A long time ago early humans, or rather, hominids, discovered by smacking rocks together they could make a very useful tool we now call the hand axe (not with a handle as we understand an axe, but a sharp rock held in the hand). We began the journey to our present society with these amazing tools that allowed us to butcher large animal carcasses and crack bones. This was great but we were still getting eaten by predators. We learned to make fire and at the same time to sharpen and harden the wooden tips of spears. This was much better but these sticks and stones were not as good as they could be. At some point we began to lash a stone point onto the spear and this, along with our ability to cook food with fire, suddenly made us the ultimate predators and the rulers of our African environment. All that was left was to remove the skins of animals, shape them into protection for our feet, wrap them around us to protect us from exposure to cold, and humans were on their way to wherever we wanted to go. Where to go? Where there was either more food or nobody else trying to kill us, or both.
From wiki: “Around 200,000 BP Middle Paleolithic Stone tool manufacturing spawned a tool-making technique known as the prepared-core technique, that was more elaborate than previous Acheulean techniques. Wallace and Shea split the core artifacts into two different types: formal cores and expedient cores. Formal cores are designed to extract the maximum amount from the raw material while expedient cores are more based on function need. This method increased efficiency by permitting the creation of more controlled and consistent flakes. This method allowed Middle Paleolithic humans correspondingly to create stone-tipped spears, which were the earliest composite tools, by hafting sharp, pointy stone flakes onto wooden shafts. [23“
“According to the theory of the recent African origin of modern humans, anatomically modern humans began migrating out of Africa during the Middle Stone Age/Middle Paleolithic around 125,000 years ago and began to replace earlier pre-existent Homo species such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus.”
As humans spread across the planet, they had already developed socials behaviors tens of thousands of years old. And we still carry those nascent urges to organize and function together in certain patterns in our genes.
“There are many theories on the evolution of behavioral modernity. These generally fall into two camps: gradualist and cognitive approaches. The Later Upper Paleolithic Model theorizes that modern human behavior arose through cognitive, genetic changes abruptly around 40,000–50,000 years ago. Other models focus on how modern human behavior may have arisen through gradual steps, with the archaeological signatures of such behavior appearing only through demographic or subsistence-based changes.”
“Hunter-gatherers tend to have an egalitarian social ethos. Nearly all African hunter-gatherers are egalitarian, with women roughly as influential and powerful as men. For example, the San people or “Bushmen” of southern Africa have social customs that strongly discourage hoarding and displays of authority, and encourage economic equality via sharing of food and material goods.Karl Marx defined this socio-economic system as primitive communism.“
The egalitarianism typical of human hunters and gatherers is never total, but is striking[according to whom?] when viewed in an evolutionary context. One of humanity’s two closest primate relatives, chimpanzees, are anything but egalitarian, forming themselves into hierarchies that are often dominated by an alpha male. So great is the contrast with human hunter-gatherers that it is widely argued by palaeoanthropologists that resistance to being dominated was a key factor driving the evolutionary emergence of human consciousness, language, kinship and social organization.
In other words, humans became egalitarian because they were unhappy about being bullied by alpha males.
“Anthropologists maintain that hunter-gatherers do not have permanent leaders; instead, the person taking the initiative at any one time depends on the task being performed. In addition to social and economic equality in hunter-gatherer societies, there is often, though not always, sexual parity as well. Hunter-gatherers are often grouped together based on kinship and band (or tribe) membership. Postmarital residence among hunter-gatherers tends to be matrilocal, at least initially. Young mothers can enjoy childcare support from their own mothers, who continue living nearby in the same camp. The systems of kinship and descent among human hunter-gatherers were relatively flexible, although there is evidence that early human kinship in general tended to be matrilineal.“
One common arrangement is the sexual division of labour, with women doing most of the gathering, while men concentrate on big game hunting. In all hunter-gatherer societies, women appreciate the meat brought back to camp by men. An illustrative account is Megan Biesele’s study of the southern African Ju/’hoan, ‘Women Like Meat’. Recent archaeological research suggests that the sexual division of labor was the fundamental organisational innovation that gave Homo sapiens the edge over the Neanderthals, allowing our ancestors to migrate from Africa and spread across the globe.
