Gathering, hunting, and whatever else we did...

Fri, 16 Feb 1996 10:34:07 -0500

On Thu, 15 Feb 1996, Mr. E wrote:
> (snip)
> watched a documentary that proposed that early bipedal beings may have been
> scavengers subsiding on the remains of kills left by other scavengers.
> Specifically eating the marrow from the bones of the remains. Would
this be
> an example of fisher-gatherer-scavenger-hunter ... or would scavenging (if
RH> > done) be a subset of gathering?
RH> Interesting question. I think this came out of Johanson's PBS series on
RH> Human Evolution, the point being that there would have been a rich
RH> nutritional resource from marrow. What makes this so interesting is that
RH> scavaging was probably a far more social activity than gathering, in that
RH> scavaging requires (at least if the kill is relatively fresh) social
RH> cooperation to rid the killer species from the kill. This is usually
RH> portrayed as a social group of hominids throwing sticks and stones and
RH> making onehellofa racket to displace the carnivore (read Lion, Cheetah,
RH> maybe leapord, jackel, possibly hyaena. I don't mean to say that

The idea of scavenging was around quite a while before Johansen's
PBS series, Ralph...

Nancy Tanner tried, but didn't succeed, in changing scavenging to
pirating, which she felt was far more descriptive of the actual
act. Scavenging suggests going after long dead carrion, which
isn't the sort of thing likely to be often done, pirating suggests
chasing others animals off fresher kills. The word scavenging has
proved to be well entrenched, however.

I think Binford first suggested the idea that these hominids were
going after marrow; Tanner and Zilhman earlier suggested they may
have been going after skin as well, for carrying slings.

The idea of fishing as a separate thing from hunting is
interesting, but against that use is that fishing is going after
animals and doesn't use anything that isn't used against land
animals (and that includes nets and hooks). However, there's no
particular sense being dogmatic about it.

As for the claim that this is all just politically correct
nonsense, I think it's far more likely to ignore the importance of
gathering if it isn't put forward right out front. No! what am I
thinking! that would never happen, would it?

Jim Moore e-mail: