[ARCHIVES][HDYK-Environment] [HDYK-Technology] [HDYK-Society] [HDYK-Economy] [HDYK-Art]

How-Do-You-Know about the Economy

The fundamental basis of human societies is their economy -- how a people make a living in their natural and cultural environments. Economy refers to how a people produce, acquire, distribute, and consume necessary foods, natural resources for tools, buildings, and objects of wealth. It encompasses many aspects of human activities:
  1. where and what they hunt, fish, gather, or grow for food; the particular work people do -- who hunts, who tends the garden, who trades, who makes clothing, who makes economic decisions for the family, village, and region, and how these decisions are made;
  2. with whom they share the fruits of their labor;
  3. how much food, or what valuables a family or social group stores and saves as insurance against hard winters, poor hunting success, failed crops, or a death in the family;
  4. how food surpluses and valuables are saved for required religious and social offerings;
  5. how material wealth is used to create and maintain political power. Clearly then, understanding human economy is important because it touches so many parts of our lives. And of course, understanding the economy of past peoples is particularly important to archaeologists because so many human economic decisions and behaviors leave a material record that can be recovered and analyzed. Is it because of the pervasiveness of the economic relationships with natural and cultural environments that economic factors, and their related behaviors and processes, are viewed as major forces in culture change.

The following references and online resources provide excellent introductions to archaeological approaches to the analysis of human economies.

[HDYK-Environment] [HDYK-Technology] [HDYK-Society] [HDYK-Economy] [HDYK-Art]