Hallam L. Movius, Jr. Lecture
The Evolution of Big-Game Hunting: Protein, Fat, or Politics?
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, "The Evolution of Big-Game Hunting: Protein, Fat, or Politics?" by John D. Speth on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 5:30 PM in Harvard's Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St., Cambridge), followed by a public reception at the Peabody Museum (11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge).
Since its inception, paleoanthropology has been closely wedded to the idea that big-game hunting by our 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, 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 of southern Africa, the Hadza of eastern Africa, and Ache of South America. 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, Speth 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 Hallam L. Movius, Jr.
Hallam L. Movius was a Paleolithic archaeologist at Harvard, and a member of the department of anthropology for many years, as well as being a long-time curator in the Museum. Being chosen as the Movius lecturer is considered an honor in the field he helped advance for many years.