Over Hunting Definition Essay

For other uses, see Hunting (disambiguation).

"Hunter" redirects here. For other uses, see Hunter (disambiguation).

Hunting is the practice of killing or trapping animals, or pursuing or tracking them with the intent of doing so. Hunting wildlife or feral animals is most commonly done by humans for food, recreation, to remove predators that are dangerous to humans or domestic animals, or for trade. Lawful hunting is distinguished from poaching, which is the illegal killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species. The species that are hunted are referred to as game or prey and are usually mammals and birds.

Hunting can also be a means of pest control. Hunting advocates state that hunting can be a necessary component[1] of modern wildlife management, for example, to help maintain a population of healthy animals within an environment's ecological carrying capacity when natural checks such as predators are absent or very rare.[2] However, excessive hunting has also heavily contributed to the endangerment, extirpation and extinction of many animals.[3]

The pursuit, capture and release, or capture for food of fish is called fishing, which is not commonly categorised as a form of hunting. It is also not considered hunting to pursue animals without intent to kill them, as in wildlife photography, birdwatching, or scientific research activities which involve tranquilizing or tagging of animals or birds. The practice of foraging or gathering materials from plants and mushrooms is also considered separate from hunting.

Skillful tracking and acquisition of an elusive target has caused the word hunt to be used in the vernacular as a metaphor, as in treasure hunting, "bargain hunting", and even "hunting down corruption and waste.


The word "hunt" serves as both a noun ("to be on a hunt") and a verb. The noun has been dated to the early 12th century, "act of chasing game," from the verb hunt. Old English had huntung, huntoþ. The meaning of "a body of persons associated for the purpose of hunting with a pack of hounds" is first recorded in the 1570s. Meaning "the act of searching for someone or something" is from about 1600.

The verb, Old English huntian "to chase game" (transitive and intransitive), perhaps developed from hunta "hunter," is related to hentan "to seize," from Proto-Germanichuntojan (the source also of Gothichinþan "to seize, capture," Old High Germanhunda "booty"), which is of uncertain origin. The general sense of "search diligently" (for anything) is first recorded c. 1200.[4]



Further information: Hunting hypothesis and Endurance running hypothesis

Hunting has a long history and may well pre-date the rise of the species Homo sapiens (humans). While humans' earliest hominid ancestors were probably frugivores or omnivores, there is evidence that earlier Homo species,[5][6] and possibly also australopithecine[7] species, utilised larger animals for subsistence. Evidence from western Kenya suggests that hunting has been occurring for more than two million years.[8]

Furthermore, evidence exists that hunting may have been one of the multiple environmental factors leading to the Holocene extinction of megafauna and their replacement by smaller herbivores.[9]North American megafauna extinction was coincidental with the Younger Dryas impact event, possibly making hunting a less critical factor in prehistoric species loss than had been previously thought.[10] However, in other locations such as Australia, humans are thought to have played a very significant role in the extinction of the Australian megafauna that was widespread prior to human occupation.[11][12]

The closest surviving relatives of the human species are the two species of Pan: the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus). Common chimpanzees have an omnivorousdiet that includes troop hunting behaviour based on beta males being led by an alpha male. Bonobos have also been observed to occasionally engage in group hunting,[13] but eat a mostly frugivorous diet.[14]

While it is undisputed that early humans were hunters, the importance of this for the emergence of the Homo genus from the earlier Australopithecines, including the production of stone tools and eventually the control of fire, are emphasised in the hunting hypothesis and de-emphasised in scenarios that stress omnivory and social interaction, including mating behaviour, as essential in the emergence of human behavioural modernity. With the establishment of language, culture, and religion, hunting became a theme of stories and myths, as well as rituals such as dance and animal sacrifice.

Archaeological evidence found in present-day Germany documents that wooden spears have been used for hunting since at least 400,000 years ago,[15] and a 2012 study suggests that Homo heidelbergensis may have developed the technology about 500,000 years ago.[16] Wood does not preserve well, however, and Craig Stanford, a primatologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California, has suggested that the discovery of spear use by chimpanzees probably means that early humans used wooden spears as well, perhaps, five million years ago.[17]

Hunting was a crucial component of hunter-gatherer societies before the domestication of livestock and the dawn of agriculture, beginning about 11,000 years ago. By the Mesolithic, hunting strategies had diversified with the development of the bow 18,000 years ago and the domestication of the dog about 15,000 years ago. Evidence puts the earliest known mammoth hunting in Asia with spears to approximately 16,200 years ago.[18]

Many species of animals have been hunted throughout history. It has been suggested that in North America and Eurasia, caribou and wild reindeer "may well be the species of single greatest importance in the entire anthropological literature on hunting"[19] (see also Reindeer Age), although the varying importance of different species depended on the geographic location.

