It is some fifty years since Robert Ardrey penned African Genesis and put an arrow into the heart of the “Romantic Fallacy.” And the world has not been the same since because in its incredibly well written and fascinating survey of paleo-anthropology (prior to 1961) the book offers the public a better explanation of human behavior than all the past babble of all world’s living and dead psychologists. Than Marxist theory for that matter.
And of course the book opens with one of the evocative paragraphs in science. “Not in innocence, and not in Asia, was mankind born. The home of our fathers was that African highland reaching north from the Cape to the Lakes of the Nile. Here we came about-slowly, ever so slowly-on a sky-swept savannah glowing with menace.”
A summing up from Ardey:
The hunting primate was free. He was free of the forest prison; wherever game roamed the world was his. His hands were freed from the earth or the bough; erect carriage opened new and unguessed opportunities for manual answers to ancient quadruped problems. His daily life was free from the eternal munching; the capacity to digest high-calorie food meant a life more diverse than one endless meal-time. And his wits were freed. Behind him lay the forest orthodoxies. Ahead of him lay freedom of choice and invention as a new imperative if a revolutionary creature were to meet the unpredictable challenges of a revolutionary way of life. Freedom-as the human being means freedom-was the first gift of the predatory way.
If you’ve never read it you’re missing a treat. And endless food for thought.