Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Most of Human History

Most of Human History

For most of human history, humans have been hunter-gatherers.

From about 83,000 BC to about 10,000 BC, men hunted for meat and women gathered vegetation.

We know that around 13,000 BC, the hunter-gatherers went around with spears, traded food, sang songs and believed in a spirit world.

The hunter-gatherers' dependence on sharing each other's hunting and gathering apparently made them 'remarkably egalitarian.' (Hunter-gatherers Noble or savage? Economist.com).

There was no big gap between rich and poor. There was no feudal system or fascist elite.

Today, in the remoter parts of the world, we can still find hunter-gatherers; there are, for example, the people of the North Sentinel Island in the Andamans.

There is a dispute in the world of anthropology about whether or not the hunter-gatherers were less violent or more violent than present day humans.

If we look at the world of chimpanzees we may get some clues.

1. Bonobo chimps are peaceful bisexual creatures.

2. Jane Goodall demonstrated that some of the common chimps can get rather violent on occasions. However, it has been argued that it was Jane Goodall's interference with the lives of the chimps that created the violence that she witnessed. (The Anthropik Network » Noble or Savage? Both. (Part 1))

"Chimpanzees in the wild roam widely, rarely confronting each other in direct competition over food. Goodall’s artificial feeding, practiced from 1964 to 1968, introduced direct competition among the apes for the first time. Bunched around the feeding boxes and often frustrated by not obtaining the bananas (which were doled out according to specific schedules), the animals began to engage in more intense forms of competitive, aggressive, and threatening behavior than was known to occur in the wild." (The Anthropik Network » Noble or Savage? Both. (Part 1))

Apparently some of the hunter-gatherers went in for tribal warfare. Lawrence Keeley of the University of Illinois calculates a warfare death rate of 0.5% of the population per year as typical of hunter-gatherer societies.

Some people believe Keeley greatly exaggerates the level of violence.

Let us consider the North American Red Indians. According to The Anthropik Network » Noble or Savage? Both. (Part 1):

Researchers examined thousands of Native American skeletons and found that those from after Christopher Columbus landed in the New World showed a rate of traumatic injuries more than 50 percent higher than those from before the Europeans arrived.

“Traumatic injuries do increase really significantly,” said Philip L. Walker, an anthropology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who conducted the study with Richard H. Steckel of Ohio State University.

The findings suggest “Native Americans were involved in more violence after the Europeans arrived than before,” Walker said.


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