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Man, the Hunter; Woman, the Gatherer [[Part 1 of 2]]
Note: An asterisk "*" indicates italics.
The following chapter issue is taken from my anthropology textbook,
*Understanding Physical Anthropology and Archeology*, 4th Ed., by
Robert Jurmain, Harry Nelson, and William A. Turnbaugh, 1990. ISBN
0-314-66758-X. West Publishing Company; 50 W. Kellogg Boulevard; P.O.
Box 64526; St. Paul, MN 55164-1003. Introducing the chapter issues:
Quote. FACT, Fantasy, and Anthropology -- At the beginning of each
chapter throughout this book you will find brief discussions of an
assortment of contemporary issues. Some of these---for example, the
existence and implications of such phenomena as Bigfoot, extra-
terrestrials, and frozen Neandertals---may seem too bizarre to be
discussed in a scholarly textbook. However, scientists and scholars
cannot make these issues disappear by ignoring them. Someone in the
scientific community must deal with them, hopefully in a rational way.
This task often falls to the physical anthropologist.
Since the public is concerned about these topics, we shall
address them. You may not always agree with our conclusions (you
may notice, by the way, that our own personal biases occasionally
emerge), but to induce you to agree or disagree with us is not the
point. What you should do is think seriously and rationally about
these issues. In light of all the bizarre and ridiculous pseudo-
scientific guise, you will do best by adopting the cautious "show
me" approach attributed to inhabitants of Missouri. Without hard
evidence, no distinction may be made between fiction, fantasy, and
fact. Judge for yourself!
Man, the Hunter; Woman, the Gatherer
Anthropologists have long been concerned with the behavioral
evolution of our species. Accompanying changes in anatomy (locomotion,
dentition, brain size and shape) were changes in mating patterns, social
structure, cultural innovations, and, eventually, language. In fact,
changes in these behavioral compexes are what mostly *explain* the
concomitant adaptations in human biological structure.
We are, then vitally interested in the behavioral adaptations of our
early hominid ancestors. In seeking to reconstruct the behavioral patterns
of these early hominids, anthropologists use inferences drawn from modern
primates, social carnivores, and hunting-gathering people (see Chapter 9).
In addition, they derive information directly from the paleoanthropological
record (see Chapter 11).
Despite numerous detailed and serious attempts at such behavioral
reconstructions, the conclusions must largely remain speculative. In point
of fact, behavior does not fossilize. Accordingly, researchers must rely
considerably upon their imaginations in creating scenarios of early hominid
behavioral evolution. In such an atmosphere, biases often emerge; these
biased renditions, in turn, stimulate heated debates and alternative
scenarios--often as narrow as those being attacked.
Probably no topic has stimulated more controversy (or has been more
riddled with implicit biases) than the debate concerning origins of hominid
sex-role differences. Did erly hominid males have characteristically
different behavioral adaptations than their female counterparts? Did one sex
dominate the frontier of early hominid cultural innovation? And if one sex
did lead the way, which one?
A now well-known rendition of early hominid behavioral development was
popularized in the 1960s and 1970s. According to this "man, the hunter"
theory, the hunting of large animals by males was the central stimulus of
hominid behavioral evolution. According to such widely read works as
Desmond Morris' *The Naked Ape* (1967) and several books by Robert Ardrey
(including *The Hunting Hypothesis*, 1976), early apish-looking forms
*became* hominids as a result of a hunting way of life. As Ardrey states,
"Man is man, and not a chimpanzee, because for millions upon millions of
evolving years we killed for a living" (1976, p. 10).
In this reconstruction, the hunting of large, dangerous mammals by
cooperating groups of males fostered the development of intelligence,
language, tools, and bipedalism. Increased intelligence accompanied by the
development of weapons is also blamed in this scenario for the roots of
human aggressiveness, murder, and warfare.
This "man, the hunter" scenario further suggests that while the males
are leading the vanguard in hominid evolution, females remain mostly
sedentary, tied to the home base by the burden of dependent young. Females
may have contributed some wild plant foods to the group's subsistence, but
this is not seen as a particularly challenging (and certainly not a very
noble) endeavor. In this situation of marked division of labor, sexual
relationships quickly changed. Males, constantly away from the home base
(and, thus, away from the females too) could not keep a watchful eye over
their mates. In order to better insure fidelity (and to reduce the risk of
cuckoldry), monogamy came into being. In this way, a male would be assured
that the young in which he invested was his own. This important factor of
male-female bonding as a product of differential foraging patterns has
recently been forcefully restated by Owen Lovejoy (1981). (See p. 187.)
From the female's point of view, it would be beneficial to maintain a
close bond with a provisioning male. Consequently, she would want to appear
"attractive," and thus, through time, the female breasts and buttocks would
become more conspicuous. Besides rearing their young and being attractive
sex objects, females were useful to male in another way. Groups of male
hunters living in the same area might occasionally come into potentially
dangerous competition for the same resources. As a means of solidifying
political ties between groups, the males would thus routinely exchange
females (by giving or "selling" their daughters to neighboring bands).
Thus, in a single stroke, this complex of features accounts for human
intelligence, sexual practices, and political organization.
As might be expected, such a male-centered scenario did not go unchal-
lenged. Ignoring females or relegating them to a definitely inferior role
in human behavioral evolution drew sharp criticism from several quarters.
As one anthropologist noted:
*So, while the males were out hunting, developing all their
skills, learning to cooperate, inventing language, inventing
art, creating tools and weapons, the poor dependent females
were sitting back at the home base having one child after
another and waiting for the males to bring home the bacon.
While this reconstruction is certainly ingenious, it gives
one the decided impression that only half the species--
the male half--did any evolving. In addition to containing a
number of logical gaps, the argument becomes somewhat doubtful
in the light of modern knowledge of genetics and primate
behavior (Slocum, 1975, p. 42).*