Big-Game Hunting in Human Evolution: The Traditional View

  • John D. Speth
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


The “Holy Trinity” of human evolution – hunting, meat-eating, and the animal protein thereby derived – in some form or other has dominated our view of human origins and evolution for well over a century. From Darwin’s pioneering look at humans as predators in The Decent of Man (1871), to a precocious series of late nineteenth- and very early twentieth-century precursors to Dart’s (1957) bone-wielding killer-ape hypothesis (Morris 1886; Campbell 1904; Read 1914; interestingly summarized in Cartmill 1993), to Ardrey’s (1961) highly controversial popularization of Dart’s ideas, to Washburn and Lancaster’s (1968) rather amusing (and sexist) attempt to attribute virtually everything “human” to our zest for hunting, to almost every contemporary textbook treatment in paleoanthropology, the ever-more-effective pursuit of large game stands at the very core of our perceived understanding of how we came to be what we are. True, our views about hunting and meat-eating have shifted and morphed in myriad ways over the decades. Yet, through all of its many transformations and reconfigurations, at times influenced as much by issues of gender and feminism, and even political correctness, as by empirical findings in the fossil and archaeological records (see discussions, for example, in Cartmill 1993; Hart and Sussman 2008; Slocum 1975; Sussman 1999; Wrangham and Peterson 1996; Zihlman 1978), the Man the Hunter (or Man the Scavenger) focus remains very much alive and well (e.g., Bramble and Lieberman 2004; Bunn 2007a; Larsen 2003; Leonard et al. 2007a, b; Milton 1999, 2003; Pickering and Bunn 2007; Stanford 1999).


Archaeological Record Large Game Genus Homo Early Homo Optimal Forage Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum of AnthropologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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