Hunter-gatherer foraging networks promote information transmission


Central-place foraging (CPF), where foragers return to a central location (or home), is a key feature of hunter–gatherer social organization. CPF could have significantly changed hunter–gatherers’ spatial use and mobility, altered social networks and increased opportunities for information-exchange. We evaluated whether CPF patterns facilitate information-transmission and considered the potential roles of environmental conditions, mobility strategies and population sizes. We built an agent-based model of CPF where agents moved according to a simple optimal foraging rule, and could encounter other agents as they moved across the environment. They either foraged close to their home within a given radius or moved the location of their home to new areas. We analysed the interaction networks arising under different conditions and found that, at intermediate levels of environmental heterogeneity and mobility, CPF increased global and local network efficiencies as well as the rate of contagion-based information-transmission. We also found that central-place mobility strategies can further improve information transmission in larger populations. Our findings suggest that the combination of foraging and movement strategies, as well as the environmental conditions that characterized early human societies, may have been a crucial precursor in our species’ unique capacity to innovate, accumulate and rely on complex culture.

In Royal Society Open Science
Ketika Garg
Ketika Garg
Postdoctoral Researcher