Hunter-Gatherers Weren’t Acquisitive? Pshaw

There is a meme that says hunter-gatherer societies weren’t attracted to baubles and the like. A review in Science points out that it’s not true:

… Wells traces back our current societal predicament to the Neolithic advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago. Using the allure of Greek mythological imagery, he suggests rather astonishingly that all sorts of human failings from obesity to terrorism can be traced back to a move away from hunter-gatherer lifestyles when humans decided to farm rather than forage.

…The romantic vision of hunter-gatherer lifestyles Wells presents misses many empirical findings. For example, the assumption that early humans were focused on need-based lifestyles and not interested in luxuries has been challenged in various ways. Some of the earliest mining in the world, traced back to around 40,000 years ago in Swaziland’s Lion Cave, was for ornamental ochre rather than for any particular biological need. Aggrandizing behavior has also been observed in hunter-gatherer societies, recently exemplified by the discovery of gold artifacts among Andean hunter-gatherer remains.

 

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