Camp relocation in hunter-gatherer societies

A study finds that the timing of camp relocations among hunter-gatherer societies corresponds to diminishing foraging efficiency. Food availability drives the mobility of hunter-gatherer societies. However, the ecological and social cues that determine the exact timing of relocations are difficult to assess in these communities. Using models from foraging theory, Vivek Venkataraman and colleagues tested whether modern hunter-gatherers timed the relocation of their camps to maximize foraging efficiency around their camps. The authors analyzed data from a 1975-1976 study that tracked approximately 90 nomadic, socially egalitarian Batek hunter-gatherers for 93 days, as subgroups traveled between 11 residential camps in the tropical rainforests of Peninsular Malaysia. Generally, each camp experienced diminishing marginal returns over time when foraging for resources, namely food and rattan vines for trade. The groups’ movements were associated with the rates at which resource procurement declined to a critical threshold, but prior to complete local resource depletion. The findings suggest that hunter-gatherer mobility patterns can be predicted from rates of local resource depletion. According to the authors, protracted deliberation over when to depart camp appeared to result in mobility patterns that maximized group-level foraging efficiency in the Batek communities. - Read at PNAS

Article #16-17542: “Hunter-gatherer residential mobility and the marginal value of rainforest patches,” by Vivek V. Venkataraman, Thomas Kraft, Nathaniel J. Dominy, and Kirk M. Endicott.