Re: Anthropologists blame women for Neanderthal demise
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? 


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).



     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 (:-)
----- Original Message -----
From: Michael H Goldhaber
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: 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.


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.


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. 


On Dec 9, 2006, at 4:46 PM, Phil Gasper wrote:
Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt

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 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

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."

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