Hunter-gathering lifestyles remained prevalent in some parts of the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Siberia, as well as all of Australia, until the European Age of Discovery. They still persist in some tribal societies, albeit in rapid decline. Peoples that preserved Paleolithic hunting-gathering until the recent past include some indigenous peoples of the Amazonas (Aché), some Central and Southern African (San people), some peoples of New Guinea (Fayu), the Mlabri of Thailand and Laos, the Vedda people of Sri Lanka, and a handful of uncontacted peoples. In Africa, one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes are the Hadza of Tanzania.[20]


Archaeologist Louis Binford criticised the idea that early hominids and early humans were hunters. On the basis of the analysis of the skeletal remains of the consumed animals, he concluded that hominids and early humans were mostly scavengers, not hunters,[21] and this idea is popular among some archaeologists and paleoanthropologists. Robert Blumenschine proposed the idea of confrontational scavenging,[22] which involves challenging and scaring off other predatorsafter they have made a kill, which he suggests could have been the leading method of obtaining protein-rich meat by early humans.


Even as animal domestication became relatively widespread and after the development of agriculture, hunting was usually a significant contributor to the human food supply. The supplementary meat and materials from hunting included protein, bone for implements, sinew for cordage, fur, feathers, rawhide and leather used in clothing. Man's earliest hunting weapons would have included rocks, spears, the atlatl, and bows and arrows. Hunting is still vital in marginal climates, especially those unsuited for pastoral uses or agriculture.[citation needed] For example, Inuit people in the Arctic trap and hunt animals for clothing and use the skins of sea mammals to make kayaks, clothing, and footwear.

On ancient reliefs, especially from Mesopotamia, kings are often depicted as hunters of big game such as lions and are often portrayed hunting from a war chariot. The cultural and psychological importance of hunting in ancient societies is represented by deities such as the horned godCernunnos and lunar goddesses of classical antiquity, the Greek Artemis or Roman Diana. Taboos are often related to hunting, and mythological association of prey species with a divinity could be reflected in hunting restrictions such as a reserve surrounding a temple. Euripides' tale of Artemis and Actaeon, for example, may be seen as a caution against disrespect of prey or impudent boasting.

With the domestication of the dog, birds of prey, and the ferret, various forms of animal-aided hunting developed, including venery (scent hound hunting, such as fox hunting), coursing (sight hound hunting), falconry, and ferreting. While these are all associated with medieval hunting, over time, various dog breeds were selected for very precise tasks during the hunt, reflected in such names as pointer and setter.

Pastoral and agricultural societies[edit]

Even as agriculture and animal husbandry became more prevalent, hunting often remained as a part of human culture where the environment and social conditions allowed. Hunter-gatherer societies persisted, even when increasingly confined to marginal areas. And within agricultural systems, hunting served to kill animals that prey upon domestic and wild animals or to attempt to extirpate animals seen by humans as competition for resources such as water or forage.

When hunting moved from a subsistence activity to a social one, two trends emerged:

  1. the development of the role of the specialist hunter, with special training and equipment
  2. the co-option of hunting as a "sport" for those of an upper social class

The meaning of the word game in Middle English evolved to include an animal which is hunted. As game became more of a luxury than a necessity, the stylised pursuit of it also became a luxury. Dangerous hunting, such as for lions or wild boars, often done on horseback or from a chariot, had a function similar to tournaments and manly sports. Hunting ranked as an honourable, somewhat competitive pastime to help the aristocracy practice skills of war in times of peace.[23]

In most parts of medieval Europe, the upper class obtained the sole rights to hunt in certain areas of a feudal territory. Game in these areas was used as a source of food and furs, often provided via professional huntsmen, but it was also expected to provide a form of recreation for the aristocracy. The importance of this proprietary view of game can be seen in the Robin Hood legends, in which one of the primary charges against the outlaws is that they "hunt the King's deer". In contrast, settlers in Anglophone colonies gloried democratically in hunting for all.[24]

In Medieval Europe, hunting was considered by Johannes Scotus Eriugena to be part of the set of seven mechanical arts.[25]

Use of dogs[edit]

Although various other animals have been used to aid the hunter, such as ferrets, the dog has assumed many very important uses to the hunter. The domestication of the dog has led to a symbiotic relationship in which the dog's independence from humans is deferred. Though dogs can survive independently of humans, and in many cases do, as with feral dogs, where hunger is not a primary factor, the species tends to defer to human control in exchange for habitation, food and support.[26]

Dogs today are used to find, chase, retrieve, and sometimes to kill the game. Hunting dogs allow humans to pursue and kill prey that would otherwise be very difficult or dangerous to hunt. Different breeds of dogs are used for different types of hunting. Waterfowl are commonly hunted using retrieving dogs such as the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the Brittany Spaniel, and other similar breeds. Game birds are flushed out using flushing spaniels such as the English Springer Spaniel, the various Cocker Spaniels and similar breeds.

The hunting of wild mammals in England and Wales with dogs was banned under the Hunting Act 2004. The wild mammals include fox, hare, deer and mink. Hunting with dogs is permissible, however, where it has been carried out in accordance with one of the exceptions in the Act.[27]


Further information: Homo Necans

Many prehistoric deities are depicted as predators or prey of humans, often in a zoomorphic form, perhaps alluding to the importance of hunting for most Palaeolithic cultures.

