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date: 17 August 2019

Analytical Frames of Reference in Hunter-Gatherer Research

Abstract and Keywords

This paper provides an introduction to this part of the handbook and reviews each chapter in the section, set against a narrative of broader intellectual developments over the past few centuries. The paper begins by reviewing the origins of the notion of a hunter-gatherer, then turns its attention to key approaches from the past 50 years, including adaptive approaches, such as cultural ecology, and also more recent interpretive approaches. The two key areas of ethnoarchaeology and gender are also considered. The chapter concludes by reviewing diversity in current hunter-gatherer research, both in archaeology and anthropology.

Keywords: Hunter-gatherers, adaptive approaches, interpretive approaches, cultural ecology, ethnoarchaeology, gender

The study of hunting and gathering societies has a rich and extended intellectual history. This part of the handbook considers the origins of the term ‘hunter-gatherer’ and explores the rise of the subject as a distinct field of interdisciplinary enquiry. It also explores some of its main research trajectories and considers how these traditions have evolved and changed, and also how they continue to structure current academic enquiry.

The first two chapters look at the intellectual developments and wider cultural and historical contexts within which the concept of ‘hunter-gatherers’ as a distinct category of society first emerged (Barnard; Pluciennik). The next two chapters examine the main trajectories in current hunter-gatherer research, the first emphasizing the role of adaptation and ecology (Garvey and Bettinger), and a second, more recent critique of this approach, advocating a return to more particularistic analysis of contingent historical sequences, combined with a renewed emphasis on human perceptions and lived experiences (Cannon).

Archaeologists studying past hunter-gatherer societies have always made widespread use of ethnographic information about contemporary hunter-gatherers in order to inform their research and strengthen their interpretations, and have increasingly conducted their own ethnographic fieldwork, using various forms of ‘analogic’ reasoning to build the results into their archaeological explanations. The chapter by Lane provides a comprehensive critical review of the expansive hunter-gatherer ‘ethnoarchaeological’ literature, highlighting both its achievements and also scope for diversification of future research themes and better integration of results derived from different starting assumptions. Part I of the handbook is concluded by a retrospective review of the increasing role played by gender studies in hunter-gatherer research (Sterling and see Jarvenpa and Brumbach in Part VII). Together, these intellectual legacies, overarching research trajectories, and cross-cutting themes provide the remaining parts of the handbook with its main analytical frames of reference.

(p. 34) Foundational Concepts: Defining ‘Hunter-Gatherers’

In its narrowest sense, the term ‘hunter-gatherers’ provides a simple means of classifying human cultural diversity according to economic and subsistence criteria. However, these concepts were only able to emerge and take hold within specific historical contexts. Barnard and Pluciennik both examine the intellectual—and also the wider social and political—developments that made the emergence of the term possible, but they do so from slightly different perspectives, and reach contrasting conclusions.

‘Hunter-Gatherers’ as an Enduring Definition

Barnard presents a more linear analysis, tracing the slow emergence of the concept of ‘hunter-gatherers’ over recent centuries, and pinpoints a point of intellectual crystallization within the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment. Here, thinkers like Adam Smith were considering basic Enlightenment challenges such as the links between subsistence activities and forms of social life, and were starting to identify hunter-gatherers as being able to live in small-scale but viable societies, possessing fundamental differences to societies subsisting by pastoralism or agriculture. In this period, economics was starting to be regarded as the primary driving force of social interaction, and also the precipitator of evolution of human society into new forms of existence. In fact, it was this combination of subsistence categories to define cultural diversity, and the gradual emergence of social evolutionist thinking that enabled hunter-gatherer studies to emerge as a distinct discipline. In the nineteenth century, we start to see the concerted consolidation of ‘unilinear’ evolutionist thinking—the idea that all humanity had proceeded through the same series of highly generalized and distinct stages, perhaps best exemplified by L. H. Morgan’s three-stage schema of evolution, defined by the stages of ‘savagery’, ‘barbarism’, and eventually ‘civilization’, each with three further sub-periods. Hunter-gatherers of the archaeological past and ethnographic present were, of course, allocated to the lower rungs of this evolutionary ladder. In the middle part of the twentieth century this was followed by the emergence of a new form of ‘universal’ evolutionism, in which scholars like V. G. Childe more broadly defined ‘revolutionary’ stages in global human development, for example, with the replacement of hunter-gatherers by an expanding tide of Neolithic farmers (1936; 1942; 1956; 1962).

