Friday, December 01, 2006

New CA paper by Kuhn & Stiner

This new paper in Current Anthropology by Steve Kuhn and Mary Stiner (U of Arizona) ought to be of interest some folks out there.

What's a Mother to Do? The Division of Labor among Neandertals and Modern Humans in Eurasia

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.

Just got it today and I haven't had time to read it yet. However, judging by the lengthy comments and reply section, it seems to have generated quite a bit of debate. Should make for interesting reading!

1 comment:

Tim Jones said...

Hi Julien - Fascinating stuff - I haven't seen the paper but the online reports gave what I imagine were the bare bones of the matter - I always liked thinking of Neanderthals as being very like ourselves, but to me, this really puts a different slant on things - this idea of uniformity across gender is is odd to us, but may have applied to all other pre-sapiens hominids as well.

When they announced last week that the human genome and its multiple copies of strands of DNA was what makes us all much more different to each other than we had supposed - I was wondering what implications that might have for people like the Neanderthals - and bearing in mind they all ostensibly acted pretty much the same, might indicate that they didn't have all these multiple copies in their genome, so they acted the same because they were the same

I suppose this conformity could have largely applied to others like heidelbergensis, erectus et al - and bearing in mind that our appearance or architecture alone marks us out as hugely different from what went before, these replications are what not only makes us different from each other, but radically different from our forebears, who might then be regarded as having in some way 'failed' because they were stuck in their own unreplicating? genomes, unable to progress beyond a certain point no matter how many hundreds of years they might otherwise have survived.

It obviously sounds to good to be true - human evolution explained by our forebears having no or very few duplicated strands, building up slowly in number, or in punctuated bursts, as new and more species advanced, leading to ourselves - though it's possible to get the impression that our species may have been so radically different because there was a sudden and veritable explosion of these copies being made, triggered by who knows what, fast-forwarding us through prehistory in the modern age - do you think anyone might try to prove or disprove such a (simplistic) theory? Not sure if any of that makes sense, just a passing thought or two - best, Tim