originated somewhere between southern China coasts to Taiwan and migrated into Island Southeast Asia and Oceania during the Neolithic times around 4000 and 3000 years ago. During their migration process, they might encounter with the aboriginal human groups who reached to these islands during the late Pleistocene and middle Holocene times. Their social interaction and its process are not so clear from the current Archaeological findings, but some cases such as Lapita migrants who firstly migrated into Near Oceania islands from Maritime Asia show traces of technological interaction with the aboriginal Melanesian people, hence their culture used to be identified as “Lapita Cultural Complex” in Archaeology. Based on possible traces of interaction on material culture after Neolithic times, I discuss such prehistoric migration and social interaction of hunter-gathers in maritime environments. 

Technology and resource use during the Initial Early Upper Paleolithic on the Japanese Islands

Takuya Yamaoka, Department of Social and Human Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shizuoka University, Japan. takuyayamaoka[a]cii.shizuoka.ac.jp

Short abstract: Recent studies indicate that arrival of Homo sapiens on the Japanese Islands dates back to 38,000 years ago. This paper discusses technology and resource use of the first modern humans in the Japanese Islands.

Long abstract: Recent studies indicate that the arrival of Homo sapiens on the Japanese Islands dates back to 38,000 years ago, to the Initial Early Upper Paleolithic (the IEUP: 38,000–34,500 years ago). IEUP assemblages of the Japanese Islands belong to an industry, including representative formal tools, such as trapezoids, pen-head shaped points, and adzes (with a ground-edge), which have unique features in comparison to those in the surrounding areas in East Asia. The IEUP industry is also characterized by amorphous flakes and heavy-duty tools, such as adzes and other core tools. In addition, marine isotope stage 3 vegetation of the Japanese Islands is characterized by relatively high amounts of deciduous broadleaf trees. Based on these data, the hunter-gatherers of the IEUP in the Japanese Islands are estimated to have been heavily dependent on floral resources for tool production. Recent diversified analyses of trapezoids, including use-wear analysis and experimental studies revealed various behaviors, such as hunting, retooling of hunting weapons, and butchering, as well as sophisticated technologies, such as complex projectile technologies and a mechanism cushioning of hunting weapons, relating to hunting activities during the IEUP. Their implications for understanding behavioral modernity of early modern humans are discussed in this paper.

Sedentarism and the Continuity of the Relationship between Hunter-gatherers and Farmers in Thailand

Shinsuke Nakai, Saga University, Japan. nakais500[a]gmail.com
Kazunobu Ikeya, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan. ikeya[a]idc.minpaku.ac.jp

Short abstract: This study examines how hunter-gatherers establish relationships with neighbors especially about farmers, from the case of Mlabri hunter-gatherer in Thailand.

Long abstract: This study examines the sedentary livelihood of the Mlabri hunter-gatherer people in Thailand, who used to have a continuous nomadic life in the mountain forests from the 19th century until the end of 1990s. We conducted a fieldwork since 2003 at Mlabri settlements in northern Thailand, specifically examining the Huai Yuak settlement in the Nan province. Mlabri people started settling down because of several developmental policies at the end of the 1990s, having a relationship with local farmers of the Thai and the Hmong ethnic groups. Then, in the 2010s, they showed a big change in their livelihood by cultivation of maize for sale and pig and chicken husbandry for consumption, maintaining a continuous special socio-economic relationship with neighbors of the farmers.

Cross-cultural perspective of the technology and technique for hunting and gathering from the ethnographic data

Atsushi Nobayashi, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan, Japan. nova[a]idc.minpaku.ac.jp
Yujie Peng, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan, Japan. houketu[a]gmail.com

Short abstract: This paper aims to argue the factors that are correlated with technology and technique of hunting and gathering, and to show the cross-cultural perspective of cultural evolution of modern humans’ subsistence activities.

Long abstract: Modern human (Homo sapiens) achieved the dispersal for all over the world. One of reasons was that they could develop the technology and technique for subsistence under the various natural environment. Focusing on Asian human populations, this paper aims to figure out the factors that are correlated with technology and technique of hunting and gathering, and to show the cross-cultural perspective of cultural evolution of modern humans’ subsistence activities. Comparative study is based on the ethnographic data, including 1) hunter-gatherers in Asia and some additional data from other area, and 2) farmers neighboring to the hunter-gatherers, which have adapted to the similar environments. We discuss common and different features of material culture in order to get ecological resources among the given human populations, and their behaviours for those activities. Furthermore, not only technology and technique of hunting and gathering, it is equivalently important to pay attention on the target ecological resources as well as socio-cultural context of the resources.

