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The Man Hunters

54 min., 1970, M 339

 

 

Note distance:  3 miles = 4 million years;  one step = 500 years;  ca. 8 ft. = 2000 years
Moderator: E. G. Marshall


"[The Man Hunters] traces what is currently known about man's [sic.] evolution. [It] uses historical footage and original film shot at excavations and universities around the world to show the 'man hunters' at work, piecing together the story of our ancestors: Neanderthal, Homo erectus, and Australopithecus, a form of man-ape now shown to be as much as three and one-half [and now maybe even as much as 5.8] million years old."

"A fascinating search from France to China, from Mt. Carmel in Palestine through South Africa, for the earliest evidence of man's existence. Leading anthropologists discuss skeleton parts and artifacts discovered across the world and attempt to reconstruct man as he was in the beginning."

This historical film on early discoveries will essentially start at the top of the Times to Remember page, and go downward through the Australopithecines.

Terms / Concepts

  • ice age = Pleistocene
  • bipedality
  • "killer ape" ("nature" vs. "nurture"; "innate" vs. "learned" behavior; "learned" vs. inherited, "culture" vs. "instinct")
  • "territory"
    • defense of a space / area against "conspecifics"
      • conspecifics = members of the same species
    • Some people think that "man has an 'instinct' to hold and defend territory."
  • "aggression"
  • "weapons"
  • grasping hand (prehensility)
  • precision grip (opposibility)
  • lithics (stone tools)
  • osteodontokeratics
    • osteo ("bone"), donto ("tooth"), keratic ("horn")
    • Raymond Dart
  • antihomeostasis

Notes:

  • note archaeological methods
    • field excavations, including survace surveying and analysis of one square meter over time
    • lab analysis
    • carbon 14 dating
    • potassium / argon (K / Ar) dating (Olduvai)
    • pollen analysis
    • "ethnographic analogy" with the study of primates in the wild (Devore; baboons)
      • baboon survival on the ground depends on "social cooperation and unity within a group"
    • paleontology (e.g., analysis of 2 Australopithecine children's skulls)

  • "ape man" is a south African term = Australopithecus

  • big game hunting

Updates:
  • "You can trace Neandertals back 100,000 [now 300,000] years, then the search leads to a void."

  • the ca. 500,000 ybp footprints from Vértesszõllõs, Hungary are no longer the oldest known footprints in the world; that honor now goes to the 3.7 mya footprints from Laetoli

  • dinosaurs died off ca, 60 mya "before the time of man" (not 80 million)

  • the "ape man's" 3.5 mya teeth from Ethiopia are no longer the oldest hominid remains in the world. The oldest known hominid remains are the 5.6 mya fossils from Lothagam Hill at the southwest corner of Lake Turkana in Kenya, or the 5.8 mya (5.2+) Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba ( 11 July 2001) from Ethiopia.

  • the ape suits are from 2001 Space Odyssey (Philip Tobias is instructing)

Cultures

  • Australopithecines
  • Homo erectus
    • "Java Man" (Pithecanthropus erectus; Homo erectus erectus)
    • "Peking Man" (Homo erectus pekinensis)
  • Homo sapiens sapiens
  • Cro-Magnon
  • Neandertal
    • disappeared ca. 35,000 ybp
    • life expectancy = ca. 29 years
    • "You can trace Neandertals back 100,000 [now 300,000] years, then the search leads to a void."
    • are Neandertals Homo sapiens?
    • was primarily a hunter, cunnning enough to bring down a huge wooley mammouth
    • often Neandertal buried their dead (Mt. Carmel)
    • the Neandertals seemed to have some sort of special relationship with the giant cave bear

Sites

Individuals

Film Review

  • Horr, David Agree. 1972. Review. American Anthropologist 74:187-188:

    The Man Hunters is a television documentary about the search for fossil man. A Film on fossil man for a general television audience could have its problems, but MGM, in close collaboration with F. Clark Howell and Phillip Tobias, has put together an hour-long film which is informative and fun to watch as well. Instead of giving detailed descriptions of fossil finds or leading the audience up and down the stratigraphies, The Man Hunters focuses on a few of the wider issues in human evolution, and then devotes much of its time to the sites where fossil man has been found and particularly to the scientists who research man's fossil ancestry, the man hunters themselves.

