Quite the most astonishing sequence I have ever seen was shown in a recent television documentary on Africa. It concerned a particular method of hunting by African tribesmen such that 99% of anybody else would never have believed possible unless it had been filmed.
In the mid-distance, a pride of half-a-dozen lions had just killed a large deer and were beginning to tuck in. From the party of stalkers, including the film crew, three tribesmen rose slowly to their feet and, side by side, with their arms outstretched and carrying spears in their hands, walked slowly and confidently without a sound towards the lions. The lions looked up from their feeding and then, startled, ran away for a short distance, crouching down, observing this event and, undoubtedly, assessing what it was all about. Very quickly—before the lions would decide to attack—the men cut themselves a haunch of leg and then quietly walked back to the film crew and two or tthree younger onlookers from their tribe. All of them then quietly retreated leaving the lions to resume their feed.
The three men had told the film crew beforehand about this method of hunting—or, rather, scavenging—but hadn’t been believed. This event not only proved their case but had also been a convenient teaching session for their teenagers. It has also been a teaching event for modern anthropologists and archeologists because this fully demonstrated how we could have survived 150,000 years when we only had very crude thrusting spears — with stone spearheads that were far too blunt and heavy to be used for hunting. They could only be used, at best, to keep other predators such as hyenas or lions at bay while scavenging.
When, 100,000 years later, men had thoroughly learned the crystalline structure of flint, they were able to flake very thin, sharp, symmetrical, lightweight spearheads which could then be thrown at deer and other prey directly—cutting out the middleman, as it were! And then, 50,000 years later, they learned how to launch a hunting spear from a shorter, springy stick, the atlatl. This could be fired at such speed that it could even penetrate the thick hides of large slower-moving grazing animals such as mammoths. And then, 20,000 years later, men learned how to turn their atlatls into bows in order to launch even lighter, slimmer arrow-spears at high speed at almost any fast-moving prey.
Thus man migrated all around Africa and Eurasia, exterminating many species of large grazing animals (due to the atlatl) and many smaller ones, too (due to the bow-and-arrow). By and by—with the exception (broadly) of North and South America—man’s population had reached the limit of his food supply. Man then invented the hybridization of grain and the selective breeding of some animals until farming and pastoralism occupied every practicable square yard of the earth’s surface—this time including North and South America—until, by about 1500AD, we reached the limit of our food supply.
Indeed, because of Western medicine, the present intractable limit of freshwater for agriculture, and the protein requirements of a rapidly growing middle-class of China and other non-Western countries, we now have a vast surplus of agricultural workers who are now being herded into cities by the increasing number of farming syndicates which are buying up the land. In the next 50-100 years the syndicates will increasingly deflect their grain into the more profitable business of animal and fish feed for the growing middle-class of the world rather than subsistence diets for—what?—probably at least half of the present world population and more likely two-thirds. The great Population Decline is about to begin. And Sympathy Exhaustion in the media simultaneously (which has already begun).
We can put it all down to man’s scientific curiosity as to the crystalline structure of flint.