It’s Gatherer-Hunters!

Who Really Brought Home the Prehistoric Bacon?

“At the peak of the ice ages it was man who kept the human race alive, and his social status at such times must have soared to gratifying heights, even if it often slipped back when the climate improved and woman’s contribution to the food supply rivaled his own.”
(Reay Tannahill, Sex in History, somewhere between pp. 17 and 45 in my paperback copy…)

They Feared and FED Men

Oh, Brother! Even if male mammoth-murder did see us all through when the air got a mite nippy, I got a mite snippy when I read that the female food fraction “rivaled” man’s.

On the next page, Tannahill repeats the insult: She credits women with providing, in warmer weather: “…as much food as men…” [italics mine].

When I was in college, (also in prehistoric times, BTW), I was taught that women in Gatherer-Hunter societies (yeah—I said it) brought in 70% of each tribe’s food supply—in comparison to the men’s far-more-meager 30% (this was based on field observations of the G-H societies then known).

What’s more, the women had to spend a great deal of time daily to find and gather food, while the men’s efforts were of shorter duration and separated by far longer periods spent on activities not related to survival.

This Cave-Dude Hunter Clearly Has Plenty of Leisure


Who Fried That Bacon Up In a Pan AND Even Made the Pan?

In primitive prehistory, as in technologically-primitive third-world societies today, besides bringing home the bulk of the figurative bacon, it is a good bet that women also did all of the:

• hauling of water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
• grinding, chopping, cooking, and serving of food.
• pounding, scraping, spinning, weaving, and sewing of clothes
• basket-weaving, gourd-carving, or clay-working to make containers
• young child care
• cleaning of everything needing it: floor, clothes, containers, kids
• often, house-building, if houses were built of sticks or grasses
• AND: episodic bleeding and cramping, baby-carrying, and birthing.

So, even during the Ice Age, when more of the calories likely came from male-provided meat, primitive men likely had plenty of time to rest up from their food share efforts within their exhausting one-tenth share of the total work.

That would have given them the energy to lord it over the women and claim higher status, yes?

It’s Lucky for Him Wilma Loves Him

Now, to be fair, in the years since Tannahill’s book was written and since I was in college (Good ole’ Styracosaurus U.), anthropologists have learned more about Gatherer-Hunters.

According to one anthropologist (see after the end of this post), in some G-H societies, women and men were closer to equals (except, I bet, for that list of daily chores given earlier).

That almost makes me want to go out and start gathering nuts and acorns, ’cause, with what’s going on today in the undoing of Roe V. Wade, living in a prehistoric society might be a better place for a woman than living near today’s Republican party.

Official end of this post.
Next Post in This Series: Ancient Greek Dudes Were NOT Gay…Kinda
Prev Post in This Series: The Evolution of Sexy

“This Post Ends Here”

“The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways”, by Robert L. Kelly, describes the broad diversity found among Gatherer-Hunter societies.

For an overview of the book’s material, see the very thorough and excellently-written review by L. Miller. An excerpt appears below, followed by a link to the complete review:

“Kelly investigates the relations of forage quality to settlement patterns, of kinship and marriage customs with foraging activity…the roles of abundance and scarcity…of foraging territory on cultural activities and structure…

Most important, the investigation culminates in an attempt to explain why some foraging societies are egalitarian and others inegalitarian, why in some men and women are veritably on social par, and why in others women experience lower prestige.

There is a strong correlation between inequality and ranked or hierarchical societies and the lowered status of women, and a high correlation between egalitarian social practices and the parity or near-parity of men and women in social status.

It appears that long-term-storage societies, which settle for long periods due to the nature of their food resources, have a strong tendency to become ranked and hierarchical and (not a term Kelly uses here) what many now would call “patriarchical.” Societies that remain highly nomadic tend to remain egalitiarian.”
Next Post in This Series: Ancient Greek Dudes Were NOT Gay…Kinda
Prev Post in This Series: The Evolution of Sexy

The Evolution of Sexy

a.k.a. “Sex in History Lite, Part I”

This is part of a HAWT (!!!) series of posts based on excerpts from Sex in History, by Reay Tannahill. (Thumbnail review: Read the second half of her book. Worth it.)

From Learning to Walk Upright, to Learning to Sashay in Modern Foot-Bindings

Does Kinky Rough Hair Equal Smooth Sailing?

In discussing the move to frontal sex that bipedalism opened up for us human-types, Tannahill has this to say:

“By the time the frontal position was generally adopted, early humans had probably shed most of the body fur of their ancestors, but they found it necessary to grow some again so as to reduce friction during intercourse.”

Hmm… Some of us sensitive Princess-and-the-Pea types find that certain men’s particularly rough hair down there hurts.

In those cases, I’d far prefer a bare bear who uses Nair. In no way can I imagine that evolution would have chosen any fur other than bunny or chinchilla to reduce the friction of (front-facing) intercourse.


Now Him I’d Consider!

Are Male Hairy Apes Less or More Sexist Than Male Humans?

“…it is said that frontal sex made the human female susceptible to something that is physiologically impossible for other primates—rape. In the living world, only one species of spider appears to share with humanity the ability to conclude a mating against the will of the female.”

This made no sense to me when I read it. How can a female animal, in estrus or not, physically close off the vaginal opening and prevent unwanted penetration?

Impossible for human females to prevent rape—we who are usually literally the weaker sex—and what about animals where the male presents with a penile bone?

I found Tannahill’s “animal rape doesn’t happen” claim very difficult to believe, and indeed, her claim was mistaken.

Rape does happen among non-human animals, and not infrequently among our fairly close primate cousins.

And No Wonder…

The book Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans gathers together research papers examining sexual coercion by males against females—both by hairy apes and by our naked human variety.

The big question is, do patterns of behavior in rape and sexual aggression by human apes mirror patterns by non-human apes? So far, the book concludes, it appears the jury is still out on this.

Ooh, Baby, Twirl Those Belly Tassels!

Oh, dear—it was disappointing to read Tannahill trotting out a pulled-it-out-of-her-*ss theory right at the start of her book:

That this very *ss was the hottest-ticket part of a cave-woman’s bod back when doggie-style sex was in vogue before humans walked upright.

Cave-guys supposedly didn’t give a fig-leaf for anything on the front half of women (‘cause, what, they couldn’t reach around?).

“Ugh-Puh, Ak!” Translation:“Cover those up and back it up, bee-yatch!”

(Yeah, yeah, I know: Real cave-ladies’ probably didn’t have anything like that to grab up front—like today’s monkeys—but I bet their supposedly-hot backsides were pretty much “eh”, too.)

Tannahill then spews a corresponding dribble that I seem to recall reading from other (male) anthropologists:

That our supposedly tushie-lovin’ foredaddies later switched to the hots for bellies and boobs after humans switched to a bipedal strut and front-facing sex.

Now, why is it I’m thinking that most anthropologists:

(1) Are men of the white persuasion; and,
(2) Think missionary style is pretty much all there is?

Regarding Tannahill’s claim that the frontal sex switch caused a switch to a “liking for resilient breasts and stomachs” (Tannahill’s support: See those zaftig prehistoric “Venus” figures? They have big bellies and boobs, so guys musta liked dem tings!)

Venus Figure

If true, then when men starting wanting women with big, honking boobs, why didn’t they also want us with big, honking bellies to match?

Imagine a 300-pound Angelina Jolie with belly folds hanging down past her knees…How hot do most of today’s guys think THAT is?


This post was based entirely on information found on page 17 of my edition.
Next Post in This Series: It’s GATHERER-Hunters!

The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell

In 1630, John Cotton, the leading mega-rock star of his time, saw off the departing Puritans headed for the Massachusetts Bay colony with a sermon based on the idea that they were God’s new chosen people. 

It was okay to move to a land that was already occupied by other people (notice that these forward-thinking folk did fully acknowledge the equal humanity of the Algonquin Indians) because:

God had said it was okay when Abraham horned in on the Philistines without paying them for their land.  The God-given excuse back then applied now:

“There is room enough.”

The colony’s official seal, brought with them from England, pictured an Indian in a loincloth holding a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other, with words saying

“Come over and help us.”

No, Seriously. I Offer My Wrists Freely. Shackle Them. It Will Help Me.

It’s from a vision of St. Paul where a Macedonian says to him “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.”  (Sarah adds some good snide commentary about how how unwanted help in the affairs of others became a U.S. speciality.)

“Come Over and Help Us Be Conquered By the U.S. Post Office”

How William Tyndale Got Double-Screwed

William Tyndale is the English Protestant who committed the crime of translating the Bible into English (in 1524, in case you’re a date freak).

