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a form of economic activity whereby man collects for his consumption wild edible roots, fruits, berries, honey, mol-lusks, insects, and other foods. Gathering still characterizes the economy of certain Indian tribes in the tropical areas of South America and of a small number of Australian aborigines.
In the first phase of the primitive communal system, gathering, hunting, and often fishing constituted an appropriative economy, in which edibles found in ready form in nature were used as food. In the second phase, the economy was based on production, and the quantity of natural products increased as a result of man’s activity. Labor was divided between the sexes, with gathering usually relegated to the female. Special implements were used in the most primitive forms of gathering. Many primitive tribes dug roots with a digging stick, which was smoothed with a hone, ending in a sharpened and singed point. The Tasmanians used a wooden scoop to scrape mollusks off rocks.
The gathering of vegetation was sometimes part of a more complex process. For example, some tribes set fire to the grass just before the rainy season to induce more abundant growth. Wild plants were sometimes artificially irrigated. The further development of the gathering of wild plants led to the rise of hoe farming, although, for many peoples, gathering continued to be very important even after farming and stock raising had become established, as exemplified by the gathering of wild rice by the North American Indians in the Great Lakes region and the gathering of snails by the peoples of West Africa. Gathering later became a secondary industry, although it sometimes remained an important source of food, as with the gathering of mushrooms, fruits, berries, and nuts.
A. I. PERSHITS