Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., professor anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis says that contrary to the prevailing conditions, humans were actually peace loving race in earlier times. Sussman made these comments at a press briefing for "Early Humans on the Menu," during the American Association for the Advancement of the Science's Annual Meeting at 2 p.m. on February 18.
In his new book "Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators and Human Evolution," Sussman contends that early mammals and man did not evolve as predators but rather as prey for wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles. "Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator," he said. The idea that man began life as a hunter is generally accepted, but it is no more than a paradigm. "It developed from a basic Judeo-Christian ideology of man being inherently evil, aggressive and a natural killer. In fact, when you really examine the fossil and living non-human primate evidence, that is just not the case," Sussman said. Sussman and his co-author, Donna L. Hart, focused their research on one specific species, the Australopithecus afarensis, known to have lived between five million and two and a half million years ago. "Australopithecus afarensis was probably quite strong, like a small ape," Sussman said. "It didn't have the sharp shearing blades necessary to retain and cut such foods,. These early humans simply couldn't eat meat. If they couldn't eat meat, why would they hunt?" Sussman and Hart say that modern man's socialization and cooperation evolved from being a prey rather than a predator, "In fact, all diurnal primates (those active during the day) live in permanent social groups. Most ecologists agree that predation pressure is one of the major adaptive reasons for this group living. In this way there are more eyes and ears to locate the predators and more individuals to mob them if attacked or to confuse them by scattering. There are a number of reasons that living in groups is beneficial for animals that otherwise would be very prone to being preyed upon," he concluded.
Contact: Neil Schoenherr
Washington University in St. Louis