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Did hunter gatherers work less or more than modern humans?

  1. Aug 23, 2016 #1
    Did hunter gatherers work less or more than modern humans? Apparently consensus is that they worked less. There are those who believe they worked more, that they had to work constantly to sustain themselves and had little free time.
     
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  3. Aug 23, 2016 #2

    phinds

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    What do you think and why?
     
  4. Aug 23, 2016 #3

    Choppy

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    This might be one of those topics that would benefit from some specific literature citations as a basis for discussion.

    Otherwise, I think the answer will come down to how one interprets "work" in this context, (as well was "modern humans" for that matter).
     
  5. Aug 23, 2016 #4

    Evo

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    Where are you getting this? Please post the link to the scientific study that supports this. I've never heard that they had an easy life.
     
  6. Aug 23, 2016 #5

    Drakkith

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    Sounds like it might have come from something like the following article: http://www.eco-action.org/dt/affluent.html

    From a ways down in the article:

    Reports on hunters and gatherers of the ethnological present-specifically on those in marginal environments suggest a mean of three to five hours per adult worker per day in food production. Hunters keep banker's hours, notably less than modern industrial workers (unionised), who would surely settle for a 21-35 hour week.

    I found similar information everywhere I looked in the first page or two of google results when I searched for "how hard did hunter-gatherers work".
     
  7. Aug 23, 2016 #6
    Work at that time was Warfare, Hunting, foraging for food, scouting and toolmaking/creating things with your hands. All expend massive amounts of energy, so I would assume they worked as little as possible to save energy. Laziness would definitely pay off as an evolutionary advantage in that regard. And they'd need pretty big portions of food to be basically taking 8 hour+ hikes daily.
    I have worked a 10 hour manual labour job when I was younger, and I was absolutely done. I could not afford to do anything when I came home, and unless I ate a lot more than usually I was moving slow and thinking slow. I even started "moving" differently, in order to conserve energy I'd behave in a different way, sit down differently and walk differently, like a zombie. I do hope they didn't have to exert themselves so much their whole lives, for their sake.
     
  8. Aug 23, 2016 #7

    Drakkith

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    I don't think foraging and building hand-tools are as energy intensive or as hard on the body as a manual labor job. And I highly doubt laziness has a direct evolutionary link. If that were true, and if it was being selected for and not against, that would mean there would tend to be more lazy people over time, which is highly detrimental to a species like ours. In any case, a lazy individual in a small hunter-gatherer community is likely to be noticed and subjected to societal pressure and stigma.
     
  9. Aug 23, 2016 #8

    phinds

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    Well, all of our opinions have been entertaining but I'm still waiting for the OP to answer my question, else we're just talking to ourselves.
     
  10. Aug 23, 2016 #9

    Ygggdrasil

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society

    This is basically the same theory discussed by the link @Drakkith provided.
     
  11. Aug 23, 2016 #10
    I think they worked more or thought so. Work was hard with those primitive tools and took longer and they needed to work a lot to sustain themselves. However I recently read where it was stated that they worked less.
     
  12. Aug 23, 2016 #11

    phinds

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    My expectation would have been the same as yours. I see from the various posts here that apparently we didn't think it through fully. I knew there had to be at least some leisure time else where would things like cave drawings have come from but apparently there was more than we would have expected.
     
  13. Aug 23, 2016 #12

    Bystander

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    Need to crank in the "seven fat years followed by seven lean;" it ain't gonna be all "beer and skittles."
     
  14. Aug 23, 2016 #13

    Evo

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    When we're talking ancient hunter gatherers the time and place you pick to look at drastically changes the scenario.


    http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/18/world/africa/africas-ancient-hunter-gatherers-hadza/

    It also seems that warfare was a big time activity. With deaths from killing parties equated to equal to 2 billion people dying during the 20th century.

    http://www.economist.com/node/10278703

     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
  15. Aug 23, 2016 #14

    Bystander

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    Ian Morris, War, What Is It Good For?, an unapologetic re-hash/resurrection of Leviathan at first reading; hate to think that's coming back into fashion, but the cited homicide rates among "primitives" being equivalent to two billion per century (20 million per year) might make me take another look at it.
     