In many pagan religions, specific rituals are conducted before or after a hunt; the rituals done may vary according to the species hunted or the season the hunt is taking place.[citation needed] Often a hunting ground, or the hunt for one or more species, was reserved or prohibited in the context of a temple cult.[citation needed]

Indian and Eastern religions[edit]

Hindu scriptures describe hunting as an acceptable occupation, as well as a sport of the kingly. Even figures considered divine are described to have engaged in hunting. One of the names of the god Shiva is Mrigavyadha, which translates as "the deer hunter" (mriga means deer; vyadha means hunter). The word Mriga, in many Indian languages including Malayalam, not only stands for deer, but for all animals and animal instincts (Mriga Thrishna). Shiva, as Mrigavyadha, is the one who destroys the animal instincts in human beings. In the epic Ramayana, Dasharatha, the father of Rama, is said to have the ability to hunt in the dark. During one of his hunting expeditions, he accidentally killed Shravana, mistaking him for game. During Rama's exile in the forest, Ravana kidnapped his wife, Sita, from their hut, while Rama was asked by Sita to capture a golden deer, and his brother Lakshman went after him. According to the Mahabharat, Pandu, the father of the Pandavas, accidentally killed the sage Kindama and his wife with an arrow, mistaking them for a deer. Krishna is said to have died after being accidentally wounded by an arrow of a hunter.

Jainism teaches followers to have tremendous respect for all of life. Prohibitions for hunting and meat eating are the fundamental conditions for being a Jain.

Buddhism's first precept is the respect for all sentient life. The general approach by all Buddhists is to avoid killing any living animals. Buddha explained the issue by saying "all fear death; comparing others with oneself, one should neither kill nor cause to kill."

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam[edit]

From early Christian times, hunting has been forbidden to Roman Catholic Church clerics. Thus the Corpus Juris Canonici (C. ii, X, De cleric. venat.) says, "We forbid to all servants of God hunting and expeditions through the woods with hounds; and we also forbid them to keep hawks or falcons." The Fourth Council of the Lateran, held under Pope Innocent III, decreed (canon xv): "We interdict hunting or hawking to all clerics." The decree of the Council of Trent is worded more mildly: "Let clerics abstain from illicit hunting and hawking" (Sess. XXIV, De reform., c. xii), which seems to imply that not all hunting is illicit, and canonists generally make a distinction declaring noisy (clamorosa) hunting unlawful, but not quiet (quieta) hunting.

Ferraris (s.v. "Clericus", art. 6) gives it as the general sense of canonists that hunting is allowed to clerics if it be indulged in rarely and for sufficient cause, as necessity, utility or "honest" recreation, and with that moderation which is becoming to the ecclesiastical state. Ziegler, however (De episc., l. IV, c. xix), thinks that the interpretation of the canonists is not in accordance with the letter or spirit of the laws of the church.

Nevertheless, although a distinction between lawful and unlawful hunting is undoubtedly permissible, it is certain that a bishop can absolutely prohibit all hunting to the clerics of his diocese, as was done by synods at Milan, Avignon, Liège, Cologne, and elsewhere. Benedict XIV (De synodo diœces., l. II, c. x) declared that such synodal decrees are not too severe, as an absolute prohibition of hunting is more conformable to the ecclesiastical law. In practice, therefore, the synodal statutes of various localities must be consulted to discover whether they allow quiet hunting or prohibit it altogether.

It is important to note that most Christian, do not observe kosherdietary laws hence most Christian have no religious restrictions on eating the animals hunted. This is in accord with what is found in the Acts of the Apostles 15:28–29, and 1 Timothy 4:4.

In Jewish law hunting is not forbidden although there is an aversion to it. The great 18th-century authority Rabbi Yechezkel Landau after a study concluded although "hunting would not be considered cruelty to animals insofar as the animal is generally killed quickly and not tortured... There is an unseemly element in it, namely cruelty." The other issue is that hunting can be dangerous and Judaism places an extreme emphasis on the value of human life.[28][29]

Islamic Sharia Law permits hunting of lawful animals and birds if they cannot be easily caught and slaughtered.[30]

National traditions[edit]

New Zealand[edit]

Main article: Hunting in New Zealand

New Zealand has a strong hunting culture. The islands making up New Zealand originally had no land mammals apart from bats. However, once Europeans arrived, game animals were introduced by acclimatisation societies to provide New Zealanders with sport and a hunting resource. Deer, pigs, goats, hare, tahr and chamois all adapted well to the New Zealand terrain, and with no natural predators, their population exploded. Government agencies view the animals as pests due to their effects on the natural environment and on agricultural production, but hunters view them as a resource.

Shikar (Indian subcontinent)[edit]

During the feudal and colonial times in British India, hunting was regarded as a regal sport in the numerous princely states, as many maharajas and nawabs, as well as British officers, maintained a whole corps of shikaris (big-game hunters), who were native professional hunters. They would be headed by a master of the hunt, who might be styled mir-shikar. Often, they recruited the normally low-ranking local tribes because of their traditional knowledge of the environment and hunting techniques. Big game, such as Bengal tigers, might be hunted from the back of an elephant.

Regional social norms are generally antagonistic to hunting, while a few sects, such as the Bishnoi, lay special emphasis on the conservation of particular species, such as the antelope. India's Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 bans the killing of all wild animals. However, the Chief Wildlife Warden may, if satisfied that any wild animal from a specified list has become dangerous to human life, or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery, permit any person to hunt such an animal. In this case, the body of any wild animal killed or wounded becomes government property.[31]


Main article: Safari

A safari, from a Swahili word meaning "a long journey", especially in Africa, is defined as an overland journey.

