Document Type


Publication Date



At the headwaters of the Yenisei River in Tuva and northern Mongolia, nomadic pastoralists move between camps in a seasonal rotation that facilitates their animals' access to high-quality grasses and shelter. The use and informal ownership of these camps depending on season helps illustrate evolutionary and ecological principles underlying variation in property relations. Given relatively stable patterns of precipitation and returns to capital improvement, families generally benefit from reusing the same camps year after year. We show that locations with higher economic defensibility and capital investment—winter camps and camps located in mountain/river valleys—are claimed and inherited more frequently than summer camps and camps located in open steppe. Camps are inherited patrilineally and matrilineally at a ratio of 2 : 1. Despite its practical importance, camp inheritance is not associated with livestock wealth today, which is better predicted by education and wealth outside the pastoral economy. The relationship between the livestock wealth of parents and their adult children is significantly positive, but relatively low compared to other pastoralists. The degree of inequality in livestock wealth, however, is very close to that of other pastoralists. This is understandable considering the durability and defensibility of animal wealth and economies of scale common across pastoralists.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Evolutionary ecology of inequality’.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Included in

Anthropology Commons