Behavioral Ecology and Zooarchaeology

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez


Chapter 24 offers an overview of the history and basic premises of human behavioral ecology (HBE ), which as been especially widely used by zooarchaeologists studying foragers in the United States. It begins with a history of HBE as it emerged from zoology and through simple examples outlines classic rate maximization models of prey choice and foraging patch choice. Given that many zooarchaeological studies have used them, central place models (CPM ) are detailed, as are the complexities of resource depression, again given the many zooarchaeological studies investigating this phenomenon with archaeofaunal data. Used in zoology for several decades, dynamic state variable models (DSVM) of foraging diverge from “static” rate-maximization models in incorporating the forager’s state before foraging, using multiple currencies (e.g. calories and fat), and including more fitness-shaping factors such as risk of death in a patch in the model, while using iterative simulations to stochastically vary patch conditions in which the forager makes decisions. Actualistic and archaeological studies using DSVM and other dynamic models suggest that income variance reduction, rather than rate maximization, is the predicted “solution” for optimal fitness. The role of proxies and their sensitivities to factors other than those of the model are explored, with the specific example of the Artiodactyl Index. The most interesting aspect of HBE’s application in zooarchaeology lies its ability to systematically expose cases in which people do not behave like “optimal foragers” but instead opt – or perhaps are forced – to forage in some other way, as examples show. The difference between using HBE predictive models as tools for inquiry with a dataset versus as explanations of the data is discussed.


Behavioral ecology HBE Currencies Return rate Handling Encounter rate Patch choice Rate maximization Reliability DSVM 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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