Hunters and Gatherers Anthropology 477/877

(Fall 1997)

Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30-10:45 Bessey Hall 104
Instructor: Raymond Hames
Office 228 Bessey Hall
Phone 472-6240
Office Hours: Monday 2:00-4:00 Tuesday 8:00-9:00Wednesday 9:30-11:00 Friday 8:00-10:30




Since the foraging adaptation has provided the material basis for over 99% of hominid existence and it has strongly affected the social, psychological, and behavioral characteristics of humans, hunter-gatherers play crucial roles in our ideas about the nature of humanity. This course offers an intensive examination of human foraging societies, emphasizing their full range of diversity Specific topics include foraging and human evolution, population regulation (or the myth thereof), demography, foraging strategies, settlement pattern, variation in social organization, kinship and marriage, relations between the sexes, and problems of contemporary hunter-gatherers.

Course Requirements

The aim of the course is to firmly ground students in anthropological approaches to hunter-gatherers largely from an evolutionary and ecological perspective. Kelly?s The Foraging Spectrum will serve as the main text. It outlines the important research issues, theory, and problems in hunter-gatherer research. His approach is decidedly ecological and evolutionary. The ethnographies by Robert Bailey (The Behavioral Ecology of Efe Pygmy Men in the Ituri Forest, Zaire), Robert Tonkinson (The Mardudjara Aborigines) and William Laughlin (Aleuts: Survivors of the Bearing Land Bridge) are designed to give you holistic account of particular foraging peoples who occupy radically different environments. These ethnographies will supplement the general and theoretical in Kelly?s book by giving you first hand descriptive and holistic information on particular foraging societies and an opportunity to critically evaluate a variety of theoretical models. Finally, there will be a number of journal articles on reserve in the Geology Library in the basement of Bessey Hall. These articles deal with very current issues in hunter-gatherer research (e.g., conservation, independent foraging in rainforest environments, the evolution of menopause, etc.).

All students will be required to write term papers but requirements will differ for graduate and undergraduate students. By the end of the seventh or eighth week you should have a basic understanding of issues and topics in hunter-gatherer research and this knowledge should guide your choice of term papers. Each student must visit me and propose a paper topic for my approval. I should be able to help you with source materials and to clarify your approach. Sample topics include: the effects of Western contact on hunter-gatherers, resource conservation, sexual inequality, the development of social complexity, the possibility of foraging in the tropics, etc.

Undergraduate students (412 credit) will write a 12 page paper while graduate students (812 credit) will write a 21 page paper. In addition, graduate students will present a 10 to 15 minute oral version of their paper during the last two weeks of class.

Each exam (2) will count 25% toward the final grade and the term paper will count 50%. Class participation is strongly encouraged and will be rewarded.

Exam and Paper Dates
    First exam:        October 9th
    Second Exam:  December 16th

Class papers

  • Class papers are due on December 12th.  Note: you may hand in a mostly completed initial version of your research paper to me on 5 December for a preliminary evaluation.  I will give you written comments on the strength and weaknesses of the paper which you may wish to employ in a revised, final version of the paper.
Students will be expected to be familiar with the assigned reading so they can contribute to class discussions. This means that one has read and taken notes on, for example, the assigned readings for week two when we meet during week two. In general, I'll begin the class by highlighting the main issues in the readings by clarifying definitions, elaborating theory, and filling in gaps. Later, I'll move on to empirical tests of theory, especially focusing on how a particular hypothesis was deduced, the kinds of data required to make a test and the methods used to gather the data, and the outcome of the test of a particular hypothesis. You should feel free to interject comments at any time to force me to clarify or extend what I'm talking about or to present an alternative way of dealing with a particular issue. Indeed, I'll stimulate this process by simply asking students to give us their position on particular issues and case studies.
Week  Topic  Readings   
Week 1
August 26-28
The Study of foragers
  •  Kelly 1 
  Forager Collector
Environment Aseasonal 
Settlement Residential base Residential base 
Field camp 
Mobility Residential Logistical
Technology Generalized 
Pattern of Exploitation Low intake Bulk intake
Hunting Encounter Intercept


Week 2
September 2-4
Hominid Evolution
  • Bailey 1 
  • Laughlin 1-3 
Web Site: chimp hunting and human evolution


