(Hey gang. Sorry for the delay in this latest blog. Been very hectic lately with travel, etc. I should be more on top of this in the days ahead. Now – on with today’s blog…)
The first thing to address with regard to this cultural perspective about cavemen is the misinformation that has been propagated through the years about what many of our ancestors actually ate. Under the presumption that certain cultures have been eating high amounts of animal products from day one, many folks deduce that this must be the most natural way for us to eat, as well. But these presumptions are largely inaccurate.
Many proponents of the animal products-based diet love to site a familiar cultural stereotype (that cavemen supposedly ate a lot of meat) as a scientific basis for their theory that high animal product intake is most natural for us. They imagine that a Tarzan-esque, primitive man, wrapped in a fur loin cloth and armed with a blood-soaked wooden club, would walk through the woods looking for an animal to bash over the head and drag back to his cave. This might make for interesting folklore, but it’s actually pretty far away from the reality of how things were.
In 1924, upon the discovery of the first early humans (Australopithicenes) who lived between seven million and two million years ago, a number of scientists developed theories that these people were primarily hunters with aggressive tendencies and a proclivity to kill. But when you take a closer look at the raw evidence and the indisputable logic, this caricatured portrait of the barbaric caveman simply does not hold up. Consider the following:
∑ Some of the most well-studied early species of man (like the Australopithecus afarensis) had flatter teeth and other herbivore traits (like modern humans) and lived as an “edge” species on both land and in trees. This is similar to primates today who are more prey than predator.
∑ For humans to consume any significant amount of meat, they would have to have some system of cooking. This would involve using some kind of tools (to clean and cut) and, of course, fire. And while evidence of tools dates back about two million years and fire dates back about 800,000 years, it makes you wonder how these early humans would’ve managed as omnivores for all of those millions of years prior. Additionally, there is no real verification of hunting until only 60,000 years ago.
∑ Predators back in the day weren’t all fluffy, cuddly and defenseless like most of our modern food animals like cows, chickens and pigs are today. Instead, they were big, mean, fierce and hungry…for primates like humans! There were also about 10 times as many of them roaming the earth, and most were giant-sized versions of what we see today. Even eagles were colossal, bad-ass predators who would not hesitate to dig their talons into your cranium for a little lunch action. So as you can see, the “hunting climate” was considerably more adversarial back then, and this was without the benefit of modern weapons. (Somehow, the images of the ol’ Flintstones club or makeshift caveman spear as legitimate hunting weapons seem a little ridiculous, don’t they?) In fact, anthropologists have hypothesized that human’s initial foray into meat-eating was by scavenging the remains from carcasses left behind by lions and other carnivores, not by actually killing animals themselves.
∑ It has been theorized that the very foundation of our social structure – and all of the various socialization skills required for our tribe-like cohabitating – were all necessitated from man’s inclination to live in groups as a protective mechanism against predators. (This is a reoccurring theme in nature, as most “prey” animals like sheep, goats and impalas run in groups, as do our fellow primates.) If humans were inherently more predator-like, then our social structures would’ve evolved in a radically different way.
∑ Between six and ten percent of all recovered prehistoric human bones and skulls have teeth, talon or fang marks on them, indicating that this percentage of early humans were victims of predators. Interestingly, this is the same percentage of today’s prey animals that fall victim to predators. This seems to suggest that nature continues to operate from a specific predator/prey balance.
In actuality, we see that primitive man was more likely to be a meal for some predator, rather than the other way around, so he typically relied on an array of plant-based foods, like greens, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds as a primary source of nourishment. A dead animal, cooked over an open flame, seems to be the exception, not the general practice
Just more food for thought, people…