Okay, I can't access that paper from work, but I'll bite: what's so upsetting about this? Men and women may be equally good at many different things, but hunting big game (with primative instruments) doesn't strike me as one of them. So I could readily imagine this being a disadvantageous arrangement. Of course, that's just me imagining things, and I'm not purporting to call my musings "science", and maybe that's what's annoying you?
The women, with their lousy intuition for math, just couldn't get the trajectories right when throwing spears at mammoth, so extinction was inevitable. Fortunately, the modern era is blessed with brave warriors like Larry Summers who will save humanity from starvation.
Professional scepticism amusingly expressed here.
LB, by working, shows that she doesn't just hate America, she hates humanity. LB is the ultra-liberal.
Back in the veldt, the Neanderthals failed to invent sports bras, and thus, as the womenfolk vied to control their bouncing, the tigers ate them.
Shorter Kuhn and Stiner: Back to the kitchen and off with your shoes!
I don't get 4/6 - women worked in all primitive societies, right? Just perhaps not hunting big game, which, again, it doesn't seem unreasonable to suspect they are ill-suited for.
5 sounds right to me.
I am probably mising something here.
I think the argument isn't that the women were bad at hunting, but rather that since they were out hunting they weren't at home inventing agriculture.
1: Wouldn't your intuition also suggest that if Neandertal women were so useless at big game hunting, they'd do something else? It's the "Yes, gender equity was present among some species of hominids, and CAUSED THEIR DESTRUCTION!!!" that makes me cranky. I don't particularly care how Neandertals divided their labor (from the Times article, the claim to know that women were big game hunters, or that Neandertals were highly specialized big game hunters as a species, seems pretty weak as well, but of course it could be true), but the overall conclusion seems screwy.
IANAAnthropoligist but I'm pretty sure Neanderthals died off well before the advent of agriculture. So more, "they weren't close to home gathering vegetable food."
It's the "Yes, gender equity was present among some species of hominids, and CAUSED THEIR DESTRUCTION!!!" that makes me cranky.
Yeah. I haven't read the journal article yet, but I suspect this sort of claim is going to show up in an article about feminism some time. "These feminists, by promoting equality, are really sentencing us to the inefficiency that doomed the Neanderthals. We are on the path to destruction!"
("Make your time.")
I am probably mising something here.
An "s", specifically.
gender equity was present among some species of hominids, and CAUSED THEIR DESTRUCTION
Yeah, they're running together several things: 1) Neanderthals depended solely on big-game hunting 2) societies that had other means of subsistence were more successful and 3) societies that had other means of subsistence divided responsibility for those means by gender. From these facts they seem to say (only looked at the Times, not the original paper) that the Neanderthals died out because they didn't have gender divisions of labor. Well, no, they died out because they didn't have any other way to feed themselves; who did what is a secondary consideration.
7: Brock, I don't think Neanderthals hunters wrestled with the woolly mammoths. Hunting involved skill as much as strength. Plus Neanderthal HR would totally write you up if you complained about the women hunters.
Damn. Now I want to see videos on YouTube of Neanderthal hotties wrestling with mammoths.
Indeed -- where is the caveman porn? Talk about a totally neglected genre!
I also only could read the Times article and thought it smacked of bad science writing. I think that the paper is primarily about the Neanderthal lack of division of labor (and thus diversification of tasks), and it proves this by pointing out that the archaeological evidence shows women and men hunted equally. The science writer made this a little more spicy by turning it around.
16: You know, all you have to do is ask, you don't have to play coy.
Is 100,000 years a short lifetime for a species, or for the relevant subset of species (mammals of a particular size might be the relevant subset), such that this requires an explanation at all?
Clearly, you've never read Clan of The Cave Bear and the eight million sequels. (Cro-Magnon hottie invents the domestication of animals, the sports bra, and cornrows, while being raped by Neanderthals and then sexually awakened by a series of sensitive stone-age guys.)
