Category Archives: Foraging Society


When someone refers to a society which consistently hunts or gathers to obtain what it needs in-order to survive, it is a foraging society. Foraging societies were the first societies founded by humans.  Today, many of the oldest foraging inventions or techniques are still used in some kind of form, for example, controlled burns and simple tools, etc. Throughout time, many different groups of people hunted and gathered differently due to their world location, which in turn breaks foraging into three different categories.


 The pedestrian style of foraging consists mainly of hunting and gathering on foot. These people inhabited rich areas with a varied population of species such as woodlands. Controlled burns were a common practice among many of these pedestrian villages which helped fertilize and allow for new growth forest. Pedestrian foragers noted that big game mammals don’t tend to stay in one area so groups that were involved in this foraging practice moved with the migratory routes of certain species. Groups tended to be small in size, only around twenty-five to thirty members and stayed in brush huts and small wooden tee-pees.  When looking at this style of foraging, we can see social roles evolving within this society. Women and men both played essential roles in the community, but their roles differed greatly. The men were to go out and hunt game and also protect the village against intruders or wild animals. Women were to gather items such as fruit and plants. The females were also the care takers of the group. But, once in awhile, the roles of men and women intertwined, such as making tools and grooming/cleaning furs. The male and female roles were both very key in keeping an orderly society and the people depended on each other to complete or help with certain task. Pedestrian foraging is the most commonly known style of foraging used by our ancestors. This kind of foraging still exists in rural parts of the world such as in the Yukon because people aren’t willing to conform with modern society and, in-turn, are facing a cultural lag.

Equestrian Foraging

This style of foraging was practiced mainly on the Great Plains and grasslands. The use of horses helped drastically in hunting big game due to their speed. Plains Indians were a group that relied on equestrian foraging in order to feed their tribes. Having horses created a new kind of hunting which enabled these societies to have greater numbers than pedestrian foragers. The numbers increased due to the amount of food that was able to be harvested. This kind of society also migrated along with specific species that were common to the area such as bison, buffalo, and also guanaco (Species related to the llama). One new tactic used in the hunting with horses was the running of animals off cliffs and corralling individual species out of a group or pack. Equestrian foragers tended to live in clay and hay huts because that was the most prevalent item around. These huts were strong in structure which helped against wind; they were also made from clay which was used as a heat insulator in the winter months. Many men of this society also used horses to rob other societies. A good example of this would be the old western days.


Aquatic Foraging

Aquatic foraging was by far the most successful foraging practice. These foragers lived close to water (typically an ocean) and depended highly on it to provide food such as fish, crustaceans, and marine mammals. They also depended on these animals for lots of other purposes such as the skins for clothing/housing, medical needs, and as a highly valuable trade source. The people that subsided in these villages were typically there all year long, unless the fishing  went bad or they needed to travel for medical or other needs that weren’t available in the village.  Since this kind of foraging group tended to stay in one area, the structure of the society usually was stronger with a designated leader amongst the group. The houses that lined the banks were made from wood and these homes provided for permanent shelter. Aquatic foraging societies were so successful with adapting  to their surrounds that many groups still exist, but the aquatic societies have changed and have to sell their harvested seafood in order to live instead of living off nature’s resources.




The Kuchi of Afghanistan

Foraging societies, or hunter-gathering societies are the oldest form of society.   They are thought to have been simplistic societies that didn’t know of any other way of life.  As we have recently found though, many of these societies are still thriving throughout the world today.  For example, in the Pacific Northwest, some Inuit tribes forage from the land for their survival because the villages are so remotely spaced.  Another example is the Kuchi tribe in Afghanistan.  Many might see them as a nomadic tribe, but they have foraging techniques that they use: moving from the mountainous regions during the winter to the southern river beds where the wildlife and vegetation are abundant.

Foraging societies existed widely prior to 10,000 years ago before the agrarian revolution.  Most of their time spent during the day involved gathering resources either for the day or the entire week. Social roles were already developing this far back in foraging societies, and every person had a role to play to keep the groups normal.  The males were responsible for hard labor like hunting, killing, and carrying objects. On the other hand, female tasks were gathering plants, berries, or water.  Since the males hunted larger animals they usually involved other men from the tribe, and frequently used large dogs to help track and kill large game. Their dogs were also used for security for the family and as pets.  Animals were an essential part of their life, yet if desperate times called for it, they would eat their pet.

Most hunter-gatherers lived near highly vegetated areas in river valleys. When lush fields died, some populations would burn them making the grass grow back greener and in return induce more wildlife to that area. With that said, most societies wouldn’t leave these areas.  It was hard for them to travel long distances for food that was not guaranteed. Even so, these groups were quite nomadic and seldom settled for long in any given area.  When they did move to another place they had to travel light, packing only the bare essentials: clothes, weapons, or dwelling equipment.  Most of their dwellings were made from the resources that were in that location, leaving them to become very adaptive to what was around them. With that in mind, this was another reason they didn’t migrate from location to location.


Works Cited

Dennis O’Neil.  “Patters of Subsistence:  Foraging.”  Http://  Last updated on Monday, October 30, 2006.  Web.  February 22, 2013.