Scaling of Hunter Gatherer Camp Size and Human Sociality

43 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019

See all articles by José Lobo

José Lobo

Arizona State University (ASU)

Todd Whitelaw

Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Polly Wiessner

Arizona State University (ASU)

Michael E. Smith

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Scott Ortman

Department of Archaeology, University of Colorado Boulder

Date Written: May 26, 2019

Abstract

One of the most commonly-observed properties of human settlements, both past and present, is the tendency for larger settlements to display higher population densities. Work in urban science and archaeology suggests this densification pattern reflects an emergent spatial equilibrium where individuals balance movement costs with social interaction benefits, leading to increases in aggregate productivity and social interdependence. In this context, it is perhaps not surprising that the more temporary camps created by mobile hunters and gatherers exhibit a tendency to become less dense with their population size. Here we examine why this difference occurs and consider conditions under which hunter-gatherer groups may transition to sedentism and densification. We investigate the relationship between population and area in mobile hunter-gatherer camps using a dataset, representing a large cross-cultural sample, derived from the ethnographic literature. We present a model based on the interplay between social interactions and scalar stress for the relationship between camp area and group size that describes the observed patterns among mobile hunter-gatherers. The model highlights the tradeoffs between the costs and benefits of proximity and interaction that are common to all human aggregations and specifies the constraints that must be overcome for economies of scale and cooperation to emerge.

Suggested Citation

Lobo, Jose and Whitelaw, Todd and Bettencourt, Luis and Wiessner, Polly and Smith, Michael E. and Ortman, Scott, Scaling of Hunter Gatherer Camp Size and Human Sociality (May 26, 2019). Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Research Paper No. 5, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3399729

Jose Lobo

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

Todd Whitelaw

Institute of Archaeology, University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Luis Bettencourt (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Polly Wiessner

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

Michael E. Smith

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Human Evolution and Social Change ( email )

Box 872402
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States
480-727-9520 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.public.asu.edu/~mesmith9/

Scott Ortman

Department of Archaeology, University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
38
Abstract Views
142
PlumX Metrics