How do hunter-gatherer children learn to make material culture? A meta-ethnographic review


This poster aims to extrapolate forager-wide trends in how, when, and from whom hunter-gatherer children learn to produce material culture. We use a meta-ethnographic approach, which allows for the systematic extraction, synthesis, and comparison of quantitative and qualitative publications. We extracted a total of eleven publications from psychology, cultural anthropology, and ethnoarchaeology, including studies on the Baka, Aka, San, Kaytetye, Gidra, Penan, Batek, Khanty, Cree and Sioux. Our findings suggest that, cross-culturally, forager children learn to make simple tools effectively by middle childhood, but continue to learn and perfect the skills of complex, multi-component tool manufacture well into adulthood. From infancy, adults make models of tools like bows, arrows, and digging sticks to give children, from which they are expected during early and middle childhood to reverse engineer their own small tools. During middle childhood, the playgroup is especially important, creating miniature camps complete with hearths and dwellings. As they enter later childhood and adolescence, children begin to receive their first direct instruction on the production of complex material culture like basketry, sledges, or skis. These findings suggest that children create and contribute to material culture in vital ways that archaeologists often fail to consider.

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How do hunter-gatherer children learn to make material culture? A meta-ethnographic review. Sheina Lew-Levy, Rachel Reckin, Noa Lavi, Jurgi Cristóbal-Azkarate, Kate Ellis-Davies. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429907)

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Abstract Id(s): 12135