The Boston Museum of Science has granted its $5000 Walker Award to B. Irven DeVore, professor of Anthropology, for his pioneer work in primate behavior and hunting-and-gathering cultures.
DeVore's research has reversed many traditional conceptions about hunting-and-gathering peoples.
"Hunter-gatherers were always thought of as being at the bottom of the economic scale, scrabbling out an existence: but they may really be the original affluent society," DeVore said yesterday.
Hunter-gatherers work only about 20 hours per week in order to supply themselves with about 135 per cent of the nutrients needed to sustain human life, he added.
The key to the economic success of hunter-gatherers has a "women's liberation angle to it." DeVore said. The women produce 80 per cent of the food supply by gathering greens and the nutrient-rich mungongo nut, while the men obtain the remaining 20 per cent by hunting, he explained.
The standard explanation for the development of society holds that families arose only after men consented to share the fruits of the hunt with women. DeVore believes the truth may be the opposite-that families developed when women agreed to share their substantial stores of nuts and berries with men.
DeVore's research has often led him to places like Indonesian Borneo and Africa's Kalahari Desert. He said he plans to use the prize money to supplement his "sinking travel fund."
DeVore has published three books-Primate Behavior, Man the Hunter, and The Primates-and has helped launch an elementary education program in anthropology this year.