Research Interests

As an ethnographer I have studied age and sex variation in food acquisition and distribution among hunter-gatherers. These observations, combined with the fossil and archaeological record and comparative data on other primates, direct my questions about what happened in human evolution. Aspects of human foraging strategies are consistent with simple caloric rate maximization models and also challenge ideas about nuclear families as basic units of economic cooperation. In my studies, men's hunting serves goals other than family provisioning. Risk of failure can be high and meat of a successful capture is distributed widely outside the hunter's family. The hunter earns less nutritional gain for his own family than if he had targeted other resources. Reputation benefits may help explain why hunters work to provide more public than private goods. Age variation in human foraging behavior highlights the late maturity and slow senescence of our species. Observations of older women provisioning grandchildren suggest that our unusual longevity evolved when an ancestral ecology promoted use of foods difficult for youngsters to handle. More vigorous aging females could then increase their daughters' fertility by helping feed grandchildren. Since maturation and aging rates are correlated across the mammals, this line of reasoning makes our longevity the foundation for the age structure of human populations. It motivates my developing interest in cross-species differences in the physiology of aging.

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Primary Section

Section 51: Anthropology

Secondary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology