The Socioecology of Territory Size and a "Work-Around" Hypothesis for the Adoption of Farming
This paper combines theory from ecology and anthropology to investigate variation in the territory sizes of subsistence oriented agricultural societies. The results indicate that population and the dependence of individuals within a society on “wild” foods partly determine the territory sizes of agricultural societies. In contrast, the productivity of an agroecosystem is not an important determinant of territory size. A comparison of the population-territory size scaling dynamics of agricultural societies and human foragers indicates that foragers and farmers face the same constraints on their ability to expand their territory and intensify their use of resources within a territory. However, the higher density of food in an agroecosystem allows farmers, on average, to live at much higher population densities than human foragers. These macroecological patterns are consistent with a “work-around hypothesis” for the adoption of farming. This hypothesis is that as residential groups of foragers increase in size, farming can sometimes better reduce the tension between an individual’s autonomy over resources and the need for social groups to function to provide public goods like defense and information.