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Anthropologist debunks Darwin’s most abused idea

By James Suzman

 

He lived with a tribe of hunter-gatherers to witness how an ancient culture survives one of the most brutal climates on Earth. His learnings may surprise you.

What do you imagine life was like for hunter-gatherers throughout human history? You might guess that daily life for them was a constant struggle between eating and being eaten in a world where surviving was a full-time job.

But anthropological research suggests that probably wasn’t the case. When anthropologist James Suzman went to the Kalahari Desert to study the Ju/’hoansi hunter-gathers, for example, he found that they worked only 15 hours per week, and that much of that time was spent on activities that many people in the modern West consider to be leisure, like hiking and fishing.

Of course, hunter-gatherers experienced plenty of hard times throughout world history. But a general theme has emerged from anthropological research on hunter-gathers both contemporary and ancient: Rather than being a constant battle for energy between people and their environment, life was more of a continuous flow of give and take between species, and leisure was part of the fabric of daily life.

 

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