Institute of Archaeology


Learning to hunt and gather, learning to be a hunter-gatherer: Recent findings and evolutionary implications

4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, 30 April 2018

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Room 612, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Sheina Lew-Levy (University of Cambridge) will give a guest lecture organised by the Archaeology of Human Evolution research network at the UCL Institute of Archaeology on 30 April.


Human childhood is characterized by an extended prereproductive period, in which children continue to be dependent on parents and alloparents for provisioning. Kaplan and colleagues have argued that human childhood evolved as an extended period necessary for the acquisition of complex foraging knowledge. However, little is known about how extant hunter-gatherers learn the technical and social skills involved in being a forager. Here, I outline two streams of cross-cultural data in order to outline what we know, and don't know, about how hunter-gatherer children learn. First, I present the results of two large-scale reviews which examined how foragers learn technical and social skills. Second, I outline findings from primary data collected among Mbendjele and Hadza foragers from the Congo and Tanzania, respectively. In both cases, I focus on how children learn through teaching and play. I argue that children are not only acquirers of culture, but that the cultural value of autonomy, foundational to foragers the world over, and the shifting constraints and opportunities afforded by the practice of hunting and gathering, mediate forager children's learning experiences. At this intersection of culture and subsistence, children are active producers of subsistence knowledge and drivers of cultural change throughout our evolutionary past and present.

Any enquiries about the event may be directed to annemieke.milks@gmail.com