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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  December 2006

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE December 2006

Subject:

Re: Anthropologists blame women for Neanderthal demise

From:

Claudia Hemphill <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 10 Dec 2006 14:52:16 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (346 lines)

I am no longer a full-time anthropologist, and I haven't yet read the CA article, only the NYT 
coverage.

And now, I've also read the very interesting discussion on SftP, which I think shows how 
readily the general 
public (G.Bush, and other 'C' students) are going to misinterpret the meaning of this theory, 
tendentiously or 
not.

With Michael, I take Kuhn & Stiner as suggesting that the Neanderthal big-game hunting 
investment failed for a 
well-known ecological reason: too many eggs in one basket.  Or should I say, too many 
"workers" on one 
product line.  Big-game hunting (as anyone from a rural region knows), is a high-return but 
high-risk strategy.  

This is an explanation for cultural and biogenetic change that focuses on culture as a driver.  
It proposes a 
"management" failure if you will, as opposed to the many many many "divine" and 
"natural" (aka genetic and 
sociobiological) explanations that have their own richness but also, clearly, are enmeshed in 
our culture's past 
fondness for using 'science' and 'evolution' to justify domination of race, gender, etc.   It's 
been notably hard 
for anthropology, as just one field, to unpack its own imperialist ideological baggage and 
learn to theorize 
culture in terms that think outside of current systems of privilege and their inherited 
naturalist and essentialist 
assumptions.

Kuhn and Stiner seem to be adding a long-needed new perspective to all these questions.  I 
don't see the 
Kuhn-Stiner theory as "sexist," I see it as a viable and valuable new alternative hypothesis on 
a key question of 
cultural and biological evolution.  This is good.  Also of value is that it fruitfully links from, 
and to, other fields 
currently producing strong data and models - management & organization, as I noted, and 
also ecology.  In a 
broad sense, Kuhn and Stiner's proposal could be taken as a re-vision of some hoary 
assumptions about 
hunters in general (the Teddy Roosevelt syndrome) and the most famous Neanderthal 
hunters in particular 
through the lens  of newer ecological discourses that are willing to frame data from the 
standpoints of 
collaboration, cooperation, and symbiosis as well as the older ruling view, that all was 
competition.

Ecologically -- specifically, agroecologically -- putting all your workers onto hunting, even 
children, is a 
"monocropping" strategy.  Anyone notice the parallel that could be drawn to globalization's 
requirement that 
everyone become an hourly worker?  Or the increasing tendency of children, even in the U.S., 
to be working 30-
hour and longer weeks (while supposedly going to school)?  

One could, neoconservatively, argue that women should "hie them" back to the kitchen and 
nursery to solve this 
problem.  I'm sure some of the usual people will take this article and argue exactly that.   

But just as equally, and more insightfully, the theory can also be taken as argument that men 
should be fishers 
and farmers and gatherers as well as hunters (as indeed, the Mesolithic Homo sap's were) ... 
and also, that 
women should be fishers, farmers, gatherers AND hunters, and also, that men should be 
home teaching 
children and tending the ill along with women ...  In short, multiplicity of roles for all.  This is 
diversity, this is 
conservative (in a literal sense) ecology, this is feminist- and queer-theory, too. 

What Phil meant by choosing the inflammatory and value-laden header, I hope he'll explain.   
I nearly deleted 
the email when it went up, due to the sexist subject line, did not read it promptly, and only 
opened it with my 
finger on the "Delete" command.  

Claudia
P.S. Kuhn and Stiner's hypothesis may also contribute some important food for thought 
about human response 
to times of Climate Change.

Claudia Hemphill Pine
PhD Candidate, Environmental Science
Instructor, Freshman Core Discovery
University of Idaho
Moscow, Idaho U.S.A.
  

