Re: Speciation - how do you know?

Nick Maclaren (
15 Sep 1996 10:40:59 GMT

In article <>,
Stephen Barnard <> wrote:
>Paul Crowley wrote:
>> In article <51bjle$>
>> "HARRY R. ERWIN" writes:
>> > The build of the average H. neanderthalensis male was off-scale relative
>> > to H. sapiens.
>> Take Arnold Swarchzneggar in his prime; add more muscle and bone;
>> You can have 20 of them with wooden spears. I'll have one angry
>> auroch cow. In less than an hour you'd have 20 dead or crippled
>> "super-Swarchzneggars"; my auroch cow might have a few scratches,
>> but even that's doubtful.

This claim seems a bit extreme. You are implying that humans armed
with wooden spears are much less lethal than African hunting dogs. The
latter have been reported as occasionally killing even Cape buffalo,
which are a damn sight tougher than the aurochs was. And they routinely
kill wildebeest, which are nearly the size of aurochs (though more
lightly built).

>> > There is also good evidence that they did not use missile
>> > weapons, but instead had a hunting style that involved closing with the
>> > prey and fighting it out using a spear.
>> How does a slow bipedal animal "close with" a fast quadruped?

One of two ways: they hunt in groups and surround the prey, or they run
the animal down over a long distance. Remember that humans are slow
only in a sprint; it would be extremely surprising if an aurochs could
outrun a group of humans over 10 miles. The first technique is used
by hyaenas and the second by African hunting dogs, both of which are
much slower than their prey in a sprint.

>The Masi of Africa, who are quite gracile in build, have traditionally
>killed lions with spears.

And single-handed, too, but this is a bit of a red herring. The spears
have long iron blades and lions are much more delicate creatures than
aurochs. However, it should be noted that metalworking is a recent
introduction to the African savanna.

It is certainly POSSIBLE that humans hunted even aurochs by running them
down until they tired, a couple of selected heroes grabbing the horns
and holding the animal down, and the rest killing it with wooden spears.
In rodeos today, it is usually calves that are wrestled to the ground,
but that is done single-handed and the animal is fresh; I believe that
some people can bring a fully-grown Texas longhorn down.

I have no idea whether they DID, of course, but I think that you will have
to provide some harder evidence for your claim of impossibility.

Nick Maclaren,
University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory,
New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QG, England.
Tel.: +44 1223 334761 Fax: +44 1223 334679