Re: Speciation - how do you know?

Paul Crowley (
Mon, 30 Sep 96 19:24:28 GMT

In article <52lrce$> "Nick Maclaren" writes:

> Here is how modern humans have hunted even very large
> quadrupeds in wooded country with clubs or spears alone. I admit
> that a healthy adult aurochs would be quite a handful, but the
> smaller, unarmoured large animals (such as red deer, reindeer,
> ponies etc.), wild sow and immature or sick aurochs are fairly
> easy to deal with.

I think you've put forward as good a case as can be made for
"hunting Neanderthals". But I don't think it works in the end;
the logistics aren't right. I'd accept that they would be
opportunist animal killers if, say, they came across a crippled
deer, but that's not the issue. The question is 'Were they
skilled "professional" hunters?'. Or 'Was hunting how they got
a significant part of their diet?' If it was, they would have
needed the full range of hunting skills - such as being able to
identify limping or sick animals, etc., from tracks. However,
their anatomy is all wrong for "professional hunters". They
weren't built for running, or long-distance endurance.

> Surround an isolated, preferably immature, old or sick, animal
> feeding or resting in a glade. Stay behind cover, and have one
> person every 6-12 feet in directions that it is likely to run. One
> group stands up and shouts. The animal will usually run in the other
> direction, but it doesn't matter if it charges. However, there is
> more risk of injury in the latter case.

This is an ideal scenario. How often would it be achieved?
Getting enough hunters around such a group would rarely be possible.
The animals would be alert, and there would have been plenty of
effective predators around - including big cats and wolves. Sick
animals would not have been left around until the hominids found
them. Your case has to be that Neanderthals were at least as
effective as the other predators.

> As it passes or charges one person, the others whack it hard
> on the head or legs. If a club connects on a leg, the animal
> will usually go down, and the leg will often be broken. Spears
> are used in a similar way. Note that you do NOT tackle the animal
> head-on. Anyone charged DIRECTLY should try to jump out of the
> way while the others distract the charge.
> For smaller animals, pile in and clobber it repeatedly. For
> larger ones, hit it while it is down and try to break a leg or stun
> it. If it gets up with a broken leg, surround it and hit it from
> behind, trying to break another. This also prevents it charging.
> If it gets up intact, and is a dangerous animal, stand back and
> either let it go or repeat from the second step if it charges.
> Note that there is a significant chance of the animal going down
> on someone - which would cause rodeo type accidents. But other than
> that, the technique is dangerous only for adult aurochs and adult
> boar (and impossible for mammoth!) The key is in numbers, and it
> is absolutely critical that you can trust everyone else to distract
> a charging animal by attacking it from the side.
> Note that speed is NOT needed - merely numbers, coordination and
> bravery. This technique does not work as well in open country,
> but does in woodland, especially because grass grows mainly in
> glades and the large quadrupeds spend a lot of time feeding in
> them.

Compare these putative hunters to a pride of lions. They have
everything, including sprinting speed. Lions do not find life that
easy. They never adapted to Europe (AFAIK). The prey is too rare
or too dangerous or too something else. So how could a much less
effective hunter with a much greater energy requirement make out?

> Also, remember that a large animal will feed a group of 40 for a
> week or more - i.e. only 50 kills are needed a year. And such a
> group can afford a couple of deaths a year, assuming that hunting
> accidents account for most deaths of adult males.

In a group of 40, you'd only have 8 or fewer mature males. So
your group has to be much larger. Even then the rate of death
or serious injury would seem much too high. Comparing with other
predators (assuming H.n. was a predator) such as lions, the risk
of serious injury has to be much lower. H.n.'s lifespan is much
longer and the replacement of a mature male would have been much
slower and more costly.