----- Original Message -----
From: Martha Livingston <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Saturday, December 9, 2006 10:46 pm
Subject: Re: Anthropologists blame women for Neanderthal demise
To: [log in to unmask]

> The Times article's frame blames, at a minimum, the lack of role 
> differentiation, which is another way of saying women didn't know 
> their place, even if men also didn't know women's place.  I don't 
> know enough about Neanderthal to have a hypothesis about why they 
> died out, though I dimly recall that Happy thought they were swell 
> and not 'inferior.'  I just can't recall the argument.  Perhaps I 
> should reread the book I've urged everyone else to read!
> 
> Yes, division of labor is not dominance.  Yes, gender roles are 
> often 
> differentiated, though not always.  And no, that differentiation 
> does 
> not have to, and often (mostly) does not imply dominance.  As for 
> killing big game, I know nothing.
> 
> 
> 
> It is true the Times article frames the issue badly, but the 
> hypothesis itself clearly does not "blame women." Nor does it 
> suggest 
> that Homo sapiens men always dominated women, nor that a division 
> of 
> labor implies that. The argument blames culture, rather than 
> genetics. It does not add ammunition to the assertion that humans 
> were always warlike, which Klein's thesis does.
> 
> Martha, are you asserting that hunter-gatherer groups quite often 
> lack any division of labor between the sexes? Division of labor is 
> not dominance , just difference. I would like to believe that it 
> often does not exist, but it seems contrary to huge collections of 
> evidence I've seen, which imply that there almost always is a 
> division, but that who does what in given cultures is mostly quite 
> arbitrary. The single exception I know of revolves around killing 
> big 
> game, which is always left to men, when it is done. Is this wrong? 
> 
> 
> Best,
> 
> Michael
> 
> 
> On Dec 9, 2006, at 9:11 PM, Martha Livingston wrote:
> 
> I think Phil's heading was right on the money, and I think the 
> Times 
> article frames the question in the way all 'C' students in anthro 
> would.  I miss Happy Leacock always, but especially at times like 
> these.  She argued from - get this, actual evidence! - that the 
> notion that men have always dominated women was simply iggerant.  I 
> refer folks to her ever-enduring collection "Myths of Male 
> Dominance," as well as her wonderful intro to Engels's "Origin of 
> the 
> Family" (which I typed).
> 
> Peace,
> 
> Martha
> 
> 
> Michael,
> 
>      Gosh are you dense. It's tongue-in-cheek, you know, satirical 
> humor, at least that's my take on it. Phil is saying, I think, that 
> this is new interpretation of the archeological remains is sexist. 
> (Phil, please correct me if I'm mistaken here...)
> 
>      It's just as reasonable to surmise, for instance, and much 
> more 
> probable, that Klein's theory was true, and that once homo sapiens 
> were able to use language they were able to then plan and execute 
> warfare and kill the Neanderthals wholesale. This would certainly 
> set 
> the precedent for modern relationships between tribes and countries 
> (:-)
> 
> Jonathan
> 
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <mailto:[log in to unmask]>Michael H Goldhaber
> To: <mailto:[log in to unmask]>SCIENCE-FOR-THE-
> [log in to unmask]: Saturday, December 09, 2006 10:05 PM
> Subject: Re: Anthropologists blame women for Neanderthal demise
> 
> You could just as well blame the kids for going along on the hunt, 
> or 
> the "men" for making the "women" accompany them.
> 
> 
> Best,
> 
> Michael
> 
> 
> On Dec 9, 2006, at 6:23 PM, Phil Gasper wrote:
> 
> Problem: Why did the Neanderthals die out? Hypothesis: Neanderthal 
> women joined the hunt instead of staying home with the kids. Hence 
> my 
> tendentious heading.
> 
> Phil,
> 
> 
> Why the tendentious heading for your post? The hypothesis  clearly 
> does not 'blame women," if female Neanderthals are even rightly 
> referred to as that. What is at issue is the lack of a sexual 
> division of labor. Such a division, in a preliterate society, 
> allows 
> twice the knowledge to be preserved and handed down. Of course, a 
> non-sexual division into two groups would accomplish the same, but 
> if 
> groups sometimes split apart, the sexual division would probably 
