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Two non-literate cultures: A Discussion

Two non-literate cultures, the Arunta of central Australia and the Eskimos of the sub-Arctic region, display similarities and differences in their approaches to kinship, marriage and child-rearing. Though they live in opposite extremes of hot and cold, dry and wet, the two peoples engage in hunting and gathering and manufacture only what they need for their semi-nomadic lives. Their kinship systems are strikingly different, yet both serve to distribute marriageable partners fairly widely. Both peoples also take similar views toward their children, whom they regard as the bearers of spirits of ancient Aborigines or of Eskimo relatives. In neither case is there any written code that describes their kinship systems and the nature of their relations with older spirits. But, in both cases, this knowledge becomes a part of their lives and their views of the people they meet depend largely on the manner in which they are related or, for the Eskimos, related or not related to others.

The Arunta (or Aranda) are the most centrally located of all Aborigine tribes in Australia. Their territory, in the Higher Steppes region of the Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, runs north and south for 700 miles and is 450 miles wide. The land ranges from below sea level at Lake Eyre to an elevation of 2,000 feet. There are only three significant watercourses in the territory and they usually flood violently and quickly subside. For the rest of the year the landscape is hard, yellow soil "thinly covered with exhausted scrub, with occasional patches of pines or cycads" (Montagu 15). Temperatures range from 115 degrees in the shade to below freezing at night. The Arunta are nomadic hunters and gatherers and game and vegetable foods are usually in good supply.

Eskimos (or Inuit, in their own terminology) inhabit the Arctic and, principally, the sub-Arctic region in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia. They live on the tundra, where the gr...

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Two non-literate cultures: A Discussion. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:12, August 14, 2020, from