Posted: June 27th, 2015

The relationship between man and the environment is something that has been in existence from the onset.

Comparison of two archaeological papers on the Extinction of animals

Introduction

The relationship between man and the environment is something that has been in existence from the onset. It can be noted that human beings have always had a relationship with the environment in their quest to survive. In this respect, the relationship has either been constructive or destructive to the environment (Redman 1999: 13). Notably, human societies have depended on animals for food and other uses. Apart from the relationship between human societies and animals, other aspects of the environment have also been affected. These relationships have resulted in massive destruction of the environment. The ancient societies entirely depended on the environment for their survival. To some extent, this led to the destruction of the environment (Redman 1999: 16).

This has brought about a great interest among archaeologists who are interested in uncovering how the ancient societies related to the environment. In this respect, there are two articles that looked at how ancient societies related with their environment. This includes the article by Kitty Emery entitled “Assessing the impact of ancient Maya animal use” and that by Alan P. Garfinkel, David A. Young and Robert M. Yohe II entitled “Bighorn hunting, resource depression, and rock art in the Coso Range, eastern California: a computer simulation model”. This paper compares the two articles which centres on the extinction of animals due to the activities of the human societies.

Assessing the impact of ancient Maya animal use

In this article, the author aspired to establish the impacts of ancient hunting on animal populations among the Mayan society between the years 2000 BC and AD 1697. This is a period associated with the Pre-classic and Colonial periods respectively. The ancient Maya society lived within the southern lowland regions located in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Mexico. Zoo-archaeological information from 35 faunal sub-samples retrieved from 25 sites was used in the study (Emery 2007: 184). This information was used to establish the impacts of hunting on animal population among the ancient Mayan society.

In this study, the varying trends on the abundance of certain species were used to describe changes observed in the hunting practices and the animal species that were hunted. This information was interpreted basing on the hunting efficiency models from the foraging ecology. From the archaeological data collected, it was established that there was a considerable reduction in the proportion of large mammals. This was particularly in reference to the Odocoileus virginianus species between the Late Classic period and the Terminal Classic/Post Classic period. Therefore, it can be deduced that the reduction of the Odocoileus virginianus species was due to overhunting that characterized the Last Classic period. This meant that the animals were not available for the Mayan societies that lived in the later periods (Emery 2007: 190).

This study recognized that, although the foraging theories assumes a direct relationship between the abundance of animals and hunting, animal population are also affected by changes within the animal habitat. Changes in habitat are inevitable because human population keep increasing. In this respect, there is archaeological evidence pointing to the presence of massive, ancient deforestation and soil erosion during the Pre-classic and Late Classic periods (Emery 2007: 190).

Notably, the land occupied by the Maya changed from a heavily forested land to a land that was covered with scrub forests, savannahs, and grassland in the Classic period. This had far-reaching impacts on the availability of large mammals such as the Odocoileus virginianus species (Emery 2007: 191). Another aspect leading to the depletion of the large animals could be the increase in the societal stratification. During the Late Classic period, there were numerous elites among the Mayan society, and this meant that the demand for wildlife was high. This is because some species were hunted for culturally symbolic reasons. Such animals included the Panthera onca, other felids, monkeys, and some bird species (Emery 2007: 191). In this respect, it can be summed up that the extinction of some animal species in ancient Mayan society can be attributed to various factors including cultural aspects, climate changes, and human activities.

Bighorn hunting, resource depression, and rock art in the Coso Range, eastern California: a computer simulation model

In this article, Alan P. Garfinkel and his associates set out to establish “the relationship between aboriginal hunting; forager ecology; bighorn prey population levels and the production of rock art” (Garfinkel, et al 2010: 42). The authors reviewed archaeofaunal evidence suggesting that the Coso desert bighorn sheep species was heavily exhausted during the Newbery era after 1500 B.C. Also, the authors focused on the dating of rock art indicating a relationship between the reduction in the bighorn and the increase in the rock art activities. Also, the authors looked at the arrival of Numic foragers who were in competition with the Pre-Numics and were responsible for the termination of the Coso rock art tradition (Garfinkel, et al 2010: 50).

In this study, computer simulation model was used in the analysis of the findings. It was concluded that the Coso Pre-numic artists heightened their activities at a time when there was a reduction in the sheep population. The reduction in the sheep population is attributed to the aspect of prestige among the people. In this society, bighorn images were prevalent when there was great importance attached to large game hunting. When it became apparent that bighorn were scarce, high prestige was given to any hunter who managed to hunt the bighorn successfully. Other cultural aspects such as ritual activities and ceremonies were also associated with game meat. Notably, the successful hunter was accorded leadership roles, power and influence (Garfinkel, et al 2010: 50).

Conclusion

There is no doubt that man has continued to interact with the environment for survival. Human activities have continued to affect the environment differently. In most instances, this relation has been negative leading to the destruction of environment in general. Essentially, the ancient societies were totally dependent on the environment in supporting their existence. In this respect, the two articles focus on how the ancient societies related with the environment and how the relationship led to the extinction of some animal species. In the article by Kitty Emery, it was established that the extinction of animals was due to cultural aspects, climate changes and human activities. On the other hand, Alan P. Garfinkel and his associates focused on the cultural aspect of prestige as the main reason as to why the bighorn sheep became extinct. Therefore, it can be noted that the two articles focused on how human activities can lead to destruction of the environment. This is reflected in the way human activities among the ancient societies, which have been analysed, led to the extinction of certain animal species.

 

References

Emery, Kitty F.

2007 Assessing the impact of ancient Maya animal use. Journal for Nature Conservation 15: 184-195.

Garfinkel, Alan P., et al.

2010 Bighorn hunting, resource depression, and rock art in the Coso Range, eastern California: a computer simulation model. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 42-51.

Redman, Charles L.

1999 Human impact on ancient environments. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press.

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