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So... anyone know about cave people and how their societies were organised?

(40 Posts)
StaceySolomonismyHeroine Mon 22-Nov-10 21:40:09

Because I was discussing this with a friend the other day. He said that all the cave paintings ever discovered, show men hunting and I was dubious.

So.... tell me about the division of labour by gender in early human society? I know there's an expert out there somewhere.

sethstarkaddersmum Mon 22-Nov-10 21:44:32

I don't think we do know (not an expert but have discussed in the past with people who are).
Some people use the analogy of contemporary hunter-gatherers and look at how they are organised in different tribes.
Then there is skeletal evidence and IIRC once farming starts you get noticeably different wear patterns in male and female skeletal remains suggesting that women by that time spent time on repetitive tasks like grinding corn but I don't know if there is anything substantial from before the Neolithic.

don't know much about cave paintings but from what I can remember the figures are generally so simple that you can't tell if they're men or women.

PamelaFlitton Mon 22-Nov-10 21:46:24

I don't think people can really tell that much. If it's as vague as Classics (which is obviously later) then it's mostly conjecture

AliceWorld Mon 22-Nov-10 21:48:25

Don't know but I do know that history is written in a way that makes sense in the present, so I don't really buy into any 'this is the way it was' stuff.

sethstarkaddersmum Mon 22-Nov-10 21:49:51

it's waaaaay vaguer than Classics!
often our identification of male/female skeletons is uncertain anyway (according to an ex-flatmate of mine who was doing her Masters on it).

PamelaFlitton Mon 22-Nov-10 21:53:12

So pretty pointless talking about it really...

Saltatrix Mon 22-Nov-10 21:53:29

Well it is very likely that males would do the majority of the hunting, by the way hunting was not something that took 1hr it could take days in order to be able to obtain the meat needed for their group. Which would normally leave females and young males to care for the 'camp' gather etc

There are many old tribes that exist today and have been found to still live in the manner of their ancestors. I am trying to remember the name of one but can't at the moment but the one I am thinking about are believed to still live in the way their ancestors did before people even left Africa (that's before cavemen).

Also it is important to remember that survival was key, so everyone would fulfil their role in order to promote the success of their group.

sethstarkaddersmum Mon 22-Nov-10 21:56:03

or young fit people hunt, pregnant and elderly women and old men stay with the children....

we simply don't know.

pippitysqueakity Mon 22-Nov-10 21:56:31

And the other side to this is, if the men did go hunting, and killed a (say ) deer, that would feed the cave dwellers for a few days. But the ones who gathered the fruit/veg/crops, used them to make meals, preserved them, etc etc etc, probably fed the families a lot more for a lot longer.ie women, children, the older men who survived the hunting.
Sorry, probably preaching to converted here, bit of bugbear of mine [how sad am I emoticon...]

StaceySolomonismyHeroine Mon 22-Nov-10 22:02:25

Am particularly interested in this assertion that cave paintings show that all hunters were men. As I understand it, they are all jsut stick people, so does anyone know why he's saying they are all men? Has anyone done any reputable research to evidence that?

Ripeberry Mon 22-Nov-10 22:05:39

Not found any stick people with protrusions on their upper chest grin

Snorbs Mon 22-Nov-10 22:09:41

I'm pretty sure that it was mentioned on Radio 4's "A History of the World in 100 Objects" that some of the oldest statues ever found are of fertility goddesses.

StaceySolomonismyHeroine Mon 22-Nov-10 22:11:20

Ooh that series was great wasn't it? A real little gem of restfulness every day.

Wish I'd concentrated on it a bit more...

sethstarkaddersmum Mon 22-Nov-10 22:11:26

I think that's right Snorbs, but it doesn't prove anything either way about who did the hunting....

