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I am sure I have read it somewhere, but I can't figure out in which book anymore (I think Steve Pinker's How the Mind Works)

Most of human (pre-)history (and evolution) has happened in a foraging economic and social context. What surface area was required per person for a hunter-gatherer society to thrive? Since the ideal environment for foragers was the Savannah (c.f. Pinker), we could take this as a default ecosystem to compare to other environments, like steps or jungles.

Any numbers? Thanks.

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I remember reading an estimate that, without agriculture, the USA's lower 48 could support only 2 to 6 million people. ... Not sure we have any evidence of an HG society that didn't also interact with agricultural societies though. – Brock Adams Sep 23 '12 at 23:31
persquaremile.com/2011/08/05/… – none Sep 24 '12 at 0:13

There isn't going to be just one number. It depends a lot on the environment they find themselves in. For example, obviously the Tuareg in their desert envionrment require a lot of territory for every tribe to support itself. On the other extreme, I understand that the pre-columbian Native Americans in the pacific northwest were living in such a productive environment that their population densities rivaled a lot of farming communities.

Note that this environment was not savannah, but cedar forrest (with lots of rivers full of salmon).

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Yes exactly, I didn't expect one number indeed, but an approximate depending on roughly defined habitats. – Benjamin Sep 26 '12 at 16:33

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