Henry VIII executed him for this twelve years later, in 1536 (which was two years after Henry had broken away from the Catholic church because he wanted to f*ck Anne Bolyn so badly and get a legitimate male heir by her). 

Tyndale’s reported last words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”.

Clearly, his prayer worked, because in 1538, only two years after Henry executed him, Henry commissioned the first official Bible in English, the Great Bible.   Based mostly upon–you guessed it–the executed William’s translation.

Let's At Least Give Henry's (William's) Lovely Version a Glimpse

The Puritans Believed God Purposely Created Us Un-Equal In Order That We’d Love One Another

The idea is emphasized in a famous sermon known in brief as “Christian Charity” in which John Winthrop, the colony’s first governor, says that the colony will be “as a city upon a hill”–a model for others to follow.

Many politicians have quoted this.  Winthrop was quoting it from the Bible. 

He said God’s purpose in making us unequal was: “…that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection.” 

Or, as Anne Bradstreet, a poet-wanna-be put it:

“As it is with countries, so it is with (people):  there was never yet any one (person) that had all excellences…God will have us beholden one to another.”

(What you’re bad at, I’m good at and can help you with, and vice-versa.)

Sarah Vowell’s comment on this:

“Because of the “city upon a hill” sound bite, “A Model of Christian Charity” is one of the formative documents outlining the idea of America.  But dig deep into its communitarian ethos and it reads more like an America that might have been, an America fervently devoted to the quaint goals of working together and getting along. 

Of course, this America does exist.  It’s called Canada.”

Why Roger Williams (Founder of Rhode Island) Doesn’t Get Enough Credit

Man, this guy was forward-thinking!  I had known he allowed freedom of religious practice in his colony.  But he didn’t even believe in ORGANIZED religion at all, and he also thought that the state should be so hands-off religion that even “the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish [Islamic] or Antichristian consciences” should be allowed.  
Back in that time in history, a man believed in tolerance toward ANTI-Christians?! 
Williams did believe that non-Christian religions SHOULD be fought against–but he thought the only weapon used should be “the sword of God’s spirit, the Word of God.”

What a cool dude.

At the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, This Goat is Free to Ruminate About The Great Unknown in Whatever Manner It Pleases

The other extremely cool thing about Roger, to this once-and-still Linguistics nerd, is that he made a dictionary of the Algonquin language that was so good, it was still able to be used in 1936–THREE HUNDRED YEARS LATER (!).

A guy made his way entirely across Canada using it, communicating successfully with various tribes who shared dialect branches.
Sarah Vowell makes fun of Roger’s bad poetry, citing as one example “righteousness” rhymed with “wilderness”. 
But Sarah may have made an errah. (Oooh, Babe… 🙂 )
Old and Middle English poem sound patterns were often based not on rhyming (“lazy” – “hazy”), but on alliteration (“lazy”-“lady”). Vowels alliterated more often than consonants, like the weak “e” in “ness”.  A matching line pair might end with “happiness” and “blessedness”.
Perhaps the average educated person in Roger’s time (1640-ish) was okay with newfangled rhyming line pairs mixed in with the older alliterating-vowel line pairs.
So there, Sarah Vowell!   And you have a funny last name!  (But I liked your book.)

Here’s one of Roger’s little poems about the Indians he met, where you can see that two lines rhyme (stranger/danger), and two lines do…something else (mat/sent):

     I have known them leave their house and mat
     To lodge a friend or stranger;
     When Jews and Christians oft have sent
     Christ Jesus to a manger.

That Sneaky-and-Sweet Governor Winthrop
The Massachusetts Bay colony expelled Roger Williams for his evil nasty nastiness regarding religion (“How DARE he be tolerant like Christ!”), which is when he moved to the Rhode Island area.
Well guess what? John Winthop, governor of the colony that kicked him out, gave him advance warning that the Massachusetts folk were coming for him. Withrop even told him where it would be safe to go!
Winthrop never dropped a hint of this treason in his own journals, but Williams revealed it in his. The two supposed enemies kept up a warm correspondence until Winthrop died.
(At which point, Winthrop would, one assumes, have learned the theological truth from the Big Horse’s mouth.)
(Or not…depending on which ruminating goat you are.)

1. Tyndale on Bible Reading

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