Skip to main content

hunter-gatherer

hunter-gatherer, hunting and gathering societies A mode of subsistence dependent on the exploitation of wild or non-domesticated food resources. This has been the means of subsistence for 99 per cent of humankind's history, and involves the hunting of animals, fishing, and the gathering of wild fruit, plants, honey, and insects. Many hunting and gathering societies comprised small nomadic bands, although others have shown greater social organization. The few surviving contemporary groups cannot be seen as offering a window on the past since they have their own history. For example, some have been pushed into marginal environments by invading groups and policies of ethnocide, while others were formerly agriculturalists.

Hunting and gathering groups are often organized about a division of labour by sex, with hunting done mainly by men, and gathering done by women. While meat is usually a source of prestige, gathering produces the indispensable food, thus suggesting that members might be more accurately labelled gatherer-hunters.

The popular image of early hunting and gathering groups struggling for survival, to the detriment of all other concerns, is a myth. There is no relation between a society's technology and the complexity of its intellectual and creative pursuits: many of these groups had a rich religious and artistic life. Indeed, Marshall Sahlins has suggested they were the ‘original affluent society’ (in Stone Age Economics, 1972), since they only needed to devote a few hours each day to subsistence activities in order to satisfy their limited material wants, thus leaving considerable periods of leisure.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"hunter-gatherer." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hunter-gatherer." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hunter-gatherer

"hunter-gatherer." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved December 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hunter-gatherer

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.