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Author Topic:   Inferior or Superior Neandertals?
Theus
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 9 (230761)
08-07-2005 6:30 PM


I've noticed when cruising through threads that there is an impression that today's humans are the most intelligent. Far be it from me to refute this, but I can throw up some evidence to jar this idea. Particularly with everyone's stereotypical dumb caveman, Neandertals.

Average humans have a cranial capacity (not brain size... but how big the carrying case is) of 1350 cc's, spectacular given a chimpanzee's already remarkable 350 cc's. However, Neandertals come with a whopping 1500 cc average, including the largest known hominid cranial size, 1700 cc's!. That's a chimpanzee cranial capacity, plus the author of this paragraph's cranial capacity.. and then some!

Some have countered that this was to have more cerebral fluid due to the ice age... but Neandertals lived in a relatively short span of time from 125,000 to 20,000(?) years ago. Evidence from the Marine Oxygen Isotope Curve (MOIC) show that their species time was split between an interglacial and glacial period, with the interglacial period slightly cooler than the current one we are living in. This means that the beginning half of Neandertal evolution was... NOT IN AN ICE AGE! So the idea that their cranial capacities reflect only cerebral fluid is humbug, although I must admit that the higher end-marks to typify the glacial period.

Some scientists, such as Tattersal and Bordes have argued that the simpler Mousterian technology when contrasted with the more complex Aurignacian technology of H. sapiens is evidence for greater intelligence among our closest human ancestors. Essentially, the argument used to be that the more clumsy-looking Mousterian points were indicative of less intelligent humans, while the more advanced and bladelike Aurignacian technology indicated more intelligent humans. However, Howard Dibble of the University of PA put this debate on it's head when pointing out that Mousterian points could easily be re-touched into Aurignacian points, and that the real question was about transportation and efficiency. If you live a sedentary lifestyle(like Neandertals seem to), it's more facilitative to go out and grab a new stone to make, and discard an old one. If you're more nomadic (say, coming out of Africa), it would be more efficient to re-work larger points into smaller ones, thus making the Aurignacion technology, aka recycling rock. And of course I could ask any of you reading this to make a Mousterian cutter to prove your intelligence... but I think the point has been made.

So, the end result, why do Neandertals have to be dumb cavemen? Sure, they're unattractive on our standards, and their women may have had volumous amounts of facial hair... but there is nothing against a group of Neandertals sitting around a campfire with Mousterian points discussing the nature of reality and having elaborate and complex social relations. Similarly, our ancestors(?) could have just been more skinny and violent, and the survival of one species(?) over the other could have been more about vicious competition than a test of intelligence.

So, the real question is, is human evolution really the same thing as the evolution of intelligence?

P.S. For a quick description of MOIC, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ice_Age_Temperature.png

This message has been edited by Theus, 08-07-2005 06:35 PM

This message has been edited by Theus, 08-07-2005 06:36 PM


Veri Omni Veritas

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Message 2 of 9 (231910)
08-10-2005 1:52 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 9 (231913)
08-10-2005 1:57 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Theus
08-07-2005 6:30 PM


I, for one, would be delighted at the thought that our Neanderthal cousins were just as intelligent as us but expressed that intelligence differently.

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Yaro
Member (Idle past 5559 days)
Posts: 1797
Joined: 07-12-2003


Message 4 of 9 (231956)
08-10-2005 3:00 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Chiroptera
08-10-2005 1:57 PM


Kind of reminds me of the novel, 'Clan of The Cave Bear'. The novel depicts the Neandratal as more emotionaly advanced and peceful. Then the skinny, nasty H. Sapiens come along and brutalize them calling them "flatheads" and somesuch.

I dunno if this is true and not just a reflection of our nature as humans. Though, I see no reason to belive Neandratal couldn't be just as mean and nasty.


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jar
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Posts: 33492
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 4.1


Message 5 of 9 (231979)
08-10-2005 3:57 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Theus
08-07-2005 6:30 PM


This ties in well with another thread, one that I started.

Is there any indication of relative intellegence among humans? Having knapped flint, I know how hard it is to make an effiecient edge. To the pass that knowledge (not intellegence, knowledge) also requires intellegence and forethought.

IMHO the creator of the Venus of Willendorf was a intellegent and creative as any modern artist, and those who broke rocks to make edges as intellegent as those who today are breaking atoms and sub-atomic particles.

