Are We Hunter-Gatherers?

hunting and gathering

Permission is granted to reprint the following article as long as no changes are made and the byline, copyright information,and the resource box is included. Please let me know if you use this article by sending an email to

Are We Hunter-Gatherers?

Copyright © October 18, 2015 Douglas W Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.

The concept that man is a "more evolved" version of hunter-gatherer ancestors is a bit to superficial for me. It seems that whatever we were before we became sophisticated androids with cell phones attached to our heads, it certainly was more complex than our shallow misconceptions lead us to believe.

I am no fan of prejudicial or stereotypical terminology, and I am pretty sure that such language should not be applied to ancient people or groups any more than to those of our own times. The terms hunter-gatherer tend to denigrate those ancient folk, who often times were far more skilled than we are in many things.

I suspect that prehistoric people would be better classified (if we must do so) by combinations of several hyphenated terms that more accurately reflect the richness of their own cultures. For instance: hunter-fisher-gatherers, gatherer-cultivators, fisher-farmers, hunter-farmers, gatherer-cultivators, etc. It is logical to expect that most hunters would know how to fish. He would learn from the bear. Any gatherer would learn how to cultivate wild plants. He would learn from the squirrels and other foragers.

Specialization in one or more survival techniques probably developed very early; possibly within the first generation of humankind on the earth. After all, it does not take a lot of time to learn how to fish or gather nuts, or even how to start a garden.

The interdependence of these prehistoric knowledge bearers is not problematic. We are not required to assume early man fought over such basic skill-sets, which were common knowledge. The rise of empire building warrior states is typically assigned to post-historic civilizations. Those later groups built their empires on the slavery of subjugated peoples as opposed to mutual relationships between skilled laborers.

I will not belabor this point, but it seems to me that early man was far more libertarian than he was socialist or post-industrial capitalist/mercantilist. Of course I am adding a modern label to them just by saying this, but at least I am speaking in relative terms. Classifications are nearly impossible to avoid.

We are far more class oriented than we like to believe about ourselves. We are democratic, or conservative, or humanist, or American, orÖ.

But no classification, either of our selves or others should be considered immutable. We are all human, malleable, and multi-faceted. Like stars and snow-flakes and waves of the sea, none of us is alike even while we are all alike.

We like name calling. Classifying. We do this especially when it comes to people we donít like, understand, or that we fear. Our libel is their label. We call them commies, fags, liberals, rag-heads, long-haired hippie freaks, Jews, right-wingers, gun-toters, Bible thumpers, Southers, flag-wavers, Neanderthals, mouth-breathers, aliens (from this planet or others), morons, brain-dead; the list goes on. It is a way of defining what we donít (or donít want to) understand.

Maybe thatís why we label ďthemĒ hunter-gatherers.


Doug Jerving is the publisher of the You may contact him at


Return to The New Edison Gazette main site.