A more fundamental shift in hunter-gatherer research took place with the work of Julian Steward (1955), who introduced the idea of ‘multilinear’ cultural evolution through his analysis of hunter-gatherer groups. Although Steward’s approach built on, and consolidated, an older culture–area research tradition, he was responsible for moving anthropology away from the ‘particularist’ approach that had been developed by Franz Boas, and that saw each culture as being distinct (see below). In contrast, Steward argued that people are in large part defined by what they do for a living, and examined how societies use technology to adapt to specific environments, so that groups living in similar environments developed similar features, although their technology will be a product of history (see below).

(p. 35) Steward’s ideas were enormously influential among a new generation of scholars, and by the 1960s had led directly to the dawn of hunter-gatherer studies, and also to its defining interest in questions of adaptation, ecology, and associated impacts on social life, culminating in the 1966 Man the hunter conference (Lee and DeVore 1968). Although Steward had set the scene for the rise of modern hunter-gatherer studies as a distinct sub-discipline, doubts were already creeping in about terminology and the variability and distinctiveness of hunter-gatherers from the outset. However, a basic concept of ‘hunter-gatherers’ survives, even though it has gone through a series of sustained critiques and re-evaluations. Barnard concludes that the notion of ‘hunter-gatherers’ is still needed in academic discourse, despite its inherent shortcomings and problems of definition.

‘Hunter-Gatherers’ as an Outdated Concept

In contrast, Pluciennik covers broadly similar ground, but develops a broader and more contextual analysis of the concept of hunter-gatherers, reaching contrasting conclusions about its future analytical utility. He grounds his discussion in the historical processes of colonialism and capitalism, and in emerging concerns in seventeenth-century Europe about property rights and the economy, all of which generated a series of ‘othering’ discourses of which hunter-gatherers were only one element. He therefore situates an early formulation of ideas about hunter-gatherers in the growing ‘improvement’ movements of the seventeenth century (i.e. somewhat earlier than Barnard), which was both antithetical to hunting and gathering societies, but also constructed them as both a distinct and a ‘lower’ kind of society. Along with Barnard, he concludes that these initial subsistence classifications also needed the critical injection of social evolutionary thinking to condense and simplify the overall schema, and to place hunter-gatherers as being the furthest from civilization, and also the earliest in absolute historical, stadial, and also evolutionary terms. In particular, these emerging ideas about hunter-gatherers were filled out and developed against a looming backdrop of colonialism; the notion of ‘hunter-gatherers’ also provided a useful point of contrast with European pinnacles of cultural achievement.

Pluciennik’s analysis concludes that the notion of ‘hunter-gatherers’ is a rather crude, typological, and inherently value-laden means of classifying human cultural diversity from an external ‘othering’ perspective; he also explores comparative case studies from Greece, southern Asia, and China to demonstrate the term’s historically contingent ancestry, but also to signal that there are many other productive ways of conceptualizing historical human difference and exploring cultural diversity. In this way, Pluciennik’s research illustrates a central paradox in current hunter-gatherer research, namely that the term emerged from an earlier scientific passion for classification that was central in the Enlightenment, and that it was also a key ‘base-line’ element in the hierarchical schema that served to illustrate progressive social evolutionary thinking. The term has clearly outgrown most of these earlier definitions and associations, but the concept of ‘hunter-gatherers’ still has an enduring intellectual currency, whether as a point of analytical departure, as a useful shorthand for broad categorizations of different societies or as the general phases in long-term human history, or merely as a deeply outdated notion that nonetheless is worthy of study, if only as a focus of historiographic interest (as Pluciennik concludes).

(p. 36) Divergent Hunter-Gatherer Research Trajectories: Adaptive Behaviour and Social Action

‘Adaptive’ Approaches

The study of adaptation and human–environment relations has been central to hunter-gatherer studies since the pioneering work of Julian Steward, and the rise of New Archaeology. Garvey and Bettinger provide a detailed review of this rapidly evolving research tradition. They regard current hunter-gatherer studies as the direct intellectual descendant of earlier traditions in American anthropology, which emphasized systematic ethnographic fieldwork, and focused on identifying and documenting the enormous cultural diversity that was present among indigenous groups living in highly different environments, many of whom subsisted by hunting, fishing, and gathering.

