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The complex structure of hunter-gatherer social networks

Hamilton, Marcus J., Milne, Bruce T., Walker, Robert S., Burger, Oskar F., Brown, James H. (2007) The complex structure of hunter-gatherer social networks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274 (1622). pp. 2195-2202. ISSN 0962-8452. E-ISSN 1471-2954. (doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.0564) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:53666)

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In nature, many different types of complex system form hierarchical, self-similar or fractal-like structures that have evolved to maximize internal efficiency. In this paper, we ask whether hunter-gatherer societies show similar structural properties. We use fractal network theory to analyse the statistical structure of 1189 social groups in 339 hunter-gatherer societies from a published compilation of ethnographies. We show that population structure is indeed self-similar or fractal-like with the number of individuals or groups belonging to each successively higher level of organization exhibiting a constant ratio close to 4. Further, despite the wide ecological, cultural and historical diversity of hunter-gatherer societies, this remarkable self-similarity holds both within and across cultures and continents. We show that the branching ratio is related to density-dependent reproduction in complex environments and hypothesize that the general pattern of hierarchical organization reflects the self-similar properties of the networks and the underlying cohesive and disruptive forces that govern the flow of material resources, genes and non-genetic information within and between social groups. Our results offer insight into the energetics of human sociality and suggest that human social networks self-organize in response to similar optimization principles found behind the formation of many complex systems in nature.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1098/rspb.2007.0564
Additional information: Unmapped bibliographic data: DA - 2007/// [EPrints field already has value set]
Uncontrolled keywords: hunter-gatherers; social networks; self-similarity; generalized Horton analysis; population structure; complex systems
Subjects: Q Science
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > Biological Anthropology
Depositing User: Oskar Burger
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2016 12:30 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 16:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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