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Thursday, April 07, 2005

New Theory on Why the Neanderthal Went Extinct

Sometime around 40,000 years ago, the Neanderthal humanoids suddenly went extinct. Most anthropologists suspect that the new, improved humanoids, Homo sapiens, had something to do with it. But no one has ever been sure exactly how.

Now, new research suggests that the Neanderthal might have fallen victim to Homo sapiens' superior ability to specialize in labor, trade and network... offering us modern folk lessons in the process. Because they interacted over wide areas in diverse ways, Homo sapiens could spread learning and develop economic efficiency. By pioneering "reciprocal obligations," those who were good at hunting could trade food for other goods and services that they might not be able to procure otherwise. Hence, the free market was born.

The Neanderthal, by contrast, were apparently not able to trade and divide labor as effectively. Research suggests that they lacked the organizational and planning skills to exchange materials and ideas on a wide scale. By not venturing much beyond small groups, the Neanderthal simply found it harder to compete for resources.

But does this necessarily mean that our ancestors' skill at trading and networking drove the Neanderthal to extinction? Not all anthropologists buy into this theory. Nonetheless, it does raise some intriguing questions... particularly whether we as a species might be genetically disposed to free trade and exchange of ideas.

Source: FuturePundit