The Birhors and their settlement pattern

Bina Gandhi Deori, Visva-Bharati University, India. binadeori[a]gmail.com
Nivedita Mitra, visva-bharati university, India. nibesmailbox[a]rediffmail.com

Short abstract: The historical transitions from nomadic to sedentary life of the Birhors, a  hunter-gatherer community of Purulia district of West Bengal will be discussed mainly highlighting their settlement pattern. Birhor,  one of the least known jungle tribe is now in a transitional phase between past and present. Their way of living has undergone a huge change from social, economic and cultural aspects.

Long abstract: The Birhor are one of the smallest and interesting tribe that lived in the border districts situated at forested tri-junction of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in India. From the repeated survey undertaken by the cultural research institutes, it is found that their actual presence in West Bengal is mainly in the three community blocks (Baghmundi, Jhalda 1 and Balarampur). Hunting gathering and rope making was their main economic activities. But they are now in transition phase from nomadic to sedentary life. Through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the densely forested region was increasingly cleared. This affected the life of hunter-gatherers. Birhor broadly shifted from a forest dwelling community to wage labourers who moved from place to place in search of raw materials and eventually settled down as wage labours and cultivators. This shift in mode of living is reflected in their dwellings. It is noted here to highlight the broader changes which took place in order to contextualize the shift from kumbha (traditional hut) to mud house further single room house built by government. The continuity, social changes, and historical transitions from nomadic to sedentary life of hunter-gatherers in Asia from prehistory to the present will be discussed.

Hunter-gatherers and civilization in Asia

Kazunobu Ikeya, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan. ikeya[a]idc.minpaku.ac.jp

Short abstract: This paper examines not only how hunter-gatherers societies with different subsistence strategies coexist in the present, but also how have hunter-gatherers established relationships with their neighbors.

Long abstract: From the period of initial expansion of modern humans (Homo sapiens) out of Africa to the present time, hunter-gatherers have been able to adapt to any environment in Asia. While hunter-gatherer societies often changed their subsistence strategy or have been assimilated with the expansion of food-producers including farmers, pastoralists, city-dwellers as traders and policy-makers, there are also regions throughout Asia where several groups have shared symbiotic relationships for centuries. This inter-relationships between hunters and neighbors provide us extremely important clues to examine the processes of sedentarization among hunter-gatherer societies. Moreover, by taking a long-term historical perspective with archaeological evidence, we would be able to gain much better appreciation of overall diversity prevailing in the relationships between hunter-gatherer and their neighbors in Asia. I review relationship between hunter-gatherer and Chinese, Indian, and Western civilization respectively in the following four areas, that is, North, East, Central and West, Southeast and South Asia. In summary, this paper examines not only how hunter-gatherers societies with different subsistence strategies coexist in the present, but also how have hunter-gatherers established relationships with their neighbors in the past and how have their coexistences evolved from prehistory to the 21st century.

From nomadic to sedentary socio-economic changes of Mlabri Tribe

Ishmar Sarwar, KMUTT, Thailand. ishmar_naen[a]hotmail.com
Norachat Wongwandee, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand. w_norachat[a]hotmail.com
Jakkrit Sriwan., King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand. zero2club[a]hotmail.com

Short abstract: Community Economic Analysis use to present Mlabri Tribe socio-economic changes: Money exchanges, Habitual occupation and Part-time self-employment, Debt conform to their consume behavior, role of government and private organizations and their social relationship both inside and outside community changes.

Long abstract: The objective of the research was to show socio-economic changes of Mlabri Tribe. Mlabri (Mla = people and bri = forest) mean forest people or nomadic ethnic group who living in the forest, hunting and gathering, and don’t settle. Nowadays they are living in the north of Thailand and settlement in Phrea and Nan province. Thai people are known as “Yellow Leaf”. The research was constructed by participated working and observation with Mlabri Tribe at Phufa Cultural Center under the Phufa Pattana Development Center, Boklua District, Nan Province. The framework of Community Economic Analysis would use to present their socio-economic changes: Money exchanges, Habitual occupation and Part-time self-employment, Debt conform to their consume behavior, role of government and private organizations and their social relationship both inside and outside community changes. This case has showed the status of the group of Mlabri Tribe who also try to adapt their selves to the new world and their restrictions which may need to be discussed and evaluated to comprehend them.

