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Evol Hum Behav. 2001 Mar;22(2):113-142.

Hadza meat sharing.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, 270 S. 1400 E. (Room 102), 84112, Salt Lake City, UT, USA


In most human foraging societies, the meat of large animals is widely shared. Many assume that people follow this practice because it helps to reduce the risk inherent in big game hunting. In principle, a hunter can offset the chance of many hungry days by exchanging some of the meat earned from a successful strike for shares in future kills made by other hunters. If hunting and its associated risks of failure have great antiquity, then meat sharing might have been the evolutionary foundation for many other distinctively human patterns of social exchange. Here we use previously unpublished data from the Tanzanian Hadza to test hypotheses drawn from a simple version of this argument. Results indicate that Hadza meat sharing does not fit the expectations of risk-reduction reciprocity. We comment on some variations of the "sharing as exchange" argument; then elaborate an alternative based partly on the observation that a successful hunter does not control the distribution of his kill. Instead of family provisioning, his goal may be to enhance his status as a desirable neighbor. If correct, this alternative argument has implications for the evolution of men's work.

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