Historical Perspectives and Social Consequences - Research Article from Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy

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Prehistoric and Ancient Cultures

From the perspective of general energetics, the long span of human prehistoric development can be seen as the quest for a more efficient use of somatic energy, the muscular exertions used primarily to secure a basic food supply and then to gradually improve shelters, acquire more material possessions, and evolve a variety of cultural expressions. This quest was always limited by fundamental bioenergetic considerations: Fifty to ninety watts is the limit of useful work that healthy adults can sustain for prolonged periods of time (of course, short bursts of effort could reach hundreds of watts).

Human labor dominated all subsistence foraging activities, as the food acquired by gathering and hunting sufficed merely to maintain the essential metabolic functions and to support very slow population growth. Societies not very different from this ancestral archetype survived in some parts of the world (South...

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This section contains 5,438 words
(approx. 19 pages at 300 words per page)
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Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy
Historical Perspectives and Social Consequences from Macmillan Encyclopedia of Energy. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.
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