Overview of the Hadza


The Hadza are a population of nomadic hunter-gatherers who live in a savannah woodland habitat in remote regions of Northern Tanzania (see map). They number about 1,000, but only about 300-400 of them still forage full-time. I first began working with the Hadza in 2004 and have spent long periods of time living with them and learning their way of life.  Women, in groups of 3-8 individuals, collect baobab fruit, honey and berries and dig for wild tubers while men collect honey and baobab fruit and hunt animals with bow and arrow. Hunting is usually an individual activity but men sometimes hunt at night in pairs where they surprise animals near watering holes. Children also begin foraging at a young age and by the time they are a decade in age they are able to meet about half of their caloric needs. Check out Alyssa Crittenden's research on food sharing in children. 

The Hadza live in camps that average 30 individuals. Depending on the season these camps fluctuate in size. For instance, during the dry season, June through December, camp sizes grow, as individuals tend to congregate near the few permanent waterholes.  Not only do entire camps shift location about every 4-6 weeks, but individual membership within camps is also fluid.


Game meat that is brought into camp is shared fairly evenly among households (although see Brian Wood's research for more a more in-depth analysis). The Hadza are best described as egalitarian as there are no clear dominance hierarchies. Although Hadza women are fairly independent, men are dominant to women. Marriages are not arranged and while divorce is common, monogamy is the norm. Thus, the Hadza are best described as serially monogamous. Intermarriage with other ethnic groups is rare. Age at first marriage is a few years earlier for women (around 17 yrs), than for men. It is more common for couples to live with the wife’s kin though residence is flexible. The total fertility rate (TFR) of the Hadza is 6.2 (Blurton-Jones et al., 1992). When asked to list the traits important to them when choosing a spouse, traits related to character showed the highest frequency followed by foraging, attractiveness, fertility, fidelity, and youth (Marlowe, 2004).


The appeal of studying hunter-gatherers not only lies in the fact that they provide the most extreme of departures from modern life, but also that their way of life is ecologically relevant. For the vast majority of time on the planet, humans have lived as hunter-gatherers. Human reliance on agriculture has occurred for less than 1% of the two million years that modern humans have been in
existence. Although the Hadza reside in an area of the world that even today is not too
dissimilar from that in which our ancestors spent the majority of their existence, it is important to remember that the Hadza represent only one out of the diverse groups of hunter-gatherers found across the planet.


While one should acknowledge the great diversity present among current foragers, it is also worth noting that the Hadza are very typical of foragers in some key traits.  For instance, most foragers, like the Hadza, practice bilateral decent, are egalitarian, and central-place foragers.  Marlowe, in his book The Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania, devotes a chapter comparing the Hadza to 237 warm-climate foraging societies. 

I have conducted much research with the Hadza exploring the origins of many human behaviors and preferences. Specifically, I have conducted research on attractiveness preferences, economic preferences and the origins of cognitive biases and the evolution of human sociality and cooperation.  Please see my personal website for a list of current publications.                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                                                Coren Apicella
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