December 10, 2006

Division of Labor among Neanderthals and Modern Humans

CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 47, Number 6, December 2006

What's a Mother to Do?
The Division of Labor among Neandertals and Modern Humans in Eurasia

by Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner

Recent hunter-gatherers display much uniformity in the division of labor along the lines of gender and age. The complementary economic roles for men and women typical of ethnographically documented hunter-gatherers did not appear in Eurasia until the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic. The rich archaeological record of Middle Paleolithic cultures in Eurasia suggests that earlier hominins pursued more narrowly focused economies, with women's activities more closely aligned with those of men with respect to schedule and ranging patterns than in recent forager systems. More broadly based economies emerged first in the early Upper Paleolithic in the eastern Mediterranean region and later in the rest of Eurasia. The behavioral changes associated with the Upper Paleolithic record signal a wider range of economic and technological roles in forager societies, and these changes may have provided the expanding populations of Homo sapiens with a demographic advantage over other hominins in Eurasia.


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