How did desert dwellers survive? Pure carnivores? No scurvy?

I just posted a thread about corn after posting one about nuts and seeds, and was reminded of a question I’ve always had about how people who lived in deserts pulled it off , or do so even today, but mostly back in the days when everything was pretty primitive. How did the Native Americans live in the deserts of the West? How did anyone live in the deserts of the Middle East?

I recently watched an American Experience about the Dust Bowl that was very interesting, and I learned some things, one of which is that there are areas of the world, and the midwest was one such area, where it rains enough to grow food plants in large quantities. I know, this seems self-evident. but when you’ve grown up in California in the 20th Century… it seems impossible to believe that there could ever be enough natural rainfall to really grow vast amounts of food - it’s all about irrigation.

But that’s only for places like California. Which there are actually a lot of… so has there always been some kind of irrigation going on since the birth of agriculture? And/or, as noted in the title, have there always been people like the Inuit, who can somehow live on meat alone?

And why don’t they get scurvy? The Inuit, I mean. How can any human being live on meat alone?

I need to know these things…

(Factoid: there is a type of baboon that lives in the high mountains that survives almost entirely on grass, which is not something any other primate could do.)

Prickly pear fruit from cactus (called tuna in Mexico): 149 grams has 61 calories and provides 35% of the RDA for Vitamin C, 2% of iron, and 1% of Vitamin A, and 5 grams of dietary fiber (you can find prickly pear jelly)

Prickly pear cactus leaf (called nopales in Mexico-avialable in Mexican grocery stores here in Dallas, TX area) : 86 grams has 15 calories and provides 15% of the RDA for Vitamin C, 15% of Calcium, 2% of iron, and 8% of Vitamin A ( I ate prickly pear cactus leaf when I was on survival training in the U.S. Air Force and I can report that it tastes similar to green beans)

Column on Inuit and scurvy

People only need to grow “vast amounts of food” if there are vast numbers of people to eat it. In former times there were far fewer people about, and very many fewer in deserts. If a desert area is so dry that nothing grows there then people do not live there either (though they may pass through from time to time as they travel between comparatively fertile places, such as oases). Not all places called deserts are that dry, however, and things do grow. Desert dwellers are typically nomadic and when food (or fodder for the animals) runs out in one place they move on.

All you do is have to look at places like Phoenix and Las Vegas and see they were very small places till the coming of air conditioning and the daming of the Colorado River. It’s estimated without the Colorado River, Southern California, which now has over 20 million people could only hold about 4 million in terms of water usage.

It’s funny how places like Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland and Toledo are dying in terms of growth and population but have tons of fresh water available While places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Atlanta face water shortages and keep on growing.

Thus showing people now-a-days don’t live where water is, they now bring it to them

Hunter-gatherers don’t eat meat. They eat animals. An entire animal has a much different nutritional content than meat alone. There are still some Native Americans in Baja California who prepare a small game meal by simply mashing the entire critter (skin, bones, guts and all, save for the rectum) into a paste after a thorough roasting. That’s the only way to get the essential nutrients out of a meager desert diet.

The world’s harshest deserts (Sahara, Gobi, etc.) have indeed been largely uninhabited. The parts that are habited traditionally can only support nomadic pastoralists, who can move from place to place to take advantage of the best grazing land. Old world desert dwellers tend to be good at preserving food- lots of dried fruit, fermented dairy products, dry bread and the like.