Human Nature

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 596–619 | Cite as

More Lessons from the Hadza about Men’s Work

  • Kristen HawkesEmail author
  • James F. O’Connell
  • Nicholas G. Blurton Jones


Unlike other primate males, men invest substantial effort in producing food that is consumed by others. The Hunting Hypothesis proposes this pattern evolved in early Homo when ancestral mothers began relying on their mates’ hunting to provision dependent offspring. Evidence for this idea comes from hunter-gatherer ethnography, but data we collected in the 1980s among East African Hadza do not support it. There, men targeted big game to the near exclusion of other prey even though they were rarely successful and most of the meat went to others, at significant opportunity cost to their own families. Based on Hadza data collected more recently, Wood and Marlowe contest our position, affirming the standard view of men’s foraging as family provisioning. Here we compare the two studies, identify similarities, and show that emphasis on big game results in collective benefits that would not be supplied if men foraged mainly to provision their own households. Male status competition remains a likely explanation for Hadza focus on big game, with implications for hypotheses about the deeper past.


Paternal provisioning Hunting Hypothesis Show-off Hypothesis Collective goods Men’s strategies Human evolution 



We are grateful to Steve Beckerman, Ted Coxworth, and Sarah Hrdy for clarifying suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristen Hawkes
    • 1
    Email author
  • James F. O’Connell
    • 1
  • Nicholas G. Blurton Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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