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A hunter-gatherer is a
human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes ...

human
living a
lifestyle Lifestyle often refers to: * Lifestyle (sociology), the way a person lives * ''Otium'', ancient Roman concept of a lifestyle * Style of life (german: Lebensstil), dealing with the dynamics of personality Lifestyle may also refer to: Business and ...
in which most or all
food Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional Nutrition is the biochemical Biochemistry or biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organism In biology, an organism (from Anci ...

food
is obtained by
foraging Foraging is searching for wild food resources. It affects an animal's fitness because it plays an important role in an animal's ability to survive and reproduce. Foraging theory is a branch of behavioral ecology Behavioral ecology, also spel ...
(gathering edible wild
plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular respiration, can later be released to fuel ...

plant
s) and
hunting Hunting is the practice of seeking, pursuing and capturing or killing wildlife or feral animals. The most common reasons for humans to hunt are to harvest useful animal products (meat, fur/hide (skin), hide, bone/tusks, horn (anatomy), horn/ant ...

hunting
(pursuing and killing of
wild animal File:Manis temminckii (29645803646).jpg, A ground pangolin, alt=A ground pangolin Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species (biology), species, but has come to include all organisms that grow or live wild in an area with ...
s), in the same way that most natural
omnivore An omnivore () is an animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are organisms that form the Animalia. With few exceptions, animals , , are , can , and grow from a hollow sphere of , the , during . Over 1.5 million animal have been — ...
s do. Hunter-gatherer
societies A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from individual agenc ...
stand in contrast to the more
sedentary Image:Family watching television 1958.jpg, Exercise trends, Increases in sedentary behaviors such as watching television are characteristic of a sedentary lifestyle A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle (sociology), lifestyle involving l ...
agricultural societies, which rely mainly on cultivating
crop A crop is a plant that can be grown and harvested extensively for profit or subsistence. Crops may refer either to the harvested parts or to the harvest in a more refined state. Most crops are cultivated in agriculture or aquaculture. A crop ma ...

crop
s and raising
domesticated animal Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that seco ...
s for food production, although the boundaries between the two ways of living are not completely distinct. Hunting and gathering was humanity's original and most enduring successful
competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other" spirit between two competing sides. The relationship itself may also be called "a riv ...
adaptation In , adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits s to their environment, enhancing their . Secondly, it is a state reached by the population during that process. Thirdly, it is a or adapti ...

adaptation
in the natural world, occupying at least 90 percent of
human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, and since the History of writing, advent of writing, from primary source, primary and ...
. Following the
invention of agriculture The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures during the Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments ...
, hunter-gatherers who did not change were displaced or conquered by farming or pastoralist groups in most parts of the world. However, the division between the two is no longer presumed to be a fundamental marker in human history, and there is not necessarily a hierarchy which places agriculture and industry at the top as a goal to be reached. Only a few contemporary societies are classified as hunter-gatherers, and many supplement their foraging activity with
horticulture Horticulture is the art of cultivating plants in gardens to produce food and medicinal ingredients, or for comfort and ornamental purposes. Horticulturists are agriculturists who grow flowers, fruits and nuts, vegetables and herbs, as well as or ...
or
pastoralism Pastoralism is a form of animal husbandry where domesticated animals known as livestock are released onto large vegetated outdoor lands (pastures) for grazing, historically by nomadic people who moved around with their herds. The species invol ...
.


Archaeological evidence

Hunting and gathering was presumably the
subsistence A subsistence economy is an economy directed to basic subsistence (the provision of food, clothing, shelter) rather than to the market. Henceforth, "subsistence" is understood as supporting oneself at a minimum level. Often, the subsistence econom ...

subsistence
strategy employed by human societies beginning some 1.8 million years ago, by ''
Homo erectus ''Homo erectus'' (meaning "upright Body relative directions (also known as egocentric coordinates) are geometrical orientations relative to a body such as a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread spec ...

Homo erectus
'', and from its appearance some 200,000 years ago by ''
Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread of , characterized by and large, complex brains. This has enabled the development of advanced , , and . Humans are highly social and tend to live in complex s composed of many ...
''. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers lived in groups that consisted of several families resulting in a size of a few dozen people. It remained the only mode of subsistence until the end of the
Mesolithic The Mesolithic (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...

Mesolithic
period some 10,000 years ago, and after this was replaced only gradually with the spread of the
Neolithic Revolution The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (Ameri ...
. During the 1970s,
Lewis Binford Lewis Roberts Binford (November 21, 1931 – April 11, 2011) was an American archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often consider ...
suggested that
early humans ''Homo'' () is the genus that emerged in the (otherwise extinct) genus '' Australopithecus'' that encompasses the extant species ''Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characte ...
obtained food via
scavenging Scavengers are animals that consume dead organisms that have died from causes other than predation. While scavenging generally refers to carnivores feeding on carrion, it is also a herbivorous feeding behavior. Scavengers play an important role ...
, not
hunting Hunting is the practice of seeking, pursuing and capturing or killing wildlife or feral animals. The most common reasons for humans to hunt are to harvest useful animal products (meat, fur/hide (skin), hide, bone/tusks, horn (anatomy), horn/ant ...

hunting
. Early humans in the
Lower Paleolithic 250px, Four views of an Acheulean handaxe The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλ ...
lived in
forest A forest is an area of land dominated by tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a ...

forest
s and
woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the ''plurale tantum'' woods), a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade (see d ...

woodland
s, which allowed them to collect seafood, eggs, nuts, and fruits besides scavenging. Rather than killing large animals for meat, according to this view, they used carcasses of such animals that had either been killed by
predators Predation is a biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey. It is one of a family of common List of feeding behaviours, feeding behaviours that includes parasitism and micropredation (which ...

predators
or that had died of natural causes. Archaeological and genetic data suggest that the source populations of
Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of ...
hunter-gatherers survived in sparsely wooded areas and dispersed through areas of high primary productivity while avoiding dense forest cover. According to the
endurance running hypothesisThe endurance running hypothesis is the hypothesis that the evolution of certain human characteristics can be explained as adaptations to long-distance running. The hypothesis suggests that endurance running played an important role for early homin ...
, long-distance running as in
persistence hunting Persistence hunting (sometimes called endurance hunting) is a hunting technique in which hunters, who may be slower than their prey over short distances, use a combination of running, walking, and tracking (hunting), tracking to pursuit predation, ...
, a method still practiced by some hunter-gatherer groups in modern times, was likely the driving evolutionary force leading to the evolution of certain human characteristics. This hypothesis does not necessarily contradict the scavenging hypothesis: both subsistence strategies could have been in use sequentially, alternating or even simultaneously. Starting at the transition between the Middle to
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
period, some 80,000 to 70,000 years ago, some hunter-gatherer bands began to specialize, concentrating on hunting a smaller selection of (often larger) game and gathering a smaller selection of food. This specialization of work also involved creating specialized tools such as
fishing net A fishing net is a net Net or net may refer to: Mathematics and physics * Net (mathematics), a filter-like topological generalization of a sequence * Net, a linear system of divisors of dimension 2 * Net (polyhedron) In geometry, a net o ...

fishing net
s, hooks, and bone
harpoon A harpoon is a long spear A spear is a pole weapon A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat Close combat means a violent physical confrontation between two or more opponents at short range.''MCRP 3-02B: Close Combat'', Washington, ...
s. The transition into the subsequent
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is t ...
period is chiefly defined by the unprecedented development of nascent agricultural practices.
Agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary Image:Family watching television 1958.jpg, Exercise trends, Increases in sedentary behaviors su ...

Agriculture
originated as early as 12,000 years ago in the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task whi ...

Middle East
, and also independently originated in many other areas including
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
, parts of
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of i ...

Africa
,
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical and important region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the ...
, and the
Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the List of mountain ranges#Mountain ranges by length, longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of Sou ...

Andes
.
Forest gardening 's forest garden in Shropshire Shropshire (; alternatively Salop; abbreviated in print only as Shrops; demonym Salopian ) is a landlocked historic county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other pu ...
was also being used as a food production system in various parts of the world over this period. Forest gardens had originated in
prehistoric times Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study ...
along jungle-clad river banks and in the wet foothills of
monsoon A monsoon () is traditionally a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the (which include and ), with a major focus on . The study of meteorology ...

monsoon
regions. In the gradual process of families improving their immediate environment, useful tree and vine species were identified, protected, and improved, whilst undesirable species were eliminated. Eventually superior
introduced species (''Melilotus sp.''), introduced and naturalized Naturalization (or naturalisation) is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen of a country may acquire citizenship Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the law o ...
were selected and incorporated into the gardens. Many groups continued their hunter-gatherer ways of life, although their numbers have continually declined, partly as a result of pressure from growing agricultural and pastoral communities. Many of them reside in the developing world, either in arid regions or tropical forests. Areas that were formerly available to hunter-gatherers were—and continue to be—encroached upon by the settlements of agriculturalists. In the resulting competition for land use, hunter-gatherer societies either adopted these practices or moved to other areas. In addition,
Jared Diamond Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937) is an American geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth de ...

Jared Diamond
has blamed a decline in the availability of wild foods, particularly animal resources. In
North North is one of the four compass points The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydro ...

North
and
South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continent ...

South America
, for example, most large mammal species had gone extinct by the end of the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological Epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the earth’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Before a change finally ...
—according to Diamond, because of
overexploitation Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource File:Global Vegetation.jpg, Global vegetation A renewable resource, also known as a flow resource, is a natural resource which will replenish to replace th ...

overexploitation
by humans, one of several explanations offered for the
Quaternary extinction event The Quaternary period (from 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present) has seen the extinctions of numerous predominantly megafaunal species, which have resulted in a collapse in faunal density and diversity and the extinction of key ecologica ...
there. As the number and size of agricultural societies increased, they expanded into lands traditionally used by hunter-gatherers. This process of agriculture-driven expansion led to the development of the first
forms of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government is ...
in agricultural centers, such as the
Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental orga ...

Fertile Crescent
,
Ancient India According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. Quote: "Y-Chromosome and Mt-DNA data support the colonization of South Asia by mod ...
,
Ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. Ancient hi ...
,
Olmec The Olmecs () were the earliest known major Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western ...
,
Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all list of sovereign states and dependent territories i ...

Sub-Saharan Africa
and Norte Chico. As a result of the now near-universal human reliance upon agriculture, the few contemporary hunter-gatherer cultures usually live in areas unsuitable for agricultural use. Archaeologists can use evidence such as stone tool use to track hunter-gatherer activities, including mobility.
Ethnobotany at work in the Amazon (~1940s) Ethnobotany is the study of a region's plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a local culture and people. An ethnobotanist thus strives to document the local customs involving the practi ...
is the field of study whereby food plants of various peoples and tribes world wide are documented.


Common characteristics


Habitat and population

Most hunter-gatherers are
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

nomad
ic or semi-nomadic and live in temporary settlements. Mobile communities typically construct shelters using impermanent building materials, or they may use natural rock shelters, where they are available. Some hunter-gatherer cultures, such as the
indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast The Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a particular place. The term ''indigenous'' was firs ...
and the
Yakuts The Yakuts, or the Sakha ( sah, саха, ; , ), are a Turkic ethnic group who mainly live in the Republic of Sakha in the Russian Federation Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanni ...
, lived in particularly rich environments that allowed them to be sedentary or semi-sedentary. Amongst the earliest example of permanent settlements is the Osipovka culture (14–10.3 thousand years ago), which lived in a fish-rich environment that allowed them to be able to stay at the same place all year. One group, the
ChumashChumash may refer to: *Chumash (Judaism), a Hebrew word for the Pentateuch, used in Judaism *Chumash people, a Native American people of southern California *Chumashan languages, indigenous languages of California See also

*Chumash traditiona ...
, had the highest recorded population density of any known hunter and gatherer society with an estimated 21.6 persons per square mile.


Social and economic structure

Hunter-gatherers tend to have an
egalitarian Egalitarianism (), or equalitarianism, is a school of thought within political philosophy that builds from the concept of social equality, prioritizing it for all people. Egalitarian doctrines are generally characterized by the idea that all hu ...
social ethos, although settled hunter-gatherers (for example, those inhabiting the Northwest Coast of North America) are an exception to this rule. For example, the
San people The San peoples (also Saan), or Bushmen, are members of various Khoe Maharishi International University (MIU), formerly Maharishi University of Management, is a private university in Fairfield, Iowa. It was founded in 1973 by Maharishi Mahesh ...

San people
or "Bushmen" of southern Africa have social customs that strongly discourage hoarding and displays of authority, and encourage economic equality via sharing of food and material goods.
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, M ...

Karl Marx
defined this socio-economic system as
primitive communism Primitive communism is a way of describing the gift economies of hunter-gatherers throughout history, where resources and property hunted and gathered are shared with all members of a group, in accordance with individual needs. In political socio ...
. The egalitarianism typical of human hunters and gatherers is never total, but is striking when viewed in an evolutionary context. One of humanity's two closest primate relatives,
chimpanzee The chimpanzee (''Pan troglodytes''), also known simply as chimp, is a species of Hominidae, great ape native to the forest and savannah of tropical Africa. It has four confirmed subspecies and a fifth proposed subspecies. The chimpanzee and t ...
s, are anything but egalitarian, forming themselves into hierarchies that are often dominated by an
alpha male In studies of social animals, the highest ranking individual of a dominance hierarchy is sometimes designated as the alpha. Males, females, or both, can be alphas, depending on the species. Where one male and one female fulfill this role togeth ...
. So great is the contrast with human hunter-gatherers that it is widely argued by
paleoanthropologists Paleoanthropology or paleo-anthropology is a branch of paleontology Paleontology, also spelled palaeontology or palæontology (), is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene Epoch (r ...
that resistance to being dominated was a key factor driving the evolutionary emergence of ,
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...

language
,
kinship In , kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist states that "the study of kins ...

kinship
and
social organization In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The te ...
. Most anthropologists believe that hunter-gatherers do not have permanent leaders; instead, the person taking the initiative at any one time depends on the task being performed. Within a particular tribe or people, hunter-gatherers are connected by both
kinship In , kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist states that "the study of kins ...

kinship
and
band Band or BAND may refer to: Places *Bánd, a village in Hungary *Band, Iran, a village in Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran *Band, Mureș, a commune in Romania *Band-e Majid Khan, a village in Bukan County, West Azerbaijan Province, Ira ...
(residence/domestic group) membership. Postmarital residence among hunter-gatherers tends to be matrilocal, at least initially. Young mothers can enjoy childcare support from their own mothers, who continue living nearby in the same camp. The systems of kinship and descent among human hunter-gatherers were relatively flexible, although there is evidence that early human kinship in general tended to be
matrilineal Matrilineality is the tracing of kinship through the female line. It may also correlate with a social system in which each person is identified with their matriline – their mother's Lineage (anthropology), lineage – and which can inv ...
. The conventional assumption has been that women did most of the gathering, while men concentrated on big game hunting. An illustrative account is Megan Biesele's study of the southern African Ju/'hoan, 'Women Like Meat'. A recent study suggests that the sexual division of labor was the fundamental organizational innovation that gave ''Homo sapiens'' the edge over the Neanderthals, allowing our ancestors to migrate from Africa and spread across the globe. This view was challenged by feminist anthropologists in the 1970s who pointed out that anthropology had historically overly emphasized men. The stereotype of "man the hunter, women the gatherer" may have described a common division of labor, but men in hunter-gatherer societies still help with the gathering, especially when women are tired or sick, or the hunt is unsuccessful. Women hunted with different weapons. Women hunted with dogs or blowpipes and poison darts. Women could trap animals too, using nets or baskets to snare crabs and fish. A 1986 study found most hunter-gatherers have a symbolically structured sexual division of labor. However, it is true that in a small minority of cases, women hunted the same kind of quarry as men, sometimes doing so alongside men. Among the Ju'/hoansi people of Namibia, women help men
track Track or Tracks may refer to: Routes or imprints * Ancient trackway, any track or trail whose origin is lost in antiquity * Animal track, imprints left on surfaces that an animal walks across * Desire path, a line worn by people taking the shortes ...
down quarry. In the Australian Martu, both women and men participate in hunting but with a different style of gendered division; while men are willing to take more risks to hunt bigger animals such as kangaroo for political gain as a form of "competitive magnanimity", women target smaller game such as lizards to feed their children and promote working relationships with other women, preferring a more constant supply of sustenance. 9000-year-old remains of a female hunter along with a toolkit of
projectile points In North American archaeological terminology, a projectile point is an object that was hafted to weapon that was capable of being thrown or projected, such as a javelin A javelin is a light spear A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a s ...
and animal processing implements were discovered at the
Andean The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of South America South America is a continent e ...

Andean
site of Wilamaya Patjxa, Puno District in
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = National seal , national_motto ...

Peru
. At the 1966 " Man the Hunter" conference, anthropologists
Richard Borshay Lee Richard Borshay Lee (born 1937) is a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these connec ...
and
Irven DeVore Irven DeVore (October 7, 1934 – September 23, 2014) was an anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. Social anth ...
suggested that
egalitarianism Egalitarianism (), or equalitarianism, is a school of thought A school of thought, or intellectual tradition, is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy Philosophy ...
was one of several central characteristics of nomadic hunting and gathering societies because mobility requires minimization of material possessions throughout a population. Therefore, no surplus of resources can be accumulated by any single member. Other characteristics Lee and DeVore proposed were
flux of \mathbf(\mathbf) with the unit normal vector \mathbf(\mathbf) ''(blue arrows)'' at the point \mathbf multiplied by the area dS. The sum of \mathbf\cdot\mathbf dS for each patch on the surface is the flux through the surface Flux describes ...

flux
in territorial boundaries as well as in
demographic Demography (from prefix ''demo-'' from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided ...

demographic
composition. At the same conference,
Marshall Sahlins Marshall David Sahlins ( ; December 27, 1930April 5, 2021) was an American cultural anthropologist Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior ...
presented a paper entitled, " Notes on the Original Affluent Society", in which he challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherers lives as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short", as
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an , considered to be one of the founders of modern . Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ', in which he expounds an influential form ...
had put it in 1651. According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more
leisure Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experience or as free time. Free time is spent away from , , , , and , as well as necessary activities such as and ing. Leisure as an experience usually emphasizes dimensions of perceived fr ...

leisure
than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well. Their "affluence" came from the idea that they were satisfied with very little in the material sense.Sahlins, M. (1968). "Notes on the Original Affluent Society", ''Man the Hunter.'' R.B. Lee and I. DeVore (New York: Aldine Publishing Company) pp. 85–89. . See also: Jerome Lewis
"Managing abundance, not chasing scarcity"
, ''Radical Anthropology'', No. 2, 2008, and John Gowdy,
"Hunter-Gatherers and the Mythology of the Market"
in Lee, Richard B (2005). ''Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers''.
Later, in 1996, Ross Sackett performed two distinct meta-analyses to empirically test Sahlin's view. The first of these studies looked at 102 time-allocation studies, and the second one analyzed 207 energy-expenditure studies. Sackett found that adults in foraging and horticultural societies work, on average, about 6.5 hours a day, whereas people in agricultural and industrial societies work on average 8.8 hours a day. Researchers Gurven and Kaplan have estimated that around 57% of hunter-gatherers reach the age of 15. Of those that reach 15 years of age, 64% continue to live to or past the age of 45. This places the life expectancy between 21 and 37 years. They further estimate that 70% of deaths are due to diseases of some kind, 20% of deaths come from violence or accidents and 10% are due to degenerative diseases. Mutual exchange and sharing of resources (i.e., meat gained from hunting) are important in the economic systems of hunter-gatherer societies. Therefore, these societies can be described as based on a "
gift economy A gift economy or gift culture is a mode of exchange where valuables are not sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. Social norms and customs govern giving a gift in a gift culture, gifts are not giv ...
." A 2010 paper argued that while hunter-gatherers may have lower levels of inequality than modern, industrialised societies, that does not mean inequality does not exist. The researchers estimated that the average Gini coefficient amongst hunter-gatherers was 0.25, equivalent to the country of Denmark in 2007. In addition, wealth transmission across generations was also a feature of hunter-gatherers, meaning that "wealthy" hunter-gatherers, within the context of their communities, were more likely to have children as wealthy as them than poorer members of their community and indeed hunter-gatherer societies demonstrate an understanding of social stratification. Thus while the researchers agreed that hunter-gatherers were more egalitarian than modern societies, prior characterisations of them living in a state of egalitarian primitive communism were inaccurate and misleading.


Variability

Hunter-gatherer societies manifest significant variability, depending on
climate zone 350px, Leslie Holdridge's Life Zone Classification system is essentially a climate classification scheme. Climate classification is a way of categorizing the world's climate Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a ...

climate zone
/
life zone The life zone concept was developed by C. Hart Merriam in 1889 as a means of describing areas with similar plant and animal communities. Merriam observed that the changes in these communities with an increase in latitude at a constant elevation ar ...
, available technology, and societal structure. Archaeologists examine hunter-gatherer tool kits to measure variability across different groups. Collard ''et al.'' (2005) found temperature to be the only statistically significant factor to impact hunter-gatherer tool kits. Using temperature as a proxy for risk, Collard ''et al.'s'' results suggest that environments with extreme temperatures pose a threat to hunter-gatherer systems significant enough to warrant increased variability of tools. These results support Torrence's (1989) theory that the risk of failure is indeed the most important factor in determining the structure of hunter-gatherer toolkits. One way to divide hunter-gatherer groups is by their return systems. James Woodburn uses the categories "immediate return" hunter-gatherers for egalitarianism and "delayed return" for nonegalitarian. Immediate return foragers consume their food within a day or two after they procure it. Delayed return foragers store the surplus food ( Kelly, 31). Hunting-gathering was the common human mode of subsistence throughout the
Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of ...
, but the observation of current-day hunters and gatherers does not necessarily reflect Paleolithic societies; the hunter-gatherer cultures examined today have had much contact with modern civilization and do not represent "pristine" conditions found in
uncontacted peoples Uncontacted peoples are communities or groups of indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a p ...

uncontacted peoples
. The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is not necessarily a one-way process. It has been argued that hunting and gathering represents an , which may still be exploited, if necessary, when environmental change causes extreme food stress for agriculturalists. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear line between agricultural and hunter-gatherer societies, especially since the widespread adoption of agriculture and resulting cultural diffusion that has occurred in the last 10,000 years. This anthropological view has remained unchanged since the 1960s. Nowadays, some scholars speak about the existence within
cultural evolution Cultural evolution is an evolutionary theory Evolutionary thought, the recognition that species change over time and the perceived understanding of how such processes work, has roots in antiquity—in the ideas of the Ancient Greece, ancient Gr ...

cultural evolution
of the so-called mixed-economies or dual economies which imply a combination of food procurement (gathering and hunting) and food production or when foragers have trade relations with farmers.


Modern and revisionist perspectives

Some of the theorists who advocate this "revisionist" critique imply that, because the "pure hunter-gatherer" disappeared not long after
colonial Colonial or The Colonial may refer to: * Colonial, of, relating to, or characteristic of a colony or colony (biology) Architecture * American colonial architecture * French Colonial * Spanish Colonial architecture Automobiles * Colonial (1920 auto ...

colonial
(or even agricultural) contact began, nothing meaningful can be learned about prehistoric hunter-gatherers from studies of modern ones (Kelly, 24–29; see Wilmsen ) Lee and Guenther have rejected most of the arguments put forward by Wilmsen. Doron Shultziner and others have argued that we can learn a lot about the life-styles of prehistoric hunter-gatherers from studies of contemporary hunter-gatherers—especially their impressive levels of egalitarianism. There are nevertheless a number of contemporary hunter-gatherer peoples who, after contact with other societies, continue their ways of life with very little external influence or with modifications that perpetuate the viability of hunting and gathering in the 21st century. One such group is the Pila Nguru (Spinifex people) of
Western Australia Western Australia (abbreviated as WA) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Western Australia
, whose habitat in the
Great Victoria Desert The Great Victoria Desert is a sparsely populated desert ecoregion and Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia, interim Australian bioregion in Western Australia and South Australia. Location and description The Great Victoria is ...
has proved unsuitable for European agriculture (and even pastoralism). Another are the
Sentinelese The Sentinelese, also known as the Sentineli and the North Sentinel Islanders, are an indigenous people Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distin ...
of the
Andaman Islands The Andaman Islands is an archipelago in the northeastern Indian Ocean about southwest off the coasts of Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Region. Together with the Nicobar Islands to their south, the Andamans serve as a maritime boundary between the Bay o ...

Andaman Islands
in the
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five ocean The ocean (also the or the world ocean) is the body of that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of and contains 97% of . Another definition is "any of the large ...

Indian Ocean
, who live on
North Sentinel Island North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands The Andaman Islands is an archipelago in the northeastern Indian Ocean about southwest off the coasts of Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Region. Together with the Nicobar Islands to their south, the ...

North Sentinel Island
and to date have maintained their independent existence, repelling attempts to engage with and contact them. The Savanna Pumé of Venezuela also live in an area that is inhospitable to large scale economic exploitation and maintain their subsistence based on hunting and gathering, as well as incorporating a small amount of manioc horticulture that supplements, but is not replacing, reliance on foraged foods.


Americas

Evidence suggests big-game hunter-gatherers crossed the
Bering Strait The Bering Strait (russian: Берингов пролив) is a of the , which separates and the slightly south of the at about 65° 40' N . The present Russia-US east–west boundary is at 168° 58' 37" W. The Strait is named after , a Dani ...
from Asia (Eurasia) into North America over a land bridge (
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
), that existed between 47,000–14,000 years ago. Around 18,500–15,500 years ago, these hunter-gatherers are believed to have followed herds of now-extinct
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological Epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the earth’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Before a change finally ...
megafauna In terrestrial zoology Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that studies the animal kingdom, including the anatomy, structure, embryology, evolutio ...

megafauna
along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. Another route proposed is that, either on foot or using , they migrated down the Pacific coast to South America. Hunter-gatherers would eventually flourish all over the Americas, primarily based in the
Great Plains The Great Plains (french: Grandes Plaines), sometimes simply "the Plains", is a broad expanse of in . It is located west of the and east of the , much of it covered in , and . It is the southern and main part of the , which also include the ...
of the United States and Canada, with offshoots as far east as the
Gaspé Peninsula The Gaspé Peninsula, also known as Gaspesia ( French: ''Gaspésie'') is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from ...
on the , and as far south as
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern ...

Chile
,
Monte Verde Monte Verde is an archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric or recorded history, historic or contemporary), and which has been, or may ...

Monte Verde
. American hunter-gatherers were spread over a wide geographical area, thus there were regional variations in lifestyles. However, all the individual groups shared a common style of stone tool production, making
knapping Knapping is the shaping of flint Flint is a sedimentary rock, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as the variety of chert that occurs in chalk or marly limestone. Flint was widely used historically to make ston ...

knapping
styles and progress identifiable. This early Paleo-Indian period
lithic reduction of flint-knapping Knapping is the shaping of flint Flint is a sedimentary rock, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as the variety of chert that occurs in chalk or marly limestone. Flint was widely used histor ...
tool adaptations have been found across the Americas, utilized by highly mobile bands consisting of approximately 25 to 50 members of an extended family. The
Archaic period in the Americas In the classification of the archaeological cultures of North America, the Archaic period in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also ...
saw a changing environment featuring a warmer more
arid A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development Development or developing may refer to: Arts *Development hell, when a project is stuck in d ...

arid
climate and the disappearance of the last megafauna. The majority of population groups at this time were still highly mobile hunter-gatherers. Individual groups started to focus on resources available to them locally, however, and thus archaeologists have identified a pattern of increasing regional generalization, as seen with the
Southwest The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibrium, rounded by its own gravity ...
,
Arctic The Arctic ( or ) is a polar regions of Earth, polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Danish Realm, ...
,
Poverty Point#REDIRECT Poverty Point Poverty Point State Historical Site (french: Pointe de Pauvreté; 16 WC 5) is a prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world hist ...
,
Dalton Dalton may refer to: Science * Dalton (crater), a lunar crater * Dalton (program), chemistry software * Dalton (unit) (Da), the atomic mass unit Entertainment * Dalton (Buffyverse), minor character from ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' television s ...
and Plano traditions. These regional adaptations would become the norm, with reliance less on hunting and gathering, with a more mixed
economy An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ( ...

economy
of small game,
fish Fish are , , -bearing animals that lack with . Included in this definition are the living , s, and and as well as various extinct related groups. Around 99% of living fish species are ray-finned fish, belonging to the class , with over 95 ...

fish
, seasonally and harvested plant foods. Scholars like Kat Anderson have suggested that the term Hunter-gatherer is reductive because it implies that Native Americans never stayed in one place long enough to affect the environment around them. However, many of the landscapes in the Americas today are due to the way the Natives of that area originally tended the land. Anderson specifically looks at California Natives and the practices they utilized to tame their land. Some of these practices included pruning, weeding, sowing, burning, and selective harvesting. These practices allowed them to take from the environment in a sustainable manner for centuries. California Indians view the idea of wilderness in a negative light. They believe that wilderness is the result of humans losing their knowledge of the natural world and how to care for it. When the earth turns back to wilderness after the connection with humans is lost then the plants and animals will retreat and hide from the humans.


See also

*
Beachcombing Beachcombing is an activity that consists of an individual "combing" (or searching) the beach and the , looking for things of value, interest or utility. A beachcomber is a person who participates in the activity of beachcombing. Despite these ...
*
Nomads A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherers, Nomadic pastoralism, pastoral nomads (owning lives ...

