Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Anthropology



Major Advisor

John P. Ziker, Ph.D.


David A. Nolin, Ph.D.


Kathryn Demps, Ph.D.


In light of somatic and reproductive tradeoffs modeled in evolutionary theory, this thesis conducts two analyses of men’s behavior in the indigenous hunter-gatherer community of Ust’-Avam, northern Russia. First, a food-distribution network of men’s hunting documented in 2001 and 2003 is analyzed considering evolutionary models of food sharing: kin selection, reciprocal altruism, generosity signaling, and costly signaling. The frequency of inter-household food transfers from 36 donor households to 102 recipient households are examined using matrix regression with independent variables representing embodied, material, and relational wealth. This analysis does not support the costly signaling model, but provides robust evidence for kinship, reciprocity, and generosity. Alongside evidence of hunter’s unidirectional food transfers to kin, hunters share reciprocally with kin and other highly skilled hunters. Furthermore, hunters appear to be sharing with the needy, rather than accumulating wealth, additional wives, or allies. Male fertility patterns of 272 Ust’-Avam men were analyzed using the same embodied, material, and relational wealth variables. Hunter skill (embodied) and hunter wealth (material) are found to be the strongest predictors of men’s age-adjusted reproductive success and age at first birth. Cash income, educational level, and number of close kin do not significantly predict men’s reproduction. Hunter production appears to be invested in their wives and existing offspring. Thus, the first analysis illustrates kin selection, reciprocity (kin irrespective of productive ability and non-kin with high cumulative producer capacity), and generosity. The second analysis illustrates male parental investment effects for good hunters. Considering the cost of transportation out of the community and few wage labor opportunities for men, food production and distribution patterns are highly prosocial, and the behavior of men who are skilled and outfitted hunters appears also to provide some reproductive advantage.