Wouldn't you get scurvy if you ate only meat? Or is enough vitamin C passed along?
I suspect there's a general confusion here about two time-scales of trial and error.
sure enough, when a genome doesn't fit its ecological niche, copies of that genome become fewer and fewer. That's species extinction.
But if it's a question of complex (non-reflex, non-instinctual) behaviour in a highly developed hominid--and hunting in neanderthals certainly counts--then trial and error operates differently.
If it doesn't work, people stop doing it. That's how behavioural patterns go extinct.
Or if tribe A insists, against all the evidence, on doing something stupid, then tribe B flourishes at tribe A's expense.
But none of this leads to extinction of that species, just of that piece of behaviour.
In a simple creature that only has instinctual behaviours (e.g. a spider), the route from maladaptive behaviour to species extinction is fairly direct. Not so in a creature whose behaviours are very complex and are subject to such adaptive pressures as teaching, enculturation, and literal trial and error.
18: Shortish. H. erectus lasted two million.
Zero to caveporn in sixteen comments? Clearly the species has evolved.
Clearly, you've never read Clan of The Cave Bear and the eight million sequels.
On par with the "Just Shoot Me" admission or not?
(Er, I left out of 17 that from what we know of prehistory the advent of division of labor was along gender lines. Thus, evidence that men and women did the same tasks -> evidence that there was no division of labor. But they can't argue that there's any causality here. The NYT writer implied there was, and thus spiced it up.)
23 -- or at least our little subset, Unfo Superior.
Dr. Kuhn and Dr. Stiner argue that Neanderthal women and children took part in the dangerous hunts, probably as beaters and blockers of exit routes.
To piggyback on 17: it seems there is a division of labor being postulated ('Tall people up front! Wrestle! Everyone else, try not get trampled while you flush out the game.')
How much agriculture are you going to invent in an ice age anyway when you don't have a smart brain?
(Cro-Magnon hottie invents the domestication of animals, the sports bra, and cornrows, while being raped by Neanderthals and then sexually awakened by a series of sensitive stone-age guys.)
And the atlatl. And is the only one bold enough to wear boy's clothing! And her boyfriend is well-known for being skilled at oral sex! And arrrrrgggmybrainmelted.
("Are we not wo/men? No: we are Unfo!")
9- well yes, that would be my intuition, but maybe they weren't that adaptive? If everyone in your society all did the same thing (hunt), generation after generation, it doesn't seem crazy that you'd just follow along and try to do your best, even if you weren't great at it. It seems perfectly possible that everyone in the society (species, really) could have understood and acknowleged that women weren't as good at hunting, because their breasts were so bouncy, and yet not been cognitively flexible enough to see that reorganization of the structural foundations of their society would be necessary for their survival. More likely would be continual incremental adaptations -- what changes can we make to enable our women to hunt more effectively? How can we divide labor among the hunters to better capitalize on everyone's comparative advantages (and minimize the effects of their disadvantages)? This could involve tinkering with hunt formations, weaponry, etc. And even this presupposes a fairly high level of reflection, one that I'm not sure is accurate. They equally as likely could have just plodded along day after day doing the best they could, even when it sometimes wasn't enough and the tribe was thinning. They knew hunting worked at least some of the time -- and the devil you know...
Not saying any of this is right, but again it doesn't strike me as implausible. Unless there's evidence to back it up, though (again, I can't access the link), I wouldn't exactly call it science.
Don't watch the video linked in 28 unless you want to hear a song that was robbed, robbed I tell you, of being nominated for a Grammy. Such aural bliss!
24: Hey, I was like 12. I was taking my smut where I could get it. (All right, I got too bored somewhere in the middle of book 3. I think she'd gotten down to inventing interior decorating by then.)
An anachronism, surely. Had Neanderthals had hotties to ogle, they would have had a reason to invent the television. Therefore, football ---> pizza commercials ---> abundant food source ---> survival!