Safari as a distinctive way of hunting was popularised by the US author Ernest Hemingway and President Theodore Roosevelt. A safari may consist of a several-days – or even weeks-long journey, with camping in the bush or jungle, while pursuing big game. Nowadays, it is often used to describe tours through African national parks to watch or hunt wildlife.

Hunters are usually tourists, accompanied by licensed and highly regulated professional hunters, local guides, skinners, and porters in more difficult terrains. A special safari type is the solo-safari, where all the license acquiring, stalking, preparation, and outfitting is done by the hunter himself.

United Kingdom[edit]

Main article: Hunting and shooting in the United Kingdom

See also: Deer stalking and Fox hunting legislation

Unarmed fox hunting on horseback with hounds is the type of hunting most closely associated with the United Kingdom; in fact, "hunting" without qualification implies fox hunting. What in other countries is called "hunting" is called "shooting" (birds) or "stalking" (deer) in Britain. Originally a form of vermin control to protect livestock, fox hunting became a popular social activity for newly wealthy upper classes in Victorian times and a traditional rural activity for riders and foot followers alike. Similar to fox hunting in many ways is the chasing of hares with hounds. Pairs of Sight hounds (or long-dogs), such as greyhounds, may be used to pursue a hare in coursing, where the greyhounds are marked as to their skill in coursing the hare (but are not intended to actually catch it), or the hare may be pursued with scent hounds such as beagles or harriers. Other sorts of foxhounds may also be used for hunting stags (deer) or mink. Deer stalking with rifles is carried out on foot without hounds, using stealth.

These forms of hunting have been controversial in the UK. Animal welfare supporters believe that hunting causes unnecessary suffering to foxes, horses, and hounds. Proponents argue that it is culturally and perhaps economically important. Using dogs to chase wild mammals was made illegal in February 2005 by the Hunting Act 2004; there were a number of exemptions (under which the activity may not be illegal) in the act for hunting with hounds, but no exemptions at all for hare-coursing.

Shooting traditions[edit]

Game birds, especially pheasants, are shot with shotguns for sport in the UK; the British Association for Shooting and Conservation says that over a million people per year participate in shooting, including game shooting, clay pigeon shooting, and target shooting.[32] Shooting as practised in Britain, as opposed to traditional hunting, requires little questing for game—around thirty-five million birds are released onto shooting estates every year, some having been factory farmed. Shoots can be elaborate affairs with guns placed in assigned positions and assistants to help load shotguns. When in position, "beaters" move through the areas of cover, swinging sticks or flags to drive the game out. Such events are often called "drives". The open season for grouse in the UK begins on 12 August, the so-called Glorious Twelfth. The definition of game in the United Kingdom is governed by the Game Act 1831.

A similar tradition exists in Spain

United States[edit]

North American hunting pre-dates the United States by thousands of years and was an important part of many pre-Columbian Native American cultures. Native Americans retain some hunting rights and are exempt from some laws as part of Indian treaties and otherwise under federal law—examples include eagle feather laws and exemptions in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This is considered particularly important in Alaskan native communities.

Hunting is primarily regulated by state law; additional regulations are imposed through United States environmental law in the case of migratory birds and endangered species. Regulations vary widely from state to state and govern the areas, time periods, techniques and methods by which specific game animals may be hunted. Some states make a distinction between protected species and unprotected species (often vermin or varmints for which there are no hunting regulations). Hunters of protected species require a hunting license in all states, for which completion of a hunting safety course is sometimes a prerequisite.

Typically, game animals are divided into several categories for regulatory purposes. Typical categories, along with example species, are as follows:

  • Big game: white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bear, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, boar, javelina, bison
  • Small game: rabbit, hare, squirrel, opossum, raccoon, porcupine, skunk, ring-tailed cat, armadillo, ruffed grouse
  • Furbearers: beaver, red fox, mink, pine marten, musk rat, otter, bobcat
  • Predators: cougar (mountain lion and panther), wolf, coyote
  • Upland game bird: grouse, woodcock, chukar, pheasant, quail, dove
  • Waterfowl: duck, teal, merganser, geese, swan

Hunting big game typically requires a "tag" for each animal harvested. Tags must be purchased in addition to the hunting license, and the number of tags issued to an individual is typically limited. In cases where there are more prospective hunters than the quota for that species, tags are usually assigned by lottery. Tags may be further restricted to a specific area, or wildlife management unit. Hunting migratory waterfowl requires a duck stamp from the Fish and Wildlife Service in addition to the appropriate state hunting license.

Harvest of animals other than big game is typically restricted by a bag limit and a possession limit. A bag limit is the maximum number of a specific animal species that an individual can harvest in a single day. A possession limit is the maximum number of a specific animal species that can be in an individual's possession at any time.


Gun usage in hunting is typically regulated by game category, area within the state, and time period. Regulations for big-game hunting often specify a minimum caliber or muzzle energy for firearms. The use of rifles is often banned for safety reasons in areas with high population densities or limited topographic relief. Regulations may also limit or ban the use of lead in ammunition because of environmental concerns. Specific seasons for bow hunting or muzzle-loadingblack-powder guns are often established to limit competition with hunters using more effective weapons.