    The film is divided into four "acts" of roughly fifteen minutes each. The opening portion of the film sets the temporal frame of reference for the audience using, among other things, a picture of the footprint of an American astronaut on the moon, 500,000 year old footprints from Hungary, and finally actors representing the "australopithecines" of more than three million years ago... The Man Hunters (then) gets down to the business of presenting the search for fossil man as a mystery story, starting with Les Eyzies and proceeding back through time and the levels of human evolution.

    The old Cro-Magnon-Neanderthal dichotomy is represented by a sequence from a 1912 movie in which Cro-Magnon emerges the victor over the more brutish Neanderthal after "discovering" the use of a stone on a stick as a weapon. The modern interpretation of Neanderthal as a "variety of modern man" is then illustrated using paintings by Czech artist, S. Burian.

    The history of the genus Homo is traced from Francois Bordes' excavations at Combe Grenal in France through Mt. Carmel and Lazaret to Choukoutien. Original film sequences from the early excavations in Palestine form a fascinating contrast to the painstaking collecting and recording of every conceivably pertinent bit of data that is shown on the modern paleolithic digs. The Lazaret Cave excavations are used effectively as an example of the cultural inferences that can be made from details analysis of the position of stones and stone tool fragments, charcoal, sea shells, and bear claws.

    A brief look at films of the original excavations at Choukoutien and the subsequent Japanese invasion of China and a short characterization of the Homo erectus leads the viewer to the end of part two. Mauer, Steinheim, Swanscombe, Torralba, Pithecanthropus, and others are all missing--perhaps good film materials did not exist for them, and their inclusion would probably have needlessly complicated things.

    The remaining half of the film concentrates on Australopithecus. One "act" summarizes the history of the finds, from original pictures of Dart and the first known australopithecine skull to the latest finds made by Clark Howell's Omo expedition. Then, an attempt is made at an interpretation of the nature of Australopitecus and its mode of life. The film very briefly characterizes Australopitecus robustus as a vegetarian and a separate, ultimately less successful form than the smaller "human toothed," Australo-pithecus africanus.

    The discussion of the nature of Australopithecus is somewhat unsatisfying. Some time is spent on Brain's theory of Swartkrans as a possible leopard kill spot, and some of DeVore's baboon footage is used to illustrate the value of the primates' abilities at social cooperation in defense against predation. Little is said about man as a predator and theories of tool use and weapon use are only briefly mentioned. When it comes to the question of the role and development of aggression in man's evolution, one arrives at the weakest part of the film, a protracted discussion of whether man has osteodontokeratics. The arguments given against the aggressiveness of Australopithecus are weak and somewhat misleading as to the probable nature of earliest known man. Statements like "That just isn't the way I envision him..." are not very convincing and a picture emerges of a meek fellow, constant prey to leopards, shambling along in half shadows. As a result, one could come away with the impression that Dart is right. Additional data from primate behavior studies could have made the case against killer apes much more convincing, but time limitations perhaps precluded their use.

    I recommend this film very highly for use in introductory anthropology course. In the space of a single lecture period, it covers many of the highlights in the search for fossil man and gives interesting, if not particularly detailed, information about stages of human evolution back to, but not beyond, the "australopithecines." It provides a stimulating introduction to the study of fossil man, and is a good starting point for more detailed discussions by the teacher in later lectures.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the film, at least from the professional's point of view, is the sequences taken of archeologist and human paleontologists at work: among others, Bordes making a hand-axe, the Leakeys prowling at Olduvai, Dart, and Broom handling the early "australopithecine" posture while training the "apeman" actors for the film, 2001.

    Even in a graduate course on human paleontology the film is very useful, since it shows many of the original fossil man sites and gives advance students a visual impression of some of the contexts, both ecological and intellectual, in which fossil man is studied. If astronauts, clocks in the desert, and live "australopithecine" actors seem gimmickly, they many be regarded as necessary elaborations for a general television audience. Instead of detracting from the value of the film they help to make it rather fun to watch.

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