30: But then it seems that the driving factor for extinction isn't gender parity per se, but lack of cognitive flexibility.
Man does not live by pizza commercials alone.
28 I don't understand the point of female wrestling of that sort (or Hooters) in a world that doesn't ban strip clubs and the like.
14- so how did they hunt? I can't imagine a way that wouldn't require a lot of speed, explosive force, strength, and power. In physically fit, well-built humans, these qualities are significantly more abundant in males.
30: And a species which already had an activity - gathering plant foods - in its repertoire which was easy to do while carrying babies around would find it a lot easier to adapt, no? But Neanderthals were wholly dependent on meat for nutrition (whether hunted or scavenged), so the women presumably either assisted in getting the meat in or sat on their butts until somebody gave them some.
But, as ogged points out above, this has nothing to do with the reasons for their extinction: that would be that H. sapiens had more varied strategies for feeding, whoever provided the food.
18: Shortish. H. erectus lasted two million.
I thought you were supposed to call a doctor if it lasted more than four hours.
Let's get real. There are NO videos on YouTube of Neanderthal women hunting. Although indirect evidence, it points their staying at home fashioning those outfits as worn by Raquel Welch in One Million B.C.
So, they did have sports bras and also probably invented both agriculture and really bad dialog as the necessary precursors of the romance novel.
Is there really good data that Neanderthals were obligate carnivores? I suppose it's possible, and there may easily be good data for it that I don't know about, but it seems unlikely.
37 - I know there were pre-Columbian populations that used to stampede herd animals off cliffs. That just requires the ability to make a lot of noise and recognize a cliff, although I'm not sure Larry Summers would say that it's gender neutral.
Man does not live by pizza commercials alone.
It's a crude outline. Steps coupons through pepperonchini's were glossed, obviously.
34- sure, I guess, but those seem like two sides of the same coin. They were doing things wrong, and couldn't figure out that they were doing things wrong and needed to change. Neither one of those things would be problematic in isolation.
One could also say that wild elephants are going extinct both because humans are poaching them and taking away their habitat, and because they haven't figured a way to stop us from doing so. Okay, I guess that's right, is my response.
How do the Micronesian Hobbits fit into this storyline? (Please let them fit in somehow!)
37: It's believed that the men tackled the animals and stabbed them with stone flake knives, and the women and children kept them from getting away by blocking off escape routes.
41: I only follow this stuff as an amateur, but I don't know of any evidence for Neanderthals in Europe eating plant food. They seem to have been fussy eaters generally. They lived in caves by salmon streams and didn't eat the fish.
On JM's scurvy question: Fresh foods, both meat and vegetables, have plenty of Vitamin C. Scurvy, on early-modern voyages and through early twentieth-century polar expeditions, was due to eating preserved foods, in which it has broken down. Cook's methods, if not his theory, understood this but it was still contested a hundred years ago. This preserved/fresh distinction is a primary cause for scurvy's incidence in all these accounts. The Inuit ate fresh, of course.
A childhood spend reading of arctic survival and death is characteristic of what country?
OMG, my history teacher assigned Clan of the Cave Bear as an extra credit reading assignment in seventh grade. Diligent student that I was, I of course read it. And re-read certain chapters over and over. I couldn't believe I was getting extra credit to read that.
I don't know much at all about it -- it just seemed improbable based on all the other apes/hominids I know anything about, which all seem to be at least omnivores. But given that there really does seem to be good evidence for it, my incredulity is mollified.
49 -- Mmm, Canada?
46- interesting contrast to that (though not necessarily in conflict), is this article suggesting that for most of our evolutionary history we've been more prey than predator. It's only very recently that hominoids ascended to the top of the food chain.
50: Did he then invite you to his house to see his collection of flint weapons?
you're giving in too fast. Bone studies show what they *did* eat, not what they *had* to eat.
