Author Topic: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, Hadza, !Kung, etc.  (Read 11939 times)

Offline Warren Dew

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Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, Hadza, !Kung, etc.
« on: November 04, 2009, 10:04:11 AM »
I thought it might be useful to have a thread with actual data on actual hunter gatherers.  In this post, I provide some data for the northern Ache, a group that retained their traditional hunter gatherer ways until "permanent peaceful contact" was established in the 1970s.  The data is from Hill and Hurtado, "Hunter-Gatherers of the New World", American Scientist, Sep-Oct 1989.

As hunter gatherers, the Ache ate an average of 3700 kcal per person per day - substantially more than other hunter gatherer groups like the !Kung (San bushmen).  An average of 56% was from mammal meat, 18% was from honey, and the remaining 26% was from plants and insects.

Mortality rates are similar to those for the !Kung, reported elsewhere as about 2% per year in adulthood.  Ache tend to die through violence rather than from sickness.  Warfare and accidents account for 73% of adult deaths, and illness only for 17%.  This is a reversal of the !Kung pattern, where the numbers are 11% for warfare and accidents and 88% for illness.  Homicide accounts for 31% of child mortality while illness is 32% among the Ache; by comparison, 90% of !Kung childhood deaths are from illness.

In both these populations, about 20% of children die in their first year, and 60% survive to 15.  Lifetime fertility - number of live births - is 7.2 among the Ache, with an average interval between births of 38 months, compared to 4.7 and 48 months for the !Kung.

Ache men spend about 6.7 hours per day in "subsistence activities" - searching, acquiring resources, and processing food - and another 0.6 hours per day making tools.  Women spend about 1.9 hours per day in subsistence activities, another 1.9 hours per day moving camp, and 8 hours per day in light work and child care.  Men provide 87% of the calories in the Ache diet and close to 100% of the protein and fats.

Here's a quote from the article providing more background about what daily life was like for the Ache:

Quote
On a foraging trip, camp members rise early, eat whatever is left over from the previous day, and set out in search of food.  Men lead the way, carrying only bows and arrows, and women and children follow, the women carrying young children and the family's possessions in a woven basket.  Some men walk with their wives and carry children on their shoulders.  Ache foragers do not walk on trails but break a new path through the forest each day.  Usually the leaders set out in the direction of an area known or thought to contain important food resources.

After walking together for about an hour, the two sexes separate, with men walking further and more rapidly in search of game, and women and children slowly progressing in the general direction the men have set out.  Men generally eat very little during the day, but women and children sometimes collect and eat fruits and insects while men hunt, and women often process palm trunks for ther starchy fiber near the end of the day.  This snacking usually accounts for less than 5% of all food consumed (Hill et al. 1984).

All camp members come together again at the end of the day, when they clear a small camp in the underbrush, build fires, and prepare an share food extensively.  Evening is considered the most pleasant time, with band members enjoying their only large meal of the day, and joking and singing in the night.  While in the forest the Ache sleep on the ground or on palm-leaf mats in a small circle.  They build palm-leaf huts to sleep in only if it begins to rain.  The next morning the band moves on again in search of food unless there is heavy rainfall throughout the day.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2009, 12:55:29 AM by Warren Dew »

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2009, 10:04:36 AM »
This post has been repurposed to be a summary of dietary data for hunter gatherer groups.  Posts specific to those groups are found at:
!Kung:  http://cavemanforum.com/index.php?topic=2958.0
Hadza:  http://cavemanforum.com/index.php?topic=1947.msg16988#msg16988
Ache:  http://cavemanforum.com/index.php?topic=1947.msg16667#msg16667

Here's the summary:

Caloric intake, %           !Kung
                        (San bushmen)   Hadza        Ache
                          (Kalahari) (E. Africa)  (Paraguay)
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Meat from hunting           29          11.1         56

Plants and insects                                   26
Mongongo nuts               58
Honey                                   21.4         18

Berries                                 21.2
Baobab fruit                            13.5
Misc. fruit & vegetables    13

Nonpaleo:
Tubers                                  22.8
Grains                                   9.9
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

!Kung:  The data is from the Dobe !Kung during the mongongo nut
season; the nonmeat breakdown would feature other fruits or plant
foods at other times of the year.  The !Kung were in contact with
agriculturalists but maintained a hunter gatherer lifestyle.

Hadza:  The data is for the 70% of the food that is brought into
camp, and does not include the 30% consumed while hunting or
gathering.  The grains are gifts from missionaries.  At the time this
data was collected, the Hadza had been in contact with
agriculturalists for a century or more, but retained a largely hunter
gatherer life style.

