Modeling the Past: The Primatological Approach

  • Robert W. Sussman
  • Donna Hart
Living reference work entry


Many models have been developed to depict the behavior and ecology of our earliest relatives. However, the Man the Hunter model has been the most widely accepted way of viewing human evolution. This theory gained ground in the mid-twentieth century and has been recycled ever since under various guises in the scientific and popular literature. Many human traits, such as bipedalism, monogamy, territoriality, tool use, technological invention, male aggression, group living, and sociality, are often linked to this perspective. Although theories and associations of human aggressive hunters abound, they are rarely based on the two evidentiary approaches that shed light on early hominin ecology and behavior – living primate models and the fossil record. Here, an outline is given on a methodology of reconstructing early human behavior by using both the fossil record and extant primate ecology and behavior. Data on early human fossils, on modern primates living in similar habitats to our earliest ancestors, and on rates of predation both today and in the distant past indicate that Man the Hunted may be a more accurate descriptor of our earliest relatives. Here evidence for the Man the Hunted theory, some of the behavioral patterns that were needed to protect our earliest ancestors from predation, and how this may lead to a new perspective on certain aspects of human nature are described.


Modern Human Early Hominid Early Hominins Edge Species Early Ancestor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWashington University at St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MissouriSt. LouisUSA

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