Skip

The quick and the dead
May 17, 2009 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Recent research has shown Neanderthals were sophisticated and fearless hunters, successfully killing a large variety of dangerous game. But as far as humans were concerned, Neanderthals may have possibly been tasty main courses themselves, perhaps one reason for their, uh, "disappearance". Yet humans didn't always sit atop the food pyramid - the oldest human hair has been discovered - inside fossilized 200,000 year old hyena dung.
posted by stbalbach (67 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
humans didn't always sit atop the food pyramid
We still don't. Worms are above us.
posted by Flunkie at 2:36 PM on May 17, 2009


And bacteria above them.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:37 PM on May 17, 2009


Don't fuck with The Most Dangerous Game of All!
posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on May 17, 2009


Oh really.
*eats some yoghurt*
posted by Stove at 2:38 PM on May 17, 2009 [17 favorites]


This reminds me of the worst proverb I have ever heard: "The day the old woman disappears is the day the hyena shits gray hair." I read that it was a Kenyan proverb, and what it should illustrate I could never say, but it certainly is impossible to forget.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:43 PM on May 17, 2009 [14 favorites]


the oldest human hair has been discovered - inside fossilized 200,000 year old hyena dung.

200,000 years old? I thought humans were only 150,000 years old.
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on May 17, 2009


Ah, well wikipedia says 150,000 years.
posted by delmoi at 3:04 PM on May 17, 2009


posted by Countess Elena at 2:43 PM on May 17: "The day the old woman disappears is the day the hyena shits gray hair."

Worst fortune cookie ever.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:06 PM on May 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Crap I mean wikipedia says 200,000 years. I'll shut up now. Although this article about the "Toba Catastrophe Theory" is interesting. Apparently although humans existed 200,000 years ago, all humans alive today have descended from a small group of between just 10,000 or even 1,000 breeding pairs about 70,000 years ago. That's pretty crazy.

I wonder if all other humans died, or if this particular group just managed to crowed other surviving groups, the same way they did to the neanderthals.
posted by delmoi at 3:11 PM on May 17, 2009


200,000 years old? I thought humans were only 150,000 years old.

The day the old woman disappears is the day the hyena shits gray hair.


I see no contradiction here.
posted by mwhybark at 3:12 PM on May 17, 2009


Remember those hairy cannibalistic ape men in that Lost World episode? The primitive ones who ate the smarter, more civilized apes? Yeah, that was us. My crazy uncle used to say man was a depraved ape. Over the years I have come around to his point of view.
posted by Tashtego at 3:13 PM on May 17, 2009


... in bed.
posted by Flunkie at 3:13 PM on May 17, 2009 [13 favorites]


approx. 38,000: see? no contradiction!
posted by mwhybark at 3:17 PM on May 17, 2009


Recent research has shown Neanderthals were sophisticated

I knew we were banking on the wrong ones. Continue what you are doing humans, ignore the sudden unending downpour.
posted by Elmore at 3:17 PM on May 17, 2009


Remember those hairy cannibalistic ape men in that Lost World episode? The primitive ones who ate the smarter, more civilized apes? Yeah, that was us.
Homo sapiens technology was vastly superior to that of contemporary Homo neanderthalensis.
posted by Flunkie at 3:17 PM on May 17, 2009


Norwegian black metal bands will be all over this.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:18 PM on May 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


She and a colleague carefully removed forty of the "hairs apparent" from one of the coprolites...

A-hahahahaohmygod, I am seriously laughing my ass off at that completely unnecessary pun. I love you, Lucinda Blackwell, or whoever in your research group made a point of informing the reporter that that's what you were calling them.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:20 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


In 100,000 years someone may find human hairball in fossilized cat faeces, but that does not mean cats are at the top of the food pyramid today.

Or are they?

I mean, hyenas and humans may have had a grooming arrangement back then.

