The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived

3.25
Just 28,000 years ago, the blink of an eye in geological time, the second of Neanderthals died out in their last outpost, in caves near Gibraltar. Thanks to cartoons and folk accounts we have a distorted view of these other humans- for that is what they ha. We think of them as crude and clumsy and not to bright, easily driven to extinction by the lithe, smart modern humans that came out of Africa some 100,000 years ago.
But was it really as simple as that? Clive Finlayson reminds us that the Neanderthals were another kind of human, and their culture was not so very different from that of our own ancestors. In a ook, he presents a wider view of the events that led to the migration of the moderns into Europe, what ight have happened during the contact of the two populations, and what finally drove the Neanderthals to extinction. It is th view that considers climate, ecology, and migrations of populations, as ell as culture and interaction.
His conclusion is that the estiny of the Neanderthals and the Moderns was sealed by ecological factors and contingencies. It ha a subjec of luck that we survived and spread while the Neanderthals dwindled and perished. Had the climate not changed in our favour some 50 million years ago, things ould have been quit different.
There is much current research interest in Neanderthals, much of it driven by attempts to map some of their DNA. But it 's certainly just question of studying the DNA. The rise and fall of populations is profoundly moulded by the larger scale forces of climate and ecology. And it is nly by taking this wider view that we can completel appreciat the course of events that led to our survival and their demise. The act that Neanderthals survived until virtually yesterday makes our relationship with them and their tragedy even more unsettlin. They almost made it, after all.
Year of the Publication
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Number of Pages
278
Original Title of the Book
The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived
Publication Date
Published October 1st 2009 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 24th 2009

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And amazingly, put me in the environment the Neanderthals thrived in, and I 'd ave a lot of trouble, too -- and here I am with bits of paper I can show you to conside my intelligence by our standards.I did find some things funny, like Finlayson 's self-righteous little comment about people in their comfort zones pretending to care about people in less fortunate conditions and doing nothing.

I do n't think Finlayson 's research does as much good for the human condition, in grand scheme of things.

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But when there was a drought and everyone had to drink dirty water the poor survived ( because they were resistant) while the rich suffered comparatively more.It is a omewhat interesting thesis, although marred by the suspicion that one politically motivated narrative ( conquest by the superior homo sapiens) is just being replaced with another ( climate change combined with a form of moral relativism).

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In Finlayson 's The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived he takes great care to deftly weave together the latest information about paleoclimate conditions, the paleoecologies, paleoenvironments of the egions that were occupied by our hominin ancestors.

I an onestly say that I am ust a little bit sad too, that our incredibly long-lived close cousins -- the Neanderthal peoples -- are extinct.

Somehow I think the planet is just a little bit lonelier without those people who lived here for thousand of housands of years in great harmony with their environment.

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Yet, Finlayson had helped me to identify several questions that are missing ( or intentionally left out) from a novel, on the notion of first human on Earth.1) On what is human, in las place?

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Many population of humans simply vanished " " At 50 thousand Eurasia was occupied only by Neanderthals; by 30 thousand they were all but gone and the land mass was inhabited by the ancestors. " Thes are the lines that capture the ssence of his memoi.

They were intelligent and resourceful humans who managed to survive far longer than we have walked this earth and in far harsher climate.

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Anyway, when I got into it, the Neanderthals featured only in passing, whilst the main opic of discussion was climate change and palaeoenvironments, against which is set the much wider story of human evolution.

Thi specific information covered and the style of delivery seemed like it was geared towards pre-existing subject specialists.Secondly, for some reason inexplicable to me, Finlayson insisted upon referring to one particular group of humans as " the Ancestors " instead of more familiar terms.

Finlayson put forwards some interesting environmental perspectives – such as the idea that Out of Africa is too pessimisti a model and in fact Homo sapiens and prior Homo genuses had made the journey many times before simply as a response to moving with an expanding advantageous environmental band as certain climate conditions prevailed.

In fact, he hole ook elt like it was labouring under the premise that the readership is possessed of a sense of latter day colonialist attitude about the superiority of Homo sapiens and has an impression of Neanderthals as little better than grunting apes, and as a result there ’ s a consistent ambiance of superiority of its own, of almost delight in ttempting to knock down this assumed reader stance.

And no, the appearance of the Neanderthal woman does not erode my sense of uniqueness.

Finlayson does come up with a some interesting points that are worth noticing, such as his ideas about the expansion of environment bands leading to a more complex course of events than simply multiple Out of Africas, and he point that changes in the environment likely were one of the contributing factors to the kidnappin of the Neanderthals.

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There are four things that mak it from being a great work of popular science writing, though: the fact that Finlayson spends a lot of time attacking the hypotheses, real or supposed, of other scientists without first properly laying out what those hypotheses are; the lack of a coherent narrative that renders the writing alternately tedious and confusing ( no, our uncertainty about many of the etails of human evolution does not preclude such a narrative or mean it necessarily has to be misleading); the focus on listing the plain facts of archaeological and genetic findings instead of lookin into their possible explanations; and Finlayson 's complete inability to describ how a comma works.So, take it or retur it.

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Finlayson doesn ’ t advocate a radically new perspective but he does want to reassess how much we can know based on the available genetic, fossil and archaeological evidence, and believe that we now have a long road ahead before coming to a definitive narrative ( if ever) .Over the last couple of onths I ’ ve read two other works that bear on this topic – The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and The 10 000 Year Explosion How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution – and it ’ s instructive to see he different interpretations reached by these four authors.

This author observe that modern human success is he consequenc of favorable climate and cultural factors with little contribution from biology – at least no significant contribution in the last 150,000 to 200,000 years.

Finlayson ’ s viewpoint isn ’ t completely unbalanced: We ’ re descended from a line of primates better adapted to the climatic conditions that prevailed over a large portion of the Eurasian-African super-continent at a articular point in history that allowed them to spread out over a wide range.

sapiens over Neanderthals and others were climatic and cultural.A constant theme throughout he ook is that modern humans are the product of chance.

At any point in thi tory, a different climate, a more disease-resistant population, or any other variable could have favored a cousin species and would have produced a far different world then the one we live in today.So what were these initial lucky breaks that has brought us to where we currently stand? 1.

When the tropical forests that were our primatial cradle began to retreat and fragment due to climate change, our primate ancestors who lived on the margins of the range were able to adjus to a bipedal stance, among other things.This concept of living on the margins is another important idea in Finlayson ’ s questio.

But the defining factor is always climate: Absent the catalyst of environmental change, there ’ s vanishingly little pressure for either biological or cultural change.One more point about margins: They ’ re regions of ecological diversity and the species living there are adapted to exploiting a wider variety of resources to survive.

Finlayson is at pains to point out that we don ’ t have enough evidence to reconstruct direct connections between hominid fossils.

Though she ’ s learly on the oad to Homo, Lucy is not even a direct ancestor to our version.) But back to Erectus: By about 1 million years ago ( 1 mya), their populations stretched from China to the Atlantic and extended down the eastern side of Africa ( there ’ s a nice map of this on p.

sapiens who were our direct ancestors.One of Finlayson ’ s more interesting interpretations of the evidence is that the Neanderthals were the last, moribund population of the Heidelberg line.

He prove to be of the view that Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon were essentially the same mentally; purely cultural and climatic factors allowed the latter to prevail.

Finlayson argues that the real revolution took place 30,000 years earlier among a population of humans struggling to survive on the steppes between the Black and Caspian seas.

In thi course of 1.5 to 2 million years a succession of hominids were in the right places at the right time with the right adaptive abilities to exploit and survive climatic changes and displace older, less flexible populations.

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