Re: diseases and immunity

Mary Beth Williams (
3 Jul 1996 19:37:24 GMT

In <4re4ft$>
(Domingo Martinez-Castilla) writes:

>One of the last pearls of Mr Deitiker (which also touches me very
>closely, for I have worked the subject for many years), refers to
>domestication. He seems to like to get in trouble, raising one new
>issue after another. And just missing the mark big time.
>He quoted me and then tried to educate me:
>In article <4r9qkr$>,
>Deitiker) wrote:
>I wrote:
>>>And regarding the domestication of livestock, the word "behind" is
>>>completely inappropriate. In plants and animals, Mr Deitiker, one
>>>not domesticate what one wants, but what one can. There are some
>>>animals that lend themselves to very easy domestication (sheep,
>>>wolves), and others that just refuse to be domesticated (zebras,
>>>vicunas). This does not have anything to do with being ahead or
>>>It never had. Or is it that you do not know much about plant and
>>>animals domestication either? Want some references on that? I will

>>>gladly provide them.
>And then, in article <4r9qkr$>,
> (Philip Deitiker) wrote:
>>Sorry but on this your wrong, deer are completely domesticatable,
>>been to Nara, Japan. There are many animals in the americas which are
>>domesticatable, bighorn sheep is another example, and some animals
>>were infact domesicated. But the question is what relative average of
>>european versus native american meat protein came from domesticated

The idea that animal domestication, particularly for food, somehow
makes Old World cultures more *civilized* than Native American ones is
more than ironic. The need to domesticate animals, particularly in
areas where grazing year-round is not feasible, e.g., from Central
Europe north, actually shows a lack of technology, not a surplus. The
ratio of food consumed to meat produced in animal domesticants is very
high -- for cattle, its 10-1, and in chickens its 3-1. On the other
hand, plant foods (both domesticated and wild) and undomesticated
animals have ratios of 1-1. The need to domesticate animals for food
in the Eastern Hemisphere sprung from relative *failures* in the plant
domestication area... Grains such as wheat, barley and rye are not
nearly nutritious enough to sustain high populations, and success with
protein-rich legumes never passed the pea and lentil stage. In
contrast, the successes of horticultural development in the Western
Hemisphere, including maize, beans, squash, potato, tomato, pepper,
cucumber, etc., did not necessitate the domestication of animals, at
least for food (although dogs were known to be a *starvation*
supplement). Furthermore, Indians were known to alter their
environments in order to facilitate increases in fauna -- in the
Eastern Woodlands, undergrowth in forests were regularly burned to
promote new growth attractive to deer and birds. Stone weirs around
the mouths of coves promoted the build-up of mud flats favored by
mollusks. Activities like these allowed Indians to *develop* food
sources without the responsibilities associated with domestication.
(See Cronin's _Changes in the Land_ for an interesting view on the use
of ecological management by indigenous Eastern Woodland peoples prior
to Contact.)

In an upcoming post (I'm really behind, which will probably only get
worse as I get closer to my due-date ;-D) I, like Dominigo, will
further challenge this Eurocentric fascination with *progress* and
*civilization*, particularly as it relates to *baseline* technologies
such as metal working. For now, this seat has gotten too hard for my
in-utero-child's liking.


MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst