Behavioral Ecology of Hunter-Gatherers

Fall 2010

M W 11:00-12:15 HSSB 1173; Enroll #: 52043

Dr. Michael Gurven


Office: 2059 HSSB

Phone: 893-2202


 Office hours: M 1:00-3:00pm, or by appt


TA: Chris von Rueden,,

Office: 2060 HSSB; Office hrs: W 9-11am, or by appt



IMPORTANT LINKS OF INTEREST FOR STUDENTS (including lectures to download)



1) Reader of articles (available at Alternative Copy Shop)

2) Kelly, Robert. (1995) The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways. (Available at UCEN, $26)



ANTH 5, 7 or equivalent course in biological anthropology; quantitative experience (e.g. statistics course, calculus)




1) Mid-Term Exam, consists of short answers, essay. (100 pts) Ė NOV 15, 2010 IN-CLASS!!!
2) Final Exam (100 pts), consists of short answers, problems, multiple choice - Friday, DEC 10, 2010 12-3pm

3) Several (3 to 5) homework problems. (60 pts)
4) Class participation is strongly encouraged and will be rewarded at the end of the quarter in the event that your grade is borderline.
5) Readings : Each class will usually have one or two articles that you should read before coming to class. It is critical that you read these articles to be able to follow the lectures and participate in class discussions!

6) The readings and lectures complement one another, but do not duplicate each other. You must attend the lectures and do the readings to do well in the class. I will always indicate at the end of each class what should be read for the next class in case we deviate from the schedule.

7) Attendence is critical. Any class missed without prior notification will be an unexcused absence. One unexcused absence is allowed. Two unexcused absences may result in a grade reduction (A to A-, A- to B+, etc.) Attendance is essential to gain a full understanding of the course content. Your education is your responsibility. In order to get the most out of this class: attend lectures, do the reading, and thoughtfully complete the exams and exercises. If you are going to be absent, you are responsible for finding out what you missed from other classmates. Saying you were not in class and therefore didnít know about an assignment or exam will not be accepted as an excuse. No make-ups are allowed if notification occurs AFTER the exam or assignment was turned in. Without notification all absences are counted as unexcused.

8) Arrive to class ON TIME. Arriving on time to class is also critical. Students should arrive on time to class. Arriving late is a disruption to other students and to the professor. Two latenesses count as an absence from class.

9) You are encouraged to be self-reliant and to take good notes. This will help you study for the exams.

10) The class schedule is flexible and WILL change. Do not panic. Be aware that the dates given below are only tentative. Readings and homework assignments for the next couple of classes will always be repeated at the beginning of class.

11) If you ever have questions I encourage you to visit me during office hours, or we can set up an appointment. Iím eager to help students in need but you must take the initiative to meet with me. Also, I donít answer big questions by email.

Class format: lecture-based with Powerpoint presentations; discussion encouraged


Up until about 10,000 years ago, all humans and hominid pre-cursors lived as full-time hunter-gatherers. Understanding aspects of past and present adaptations requires a detailed understanding of forager lifeways. This class focuses on behavioral patterns of humans that lived as hunter-gatherers during this past century. Many of these groups continue to forage as a primary means of food acquisition, and can give us the best insight into fundamental trade-offs and decision-making processes of human hunter-gatherers. This course is designed to give students a thorough introduction to the diversity of behaviors found among living hunter-gatherers in Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, and Australia, from the perspective of behavioral ecology. Behavioral ecology applies principles of natural selection to explain rather than just describe behavioral variation. Students will gain ethnographic insight from numerous groups, thorough background into several core debates that continue to influence how we view ourselves (e.g. ďStone-agers in the fast lane?Ē), and the context of foragers in anthropology, and in society at large. We will cover aspects of diet and subsistence, mating, demography, social behavior, mobility and settlement patterns, gender, health, indigenous rights and conservation. This course should be of great interest to cultural and biological anthropologists, archaeologists, economists, philosophers and evolutionary psychologists.


Week 1: Sept 27 and 29
1. Introduction - Why study hunter-gatherers? What is behavioral ecology?
Reading: newspaper article, web articles
2. History, Issues, Perspectives, Questions
Reading: Ember 1978; Marlowe 2005a

Background on HBE: Smith & Winterhalder; Gurven

GRADS: (1) Lee 1992. Art, science or politics? the crisis in hunter-gatherer studies.

Week 2: Oct 4 and 6
3. Diet, food choice patterns, and zen road to affluence
Reading: Kaplan and Hill 1992, Cordain et al. 2000, Hawkes et al. 1985

GRADS: (1) Hill and Kintigh 2009,
Can Anthropologists Distinguish Good and Poor Hunters?; (2) Mithen 1988, Modeling hunter-gatherer decision-making complementing optimal foraging theory

Week 3: Oct 11 and 13
4. Mobility patterns and group size
Reading : Kelly Ch. 4 (111-148), 6 (205-221); MacDonald and Hewlett 1999

GRADS: (1) Dwyer & Minnegal. 1985. Andaman islanders, Pygmies, and an extension of Horn's model; (2) Hamilton et al. 2007, Non-linear scaling of space use among hunter-gatherers

5. Food sharing, territoriality, and cooperation
Reading : Gurven 2006, Kelly Ch. 5

Week 4: Oct 18 and 20, 25
6. Sexual division of labor, why do men hunt?
Reading: Gurven and Hill 2009; Kelly Ch. 7 (261-278)

GRADS: (1) Panter-Brick, C. 2002. Sexual division of labor: energetic and evolutionary scenarios. AJHB.

Week 5: Oct 27

7. MID-TERM EXAM in class - on all material above

Week 6: Nov 1 and 3

8. Life history, fertility and lifespan
Reading: Kaplan et al. 2000; Hrdy 2005

GRAD: (1) Ivey 2000. Cooperative reproduction in Ituri forest HGs;

9. Egalitarianism and fairness
Reading: Cashdan 1980; Boehm 1993; Kelly Ch. 8

GRAD: (1) Woodburn 1982. Egalitarian societies.

Week 7: Nov 8 and 10
10 and 11. Health and depression
Reading: Eaton et al. 1988; Froment 2001; Eaton et al. 1994; Balter 2005 (optional)

Week 8: Nov 15 and 17

12. Mating, divorce, and parenting
Reading: Blurton Jones and Marlowe 2001; Marlowe 2005b

13. Historical revisionism: IN-CLASS DEBATE
Reading: Headland 1994; Solway and Lee 1993

GRAD: (1) Headland & Bailey 1991. Have HGs ever lived in tropical forests without agriculture?   (2) Stearman 1991. Yuqui in the forest

13. African foragers: Hadza (Hadza film)
Reading: Hawkes et al. 1991; Marlowe 1999

Week 9: Nov 22 and 24
14. African foragers: Pygmies (film)
Reading: Hewlett 1996; Ichikawa 1983
15.. South America: Ache (film)
Reading: Hill 1994; Hill and Hurtado 1996 Ch. 7

GRAD: Hill and Hurtado 1996. Ache Life History (you should own this book and read it at some point)

Week 10: Nov 29 and Dec 1
17. Australian foragers. The Central Desert (Pitjanjara film)
Reading: Tonkinson 1991: Intro and chapter 2.

GRAD: Scelza & Bird 2008. Group structure and female cooperative networks in Australia's Western Desert

18. S.E. Asian foragers. Agta
Reading: Estioko Griffin 1986, Goodman et al. 1985, Brosius 1997 (optional)

19. Synthesis and wrap-up

FINAL EXAM Friday DEC 10, 12-3pm