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Robert Bettinger


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, UC Riverside, 1975
  • B.A., Anthropology, UC Riverside, 1970


Robert Bettinger received his B.A. (1970) and Ph.D. (1975) degrees from the University of California. He conducted most of his early fieldwork in California and the western Great Basin. He continues to work there but has since 1989 broadened his interests to include the archaeology of China, Siberia, and Argentina. He has worked almost continuously in northern China (Gansu, Ningxia, and Inner Mongolia) since 1989, collaborating with a team of U.S. and PRC scholars interested in understanding the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and the origins of agriculture in north China.

Research Focus

Nearly all of Professor Bettinger’s work centers on hunter-gatherers. His archaeological fieldwork has centered on the study of intensive hunter-gatherer adaptations, their expression in marginal environments (alpine and desert), and their connection with early agriculture. His theoretical contributions to cultural ecology, quantitative methodology, and evolutionary theory are directed mainly to general models of hunter-gatherer behavior that can be applied in a wide range of archaeological and ethnographic contexts.

Selected Publications

  • Bettinger, R. L. (2016) Prehistoric hunter–gatherer population growth rates rival those of agriculturalists. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 (4): 812–814. 
  • Bettinger, R. L., & Grote, M. (2016) Marginal value theorem, patch choice, and human forager response to varying environments. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 42: 79-87.
  • Bettinger, R. L. (2015) Orderly Anarchy: Sociopolitical Evolution in Aboriginal California. University of California Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780520283336
  • Bettinger, R. L. (2015) Raven Garvey, Shannon Tushingham. Hunter-Gatherers: Archaeological and Evolutionary Theory. Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology. Springer, US. ISSN: 1568-2722. ISBN: 978-1-4899-7580-5
  • Bettinger, R. L. (2013) Effects of the bow on social organization in Western North America. Evolutionary Anthropology 22: 118-123.
  • Bettinger, R. L., Barton, L., & Morgan, C. (2010). The origins of food production in North China: A different kind of agricultural revolution. Evolutionary Anthropology 19:9-21.
  • Bettinger, R. L. (2009) Hunter-Gatherer Foraging: Five Simple Models. Eliot Werner Publications, Clinton Corners, NY. ISBN:  978-0-9797-7313-6


Within the curriculum in archaeology, Professor Bettinger has been mainly responsible for Archaeological Theory and Method (ANT 170) and History and Theory of Archaeology (ANT 203). Both are advanced historical and theoretical surveys that connect archaeological theory to anthropological theory. He also annually teaches Introduction to Archaeology (ANT 3). In addition, he teaches three courses outside the curriculum in archaeology, including the History of Anthropology, the graduate level offering that covers the historical development of socio-cultural theory within anthropology, from mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. The other two are upper division undergraduate courses in his areas of special expertise and interest: Ethnography of California and the Great Basin (ANT 141B) and Hunter-Gatherers (ANT 178). ANT 141B examines and interprets the diversity of Native California lifeways. In both emphasis is on environment and theory that places these diverse societies in a common perspective.


  • Society for American Archaeology Book Award: Scholarly Category for, Orderly Anarchy: Sociopolitical Evolution in Aboriginal California, 2016
  • Society for American Archaeology Award for Excellence in Archaeological Analysis, 2007
  • Society for California Archaeology M. A. Baumhoff Special Achievement Award, 2007