Saturday, February 04, 2023

Neanderthal Republics?

 On today's edition of the CBC Radio One's distinguished Quirks and Quarks, a science show, the guest was talking about Neanderthal hunting techniques.  I am writing this from memory, so excuse the lack of detail, including the name of the interviewee, a German-Australian archaeologist based in Perth.

This fellow was talking about Neanderthals and hunting, in particular the hunting of 30-ton "super-elephants".  He and his colleagues were impressed by the fact that the butchering techniques evident fro the cuts on the elephant bones are the same as the cuts made today.  In other words, this was a developed technology, not some fluke.

This has implications for the social history of humanity.  These Neanderthals had to be organized to successfully kill the super-elephants, and especially to dispose of the elephant meat before it rotted.  Were elephant hunts large impermanent republics?  Or armies organized around would-be Napoleons?  One undeveloped idea is to compare the elephant hunts to the buffalo hunts of 19th century North America.  Phil Paine has written interestingly on the Metis, a "national" group formed from disparate elements to meet the social and political challenges of the Prairies in the 19th century.  I will see if I can find a linkable copy for this article.

I've given up thinking of Neanderthals as "primitive."

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