The Elements of Evolution (61-22-4) Cro-Magnons versus Neanderthals

 Cro-Magnons versus Neanderthals

A difference in build and development, along with cultural refinements emanating from division of labor, gave Cro-Magnon an edge in survival over the Neanderthal natives in Europe. Cro-Magnon in the time of their European cousin sewed clothes. Meantime, Neanderthal left no sign of needles or sewn garments. Such skill was symptomatic, not causal, of why Cro-Magnon lived on and Neanderthal did not.

Neanderthal focus on game might have made hunting a family sport: the women spotting and flushing game, the men taking the kill. In contrast, the more varied diet of early moderns would have favored women collecting nuts, grains, seeds, berries, and the like, and preparing them, while the men hunted. Such division of labor may have provided an incremental productivity, at a time when such seemingly modest advantage might have meant the knife’s edge of survival.

Early domestication of females would have garnered a tremendous advantage in both invention and the production of food, clothing, and living essentials, plus acceleration of social skills by a greater variety of activities and interactions. Womanly contributions put Cro-Magnon on a constant learning track, accelerating mental development, sociality, and communication skills. The augmented separation of the sexes was also likely to have been instrumental in the sexism which became integral to human culture.

As the Neanderthals were dying out, the humans who would outlast them started living longer. The number of grandparents among moderns skyrocketed. This meant both more time for acquisition of knowledge and its transfer to the next generation. Greater longevity may well have been a payoff from the improved cultural practices of Cro-Magnon.

A looming factor was purely biologic: Neanderthals were bulky compared to more gracile Cro-Magnon, and so required more calories to survive. Neanderthals had shorter strides, which meant that Cro-Magnon could cover more ground while foraging or hunting.

These efficiencies would have allowed moderns more time for varied skill acquisition and rearing children, both of which would have enhanced survival chances for the young. Today, that virtuous cycle of lean and keen has been lost on post-industrial humans, leading to lower life expectancy and ubiquitous stupidity at a time when education can be had.

Competition and conflict between Neanderthal and nascent moderns appear to have been direct at times. At least one Neanderthal has been found with what appears a spear wound to the chest. The puncture marks were that of a chiseled spear head, a type not known to Neanderthal culture, but used by contemporaneous Cro-Magnon.

A butchered Neanderthal child was found in France which indicated cannibalism by Cro-Magnon. Also found were necklaces crafted from Neanderthal teeth and bones.

Natural resources are never inexhaustible, and hominins have long had a way of working their habitats to exhaustion. By 40 TYA, large game animals were severely depleted in Africa. By 20 TYA, the woolly mammoth, mastodon, saber-toothed tiger, giant bison, and sloth, were all gone from Eurasia. By 12 TYA, over 200 species had been exterminated by man’s intervention. The number of extinct species has since grown so large that men have lost count; not that they ever really cared.