Ache:  The data is from Ache who still used a hunter gatherer
lifestyle around the time that first peaceful contact was established.  
For the Ache, the "plants and insects" category consisted primarily of
palm starch and grubs.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2010, 09:38:02 PM by Warren Dew »


Offline Warren Dew

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - !Kung, Hadza, Ache
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2009, 10:04:51 AM »
I decided to repurpose this post to be a summary of life expectancy and mortality data.  The primary source is Blurton Jones, Hawkes, and O'Connell, "Antiquity of Postreproductive Life:  Are There Modern Impacts on Hunter-Gatherer Postreproductive Life Spans?", American Journal of Human Biology, 2002:

http://www.anthro.utah.edu/PDFs/Papers/NBJ2002.pdf

The other data is from the various sources mentioned in my posts on the individual groups.  While these groups have significant infant, child, and adult mortality, they also have significant numbers of elderly.

                            !Kung
                        (San bushmen)   Hadza        Ache
                          (Kalahari) (E. Africa)  (Paraguay)
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Life expectancy at birth    30.0        32.5        37.1
Infant mortality          0.20/0.15      0.21     0.12-0.18
Life expectancy at 20       34.0        41.4        39.8
Life expectancy at 45       20.0        23.0        22.1
Percent over 60              8.5         8.8         5.5

Lifetime live births         4.7         6.2         8.2
Population growth rate       0.0026      0.013       0.025

Causes of adult mortality %:
Illness                     88          39          17
Violence                    11           4          73
  Homicide                               3
  Accident                               1
Other                                   17
Unspecified                             40

Causes of child mortality %:
Illness                     90                      32
Violence
  Homicide                                          31

« Last Edit: November 12, 2009, 12:20:54 AM by Warren Dew »

Offline Tarlach

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2009, 04:22:12 PM »
From Wikipedia:

Quote
Systematic recording of dietary intake while living in the forest entirely off wild foods suggests that about 80% of the energy in the diet comes from meat, 10% from palm starch and hearts, 10% from insect larva and honey, and 1% from fruits. Total energy intake is approximately 2700 kcal per person daily, and males acquire about 84% of all calories consumed.

It seems the Ache are mostly carnivorous with 80-90% meat consumption.

Also intersting:

Quote
But, the question of why men hunt rather than spend all day extracting palm resources cannot be explained by energy maximization, since men obtain about 750 calories per hour hunting, and around 1,000 calories per hour extracting palm starch and hearts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ach%C3%A9

Which cites the original report from Hill and Hawkes for numbers

http://ihhr.asu.edu/kim/1983%20Neotropical%20hunting%20among%20the%20Ache%20of%20Eastern%20Paraguay.pdf
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 04:24:17 PM by Tarlach »

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2009, 05:03:27 PM »
Quote
But, the question of why men hunt rather than spend all day extracting palm resources cannot be explained by energy maximization, since men obtain about 750 calories per hour hunting, and around 1,000 calories per hour extracting palm starch and hearts

Yeah, that was a point in the paper I cited as well.  Meat is clearly valued above plant food among the Ache for more than just calories.

The other thing I thought was really interesting was the high amount of honey in the diet.  This isn't unique to the Ache; the Hadza of east Africa also ate a lot of honey - and incidentally also ate a diet based on meat, which was not true of the !Kung that I can tell.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 05:07:21 PM by Warren Dew »


Offline Il Capo

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2009, 05:08:03 PM »
When studying African tribes, always consider adding malaria to the equation. A map of high malaria incidence regions in the link:

http://cdc-malaria.ncsa.uiuc.edu/

Adaptation and resistance to malaria has not yet fully developed in humans. Sickle cell anemia can help, but such condition has other negative effects.

https://www.23andme.com/health/Sickle-Cell-Anemia-Malaria-Resistance/

From what I read sometime ago, the ideal situation is for one sickle cell parent to breed with a non sickle cell parent. The result is that the adaptation is not self-sustaining.

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2009, 05:36:21 PM »
Good point about malaria, and thanks for the map.

In the comparison between Ache and !Kung, the Ache live in a "malaria varies" area, while the !Kung live in an area that's a patchwork of different colors.  However, the !Kung live in a desert, so I'd be a little surprised if malaria is the main cause of their high illness rate.

Still, if I could find mortality data from early in the last century on the Hadza, who are also from Africa, that would provide a more direct comparison.

Yes, being heterozygous for sickle cell - with the trait on one chromosome but not both - provides some protection from malaria.  Interestingly, southeast Asians often have a different adaptation, beta thalessemia, that seems to work in a similar way against malaria.

Offline Tarlach

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2009, 06:39:54 PM »
The other thing I thought was really interesting was the high amount of honey in the diet.  This isn't unique to the Ache; the Hadza of east Africa also ate a lot of honey - and incidentally also ate a diet based on meat, which was not true of the !Kung that I can tell.

The article I referenced said 10% of calories from insect larva and honey.  That may mean they have very little honey (depending upon the amounts of larva eaten).

I can't see it being possible to consume even 10% of daily calories from honey.  Bee's don't produce it quick enough for a sustainable resource.

Offline kallyn

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2009, 08:15:50 PM »
The article I referenced said 10% of calories from insect larva and honey.  That may mean they have very little honey (depending upon the amounts of larva eaten).

