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Hoarding in the paleolithic?
Posted: Posted September 20th, 2013 by chiarizio

Did cavemen ever suffer from that "hoarding" disorder?

Are there any recognized "hoarding" patients in any culture where most things most people ever get are almost never thrown away, or are either consumed soon or kept for most of their lives?

I have read, or heard, that anorexia nervosa is not diagnosable among populations where most people usually get barely enough to eat and sometimes don't get quite enough; instead, so I've read or heard, the disorder is actually noticed only when the patient lives in circumstances wherein s/he (usually "she", AIUI) could easily eat a healthy diet for some long extended period of time.

I wonder if there's a parallel statement about hoarding. I wonder if any of the statements are true.

Before the rise of the "disposable culture", was there hoarding?
Were the famous misers of the 18th and 19th centuries hoarders, and if so, did they ever hoard things anyone else in their times and places would have thrown away? Or was throwing stuff away not something most people had to do very much of in those times and places?

Was there hoarding before the Bronze Age?

There are 5 Replies

An interesting question. 'fraid I've no idea.

Posted September 20th, 2013 by Quillwraith

Did cavemen ever suffer from that "hoarding" disorder?

Are there any recognized "hoarding" patients in any culture where most things most people ever get are almost never thrown away, or are either consumed soon or kept for most of their lives?

Before the rise of the "disposable culture", was there hoarding?
Were the famous misers of the 18th and 19th centuries hoarders, and if so, did they ever hoard things anyone else in their times and places would have thrown away? Or was throwing stuff away not something most people had to do very much of in those times and places?

Was there hoarding before the Bronze Age?


Interesting questions indeed! I would hazard the guess that, humans being humans and assuming that they have pretty much always behaved like humans that, yes, the hoarding dysbehaviour would at least be in theory possible in any epoch of human history, whether stone / bronze / iron / or cast-away age. I hold that it's another matter entirely whether it was common or even feasible in earlier ages...

There are of course references to hoarders in earlier ages -- Dickens, Gogol and Tolkien seem to describe pretty classic hoarders (http://hoarding.iocdf.org/dante_to_dsm-v.aspx) but I would propose that such examples would be the exception, rather than the rule. These characters seem to be people of some means: the Dickens character is a merchant, the Gogol character a wealthy landowner living in a manor house, the Tolkien character is a mighty dragon and quite capable of amassing a vast hoard with little difficulty. They certainly had the time, the money and the means to obtain and maintain a hoard. I doubt that your average poor person -- who would basically be living hand to mouth at the best of times -- really didn't have the wherewithal to hoard much of anything. Smaug, I think, was pretty clearly a hoarder in the classical sense! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_hoarding under diagnosis)

I think you're hitting an important nail on the head when you speak of our modern "disposable culture" vs. times past where old articles were simply used until they literally fell apart and were then recycled (being too valuable to simply either throw away or toss into a hoard). People of all economic levels living in an age with a veritably limitless supply of objects simply have the opportunity to hoard that their opportunityless ancestors simply lacked, even if they might otherwise have hoarded!

I also think that, back in the day, hoarding among the poor could easily have been masked and justified by the otherwise entirely sane behaviour of storing needful things. If a peasant has suffered some stressor (that in a modern person might trigger hoarding), and has access to bits and snatches of cloth or leather scraps or broken tool handles, etc., then those are things they might actually hoard -- but might actually find themselves pressed by necessity to use and recycle them -- by making patchwork, or using the wood as kindling -- the way a modern hoarder simply is not compelled.

Moving back to bronze age or stone age times, I just don't think "cavemen" had the opportunity or wherewithal to hoard anything, even if they might have felt compelled to hoard. There just wasn't anything to hoard, and anything they might have tried to hoard would probably have been noticed and taken for use by the community as being too valuable to be allowed to sit in a useless heap.

One question I'd have, though, is this: given that hoarding disorder seems to stem from some psychological stressor (WP mentions sexual or physical abuse, etc, etc); and given that life in the Old Days was pretty damn hard, where abuse was the norm and not the exception, could it not be said that we moderns have simply become incapable of handling the stressors that our ancestors simply took in stride? Perhaps folks in the Old Days simply didn't have the choice to hoard -- they took the stressor, compartmentalised it away and went on with their terribly difficult lives; whereas we tend to create victims of ourselves (and each other) at every opportunity, we institutionalise that victimhood (either in law or in medicine) and we perpetrate that notion of victimhood in the culture we pass on to future generations.

In other words, might it not be the case that ancient humans did not frequently hoard simply because they had not developed the social madness of victimisation that we've evolved to a very high degree?

Interesting stuff to think about!

elemtilas

Posted November 19th, 2014 by elemtilas

Good answer! (mostly, anyway). And I thank you for it.

One question: What does
In other words, might it not be the case that ancient humans did not frequently hoard simply because they had not developed the social madness of victimisation that we've evolved to a very high degree?
mean?

Posted December 20th, 2014 by chiarizio

Good answer! (mostly, anyway). And I thank you for it.

One question: What does
In other words, might it not be the case that ancient humans did not frequently hoard simply because they had not developed the social madness of victimisation that we've evolved to a very high degree?
mean?


Following from "One question I'd have, though, is this: given that hoarding disorder seems to stem from some psychological stressor (WP mentions sexual or physical abuse, etc, etc); and given that life in the Old Days was pretty damn hard..." perhaps we might consider "hoarding" a modern disorder predicated on the elevation of victimisation itself. My thinking is simply that might it not be possible for hoarding to remain untriggered if people simply accept violence and abuse as ordinary everyday occurrences? We now expect people to behave better and feel increasingly injured over smaller and smaller hurts / injustices. Just a thought anyway. I think I'd still favor "they just plain ol didn't have enough stuff to even think of hoarding" over any other explanation for not hoarding!

elemtilas

Posted December 21st, 2014 by elemtilas

I still don’t know what you mean by
“the social madness of victimisation that we've evolved to a very high degree”
.

I’ll keep rereading that post. It seems a little less unclear the fourth or fifth time through!

Posted December 30th, 2018 by chiarizio
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