– Ancestral division of labor

In doing some reading and note-taking on the history of agriculture for my blueberry project, I came across this.

The need to care for children helped create division of labor among hunters and gatherers. Men hunted, women gathered. Of the two pursuits, gathering was clearly more important. While the capture of a single large animal might have provided a clan of forty people with meat for two weeks, it was gathering that gave our ancestors a dependable diet — probably about seventy percent of their caloric requirements in the arid tropics. Though it has been generally assumed that hunting provided more food than gathering in the high northern latitudes (above 40 degrees), an American anthropologist studying tribes along the western Canada/U.S. border (45 – 48 degrees N.) found that even this far north, with plentiful game and declining plant resources, women provided seventy percent of the diet from gathering. (7)

Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity, by Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney (U of Az Press: 1990).

While I know that many men cook and feed their housemates and families (as, for example, Bryan T., my childhood neighbor does his), the feminist in me did a little cheer when ancient women got that affirmation. Seventy percent of a population’s caloric requirements — that’s a lot of roots, seeds, nuts, and fruits.

One thought on “– Ancestral division of labor

  1. Pretty interesting fact but when I actually thought about it, didn’t seem that crazy. Your cheer reminded me of the end of the movie “Working Girl” where Joan Cusack stands up and screams when Melanie Griffith gets the job. What would we do without you? I guess all us men would be 70% lighter. 🙂

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