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Information on the Aka:
Language: diaka
Population: 15,000-30,000
Government: Egalitarian
Subsistence: hunting, gathering
Religion: Indigenous beliefs, wood spirits, witchcraft.

Aka boys hunting rats
Seasonal delicacy: caterpillars
WSU Aka Research Team
Barry Hewlett with the Aka


Anger research among the Aka hunter-gatherers of the Central African Republic


The Aka, also known as the BiAka or Babenzele, are a group of so-called “pygmy” hunter-gathers in the Central African Republic with a population between 15 and 30 thousand (Bahuchet 1985).  The Aka have their own language (diaka) and culture including a strong preference for forest life, high mobility, ritualized elephant hunting and a trading relationship with the Ngandu farmer populations.  Their diet includes 63 different plant species, 20 insects including caterpillars which are a seasonal delicacy, honey from eight species of bees, and 28 different game animals.  The most common cause of death is infectious-parasites which account for half of all Aka deaths (Hewlett et al. 1986).  Malaria is also common.  The homicide rate of the Aka is very low for a foraging people (approximately .003%) though still higher than the United States (approximately .00005% in 2008).  There has never been a report of an Aka woman dying from male violence (Hewlett et al. 1986).

Aka culture is extremely egalitarian with band-wide sharing of food, predominate monogamy (though polygyny is accepted), incredibly high levels of paternal investment in children, and low levels of spousal violence.  The Aka have been called the “Best Dads in the World.”  Unlike other hunter-gatherers in the area, Aka practice family net hunting in which men, women and children participate.

The Aka field site near Bagandou was established by Barry Hewlett over thirty years ago and has been opened to collaborative anthropologists at Washington State University.

Ongoing projects include:
    1). The role of physical strength in anger among men and women.
    2). An investigation into the elements of status.
    3). A cross-cultural analysis of latent and explicit meanings of insults and their relation to cultural norms and values.

Papers that have resulted from this collaboration:

Hess, N., Helfrecht, C., Hagen, E., Sell, A. & Hewlett, B.  (2010). Interpersonal aggression among Aka hunter-gatherers of the Central African Republic. Human Nature, 21, 330-354. (link)

Presentations that have resulted from this collaboration:

Sell, A. “Formidability and the logic of anger.” UQ Evolutionary Psychology Group, University of Queensland. Brisbane, Australia, May. 2012.

Sell, A. “Understanding anger in the context of mental health.” Psychiatric Grand Rounds, Cottage Health System. Santa Barbara, California, Feb. 2010.

Sell, A.  Behavior, Evolution and Culture Speaker Series.  Organized by the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, & Culture.  Sept. 2009. “An evolutionary-computational model of human anger.”

Helfrecht, C., Hess, N., Hagen, E., Sell, A. & Hewlett, B.  Anger and aggression among Aka Hunter-Gatherers.  The Evolution of Human Aggression: Lessons for Today’s Conflicts: Keynote address.  Organized by the Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy Forum, Feb. 2009.


Aaron Sell
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Griffith University, Mount Gravatt
Mount Gravatt, QLD 4121
, Australia
(email, website)


Edward Hagen
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
Washington State University

(email, website)


Nicole Hess
Visiting Professor
Department of Anthropology
Washington State University

(email, website)

Barry Hewlett
Department of Anthropology
Washington State University
(email, website)

Courtney Helfrecht
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
Washington State University

Bahuchet, S. (1985). Les pygmees Aka et la foret Centrafricaine. Paris: Selaf.

Hewlett BS, van de Koppel JMH and van de Koppel M (1986). Causes of death among Aka pygmies of the Central African Republic. In: African Pygmies, Cavalli Sforza, LL (ed.)