Did better mothering defeat the Neanderthals?

More and more research shows that Neanderthals were as inferior in cognition as originally thought. A five-year project out of Kochi University of Technology in Japan examines factors that contributed to the extinction of the Neanderthals, and posits that the differences in learning was the key factor. Although invention and tool use is normally associated with men in human culture, studies of non-human primates reveals that mothers are more likely to invent and pass their inventions on to their offspring. This is also true in other species, such as dolphins.

Evidence to date indicates that Neanderthals were patrilocal, meaning the females went to live with their mate’s family; whereas early modern humans appear more likely to have been matrilocal, the male moved to the female’s family. How would gender dynamics and kinship structure influence the competition between species? Quite dramatically!

One quibble I have with this article is that the author confuses lack of exclusive breast feeding with weaning. While the Neanderthal child did wean earlier than a human child would, the Neanderthal child was introduced to solids at 7.5 months, not weaned, which took place at 1.2 years of age, and the cessation was abrupt, which means it may not have been done by choice.

It is also worth noting that patrilocality is more common in modern human records and, if humans shifted in this process, what prompted that change?

This entry was posted in primates and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s