Ant 263: Syllabus

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



Topic and Organization
Related Classes
Reading Materials
Assignment Schedule
Course Organization and Expectations
Office Hours
Supplemental Bibliography


Topic and Organization back to top

In this seminar we will examine foraging models -- a subfield of human behavioral ecology -- and their 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 a 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 topically specific applications, each of which is 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 six 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?

Related Classes back to top

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, among other topics, 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 class, ANT 178 (Hunter-Gatherers), provides a more comprehensive ethnographic examination of this form of human economy.

Reading Materials back to top

There is one required text:

Smith EA, Winterhalder B (1992) Evolutionary Ecology and Human Behavior. New York, Aldine de Gruyter.

Each week there will be a set of required and recommended articles. I will make copies available to you a few weeks prior to their assignment.


Assignment Scheduleback to top

Readings should be completed by the beginning of the class that follows the date of the assignment.


Course Organization and Expectations back to top

We will meet once a week, Wednesday, from 10:00AM to 1:00 PM. Every member of the class is responsible for bringing a set of 3-5 discussion questions and for a one-page précis of each of the assigned readings. A description and outline of a precis is availablehere.

Each week will have an assigned discussion leader, a role that will rotate among class members.

Beginning in week three, the first half of the class will be devoted to presentations and discussion of the previous week’s laboratory exercise. Be prepared to hand in a three-to-five page laboratory report (description here), with supplemental tables and graphs. In the second half of the class, we will take up the new topic assigned for that week. Depending on class size, the laboratory exercises will be done and reported individually, or in teams of two or three.

You will also be asked to prepare a short, 6-8 page (double spaced) research proposal, adapting one of the models covered to a research setting that is of particular interest to you. An outline for this proposal is available here. This proposal will be due the date of the last class (3 June).

In summary, your obligations for written work encompass:

1) A précis for each assigned article;
2) Discussion questions for each class; 
3) A 3-5 page lab report on each of the modeling exercises; and,
4) A short research proposal.

Office Hours back to top

I will have office hours Tuesday and Thursday 1:30 to 3:00 PM, in 218 Young Hall. Times besides these can be arranged individually. Should problems or questions arise you also can reach me by phone (754-4770) or by e-mail (

Grades back to top

Grades will be based on an assessment of both written (70%) and oral (30%) assignments. Each of the seven lab reports and the research proposal will count 10% toward the written total. The oral grade will include class participation, assessed as willingness to take an informed role in both critical and creative discussions (20%), and your preparation as a discussion leader, when assigned that role (10%).

General back to top

This is your seminar. Ideas that might improve it for you individually or for the group, at the level of organization, content and approach, are welcomed.

Schedule back to top

Full citations for the publications cited in the Schedule and Supplemental Bibliography can be found here.

Required and Recommended Readings
Topics & Activities
Week 1
(1 April)
(Bird & O'Connell 2006)
(Winterhalder 2002)
(Maynard Smith 1978)
(Winterhalder & Smith 1992: 3-23)
(Smith and Winterhalder 1992: 25-60)

(Elster 1983: 9-88)
(Elster 1986: 1-33)
(Foley 1985)
(Starfield and Bleloch 1986: 1-15)
(Towner and Luttbeg 2007)

Planning and Introduction(s)
Week 2
(8 April)
(MacArthur and Pianka 1966)
(Schoener 1974)
(Smith and Winterhalder 1992: 167-201) [Kaplan and Hill]

(Broughton 2000)
(Broughton 2002a)
(de Boer, Blijdenstein & Longamane 2002)
(Grayson et al. 2001)
((Madsen & Schmitt 1998)

Behavioral Ecology, Models and Basic Tools

Discussion of Readings


Week 3
(15 April)

(Wiens 1976)
(Charnov 1976)
(Charnov et al. 1976)
(Smith and Winterhalder 1992: 237-266) [Cashdan]

(Lupo 2001)
(Sih 1980)
(Sosis 2002)
(Bettinger et al. 2006)

Resource Selection (the encounter-contingent model)

Continue discussion of introductory readings, and those on encounter-contingent diet selection.


