Is it true that in pre-historic hunter-gatherer tribes, men went hunting while women stayed at home?

No, it is not true!

The popular image of early of hunter/gatherers is that they are violent people who are ruled by the proverbial dominant male ‘big game’ hunter, but this is not the case.

First, hunting is not an exclusively male activity it is a communal activity for many groups. And women in hunter/gatherer societies, from the Philippines to the Arctic, from Australia to Africa, hunt.

For many groups hunting is a community affair. The Mbuti Pygmies of Zaire net hunt and the pace is so leisurely that old people, children, and nursing mothers take part. Between casts of the nets everyone gets together to share tobacco or fruit that has been gathered, exchange stories, gossip and flirt. And for the most part the meat people eat are things like small antelope that are relatively easy for a woman or child to kill.

Batek women in Indonesia go fishing with their children as a way of entertaining them. I the hill country of India the Nayaka, take leisurely walks with their families along the way they will gather or hunt up small animals, notice what has changed since they passed this way before. Their walks are as much about gathering information about their environment as they are about food.

Second, we would assume that the person who kills the meat owns the meat and therefore receives status for the kill. But among many people it is the owner of the weapon – arrows (!Kung, Pygmies) or blow gun darts (Batek) that own the meat. Arrows and darts are traded amongst people and are often owned by people that stay in camp – old people, nursing mothers, people who are for one reason or another like to stay in camp. It is the owner of the meat is entitled to share out the meat.

Third, we assume that meat is the most valued food. But hunter/gatherers have a more varied diet than even rich western people. The only lack one thing that we have in abundance – sugar. And, like us, they love sugar the most valued food is honey. A child, or a woman, or an old person is as likely to find a bees nest as a man.

For more and for references see: Chapter I – The Original Information Culture – Hunter/Gatherers (full text)
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