Human evolution, the Trooth: In this episode, an early industrial revolution was the closing curtain for Neanderthals

In this episode of Human Evolution, written by Colin Barras (New Scientist, 28 July 2011), "Industrial revolution sealed Neanderthals' fate," and interbreeding didn't make much difference:

The last Neanderthals to live in the region are represented by the artefacts known as the Chatelperronian industry, which ended around 40,250 years ago. The first modern humans appeared immediately afterwards and are associated with the Aurignacian industry.

They claim the Neanderthal industry was less efficient.

Comparing the archaeological records of the two industries, Mellars and French found that there were about two-and-a-half times as many Aurignacian sites as Chatelperronian ones. What's more, the size of each Aurignacian site was, on average, twice as large – and in each the quantity of stone tools and animal food remains suggest population density increased about 1.8 times during the transition.

But if third-generation Neanderthal hybrids were moving in and marrying the Aurignacians, that would account …

He suggests it was the sheer weight of numbers of modern humans – probably sustained by better technology and more sophisticated social interactions – that allowed them to muscle the Neanderthals out of existence.

Nits to pick with this episode: The technology was not better, only better adapted to modern human hands. And how do they know about the “more sophisticated social interactions”?

Has anyone noticed that this and the previous "we crowded them out" story of human evolution are just projections of current anxieties about industrialism and population density?

See also: Human evolution: Sadly, there were too many of us. We crowded them out.

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Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

One thought on “Human evolution, the Trooth: In this episode, an early industrial revolution was the closing curtain for Neanderthals

  1. I think the piece in Human Evolution is deliberately speculative – in fact it mentions a couple of times that it is a hypothesis or an idea, and of course hypotheses come and go all the time, and are a normal part of science. And whether human technology is better is indicated as “probably”. It’s not given as a fact because I don’t think the data is clear yet – but it’s a reasonable inference and yes one that could be overturned in time.
    But I’m curious as to what basis of the idea “…that this and the previous “we crowded them out” story of human evolution are just projections of current anxieties about industrialism and population density?” Isn’t this just replacing one speculative “just-so” story with another. Seems like something Ms O’Leary just pulled from her imagination. I’ve heard Ms O’Leary decry “just-so” (and rightly so on occasions), but in this case it seems like she has countered with her own version of a just-so story. Maybe she can elaborate and explain she thinks this idea has merit or factual basis.
    I guess too I find it sad that most of these kinds of articles seem to sneer at science – sure, it’s one thing to criticize and point out flaws, but if you look at Uncommon Descent that seems to be the majority of the kind of pieces posted nowadays. It’s almost as if the authors actually despise science! It seems a deliberate tactic to denigrate science and overlook the tremendous benefits and advances it has given us. Sometimes I think that by doing this the idea is that by trying to demolish science (and evolution in particular), it bolsters the case for ID. I rather think it does the opposite and just highlights just how little positive concrete evidence there really is for ID (example: go look at Uncommon Descent and find an article that has positive confirming evidence for ID…if they exist at all there are only a few, but I stand to be corrected if there are).

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