Feminists killed off the Neanderthals

If only we could do it again.

(And Echidne has thoughts).


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23 comments for “Feminists killed off the Neanderthals

  1. November 11, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    There are other plausible explanations for the Neanderthal extinction. Warming at the end of the Ice Age surely wasn’t easy for robust people built for the cold. Or an epidemic could have so depopulated Neanderthal bands that the survivors couldn’t replenish the species. A more sinister idea is that early humans wiped them out in a prehistoric genocide.

    But that’s not the kind of story that sells newspapers! People want to read about stupid females stepping out of the kitchen and causing the downfall of an entire species, not boring diseases or warming or genocide!

  2. Mary Racine
    November 11, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    That is one seriously weird article.

    Just to take one point – the recent “discovery” that Neanderthals were red-headed. It has long been known in academic circles that when Homo Sapiens arrived in Europe, they would have been dark-skinned and haired – probably comparable to someone from the Middle East – while the Neanderthals were probably fair haired and skinned, as they had adapted to life in Northern Europe. Why doesn’t the article simply admit that the reversal which made the advanced modern humans blond and the Neanderthals swarthy was racism, pure and simple, rather than attributing it to the “popular imagination”?

    To think that the Neanderthals, who had a complex society, had fire and were capable of some level of speech, wouldn’t notice that their birth rate was not keeping up the needed replacement rate, and move to protect young mothers is simply ridiculous. And to imagine that in a society where women hunted, men would find it far too emasculating to help in the berry hunts, even to the point of starving to death instead of picking berries, is beyond ridiculous.

    It’s funny, I used to find the evo psych interesting, and useful as a writer. But they have just gone way around the bend. My suspicion is that it started with scientists speculating about what was a step or two beyond their research, but now people are going into the field with the idea of “proving” their batshit ideas true.

  3. Quiet Truths
    November 11, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Well, let’s be fair to the scientists involved. THEY didn’t say it was “feminism”; that was the idiot reporter. It may well be that for some reason of their environment or conditions that female Neanderthals had to hunt with the men in order to feed the group, and that this strategy – in prehistoric days – didn’t end up working out well. That isn’t feminism, that’s desperate people adapting desperate measures and failing. Happens all the time.

  4. harlemjd
    November 11, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    “Not only would women suffer casualties, Kuhn said, their full participation in the hunt would mean they were not harvesting wild grains and other foods that could sustain their roving bands when game was scarce.”

    Right. Because if some of the women are hunting NO ONE ELSE could possibly be picking berries.

  5. Rachel of Cyberia
    November 11, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I misread that as Netherlands…I gotta get new glasses.

  6. Caja
    November 11, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    The FUCK? Why spend time gathering vegetables when you can bring down one BIG animal and get many more calories out of its meat and fat than you possibly can from the grain and berries you might have collected in that same amount of time?

  7. Quiet Truths
    November 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Because you might not succeed in the hunt, and you’ll come back with nothing for two weeks running. Whereas if you were gathering the roots and berries that you knew were out there, you might only bring in enough calories to support yourself and a bit of extra margin, but you WILL bring in those calories.

  8. metamanda
    November 11, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Caja, gathering was a much *much* more reliable way to get calories. Animals can run away or kill you, and with spears instead of guns, hunting has a high failure rate. So on the whole gathering probably brought in as many calories as hunting, though not the same sort of calories (like fat and protein). And eating nothing but meat, wouldn’t you get scurvy or something anyway?

    Why is gathering so often undervalued? Oh riiiight, because it was women’s work.

  9. CBrachyrhynchos
    November 11, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Well, depending on how similar neanderthals were to humans, it is quite likely that they were both low-risk endurace hunters. Humans can run a marathon or longer over the course of a day. Most other animals cannot. Endurance hunting involves repeatedly flushing the prey from cover until it drops from exhaustion. The romantic image of stone-age man facing down rampaging megafauna strikes me as an ideological fantasy. Most likely they isolated weak and vulnerable members, harassed it until it was half-dead and prostrate with exhaustion, and then delivered the killing blow.

  10. Cecily
    November 11, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    The University of Arizona’s Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner, use archeological evidence to argue that Neanderthal females – unlike Homo sapien women of the Upper Paleolithic period – joined men in hunts at a time when stabbing giant beasts with a sharpish stone affixed to a stick represented the cutting edge of technology.

    Okay, first off, please choose a point for your sentence when you’re doing journalism, and put other points in separate sentences. And secondly, *what is the evidence*? Please? The public has a right to know your stupid conclusions but not what the scientists are basing their study on?

    Grrr.

  11. hyrax
    November 11, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Neanderthals had Europe to themselves until Homo sapiens started swarming out of Africa about 45,000 years ago – the beginning of the end for these archetypical cave dwellers

    This whole ‘had Europe to themselves’/’swarming out of Africa’ bit being ‘the beginning of the end’ kind of creeps me out re: modern paranoia about racial purity.

  12. Cecily
    November 11, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Now I’ve read Echidne’s post. I don’t have any anthro background, but in paleontology we say “negative evidence is bad evidence.” And I reckon what’s good for the archosaur is good for the mammal. Lack of needles my ass.

    Also, from my phys-anth classes I recall that Neanderthal male skeletons show massive trauma from their hunting. So if Neanderthal female adults also hunted, surely we can provide better evidence than lack of needles?

