Hunter Gatherer Research

The cost of firewood

An actualistic quantification of collection tasks

Hunter Gatherer Research (2018), 4, (4), 513–529.


Firewood management is a key component of hunter-gatherer subsistence. the costs of time and labour required to gather firewood can affect labour allocation, social organisation, foodways and settlement patterns. An important factor in understanding the costs of fuel gathering is the availability of wood, the most common source of fuel, on the landscape. this study uses survey and time trials to quantify fuel availability and gathering time of a single day’s firewood in an unexploited environment in a northern California blue oak grassland. the study found that the available wood fuel in a central place territory would be consumed in under a year. this suggests that changes in the lifeways of prehistoric California hunter-gatherers may have in part been influenced by the need for fuel management.

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Author details

Crawford, Kristina