Hunter-Gatherers In-Class Activity

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View exercise overview

Exercise ID: 1.221
Class size: Any
Level(s): I II III
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, Hunting, Diet, Population size, Settlements
Region selection: pre-selected
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from pre-selected list
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable: Warao, Bororo, Xokleng, Abipon, Chorote, Ona Tehuelche, Aranda, Tiwi, Manus, Quinault, Tlingit, Tubatulabal, Yokuts, Yuki, Yurok, Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Comanche, Crow, Chinookans of the Lower Columbia River, Aleut, Alutiiq, Chipewyans, Copper Inuit, Ingalik, Innu, Kaska, Ojibwa, Western Woods Cree, Mi’kmaq, Haida

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 R. Ember, Alissa Jordan, Human Relations Area Files

Adapted from Teaching eHRAF Exercise Hunter-Gatherers, by Carol Ember.

Download In-Class Activity PDF



In this exercise, you will break into groups and compare social factors correlated with hunter gatherer subsistence systems.

Exercise Details

  • Time: 45 minutes

Materials Required:

  • Worksheet and pen or other materials for recording answers
  • 6 person working groups

Student Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this assignment, you will be able to:

  • observe and analyze patterns of social life using the example of hunting and gathering societies
  • gain experience in team based secondary data collection and analysis techniques
  • construct effective and efficient search strategies in eHRAF in order to retrieve data relevant to a specific topic/assignment.

Variation Among Hunter-Gatherers

By understanding what conditions predict variation and also using the paleoanthropological record to make educated guesses about past conditions in a particular place, anthropologists may have a better chance of inferring what hunter-gatherers of the past were like (Hitchcock and Beisele 2000, 5; C. R. Ember 1978; Marlowe 2005).

Assignment Portion

The way a society gets its food seems to affect many aspects of social and political life. This explores what the societal living conditions are like for people who make their living from wild food resources (food collectors).

Assignment Part 1

Break into groups of six and evenly divide the societies on the following slide among all group members.

Assignment Part 1.

Each individual will fill in the following data table for their chosen society(s):


Society Name Response
Settlement size (Large 100+/Medium 50-99/Small <50)
Degree of settlement permanence (Permanent/Temporary)
Total population size (use demography)


Assignment Part 2

Regroup and combine individual findings into a large group table (5 minutes).


Society A Society B Society C Society D Society E Society F
Settlement size
Degree of settlement permanence
Population Size


Assignment Part 3

Using the group table, calculate what percentage of hunting and gathering societies have

  • Large settlements
  • Medium settlements
  • Small settlements
  • Permanent settlements
  • Nomadic settlements


Assignment Part 4

Answer the following questions in your groups.

Question #1. What patterns do you observe, now that you have combined all this data? E.g. What tendencies towards social factors? Number these tendencies and summarize them. (appx. 5 minutes)

Question #2. Formulate each of these tendencies as a hypothesis and briefly describe how you would go about testing it (appx. 8 minutes)

Question #3. Were there any societies that didn’t fit the patterns you noticed? (appx. 7 minutes)

Resources: Assignment Rubric, Tips, References

The assignment 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 Teaching eHRAF Exercise 1.22 Hunter-Gatherers, Level I. by Carol Ember.
  • For information on hunter-gatherers in the archaeological record, check out eHRAF Archaeology.


  • Hitchcock, Robert K., and Megan Beisele. 2000. “Introduction.” In Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determinations, 1–10. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.
  • Ember, Carol R. 1978. “Myths About Hunter-Gatherers.” Ethnology 17 (4): 439–48. doi:10.2307/3773193.
  • Marlowe, Frank W. 2005. “Hunter-Gatherers and Human Evolution.” Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 14 (2): 56–67. doi:10.1002/evan.20046.