Hunter-Gatherers of the Congo Basin

Hunter-Gatherers of the Congo Basin

Cultures, Histories, and Biology of African Pygmies

List Price: $49.95


Bookmark and Share
ISBN: 978-1-4128-5361-3
Pages: 382
Binding: Paperback
Publication Date: 05-01-2014
Also available as:
Google eBook


The forest foragers of the Congo Basin, known collectively as "Pygmies," are the largest and most diverse group of active hunter-gatherers remaining in the world. At least fifteen different ethno-linguistic groups exist in the Congo Basin with a total population of 250,000 to 350,000 individuals. Extensive knowledge about these groups has accumulated in the last forty years, but readers have been forced to piece together what is known from many sources. French, Japanese, American, and British researchers have conducted the majority of the research; each national research group has its own academic traditions, history, and publications. Here, leading academic authorities from diverse national traditions summarize recent research on forest hunter-gatherers.

The volume explores the diversity and uniformity of Congo Basin hunter-gatherer life by providing detailed but accessible overviews of recent research. It represents the first book in over twenty-five years to provide a comprehensive and holistic overview of African forest hunter-gatherers. Chapters discuss the cultural variation in characteristic features of Congo Basin hunter-gatherer life, such as their yodeled polyphonic music, pronounced egalitarianism, multiple-child caregiving, and complex relations with neighboring farming groups. Other contributors address theoretical issues, such as why Pygmies are short, how tropical forest hunter-gatherers live without the carbohydrates they receive from neighboring farmers, and how hunter-gatherer children learn to share so extensively.

Editorial Reviews

“Hewlett (Washington State Univ.) has edited an excellent volume that brings together research on the culture and biology of African Pygmies, updating Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza's African Pygmies (CH, May'87), which focused on biology. Topics here include Pygmy cultural diversity, genetics, the role of metallurgy in the rise of farmer-forager inequalities, biology and health, the viability of foraging in the tropical rainforest, musical diversity, the diversity and fluidity of Pygmy identities, and the effects of forest conservation and global markets on Pygmy culture. . . .  Summing Up: Highly recommended.”

— P. L. Fleury de Barros, Choice

“This volume summarizes previous knowledge and provides a wealth of new information about the Central African foragers known as pygmies. The pygmies show high diversity, but also represent a coherent biological branch of humans with a fascinating evolutionary history. This volume provides a state of the art summary and evaluation of important questions like: Why are the pygmies short? Could they have survived as foragers before the arrival of agriculturalists? How can they have retained cultural continuity yet lost their original languages? Why is there so much genetic diversity across different groups? This is a great book for anyone interested in hunter-gatherers and their contribution to understanding human variation.”

—Kim Hill, professor, Arizona State University

"Hunter-Gatherers of the Congo Basin brings together a wide range of authorities on varied aspects of these fascinating and scientifically important peoples, with subjects ranging from genetics to music, childhood to health. Barry Hewlett, with his decades of fieldwork experience in these cultures and his rigorous and creative approach to everything in anthropology, is the ideal coordinator for this effort, and this book will be a vital resource for hunter-gatherer studies going forward."

—Melvin Konner, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor, Department of Anthropology, Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology, Emory University

People Who Bought This Book Also Bought:

Related Topics


Customer Reviews Average Customer Review: Not yet rated

Write an online reviewand share your thoughts with others.
There are no reviews for this book yet!

Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures


Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza

Barry S. Hewlett

1.       Cultural Diversity of African Pygmies 
          Serge Bahuchet
2.       Population Genetics of Central African Pygmies and Non-Pygmies 
          Paul Verdu
3.       On Late Holocene Population Interactions in the Northwestern Congo Basin: When, How, and Why Does the 
          Ethnographic Pattern Begin? 
          Karen Lupo, Alfred Jean-Paul Ndanga, and Christopher Kiahtipes
4.       “Do Pygmies Have a History?” Revisited: The Autochthonous Tradition in the History of Equatorial Africa 
          Robert E. Moïse
5.       Human Biology and the Health of African Rainforest Inhabitants 
          Alain Froment
6.       The Foraging Lifestyle in the African Tropical Rainforest 
          Hiroaki Sato
7.       Diversity in Pygmy Music: A Family Portrait 
          Susanne Fürniss
8.       Egalitarian Social Organization: The Case of the Mbendjele BaYaka 
          Jerome Lewis
9.       Hunter-Gatherer Childhoods in the Congo Basin 
          Barry S. Hewlett
10.     Multiangular Identities among Congo River Basin Forest Peoples 
          Stephanie Rupp
11.     Interethnic Relationships between Pygmies and Farmers 
          Kiyoshi Takeuchi
12.     Forest Conservation and Indigenous Peoples in The Congo Basin: New Trends toward Reconciliation 
          between Global Issues and Local Interest
          Mitsuo Ichikawa

List of Contributors