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Who did the hunting in the stone age?

(126 Posts)
Mercedes519 Tue 16-Oct-18 15:43:38

So DD (8) today learnt that men did the hunting in the stone age.

Keen to knock down the patriarchy one brick at a time we talked about the fact that the person who decided that men hunted in the stone age was a man. And therefore could have been biased.

But before I get all exercised on the subject I shall ask the wisdom of Mumsnet - is there any evidence for the male hunter and female gatherer we all learnt at school or is it just bullshit?

AviatorShades Tue 16-Oct-18 15:53:21

Gosh! That's interesting! Bookmarking to see if anyone can come up with wall/cave drawings to show women hunters. Brilliant question from your DD.

givemushypeasachance Tue 16-Oct-18 15:53:44

There's a wikipedia page outlining some of the evidence/debate

Where women did gather, they supplied a much more reliable source of calories than the men did from riskier hunting.

MrsAird Tue 16-Oct-18 16:02:46

Slingshots, lariats, blowpipes. No need for great upper body strength with these, so every reason to think that women hunted as well as men.

And those groups who hunted probably only did so a few times per year (so says Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens).

DGRossetti Tue 16-Oct-18 16:08:35

There was a fascinating documentary a few years back about how humans have developed cooking food, and speculation that it was eating cooked food that led to our larger brains (alternatively, it was our larger brains that led to cooking ....)

As part of it, they followed an African tribe that is still hunter-gatherer based. It was definitely the men that did the hunting (it showed them trapping, killing, and roasting a porcupine). Women remained behind child rearing and gathering (at the same time !).

What I found most amazing was the fact that they have excavated 2,000,000 year old campfires across Africa ... showing we've been cooking a long time.

IcedPurple Tue 16-Oct-18 16:30:57

I believe that hunting was almost exclusively the preserve of men - some have theorised that this may be the reason why men on average have developed greater spatial awareness than women.

That said, however, as someone pointed out above, women still had a subustantial role to play in obtaining food. Indeed, the plants and roots gathered by women would have been a more reliable year-round source of calories than meat, which was only sporadically available and obtained at great risk to the hunters.

Atchiclees Tue 16-Oct-18 16:38:56

No way would I be arsed going hunting with no guarantee of returning with food and the potential to be trampled on by fleeing animals, if I could get someone else to do it whilst I went picking berries and gathering cereals. Far more enjoyable and guaranteed results for the kids, although I do luffs a good bbq wink

AssassinatedBeauty Tue 16-Oct-18 17:07:29

There cannot possibly be enough evidence to say for certain.

This article has an interesting start on this subject, unfortunately I can't see the whole article:

Fluffyears Tue 16-Oct-18 17:09:48

I watched a documentary about how women’s and men’s brains are different. Menwere hubters, women weee gatherers. Women can multi-task from looking after children and doing several things at once, they also have better peripheral vision for protection and to be able to see what is happening with children, animals,the fore etc.

Men are faster and stronger and their bodies are developed to cover more distance faster, they have larger hearts and lungs to help. They have better spacial awareness. They can take a map or an image and turn it around in their mind whereas many women, me included, need to turn the physical map so it points to where we are going. It was quite interesting as I get lost quite easily whereas the men I know as fantastic at direction and knowing a place really quickly.

Mercedes519 Tue 16-Oct-18 17:24:44

Thanks everyone. Interesting what you say fluffy but I wonder if that is cause or effect? Given women bear and suckle children they would likely stay round the cave for some of the time - maybe they developed the traits because they were more effective?

Mercedes519 Tue 16-Oct-18 17:25:44

And yes, sensible people would choose the berries over the mammoth surely!? grin

AssassinatedBeauty Tue 16-Oct-18 17:44:53

@Fluffyears if you're interested in how brains are different, could I suggest a really interesting book called "Delusions of Gender" by Cordelia Fine. Lots of discussion about how and why brains are different from each other.

Fluffyears Tue 16-Oct-18 17:50:36

@assasibatedbeauty that sounds really interesting. I really think how our brains and bodies evolve is really amazing.

JaneJeffer Tue 16-Oct-18 18:07:58
I watched this recently. The women do everything except herd cattle and hunt. I imagine Stone Age living was pretty much like this although obviously I can't know for sure!

AdaColeman Tue 16-Oct-18 18:20:54

While I tend to agree that men were probably the hunters (speed etc etc) I've long thought that women must have been the first farmers.
Cleverly realising that she could plant her favourite berries near to her cave, or moving young plants into a convenient group.

Fluffyears Tue 16-Oct-18 18:39:18

@adacoleman that sounds very possible.

NewName54321 Tue 16-Oct-18 19:02:08

Don't know about the hunters - always presumed it was teams of men and boys.

There is a theory that girls were the gatherers, so the common attraction to certain “fruit” colours like pink, and the ability to spot objects against a complex background are actually a throwback to survival strategies.

AssassinatedBeauty Tue 16-Oct-18 19:08:27

These are all massive modern day assumptions based on guessing. No actual evidence for any of these. And pink used to be a boys colour as it was light red and considered manly.

Nuffaluff Tue 16-Oct-18 19:09:12

I’ve been teaching my Year 3s about this. We watched the BBC ‘history of Britain’ video that shows females gathering and males hunting. We talked about this very issue and I said there isn’t enough evidence to say for certain whether any women hunted (but that I thought some probably did). I used it as an opportunity to talk about how our view of history can be sexist.
It went right over their heads I think. Then we went on to discuss if they had games consoles in the Stone Age.

Nuffaluff Tue 16-Oct-18 19:13:51

There are lots of theories to explain why women and girls are bound to be feminine and girly. Theories that suggest a patriarchal society is inevitable, natural, because it’s obviously always been like that.
All invented by men.
Pink is just about my least favourite colour. I must have touch with my Stone Age roots.

Nuffaluff Tue 16-Oct-18 19:14:10

Lost touch

kooshbin Tue 16-Oct-18 19:20:55

Interesting question, and I have some thoughts, but gained from reading about anthropology, which goes back into the time of the hominids rather than the stone age:

Why is hunting regarded as riskier than gathering? A group of humans staying in one place would be smelled a mile off by a predator.

How often did they hunt? Chimpanzees do hunt in groups of males, but not very often. Bonobos, it seems, don’t hunt at all.

What constitutes “hunting”? Most anthropologists seem to include scavenging as hunting. There’s evidence in Jersey of a lot of animal bones plus hominid tools at the bottom of a cliff. And those animals include those in their prime, not just the old or the young. That’s driving a herd over a cliff, which is also counted as hunting. I could imagine that every able-bodied person, whatever their sex, would be involved in that.

And then there’s the question of what “gathering” or “farming” involves. There’s no evidence, but I can’t imagine that young boys and old men would simply be sitting back at the cave.

So, I think like all things to do with humans, it isn’t quite that simple.

Nuffaluff - love the discussion on games consoles in the Stone Age. grin

SpamChaudFroid Tue 16-Oct-18 19:24:45

this may be the reason why men on average have developed greater spatial awareness than women

Aren't brains unisex though? And any differences are forged in the neural pathways by the way brain owners use their brain and the influence of social constructs ie. gender?

Mercedes519 Tue 16-Oct-18 19:55:42

koosh very interesting. I guess the whole having babies thing and feeding them is always going to keep women close to their home/protective place more than the men. And they would have more babies probably so you’d spend a lot of your life. And then any differences would be increased as we evolved.

nuff not sure DD really thought too hard about the inherent sexism either but thank you for trying!

lljkk Tue 16-Oct-18 20:20:36

A lot of humans early hunting was chasing things off of cliffs. Then hauling home the carcass or bits of it, and very physical work converting bones & stones into tools, scraping carcasses to make into early furs. Strength & stamina were terribly important. I think this is how native Americans mostly hunted b4 horses arrived (they would burn the prairies to drive herds of bison off a cliff).

Look at how chimpanzees hunt. The males drive the hunt which is not daily, while activity by both sexes ensure food security for the troop on day-to-day basis. Meat sources of protein & heme iron are terribly important & can't be replaced from veg sources.

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