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Social Brain, Distributed Mind$
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Robin Dunbar, Clive Gamble, and John Gowlett

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264522

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264522.001.0001

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Human Social Evolution: A Comparison of Hunter-gatherer and Chimpanzee Social Organization

(p.83) 5 Human Social Evolution: A Comparison of Hunter-gatherer and Chimpanzee Social Organization
Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Robert Layton

Sean O'Hara

British Academy

This chapter compares the social behaviour of human hunter-gatherers with that of the better-studied chimpanzee species, Pan troglodytes, in an attempt to pinpoint the unique features of human social evolution. Although hunter-gatherers and chimpanzees living in central Africa have similar body weights, humans live at much lower population densities due to their greater dependence on predation. Human foraging parties have longer duration than those of chimpanzees, lasting hours rather than minutes, and a higher level of mutual dependence, through the division of labour between men (hunting) and women (gathering); which is in turn related to pair-bonding, and meat sharing to reduce the risk of individual hunters' failure on any particular day. The band appears to be a uniquely human social unit that resolves the tension between greater dispersion and greater interdependence.

Keywords:   population density, chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, human foraging, mutual dependence, social unit

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