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Unformatted text preview: 2009 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2009/5001-0003$10.00. DOI: 10.1086/595620 Current Anthropology Volume 50, Number 1, 2009 51 Why Do Men Hunt? A Reevaluation of “Man the Hunter” and the Sexual Division of Labor by Michael Gurven and Kim Hill The role of men in hunter-gatherer societies has been subject to vigorous debate over the past 15 years. The proposal that men hunt wild game as a form of status signaling or “showing off” to provide reproductive benefits to the hunter challenges the traditional view that men hunt to provision their families. Two broad assumptions underlie the signaling view: (1) hunting is a poor means of obtaining food, and (2) hunted game is a public good shared widely with others and without expectation of future reciprocation. If hunters lack the ability to direct food shares and obtain subsequent benefits contingent on redistribution, then the ubiquitous observations of male hunting and universal pair-bonding cannot be explained from a perspective that emphasizes kin provisioning and a division of labor. Here we show that there is little empirical support for the view that men hunt for signaling benefits alone. The ethnographic record depicts a more complex relationship between food sharing patterns, subsistence strategies, mating, and the sexual division of labor. We present a framework incorporating trade-offs between mating and subsistence strategies in an eco- nomic bargaining context that contributes to understanding men’s and women’s roles in hunter- gatherer societies. The traditional perspective of the hunter-gatherer nuclear family depends on a division of labor where men hunt wild animals and women gather plant foods (Lovejoy 1981). The pair-bond is considered a cooperative venture geared toward joint production of highly dependent offspring, where women bear and care for offspring in exchange for long-term pro- visioning (Isaac 1978; Lancaster 1978). According to this view, “family organization may be attributed to the hunting way of life” (Washburn and Lancaster 1968, 295), where “males hunt and females gather, the results are shared and given to the young, and the habitual sharing between a male, a female, and their offspring becomes the basis for the human family” (Washburn and Lancaster 1968, 301). This hunting-based model for the evolution of the nuclear family and a coop- erative sexual division of labor has dominated much anthro- pological thinking over the past 40 years. 1 Recent proposals have painted a different portrait of the hunter-gatherer family. The ubiquity of men’s hunting among Michael Gurven is Associate Professor in the Department of An- thropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, California 93106, U.S.A. [[email protected]]). Kim Hill is a Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University (SHESC 233, P.O. Box 872402, Tempe, Arizona 85287-University (SHESC 233, P....
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- Anthropology, Hunting, sexual division, CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume, Michael Gurven