Behavioral Ecology of Hunter-Gatherers

FALL 2017

T R 2:00-3:15 HSSB 1174; Enroll #: 51250


Dr. Michael Gurven


Phone: 893-2202



Office: 2060 HSSB; Office hrs: T R 3:15-4pm, or by appt



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



1) Reader of articles (links given below)

2) Kelly, Robert. (2013) The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum. Cambridge U. Press. (Available here @, ~$29-35)



Up until about 10,000 years ago, all humans and hominid pre-cursors lived as full-time hunter-gatherers in a world of 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 contemporary hunter-gatherers during this past century. Many of these groups continue to forage as a primary means of obtaining food, 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, ecology and micro-economics 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 significance of studying foragers not just in anthropology, or the social sciences, but 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 biological and cultural anthropologists, archaeologists, economists, behavioral biologists, philosophers and evolutionary psychologists.



ANTH 5, 7 or equivalent course in biological anthropology; ANTH 9 or background in quantitative analysis (e.g. statistics course, calculus)




1) Mid-Term Exam, consists of short answers, essay. (100 pts) Ė tentatively OCT 31, 2017 IN-CLASS!!!
2) Final Exam(100 pts), consists of short answers, problems, multiple choice -Tuesday DEC 12, 2017 4-7pm

3) Four 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 prior notification, all absences are counted as unexcused.

8) Arrive to class ON TIME. Showing up 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) Turn your cellphones off. No Facebooking or other social media use, but computers may be used for note taking.

11) 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.

12) 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.

13) Regular UCSB academic integrity policies regarding plagiarism and cheating apply. Click here for details.

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

Beginning of class film clips: [!Kung kids] [Enaune] [Chenchu] [Okiek] [Penan]






R-Sept 28

1. Introduction - Why study hunter-gatherers? What is behavioral ecology?

Newspaper articles: Dumas, Spector, Bowman, Adler; Kelly Ch. 1

GRADS: Lee 1992

T-Oct 3

2. History, Issues, Perspectives, Questions

Ember 1978; Marlowe 2005;

Background on HBE: Smith & Winterhalder; Gurven 2006


R-Oct 5

3. Diet, food choice patterns, and zen road to affluence

Kaplan & Hill 1992

GRADS: Hill & Kintigh 2009

HW 1 assigned

T-Oct 10

R-Oct 12

3b. Diet, food choice patterns, and zen road to affluence (continued)

Cordain et al. 2000

Milton 2000

Konner & Boyd Eaton 2010

GRADS: Mithen 1988

Bogin 2011



HW 1 due

T-Oct 17

4. Mobility patterns and group size

Kelly Ch. 4, 7; MacDonald & Hewlett 1999

GRADS: Hamilton et al. 2016

HW 2 assigned

R-Oct 19

5. Food sharing, territoriality, and cooperation

Kelly Ch. 6; Gurven 2006

GRADS: Jaeggi et al. 2016

Marlowe 2004a

T-Oct 24

6. Sexual division of labor, why do men hunt?

Gurven & Hill 2009; Kelly Ch. 8

GRADS: Panter-Brick 2002

  HW 2 due

R-Oct 26

7. South America: Ache (film)

Hill 1994

Hill & Hurtado 1996 Ch. 7

GRADS: Hill & Hurtado 1996 (get a copy!)


T-Oct 31

8. Life history, fertility and lifespan

Kaplan et al. 2000

Hrdy 2005

GRADS: Ivey 2000


R-Nov 2

9. MIDTERM IN CLASS (on all above)


Study Guide


T-Nov 7

10. SE Asian foragers. The Batek (guest lecture)

Venkataraman et al. 2016

Goodman et al. 1985

GRADS: Kraft et al. in press


R-Nov 9

11. African foragers: Pygmies (film)

Hewlett 1996

Ichikawa 1983

GRADS: Migliano et al. 2007

Becker et al. 2010

  HW 3 assigned

T-Nov 14

12. Egalitarianism and fairness

Cashdan 1985

Boehm 1993; Kelly Ch. 9



T-Nov 21

13. Health

Boyd Eaton et al. 1988

Dounias & Froment 2006

Boyd Eaton et al. 1994 (optional)

GRADS: Ohenjo et al. 2006

 HW 3 due

 HW 4 assigned

R-Nov 23



T-Nov 28

15. Depression

Stieglitz et al. 2014  

R-Nov 30

16. Mating, divorce, and parenting

Blurton Jones & Marlowe 2000

Marlowe 2004b

GRADS: Apicella & Marlowe 2007

  HW 4 due

T-Dec 5

18. Historical revisionism: IN-CLASS DEBATE TOPIC

Headland 1990

Solway & Lee 1990

GRADS: Headland & Bailey 1991

R-Dec 7

17. African foragers: Hadza (Hadza film)

Hawkes et al. 1991

Marlowe 1999

GRADS: Wood 2006



19. Australian foragers. The Central Desert (Pitjanjara film)

Codding et al. 2016

Scelza & Bird 2008

GRADS: Holland Jones et al. 2013



20. Synthesis and wrap-up







T Dec 12

FINAL EXAM††† 4-7pm†† (Location: 1174 HSSB)

  Study Guide