Some groups of people, like the Hadza, in northern Tanzania, still live as hunter-gatherers.


5 - 8


Anthropology, Archaeology, Experiential Learning, Geography, Human Geography

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For most of our history, modern humans or Homo sapiens, lived in small groups that relied on fishing, hunting, and collecting plants, nuts, and other food stuffs, like honey. For most of our existence (which likely spans at least 200,000 years), humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies. That was until the development of agriculture around 12,000 years ago. Hunter-gatherer groups have neither permanent settlements nor designated professions, unlike societies built on farming. Farming cultures largely displaced nomadic hunter-gatherers. Some groups of people still live as hunter-gatherers, however. Though few in number, some groups remain throughout the world: in Amazonian rainforests, African grasslands, Southeast Asian islands, and Arctic tundra.

Twyfelfontein, in nortwest Namibia, contains ancient ​​​​​​​rock engravings, or petroglyphs, carved from the area's ancient, former hunter-gatherer inhabitants.
Picturing Hunter-Gatherer Culture

Display the quote, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Ask volunteers to explain the quote’s meaning. Then, have students use images to build their understanding of hunter-gatherer culture. Display the Hunter-Gatherer Image Gallery. Encourage students to study each image to determine what it reveals about hunter-gatherer cultures and then write a descriptive caption of one or two sentences describing that aspect of hunter-gatherer culture to uninformed readers.

Though few now, many hunter-gatherer societies existed throughout history. Some likely used techniques like the Ice Age hunter, shown here, to bring down game.
Charting Hunter-Gatherers in the Past and Present

Use the hunter-gatherer and Hadza encyclopedia articles to build student’s background knowledge. Have students watch the Evolution of Diet—The Hadza of Tanzania video to provide a visual to support what they learned in the encyclopedia articles. Display or share the following list of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers around the world:


  • Ahrensburg culture
  • Pavlovia culture
  • Komsa culture


  • Iberomaurusian culture
  • Wilton culture
  • Sebilian culture


  • Natufian culture
  • Hoabinhian


  • Clovis culture
  • Fuegians
  • Teushen

Have students work in small groups to choose one group to research or select a historic hunter-gatherer group not listed. Use the Understanding Hunter-Gatherers chart [?] to compare and contrast the Hadza with the students' selected group. Have students create a chart to compare and contrast their selected group with that of Hadza people. Students should include in their comparison: Where do they live, how do they live, how do they get food, what language do they speak, what is their religion, and what tools did they use.

Though they have no permanent settlements, the Hadza people call the region of northern Tanzania around Lake Eyasi home.
Investigating Hunter-Gatherers

Display the Hunter-Gatherers in the Modern World map [?]. Have students read about each group on the map and work with a partner to draw conclusions about each group based on its population, location, and key facts identified. Then, have students research each modern hunter-gatherer group and create a new map to further explore each group. Using a mapping program with a satellite imagery basemap (e.g., Google Earth or MapMaker Interactive), ask students to add markers to the locations of modern hunter-gatherer groups to create a map. Encourage students to include links, videos, or other media. Emphasize that these should all be properly credited. Ask students to identify common geographic characteristics between groups from the finished map such as ecosystems, climate, or topography.

High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis is largely absent among modern hunter-gatherer populations, which is driving research on what and how they eat.
Debating the Hunter-Gatherer Lifestyle

Should modern-day humans eat like hunter-gatherers? Have students explore this question by reading The Evolution of Diet article. Then, divide students into two groups. Have one group prepared to argue for modern-day humans adopting a hunter-gatherer diet and the other group to argue against this proposition. Give students time to read the article and conduct research to gather information and facts to support their arguments. Have students debate the opening question using their research to support their claims.

Picture of Jeffrey Rose
Unearthing the Unearthers

Have students read the archaeology encyclopedia article. After reading, discuss as a class what it is that archaeologists do. Then, have students read the article Archaeologist: Dr. Jeffrey Rose. After reading, have pairs discuss the following questions:

  • What do you find most interesting about Dr. Rose’s job?
  • Dr. Rose says there are some stretches of time during his work where he does not uncover any new artifacts. What does this say about his determination and passion for archaeology?
  • What has Dr. Rose found as a result of his work? How has his work contributed to the understanding of human origins? (Dr. Rose discovered materials suggesting the Nubian complex hunter-gatherers from the Nile Valley may have left Africa earlier than previously thought.)
  • Dr. Rose tells budding archaeologists “Find that itch that you really have to scratch. What is the burning question that you really want to know the answer to?” If you were planning to be an archaeologist, what would be your burning question?

Extend this activity by having students conduct research about the accomplishments of two or three other archaeologists who have contributed to their field. Direct them to the anthropology article as a way to get their research started. If possible, they should search for archaeologists that work to uncover artifacts from early hunter-gatherers. Then, have them create a chart that includes the name of each archaeologist, where they work, their most important discovery, and the significance of that discovery.

After researching archaeologists, have students create a profile of one of the archaeologists they studied to present to someone outside of their class. Encourage them to focus on what archaeology is, why it is important, and how their chosen archaeologist contributed to the discipline.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, 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
Clint Parks
Last Updated

May 17, 2022

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