Engaging with this cultural diversity made Franz Boas highly sceptical of the simple unilinear social evolutionary schema that were popular in Europe in the later nineteenth century, especially as these frameworks tended to homogenize all hunter-gatherers into a single stage of development. He also championed ‘historical particularism’ and argued that each culture was unique and should be studied on its own terms. However, ideas about the role of environment as a causal factor generating broad cultural patterns matured slowly into an eventual concern with rigorous analysis of adaptation. Clark Wissler and Alfred Kroeber worked after Boas, and began to note broad ‘culture–area’ patterns; like Boas, they also saw that North American hunter-gatherers were not homogeneous like progressive social evolutionists had predicted, but that there were important regional differences, and more importantly, that specific suites of cultural traits tended to coincide with the distributions of major food resources.

During the early twentieth century, Garvey and Bettinger traced a growing anthropological interest in culture–environment relations, although this tended to assume a kind of ‘environmental possibilism’, where the local ecology set various limits on local cultures but did not determine the specific patterns that emerged; however, they also noted that Kroeber and Lowie, who were leading proponents of cross-cultural studies, regarded environmental factors as being too complex to resolve at that specific time. It was in this tradition of research that Julian Steward became increasingly active, particularly through his ethnographic work among hunter-gatherers of the Great Basin. Steward argued that understanding cultural adaptations required systematic comparison of groups living in similar environments, and through his work with hunter-gatherer cultures, was able to conclude that human cultures were not a patchwork of accidents and connections, but that similar adaptations emerged in similar environments (Steward 1955), an approach that became known as ‘cultural ecology’. This was not, as critics often asserted, an argument for environmental determinism—Steward made an important conceptual distinction between (a) the technologies that people use to adapt to a particular environment—these play a very important role in adaptations, and form the ‘cultural core’, but are historically contingent; and (b) the external environments to which people adapt. In this way, groups can potentially (p. 37) develop very different techno-environmental interactions, generating multi-linear patterns of evolution, rather than uni-linear patterns of progressive social evolution, which Steward strongly rejected.

Garvey and Bettinger illustrate how Steward’s cultural ecology had a profound and lasting influence on hunter-gatherer studies. His work was read widely by a new generation of scholars, including Lewis Binford, architect of New Archaeology, and leading proponent of hunter-gatherer ethnoarchaeology (see Lane), who argued that archaeologists should engage themselves with the scientific analysis of long-term human adaptations, as material residues of these events and processes were more readily recoverable through excavation and analysis than other features of human activity, such as spirituality and belief. Steward’s cultural ecology, and the associated research tradition of neofunctionalism, also inspired other anthropologists to undertake sustained fieldwork to study and record how diverse groups—many of whom were hunter-gatherers—were adapted to their environments. Much earlier debate about hunter-gatherers had proceeded without good field data, and from the 1960s researchers started to meet regularly to discuss ideas and compare field data about hunter-gatherers; the Man the hunter conference was one such meeting (Lee and DeVore 1968). This tried to bring together all known knowledge of hunter-gatherer lifeways, best summarized in the notion of ‘nomadic style’, but also marked a tipping point into a new and coordinated hunter-gatherer research programme that concerned itself with understanding culture–environment interactions among populations that subsisted by hunting and gathering. In this way, Steward’s legacy also ensured the persistence of a strong and overarching adaptive focus in hunter-gatherer studies that endures to this day.

Garvey and Bettinger also trace how the field has evolved and changed over recent decades. The weakness of cultural ecology—and neofunctionalism—was that it tended to assume a group-level process of natural selection to account for observed cultural patterns, and did not focus on selection at the level of the individual. As a result, cultural ecology could only generate post hoc descriptive accounts, but could not really explain the causes of new adaptations, which had to be sought among variations in the behaviour of specific individuals. To study these processes, researchers adopted a range of new models, theory, and methods from biology, generating ‘human behavioural ecology’, which argues that human behaviour is individually motivated and subject to natural selection.

