The Elements of Evolution (61-22-3) Cro-Magnon


Cro-Magnon is the informal reference to the European human contemporaries of Neanderthals. The term Cro-Magnon derived from the first fossils found in a cave in France called Abri de Cro-Magnon.

Though well-known, the term Cro-Magnon has lost favor among anthropologists. Cro-Magnon has no taxonomic status, as it refers neither to a species or grade. Further, the term has no direct application to an archeological phase or culture. Nevertheless, Cro-Magnon provides a helpful handle for early humans that lived during the Upper Paleolithic, the onset of which neatly coincides with the earliest Cro-Magnon fossil finds in Europe.

The term Cro-Magnon was scotched for European early modern humans – the sort of inelegant mouthful that modern anthropologists seem fond of. It won’t be used here.

The development of early Africans who migrated to Europe and became Cro-Magnon mirrored that of their distant relatives to the north, the Neanderthal: increasing skill with tools, growing cultural and social sophistication.

Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon both fashioned clothes from animal skins but the African immigrants did so with more style and skill; likewise, jewelry.

Cro-Magnon lived in caves and constructed shelters. A typical group was 30 to 50: generally, an extended family group, forming a loose network. These hunter-gatherers fashioned sophisticated stone tools, which, via group coordination, brought down megafauna: feasting on enormous beasts that could feed a growing population. So did Neanderthals.

Cro-Magnon life expectancy was 25 to 35 years. Cro-Magnon infant mortality was 150–250 per 1,000 births, which remained the norm into the 19th century. Infanticide looks to have been a somewhat widespread practice; a presumed population control mechanism.

Cro-Magnon were territorial: a trait that would be taken to extremes in modern humans.