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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).*