This research tradition has expanded and diversified to cover analysis of subsistence strategies, technology, and also social and reproductive dynamics among hunter-gatherer societies of the archaeological record and ethnographic present, either by systematic observation, measurement, and modelling of observed behaviours, or by extrapolating behavioural strategies from analysis of patterning in the archaeological record. Finally, Garvey and Bettinger bring their review right up to date by noting new developments in ‘selectionist archaeology’ and the application of ‘dual-inheritance theory’, both of which have some overlaps with human behavioural ecology, all of which generate testable hypotheses, and adopt a rigorous scientific approach to the study of human behavioural variability and change. Together, these different perspectives are united by more general attempts to study human cultural diversity through the application of Neo-Darwinian approaches, which in time—they argue—could form a single unifying framework for the wider social sciences. They conclude that the study of hunter-gatherer societies and their adaptations—both past and present—is absolutely central to the further development of this intellectually diverse and thriving research field.

(p. 38) ‘Interpretive’ Approaches

Cannon identifies a contrasting and more ‘interpretive’ research direction. His chapter outlines a series of research agendas that in many ways follow on from Pluciennik’s conclusion that there are more productive ways of studying human experience and cultural difference than the crude and categorical distinctions expressed in such terms as ‘hunter-gatherer’. For both Cannon and Pluciennik then, the term ‘hunter-gatherer’ or ‘hunter-gatherer archaeology’ represents more of a useful point of interpretive departure into more localized studies of specific and contingent historical trajectories, as well as the cumulative human actions and the diverse lived experiences that these histories contain. For Cannon, the real aim is to write human histories that can be both particularist and comparative, and also as rich, unique, and ‘multi-vocal’ as any other world region or periods of economic history; the fact that they can be broadly labelled ‘hunter-gatherer’ histories is more of an incidental outcome than a central research concern with understanding a specific ‘kind’ of society, which is categorized according to rather simple subsistence criteria.

Cannon suggests that three key developments have opened the way for this more particularistic and interpretive hunter-gatherer research agenda. The first was the 1980s ‘revisionist critique’ in hunter-gatherer studies, which overturned any lingering assumptions that ethnographically documented hunter-gatherers were ‘primitive’, ‘isolated’, or ‘pristine’ survivals from earlier phases of human social or economic life; instead, local historical trajectories, long-term and widespread forager–farmer and forager–‘other’ contacts were highlighted, and the roles of hunter-gatherers were increasingly situated within wider regional and global socio-economic and political systems (Shott 1992; Schrire 1995). These anthropological developments were also linked with coeval developments in archaeology, which saw new interests in the dynamics of prehistoric forager–farmer contacts and the active roles played by hunter-gatherers in major transitions such as the dispersal of farming and new forms of material culture. The current consensus is now that all documented hunter-gatherer societies—of the prehistoric past or present—are the products of unique and dynamic histories, which often include external impacts, as well as internal developments.

The challenge then is how best to explore and describe these extended and highly contingent historical sequences, and Cannon identifies two further productive developments. One reflects the wider post-modern critique of academic objectivity and the validity of cross-cultural analyses in archaeology and anthropology. Incorporated into the initial post-processual archaeology critique and its maturation into a humanized ‘interpretive’ archaeology, they have generated new questions and theoretical perspectives into social identity and spirituality, how people think, perceive, and engage meaningfully with the world, and also highlight the roles of human agency and social practice and their contributions to historically contingent culture change. To date, however, application of this body of interpretive theory to hunter-gatherer case studies has been rather limited, and so Cannon highlights a third important development, which is the enormous and ongoing growth in basic empirical datasets in many areas of the world that often include extended phases of hunter-gatherer archaeology. These detailed sequences now provide rich and timely potential for applying many of the new questions and interpretive approaches that he has described.

Again, we see a potential paradox in the rejection of the term ‘hunter-gatherers’, with all its economic categorizations and unilinear social evolutionary associations, but also (p. 39) in the shift away from scientific analysis of foragers’ adaptive behaviour (see Garvey and Bettinger), and towards development of Pluciennik’s broader agenda of using the term as a useful point of departure into a more interpretive historical exploration of cultural diversity and human experience. Cannon, however, senses enormous opportunities here for the writing of new kinds of hunter-gatherer histories, which can be both particularistic and ‘multi-vocal’, as well as comparative and empirical.

Cross-Cutting Research Themes: Ethnoarchaeology, Analogic Reasoning, and Gender Studies

In the final chapters in this part, authors engage with two cross-cutting themes in hunter-gatherer research that have played central roles within the development of the field, and both of which increasingly transcend the ‘adaptive’ and ‘interpretive’ streams of research examined above.

