chapter  14
62 Pages

Food and farming

WithGraeme Barker, Annie Grant

The purpose of this chapter is to review the evidence of archaeology for the prehistory and history of food, and for the changing relationship between food (and the associated products of food production) and human culture. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines food as ‘what one takes into the system to maintain life and growth, and to produce waste’ (SOED 1973:782), the latter part of the definition nicely presaging the necessary relationship between inputs and outputs in the acquisition of food that is an important theme for this chapter. Humans share their need for food with the rest of the animal kingdom, but the techniques we have evolved to obtain our food set us completely apart, in sustaining extraordinary densities of population and threatening the sustainability of the environment in ways unmatched by other species. Furthermore, animals eat food to stay alive, but for all humans, even in the most demanding environments, eating is inextricably related to culture, and is the primary context of most social relations (Goody 1982).