_Gatherers and hunters

Females and males became even more differentiated in humanization.

When they reached their new habitat in the savannah, the hominins were misfits. That ecosystem was very stable and fierce competition; with very efficient predators and prey hunting or avoiding being hunted; and opportunistic scavengers, no less relentless in taking over a part of the feast.

A female cheetah reaches 95 Kms / hour in 3 seconds, jumps over its prey at a gallop and kills it on the fly.

The hominin upstarts did not have that efficiency. Neither speed nor force nor clever nose nor claws nor fangs.

In short, there was no room for them. The hominin, male or female, at most, could walk upright and jog on his new legs, without having to rest his hands on the ground while running, as did the monkeys (the most similar species).

The hominine females continued to have a wingspan, weight and strength much lower than the male. They could not try to hunt and, even less, protect their young at the same time. The only possible distribution of tasks, was that the females of the group remained with the young in the base camp, preferably to the shelter of a cave or elevated position. As close as possible to each other, mothers, aunts and grandmothers shared the protection and care of the young, the gathering of edible plants and roots and surely the preparation and use of tools and weapons to defend against incursions.

While a mother was collecting food with her hands, where did she have her baby? The hominins had lost body hair, which allows the young of the great apes to cling to their mothers. A recent theory about the origin of human language (1), supposes that the hominins baby was on the floor and kept in affective contact with his mother through sounds (precedents of lullabies and baby talk. portabebes 3.pngBut in areas of grass, they were in danger of some predator.

I am sure that the hominins invented the baby carrier made with vines or climber, functionally like the current ones from African cultures. Although no anthropologist will find remains of those prehistoric materials.

Only males had any option of going out to hunt without being hunted. Its main advantage was the group, that is, the family. Their high social intelligence had led them to base their survival on the group. And males were more expendable for the group than females, once they had been fertilized.

Kill at a distance

The first tools were also weapons. Their incipient technology allowed them to cut, drill, scratch and dig. But that was more useful for females in their work as gatherers. Thus a new invention was produced: tying a sharp bone to a stick with tendons, to extend the length of the arm by one or two meters, which would facilitate keeping the teeth and claws of other predators away; as well as the ruminants’ kicks.

These primitive spears did not serve to be “thrown” like javelins. Because that requires mastering their ballistics and for this, humans would still have to wait many centuries. The oldest javelins found so far date back 300,000 years. It allowed to reach a dam 20 meters away. At that distance a hominin was already as effective as a cheetah. A group of hunters throwing their javelins at the same time began to be a serious opponent for other predators. In the hunt … and in the war.

The art of group hunting is like the art of war

There were still many millennia for Sun Tzu to describe the laws of war. But those laws are the same as for group hunting. Once again, the hominins did not know it, but carried out, learning from experience.

The laws of war described now less than three thousand years ago, are summed up in two: march and deceive the enemy:

“The difficulty of the fight is to make long distances close and turn problems into advantages. (…) In unfavorable terrain, continue marching. ”

“The art of war is based on deception. He attacks the enemy when he is not ready, and appears when he does not wait for you. ”(Sun Tzu (2): The Art of War, 2,500 BC)

Group hunting forced hominins to long marches through the savannah, culminated in ambushes along the banks of a river, lake or spring when the animals came to drink.

A synchronized gait rhythm

The synchronization of movements in a group is based on physical laws and is present in many physical, biological and social phenomena (3). In an earlier chapter we have seen that it is deeply rooted in living species. The organs of each individual are synchronized in their biology at very different rates. A few days after birth, a current baby reacts to the change in sound rhythm. From seven months you can learn different rhythms and follow their movements.

Also the different individuals that form a group, obtain important advantages when synchronizing their movements. This ability is a pillar of swarm intelligence and social intelligence in general.

The male hunters had to travel important distances to the step, jogging or running, synchronizing the pace of their footsteps to reach a sustainable speed, without getting tired before taking action. Their group experience with the pace of tool construction – and any rhythm in itself – also served to optimize the march in their hunting expeditions. If we could see them, they wouldn’t seem very different from a group of marines running together.

Although they didn’t sing, at least with words. Language is today the most important source of human synchronization. But before having articulated verbal language, hominins had other means to synchronize the group as a single body. During the march, to get less tired; and during stalking, to communicate with signals that neither the prey nor other predators could recognize.

But the problem of the hunters was not only to hunt, but to return alive to their base. In their absence, females – young, mothers and grandmothers – had kept the offspring – and themselves – safe from predators. At the same time, they had collected roots, herbs and fruits, much less nutritious than meat, but only food insured when hunting failed.

And perhaps they had also kindly received some unknown male who was passing by. Hospitality (incorporating different genes into the group) was rewarded by the laws of evolution; as much as jealousy was penalized. Again, they did not know but they did. And there were not even gods to forbid it.

And when the hunters returned, what a tasty side dish for the meat they brought. What a party for the group; And above all, how many stories to tell. Still speechless; but with how much gesturing, shouting, rhythms. And how much shared emotion.

And so we had to turn those facts into a story; and repeat it one and one hundred times. That’s what the next chapter is about: Telling stories without words.


See Chapter index

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Current chapter NOTES

(1) falkDean Falk: Finding our Tongues (2009).
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(2) Sun Tzu: The Art of War.
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(3) The synchronization of movements was studied by Durand (1988) using the contributions of Piaget (1975).


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