Hunting in the United States is not associated with any particular class or culture; a 2006 poll showed seventy-eight percent of Americans supported legal hunting,[33] although relatively few Americans actually hunt. At the beginning of the 21st century, just six percent of Americans hunted. Southerners in states along the eastern seaboard hunted at a rate of five percent, slightly below the national average, and while hunting was more common in other parts of the South at nine percent, these rates did not surpass those of the Plains states, where twelve percent of Midwesterners hunted. Hunting in other areas of the country fell below the national average.[34] Overall, in the 1996–2006 period, the number of hunters over the age of sixteen declined by ten percent, a drop attributable to a number of factors including habitat loss and changes in recreation habits.[35]


Regulation of hunting within the United States dates from the 19th century. Some modern hunters see themselves as conservationists and sportsmen in the mode of Theodore Roosevelt and the Boone and Crockett Club. Local hunting clubs and national organizations provide hunter education and help protect the future of the sport by buying land for future hunting use. Some groups represent a specific hunting interest, such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, or the Delta Waterfowl Foundation. Many hunting groups also participate in lobbying the federal government and state government.

Each year, nearly $200 million in hunters' federal excise taxes are distributed to state agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes. Since 1934, the sale of Federal Duck Stamps, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunters over sixteen years old, has raised over $700 million to help purchase more than 5,200,000 acres (8,100 sq mi; 21,000 km2) of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System lands that support waterfowl and many other wildlife species and are often open to hunting. States also collect money from hunting licenses to assist with management of game animals, as designated by law. A key task of federal and state park rangers and game wardens is to enforce laws and regulations related to hunting, including species protection, hunting seasons, and hunting bans.

Varmint hunting[edit]

Main article: Varmint hunting

Varmint hunting is an American phrase for the selective killing of non-game animals seen as pests. While not always an efficient form of pest control, varmint hunting achieves selective control of pests while providing recreation and is much less regulated. Varmint species are often responsible for detrimental effects on crops, livestock, landscaping, infrastructure, and pets. Some animals, such as wild rabbits or squirrels, may be utilised for fur or meat, but often no use is made of the carcass. Which species are varmints depends on the circumstance and area. Common varmints may include various rodents, coyotes, crows, foxes, feral cats, and feral hogs. Some animals once considered varmints are now protected, such as wolves. In the US state of Louisiana, a non-native rodent, the coypu, has become so destructive to the local ecosystem that the state has initiated a bounty program to help control the population.

Fair chase[edit]

Main article: Fair chase

George Stubbs Cheetah with Two Indian Attendants and a Stag
Sharp flint piece from Bjerlev Hede in central Jutland. Dated around 12,500 BC and considered the oldest hunting tool from Denmark
Ladies hunting in the 15th century
Hunting Companions, Dutch 19th-century painting featuring two dogs, a shotgun and a game bag
A tiger hunt at Jhajjar, Rohtak District, Panjab
Nobleman in hunting costume with his servant following the scent of a stag, 14th century
Explorer and big game hunter Samuel Baker chased by an elephant

An archer with a compound hunting bow

A man target practicing for the hunting seasons
The coypu is hunted as a pest in Louisiana.

About 200,000 years ago, when humans first appeared, they lived as hunter-gatherers in small nomadic bands of 25-35. About 50,000 years ago, in apparently a single ‘dispersal', they migrated out of Africa where they had originated, into Arabia and southern Asia, then to Malaysia, Australia, and New Guinea, not reaching Europe until perhaps 40 to 45,000 years ago. No matter where they settled, whether in the desert or the subarctic, they continued the hunter-gatherer life style, adjusting it to the locale.

Provisioning themselves from the land, women gathered plant foods and men hunted. When collecting plants, women often carried their infants in a leather sling, on their hip. Women gathering plants, and men hunting was the trend, but the variability was broad. In the Arctic there were no plants to gather, and people lived on meat and blubber.

In braving the blizzards and the freezing temperatures, Inuits proved the obvious: Human adaptability has no limits. The sharing of wives rather than practicing monogamy as nearly all hunter-gatherer bands did, was an Inuit adaptation to the Arctic. Men who belonged to the same hunting party, shared wives. The wives, all of whom were potential widows, were well served by this communal arrangement, for Arctic hunting is extremely risky. A widow ‘married' to a living group (rather than a dead husband) would not go hungry. Nor would her children.

In the dense forests, women (and sometimes children) drove animals into nets where men killed the ensnared animals; in harsh deserts, women brought back animals as well as plants. The occasional kangaroo or

cassowary, the large game men hunted, were often equaled in caloric value by the smaller game, the lizards, snakes, rodents, caught by women. Not all women returned with smaller game. Leaving their children home in the care of others, some women hunted as men did with bow and arrow. Even more remarkable are the groups in which men collected plant food!

Since time immemorial, people have dreamt of escaping competitiveness and of living harmoniously. Many of these seekers are ignorant of prehistory; ignorant of the achievements of their ancestors. They do not know that hunter-gatherers, their human ancestors, lived in an equitable society for almost 200,000 years! In a society with little economic division or social hierarchy, and few permanent leaders.

