Posts Tagged ‘Sex at Dawn’

The affluence of the !Kung San has been greatly exaggerated

October 12, 2010



Kalahari Desert CC: Elmar Thiel

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to establish what kind of life prehistoric hunter-gatherers may have lived. Because we don’t have any prehistoric hunter-gatherers on hand, we’re first going to see what we can learn from the modern version. Specifically, let’s take a look at the !Kung San Bushmen (Bushfolk?) of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.

The !Kung are hunter gatherers, adapting to their semi-arid environment by gathering roots, berries, fruits, and nuts that they gather from the desert, and from the meat provided by the hunters. … !Kung men are responsible for providing the meat, although women might occasionally kill small mammals. Game is not plentiful and the hunters sometimes must travel great distances. Meat is usually sparse and is shared fairly among the group when a hunter is successful. Every part of the animal is used; hides are tanned for blankets and bones are cracked for the marrow. Typical game sought in the hunt includes wildebeest, gemsbok, and giraffe; they also kill various reptiles and birds, and collect honey when it is available. The men provide household tools and maintain a supply of poison tipped arrows and spears for hunting. Read the rest of this entry »


On the efficiency of foraging for crickets

October 6, 2010

For those of you just joining us, we’re trying to establish what the prehistoric hunter-gatherer lifestyle was like. The authors of my new favorite book, Sex at Dawn, refer us to work by Utah state archaeologist David Madsen, who has studied the rate of return of foraging for grasshoppers and crickets. Turns out it was a remarkably cheap way to get food. Read the rest of this entry »

Sex at Dawn corrects Pinker on hunter-gatherer warfare

October 3, 2010

Please forgive my lack of posts recently. I plan to pick it back up again, starting… now.

So the other day I received a review copy of the book Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, which I’ve blogged about before. Guess which section called out to me upon scanning the table of contents. If you guessed, “Professor Pinker: Red in Tooth and Claw,” you are correct.

Recall that Sex at Dawn‘s authors, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, want to make the argument that prehistoric hunter-gatherers lived in a hyper-sexual paradise, where life was free and easy because people had no private property tying them down and encouraging status competition. Then came agriculture, which harshed everyone’s mellow. Remember this diagram? Read the rest of this entry »