My explanation is below in my response to Michael Goldfarb. Of course
my heading was a bit unfair. I don't think the theory itself is
inherently sexist, but I do think that's the way the NYT spun it. --PG
At 2:59 PM -0800 12/10/06, Claudia Hemphill wrote:
>Hi, Phil -
>I finally read the string of messages if only to find out why "BLAME
>WOMEN" was repeating
>over and over in my
>email queue -- hardly an encouraging thing to see, I hope you'll agree.
>Anyway, I posted a comment back to SftP and just wanted to say to
>you -- I do think I for one
>misunderstood your choice of headline ??? And I'm open to clarificaiton.
>I must say, though, I would have deleted it unread, with
>imprecations, if it were from our list-
>mate from New
>Zealand, the anti-spelling anti-'wimmen' misogynist. Fortunately, I
>now have him on
>permanent spam filtering,
>so I can't even remember his name.
>You're not him, I hope :-) I thought it was a good article and
>look forward to reading the full
>item in CA. I just
>wanted to make sure you understand I am not denouncing your article
>re-titling, just not
>rationale. If you do think the article, or their research, is
>"sexist", I'd be interested in learning
>Claudia Hemphill Pine
>PhD Candidate, Env Science
>University of Idaho
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]>
>Date: Saturday, December 9, 2006 6:27 pm
>Subject: Re: Anthropologists blame women for Neanderthal demise
>To: [log in to unmask]
>> Problem: Why did the Neanderthals die out? Hypothesis: Neanderthal
>> women joined the hunt instead of staying home with the kids. Hence
>> tendentious heading.
>> >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,
>> >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
>> >better preserve the full range of knowledge.
>> >On Dec 9, 2006, at 4:46 PM, Phil Gasper wrote:
>> >>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
>> >>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
>> >>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
>> >>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
>> >>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."