In some groups, women enjoyed greater sexual equality than at any other time in history. How did hunter-gatherers escape human competitiveness? How did they manage to live equitably for thousands of years?

In their small groups, they knew one another personally. Food was scarce. Not to the point of starvation. But unreliable. Had hunter-gatherer groups been large enough to eliminate personal recognition, would their equitable society have survived? Probably not. What if the group had remained small, but the food supply had become reliable, even abundant? This question has been ‘tested ‘ and given a clear answer.

Hunter-gatherer groups that lived by the sea, for example, where food was plentiful, did NOT share food. These groups lost their equitable society, became hierarchic, and divided into rich and poor. They acquired permanent leaders with special prerogatives - - the inequities of modern society!

There is reason to believe that all hierarchic groups, at some time in their history, had abundant food. Water provided the food in some cases: fish migrated into the streams near them; the open sea offered large fish. Land in other cases: herds of bison ran in the nearby fields. Sometimes cold weather accompanied the abundance of food. Then, groups were able to smoke salmon, dry bison, and be supplied throughout the winter. The storage of food destroyed the little that remained of the traditional hunter-gatherer band.

Groups that had been nomadic, moving every few months in search of food or water holes, became stationary. Now they remained in the same place long enough to grow and harvest small gardens. And they no longer lived in flimsy shelters that could be put up in a matter of a few hours, but in permanent houses.

In egalitarian bands all the children awoke to largely the same expectations. In hierarchic bands, children of the rich and poor awoke to distinctly different prospects: a day spent in the light of a well-placed father, vs. a day spent in the shadow of a lowly father. Hierarchical bands marked high and low status conspicuously, for instance, leaders did not have to hunt or fish for themselves, they were given food by others..

Some of the hierarchical groups added war, and fought viciously with their neighbors. Fights of this kind were relatively infrequent, not only among egalitarian groups, but among the remaining hierarchical bands as well. The warlike groups not only fought and took prisoners, they turned the prisoners into slaves.

If we look only at the egalitarian bands, that formed the majority, comprising perhaps over 90% of our prehistory, we are unprepared for the inequities of our modern world. But if we look at the remaining 10%, with its social hierarchy, war and slavery, the modern world ceases to be a mystery.

How does abundant food turn an egalitarian group into a hierarchical one? People share food when it is scarce or its supply is unreliable, But they do not share when food is abundant. They keep not only food for themselves, but the goods they receive when bartering with extra food. This too contrasts with what is done in a time of scarcity. When food is scarce, a gifted hunter who is lucky enough to barter his occasional extra food for a cow or horse will share the milk with other group members and allow them to use the horse.

Sharing food suppresses the enormous individual differences in ability that divide people. People of high ability, when sharing food with their neighbors, do not exploit their superior ability, to take advantage of their neighbors. Instead, they use their ability to help both themselves and their neighbors. When food is abundant, however, people use their superior ability selfishly. They use it to accumulate as much food as possible. A competition ensues among the able, won by the individual who is best able at translating his goods into power.

In time, this individual will establish himself as the leader of the band. Under his leadership, the cultural values of the egalitarian band, modesty and equality, will weaken, and the band will begin to accept the quite different values of the hierarchic band, stridency and self-promotion.

This change is not one that can be brought about in days, weeks or months. Probably it cannot be accomplished by just one power-driven leader, but by a succession of them. Overcoming the culture of the egalitarian band may take several generations.

Was the transition reversible? Since the change from scarce to abundant food was in all likelihood the key factor in converting an egalitarian group into a hierarchic one, would the opposite reverse the process? Would the depletion of a once abundant food supply restore a formerly egalitarian group to its original condition? would the group resume food sharing?

Data that bear on this question suggest that the answer is no. Hierarchic groups have been found to have a high density of people per unit food, and indeed some anthropologists have proposed this as the cause of hierarchic groups. A mistake, I suggest. It confuses the long-term consequences of a hierarchic group with the condition that caused the group to form in the first place.

Hierarchic groups, at least in their early stages, have an abundant supply of food. This abundance attracts people, leading in time to a high density of people. The abundant food supply may also increase the birth rate, contributing to the high density of people. Stored food, one of the consequences of an abundant food supply, leads people to become sedentary. People have a higher birth rate when sedentary. Probably the inter-birth interval declines, and so does the practice of infanticide common in nomadic groups.

People multiply, but not the food supply. As a consequence, the density of people per unit food increases. This may be the common fate of groups that begin with an exceptional food supply.

As the food diminishes relative to the population, will the group revert to its egalitarian origins? The data indicate that it will not. People at the top, who are least affected by any shortage of food, will not willingly give up their privileges. People at the bottom, who are most affected by a shortage of food, very seldom act forcibly to increase their privileges. On the few occasion in more recent history when the underprivileged did react, their revolutions did not produce an egalitarian society. They simply changed the membership of the privileged group.

Humans have a built-in inequality. Some are twice as smart as others, twice as sly, bold, cunning, etc. Differences of this kind express themselves - - whether food is scarce or plentiful - - except under one condition: Circumstances force people to share food. Sharing blocks the expression of individual differences in ability, producing, as it did in the case of the hunter-gatherers, an equitable society that lasted thousands of years.

