History of Hunting for Kids - what animals did people hunt? Who hunted? What tools did they use to hunt?

History of Hunting

San hunters in Africa

People have been hunting for a long, long time, certainly since the Old Stone Age, about 40,000 BC. Of course people hunted different animals in different places, depending on the environment. But the main hunting techniques did not change very much from the Stone Age right through the Middle Ages.

There were really two kinds of hunting. The older kind was hunting for survival, hunting for food. When people went hunting for food they didn't worry about being sporting, they just caught as many animals as they could in the easiest way. One way to catch birds, for instance, was to put sticky lime on the branches of a bush, and then put seeds and things birds like to eat on the branches. When birds landed there they would get stuck, and then people came and threw nets over them and caught them.
Rabbits, squirrels, and other small animals were also usually caught in traps and snares, or in nets.

hunting with nets
Hunting with nets - Cluny Museum, Paris

The other kind of hunting was hunting for sport, as a sort of dangerous thrill. This kind of hunting was basically something rich people did to show that they were rich, like going on safari today. Sport hunting, after the Early Bronze Age when horses came to the Mediterranean, was mostly done on horseback, with bows and arrows or with spears and nets, and with dogs. You hunted deer, or boar (wild pigs). You did eat the meat after you killed it, but if all you wanted was dinner there were easier ways to go about it.

lion hunting
Lion hunting - Assyrians

In West Asia, there was also a tradition of ritual lion hunting for the king. In Western Europe in the Middle Ages, kings kept whole forests for their own private hunting use: Fontainebleau in France, or Sherwood Forest in England (of Robin Hood fame).

Learn by Doing - Hunting and Gathering Scavenger Hunt

To find out more about ancient and medieval hunting, check out these books from Amazon or from your local library:

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers, edited by Richard Lee and Richard Daly (1999).By specialists, but accessible to interested adult readers.

Hunting in the Ancient World, by J.K. Anderson (1985). Greek and Roman hunting.

The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China, by Mark Elvin (2004). An account of how people from the Stone Age on gradually changed the environment of China (and hunted the elephants that used to live there).

The Hunt in Ancient Greece, by Judith Barringer (2002). Barringer discusses the hunt, and also the ways that hunting was a metaphor for courtship in ancient Greece.

A Hunting and Gathering Scavenger Hunt for Kids
History of Gathering
History of Fishing
History of Farming
Ancient Economy
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