Industrialism as a mode of technological, social, and economic life will be discussed in Chapter 6.
For about 99 percent of their history, humans subsisted entirely by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plant foods. The total monopoly of the hunting and gathering way of life was not broken until some 10,000 years ago, when some societies began to subsist by the practice of agriculture. During the past 10,000 years, hunter-gatherer societies have grown fewer and fewer in number, and only a handful remain today. Most of these are found in relatively isolated geographical locations, such as the arid and semiarid regions of Australia, the central rain forest and southwestern desert regions of Africa, and the Arctic. It is unlikely that even these will survive more than a few decades longer, and the hunting and gathering way of life is soon destined to be only a historical relic known to ethnography and archaeology.
Most of what is currently known about hunter-gatherers is based on fieldwork conducted among surviving hunting and gathering groups. It cannot be known with any certainty how similar these groups may be to hunting and gathering societies of prehistoric times. No doubt there are a number of differences, but it is also likely that there are many striking similarities. In any event, the description of the hunting and gathering way of life that follows is based primarily on the results of contemporary ethnographic research.