Adaptive Niche of Archaic Humans

Norman Sides (
7 Jun 1995 13:20:17 -0700

Only the header posted on my first attempt, so I'm giving this another try.

I was wondering if the paleontological record is complete enough to
either support or falsify the hypothesis that H. erectus and archaic
H. sapiens had a genetically determined adaptive niche. Obviously they were
hunter-gatherers, but were they, in contradistinction to modern humans,
*obligate* hunter-gatherers? It appears, from the evidence I have seen,
that their stone-tool technologies remained essentially unchanged for
thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years. Does this indicate that
the entire way of life was equally unchanging and that archaics were
incapable of making major cultural innovations? If so, does this
incapacity point to a clear species difference between archaic and modern

I know that regional differences in tool traditions did occur and that at
least one Neanderthal group did, at the very end of the middle paleolithic,
begin to make some new types of stone tools more characteristic of
Cro-Magnon sites. The difference in degree of cultural innovation and
variability would seem, nonetheless, to indicate that moderns constitute
a new species of human with a markedly enhanced ability to innovate and
to create variations in way of life. This enhanced ability apparently
enabled groups of modern humans to penetrate and occupy a greater range
of habitat types than could any group of archaics, though ostensibly they
were living much in the same way as had all the archaics before them.
That's my impression anyway. Would anyone care to comment?