Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Current Anthropology (1980) 21(6): 740-741.


Copyright 1980, University of Chicago. Used by permission.


First two paragraphs:

Yesner's paper reiterates a major concern of the symposium "Man the Hunter" (Lee and DeVore 1968a)-the need to develop generalizations which accommodate the behavioral variability exhibited by hunter-gatherers, past and present. Much of the literature, Yesner reemphasizes, fails to deal adequately with groups characterized by "atypical" variations in energy flow, technological complexity, population density, sociopolitical organization, and so forth. He focuses on a subset of foragers and collectors (Binford 1980) that appears to be among the most aberrant- "maritime" hunter-gatherers.

While Yesner provides insight into the recent literature on exploitation of marine environments and expresses ephemeral concern for a nomological approach. I do not believe that his discussion helps us to understand aboriginal use of the oceans. Anthropologists must not only be aware of the range of hunter-gatherer behavioral diversity and develop methodologies for pattern recognition, but also construct a body of theory to explain such patterned variability. The development of general theory requires that we evaluate our assumptions about the operation of the empirical world-particularly those which repeatedly conflict with our experience. Herein lies the problem with Yesner's discussion.