Life Histories of the Dobe !Kung re-examines an important anthropological data set for the Dobe !Kung, the well-known “Bushmen” of the Kalahari Desert, collected by Nancy Howell and colleagues. Using life history analysis, Howell reinterprets this rich material to address the question of how these hunter-gatherers maintain their notably good health from childhood through old age in the Kalahari’s harsh environment. She divides the population into life history stages that correlate with estimated chronological ages and demonstrates how and why they survive, even thrive, on a modest allotment of calories. She describes how surplus food is produced and distributed, and she considers both the motives for the generous sharing she has observed among the Dobe !Kung and some evolutionary implications of that behavior.
Nancy Howell is Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of Toronto.
"A clearly presented and terrifically detailed work from the perspective of human evolutionary life histories. Dr. Howell has written a text that manages to raise as many intriguing questions as it provides to answer."—Eric A. Roth, author of Culture, Biology, and Anthropological Demography
"Nancy Howell's book on the Demography of the Dobe !Kung became an anthropological classic, the first in-depth analysis of the population structures and life histories of a foraging society. Three decades later, Howell returns to her initial data set to ask new questions inspired by Life History Theory. In the process she examines how variations in group composition impact the well-being of !Kung children, revealing that sharing is not just with one's closest relatives."—Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding
"This is a unique, scholarly book that reads like a detective novel. Howell uses demographic, anthropometric, and foraging data on the !Kung hunter-gatherers of Southern Africa to investigate what explains variation in the nutritional well-being of their children. Each chapter builds on the previous one, and through a process of elimination brings us closer to the answers, which are often surprising. Along the way, we see how food sharing is necessary to explain the peculiar elements of human life history."—Frank Marlowe, author of The Hadza: Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania
Best Book 2009 - 2011, Society for Economic Anthropology