Autists – the original hunters?

#POE1484 The Hunter Returns
#POE1484 The Hunter Returns

I started thinking. I think all the time, but sometimes a topic catches my attention and my mind won’t let go of it. The latest was: In an evolutionary aspect, how would autism fit in.

First off, the hard truths. Not long ago a lot of us would have been put out to die as soon as our traits showed. Those of us who grew up would most likely have been shunned. Shunning is when a whole group (or one person) deliberately avoids you. Some of us have experience with shunning today.

Way back in the hunter/gatherer times quite a few autists would still have been put out while children. But what about the highly functioning ones? Our genes must come from some point in history.

Credit: Department of Environmental Conservation, New York
Credit: Department of Environmental Conservation, New York

I started by trying to place myself in a situation where no technology exists and groups are small. How would my hyper-awareness fit in then?

  • Having grown up with poor vision, my sight awareness isn’t all that great – so that wouldn’t help at all. But for autists who have regular vision, their sight awareness is much better than mine. Mine is OK. When I am in a room I notice objects others do not. I imagine autists without sight challenges notice even more.
  • Hearing-wise, I doubt my hearing is better than other people’s. However I hear ALL the sounds around me that my hearing is capable of catching. Nearing 50, that is less than before. But I would have been dead by now anyways, so that is of no matter.
  • Smell-wise, I think my sense is more sensitive than non-autistic smell-sense. I certainly seem to catch odors that other people do not react to.
  • I’m not sure how my sensation sensitivity would work in such a group. Perhaps it would be a help in knowing when a skin was finished curing. Maybe knowing when gathered food was ripe. Possibly as a guide in hunting in discovering what was animal and what wasn’t animal-tracks.
  • I don’t know how important speaking was back then. Sign language was probably just as normal as using our vocal chords.
World of Warcraft: Marksmanship Hunt
World of Warcraft: Marksmanship Hunt

In such a society, where groups were small due to necessity and mortality rates, gender most likely did not regulate our tasks as much as archaeologists and anthropologists would like to think. People probably did the jobs that had to be done, when they had to be done. Either you worked, or your group died. When hunting, the group hunted. When gathering, the group gathered. Gender roles is a luxury for those not in death’s grip all of the time.

Imagine having a person with all of those traits with you in such a group. Autists must be gold in a group depending on sharp senses to avoid threats and find food. Imagine a time when technology breaks down again. It is bound to. Then think of all of the societies in the world where technology still has second place in the various groups. Those societies still exist in many places.

Long, long, long before I had heard about autism, even when autism was equated with Rain Man, I could not figure out how to fit in. Believe, me I tried HARD to be like the other girls my age. Impossible, and it still is. Not that I really minded. I minded the bullying, but I liked being me. I just wished that there was room for me as well. But that is life. Normal to me was how I sensed things, how my emotions worked and how I understood the world. Still is. At several points in history I imagine I probably would have been a valued member of society, especially if I had been a man. At most of those same times in history, as a woman, I most likely would have been killed.


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