1.15 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.

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 savage’-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.

Horticulturalists 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 first anthropologist who studied the life of GH-people in comparison with the life of horticulturalists and primitive farmers was Hugh Brody.[1] To give an impression of the GH-mentality, here are some quotes from 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 know for sure whether you will find something to eat that day. But for them and their ancestors, even for their animal ancestors, it had always been that way.

Today, the few remaining GHs such as the Hadza still are living as noble savages.
Are they (so were our ancestors) better than us?

No way. Remember that we have become such special animals by having names for things. We have gone the way of understanding things. The path of understanding things better and better. We have progressed much further on this path today. We can now even understand ourselves.

The GHs are so nice because their primitive economy forces them to do so. They do not have a lot of respect for the more high-level economies they are confronted with, but they are greedy for the technological products of it. In the meantime, their world is to prey to the supremacy of even higher cultures. Their thinking, no matter how noble it may be, cannot outweigh those of the rest of the world. Their world of thought has only become a study material for future humanity. We are on the path to become more noble than they are. But we can still learn a lot of them.

The Hadza, living in north-central Tanzania around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. Considering genetic evidence and click language, their closest kinship is with the San people, but nevertheless the difference is obvious. It is not too bold to assume that they are the descendants of a population that never migrated from the beginning of AMM’s in Africa.

But as to determining a contemporary control group for pure GH-behavior, reflecting the lifestyle of our early ancestors, we take Hadza, Bushmen and Ituri Pygmies, and retrieve the following four characteristics:

– each person is equally entitled to food, regardless of his or her ability to find or capture or process it: food is shared

– nobody has more wealth than anyone else; so all material goods are shared

– nobody has the right to tell others what to do; so each person makes his own decisions; even parents don’t order their children around

– group decisions have to be made by consensus; hence no boss, ‘big men’, chief

– as regards shamanism: only Bushmen know shamans

– initiation fundamentally concerns girls, as celebration of first menstruation

We assume that professional ethnologists can sum up more GH-groups sharing these four characteristics.

  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; GHs 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.The reason why the Bedouin women (and on their example also the men) danced /sang naked around the Kaaba before it was banned by the Muslims. For their clothes symbolized the lost innocence and their nakedness were their newborness. The Muslims also deposited their clothes but covered their nudity with loose rags and they still maintain this pagan practice, just like circumcision.

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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.