Robert L. Bettinger


On his book Orderly Anarchy: Sociopolitical Evolution in Aboriginal California

Cover Interview of October 19, 2016

A close-up

The discussion and arguments are generally easy to follow.  Even so, my guess is that the casual reader will most likely turn first to the graphics, which were chosen to highlight key parts of the argument or at least the parts most important to me - though the connection might not appear obvious. I particularly like Figure 5.3, in which Ms. Freddie, a Hupa woman, demonstrates the various steps in leaching acorn meal to make it palatable. I chose this series to underscore the importance of the acorn, which was the single most important foodstuff across nearly the whole of California, entailing significant amounts of female labor, most of it expended as acorn was being prepared for consumption, making acorn a back-loaded resource with reduced risk of expropriation.

I am pleased, too, with Box 3.1, illustrating various forms of California and Great Basin seed beaters, the specialized tools connected with intensive seed procurement in these places but nowhere else in ethnographic North America. Here the connection is to the larger argument that the relatively simple aboriginal sociopolitical organizations of these western Native American groups are the culmination of a long evolutionary trajectory characterized by ever-increasing inputs of female labor, and the implications of this for understanding hunter-gatherer lifeways in modern evolutionary perspective.