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Unit information: Hunter-gatherers in 2015/16

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Unit name Hunter-gatherers
Unit code ARCH20052
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Gibson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit focuses on hunter-gatherers. It will provide an introduction to the study of interactions between foraging peoples and their physical and social environment, with a focus on the behavioural ecology of recent hunter-gatherers. The unit encompasses anthropological approaches to the study of hunter-gatherer ecology, foraging and subsistence, egalitarian vs non-egalitarian societies, gender, group size and organisation, spatial patterns and the relationship of foragers with the outside world.


  • Provide a general overview of the history of anthropological approaches to the study of hunter-gatherers and existing debates within the field
  • Understand the interconnection between environmental characteristics and different hunter-gatherer lifestyles
  • Explore the variability observed in modern hunter-gatherer societies and draw upon connections with variation in ecological and social conditions
  • Present current challenges faced by modern hunter-gatherers as their traditional lifestyles, values and land are being threatened by the expansion of industrialised societies and a market economy

Intended Learning Outcomes

A successful student on this unit will be able to demonstrate:

1. the ability to discuss and critique different anthropological theories explaining the diversity of hunter-gatherers

2. understanding of the main ecological factors that affect hunter-gatherer societies, using modern groups to typify each of them

3. the ability to evaluate and explain the extent to which social characteristics of hunter-gatherers are influenced by their subsistence economy

4. an anthropological approach to critical evaluation of the predicted future of modern hunter-gatherers.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour interactive lecture.

Assessment Information

2500 word essay (50%). ILO 1-3

Individual 10 min presentation, and one-page handout detailing key points and references (25 %). ILO 1-4

1 hour exam (25%). ILO 1-4

Reading and References

Kelly, R. 2013. The lifeways of hunter-gatherers: the foraging spectrum. Cambridge: CUP.

Lee, R. and Daly, R. 2004. The Cambridge encyclopaedia of hunters and gatherers. Cambridge: CUP.

Gowdy, J. (ed). 1998. Limited wants, unlimited means: a reader on hunter-gatherer economics and the environment. Island Press, Washington DC.

Moran, EF. 2007. Human adaptability: an introduction to ecological anthropology. Colorado, Westview Press.

Panter-Brick, C., Layton, R and Rowley Conwy, P. 2001. Hunter-gatherers: an interdisciplinary perspective. Biosocial Society symposium series 13. Cambridge, CUP.