The History of Americanist Hunter-Gatherer Research

  • Robert L. Bettinger
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


As we have seen, social evolutionary theory rested on the premise that material economy—more particularly subsistence economy—is fundamental to cultural progress and determines its evolutionary trajectory. Hunter-gatherers were conceptually critical to that premise. In opposing culture and nature, progressive evolutionary theory necessarily implied that the behavior of primitive peoples was to be construed in natural rather than cultural terms, that is, as a direct response to nature, technology, and environment. It followed that in its initial stages evolutionary progress was accomplished by replacing the natural hunting and gathering economy with a cultural economy founded on agriculture (see later discussion). As hunter-gatherers known in the nineteenth century showed, without this first step human progress was impossible (cf. Chinard 1947:51; Pearce 1988:66–72, 132). In social evolutionary theory, then, ecology and environment and hunter-gatherer research were inseparable; one could not account for the latter without considering the former.


Evolutionary Theory Copper Complex Great Basin AMERICANIST Research American Archaeology 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Bettinger
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California, DavisDavisUSA

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