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Keywords:

  • gender;
  • labor organization;
  • hunter-gatherer;
  • Pleistocene forager;
  • Paleoindian

I use cross-cultural ethnographic data to explore the relationship between male and female subsistence labor among hunter-gatherer populations by examining data regarding resource procurement, time allocation, and task differentiation between the sexes relative to dependence on hunted foods. The findings indicate that female foragers generally perform a variety of nonsubsistence collection activities and preferentially procure high-return resources in hunting-based economies. I develop ideas about predictable relationships concerning the amount of time female foragers expend on subsistence and technological tasks relative to the dietary contribution of meat. I then use ethnographic trends to evaluate archaeological assumptions regarding the sexual division of labor in prehistoric foraging contexts, focusing on the dichotomous views of Clovis labor organization. I argue that archaeological interpretations of prehistoric labor roles in hunting-based foraging societies are commonly polarized between stereotypical views of male and female subsistence behaviors. I develop an interpretation of Early Paleoindian labor organization, emphasizing female labor in the production of material goods and the procurement of low-risk plant and animal resources based on global economic trends among foragers.