Ethnoarchaeology

Archaeologists have always made widespread use of ethnographic parallels and insights in their research and interpretation of prehistoric hunter-gatherers, and as a result of this, the two disciplines have developed close working relationships. From the mid-twentieth century, archaeologists have done their own ‘ethnoarchaeological’ fieldwork in order to directly collect ethnographic datasets that are more suitable for their archaeological research questions (see David and Kramer 2001). Ethnoarchaeology is therefore the ethnographic field research conducted by trained archaeologists working with living communities. Many seminal ethnoarchaelogical studies have focused on contemporary hunter-gatherers, their lifeways, and economic behaviours, and have thereby made a major contribution to hunter-gatherer studies more generally.

Lane opens his chapter by considering the foundational framework for ethnoarchaeology—‘analogical reasoning’. This approach is central to all archaeological interpretation, and ethnoarchaeology emerged as a means of strengthening the analogies that could be drawn between field observations made among living communities, and the inferences that could be made about non-observable behaviours in the past, and which are only preserved in the form of the archaeological record.

Ethnoarchaeology became a central tool in the New Archaeology research agenda, and was promoted as a means for developing low-level inferences (‘Middle Range Theory’) about specific patterns of ethnographically observable behaviour, and the likely material remains that would be generated; these insights, in turn, would facilitate a more precise understanding of the events and processes that had generated the archaeological record.

Given these strong links with New Archaeology, Lane notes that much subsequent work has continued to focus on rigorous documentation of behaviours combined with scientific analyses to test hypotheses and to model its adaptive values (see Garvey and Bettinger). (p. 40) Contemporary hunter-gatherers were initially targeted as representing rather direct behavioural analogues for prehistoric foragers. For example, there has been a sustained focus on studying foragers living in African savannah habitats, and on activities such as carcass processing, hunting and scavenging, and associated site formation patterns; this has been motivated by the desire to build robust analogies between these contemporary groups and the occupation of similar habitats by Plio-Pleistocene hominins during earlier phases of human evolution, all of which strengthens correspondences between the ethnographic and archaeological settings. Similarly, ethnoarchaeological studies were conducted among hunter-gatherers by Binford (1978; 1983), but as an archaeologist, he was primarily interested in understanding Mousterian assemblages from European Middle Palaeolithic, and so chose to do ethnoarchaeological fieldwork among the Alaskan Nunamiut. These groups were also big game hunters and occupied similar environments to those of Palaeolithic Europe.

Lane provides a detailed review of central themes in the ‘mainstream’ hunter-ethnoarchaeological literature, including: site structure and formation processes; mobility strategies, sedentism, and seasonality; tool-kit diversity; butchery strategies, carcass processing, and the transport of faunal assemblages. Much of this work replicates the broadly ‘adaptive’ focus that was established by New Archaeology, but that has since diversified substantially. Despite this, much early ethnoarchaeological work was criticized by post-processual archaeologists for ignoring the fact that many aspects of material culture and social interaction are ‘meaningfully constituted’, and reflect contingent values and beliefs, and not just adaptive processes. As a result, the hunter-gatherer ethnoarchaeological literature is strongly biased towards ‘adaptive’ approaches, with only very few case studies focusing on material style and identity, mortuary behaviour, symbolic uses of space, and agency, spirituality, and belief more generally (all of which could be grouped under Cannon’s broadly ‘interpretive’ research agenda).

Given the increasing theoretical diversity in hunter-gatherer studies, archaeologists working in different research traditions now tend to undertake ethnographic fieldwork and use ethnographic analogies in two broadly contrasting ways. While both start out with what are assumed to be ‘universal’ features of human existence, these are different: (a) some start with the assumption that culture serves as an extrasomatic means of adaptation (‘adaptative’ approaches); or else (b) they emphasize the symbolic constitution of human social action (‘interpretive’ approaches). In addition, archaeologists have also used a third kind of ethnographic analogy—direct historical analogies. These assume a direct cultural continuity between the prehistoric populations that generated a local archaeological record and the ‘descendant’ communities and their ethnographically documented behaviours that continue to exist in the same region (Cunningham 2003). Lane also emphasizes that all these forms of analogical reasoning can be combined and integrated, and that archaeological interpretations will be strengthened by using a multi-level analogic analysis.

