Hunter-Gatherer Variability: Developing Models for the Northern Coasts

Peter Rowley-Conwy, Stephanie Piper


Hunter-fisher-gatherer (HFG) variability has received a lot of attention. We review the key developments in the theories of variability, which have usually resulted in binary classifications. We argue that a range of variation based on the degree of territorial ownership is preferable to these classifications. Hunter-fisher-gatherers of the world’s northern coasts have only been partially explored in this way with regard to variability. A major reason for this is that such coastal groups use boats, so normative models of inland terrestrial foraging are not immediately applicable. We suggest that the Saxe-Goldstein hypothesis, the cautious linking of territoriality to funerary behaviour, may be a useful avenue to explore. Much work has been done by scholars of the northern coasts on boats and maritime transport, and some conclusions could be extrapolated to regions farther south.


hunter-fisher-gatherers; variability; foragers; collectors delayed return; Saxe-Goldstein hypothesis; cemetery; mobility

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