Politically Correct Stereotypes about hunter-gatherers


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 I find it quite amusing when people accuse me of having one hunter-gatherer stereotype when it's also clear they hold one themselves. The most popular thing to accuse people of is that they hold the "man the hunter" hypothesis that people ate mostly meat and men provided most of the food. The challenging hypothesis is that humans mostly ate plants and women provided most of the food. The data does not support this very politically correct hypothesis because it plays to popular modern ideas, namely that plants are really good for you and women do all the work and don't get any credit for it. The Ethnographic Atlas is an extensive collection of data on hunter-gatherers and other cultures. In the excellent oldie but goodie Myths About Hunter-Gatherers, the author looks at the data and sees that:

It's perfectly logical omitting equistrians like the Plains indians because any culture using domesticated animals is pastoral, not hunter-gatherer. She notes that some of the "gathering was more important" stuff came from anthropologists who classified fishing as "gathering." 

But old myths die hard and I still both of these incorrect ideas bandied around: "man the hunter" and "man the gatherer." The reality is more varied and doesn't really fit either. What about "man the fisher?" Or man the scavenger (luckily the topic of a paper I am writing for my latest anth class)? It's more like "man the opportunist." But either way...it seems to be men bringing home the bacon. Cordain has also done a more famous paper on the topic of hunting vs. gathering, but clearly not famous enough since I still see these myths around and have commenters repeat these myths over and over (and accusing me of not knowing anything about anthropology...).

Either way, how much these folks represent the paleolithic is debatable.