How We Beat the Neanderthals
Psst… don’t tell the feminists:
Diversified social roles for men, women, and children may have given Homo sapiens an advantage over Neanderthals, says a new study in the December 2006 issue of Current Anthropology. The study argues that division of economic labor by sex and age emerged relatively recently in human evolutionary history and facilitated the spread of modern humans throughout Eurasia. …
The Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal record also lacks the artifacts commonly used to make weather-resistant clothing or artificial shelters, such as bone needles. Thus, it was the emergence of “female” roles – subsistence and skill-intensive craft – that allowed H. sapiens in ecologically diverse tropical and sub-tropical regions to take advantage of other foods and live at higher population densities.
“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,” write the authors. “It is impossible to argue that [Neanderthal] females and juveniles were fulfilling the same roles—or even an equally diverse suite of economic roles—as females and juveniles in recent hunter-gatherer groups,” they add.