  16. Aug 24, 2016 #15

    Fervent Freyja

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    You should remember that the amount of work a hunter-gatherer society did had been heavily dependent on the seasons, as they determined the existence of resources. The hours 'working' would vary considerably, depending upon the time of year and the patterns of emerging resources that would have been unique to a certain area.
     
  17. Aug 27, 2016 #16

    Chronos

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    I doubt our ancient ancestors had much capability to prepare for hard times. Prior to the emergence of food preservation, gathering or hunting more than your clan could eat before it spoiled was pretty pointless - unless scavengers were a dietary staple [I can just hear the kids, 'mom, not vulture soup again!']. While agriculture was often an option, meat was still a feast or famine proposition. Until the development of effective food preservation and storage practices, Im guessing our ancient ancestors worked like dogs and ate like pigs.
     
  18. Aug 27, 2016 #17

    jim mcnamara

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    There a some really old examples of preservation - pit houses in the Southwest US from circa 200 AD had ceramic vessels with evidence stored dried seeds.
    So-called Anasazi Beans ( Pinto bean relative with very distinctive splotchy seed coat ) are derived from some seeds found sealed in a vessel dated from ~1000 AD. On a lark one of the researchers planted some of them. They grew.... Seeds were then used to generate seed stock. And are now grown extensively in NW New Mexico and SE Colorado. It turns out some settlers in the Dove Creek area did the same thing earlier about 1900. Nobody paid much attention back then I guess.

    Picture with some problematic hype:
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/425054-the-nutritional-value-of-anasazi-beans-compared-to-pinto/

    The point here is that preservation methods using drying arose in a completely geographically isolated culture arose way back in time. People many thousands of years ago are us. They liked eating too, and did things, smart things, to stave off starvation. Homo sapiens sapiens arose circa 100K+ years ago. Since we are still here, maybe very early modern humans figured out lots of things way earlier than us internet denizens want to give them credit for.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016
  19. Aug 30, 2016 #18

    Chronos

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    Preservation methods obviously arose early for our species, otherwise it is unlikely we would be here now munching on trail mix and discussing the issue. But if is equally obvious human civilization could not florish until such practices were well refined. Undoubtedly trial and error was a vital and often unfortunate price to pay for this knowledge. Our ancestors were undoubtedly extremely bright, probably our equals, but, advanced slowly because access to unambiguous knowledge of the collective experiences of their ancestors before writing emerged was very limited. In fact, the principle reason we are not more advanced is probably because literacy was a jealously guarded secret to power even as recently as a few centuries ago. It was meted out by priests to accolytes, then to priveleged members of society before heretics perceived a benefit in allowing it to spread to the unwashed masses.
     
  20. Aug 30, 2016 #19
    "Did hunter gatherers work less or more than modern humans?"

    It's a pretty poor question to start with. Which modern humans are you using for comparison? Wall Street Bankers? Israeli Prime Minister? Chinese factory worker? North Korean farmer? Alaskan Inuit? American millennial living in his Mom's basement? And what hunter gatherers are you talking about? Ones in arctic regions? Northern boreal forests? Sub-Saharan? South American triple canopy jungles?

    The amount of time required for hunter gathers to work is dependent on the density of food resources, and environmental conditions. Pleasant environment year round, food abundantly available to simply pick it up at any time, the work is going to be maybe 2 hours a day for meal time. Extremely adverse environmental conditions with scarce, scattered, low nutritional foods, and people may have to work every available hour of light to survive.
     
  21. Aug 30, 2016 #20
    Three to five hrs of work, 365 days a year. That just pays for food, consisting of whatever is edible and available whether or not you and I would consider it as such, and the occasional meat of the day, not counting clothing, cooking and hunting tools, etc. plus the maintenance of it all and living conditions most of us wouldn't have.
     
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