Bias? Just a little.

Our outlook on the world has been grossly distorted as a result of bias on the part of early anthropologists.  In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, researchers were convinced that pre-historic  humans survived mainly by hunting, and only resorted to gathering when prey was scarce.  This was in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary, such as the lack of deadly weaponry, or the rare finding of bones in garbage heaps.  Early humans were portrayed slaying mastodons with spears made of sticks with sharp rocks tied to them, and Native Americans were shown shooting buffalo with bows and arrows from the backs of horses.  (Two errors in one picture!)

Men were convinced that men had to be important in pre-historic life, and that the role that women played was incidental, beyond bringing new life into the tribe.  Not until the late 1900’s did the truth begin to seep through.  Early humans subsisted primarily by gathering, not hunting, and ‘hunting’ was a misnomer, as those humans obtained meat by driving animals over cliffs, or into boulder fields, where large numbers of people could attack at once.  Males did not become the primary food providers until the development of agriculture.

The development of agriculture occurred worldwide in a short period of time, and was associated with the rise of paternalistic religions, bans on women participating in religious ceremonies, and the oppression of women.  This was also the time when Nature began to be seen as the Adversary, the nemesis of Man’s works, the sly, sneaky one.  And of course, Nature was thought of feminine.  So the bias against women was perpetuated by the supposedly ‘learned’ men of science.


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