This past Tuesday was quite an interesting experience. For the first time in my life, I was expected to walk out into a field and find food. With the help of a book on edible plants and a couple classmates, we were expected to find as much edible material as we could. This turned out to be more of an adventure than we had originally thought. There was no real way to know if what we were doing was right. How were we expected to spend an hour outside and find plants that would not kill us? What would happen if we found the wrong plants? When everything looks the same, it’s hard to determine what is good and what is bad.
The actual idea of foraging does not sound that difficult. Go out into the world and find things you can eat in nature. It’s an easy enough concept. However, it became one of the most difficult tasks in the entire class so far. While everything in the book looked different, everything growing on the ground looked the same. Two plants could look almost identical, but one of the plants is toxic. We found on a few occasions that the plants we thought were one thing were something completely different. The use of a book was so much less helpful than the use of our professor’s knowledge.
The use of knowledge though another person has long been necessary for survival. The elders in tribes would instruct the younger generations how to hunt and gather. This was very important because if a group were to survive, they needed to be nourished. If a group could not pass their knowledge down, the others would either die out or have to figure out another way to survive. Since many cultures have learned other ways to survive, we have lost the knowledge of plants and animals.
Even though most societies have lost the knowledge of hunting and gathering, a few groups of people still use it as their means of survival. Take for example the Kalahari Persistence Hunters. Their means of hunting does not use any sort of tools to hunt. They will use their bodies as their weapons. However, they use their bodies in ways we would not normally associate with hunting. Instead of using tools to kill an animal, they will chase the animal until it collapses. Since humans have the ability to cool ourselves through sweating, humans can run longer than animals without a break. Here are a few more examples of contemporary hunting and gathering societies.