Hunter-gatherers of the New World

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Reports some of the results obtained during eight years' work with the Ache, a foraging people of Paraguay, and preliminary findings from an ongoing project with the Hiwi foragers of the Venezuelan savanna. The approach derives from the study of behaviour from an evolutionary perspective, assuming that behavioural patterns are generally ecologically adaptive and that variations are due to differences in the costs and benefits to fitness in each environmental and social context. Four main issues are studied: the likely causes and consequences of the major dietary and technological shifts shown in the archaeological record: how and why food is shared, and the implications for the evolution of group living, settlement patterns and the sexual division of labour; what the activity profiles of modern foragers tell us about the hominid ancestors; and the basic trends in mortality and fertility that characterize modern foragers. Comparison of the Ache to other foraging peoples indicates that no single pattern of behaviour is typical of the hunter-gatherer way of life, although the opportunity to study humans as foragers is disappearing as their traditional territories and way of life are being lost. -J.W.Cooper

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-443
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Scientist
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

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