If you did bone studies of 19th century Inuit, you would find they ate almost nothing but meat. Does that mean that their species, sc. homo sap sap, is an obligate carnivore? No.
So bone studies on Neanderthal show, perhaps that the species was obligate carnivore like lions etc, but perhaps that they were ordinary omnivore hominids who had restricted access to a good produce section.
I thought you were supposed to call a doctor if it lasted more than four hours.
Well, duh. Having to wait for the telephone to be invented sucks.
42: There's a historical site/park in Canada called 'Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump.'
55: But there are plant foods in Europe -- it's not that they weren't there, it's that Neanderthals weren't eating them. I figure they can't really have been obligate carnivores out of inability to process plant foods, like a cat -- they were too closely related to us. But behaviorally, if they were only eating meat it was out of choice rather than lack of other opportunities.
54 - It was a she. Can you even imagine how much trouble a teacher would get in for assigning that book these days? Shame. At 12, I felt that I learned as much from CotCB as I did from everything else she covered in class that semester.
Oh, I wasn't arguing for the obligate part. Surely Neanderthals weren't obligate carnivores, their teeth were pretty much identical to the teeth of modern man
It certainly looks like the risk of cultural bias is fairly high. Anyway, shouldn't there be some sort of test or procedure to eliminate that sort of thing? Now that we are scientists.
Phrases such as 'putting their reproductive core ... at great risk' annoy me. We are our gonads now, apparently. That particular phrase was the NYT reporter's construction but The Selfish Gene is the same way, and yes, it's deliberately trying to piss everyone off.
57: Plus a UNESCO World Heritage Site and interpretive center.
58: How much plant matter would you have to eat for it to show up in a bone test? Europe now has lots of plants to eat, but that's after agriculture makes some of those plants worthwhile and post ice-age.
"But there are plant foods in Europe -- it's not that they weren't there"
60--that sounds right to me.
I read CotCB (and a few of the later ones) when they first came out. I was totally in awe of a woman who could invent the domesticated horse AND the orgasm.
Well, one thing really led to another.
Does "Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump" read to anybody else like a newspaper headline?
59: This grows more and more interesting. No chance this was a Catholic high school which required you to wear uniforms? Perhaps some sacramental wine was involved....I may have to take a moment, IYKWIM. AITTYD.
IDP, I heard the story of my great-grandad surviving a Yukon snow-in by drinking spruce-needle tea* just one or two too many times as a child.
*And, as he came off the mountain, he came across cabins and cabins full of dead men---dead, of scurvy!
Of scurvy and of dropping their matches.
69 -- was this after his bicycle trip to Anchorage?
(Except for those who had mistaken hemlock needles for spruce.)
There were only four sequels to "Clan of the Cave Bear". And the most recent one, "The Shelters of Stone", is possibly the most bulky mass-market paperback novel ever printed, and caused all kinds of problems at the book factory I worked summers at as an undergrad.
Also, I was greatly disappointed when I found out that "Jean M. Auel" is not a man from France but a woman from Illinois. How shallow my heuristics have been shown to be, indeed.
74 -- if you want to read a fantastically good comic novel about cave-man life written by a man from France, check out "The Evolution Man". Oh wait no that is by a man from England. But close enough.
I really enjoyed the Clan of the Cave Bear books--lots of nerdy exposition on stone age hunter-gatherer life, Ice Age megafauna, etc. Plus the dirty dirty sex.
IDP, what about rabbit starvation?
Jean Auel lives in Oregon. I can tell you that because I don't any more. I have read one page of TCOTCB, the page when one cavehousewife critiques another cavehousewife's cavekeeping and interiorcavedecorating.
Don't know specifically about Neanderthals, but most surviving hunter-gatherer people gather lots of wild vegetable foods.
The latest things about Neanderthals are 1.) evidence that music was a major part of their social bonding, and 2.) evidence that Cromagnon man did interbreed with Neanderthals, AND that some of our mental abilities trace back to the Neanderthals specifically. The latter theory has only been out there for a few months and it's being taken very seriously.
