Nothing simple about hunter-gatherer societies


Share post:

The division of labor in hunter-gatherer communities is complex and sophisticated, and crucial to their economic success, researchers report.

Nothing simple about hunter-gatherer societies
Members of a Tsimane community in Bolivia. A study found complexity and 
sophistication in the division of labor in hunter-gatherers communities 
[Credit Paul Hooper]

A paper in the journal Philosophical Transactions B looks at two hunter-gatherer groups: the Tsimane game hunters of lowland Bolivia, and the Jenu Kuruba honey collectors of South India.

“In contrast to the simple cave man view of a hunter-gatherer, we found that it requires a tremendous amount of skill, knowledge and training,” said Paul Hooper, an anthropologist at Emory University and one of the study’s authors.

He and his colleagues found that there is a clear division of labor between Tsimane and Jenu Kuruba men and women.

Women tend to stay away from collecting honey and hunting, because neither is conducive to caring for young children — and because they aren’t given the opportunity to develop these skills, Dr. Hooper said.

“If a third of your life is tied up with taking care of young offspring, you don’t have that time that boys and young men have to go out and practice doing this stuff,” he said.

Individuals often have specializations in hunter-gatherer communities, the researchers also found.

When Jenu Kuruba men go in search of honey, Dr. Hooper said, “there’s one man who specializes in making smoke to subdue the bees, another that climbs the trees, and others that act as support staff to lower combs.”

The Tsimane men also organize themselves according to their specialties and modify their groups based on the size of the game they are hunting.

Author: Sindya N. Bhanoo | Source: New York Times [October 26, 2015]



Related articles

Why war is a man’s game

No sex differences in attitudes or abilities are needed to explain the near absence of women from the...

Genetic study reveals Neanderthals could tolerate smoke

The idea that modern humans displaced Neanderthals because they were better protected against toxins from smoke is now...

Great apes communicate cooperatively

Human language is a fundamentally cooperative enterprise, embodying fast-paced interactions. It has been suggested that it evolved as...

Scientific methods shed new light on evolution of kinship patterns

New biological methods used to trace the evolutionary history of kinship patterns shed new light on how societies...

Ancient genomes trace the origin and decline of the Scythians

Generally thought of as fierce horse warriors, the Scythians were a multitude of Iron Age cultures who ruled...

Prehistoric conflict hastened human brain’s capacity for collaboration

Warfare not only hastened human technological progress and vast social and political changes, but may have greatly contributed...

Study ‘cures’ oldest case of deafness in human evolution

An international team of researchers including faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York, has published a...

Nature of war: Chimpanzees inherently violent

Of all of the world's species, humans and chimpanzees are some of the only to engage in coordinated...