Hunter-Gatherer Variability: Developing Models for the Northern Coasts


  • Peter Rowley-Conwy
  • Stephanie Piper



hunter-fisher-gatherers, variability, foragers, collectors delayed return, Saxe-Goldstein hypothesis, cemetery, mobility


Hunter-fisher-gatherer (HFG) variability has received a lot of attention. We review the key developments in the theories of variability, which have usually resulted in binary classifications. We argue that a range of variation based on the degree of territorial ownership is preferable to these classifications. Hunter-fisher-gatherers of the world’s northern coasts have only been partially explored in this way with regard to variability. A major reason for this is that such coastal groups use boats, so normative models of inland terrestrial foraging are not immediately applicable. We suggest that the Saxe-Goldstein hypothesis, the cautious linking of territoriality to funerary behaviour, may be a useful avenue to explore. Much work has been done by scholars of the northern coasts on boats and maritime transport, and some conclusions could be extrapolated to regions farther south.