The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum

The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum

In this book, Robert L. Kelly challenges the preconceptions that hunter-gatherers were Paleolithic relics living in a raw state of nature, instead crafting a position that emphasizes their diversity, and downplays attempts to model the original foraging lifeway or to use foragers to depict human nature stripped to its core. Kelly reviews the anthropological literature for variation among living foragers in terms of diet, mobility, sharing, land tenure, technology, exchange, male-female relations, division of labor, marriage, descent, and political organization. Using the paradigm of human behavioral ecology, he analyzes the diversity in these areas and seeks to explain rather than explain away variability, and argues for an approach to prehistory that uses archaeological data to test theory rather than one that uses ethnographic analogy to reconstruct the past.


  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd Revised ed. edition (April 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107607612
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107607613
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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  1. This is without doubt the most useful resource for a researcher with a need for a broad survey on the topic of hunter-gatherers. The data are clear and compiled into useful comparative forms. The findings are presented in historical context as anthropology morphed from a primarily linguistic study into one of sustainability. I wish there was a parallel for pastoral nomads.

  2. This book provides a great source of information about hunter-gatherers from 190,000 years ago to those 10,000 years ago. In spite of the authors arguments for the validity of understanding the first hunter-gatherers by using data gathered from the study of more modern hunter-gatherers, I think the comparison to be misleading.

  3. Well researched, highly readable and understandable for the non-anthroplogy person (me). It’s well organized and fascinating.

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