I can't see it being possible to consume even 10% of daily calories from honey.  Bee's don't produce it quick enough for a sustainable resource.

I did the math on that.  Assuming the upper range for honey, 10% of 2700 calories is 270 calories, which is 67.5g of sugar, and since honey is 17g of sugar per tablespoon that would equal about 4 tablespoons of honey per day.  Which isn't a huge amount, but I have no idea how much honey is actually available in the wild.

I do remember reading in a book called The Primal Feast: Food, Sex, Foraging and Love by Susan Allport that she interviewed some African hunter gatherers who consume upwards of a cup of wild honey per day.  Their teeth were all black and rotting though.

Actually, come to think of it I remember reading about the Ache in that same book.  I wrote a short review on it when I read it, so I'll paste the relevant part of it here:

"For instance, she talked of one tribe (I think it was the Ache, but I'm not sure) where the order of food distribution went old men, warriors, young men, children, dogs, women. The women were actively prevented from eating many foods, and they only got to eat whatever permitted foods were left over after all those other groups got their fill. Women anthropologists who studied and lived with the tribe were subject to the same rules as the tribal women. One anthropologist reports she became absolutely obsessed with food and would often sneak food she wasn't supposed to have and hoard it."

Ok, so maybe it was the Ache and maybe it wasn't.  I should get the book from the library again and check.

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2009, 08:46:09 PM »
The article I referenced said 10% of calories from insect larva and honey.  That may mean they have very little honey (depending upon the amounts of larva eaten).

The article I referenced said that 18% was from honey, separate from the 26% that was from grubs and plant based food.  The data may have been from different groups of Ache, or different time periods.

That 18% was of a 3700 kcal daily intake, too - 666 kcal of honey per day.  That's a lot!  They had a lot of area to gather it from, though - 18,300 square kilometers for less than a thousand people.  I think the bees on 18 square kilometers might well produce 666 kcal of honey - about six ounces - per day.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 08:49:20 PM by Warren Dew »

Offline Tarlach

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2009, 09:35:03 PM »
6oz each for a thousand people is 375lb of honey per day...

Quote
A normal beehive will average 40 to 45 pounds of surplus honey a year, according to reports dating back a century.

http://www.endtimesreport.com/Beekeeping.htm

The Ache must then find almost 10 (fully stocked) new hives every day?

Bees only stockpile honey during summer (to survive winter), so the surplus amount is not available for very long.  And how is it sustainable if the Ache eat the food the bees need for winter?
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 09:48:14 PM by Tarlach »

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2009, 08:57:47 AM »
The Ache must then find almost 10 (fully stocked) new hives every day?

For 1000 Ache, I don't think that's unreasonable.  They live in small bands, so there are probably a hundred bands at any given time; each band's finding a new hive every 10 days doesn't seem unlikely, given they move camp every day.

Quote
Bees only stockpile honey during summer (to survive winter), so the surplus amount is not available for very long.  And how is it sustainable if the Ache eat the food the bees need for winter?

Those Ache range over a huge area - I think it was over 18,000 square kilometers for 1000 Ache.  That's an area comparable to Massachusetts, where I live, but Massachusetts has a population of over 6,000,000 - more than 6,000 times as high as the Ache.  As hunter gatherers, they had a very low population density.

Also the Ache live on the equator, so there's no winter there, though there are wet and dry seasons.  I'm not sure exactly what impact that would have on honey production.

Offline Tarlach

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2009, 12:45:17 AM »
Bees store honey on a yearly basis for the winter

If there is no harsh winter, the bees wouldn't stockpile honey, resulting in very low surplus honey for any tribe to gather.

This level of honey consumption sounds completely unrealistic.

It's more likely the tribe was showing off to the researchers, or the researchers made a big deal out of recognizing the honey; resulting in a much larger harvest than usual.

I couldn't see anyone consuming half a cup of honey each day.  Even when I was a sugar junkie, there is no way I could eat that much honey.  It's sickening in large quantities.

My dad was telling me about a doco he say on jungle tribes collecting honey.  He said it took them almost all day to get to one hive.  They had to build ladders and other such endeavors.

the Ache had better things to do (hunting) than chase bees all day.

Offline ajmesa

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2009, 09:37:57 AM »
If you are assuming all other numbers from the paper are correct I don't know why you would assume the honey number is wrong. It makes it look like you're picking only the data you like.

Just pointing that out.

Offline kallyn

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Re: Data on hunter gatherers - Ache, !Kung, Kiwi
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2009, 11:32:49 AM »
It also doesn't matter how much honey or how many grubs are collected if you don't get to eat any of it anyway because you're a woman and it was already all fed to the dogs.  ;P

...the order of food distribution went old men, warriors, young men, children, dogs, women. The women were actively prevented from eating many foods, and they only got to eat whatever permitted foods were left over after all those other groups got their fill.