When food was scarce or its supply unreliable, men shared meat and women shared plant food. The sharing of meat by men is generally regarded as a case of reciprocal altruism. An individual who has food gives it to those who do not, on the expectation that he will be given food if the tables are turned. Though a skilled hunter will, in the long run, doubtless give far more than he receives, reciprocal altruism is an insurance policy. Were the hunter to run out of food, he would be protected against disaster. Reciprocal altruism, though probably the best-fitting model of the alternatives, is not a complete success. It will not explain sharing in large groups. Even in small groups, there is evidence in favor of other models, including a kinship effect (more given to kin than non-kin), and so called ‘tolerated theft', meat obtained by insistent nagging (reminiscent of the scrounging by which chimpanzees obtain meat from an animal holding the kill).

Why do men hunt large game in the first place? They could obtain more food, with less risk, by combining the hunting of small game with gathering plants. But bold, successful risk-taking may attract sexual partners, and despite the belittling of the capture of large game, de rigeur in egalitarian groups, killing a large animal did not prevent the hunter from gaining prestige. Young unmarried men who are skilled hunters offered meat to women for sex. And men were not always upset when their wives participated. They enjoyed the meat.

In a literature largely written by men, one hears more about the meat men shared than of the plant food shared by women. Nevertheless, women in some groups routinely collected more plants, berries, nuts, roots, etc. than needed and gave them to other women who too collected more than they needed. Giving of this kind is not well explained by reciprocal altruism, or any of the other evolutionary models designed to explain altruism. On the contrary, it suggests that giving may be an intrinsic disposition in people, in women, at least. Giving may be an intrinsic disposition of men, too, though, in their case, because of the greater value of meat, the disposition to give may be suppressed.

Many hunter-gatherer bands, while largely devoid of both social and economic division, did not necessarily have harmonious relations. Not everyone got along. But this was not a difficult problem to solve. Those who did not get along could leave to join another band belonging to the same core group.

There were more serious imperfections. Men, in the same band, sometimes murdered one another over women. They did so despite (or perhaps because of) love affairs. How common were affairs? Common enough to lead to rules prescribing how an affair was to be conducted. Strictly forbidden was an affair with the brother or sister of one's spouse.

When living as hunter-gatherers humans acquired their basic nature. Not only language, which too often is taken to explain all of human uniqueness, but a number of other unique capacities as well. Three are especially critical for understanding people. First, theory of mind (our ability to explain the actions of others by ‘reading' their minds and attributing mental states to them, such as think, want, hope, etc.). Second, pedagogy (our unique disposition to teach one another). Third, reasoning of various kinds (inference, analogies, causal reasoning, etc.). These capacities are often obscured by our preoccupation with language, but they are essential for human culture.

Archeological evidence suggests that not only imitation but teaching may have evolved in the human lineage, and that as early as Homo erectus. Although the earliest tools of Homo erectus were quite variable, their ‘intermediate' tools were surprisingly uniform, suggesting imitation, one individual copying another. Their later tools are not only uniform but complex, too complex perhaps to have been made by imitation alone. French archeologists devised a clever way to estimate the complexity of a tool: They made the tool themselves! Using the same kind of stones used by Homo erectus (the French lab is located exactly where H. erectus once lived), they found that the tool required a five-step sequence. It would have been difficult to reproduce a sequence of this kind by imitation alone, some amount of correction or teaching was probably required, though the teaching need not have used language. The teacher could provide examples, and then nod approval/disapproval as the students attempted to duplicate them. But language could have been used, since endocasts suggest that the brain of Homo erectus contained Broca's area, a fundamental language area.

Flexibility, the capacity to respond adaptively to unforseen conditions, is distinctive of human intelligence. While human intelligence initially evolved to solve the problems of the world of the hunter-gatherer, it continues to serve humans in solving the very different problems of the modern world. Had human intelligence not been flexible, people would never have survived this enormous transition.

Some evolutionary psychologists claim that since evolution solves specific, not general, problems, there is no general purpose knowledge.' This claim may be true of crickets or ducks, but not of humans. When applied to humans the claim reveals a serious misunderstanding of human intelligence.

When a human cuts an apple with a knife, marks a paper with a pencil, cooks meat over a fire, he recognizes these actions as examples of causal transformation. Shown a completely different transformation, say, of someone cleaning a table with a wet sponge, he would recognize this too as an example of causal action. Humans recognize physically different examples of cause because the human representation of all concepts - - not only that of causal action - - is abstract or general. Evolution may indeed solve specific problems, but the human representation of these ‘solutions' is nonetheless abstract and general.

Perhaps the earliest indication of human flexibility lay in the dawn of the species when humans invented technologies - - fire, cooking, clothing, shelters - - that sealed their future. Equipped with these technologies they were able to drift out of Africa, spread across Asia into Europe, and, as hunter-gatherers, settled in virtually every corner of the world. By contrast, chimpanzees have remained in the same corner of Africa for the last 5 million years, lacking the cognition to produce the technologies on which migration depends.