Week 3
September 9-11
Evolutionary and Ecological Theory
  • Kelly 2 
  • Laughlin 4-5
Week 4
September 16-18
  • Methodological Issues in the study of foragers: 
    • History
    • World Systems
    • Poor Peoples' Options
    • Marginal lands
  • Bailey 2 
  • Laughlin 6-7
Week 5
September 23-25
  • Modeling
  • Optimal Foraging Theory
  • Currency and goals: RS or culturally defined tokens?
  • Kelly 3; 
  • Bailey 3 
  • Hawkes et al. Reading on Menopause and Longevity on reserve
Week 6
Sept. 30-Oct.2
  • Conservation
Week 7
October 7-9
  • Settlement Pattern
  • Kelly 4, 
  • Bailey 4
Essay Exam October 9th      
Week 8
October 14-16
  • Time Allocation: foragers as the original aboriginal affluent society?
  • Bailey and Headland reserve reading on the possibility of pure foraging in the tropics
courses/for_lab.jpg (51675 bytes)
Week 9
October 21-23  Outline of class papers due. Click here to see them.
  • Bailey 5
  • Kelly 5, 
  • Tonkinson 1-2
Week 10 
October 28-30
  • Why Live in a Group?
  • Tonkinson 3
Week 11 
November 4-6
  • Demography
  • Bailey 6
  • Kelly 6, 
  • Tonkinson 4
Week 12
November 11-13
Division of Labor
  • Bailey 7
  • Kelly 7 
  • Tonkinson 5
savage1.jpg (103621 bytes)
Week 13
November 18-20
Health & Nutrition 
Guest Lecture (11/18) by Jennifer Gallindo on Australian Aboriginal Rock Art and its Symbolic and Ecological Significance
  •  Tonkinson 6
Week 14 
November 25 Thanksgiving Holiday
Social Organization 
Origins of Agriculture (Click here to read about recent research on the origins of agriculture)
  • Kelly 8 
  • Tonkinson 7
Week 15
December 2-4
Social Change, Class papers
  • Laughlin 10-11 
  • Tonkinson 8
courses/jig.JPG (28106 bytes)
Dead Week
December 9-11
 Class papers: graduate students present papers on December 11    
December 16 Final Exam: 10:00-12:00 a.m.
Click on the following for:   


Journal Articles on Reserve:

  • Alvard, Michael, Intraspecific prey choice among Amazonian hunters Current Anthropology 36(5):446-447 (1996)
  • Hawkes et al. Hadza women's time allocation, offspring provisioning, and the evolution of long post-menopuasal lifespans. In press Current Anthropology. Click here for a New York Times summary of the article
  • Bailey, R. and T. Headlund (1992). ?The tropical rain forest: is it a productive environment for human foragers?? Human Ecology 19(2): 261-285.

  • Click here for brief notes on this issue.
  • Cashdan, E. "Territoriality among human foragers". Current Anthropology, 24
  • At least two others to be named later and based on class interest.

WWW Sites Dealing with Foragers

Australian Aborigines, Kalahari and Pygmies

Australian Aborigines (check out the "Dream Time" model)
Pygmy Art (elementary)
Okavango Delta Peoples of Botswana
Pygmy Music
Pygmy Ituri Project (Cultural Survival) 
Highly Recommended - Excellent Site Once there, select Multimedia Gallery for videos, music, and photos of Efe Pygmies and Lese farmers


General Topics on Hunter-Gatherers

Primitive Technology (page devoted to listing WWW sites on "primitive technology", has information on atlatls used by Aleuts and Australians and boomerangs)
Hunter-Gatherer Bibliography: down-loadable file of 900 references Hunter-Gather Bibliography Compiled by James W. Helmer
Lewis Binford's Home Page
Hunter-Gatherers in Ancient Britain
Hominid Evolution


Arctic Peoples

Aleut Traditional Stories and Myths
Russian Orthodox Church among Aleuts (church perspective)
Arctic Circle (excellent source on pepole, history, and environment of Arctic peoples)
Aleut Boat Making and Sales 
Aleut Corporation Home Page
Review of various Inuit (Eskimo) web    sites created and administered by Inuit 
   Aboriginal youth (Canada) 
   Sakku Arctic Home Page 
   Nunatsqiaq News (Inuit newspaper)


Course web page