Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Friday, February 29, 2008

Neandertals cannibalized themselves into extinction?

Dieneke's Anthropology Blog, another great blog devoted to anthropology and human origins, has a link to an article claiming that Neandertals may have "cannibalized" themselves into extinction. The claim is that a form of prion disease, sometimes called kuru in some places, helped kill them off, because they, um, ate each other. My question is, what is it with Neandertals and purported cannibalism, anyway? People are always attributiing cannibalism to this group of people(whoever and whatever they were). But there's no context. . . .Oh well. I suppose theories like these add something to our knowledge of the prehistoric past.
Anne G

10 comments:

stevent said...

Did you ever read Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton? The ancient tribe -- can't recall if its supposed to be Neanderthal or not -- terrorizing the people are cannibals. It's fiction of course, but I enjoyed the book.

Anne Gilbert said...

Stevent:

Oh, yes. I've read Eaters of the Dead several times. And Crichton was quite explicit that the "ancient tribe" you mention were Neandertals. He pretty much said so in the "afterward" to his book. It's fiction, based on the oboservations of one ibn Fadlan, an Arab visitor to Viking-era lands. I liked it too.
Anne G

Steven said...

I thought it was interesting how Crichton mentions in the afterword that the book is really a take-off on Beowulf. He really sucked me in when I read the preface, and I thought the entire book was an actual historical account based on ibn-Fadlan's journals, until I read the afterword with Crichton's notes. From what I recall, I think the first three chapters are actually from ibn-Fadlan's journals and then he spins off the fiction part from there.

stevent said...

Sorry, posted using another account of mine in my last post. Still the same Steven :)

Anne Gilbert said...

stevent:

When I read Eaters of the Dead(several times, in fact), I knew it was a "takeoff" on Beowulf. I also knew something about Ibn Fadlan when I read it. But I also knew it was fiction. So I didn't get "sucked in". He had an interesting idea --- at the time. As a writer, I think he's pretty much devoled into a very "formulaic" sort of author.
Anne G

stevent said...

Yeah. Unfortunately. I loved Eaters of the Dead, Timeline, Prey, and Jurassic Park. I read his last book, Next. Don't read it. Too many characters, can't keep them all straight, and a ending that just falls apart.

Anne Gilbert said...

stevent:

I haven't read any Crichton for a while. I kind of enjoyed Jurassic Park, but I haven't read anything of his since. I just haven't had the time.
Anne G

Crimson Guard said...

In Edgar Rice Burrough's "At Earth's Core", he wrote about the ape-men Sagoth's eating humans and taking humans into the "Hollow Earth".

Neanderthal's during those days were seen as man-eating "Ape-Men" and were used in many Science fictional stories and common in the pulp serials by Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard among others.

Anne Gilbert said...

crimson guard:

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard probably got this idea from the archaeologist Gorjanovic-Kranberger, who excavated Krapina Cave in Croatia. He found many bits and pieces of Neandertal bones. These bones were actually a very valuable find as (a) they were quite old(130,000 years), and (b) there were quite a few of them, belonging to an apparent population living there. There has been controversy ever since about some of the scrapes on them; they appear to be cutmarks, like the kind of marks a knife makes when scraping meat off bone. But there has also been speculation in more recent times, that some of these cutmarks may have come from secondary burial rituals. But since cannibalism is supposed to be something that "others" do(not "us", "we" are too civilized!), and Neandertals were and are considered "others", it was then(and sometimes now), all too easy to attribute this practice to them. Although "modern" humans have done this, too.
Anne G

Crimson Guard said...

Yes, your quite right, Anne! I think they were blaming the archaeologists shovels and what not for the nicks on the bones. Though the practice of Neanderthal cannibalism is now seen as a reality and not as taboo subject matter in modern academia.

Neanderthals seemed to have evolved somewhat in our imaginations and representations of them, at first they seen as dumb monstrous brutes, sometimes primitive ancestors and now as "humans" and like "us". Political Correctness seems to also made something of an impact, can see it on many of the newer museum reconstructions. They now make them less "ape-like" and more modern human-like in appearance.

Compare this top Neanderthal reconstruction to the more accurate(imo) other two below:

http://www.rdos.net/neanderthal.jpg

http://www.makeupmag.com/images/Content_Photos/scientific_reconstruction.jpg

http://cache.eb.com/eb/image?id=44399&rendTypeId=4

The top one looks way to much Homo Sapian and rather like actor Rupert Grint(of Harry Potter fame).

*Nice blog by the way, hope you dont mind me dropping a few comments here.