Extended Families and Markets

families and markets

This schematic diagram shows two extended families (encircled), a couple of nuclear families that have no nearby affiliates, and, because they all have things to barter with each other, a place and time to meet and bargain over these items has been established by custom. (It is labeled "market" here.)

Siblings and cousins may always have kept up friendly relationships over their lifetimes. As population densities increase, extended families would tend to live closer together. As resources become more heavily used, conflicts may develop among different family groups. As before, different groups may have surpluses of different kinds of materials. Moreover, as extended families cohere more closely it may become practical for some members to concentrate on making arrowheads, on weaving baskets, and so forth. When these useful items can be produced in surplus numbers, they may be exchanged for other resources that the family finds in short supply.

When two hunters meet in open country and trade, an arrowhead will either be exchanged for a knife or it won't.  However, when knives, arrowheads, fish hooks, and perhaps even more things are offered for trade at a marketplace, each person will be looking for the best item he or she can get for their surplus items.  If two or more people want the same item, that may influence what each is willing to offer in exchange. Here is a situation in which it may be valuable to be an old person, someone with enough experience to be able to evaluate an arrowhead, a bow, or some other item offered for trade. Over time these people will develop good judgment in evaluating potential bargains.

One function that the market may facilitate is the accumulation of surpluses in less easily degradable form. A surplus of dried meat sufficient for one winter may be well worth carefully preserving. If twice that amount were to be accumulated, half of it might be wasted. If some of that dried meat could be traded for knives, arrowheads, arrows, bows, fish hooks, or other valuable articles, they could be kept in a safe place for months or even years and then either used or traded for more needed items

In addition to trading, some items may be used for religious purposes (e.g., sacrifices), gifts to visitors, gifts to children forming new families, Gifts and offers of hospitality to people coming from afar have no immediate survival value to the donors and hosts. However, these acts serve to bind people in friendly associations and help assure that in times of need those who are donors now may receive a friendly reception in some future time of need.

As population density increases and extended families grow in size, the potential benefit offered to one group by acts of predation against smaller neighboring groups, or thefts committed by individuals of one group against members of another group may begin to occur with some frequency. The harder conditions become and/or the more strongly resources are exploited by growing populations, the more likely it will become that the dangers to oneself of acts of predation on others may be obscured by the pangs of hunger, cold, or other such factors. When farming was invented and dwellings became permanent, at first communities were far from each other and there were no walls or other fortifications. Later, when  population growth had forced people much closer together and it was no longer possible to find land to clear at the edge of one's own farm, walled villages or towns became the norm. So as population density increases, more and more effort must be devoted to preserving the fruits of one's labor, skill, and inventiveness.
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