> better preserve the full range of knowledge. 
> 
> 
> Best,
> 
> Michael
> 
> 
> On Dec 9, 2006, at 4:46 PM, Phil Gasper wrote:
> 
> 
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/05/science/05nean.html?ref=science>http://
www.nytimes.com/
2006/12/05/science/05nean.html?ref=science
> 
> Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt
> 
> By NICHOLAS WADE
> 
> A new explanation for the demise of the Neanderthals, 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.
> 
> Hunting large game at close range is perilous, and Neanderthal
> skeletons bear copious fractures. 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.
> 
> Their argument, necessarily indirect, begins with the human
> hunter-gatherer societies, almost all of which have a division of
> labor between the sexes.
> 
> At sites occupied by modern humans from 45,000 to 10,000 years ago, a
> period known as the Upper Paleolithic, there is good evidence of
> different occupations, from small animal and bird remains, as well as
> the bone awls and needles used to make clothes. It seems reasonable to
> assume that these activities were divided between men and women, as is
> the case with modern foraging peoples.
> 
> But Neanderthal sites include no bone needles, no small animal remains
> and no grinding stones for preparing plant foods. So what did
> Neanderthal women do all day?
> 
> Their skeletons are so robustly built that it seems improbable that
> they just sat at home looking after the children, the anthropologists
> write. More likely, they did the same as the men, with the whole
> population engaged in bringing down large game.
> 
> The meat of large animals yields a rich payoff, but even the best
> hunters have unlucky days. The modern humans of the Upper Paleolithic,
> with their division of labor and diversified food sources, would have
> been better able to secure a continuous food supply. Nor were they
> putting their reproductive core - women and children - at great risk.
> 
> David Pilbeam, a paleoanthropologist at Harvard, said the Arizona
> researchers' article was "very stimulating and thoughtful" and seemed
> to be the first to propose a mechanism for why Neanderthal populations
> declined.
> 
> Dr. Stiner said the division of labor between the sexes was likely to
> have arisen in a tropical environment. Indeed, it may have provided
> 
> the demographic impetus for modern humans to expand out of Africa, she
> said.
> 
> A rival hypothesis proposed by Richard Klein of Stanford University
> holds that some cognitive advance like the perfection of language
> underlay the burst of innovative behavior shown by Upper Paleolithic
> people and their predecessors in Africa.
> 
> Why did the Neanderthals fail to adapt when modern humans arrived on
> their doorstep? Under Dr. Klein's hypothesis, the reason is simply
> that they were cognitively less advanced.
> 
> Dr. Stiner said that in her view there was not time for them to change
> their culture. "Although there may have been differences in
> neurological wiring," she said, "I think another very important key is
> the legacy of cultural institutions about social roles." Is there a
> 
> genetic basis to the division of labor that emerged in the modern
> human lineage? "It's equally compelling to argue that most or all of
> this has a cultural basis," Dr. Stiner said. "That's where it's very
> difficult for people like us and Richard Klein to resolve the basis of
> 
> our disagreement."
> 
> 
> --
> Martha Livingston, Ph.D.
> Associate Professor of Health and Society
> SUNY College at Old Westbury
> Box 210
> Old Westbury, New York 11568
> (516) 876-2748
> 
> 
> "I don't believe in charity.  I believe in solidarity.  Charity is 
> so 
> vertical.  It goes from the top to the bottom.  Solidarity is 
> horizontal.  It respects the other person.  I have a lot to learn 
> from other people."                                 
> 
> - Eduardo Galeano
> 
> 
> -- 
> Martha Livingston, Ph.D.
> Associate Professor of Health and Society
> SUNY College at Old Westbury
> Box 210
> Old Westbury, New York 11568
> (516) 876-2748
> 
> 
> "I don't believe in charity.  I believe in solidarity.  Charity is 
> so 
> vertical.  It goes from the top to the bottom.  Solidarity is 
> horizontal.  It respects the other person.  I have a lot to learn 
> from other people." 
> 
> - Eduardo Galeano

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