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Hunter-Gatherer Culture

Hunter-Gatherer Culture

Hunter-gatherer culture was the way of life for early humans until around 11 to 12,000 years ago. The lifestyle of hunter-gatherers was based on hunting animals and foraging for food.

Grades

6 - 8

Subjects

Anthropology, Social Studies, World History

Image

Hunting for Game

The Hadza people of Tanzania rely on hunting wild game for meat, a task that requires great skill in tracking, teamwork, and accuracy with a bow and arrow.

Photograph by Matthieu Paley

Hunter-gatherer culture is a type of subsistence lifestyle that relies on hunting and fishing animals and foraging for wild vegetation and other nutrients like honey, for food. Until approximately 12,000 years ago, all humans practiced hunting-gathering.

Anthropologists have discovered evidence for the practice of hunter-gatherer culture by modern humans (Homo sapiens) and their distant ancestors dating as far back as two million years. Before the emergence of hunter-gatherer cultures, earlier groups relied on the practice of scavenging animal remains that predators left behind.

Because hunter-gatherers did not rely on agriculture, they used mobility as a survival strategy. Indeed, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle required access to large areas of land, between seven and 500 square miles, to find the food they needed to survive. This made establishing long-term settlements impractical, and most hunter-gatherers were nomadic. Hunter-gatherer groups tended to range in size from an extended family to a larger band of no more than about 100 people.

With the beginnings of the Neolithic Revolution about 12,000 years ago, when agricultural practices were first developed, some groups abandoned hunter-gatherer practices to establish permanent settlements that could provide for much larger populations. However, many hunter-gatherer behaviors persisted until modern times. As recently as 1500 C.E., there were still hunter-gatherers in parts of Europe and throughout the Americas. Over the last 500 years, the population of hunter-gatherers has declined dramatically. Today very few exist, with the Hadza people of Tanzania being one of the last groups to live in this tradition.

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Director
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Author
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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