A 1986 study found most hunter-gatherers have a symbolically structured sexual division of labour. However, it is true that in a small minority of cases, women hunt the same kind of quarry as men, sometimes doing so alongside men. Among the Ju’/hoansi people of Namibia, women help men track down quarry. Women in the Australian Martu also primarily hunt small animals to feed their children and maintain relations with other women.
At the 1966 “Man the Hunter” conference, anthropologists Richard Borshay Lee and Irven DeVore suggested that egalitarianism was one of several central characteristics of nomadic hunting and gathering societies because mobility requires minimization of material possessions throughout a population. Therefore, no surplus of resources can be accumulated by any single member. Other characteristics Lee and DeVore proposed were flux in territorial boundaries as well as in demographic composition.
At the same conference, Marshall Sahlins presented a paper entitled, “Notes on the Original Affluent Society“, in which he challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherers lives as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”, as Thomas Hobbes had put it in 1651. According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well. Their “affluence” came from the idea that they were satisfied with very little in the material sense. Later, in 1996, Ross Sackett performed two distinct meta-analyses to empirically test Sahlin’s view. The first of these studies looked at 102 time-allocation studies, and the second one analyzed 207 energy-expenditure studies. Sackett found that adults in foraging and horticultural societies work, on average, about 6.5 hours a day, whereas people in agricultural and industrial societies work on average 8.8 hours a day.
Researchers Gurven and Kaplan have estimated that around 57% of hunter-gatherers reach the age of 15. Of those that reach 15 years of age, 64% continue to live to or past the age of 45. This places the life expectancy between 21 and 37 years. They further estimate that 70% of deaths are due to diseases of some kind, 20% of deaths come from violence or accidents and 10% are due to degenerative diseases.
Mutual exchange and sharing of resources (i.e., meat gained from hunting) are important in the economic systems of hunter-gatherer societies. Therefore, these societies can be described as based on a “gift economy.”
A 2010 paper argued that while hunter-gatherers may have lower levels of inequality than modern, industrialised societies, that does not mean inequality does not exist. The researchers estimated that the average Gini coefficient amongst hunter-gatherers was 0.25, equivalent to the country of Denmark in 2007. In addition, wealth transmission across generations was also a feature of hunter-gatherers, meaning that “wealthy” hunter-gatherers, within the context of their communities, were more likely to have children as wealthy as them than poorer members of their community and indeed hunter-gatherer societies demonstrate an understanding of social stratification. Thus while the researchers agreed that hunter-gatherers were more egalitarian than modern societies, prior characterisations of them living in a state of egalitarian primitive communism were inaccurate and misleading.
Hunter-gatherer societies manifest significant variability, depending on climate zone/life zone, available technology, and societal structure. Archaeologists examine hunter-gatherer tool kits to measure variability across different groups. Collard et al. (2005) found temperature to be the only statistically significant factor to impact hunter-gatherer tool kits. Using temperature as a proxy for risk, Collard et al.’s results suggest that environments with extreme temperatures pose a threat to hunter-gatherer systems significant enough to warrant increased variability of tools. These results support Torrence’s (1989) theory that risk of failure is indeed the most important factor in determining the structure of hunter-gatherer toolkits.
One way to divide hunter-gatherer groups is by their return systems. James Woodburn uses the categories “immediate return” hunter-gatherers for egalitarian and “delayed return” for nonegalitarian. Immediate return foragers consume their food within a day or two after they procure it. Delayed return foragers store the surplus food (Kelly, 31).
The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is not necessarily a one way process. It has been argued that hunting and gathering represents an adaptive strategy, which may still be exploited, if necessary, when environmental change causes extreme food stress for agriculturalists. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear line between agricultural and hunter-gatherer societies, especially since the widespread adoption of agriculture and resulting cultural diffusion that has occurred in the last 10,000 years. This anthropological view has remained unchanged since the 1960s.
Nowadays, some scholars speak about the existence within cultural evolution of the so-called mixed-economies or dual economies which imply a combination of food procurement (gathering and hunting) and food production or when foragers have trade relations with farmers.
Many hunter-gatherers consciously manipulate the landscape through cutting or burning undesirable plants while encouraging desirable ones, some even going to the extent of slash-and-burn to create habitat for game animals. These activities are on an entirely different scale to those associated with agriculture, but they are nevertheless domestication on some level. Some agriculturalists also regularly hunt and gather (e.g., farming during the frost-free season and hunting during the winter
So…how did we go from people only concerned about Calories to the prosperity gospel and Donald Trump?