The hunters and the hunted
Humans and large predators were both competing for prey for more than one million years. Today, western societies have eradicated wolfs, tigers and hyenas almost entirely. In the past, though, we were probably the ones living on the edge. Predators were challenging us – we were their prey, as well as their competitors for the most significant food resource – prey. We had to find our strategies to conquer the giant beasts and become a more successful hunter than predators packed with powerful muscles, equipped with pointed canines and razor-sharp claws. The combination of a brilliant brain, skill-full hands, but moreover, the ability to have complex social behaviour made us to the successful hunter.
What makes us human?
Cave lions, sabertoothed cats and giant hyenas made us human? We once subsisted on hunting and gathering, at least until agriculture started about 12,000 years ago1,2. Meat, veggies and nuts were our stable food as it is often postulated in paleo-diet3.
Top-predator is less focused on dietary advice or the discussion if it is still ethical to eat meat. It is more a discussion on what was necessary to survive and even become one of the most successful predators despite our poor physical conditions.
From a biological perspective, we are ancient creatures. We are three and a half billion years old if we consider our genetic structure. We are the consequence of this massively extensive evolutionary process extending back billions of years. If we exclude this from our view on humanity, we have the wrong idea about what makes us a human being.
Considering back about 1-2 million years ago, our ancestors were living in a dangerous environment with nasty predators all around. They had to develop effective weapons and tools, successful hunting strategies and strong social structures to survive.
We had to become dangerous and at the same time highly social and cooperative. Today, we often try to exclude one of these aspects. But only the combination is it what made us human.
1 Bar-Yosef, O. The Natufian culture in the Levant, threshold to the origins of agriculture. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 6, 159-177, doi:10.1002/(sici)1520-6505(1998)6:5<159::Aid-evan4>3.0.Co;2-7 (1998).
2 Feldman, M. et al. Late Pleistocene human genome suggests a local origin for the first farmers of central Anatolia. Nature Communications 10, 1218, doi:10.1038/s41467-019-09209-7 (2019).
3 Cordain, L. The paleo diet revised: Lose weight and get healthy by eating the foods you were designed to eat. (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).
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