The loss of game, brought about by changes in climate, competition from other species, etc., is a common problem faced by many species. Not all species survive. Those that do are rescued by evolution. Over the course of generations, survivors adapt to a new diet. But humans, when their supply of game collapsed, were not rescued by evolution, nor did they slowly adapt to a new diet over the course of generations. Humans changed their technology. Rather than foraging for plants and animals, they planted the former and domesticated the latter. A cognitive change. A change based on intelligence, not evolution. Humans were able to make this change because of their abstract understanding of causality. They were able to recognize that seeds planted in the earth would grow into plants.

Is The Hunter-Gatherer Brain Different From The Modern Brain?

Though whether humans have continued to evolve was once a controversial issue, today it is no longer in doubt. Genetic modifications have definitely occurred since humans turned to agriculture in the past 10,000 years. The best documented modifications are in the digestive system, and in the immune system.

The rise of dairy farming between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago, caused a genetic modification that produced lactose tolerance in some adults. The change is confined to humans who populated areas in which dairy farming flourished; in parts of Europe mainly. Disease too has caused genetic changes. People with genotypes that confer resistance to a disease will have more offspring; the resulting natural selection will lead to an increase in the frequency of those who have the resistance-conferring genes. Though malaria is a scourge of mankind, it did not become one until after the invention of farming. The clearing of forests left pools of standing water in which mosquitoes could breed. Several genes have alleles that produce resistance to the malaria. About 6,000 years ago, one appeared in Africa; the other which appeared in southern Europe, the Middle East, and India, is estimated to be about 3,300 years old.

The ability to identify a genetic modification, to estimate its date of occurrence, to associate it with a physiological change, and to relate the modification to a known environmental or cultural event, provides clear evidence that humans have evolved in the past 10,000 years.

But which if any of these changes have an effect on human brain and intelligence? Genetic changes in lactose tolerance and disease resistance have no such effect. Are we to believe that we still have our stone age brain, that the modern human brain is the brain of the hunter-gatherer?

There are two challenges to this view: First, the genetic change which is responsible for the DRD4 7R allele, and second, the gene ASPM. DRD4 7R is an allele associated with both the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the personality trait of novelty seeking. ASPM has for millions of years been a specific regulator of brain size in the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens.

There is a suggestion that the DRD4 7R allele originated as a rare mutational event. Rare in that this mutation, unlike most, had a beneficial effect and thus increased in frequency in human populations by positive selection. Is the claimed ‘novelty seeking' beneficial? Even if we were to grant this claim, a predilection for novelty may have little effect on intelligence. If a novelty-seeker were to tackle problems a conservative person would shun, would this change the abstractness of stored information? the computational skills involved in reasoning? our social competence (the accuracy of the mental states we attribute to the other one)? Probably not.

Phylogenetic analysis of the gene ASPM has revealed ‘...its strong positive selection in the primate lineage leading to humans, especially in the last 6 million years of hominid evolution..' A contemporary genetic analysis now shows that ‘... one genetic variant of ASPM in humans arose only about 5800 years ago and ‘... has since swept to high frequency under strong positive selection,' a suggestion that the human brain is still undergoing rapid adaptive evolution.

The continued enlargement of the human brain would almost certainly lead to a change in human intelligence, but presently there is no evidence for either an enlargement of the brain, or a change in human intelligence. Paradoxically, there is a suggestion of the opposite change, a reduction in the size of the human brain! This suggestion comes from the fact that domestication of animals has led to a reduction in the size of the brain, and some anthropologists argue that humans, in going from foraging to agriculture, themselves underwent domestication. But this is a dubious claim. A farmer enjoyed none of the benefits of a domesticated animal. He was not fed, sheltered, and protected from predators. In the transition from forager to farmer, humans changed the kind of challenges they faced, not the number or severity of the challenges.

All the distinctive facets of human intelligence are seen in the activities of humans when they lived as hunter-gatherers. They talked. Women gathered in the morning to tell one another stories about "yesterday's" happenings; in some groups women punctuated their stories with visual symbols, iconic figures they drew in the sand. Men, sitting by camp fires in the evening, argued over the special traits of different animals. They honored first-hand knowledge over mere opinion. And with the same intensity we do today.

Hunter-gatherers taught one another. Parents taught their children the technologies on which their lives depended: How to butcher large animals, to turn animal hide into cloth. How to break ostrich shells into tiny pieces, then string them on leather thongs to make jewelry. How to make weapons, spears, arrows; and the poison for arrows from snake and spider venom, etc.

Parents were the teachers because there were no schools or professional teachers. Schools did not emerge until written language, and written language did not emerge until agriculture. Writing dramatically transformed human knowledge. Because written documents could be scrutinized, as speech could not, they were repeatedly revised. Their revision lead to the elimination of redundancy, the compacting of arguments, and the discovery of higher order generalizations. Under the impact of writing, informal knowledge, such as the hunter-gatherer's folk-knowledge of plants and animals, was systematized and turned into science. Often-told tales and stories became literature, and informal calculations, became logic and mathematics. The specialized knowledge produced by writing culminated in schools and teachers, depreciating the parent's folk-knowledge, ultimately putting them out of work as teachers.

In conversing with one another, in reading one another's minds, in copying one another's actions, in teaching one another, humans profit from one another to an uncanny degree. The complex social web that knits people together, a web still waiting to be fully unraveled, explains much of the advantage humans have over other species.

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