post on a certain vegan doctors assertion that there is an overemphasis on meat in hunter gatherer diets due to cultural prejudices. It is interesting that there is the continual assertion from the vegetables that anthropologists are largely concerned with male activities and overly report on the level of animals consumed (no such criticisms are made about honey which is also largely gathered by men). Condemning the work of an entire scientific field mostly because you don't agree with their finding is , when you think about it, staggeringly rude, ignorant and even arrogant.
|Agta woman hunting|
In my last post on this subject I mentioned that hunter gatherer women collect eggs, reptiles, invertebrates small game and birds and will also drive non-human predators off their kills. Women and children also assist in fishing and shellfish collection. None of these sources of food are minor if gathered in quantity and at certain times of the year are major calorie sources. Stephenson and Marlowe both report that baby birds are eaten in prodigious quantities and are a favourite food source.
Hadza children are famously self sufficient and can provide a large proportion of calories by themselves from an early age, both by hunting and gathering while the Kalahari San don't even start to learn either hunting or gathering until they are adults. Black Elk, the Lakota Sioux talked of both hunting and fishing as a child and the instruction he received. For children at least physicality seems to be a determiner in how much food can be obtained though at least some cultural factor determines if or when a child starts foraging.
"Mother and Father gone out hunting and leave us kids in camp when we get hunting we go hunting for little lizard get him cook it and eat him up....Soon as mother leaves little ones go hunting, kill animals...morning again father one he go hunting. All little kids go hunting self...mother go separate from father come back with big mob of animals. (Mardu woman from Kukaja community).
|Pygmy net hunter child|
Grandparents help with child rearing in many hunter gatherer societies and childcare is a far more communal activity than in our culture. However nursing infants do restrict female foraging, hunting may need a larger amount of physical strength but I would imagine the distances involved in hunting and the relative high risk of the activity make it unsuitable for women with children. However the Agta women in the Philippines actively hunt animals and indeed do so while carrying nursing infants. Moreover in communal hunts such as bison drives women could and indeed did play a major role. Steffanson describes Inuit women driving reindeer into ambush choke points, this method of hunting reindeer was used in Scandinavia and the Stellmoor site is interpreted as a mass reindeer ambush.
Further back in the Paleolithic interpretations of H.neanderthal bones from the Combe Grenal site in France show no difference in the paleopathology of the bones or teeth suggesting that women joined in with the rough, tough neanderthal way of hunting. I know of at least two male bodies from prehistory which show hypertrophy and extreme wear of the right arm and it would be interesting to see if any division of labour could be determined through paleopathology.
Rather than a subjugation of women a division of labour resulting in higher maternal care would be beneficial to the species H.sapiens, especially in an environment where big game hunting is of prime importance, and may well give the species an "edge".
|meet the wife!|