If tool making gets pushed back, as seems likely to be happening, to even greater depths, say in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of years instead of the tens of thousands of years, would not those earliest tool makers, those creating spears, harpoons and then barbed harpoons be considered as intelegent as anyone alive today?


Aslan is not a Tame Lion

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Theus
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 9 (232392)
08-11-2005 3:45 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by jar
08-10-2005 3:57 PM


Earliest tools
Earliest tools are of Oldowan technology, and are found in the Kenya-ish region. They arguably go back to 3 mya, but the earliest confirmed are from the same locality at 2.5 mya These were just slightly modified rocks, but have the diffinitive bulb of percussion.

The next step up was the Acheulean technology, which starts at roughly 1.5 mya and continues to 800 kya. Oddly, this technology stays the same for the entire block of time, even though these early critters were getting into the Iberian peninsula at this time.

After 800-500 kya, the tool making industries explode. In fact, we have a wooden spear from 500 kya at Bilsingsblen in Germany (hope I spelled that right). So there are indications of intelligence over time. However, we don't know what to read into it.

I've argued that the earliest forms of Oldowan technology shouldn't be in the same league as Acheulean, as the bi-faced hand-axe shows clear thought process before it's manufacture, while many Oldowan "choppers" could merely have been rocks banged into a sharp edge. The argument centers on whether or not there was a mental "blue-print" in making these tools - did the designer have a plan? Given the frighteningly little change that occurs for 700,000 years in the Acheulian industry, we can argue very well that the designers knew exactly what they were doing and what they were using it for. We don't have the same confidence with Oldowan, but the were certainly modified tools, if not as well thought out.

However, tools that we see for fine-edge work only show up roughly 40,000 years ago, as barbed fishing points and the possible use of sewing needles. However, there are two sites in Africa from 80,000 to 70,000 years ago that show these same technologies and possibly a counting system. However they vanish, and the technology emerges again in Europe 30,000 years later...

Vale,
Theus


Veri Omni Veritas

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jar
Member
Posts: 33492
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 4.1


Message 7 of 9 (232400)
08-11-2005 3:56 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Theus
08-11-2005 3:45 PM


Re: Earliest tools
Well, the likelyhood of finding wood or bone tools is a lot lower than for stone tools, and wood and bone tools also have several other factors that might cut down on us finding or identifying them even when found.

They can warp, get worn out and reused easier than stone, were easier to replace and so more expendable, could be similar to natural growths and certainly more likely than stone to simply rot away.

I do believe it likely that wood and bone implements predate stone ones, but I also see a difference in intent, in the underlying approach to the problem that seems to me apparent in the two. Wood and bone tools are basically a reshaping or slight modification of what is seen already in nature. It's a short leap from getting stuck by a cactus needle to the intuition that I could make any stick sharp on the end. But knapping goes beneath the surface, into the inner workings of the rock itself. Not all rocks cleave. It's damn near impossible to make a sharp edge of chalk, lime or sandstone.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion

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Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 8 of 9 (232406)
08-11-2005 4:02 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by jar
08-11-2005 3:56 PM


Re: Earliest tools
Not too mention that chimpanzees make tools -- they strip leaves off of twigs to use them to get into termite nests, for example, and chew leaves to make "sponges" to get at water in the hollows of logs.

I would imagine that this technology would have developed even further before anyone got the idea of shaping rocks.


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Nuggin
Member (Idle past 1556 days)
Posts: 2965
From: Los Angeles, CA USA
Joined: 08-09-2005


Message 9 of 9 (234150)
08-17-2005 2:43 PM


Gotten a little off topic
Seems like we've gotten a little off topic - we're talking about tool origin when the original question seems to be: "were Neandertals inferior or superior?"

While Neandertals had larger cranial capacity, does this equate to "intelligence"?

Unfortunately, we still know extremely little about the human mind.

Does a bigger brain mean a smarter animal? In a general sense, I would guess that that is correct, but I'm sure any zoologist could give me a list of "small smart" animals that would run mental circles around, say, cows.

Also, it serves our purpose to consider the terms "inferior" and "superior". What criteria are we basing this on? SAT scores?

If we're asking about ability to survive the Ice Age, clearly Neandertal is far superior.

If we're asking about ability to adapt to changing enviornments, ability to compete over resources, or complexity of social structure - well, the jury is still out.


  
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