For Immediate Release
The Evolution of Big-Game Hunting: Protein, Fat, or Politics?
(Cambridge, February 10, 2011) Our ancestors hunted big game for the same reasons some of us drive fancy cars or carry a designer handbag: status. The hunters were hungry for prestige, and the meat was a bonus.
The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology presents the Hallam L. Movius, Jr. lecture by archaeologist John D. Speth titled “The Evolution of Big-Game Hunting: Protein, Fat, or Politics?” on Thursday March 10, 2011 at 5:30 PM at Harvard's Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St.), followed by a public reception.
Since its inception, paleoanthropology has been closely wedded to the idea that big-game hunting by our hominin ancestors arose primarily as a means for acquiring energy and vital nutrients, with prestige and social standing an additional bonus. This assumption has rarely been questioned, and seems intuitively obvious—meat is a nutrient-rich food with the ideal array of amino acids, and big animals provide meat in large, convenient packages. John Speth provides a strong argument that the primary goals of big-game hunting were actually social and political—increasing the hunter’s prestige and social standing—and that the nutritional component was the added bonus. Dr. Speth reevaluates the role of big-game hunting among some of our best known modern hunters and gatherers—the San, Hadza, and Ache—and, together with an examination of the historical and current perceptions of protein as an important nutrient source and the biological impact of a high-protein diet, challenges the long-standing view that big-game hunting evolved primarily as a means of putting food on the table.
John D. Speth is Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and Curator of North American Archaeology in the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan.
About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.
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