Most People seem to agree that we cannot and do not want to go back to the past, but the reason given is often wrong; that time has moved on and what was can never be again. The truth is that we cannot go back to what we never left. Our home is the earth, our time the Pleistocene Ice Ages. The past is the formula for our being.
(Paul Shepard)

Friday, 20 July 2012

sexist hunters

Many thanks to Dr McDougall for giving me a shape for this post, I have a languishing, mostly written piece on the paleolithic non-origins of hierarchy that I can't seem to get into shape to post up.
 I have long been working out a way to present my refutations of two more egregious and widely believed "facts" about Hunter gatherer societies. variations on " actually they eat mostly plants" or "women do most of the work/provide most of the food" or "maybe they should be called "gatherer hunters" etc.
 Here is the small portion I will be working with. it is so dense in assumptions, misunderstandings and if I am feeling generous downright lies that it is all I need to work with;

 “Primates, including humans, have practised hunting and gathering for millions of years. I know of no large populations of primates who have been strict vegans (ate no animal foods at all). However, plants have, with very few exceptions, provided the bulk of the calories for almost all primates. This truth has been unpopular in part because of a well-recognised human trait, sexism. Grandparents, women, and children did the gathering, while men hunted. Glory always goes to the hunters.”

 It is from a piece titled " The Paleo diet is uncivilised" which is at least true. It is quite an unfair article and as I have suspicions about the comments being filtered I won't supply a link.

Lets break this paragraph down it is one of the first paragraphs and is clearly an important one. Later paragraphs talk about meat being disgusting and cannibalism, from a doctor this is pretty shoddy stuff it reads like something a fruitarian would write!.
Primates, including humans, have practised hunting and gathering for millions of years yup that's true I know of no large populations of primates who have been strict vegans (ate no animal foods at all). vegetarian societies are also pretty hard to find the caveat strict is not required he could have written "there are no vegan primates". However, plants have, with very few exceptions, provided the bulk of the calories for almost all primates. yes, what's your point? If we are one of those exceptions (we are) then why would what other primates eat be relevant? It should be noted that McDougall argues strongly that starch consumption is the "natural" and healthiest human diet. Primates do not eat much in the way of starch especially roots.   This truth has been unpopular in part because of a well-recognised human trait, sexism hmmmm Grandparents, women, and children did the gathering, while men hunted. Glory always goes to the hunters.” well at least he admits that hunter gatherers actually became grandparents instead of dying at age 12. 
 The assumptions are; primates eat primarily vegetables  therefore so should we, that we should eat meat OR vegetables, men hunt exclusively and that the gathering of food or economic activity is the activity with the most worth to a society.
 The archaeological evidence is overwhelming that meat played a large part of the diet in our paleolithic ancestors rising to near carnivory in northern people during the ice age. Plant foods are more ephemeral in nature but must have been significant and indeed there is very good evidence for omnivory through all populations of hominids in all environments. While there are some specific examples of grains being utilised quite far back in prehistory it should be noted that the processing materials (huge stones) are rarely found and are considerably more archaeologically visible than bones or arrow heads etc.  In Europe querns are used as the definition of farming sites. Grains may have been consumed by some peoples in some areas but meat was consumed by everyone everywhere. We will never know the proportions of food eaten in the paleolithic, oh wait we will because we have the tooth isotopes which show that meat was at least as important if not more important than plant food, this simple truth is known to anyone who has "survived" on wild plants. Meat is so important to human primates that we have actually evolved to become better at eating it.
 Described hunter gatherers are usually omnivorous even in regions hostile to plant life.In the tropics by volume plants can make up well in excess of 50% of the diet but by calories meat makes up close to half. The proportion of plants drops off as latitude increases. The fluctuation and rather chaotic nature of hunter gatherer life means that actual quantities are hard to obtain but over the year it usually even out that men and women provide about half the calories consumed each. The main difference in productivity is with age, in both hunting and gathering age is the best correlator with foraging success. Duffy reports the old men among the Efe often spend alot of the afternoon hunting alone and are highly successful.
 The idea of the man the hunter is true to an extent in that men tend to hunt in general but in fact women hunt and men gather according to circumstance. Hadza men will gather baobab seeds if they return empty handed while most women with kill or pick up tortoises and other small game, Hadza women gather lots of bird eggs and baby birds. For the Mbuti Pygmies net hunting is conducted by both sexes. A friend of mine witnessed South American Indian women preparing a tortoise for cooking which she described as "harrowing"! Haida women are very active in salmon fishing.
 Women of the Hadza and San will also gang up and drive predators off of kills. The anthropological literature simply does not support a statement that men hunt while women gather though in general this would hold for most cultures.
 But even if it were true how would it be sexist? 

No comments:

Post a Comment