Early humans on the menu

You wouldn't know it by current world events, but humans actually evolved to be peaceful, cooperative and social animals, not the predators modern mythology would have us believe, says an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., professor anthropology in Arts & Sciences, spoke at a press briefing, "Early Humans on the Menu," during the American Association for the Advancement of the Science's Annual Meeting at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18.

Also scheduled to speak at the briefing were Karen Strier, University of Wisconsin; Agustin Fuentes, University of Notre Dame; Douglas Fry, Abo Akademi University in Helsinki and University of Arizona; and James Rilling, Emory University.

In his latest book, "Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators and Human Evolution," Sussman goes against the prevailing view and argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles.

Despite popular theories posed in research papers and popular literature, early man was not an aggressive killer, Sussman argues. He poses a new theory, based on the fossil record and living primate species, that primates have been prey for millions of years, a fact that greatly influenced the evolution of early man.

"Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator," says Sussman.

Since the 1924 discovery of the first early humans, australopithicenes, which lived from seven million years ago to two million years ago, many scientists theorized that those early human ancestors were hunters and possessed a killer instinct.

The idea of "Man the Hunter" is the generally accepted paradigm of human evolution, says Sussman, "It developed from a basic Judeo-Christian ideology of man being inherently evil, aggressive and a natural killer. In fact, when you real

Contact: Neil Schoenherr
Washington University in St. Louis

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