Juvenile foraging among the Hadza: Implications for human life history
The longstanding view that children among foraging populations are largely dependent on the food collection efforts of others is an assumed and implicit characteristic of several models of human life history and family formation. The evolution of protracted juvenility in humans is often explained using the “embodied capital model” which argues that prolonged investment in growth and delayed reproduction evolved because a long training period is required to learn difficult foraging tasks and become a self-sufficient forager. The model suggests that if juvenile investment in growth and learning yields an increase in adult productivity, then selection will favor delayed maturity, long life span, and increased brain size. Here, we test the embodied capital model with naturalistic foraging and consumption data among juvenile Hadza hunter–gatherers of Tanzania to determine the extent to which children self-provision. We found that sex had a significant effect on both the type and the amount of food brought back to camp and consumed while out foraging; compared to their male counterparts, young female foragers consumed less while foraging and returned to camp with more food. A wide variation in caloric returns was seen across all foragers in the sample. When analyzing only food brought back to camp, age was not a significant predictor. When combining the amount of food back to camp and the amount consumed while out foraging, however, older children consistently collected more food. The data presented here suggest that although older children do appear to have greater overall foraging success, even very young children are capable of collecting a considerable amount of food. Our data, although lending support to the embodied capital model, suggest that although foraging efficiency increases with age, it remains difficult to determine if this efficiency is a byproduct of learning, strength, or perhaps individual motivation. In addition, our results indicate that juvenile self-provisioning may have played a key role in the evolution of food sharing and cooperation during hominin evolution.
Evolution and Human Behavior 1 July 2013 (volume 34 issue 4 Pages 299-304 DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.04.004)