hunting and gathering societies Hunter-gatherers as a social category
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Hunting and gathering societies in the contemporary world are relatively few in number, yet they have commanded an intense interest through the history of anthropology, and in recent years have become the centre of a major controversy. Peoples like the San (Bushman) of *Southern Africa and the Pygmies of the Central African forests, their *technologies small-scale and their social organizations strikingly †egalitarian, were long held to exemplify a pristine form of human society-the way of life of humans everywhere until the dawn of *pastoralism and agriculture around 12,000 years ago. But since the 1980s the validity of this *evolutionary picture has been called into question. Much may be learned by reviewing the issues that touch on this debate.