Our first poster on learning to share among hunter-gatherers was recently presented at SHARING the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers at the University of Cambridge (Sept. 20th-21st 2016). Check it out here!
Abstract: Sharing, often considered a foundational schema for hunter-gatherers, acts as a leveling mechanism, systematically disengaging people from property and therefore from the potential for property to create dependency. While most studies on sharing tend to focus on the distribution of large game meat, the demand to share includes a great variety of food items and objects, as well as the sharing of time, actions, spaces and experiences. Though many studies have explored the importance of sharing to hunter-gatherers, few have examined how sharing beliefs and behaviours are transmitted across generations. Furthermore, to our knowledge, no studies have employed a cross-cultural approach to understand how, when, and from whom hunter-gatherer children learn to share. To address this gap, we perform a meta-ethnography, which allows us to compare quantitative and qualitative publications on this topic. Seven publications met our inclusion criteria, and these focused on Hadza, Aka, San, Nayaka and Batek children. Our results indicate that sharing is actively taught, starting from infancy. Mothers play a central role in teaching sharing behaviours in early life. In early and middle childhood, other children play a prominent role in teaching sharing behaviours, through instruction, commands, participation, and norm enforcement. Through participation in the daily activity of food distribution, sharing knowledge is also imparted. These results contribute to the debate regarding whether teaching occurs in the forager context, by highlighting that teaching sharing behaviours occurs throughout childhood. Furthermore, the fact that forager children transmit sharing behaviours to others highlights that they are not passive, but instead contribute to constructing cultural norms and meaning. Further research should investigate how children’s participation in teaching sharing behaviours enables them to internalize these behaviours, making them more competent social agents.