Man the Hunter: Revisited In 1966, a group of about fifty anthropologists met in Chicago for a conference that would later known as the “Man the Hunter” meeting. The meeting contrasted with earlier scholarship and presented a Hollywood approach to the topic of early man, one where our ancestors were strong, powerful, and in control of their environment. Anthropologists Sherwood L. Washburn and C.S. Lancaster (1968), both present at the conference claimed, “our intellect, interests, emotions, and basic social life—all are evolutionary products of the success of the hunting adaptation”.
The book Man the Hunter that emerged from the conference forced a re-evaluation of human subsistence strategies and the role of the hunter in human society. Although the idea of man as hunter, and thus exclusive provider, was initially disproved when it was shown that humans also relied on scavenging and were indeed hunted, the theory maintains relevance in modern anthropology. The theory itself pushed researchers to challenge prior assumptions regarding the role of females in society and helped develop the hunter-gatherer by sex theory that remains in place today.
Importantly, whereas the original man as hunter thesis was groundbreaking because it challenged the scientific communities’ prior belief in an ancient man who was primitive and weak, modern researchers have built off of the man the hunter thesis and now debate the motivations for men to hunt. While our human ancestors may not have been the strong, bloodthirsty, killers once imagined by Raymond Dart, new studies conducted by modern anthropologists have revived this famous, yet once discarded theory. The authors who contributed to the Man the Hunter text (1968) concluded, “to assert th.
. . from a more balanced perspective. Given the importance of the theory and its affect on how modern humans view our ancestral past, the studies themselves have exposed the depth of which cultural bias can affect scientific outcome. The male dominated research of the 1960’s produced an image of ancestral man akin to a comic superhero, large, brawny, and dominant. In response, the female literature of the 1970’s and 1980’s discredited the ideas and placed emphasis on the woman gatherer in early society. Likewise, modern research has attempted to distance itself from the bias of the past, however even today assumptions make there way in to the research. While the man the hunter theory may not be headline news in this modern era, present day research approaching our past from a more scientific approach appears to have restored credibility to the once tarnished model.
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