21. Gatherer-Hunters (GHs)


As we said: 99,5 % of the time of our kind our ancestors were gatherer-hunters, and essentially we have retained the gatherer-hunter nature of harmony and peacefulness. For fierce people like the Yanomamö mentioned before, anthropologists and missionaries reported low spirits and desperation among those groups. Unfortunately, the same anthropologists and missionaries fail to offer any explanation for this unhappiness among these tribes. My personal hypothesis is that such desperation may be caused by people like the Yanomamö not being able – due to overpopulation stress factors – of a lifestyle according to their innate nature of peaceful humanity.

Today most primitive societies are horticulturalist. We see a sharp distinction between the ancestral GH-behavior (equality between the sexes and the generations, complete absence of exercise of power, in short ‘noble wild’-behavior) and the interpersonal relationships of humans since the overpopulation situation changed human behavior. The best short-term we may use here for cultures showing this more recent behavior is AGR, as this suggests both aggression and agriculture. However, horticulturalists are not yet farmers. They slash and burn a field in the jungle where they grow sweet potatoes or plantains, and usually live in longhouses or shabonos. For some months each year, they happily take up their old gathering/hunting life, but most of the time they need to guard their village against hostile neighbors. War makes men important. AGRs are what becomes of GHs in an overpopulation situation.

Today there are scarcely people who still live as pure GHs. Even in the most remote territories the economic life has changed; even people who see themselves as GHs, do part-time farm work, keep some cattle or have some additional form of income. But in their child-rearing and communal lifestyle they still keep their old GH-tradition as a valuable heritage, and are proud of it.

The only anthropologist who studied the life of GH-people in comparison with the life of horticulturalists and primitive farmers is Hugh Brody.[1] To give an impression of the GH-mentality I summarize a passage out of his book The other side of Eden (London, 2001):

In a tent made from hides – but it can also be an igloo or a government’s prefab – the baby awakes. She is taken up, cuddled, breast-fed, and people are talking to her: she hears the voices of people in the room. Above all the familiar voice of her mother who says she’s drinking fine. It is her own decision if and when she drinks or stops drinking. The sounds of voices are reassuring to her. When she dozes off after drinking, she goes in mothers amautik, the baby carrier that is part of the parka, against mothers back. The mother senses by the baby’s movements when her child must relieve herself; then she takes the baby and holds her above a proper place, talking in a cheerful tone. While wiping her clean, mother says: “Now you’re done again my fatty, my darling.”

Grandfather comes near for a while and says, with his face close to hers: “Dear little wife of mine! You are my little wife? Yes, you are!” The mother smiles and holds her daughter up: “Mother? Yes, you are my mother!” Because the baby was born shortly after the passing away of her grandmother, she is seen as the atiq, the ghost of her grandma, and she has inherited her grandmother’s name too. Though all babies are cherished, an atiq is extra loved and adored as an obvious link in the chain of generations.

Babies are treated with respect – like everybody is treated with respect. Babies get all they want. They may sleep when they want, they never are brushed off because babies can never do something wrong[2].

From the beginning of their life children listen to stories. Nothing is concealed for the child: it picks up only what it can handle. Grandfather tells of the creation of the sea mammals, the principal prey of the Inuit. Stories with all sexual and bloody details, and mysteries. The children listen as long as they want, often hearing the same stories repeated, growing up with them. They see how adults respect each other and that everybody has her/his special abilities and tasks. They learn the names of the animals and plants effortlessly and grow up as Inuit.

All anthropologists who have studied the scarce GH-communities, report the same: notwithstanding the desert- or icy cold character of their environment, people are strikingly healthy and happy. They all interact with their children, with each other, with animals and plants in a respectful way. Nature is hard and merciless, meaning that for GHs, existence itself is precarious. On awakening, you will not always know for sure whether you will find something to eat that day. But for them and their ancestors, it had always been like this. Today, the few remaining GHs still are living like the social animals from which we all descend. Yes: noble wilds.


Above you saw a noble wild (an NT-man: a human before the effects of overpopulation) with a modern human (one of the authors, visiting the Neandertal Museum in Mettmann (Germany), photographed by the other author, on 5 January 2012. It is not that the NTs were better humans than we, AMHs. The difference is that the NTs still lived in small groups, with female dominance – so still embarrassingly conservative – and the AMHs are frustrated by the effects of overpopulation.

[1] Hugh Brody is a British anthropologist, writer, director and lecturer. He was born in 1943 and educated at Trinity College, Oxford. He taught social anthropology at Queen’s University, Belfast. He is an Honorary Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, and an Associate of the School for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto

[2] GH’s do not yet have that automatic distrust of human nature that we, AGR’s, civilized and thus frustrated humans, may have developed; GH’s see humans still as essentially good natured; GH’s impute special qualities and capacities to babies and children, on account of their being good natured: capacities which they as adults think to have lost

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Used abbreviations

GHs: gatherers/hunters (the phase from 2 million years ago to 10.000 years ago)

AGRs: agriculturers (the phase from 10.000 years ago till now)

NT(s)Neanderthal people

MSA(s): Middle Stone Age people (African NTs)

AMH(s): Anatomical Modern Humans (H sapiens people), like we are

(m)ya: (million) years ago

ANBOs: Ancestor Bonobos (ape-men), our earliest human ancestors

Paleos: all scientists that are important for our story.