has led to an important distinction between hunter-gatherer societies that store food and those that do not (Testart, 1982, 1988). Although nonstoring hunter-gatherers predominate, hunter-gatherers who store food are probably more common than we have realized, and in any event differ in important respects from those societies that do not. Storing hunter-gatherers are more likely to be sedentary rather than nomadic, to have bigger populations and higher population densities, and to be organized in a more complex way.
Contemporary hunter-gatherers who store can be found, but such groups seem to have been particularly prominent in the last few millennia before the development of agriculture (around 15,000 to 10,000 years ago) (M. Cohen, 1985), and probably represented hunting and gathering societies on the verge of developing an agricultural
economy. It might be useful to call both prehistoric and contemporary hunter-gatherers who do not store food simple hunter-gatherers, while referring to those who do store food as complex hunter-gatherers (cf. Kelly, 1995).
The !Kung San serve as an excellent example of a contemporary hunter-gatherer society (the “!” stands for a “click” sound in the language). Some 45,000 San are found scattered throughout the territories of Botswana, Angola, and Namibia in southern Africa. These people are divided into several different linguistic groups, one of which is !Kung, spoken by about 13,000 people. Many of these are now either under the direct control of local governments or heavily influenced in their way of life by means of contact with more technologically advanced peoples. The last of the hunting and gathering !Kung number some 1,600 clustered around water holes in northwestern Botswana. The ethnographic account that follows is based on a population of 466 !Kung located in the Dobe area of Botswana studied by Richard Lee (1972; cf. Lee, 1979, 1984).