Hunting, healing, and hxaro exchange. A long-term perspective on !Kung (Ju/'hoansi) large-game hunting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


The question of why hunters target large game knowing that most of the meat will end up far beyond their own hearths is an intriguing one. It raises the issue of whether foragers pursue nonnutritional goals in food procurement and which goals they pursue. Here, I will use data from studies that have been carried out over a 34-year period among the Ju/'hoansi (!Kung Bushmen) to evaluate four hypotheses concerning why foragers target large game: reciprocity, costly signaling, nepotism, and long-term political goals aimed at bringing about conditions conducive to cooperative breeding. I will propose on the basis of qualitative and quantitative data that (1) all four hypotheses identify benefits that are gained by Ju/'hoansi through producing and distributing a surplus of meat, (2) different benefits might be important at different stages of a man's life, and (3) the pursuit of broader political goals merits serious consideration in accounting for men's work effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-436
Number of pages30
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • !Kung Bushmen (Ju/hoansi)
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Costly signalling
  • Exchange
  • Food sharing
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Hunting
  • Nepotism
  • Trance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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