Tuesday, December 05, 2006
From the New York Times (may require free registration): A new explanation for the demise of the Neanderthals (background info), the stockily built human species that occupied Europe until the arrival of modern humans 45,000 years ago, has been proposed by two anthropologists at the University of Arizona.
Unlike modern humans, who had developed a versatile division of labor between men and women, the entire Neanderthal population seems to have been engaged in a single main occupation, the hunting of large game, the scientists, Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner, say in an article posted online yesterday in Current Anthropology.
Because modern humans exploited the environment more efficiently, by having men hunt large game and women gather small game and plant foods, their populations would have outgrown those of the Neanderthals.
The Neanderthals endured for about 100,000 years, despite a punishing way of life. They preyed on the large animals that flourished in Europe in the ice age like bison, deer, gazelles and wild horses. But there is no evidence that they knew of bows and arrows. Instead, they used stone-tipped spears.
Continued at "Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt"
"What's a Mother to Do? - The Division of Labor among Neandertals and Modern Humans in Eurasia"
by Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner
Abstract (Full text also currently available at this link)
Recent hunter-gatherers display much uniformity in the division of labor along the lines of gender and age. The complementary economic roles for men and women typical of ethnographically documented hunter-gatherers did not appear in Eurasia until the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic. The rich archaeological record of Middle Paleolithic cultures in Eurasia suggests that earlier hominins pursued more narrowly focused economies, with women's activities more closely aligned with those of men with respect to schedule and ranging patterns than in recent forager systems. More broadly based economies emerged first in the early Upper Paleolithic in the eastern Mediterranean region and later in the rest of Eurasia. The behavioral changes associated with the Upper Paleolithic record signal a wider range of economic and technological roles in forager societies, and these changes may have provided the expanding populations of Homo sapiens with a demographic advantage over other hominins in Eurasia.
The most recent related post:
Synchrotron Reveals How Neanderthal Teeth Grew
Scientists from the United Kingdom, France and Italy have studied teeth from Neanderthals with X-rays from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). They found that the dental development of Neanderthals is very similar to modern humans. Their results are published in the journal Nature this week.
Neanderthals first appeared in Europe approximately 200,000 years ago and became extinct about 25,000 years ago. These predecessors of modern humans have always been considered genetically closer to us than any other members of the genus Homo. It has even been suggested that Neanderthals achieved adulthood faster than modern humans do today.
A research team from the United Kingdom, France and Italy has recently shed new light on this theory by studying this species' teeth. Teeth express genetic differences found between individuals and different populations more efficiently than any other tissues preserved in the fossil record. Studies with teeth can identify a timescale on the entire period of dental development that occurs from before birth until adulthood. [More]
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