Man the Hunted

Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution, Expanded Edition

Donna L. Hart; Robert W. Sussman

First Edition • July 1, 2008 • 376 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813344034 • $45.00 USD$51.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786725946 • $25.99 USD$28.99 CAN

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Man the Hunted argues that primates, including the earliest members of the human family, have evolved as the prey of any number of predators, including wild cats and dogs, hyenas, snakes, crocodiles, and even birds. The authors’ studies of predators on monkeys and apes are supplemented here with the observations of naturalists in the field and revealing interpretations of the fossil record. Eyewitness accounts of the “man the hunted” drama being played out even now give vivid evidence of its prehistoric significance.

This provocative view of human evolution suggests that countless adaptations that have allowed our species to survive—from larger brains to speech—stem from a considerably more vulnerable position on the food chain than we might like to imagine. The myth of early humans as fearless hunters dominating the earth obscures our origins as just one of many species that had to be cautious, depend on other group members, communicate danger, and come to terms with being merely one cog in the complex cycle of life.

The expanded edition includes a new chapter that describes the ever-increasing evidence of predation on humans and claims that the earliest humans were neither hunters nor even the accomplished scavengers that many authorities have suggested. Furthermore, the authors provide evidence that as a prey species humans relied on cooperation as one of many predator avoidance mechanisms.

Winner of the 2006 W. W. Howells Award

Donna Hart is associate teaching professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and was a professional in the field of wildlife conservation for many years. Her current writing projects include The Complex Nature of Human Variation (forthcoming, Westview Press).

Robert W. Sussman is professor of physical anthropology and environmental science at Washington University (St. Louis), editor emeritus of American Anthropologist, and is currently editor of the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology and secretary of the anthropology section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of many scientific articles and books on anthropology and primatology.

Foreword, by Ian Tattersall

1. Just Another Item on the Menu
2. Debunking “Man the Hunter”
3. Who’s Eating Whom?
4. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
5. Coursing Hyenas and Hungry Dogs
6. Missionary Position
7. Terror from the Sky
8. We Weren’t Just Waiting Around to be Eaten!
9. Gentle Savage or Bloodthirsty Brute?
10. Man the Hunted
11. The Final Word


Praise for the expanded edition:

“In telling a story about our evolution that is grounded in real data and avoids popular psychobabble about the nature of human aggression, Man the Hunted is a substantial contribution to understanding humanity. Hart and Sussman deftly demonstrate the dual roles of predation and cooperation in human evolution, effectively challenging simplistic notions of ‘man the hunter’ or ‘man the aggressor.’”
—Agustín Fuentes, University of Notre Dame

Man the Hunted is a necessary antidote against attempts to fit our ancestors into neat, but almost certainly inappropriate, behavioral categories of ‘hunter vs. scavenger’ and instead helps move us in the direction of more realistic and nuanced reconstructions of the behavior of our ancestors.”
—Bernard Wood, George Washington University

Man the Hunted sends a jolt through the field of human evolution by empirically undermining some of the assumptions of its most familiar bio-historical narratives. What was it like to be a bipedal ape in Africa with primitive stone tools? Probably not very nice. And how did we get where we are today—via individual red-in-tooth-and-claw natural selection leading us to the top of the food chain? No, argue Hart and Sussman—by group social processes of affiliation and cooperation that kept us off the bottom of the food chain. This superbly documented and cleverly argued book provides a sophisticated scholarly antidote to the reductive pseudo-biology that has passed for too long as a master narrative of human origins.”
—Jon Marks, Dept. of Anthropology, UNC-Charlotte

“Hart and Sussman have produced a book that is engaging to read, with minimal (or fully explained) jargon and interesting stories, which should be accessible to a broad audience. It is well illustrated and well referenced.”
—Journal of Anthropological Research

Praise for previous edition:

Winner of the 2006 W.W. Howells Book Award in the American Anthropological Association’s Biological Anthropology Section

Man the Hunted … is accessible and interesting to the lay reader. …The authors describe and debate the common view of Man as the evolving hunter and present their own view of Man’s evolution as an adapting prey by integrating fossil records and behavioral data from living predator-prey interactions involving human and nonhuman primates.” –American Journal of Human Biology

“Hart and Sussman’s book presents a good synthesis of pertinent ethological observations and a summary of theoretical framing, along with a healthy dose of anecdote.” –Evolutionary Anthropology

“Contrary to the familiar image of the aggressive, spear-wielding ‘caveman,’ our hominid ancestors were more hunted than hunters, more preyed upon than slayers of large predators, contend wildlife conservationist Hart and anthropologist Sussman… . [T]he authors’ novel proposals merit serious consideration.” –Publishers Weekly

“In an agile, knowledgeable presentation, the authors contest a popular conception about human evolution: that ancestral hominids were hunters. Hart and Sussman, anthropology professors, think that idea is flimsy. …To make their case, which eminent paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall extols in a preface as ‘the first comprehensive synthesis of the information available about predation on humans,’ Hart and Sussman marshal both fossils and behavioral studies of living primates. The authors’ prose is wryly irreverent, as if intended to keep a lecture class awake and interested. Even readers who instinctively shy away from science would enjoy reading this book.” –Booklist

“Written for lay readers as well as scholars, this provocative book should find a wide audience.” –Library Journal

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