Week 4
(22 April)
(Fretwell and Lucas Jr 1970)
(Kennett et al. 2006)
(Sutherland 1996: Ch. 1)
(Whitehead and Hope 1991)

(Abrahams & Healy 1990)
(Kennett et al. 2009)
(Kraft & Baum 2001)
(Madden et al. 2002)
(Tregenza 1994)

Use of Patches (the marginal value theorem)

Review of EXERCISE #1 & Discussion of Readings on patches


Week 5
(29 April)
(Orians and Pearson 1979)
(Metcalfe and Barlow 1992)
(Bettinger et al. 1997)
(Zeanah 2002)
(Morgan 2008)

(Bird and Bliege Bird1997)
(Barlow et al. 1993)
(Barlow and Metcalfe 1996)
(Beck et al. 2002)
(Cannon 2003)
(Rogers and Broughton 1999)

Habitat Selection (the ideal free distribution)

Review of EXERCISE #2 & Discussion of Readings on the ideal free distribution


Week 6
(6 May)
(Stephens and Charnov 1982)
(Winterhalder et al. 1999)
(Winterhalder 2008)
(Heinrich and McElreath 2002)

(Mace 1993)
(Goland 1993)
(Elston & Zeanah 2002)

Home Bases (central place foraging and field processing)

Review of EXERCISE #3 & Discussion of Readings on central place foraging


Week 7
(13 May)
(Smith and Winterhalder 1992: 269-300) [Hawkes]
(Hawkes 1993)
(Winterhalder 1996)
(Gurven and Hill 2009)

(Hildebrandt & McGuire 2002, 2003)
(Broughton & Bayhem 2003)
(Hames and McCabe 2007)
(Hawkes & Bliege Bird 2002)
(Jones 2008)
(Tucker 2002)
(Smith and Bliege Bird 2001)
(Marlowe 1999)
(Gurven 2004)
(Wood 2006)

Stochasticity (Risk-sensitive foraging)

Review of EXERCISE #4 & Discussion of Readings on risk-sensitive models


Week 8
(20 May)
(Hames 1987)
(Rogers 1991)
(Alvard 1998) 
(Winterhalder & Lu)

(Broughton 2002b)
(FitzGibbon 1998)
(Alvard 1994)
(Tucker 2007)

Intra-Group Distribution (resource transfer models)

Review of EXERCISE #5 Discussion of Readings on food transfers and costly signaling.


Week 9
(27 May)
(Tucker 2006)
(Barlow 2006)
(Alvard and Kuznar 2001) 
(Winterhalder & Lu 1997)

(Fehr 2002)
(Stephens 2001)

Resource Depletion – Short Term (population ecology models)

Review of EXERCISE #6 & Discussion of Readings on population ecology and conservation.


Week 10
(3 June)

Discounting models and their implications

Review of EXERCISE #7 & Discussion of Readings on discounting 



Supplemental Bibliography back to top


HBE compared to other approaches in Anthropology & Archaeology:
  • (Boone & Smith 1998)
  • (Bettinger et al. 1996)
  • (Broughton & O'Connell 1999)
  • (Kelly 2000)
  • (Laland and Brown 2002)
  • (O'Brian & Lyman 2002)
  • (Schiffer 1996)
  • (Smith et al. 2001)
Article-length Reviews of Human Behavioral Ecology:
  • (Borgerhoff Mulder 1988)
  • (Borgerhoff Mulder 1991)
  • (Cronk 1991)
  • (Smith 1992a)
  • (Smith 1992b)
  • (Winterhalder and Smith 2000)
Key OFT/HBE Volumes in Anthropology & Biology:
  • (Alvard 2004)
  • (Caro 1998)
  • (Cronk et al. 2000)
  • (Danchin et al. 2008)
  • (Giraldeau and Caraco 2000)
  • (Kamil et al. 1987)
  • (Kamil and Sargent 1981)
  • (Krebs and Davies 1978)
  • (Krebs and Davies 1984)
  • (Krebs and Davies 1991)
  • (Krebs and Davies 1997)
  • (Smith and Winterhalder 1992)
  • (Stephens and Krebs 1986)
  • (Winterhalder and Smith 1981)
Monograph-length HBE Studies in Anthropology and Archaeology:
  • (Broughton 1999)
  • (Hanlon 2007)
  • (Hill and Hurtado 1996)
  • (Piperno and Pearsall 1998)
  • (Simms 1987)
  • (Smith 1991b)
  • (Zeanah et al. 1995)