The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

The Environmental History of 'Hunter-gatherers' in the Tropics: A Comparative Approach to People Living in Asia, Africa, and South America

Joint Research Coordinator IKEYA Kazunobu

Reserch Theme List


hunter-gatherers, environmental history, hunter-farmer relations


The objective of this research is to construct an account of hunter-gathers living in the tropics, their exploitation of natural resources and interethnic relationships from the perspective of environmental history. This history can be broadly divided into four eras: (1) hunting and gathering; (2) hunter-gathers coexisting with agricultural peoples and becoming agriculturalists; (3) premodern and modern nation-building; (4) globalization. This project will be an experiment in constructing an environmental history of the world from the perspectives of hunter-gathers from three continents: Asia, Africa, and South America. Specific issues tracked by era will include (1) whether during the hunting and gathering period, hunter-gatherers were self-sufficient by exploiting tropical rain forest and tropical highland resources; (2) how hunter-gathers co-existed with agriculturalists; (3) hunter-gatherer response to pre-modern nation-building (the Mughal Empire and its forestry industry, the Kingdom of Congo and ivory, etc.) and colonization; (4) changes due to the impact of Chinese economic expansion and other forms of globalization on demand for agar wood and other forest products and ivory. By addressing these four issues, this research will contribute to construction of a world history from an environmental perspective as seen through the eyes of hunter-gatherers, a departure from previous world histories that have focused on urban civilizations.