High adult mortality among Hiwi hunter-gatherers: Implications for human evolution

Kim Hill, A. M. Hurtado, R. S. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

97 Scopus citations

Abstract

Extant apes experience early sexual maturity and short life spans relative to modern humans. Both of these traits and others are linked by life-history theory to mortality rates experienced at different ages by our hominin ancestors. However, currently there is a great deal of debate concerning hominin mortality profiles at different periods of evolutionary history. Observed rates and causes of mortality in modern hunter-gatherers may provide information about Upper Paleolithic mortality that can be compared to indirect evidence from the fossil record, yet little is published about causes and rates of mortality in foraging societies around the world. To our knowledge, interview-based life tables for recent hunter-gatherers are published for only four societies (Ache, Agta, Hadza, and Ju/'hoansi). Here, we present mortality data for a fifth group, the Hiwi hunter-gatherers of Venezuela. The results show comparatively high death rates among the Hiwi and highlight differences in mortality rates among hunter-gatherer societies. The high levels of conspecific violence and adult mortality in the Hiwi may better represent Paleolithic human demographics than do the lower, disease-based death rates reported in the most frequently cited forager studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-454
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of human evolution
Volume52
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Hiwi (Venezuela)
  • Human life history
  • Hunter-gatherer demography
  • Mortality rates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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