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Ant 263: Short Description

Anthropology 263
Human Applications of Foraging Theory (4 units)
Spring Quarter, 2009; CRN # 93509 
224 Young Hall; Wednesday; 10:00AM to 1:00 PM

Short Description

In this seminar we will examine contemporary human behavioral ecology and its use in anthropological analyses. We will cover basic theory, concepts and models, especially those used in the analysis of hunter-gatherer economy and society. We will examine both ethnographic and archaeological applications.

We begin with an historical and conceptual overview. We then discuss the scientific and methodological bases for the study of complex adaptive phenomena using behavioral ecology theory and simple models. The heart of the seminar will be a series of topic-specific applications, each built around a particular model and associated empirical studies. Among these applications are:

• encounter-contingent resource selection (diet breadth model);
• use of patches and habitats (marginal value theorem);
• habitat and population distribution (ideal free distribution);
• home bases and field processing (central place foraging model; Zeanah model);
• stochastic elements of foraging (z-score model and adaptations);
• resource sharing and distribution (transfer models);
•conservation behavior of foragers (long-term population ecology); and,
•implications of future discounting (for domestication, conservation).

Each of the first seven of these topics will include a laboratory exercise, using spreadsheets to create working applications of the models covered in that week of the seminar.

We conclude with an analysis of hunter-gatherer conservation behavior, from the perspective of behavioral ecology. If time permits, we will have a discussion of the similarities and differences between behavioral ecology and other forms of evolutionary study used in anthropology and archaeology, including Darwinian and processual archaeology. 

Our objectives will be analytical and methodological. What can be learned from this research approach? How does an ethnographer or archaeologist go about it? How does it compare with historical and contemporary alternatives for the analysis of ethnographic or archaeological evidence on human behavior?

This course is focused primarily on resource production and distribution. It is designed to complement two other graduate seminars on anthropological applications of behavioral ecology theory: Monique Borgerhoff Mulder's ANT 262 (Evolution and Human Behavior), which covers mating, parenting, life history and group structure, and Richard McElreath's class, ANT 261 (Modeling the Evolution of Social Behavior), which concentrates on game theory applications to topics such as conflict, altruism, reciprocity, signaling, and group selection. Although ANT 263 draws on hunter-gatherer examples, Robert Bettinger's ANT 178 (Hunter-Gatherers) provides a more comprehensive ethnographic examination of this form of human economy. back to top