Hunter-Gatherers as Optimal Foragers

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


As detailed in the preceding chapters, students of hunter-gatherers have historically chosen to present and interpret their subject matter in materialist perspective. The current interest in optimal foraging theory is a logical extension of this tradition. Such research is viewed by many as an alternative to middle-range theory that is both more solidly grounded in formal theory and more directly related to the basic materialist concerns of subsistence and settlement that have traditionally dominated anthropological treatments of hunter-gatherers. At the moment, optimal foraging theory seems to command a stronger following than middle-range theory among ethnographers whereas among archaeologists the reverse is true. Apart from certain historical quirks of fate having to do, largely, with the personalities involved, the basis for these preferences is not altogether clear. In theory, at least, neither approach confers undue interpretive or methodological advantage where the matter of research context alone is concerned: The range of potential ethnographic and archaeological applications for both optimal foraging theory and what is called middle-range theory are virtually unlimited.


Search Time Central Place Handling Time Diet Breadth Optimal Forager 
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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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