Anthropologist Robin Dunbar has a recent paper arguing that as group size increases—particularly with the historical transition to larger and more sedentary agricultural societies—additional social institutions are required to manage the challenges of group living. Dunbar compares 11 hunter-gatherer societies with 14 village-based cultivators and predictably finds that the larger population cultivators have more social institutions in terms of charismatic leaders, between-group coalitions, men’s clubs, and so on, than the hunter-gatherers do.
"Always read backwards from secondary sources to primary sources and then write forwards from primary to secondary." A wise historian told me this once and it probably works for anthropology, too.
Do not know why you suggest whether the Waorani are hunter-gatherers when MacFarlan et al. say "The Waorani are an indigenous Ecuadorian, lowland Amazonian population of approximately 2000 people today. At first peaceful contact (1958), they subsisted on manioc, banana and peach palm cultivation supplemented by hunting.
My read of the extensive work of Beckerman (co-authored with the MacFarlan reference above) as well and Larrick and many others describe them as rather standard Amazonia horticulturalists who also do a great deal of foraging but whose diet is probably calorically around 60% or more from horticulture.
Okay I guess that works.. First point: Dunbar confuses the issue by trying to relate individual network sizes to “group” sizes. Among the hunter-gatherer Kua San I studied in the Kalahari and the horticultural Bwaba and others I studied in Burkina Faso, individual networks were roughly the same size as those discussed in Dunbar’s work: averaging 150 people (although membership changes over a lifetime of course). Group sizes - whether in camping parties or in villages - do not correspond to the MEMBERSHIP of any one individual’s network. Everyone had networks of relatives and friends scattered over many locations, often over considerable distances, at any one time. Siblings often had some overlap in networks, but it was never complete. A marriage might almost double the combined numbers of people in the two networks of the new couple.
Great post! Special thanks for the book recommendations in it.
Good stuff as always