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Rough and Tumble

Rough and Tumble: Aggression, Hunting, and Human Evolution

Travis Rayne Pickering
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Rough and Tumble
    Book Description:

    Travis Rayne Pickering argues that the advent of ambush hunting approximately two million years ago marked a milestone in human evolution, one that established the social dynamic that allowed our ancestors to expand their range and diet. He challenges the traditional link between aggression and human predation, however, claiming that while aggressive attack is a perfectly efficient way for our chimpanzee cousins to kill prey, it was a hopeless tactic for early human hunters, who-in comparison to their large, potentially dangerous prey-were small, weak, and slow-footed. Technology that evolved from wooden spears to stone-tipped spears and ultimately to the bow and arrow increased the distance between predator and prey and facilitated an emotional detachment that allowed hunters to stalk and kill large game. Based on studies of humans and of other primates, as well as on fossil and archaeological evidence,Rough and Tumbleoffers a new perspective on human evolution by decoupling ideas of aggression and predation to build a more realistic understanding of what it is to be human.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95512-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Human nature is perhaps best defined by its malleability, and we can be sure that aggression is a component of our versatile character. If today’s behavioral scientist refers to “innate drives,” he or she is considered anachronistic. Nonetheless, we still recognize a myriad of internal, biological bases (both structural and biochemical) for aggressive expression in humans and in other animals—even when that aggression is prompted by external stimuli. The capacity for human aggression, including lethal aggression, must have been shaped by evolutionary forces. In forthcoming pages, I discuss some well-known hypotheses of the evolutionary basis of human aggressive potential....

  6. 1 A Man among Apes
    (pp. 5-19)

    I have a remarkable friend named Bob Brain. In his early eighties, Bob now finds himself among the last of the true natural historians. Not much worth knowing about the complex ecological interplay of organism and environment escapes his deliberation. Lately, Bob’s mind is on the origins of animal life. The particulars of his work on that topic are beyond the bounds of this book, but an overview is relevant. Although Bob’s research is rooted in theory, it’s driven by the recovery of fossils; in any historical science, data generated in the course of well-conceived fieldwork are the definitive sources...

  7. 2 Prehistoric Bloodsport
    (pp. 20-45)

    Raymond Dart is not a household name, but twenty-five years after his death, his concept of protohuman “killer apes” still lingers in our collective conscious. Consumers of popular culture will recall the opening scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s classic film2001: A Space Odyssey.The vignette unfolds among a group of hirsute humanoids, whose building aggression eventually becomes irrepressible when they discover that discarded animal bones can be employed as lethal weapons. The sequence culminates in a vivid scene of bone-bashing hyperactivity and murder that launches the trajectory of human evolution toward our ultimate achievement: extraterrestrial exploration. All of it—this...

  8. 3 Tamping the Simian Urge
    (pp. 46-64)

    The “killer ape hypothesis,” as construed by Dart and Ardrey, had profound worldwide impact. But, as anthropologist Matt Cartmill carefully documented, the idea was not without precedent. Cartmill traced the notion of protohuman killer apes all the way back to at least the late 1880s. The American writer Charles Morris concluded that hunting required a wilier, and perhaps even devious, primate. Even more explicit than Morris in positing causal linkage between human hunting and our species’s general truculence were Harry Campbell and Carveth Read, who each, independently, published several articles and books on the topic between 1904 and 1925. The...

  9. 4 Conceiving Our Past
    (pp. 65-105)

    In 1955, when he first encountered Raymond Dart, Charles Kimberlin Brain had already been a different person for twenty-two years; at the age of two, Brain announced to his parents that he should be called Bob from that moment forth—the name Charles resonating “much too grandly” for his taste. And, Bob Brain is still Bob Brain today, eight decades later. Outwardly unassuming, Brain’s childhood pronouncement betrayed that he is built around a solid core of self-assurance—the stuff that would on that day in 1955, at a conference on prehistory in Livingstone, Zambia, move him naturally to question Raymond...

  10. 5 Death from Above
    (pp. 106-124)

    Watch most any monkey or ape and it’s hard not to conclude that primates are, in general, inherently clever. It is doubtful thatAustralopithecuswas disposed any differently. The innate cleverness of ape-men is, however, largely invisible to us today, millions of years after they went extinct. In particular,Australopithecus afarensis(Lucy’s species) andAustralopithecus africanus(the Taung Child’s species) are derived from geological deposits that lack any co-occurring traces of material culture, which are physical expressions of cognitive heft; there is no archaeological record of these early forms of ape-man. In contrast, fossils of robust australopithecines are often found...

  11. Coda
    (pp. 125-130)

    Preachers and politicians pontificate about the root of human violence. Philosophers and psychologists intellectualize its provenance. Collectively, their views span erudite heights to ridiculous lows—sometimes inaccessible, sometimes commonsensical, and sometimes laughable. But, none of those learned (or conniving) voices comes close to writer James Ellroy in explicating so brusquely and so beautifully the wellspring of small-scale violence (forget terrorism, war, acts of self-preservation, serial killers, and other deranged murderers here). In his more specific meditation on (violent) crime, Ellroy writes:

    You had to control. You had to assert. It got crazy and forced you to capitulate and surrender. Cheap...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 131-162)
  13. References
    (pp. 163-202)
  14. Index
    (pp. 203-208)