Resource Acquisition Risk and the Division of Labor: Austral Lessons for Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology

Brian F. Codding, Rebecca Bliege Bird, David W. Zeanah, Douglas W. Bird

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Compared to the fine-grained texture of ethnographic research, the archaeological record provides an impoverished view of individuals. This is particularly problematic when different individuals are expected to make different decisions, only to have the material record of that variation comingled. In order forward archaeological inquiry closer to long-term ethnography, here we undertake a research strategy that aims to identify variation in individual behavior, specifically by exploring how resource acquisition risk structures variation in sex-specific foraging decisions. First, we draw on theory from behavioral ecology to generate predictions about how women’s and men’s foraging outcomes may differ across ecological settings. We then evaluate these predictions with quantitative ethnographic data from Western and Central Australia, which when coupled with ethnoarchaeological research provides clear material correlates of behavior. We then use these validated material signatures to assess the relative role of women’s and men’s production across Late Holocene archaeological assemblages in Western Australia, which reveals the enduring importance of women’s foraging labor. We suggest this general framework can be applied across broad contexts to help disentangle disparate individual decisions from aggregated archaeological remains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameInterdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology
VolumePart F2273
ISSN (Print)1568-2722

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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