Re: Speciation - how do you know?

Stephen Barnard (
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 17:33:01 -0800

Paul Crowley wrote:
> In article <52bmh8$>
> "HARRY R. ERWIN" writes:
> > 1. A distinctive toolkit that shows site-specificity, but evolved slowly,
> > 2. No throwing weapons. Weapons use involved close contact with the target.
> > 3. A typical physique that would make any rugby forward green with envy.
> > 4. Inflated facial structure.
> > 5. No evidence until very late for decoration.
> > 6. Site organization unspecialized. Little evidence for workspace
> > organization.
> > 7. Preferred site locations in protected areas, whereas Cro Magnon
> > preferred locations with long-range visibility.
> > --very strong, neither mobile nor fast
> > --omnivorous
> > --bone fractures common and similar to those of rodeo riders
> > --no evidence for thrown weapons.
> Thanks for all the extra data, but I don't think it helps.
> > Compare those with the predatory strategies of cats, sabre-tooths, bears,
> > and dogs, and you see evidence for a short-range ambush hunter that
> > specialized on large prey. In some ways, an ecological vicar of a bear or
> > sabre-toothed cat.
> Ambush hunters rely on (1) a short and intense burst of high speed
> and (2) overwhelming power or weaponry. They can't afford the risk
> of injury and either kill quickly or not at all.
> Neanderthals had neither (1) nor (2). Even if they managed to
> surprise a quadruped, there is no way they could have caught it or
> held it down. If it felt threatened (IMO somewhat unlikely) it
> would be off like a shot. And, unless it was small, they could not
> have killed it quickly. (Perhaps you could suggest how they might
> kill a large bovid quickly.) Furthermore, the risk of injury to
> the hominid would have been unacceptably high. A upright biped is
> extraordinarily vulnerable. One charge by a quadruped is likely
> to break its bones.
> > You need some working hypotheses. Neanderthals are gone, so to
> > reconstruct their behavior, you have to ask questions of their fossils.
> There are, in effect, no working hypotheses about major aspects of
> human anatomy - the origins of bipedalism, nakedness or sweating.
> Why insist on one here? It's a particularly bad one, and IMHO
> the fossil evidence is strongly *against* it. The evidence for
> hunting by any hominid before 100 Kya is weak. Neanderthals are
> about the least likely of the hominids to have engaged in it. The
> speculation derives almost entirely from Victorian imaginations.
> Paul.

I will just point out that Native Americans killed Bison before they had
horses and guns. The North American Bison is a very formidable and
dangerous animal. True, the Native Americans had bows and arrows, but
it doesn't stretch my imagination to think that a well-thrown spear
could do the job, also. One trick they used to ambush the bison was to
disguise themselves under a bison skin and slowly creep up on the animal
or lay in wait for it.

It seems to me, Paul, that you greatly underestimate the
resoucefullness, intelligence, patience, and guile of prehistoric

Steve Barnard