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(P48) Recent biocultural research on hunter-gatherers

Wednesday 25th July, 1:30 – 2:30 PM and 2:40 – 4:10 PM. Room: C23 conference room

Convenor: Barry Hewlett, Washington State University, Vancouver (in absentia)

Chair: Zachary Garfield, Washington State University, Vancouver

Abstract: This session provides a forum for recent biocultural research projects with hunter-gatherers from any part of the world. Contemporary biocultural forager research has provided insights into the aging processes (immune function, depression), human sleep patterns, cardiovascular diseases, dental health, leadership, inequality, and the how parasites influence fertility, smoking and mate attraction. The session aims to share and discuss results of recent research and consider possible future collaborative projects. Topics could include but are not limited to hunter-gatherer health, growth, genetics, social networks, human biology, or the evolution of ritual and other issues. We are particularly interested in papers that demonstrate biocultural interactions. 



Part 1

1:30 – 1:50 PM. The impact of descent groups, residence rules and subsistence patterns on the genetic diversity of pastoral and foraging Bantu-speakers from the Angolan Namib Desert

Sandra Oliveira, CIBIO-Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Portugal; Anne-Maria Fehn, CIBIO-Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Portugal; Teresa Aço, Centro de Estudos do Deserto (CEDO), Angola; Fernanda Lages, ISCED/Huíla-Instituto Superior de Ciências da Educação, Angola; Magdalena Gayà-Vidal, CIBIO-Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Portugal; Brigitte Pakendorf, Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage CNRS/Université Lyon, France; Stoneking Mark, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Portugal; Jorge Rocha, CIBIO-Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Portugal

The Angolan Namib desert is located at the southwestern edge of the Bantu expansion and at the northwestern fringe of an area inhabited by “Khoisan” hunter-gatherers. Its present-day inhabitants include two dominant pastoralist Bantu-speaking groups (Himba, Kuvale) and an array of ethnic minorities (Kwepe, Twa, Kwisi, Tjimba) subsiding via small-scale pastoralism and foraging. These groups are considered to be remnants of pre-Bantu communities, even though they speak the Bantu languages of their pastoral neighbours and share their patrilocal residence pattern and their matrilineal principle of clan and group membership. Here, we study the demographic history of the Namib peoples and their relationships to a foraging “Khoisan” outgroup (!Xun), by analyzing the effects of matrilineality, patrilocality and subsistence patterns on their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (NRY) genetic diversity. We find that, irrespective of subsistence pattern, all Namib populations have a likely Bantu origin, and display genealogically consistent matriclanic systems; however, in contrast to expectations based on patrilocality, levels of between-group divergence are five-fold higher for mtDNA than for NRY. These results suggest that in socially hierarchical settings, matrilineality strongly restricts mtDNA gene flow across populations, producing genetic patterns that cannot be predicted solely on the basis of residence behaviour. 


1:50 – 2:10 PM. Characterizing an ongoing agricultural transition in southwest Ethiopia using genetic data

Shyamalika Gopalan, Stony Brook University; Richard Ew Berl, Colorado State University; Chris Gignoux, University of Colorado, Denver; Marcus W Feldman, Stanford University; Barry Hewlett, Washington State University; Brenna M Henn, University of California, Davis

The process by which humans transitioned to agriculture remains a major research question in anthropology. In particular, the fates of hunting and gathering populations during the agricultural transition, whether by cultural adoption, extinction, or incorporation into expanding populations, may have been heterogeneous within Africa. Here, we investigate the genetic signatures of a transition to agriculture by studying three populations in southwest Ethiopia: the Chabu, who were primarily hunter-gatherers until the 1990s, and their close neighbours, the Majang and the Shekkacho. We describe the relationships between these different groups by characterizing the depth of population divergence and migration among them. The genomes of the Chabu indicate that they are a distinct group from all other Ethiopians characterized so far. However, they also appear to be more endogamous than their neighbours, perhaps due to their decreased population size in the face of an increasingly reduced geographic range.


