THE TENDER CARNIVORE AND THE SACRED GAME by Paul Shepard

THE TENDER CARNIVORE AND THE SACRED GAME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Shepard's scattering of both familiar theory and wild surmise about the hunter-gatherers of the Pleistocene period (with contemporary implications) is bound to be ambushed by more rigorous scholars; however, for the lenient layman, this attempt to set mankind on the right path again is, if nothing else, a stimulating entertainment. He investigates the ruinous effects of domestication -- on plants, animals and man, particularly the farmer/peasant societies from the Sumerians on -- arguing that our true nature and abilities, most completely expressed in the days of the hunter-gatherers, have been stultified. After a brief portrait of higher primate communities, Shepard sketches the good life of the early hunters -- ""leisured, generous, hospitable small groups"" centered on the hunt, where killing (for meat) was not extermination, where sex roles were coequal, where change beyond satisfaction of basic needs was not welcomed, where the old were respected, and where action evolved by group consent. The author traces biohistorical rituals and behavior patterns of each stage in individual (and group) life cycles, and concludes that fulfillment (from stage to stage) is not occurring today. Shephard's utopia: freeing of land via microbe-culture (food); freeing of animals; concentrated populations; revamping of education emphasizing the interrelationships of things rather than ideas (words), etc. Certainly Shepard's view that man's biological programming has been clanking out the same tune since the Ice Age is controversial and his idealization of hunter culture is suspect. But this is still -- if you have the patience -- as much fun as a barrel of Naked Apes.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1973
ISBN: 0820319813
Publisher: Scribners