Nomads
*
Cro-Magnon Early European modern humans (EEMH) or Cro-Magnons were the first early modern human Early modern human (EMH) or anatomically modern human (AMH) are terms used to distinguish ''Homo sapiens'' (the only extant Hominina species) that are ana ...

Cro-Magnon
*
Homo floresiensis ''Homo floresiensis'' ("Flores Man"; nicknamed "Hobbit") is a species of small that inhabited the island of , Indonesia, until the arrival of about 50,000 years ago. The remains of an individual who would have stood about in height were dis ...

Homo floresiensis
*
Human migration Human migration involves the movement of people from one place to another with intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily, at a new location (geographic region). The movement often occurs over long distances and from one country to anoth ...

Human migration
*
Human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, and since the History of writing, advent of writing, from primary source, primary and ...
*
Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific countries), or autochthonous peoples, are culturally distinct e ...
*
Neanderthals Neanderthals (, also Neandertals, ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis'') are an extinct species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, phys ...
*
Neolithic Revolution The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (Ameri ...
* Origins of society *
Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of ...
*
Prehistoric music Prehistoric music (previously ''primitive music'') is a term in the history of music Music is found in every known society, past and present, and is considered to be a cultural universal. Since all people of the world, including the most isolate ...
*
Primitive skills Survivalism is a social movement of individuals or groups (called survivalists or preppers) who proactively prepare for emergencies, including natural disasters, as well as disruptions to social, political, or economic order. Preparations may ant ...
*
Stateless society A stateless society is a society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, ...
*
Tribe The term tribe is used in many different contexts to refer to a category of human social group. The predominant usage of the term is in the discipline of anthropology. The definition is contested, in part due to conflicting theoretical understa ...

Tribe
*
Clan A clan is a group of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of ...

Clan
*
Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer Caucasus hunter-gatherer (CHG), also called Satsurblia Cluster is an anatomically modern human human genetics, genetic lineage, first identified in a 2015 study, based on the population genetics of several modern Eurasia, Western Eurasian (European ...


Modern hunter-gatherer groups

*
Aeta people The Aeta (Ayta ), Agta, or Dumagat, are collective terms for several Filipino Filipino may refer to: * Something from or related to the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the ...
*
Aka people The Aka or Bayaka (also BiAka'', ''Babenzele) are a nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunt ...
*
Andamanese people The Andamanese are the various indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a particular place. T ...
*
Angu people The Angu or Änga people, also called Kukukuku (pronounced "cookah-cookah") are a small and previously violent group speaking a number of Angan languages, related languagesEthnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth Edition, M. Paul Lewis, edito ...
* Awá-Guajá people * Batek people * Efé people * Fuegians * Hadza people * Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast * Inuit people * Iñupiat * Jarawa people (Andaman Islands) * Kawahiva people * Maniq people * Mbuti people * Mlabri people * Moriori people * Nukak people * Onge people * Penan people * Pirahã people * Raute people *
San people The San peoples (also Saan), or Bushmen, are members of various Khoe Maharishi International University (MIU), formerly Maharishi University of Management, is a private university in Fairfield, Iowa. It was founded in 1973 by Maharishi Mahesh ...

San people
* Semang people * Sentinelese people * Tjimba people *
Yakuts The Yakuts, or the Sakha ( sah, саха, ; , ), are a Turkic ethnic group who mainly live in the Republic of Sakha in the Russian Federation Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanni ...
* Yaruro people, Yaruro (Pumé) people * Ye'kuana people * Yupik people


Social movements

*Anarcho-primitivism, which strives for the abolishment of civilization and the return to a life in the wild. *Freeganism involves gathering of food (and sometimes other materials) in the context of an urban or suburban environment. *Gleaning involves the gathering of food that traditional farmers have left behind in their fields. *Paleolithic diet, which strives to achieve a diet similar to that of ancient hunter-gatherer groups. *Paleolithic lifestyle, which extends the paleolithic diet to other elements of the hunter-gatherer way of life, such as movement and contact with nature


References


Further reading

;Books * * * (Reviewed in
The Montreal Review
') * * * * * * * ;Articles * * *


External links


International Society for Hunter Gatherer Research (ISHGR)History of the Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS)

The Association of Foragers: An international association for teachers of hunter-gatherer skills.

A wiki dedicated to the scientific study of the diversity of foraging societies without recreating myths
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Hunter-Gatherer Anthropological categories of peoples Nomads Stone Age Hunter-gatherers, Human evolution Economic systems Foraging