2:10 – 2:30 PM. Unveiling the genetic history of the Maniq

Tobias Göllner, University of Vienna; Helmut Schaschl, University of Vienna; Helmut Lukas, University of Vienna; Khaled Hakami, University of Vienna

The Maniq are primary hunter-gatherers living in the rain forests of southern Thailand (provinces Trang, Satun, Phattalung). Although residing on the other side of the boarder, they are part of the Semang of Malaysia and share their distinct „negrito“ phenotype (short stature, curly hair, dark skin). The Maniq remained a „white spot“ in the discussion of the peopeling of Southeast Asia for the longest time. We recently recieved ten saliva sample donations for genetic analysis of the Maniq, through our colleagues, who are working with the Maniq for over 20 years. We genotyped over 2.3 million markers. Initial results from comparisons of Maniq with populations of 1000 Genomes, show their genetic uniqueness. In a principal component analysis the Maniq clearly form a distinct cluster, with populations from East Asia being their closest neighbours. FST analysis show very high diversity of the Maniq, when compared with the same reference populations, with values of 0.2 and above (for reference: humans worldwide FST = 0.15). We hope to expand our research with reference populations of indigenous people (Orang Asli) of Malaysia, to get a better understanding on the complex topic of the peopeling of Southeast Asia and the genetic ancestry of the Maniq.


Part II

2:40 – 3:00 PM. Testing models of leadership among the Chabu of southwest Ethiopia

Zachary Garfield, Washington State University; Edward Hagen, Washington State University

This study tests three theoretical models of leadership with data from the Chabu, a population of transitional Ethiopian hunter-gatherers. The Chabu have recently adopted the Kebele system, a local administrative unit of the Ethiopian government. Under this system, the community elects various male and female leaders. Hence, this study investigates leadership, and gender-specific leadership, in the context of an egalitarian society transitioning to increased hierarchy. Using self-report, peer-rated, free-listed, and anthropometric measures we test the egalitarian forager model, the dominance-prestige model, and models of the emergence of inequality, through bivariate tests, linear models, and exploratory data analysis. In general, there was a strong positive correlation between high peer-ratings on leadership traits and leadership status. For women, however, being feared and fighting ability were negatively correlated with the other measures as well as with leadership status. Male leaders score higher than non-leaders on measures of dominance, intelligence, prestige, and mentor salience; female leaders score higher on prestige. Prestige is a stronger predictor of elected leadership than dominance and male leadership does appear to be associated with preferences for biased social learning. These results provide a rare view of gender differences and similarities in leadership among a transitioning egalitarian society. 


3:00 – 3:20 PM. Physical activity level among the foragers of Andaman Islands: A comparative study

Ramesh Sahani, Panjab University, India

Physical activity is more appropriately a series of behaviors involving bodily movements and can be viewed from several perspectives. It is determined by subsistence and other behavioural aspects. Foragers lifestyles are in stark contrast to contemporary lifestyles, which are more sedentary and physical activity level tends to be higher among foragers. Physical activity is a topic of current discussion specifically in terms of health promotion and disease prevention and also implicated in worldwide epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndrome. The indigenous foragers of Andaman Islands are also experiencing changes in their life style. The aim of the present study is to documents the physical activity level among the foragers of Andaman Islands. Among the three groups Great Andamanese highly exposed group spent highest time on resting and its related activities. For subsistence related activities, Jarawas spent highest time followed by Onges and Great Andamanese. In terms of energy expenditure Jarawas least exposed group spent more energy than Onges and Great Andamanese. physical activity level of Jarawas is also found to be the highest of all the foragers of negrito origin, ever reported. They have also low body mass index as well as low obesity and blood pressure level.


3:20 – 3:40 PM. Defecation without toilets: Toward the study of sanitation activities in the hunter-gatherers

Koji Hayashi, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature; Seiji Nakao, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature; Taro Yamauchi, Hokkaido University

The purpose of this presentation is to show the sanitation activities including space utilization in the daily activities by the Baka hunter-gatherers while comparing the foraging lifestyle with the sedentary lifestyle. Baka hunter-gatherers of South-eastern Cameroon have settled down after the 1950’s, and accepted farming activity positively. On the other hand, they have continued hunting and gathering activity in the forest depending on the seasonal change. In this study, we recorded the frequency and location of sanitation activities by 64 Baka hunter-gatherers who were observed by the individual pursuit method between 2005 and 2010. And we examine how activities of defecation or other sanitation activities related to the consciousness of the use and sharing of space during the foraging period in the forest and while living in the settlement. We would like to analyze it as a clue to clarify the difference of spatial recognition and the relationship with others as hunter-gatherers make transition from a nomadic life to a sedentary life through sanitation activities.


3:40 – 4:10 PM. Discussion





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