PrematureEjoculation Mon 22-Nov-10 22:15:14

the worlds current tribal societies have a decent variety of arrangmenets depending onthe specific circs -

bhuan has single women marrying groups of men, and the men doing the food production so she gets to look after kids, andweaving etc..

that strong man programme showed a group in East Timor where men and women lived fairly separate - women fishing, gathering sogo and men hunting..both gathering foods.

i've heard of African tribes where the women own all land and animals, and farm it, and the men are more like drones...

depending on how far back you want to look, and where...

ancient Crete was thought to be matriarchal as the worship is of largely female idols....but again...big conjecture on that one!

Indelible Mon 22-Nov-10 22:17:16

Never a good idea to read too much into studies of one particular hunter-gatherer society, since they are all different from each other (as industrialised societies differ from each other). But this is an interesting article on male and female roles in a contemporary hunter-gather society.

Sprogger Mon 22-Nov-10 22:21:27

I wish I could remember some more of the facts off the top of my head, but my BFF's mother is an eminent primatologist and she's always poured scorn on the "just look at cavemen/women" justification of modern sexism. She's adamant that the time period people are talking about yields sweet F.A. when it comes to human behaviour.

And you can't use chimps to justify sexism, either. She'll go off on a super-impressive rant about bonobos.

She's really quite inspiring. grin

scallopsrgreat Mon 22-Nov-10 22:34:39

There is this thread which goes onto quite an interesting discussion about the myths of the hunter/gatherers. Swallowedafly seemed to know quite a bit.

TrillianAstra Mon 22-Nov-10 22:34:43

Does it matter?

What if all cave men hunted and all cave women gathered? So what then? Does it mean something that impacts upon the way we think society should be arranged?

Saltatrix Mon 22-Nov-10 22:38:26

No Trillian it really does not matter the things done at such a time were done for efficiency life was certainly not as easy as it is now 'relatively' at least for the UK.

Snorbs Mon 22-Nov-10 23:59:20

Fair point. Fertility goddess statues don't say a lot about hunting parties. But the conversation about wall paintings typically only presenting male figures just reminded me about that little factoid about the female form in ancient art.

And fertility goddess statues do suggest - even if they don't prove - that women were important in a spiritual sense in those societies. And arguably more important than they are in most contemporary religions to boot.

duchesse Tue 23-Nov-10 00:06:16

I thought that cave paintings were mostly of stick people with no obvious gender.

Also I thought that in some "primitive" (by which I mean untouched by modern western values) societies throughout the globe nowadays, the whole tribe goes hunting together? Didn't many native American tribes also go hunting as a whole tribe? Given how small neolithic family groups were (about 30 I thought from memory) I would be surprised if at least some women didn't go hunting as well simply because numbers would have been insufficient of healthy fit adults if only men had been eligible.

Oh dear, that sounds like all hearsay, but I swear it's gleaned from bits here and there and a variety of sources (OK, mostly National Geographic).

<knows that doesn't help at all>

StaceySolomonismyHeroine Tue 23-Nov-10 19:00:48

Well that's what I thought Duchesse, but my mate was quite sure that all cave paintings everywhere show men.

Isn't that just anthropologists looking at paintings of stick people and assuming that as men are the default human, that must mean that if breast bumps and long hair aren't added, stick figures can't be women? In other words, looking at those paintings through their own cultural spectacles?

I remember Sakura posting that when Japanese people see stick people depicted, they presume they're women. Must make LS Lowry frightfully confusing for them.

StaceySolomonismyHeroine Tue 23-Nov-10 21:06:50

So what d'you think of these links?

Quite interesting am too lazy to read properly but a couple fo things jumped out at me - that men appear to do most of food collection in cold climates and women in hot climates, but can't work out why.

This also jumped out at me and made me slightly confused:

"Hunter-gatherer societies were now perceived as sexually egalitarian, and thus the idea that men and women are equal (Kelly 2007: 262)"

It's that thus. Thus? Thus? Eh?

StaceySolomonismyHeroine Tue 23-Nov-10 21:07:49

oops, forgot to post the links

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