I thought rabbit starvation was lack of fat, rather than scurvy.
78: yes. Usually didn't result in actual deaths either, iirc.
I have planned my diet to avoid any possibility of rabbit starvation. We really don't know what the minimum requirement is, so just to be saf we should fry everything in butter.
Fresh foods, both meat and vegetables, have plenty of Vitamin C. Scurvy, on early-modern voyages and through early twentieth-century polar expeditions, was due to eating preserved foods, in which it has broken down. Cook's methods, if not his theory, understood this but it was still contested a hundred years ago. This preserved/fresh distinction is a primary cause for scurvy's incidence in all these accounts.
I'm not sure what you mean by "preserved" here. One of the most common foods used to ward off scurvy was sauerkraut, and I think other pickled things like capers and, ahem, pickles were used for that purpose as well.
The latter theory has only been out there for a few months and it's being taken very seriously.
Indeed, B tends to follow A. Let's give it until next year.
81: I think that's the difference between preserving with acid and with salt. Salted meat loses its vitamin C, and bread doesn't have much, and that's most of a sailor's diet. But acidy stuff can hold onto it.
81: I think it means dried and salted. Maybe canned. Sauerkraut isn't really preserved, it's just properly spoiled by a terminal fermentation process.
The Neanderthal-brain theory isn't pop science, it's pretty solidly based, though as yet untested. The Singing Neanderthals theory is more toward the pop-science end, though no one has ruled it out yet.
Neanderthal brain theory stuff here:
The interbreeding hypothesis contrasts with at least one prominent theory that posits that no interbreeding occurred when the two species encountered one another.
Well, having been sixteen once, and not having suffered from the dating anxiety so seemingly prevalent now, I'll posit that at least one couple would have tried it no matter how ugly each appeared to the other.
Yeah, and the converse of that claim seems pretty clearly false -- the interbreeding could not have occurred at a time when there was no contact between the two species.
Oh wait, never mind 88 -- it is based on a plain misreading.
77: John, do you know of any good source for musical Neanderthals outside Steven Mithen's book,which is an impressive logical construct, but a bit short on hard evidence?
I haven't read the article, but based on Ogged's summary I think we're getting hold of the wrong end of the stick here. As it were.
The real argument is clearly that the Neanderthals died out because they couldn't farm, and that the other homonids survived because they could and did. In other words, it's all just one long fucking history of women doing all the work.
91: this is news?
the other homonids survived
Which is surprising, given the low, low reproductive rate you'd expect from a bunch of homonids.
B: Close, but actually nobody stared farming for 15-20k years after the last Neanderthals went extinct. What our lot could do was pick and eat plants and go fishing. For reasons unknown both those seem to have been beyond the Neanderthals.
If it's of any comfort to you, LB, here's an approximately equal and opposite feminist version of the argument.
IIRC there's a pretty good correlation between latitude and where hunter-gatherers get most of their food from; high-latitude types mostly eat meat (obtained by hunting) for obvious reasons, and tropical types mostly gather vegetables and small animals like insects; temperates are in between. Which means that tropical women do most of their food providing, and arctic men do most of their food providing.
NB - not saying that tropical women or arctic men do most of the work; just that they provide most of the food.
It's interesting to note that there are lots of animals with sexual dimorphism, but very few with sexual division of labour. It's not like the male blackbird goes after smaller prey and the female after bigger prey.
In other words, it's all just one long fucking history of women doing all the work.
Woman is the Neanderthal of the world.
Also, this reminds me of Scalzi's old column on Newt and giraffe hunting. If Gingrich does run next year, I sure hope he makes giraffe hunting a key part of his campaign.
very few with sexual division of labour
I don't think this statement is true.
farm s/b 'get food energy from non-animal sources'
96: What about lions?
