Survival and signaling: An assessment of environmental and social influences on the richness and complexity of hunter-gatherer clothing

Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
Despite clothing's importance and antiquity, cross-cultural variations in clothing complexity have not been adequately quantified. This study aims to build on existing quantitative methods for understanding which variables drive clothing variation. To that end, I gathered data on clothing from 50 small-scale ethnohistoric hunter-gatherer societies, along with information on their environments, economies, social structures, and demographics. With these data, I tested several hypotheses that may predict cross-cultural variation in clothing complexity: the Environmental Hypothesis (primarily related to thermoregulation); the Economic Hypothesis (related to subsistence and movement patterns); the Social Hypothesis (related to sexual dimorphism, freedom, polygyny, and violence); and the Population Hypothesis (related to population size and density). Results indicate that temperature and related variables are the primary drivers of wardrobe richness and clothing complexity, but male-male competition plays an important role in predicting richness of decorative clothing. Subsistence and population-related variables play minor roles as well.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Collard, Mark
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