  13. Dan K
    November 11, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Huh. Last I heard (and I’ll admit I haven’t been keeping up with this), the “end of the Neanderthals” was actually just intermarriage. The skeletons involved show a gradual change, and then the researchers go in and classify them all. Which is useful, until people start asking where the classifications came from, without realizing they’re essentially made up.

    But that doesn’t make such a great news story, does it?

  14. November 11, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    it seems silly to think that if women hunters were actually having a negative effect, that they’d keep doing it. oh, wait, i’m not allowed to use logic, i’m a girl. ok, tee-hee and all that.

  15. November 12, 2007 at 3:08 am

    Despite the inevitable illo of Neanderthals and proto-human males wielding spears at extremely large scary mammals in every anthro and history textbook, there is much evidence (plenty of bones) that the main protein supply for ancient hominids were small animals like rabbits which were caught in snares set by both men and women.

    While this is definitely true for Anatomically Modern Humans of the Upper Paleolithic, Neaderthals and other hominids of the Middle and Lower Paleolithic probably didn’t hunt with traps. Small mammal, bird, or fish bones aren’t found at Neanderthal sites, and no evidence of the types of tools you would need to make a trap or anything like a net or a rope have ever been found. (Yet. But when you look at the stone tools of the Upper Paleolithic, you find stuff that was obviously used for making the stuff you’d use to make a net out of…none of that with Neaderthal tool kits.)

    If you want to go earlier than that, H. erectus or H. habilis for instance, it’s not even agreed upon whether or not they hunted or just scavenged carcasses. (Although, if you ask me, H. erectus was built for walking long distances like you’d have to do if you were endurance hunting like CBrachyrhynchos described.)

    Also, whether or not Neanderthals are even a separate species from H. sapiens depends on who you ask.

    But yeah, that article’s stupid.

  16. TinaH
    November 12, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    So on the whole gathering probably brought in as many calories as hunting, though not the same sort of calories (like fat and protein

    I’m guessing that gathering brought in many more calories than big game hunting, even fat- and protein-laden calories. Ever checked the nutritional content of a seed or a nut? That must be why I find them so yummy!!!

  17. November 12, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I’m guessing that gathering brought in many more calories than big game hunting, even fat- and protein-laden calories. Ever checked the nutritional content of a seed or a nut? That must be why I find them so yummy!!!

    In Europe during the Paleocene there wasn’t really the variety of wild plant foods available to make this true. Neaderthals lived on meat.

  18. alsojill
    November 12, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    And eating nothing but meat, wouldn’t you get scurvy or something anyway?

    Apparently not, if you eat every single piece of the meat. I think that’s how the “Eskimos”/Native peoples of the far, far North American continent did it. Or so I’ve heard.

  19. RJ
    November 12, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    It’s not eating the whole meat that’s key–it’s eating it raw. Most animals produce vitamin C internally (humans are a rare exception) so it is present in meat. Cooking, unfortunately, tends to destroy it.

  20. November 13, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    In Europe during the Paleocene there wasn’t really the variety of wild plant foods available to make this true. Neaderthals lived on meat.

    1) “Paleolithic”. Means “Old Stone Age”. The other word you seems to have had in mind is “Pleistocene”, and refers to something else.

    2) Yeah, the Neanderthals ate almost exclusively meat, but it wasn’t because there weren’t plants available. Anatomically modern humans (“Cro-Magnons”) in the same time and area ate plenty of plant products.

  21. November 14, 2007 at 12:45 am

    1) “Paleolithic”. Means “Old Stone Age”. The other word you seems to have had in mind is “Pleistocene”, and refers to something else.

    D’oh. You’re right. I confused the Paleocene (which comes after the KT boundary) with the Pleistocene (aka “The Ice Age”). An honest mistake. Probably the result of over-studying. But Paleolithic refers more to a cultural period and wasn’t what I meant – although it’s at the same time as the Pliestocene.

    2) Yeah, the Neanderthals ate almost exclusively meat, but it wasn’t because there weren’t plants available. Anatomically modern humans (”Cro-Magnons”) in the same time and area ate plenty of plant products.

    AMH in Europe didn’t start broad spectrum foraging until the climate evened out in the Holocene and available game/hunting conditions in the area changed. At least, as far as I know. But Archeology isn’t really my stone of the hearth, so to speak.

  22. greenmouse
    November 14, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Huh. Last I heard (and I’ll admit I haven’t been keeping up with this), the “end of the Neanderthals” was actually just intermarriage. The skeletons involved show a gradual change, and then the researchers go in and classify them all. Which is useful, until people start asking where the classifications came from, without realizing they’re essentially made up.

    A while back somebody did some DNA testing and determined that we share no genes with Neandertals. Evidence suggests our lines split about 500-400 kya. The idea is that Neandertals died out because they were incapable of the sort of innovations modern humans were. The main thing we had and they lacked was modern-style culture (as in, the modern definition and not modern culture itself). Stuff such as complex social groups and trade allowed AMHs to survive a period that the more simplistic Neandertals could not.

    Also, on meat eating; human stomachs have trouble with raw muscle fiber, so that may have contributed to the omnivorous diet.

  23. greenmouse
    November 14, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Oh, I forgot; for those who are interested in the hunting/gathering bit, the ethnography The Dobe Ju/’hoansi by Richard Lee is a very good study of a hunter/gatherer group with charts on how much food they got and calorie counts and suchlike.

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