Lane concludes that ethnoarchaeological research transcends archaeology and anthropology, and has substantially boosted the study of hunter-gatherers worldwide, making fundamental theoretical and empirical contributions to central debates about forager lifeways. In particular, the inherent emphasis on fine-grained documentation of behaviours and material residues has led directly to seminal publications and major breakthroughs in the analysis of variability in hunter-gatherers and their human–environment relations. Lane also points out that there is an urgent need for more ‘interpretive’ ethnoarchaeological work among hunter-gatherers, and that this will raise interesting challenges about how best to (p. 41) integrate divergent insights into adaptive behaviours and meaningful social action. Today, ethnoarchaeology remains a vibrant and exciting research tradition, one that has been situated at the very heart and soul of hunter-gatherer studies as they have evolved and diversified over recent decades; this important ‘vanguard’ role looks set to continue, as Jarvenpa and Brumbach highlight in their chapter in the concluding part of this handbook.

Gender Studies

In the final chapter of Part I, Sterling explores a further cross-cutting theme, and develops a retrospective exploration of the impact of gender studies on hunter-gatherer research. She starts by tracing initial reactions to the Man the hunter conference and volume (Lee and DeVore 1968), many of which fundamentally questioned the roles and perceptions of men and women in forager societies, as well as the contributions of hunting and also gathering to subsistence and community life more generally. By critically reviewing the development of gender-related themes and topics in the CHAGS (Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies) conferences and its associated publications over a number of decades, she is able to chart the steady integration and consolidation of gender research among hunter-gatherer societies, but also note that this was achieved more quickly in ethnographic studies than in archaeology, where such research has lagged due to the interpretive challenges associated with working with archaeological data where direct behavioural observation is not possible but must be inferred. While Sterling’s study places gender research among hunter-gatherers in a more historical context, the review is also complemented by Jarvenpa and Brumbach’s chapter in Part VII, which explores the directions that new work on gender, identity, and the sexual division of labour is taking in current hunter-gatherer research. Clearly, gender-related research has undergone enormous development in hunter-gatherer studies and continues to form a vibrant research frontier, bringing together anthropology, ethnoarchaeology, and archaeology, and also transcending all the main research trajectories, including adaptive (Garvey and Bettinger) and interpretive approaches (Cannon).

Conclusion

This opening part of the handbook demonstrates that the concept of ‘hunter-gatherers’ has a complex, controversial, and highly contingent history. However, after seminal publications by Julian Steward in the 1950s, ‘hunter-gatherer studies’ eventually emerged as a distinct field of interdisciplinary enquiry in the 1960s, these developments closely allied on the one hand with the research agenda of the New Archaeology, and also linked more generally to attempts to lead anthropology away from an enduring Boasian concern with historical particularism and into more scientific and analytical directions. Since the 1966 Man the hunter conference (Lee and DeVore 1968), the field has weathered a series of ‘internal’ critiques, such as the 1970s/1980s debates about hunter-gatherer variability and social complexity, and also sustained external attacks such as the 1980s revisionist ‘Kalaharai Debate’ about the role of history, colonialism, and culture contact (and see Hitchcock). As a result, hunter-gatherer studies have developed into many divergent directions. The inherent (p. 42) problems with defining hunter-gatherers remain, but whether as a distinct kind of society, or as a point of analytical departure, the term remains in widespread academic usage.

The current diversity in current hunter-gatherer research is also reflected by an enormous breadth in intellectual orientation, although authors in Part I make it clear that a useful distinction can still be made between ‘adaptive’ and ‘interpretive’ approaches. While the former research stream might be argued to represent the direct intellectual descendants of Julian Steward, and of hunter-gatherer studies as originally conceived (i.e. as being a scientific and cross-cultural comparative project, including a focus on measurable aspects of human foraging behaviour and its scientific analysis and explanation), the latter consists of a more diverse set of ‘interpretive’ approaches, whose concern with the study of hunter-gatherer societies is more incidental than explicit, and which have a primary concern with exploring particularistic histories, lived experiences, and social action.

Whatever the specific theoretical orientation adopted, this part also highlights the richness and vibrancy of current hunter-gatherer studies, both in the study of the archaeological past, and in the study of contemporary societies who practise hunting and gathering. Although there have been numerous signs of the field fractioning and diverging—triggering prediction of its inherent demise—this handbook makes it clear that there remains an abiding interest in hunter-gatherers, and in a way of life that once defined all human existence prior to the rise of farming and urban life only a few millennia ago.

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