Hunter Gatherers & Agriculturalists In-Class Activity

Return to Teaching eHRAF: Tile View | Table View

View exercise overview

Exercise ID: 1.212
Class size: Any
Level(s): I II
Source: Produced by HRAF

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Multiple subjects specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: subsistence, diet, hunting gathering, agriculture, population size, land tenure, inheritance, political organization, permanence of settlements
Region selection: pre-selected
Region, if applicable: North America
Culture selection: Set by teacher
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable: Blackfoot, Hopi, Chipewyans, Copper Inuit, Comanche, Iroquois, Seminole, Tlingit

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? No
Assignments for students to complete in groups? Yes
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No

Carol Ember, Alissa Jordan, Human Relations Area Files

Adapted from Teaching eHRAF Exercise Exercise III. Food by Carol Ember.

Download In-Class Activity PDF


Hunter Gatherers & Agriculturalists

In this exercise, you will compare and contrast social and political dimensions of life between a Native American hunter-gatherer group and an agricultural group.

Exercise Details

  • Time: 15-20 minutes

Materials Required:

  • Worksheet and pen or other materials for recording answers

Student Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this Exercise, students will be able to:

  • construct effective and efficient search strategies in eHRAF in order to retrieve data relevant to a specific topic/assignment.
  • observe and analyze relationships between socio-political organization and subsistence methods
  • gain in team based secondary data collection and analysis techniques

Anthropological Interest

In the quest to explain human culture, anthropologists have paid a great deal of attention to recent food collector(i.e. hunter-gatherer or forager) societies that exist across the globe, believing that these societies could open a window into understanding early human cultures.

However, foraging cultures are neither ‘relics’ nor ‘frozen in time’. They have changed substantially over time, and continue to be participants in the contemporary era.

Hunting and Gathering

Some of the best recently known cases are the Mbuti of the Ituri Forest (central Africa)

the San of the Kalahari Desert (southern Africa) and the Copper Inuit of Alaska.

Ecological Conditions

All of these hunter-gatherers live in environments that are not conducive to agriculture. But in the past hunter-gatherers lived in more productive regions now occupied by agriculturalists.

Variation among Hunter-Gatherers

Hunter-gatherers vary in many ways, but cross-cultural research has focused on variations in types of food-getting, contributions to the diet by gender, the degree of nomadism, the frequency of external and internal warfare, and marital residence

In this assignment, you will research hunting and gathering societies as well as agricultural societies in Native North America, and use this research to develop your own ideas about the relationships between food production and social structure.

Assignment Part 1

For the societies below, open cultural summaries in eHRAF and pay attention to the following sections: Settlements; Land Tenure; Inheritance; and Sociopolitical Organization.

Use the following table as a guide.

Culture Name Degree of permanence in settlements Size of settlements Land Tenure


Inheritance Political Organization


Copper Inuit


Assignment Part 2

Separate these groups based on subsistence system.

Question #1: Are there any very basic patterns that you can identify between groups, subsistence types, and social factors in the table? Explain.

Assignment Part 3

Question #2. Given the size and comprehensiveness, is this sample best for:

suggesting avenues of further investigation generating hypothesis or drawing conclusions?

Explain your answer.

Question #3. How large of a sample size, and how many in the sample size would have to fit the pattern, for you to there was a strong relationship?

Question #4. Do you think that most exceptions to social patterns have a ‘logical’ and ‘accessible’ explanation? Why or why not?


Resources: Assignment Rubric, Tips, References

  • A rubric is located in the attached PDF.

Further reading

  • For more exercises and teaching resources related to human societies past and present, explore Teaching eHRAF.
  • For more information on Hunter-gatherers check out the Hunter-Gatherer module by Carol Ember in HRAF’s Explaining Human Culture database.
  • For a more detailed version of this particular exercise with additional questions and activities check out Exercise 1.21: Exercise III. Food by Carol Ember.
  • Check out the Advanced Search Tutorial for detailed instructions on conducting searches in eHRAF World Cultures.
  • For information on hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies in the archaeological record, check out eHRAF Archaeology.