97: I was going to mention that, but I forgot. Good show.
Mithen's books is the whole thing. As I said, it's toward the pop-science end.
There's a lot of stuff about music as a socializing tool during much later periods, notably Bill Benzon's "Beethoven's Anvil" (Bill's at The Valve) and Wm. McNeill's "Keeping Together in Time".
Before about 10,000 BC pretty much everything is impressive logical constructions. The hard evidence is pretty limited and selective, and stone tools, brain pans, femurs, molars, rock carvings, and pottery probably don't tell an adequate history of human life.
97: In high school I printed that survey out and went around getting people to take it. I'm sure I have the results somewhere...
Althouse is on this now. Comments veer from the intelligent to the, um, Neanderthal.
Is Althouse's point that she should stop practicing/teaching law and get out there and start picking flowers? Because I might be able to support that.
I mean, for the survival of the species.
I have zero training in this sort of thing, so have no idea how reliable or groundbreaking it is, but this story on MSNBC.com about the discovery of the oldest-known site of human ritual was pretty cool, FYI.
104: How would Linda Hirschman feel about that?
so theres even a Clan of Cave bear movie, too?
Daryl Hannah, man. Or am I thinking of some other cavewoman movie?
Here is a stupid evolutionary psychology article:
followed by a bunch of studies none of which have jack all to do about terror or any emotional state whatsoever.
#99: What about lions?
I don't think tropical hunter-gatherers eat many lions. Au contraire, if anything.
If you mean "lions are tropical and they get most of their food from hunting" - true, of course, but I was talking specifically about humans. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
Apo 98: It's a vague memory from evo/tax and palaeo courses a decade ago. But I think it's correct. Aside from things associated closely with childrearing, most species tend to live in similar ways, eat similar foods, forage in similar ways etc. regardless of whether male or female. Not true of most humans.
In most areas where lions live, they've learned to be damn wary of humans. Lions eating humans is pretty rare.
111: Female lions do practically all the hunting.
Anyway, you said few, not none, so there was no reason for me to cite an example.
Before about 10,000 BC pretty much everything is impressive logical constructions.
Nah, a lot of it is unimpressive logical constructions. But Mithen's good.
John Hawkes has fleshed out his objections to Kuhn and Stiner's paper. He thinks it's an unimpressive logical construction.
Aside from things associated closely with childrearing
Ah, well that was the division of which I was thinking. Carry on.
"114: Female lions do practically all the hunting."
Oh, sorry. Thought that was an answer to the tropical/arctic point, not the sexual-division-of-labour point. Very true. But they are a bit odd in that respect.
Male lions spend their time foraging for roots and berries.
118: Aren't most male lions solitary and self-feeding? I thought lions lived in prides with one or two males living off the hunting efforts of a whole passel of females, with the excess males off on their own. So most male lions would hunt, just not the ones living in prides.
Yes, that's exactly right. Solitary male lions are quite successful hunters.
121 -- don't they generally team up with warthogs and meerkats?
The whole implied vegetarianism bit of that relationship was very peculiar. As was the rest of the movie.
I think they only ate antelope. It's the cirrrrrrrrrcle of liiiiiiiiiiiiiife.
Hey want to know what movie I'm sad since just this morning (when first I heard of it) about its not being available on US-format DVD? This one.
Also, I am now thinking of solitary male lions as young bachelors, subsisting on ramen noodles, pizza, and the occasional antelope, until the day they are lucky enough to find a pride to worry about their nutrition.
That is a bummer. Have you read the book? It's rad, and fully available in US format.
Have not. Will check it out.
Redfox -- indeed I know nothing of this Raymond Queneau. Sounds like a pretty interesting guy -- can you recommend any of his work beyond ZdlM?
Alas, that's all I've read, and that only in translation. It's an enjoyable translation, though.
Well thanks. Of his other titles "Pierrot my Friend" is the only one that I recognize, but I'm not sure from where.