The real females of human evolution


  • Adrienne L. Zihlman

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    • Adrienne Zihlman is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has had major impacts on the field of human evolution. Her critique of the “man-the-hunter” concept made way for understanding the role of women in evolution, an approach that has become mainstream. Her publications cover human locomotion, sexual dimorphism, and growth and development. She is author of The Human Evolution Coloring Book, co-editor of The Evolving Female, and is currently co-authoring a book on comparative ape anatomy.


When “woman-the-gatherer” was first proposed as a counter to “man-the-hunter,” we were only beginning to understand the many faces of primate females. In ensuing decades we have learned about the skills and talents of female chimpanzees in tool using, hunting, and transmitting behaviors from one generation to the next as teachers, and across space as newcomers to neighboring communities. The perspective of evolutionary time highlights the continuity of female lives from the origin of mammals to the origin of Homo sapiens. The combination of behavioral, fossil, and archeological information aid in reconstructing key ingredients acquired by females along the way that contributed to the success of our species. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.