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The Ascendance of Hunting during the California Middle Archaic: An Evolutionary Perspective

  • William R. Hildebrandt (a1) and Kelly R. McGuire (a1)

Abstract

Against a backdrop of sustained resource intensification and population increases that began at the end of the middle Holocene in California and continued until at least 1000 B.P., there is a variety of archaeological evidence indicating that hunting of highly ranked large mammals actually increased during this time. This trend runs counter to general expectations set forth by optimal-foraging and diet-breadth models, and suggests that the role of big-game procurement by logistically organized male hunting parties had important social—indeed evolutionary—implications apart from its contributions to simple group provisioning. At the core of this argument is the notion that there can be Darwinian fitness benefits for males in pursuing certain types of highly prized resources, at the expense of regular and dependable provisioning of one's family. We contend that the evolutionary legacy surrounding big-game hunting is fundamental to the understanding not only of its paradoxical energetics, but also of the general elaboration of cultural systems, including the rise of certain spectacular technological and artistic traditions that characterize the California Middle Archaic period.

Résumé

Ante un escenario de intensificación sostenida en la procuración de recursos e incrementos en la población que comenzaron a finales del Holoceno Medio en California y que continuaron hasta cuando menos 1000 años antes del presente, existe diversa evidencia arqueológica que indica que durante ese tiempo la caza de grandes y muy apreciados mamíferos realmente se incrementó. La tendencia propuesta, va en contra a las predicciones hipotéticas expresadas en los modelos que refieren a la recolección óptima y amplitud de dieta, y sugiere que el papel de la procuración de presas grandes por grupos de cazadores masculinos orientados en términos de logística, tuvo implicaciones importantes sociales—hasta evolucionarias—aparte de sus contribuciones al aprovisionamiento de un solo grupo. En el meollo de esta discusión esta la notión que pueden haber sólidos o importantes beneficios Darwinianos para el género masculino, en perseguir a ciertos tipos de presas altamente apreciadas, sacrificando el aprovisionamiento regular y seguro de la propia familia. Sostenemos que el legado evolucionario que rodea la caza de animates mayores es fundamental para el entendimiento, no sólo de su energética paradoja, sino también en la elaboratión general de sistemas culturales, incluyendo el incremento de ciertas tradiciones artísticas y de tecnología espectaculares que caracterizaron el período Arcaico Medio de California.

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