Mobility and sedentism in the Mesolithic-Neolithic contact period of the Southern Caucasus

Yoshihiro Nishiaki, The University Museum, The University of Tokyo, Japan. nishiaki[a]um.u-tokyo.ac.jp
Farhad Guliyev, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan. farguliyev[a]gmail.com

Short abstract: The Neolithic of the Southern Caucasus was established as a result of interaction between the indigenous hunter-gatherers and incoming farmers. This paper argues for the continuity of the Mesolithic settlement system into the Neolithic.

Long abstract: A farming economy was introduced into the Southern Caucasus approximately eight thousand years ago, probably as a consequence of influences from the Fertile Crescent of southwest Asia, where cereal cultivation and animal domestication started at least a few millennia earlier. However, the local Mesolithic hunter-gatherer societies in the Southern Caucasus probably did not merely adopt the entire socioeconomic system from southwest Asia. Based on a range of archaeological records on architectural styles, rebuilding patterns of the architecture, and distinct patterns in the distribution of artifacts and refuse in the Mesolithic and Neolithic sites that we excavated, we argue that the earliest Neolithic communities of the Southern Caucasus were not as sedentary as those in many parts of southwest Asia, suggesting the persistence of some form of mobility from the Mesolithic period. The implications of this finding for our understanding of the socioeconomic transformation of the indigenous hunter-gatherers’ societies will be discussed in this paper. A particular focus of discussion will be put on the possible practice of transhumance in the early Neolithic of the Southern Caucasus.

From Hunting and Gathering to Transitioning Society: Participatory Research for Supporting the Resettlement of the Mlabri community

Norachat Wongwandee, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand. w_norachat[a]hotmail.com
Jakkrit Sriwan, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand. zero2club[a]hotmail.com
Ishmar Sarwar, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand. ishmar_naen[a]hotmail.com

Short abstract: This work make for the Mlabri group to improve their quality of life. This research paper focuses on how researchers have gradually engaged with the Mlabri to make master plan for hunting and gathering practices mix with introducing modern cultivation with more sustainable methods.

Long abstract: The Mlabri were historically a nomadic ethnic group who lived in the forests of Northern Thailand.Commonly known in Thai as “PheeThongLueang,”. As a result of a hundred years of deforestation and the establishment of national forests in the 1960s, the Mlabri tribes were prohibited from continuing their nomadic hunting and gathering practices. They were forced out of the forest, heavily exploited as poor farming laborers, and dehumanized by other tribes and lowland people. In 2008, because of the limited land, a group of young Mlabri relocated from HuayHom in Phrae Province, to the area set up by Phufah Phatthana Center under the Royal Patronage of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, located in BorKluea District, Nan Province. This work make for the Mlabri group to improve their quality of life. This research focuses on how researchers have gradually engaged with the Mlabri to make master plan for hunting and gathering practices mix introducing modern cultivation with more sustainable methods.1) Participatory process with community; and 2)a community of life-long learning. The aim of the project is to support the Mlabri in developing their self-sufficient living conditions in a modern society while also still preserving their pride in their indigenous identities and cultural heritage.

Changing Hunter-gatherers, Changing Lens? Revisiting the Mlabri Studies in Thailand

Sakkarin Na Nan, Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna Nan, Thailand. na_nan082[a]yahoo.co.th

Short abstract: This paper aims to see how scholars construct their narratives about the Mlabri's existence and transitions. Understanding these narratives can contribute to better comparative lens for scholars to construct the model of hunter-gatherers with specific characteristics.

Long abstract: The Mlabri is seen as one of the recently sedentary hunter-gatherers in Thailand. Still, it is too soon to state that the long history of nomadic Mlabri is ended and thus there is nothing left for studies about the past. By taking the historical perspective, this paper aims to review how scholars construct their narratives about the Mlabri's existence and transitions. Understanding these narratives can contribute to better comparative lens for scholars to construct the model of hunter-gatherers with specific characteristics. 

 

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