When bestiality hadn't even been invented.
posted by Laotic at 3:27 PM on May 17, 2009


Neanderthals were sophisticated and fearless hunters...

The offspring of which splintering into small, dull hipster clans wearing wrong-season firs and easily spotted just sort of standing around. Thus their demise.
posted by hal9k at 3:34 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I'll have a burger made from this guy with some nice fava beans.
posted by digsrus at 3:56 PM on May 17, 2009


wearing wrong-season firs

There's there problem right there - very few Homo Sapiens wore trees. Most preferred furs.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:59 PM on May 17, 2009


Hyenas are scavengers as well as hunters. So it really doesn't mean neanderthals were especially predated upon. Just that hyenas found a dead neanderthal.
posted by tkchrist at 4:00 PM on May 17, 2009


Homo sapiens technology was vastly superior to that of contemporary Homo neanderthalensis.

You may be right about that but being better at flaking stone doesn't make eating another sentient being OK.
posted by Tashtego at 4:25 PM on May 17, 2009


I wasn't saying anything of the sort. I was taking issue with your implied characterization of Neandertals as smarter than us.
posted by Flunkie at 4:30 PM on May 17, 2009


You may be right about that but being better at flaking stone doesn't make eating another sentient being OK.

Transmutation into meat always will.
posted by nervousfritz at 4:33 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


You may be right about that but being better at flaking stone doesn't make eating another sentient being OK.

Well there goes my justification for last Saturday...
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:46 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that there is a Neanderthal clan living down the street from me.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:53 PM on May 17, 2009


it was those tricksy cro-magnons and their tricksy adjustable rate mortgages - pretty soon, the neanderthals had all been foreclosed upon, couldn't pay off their credit cave loans, lost their jobs at the rhino ranches, and found out that their pensions were shattered in the great cowrie shell crash of 200,045 bc

the leader of the cro-magnons, gugulronpawl, held to a libertarian philosophy and bade them hunt hyenas for their livelihood - soon, across the land, the neanderthal prophet dekar's lament was heard

"get up in the morning, hyena's breakfast
so that every 'thal will be shat
oh, me oh, me oh, me coprolites"
posted by pyramid termite at 4:54 PM on May 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


You may be right about that but being better at flaking stone doesn't make eating another sentient being OK.

Ethical thinking is the luxury of a full stomach.
posted by chambers at 5:03 PM on May 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Meat. They're made out of meat.
posted by WalterMitty at 5:08 PM on May 17, 2009


And the meek shall inherit the earth.......(sing it in Geddy's voice)
posted by Senator at 5:17 PM on May 17, 2009


Of course Neanderthals were smart. They were redheads.
posted by zadcat at 5:35 PM on May 17, 2009


There is trouble in the forest, there are neanderthals wearing trees
posted by fleacircus at 5:37 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yabba Dabba Poo
posted by tellurian at 5:39 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's fascinating that we've got so much DNA from neanderthals. I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to clone one.
posted by delmoi at 5:50 PM on May 17, 2009


Hmm, this post boils down to, 'in the past, people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even other people'.

Unless they can show that modern humans were deliberately cannibalizing neanderthal humans and not other modern humans, then what's the issue? Cannibalism and extinction are just modern concerns projected backwards, and though they might have taken place back then, they didn't really exist, so to speak. 'Speciesism' however, that's interesting, assuming we really can show that they ('we') distinguished one kind of human from another in broad terms like food/not food.
posted by Sova at 5:53 PM on May 17, 2009


APE HAS KILLED APE!
posted by Mister_A at 5:53 PM on May 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


That is also a Rush line, if you're wondering.
posted by Mister_A at 5:54 PM on May 17, 2009


Which one, "In Bed", or "Yabba Dabba Poo?"
posted by eriko at 6:04 PM on May 17, 2009


Douché eriko, douché.
posted by Mister_A at 6:10 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to clone one

SOYLENT GREEN IS NEANDERTHAL just doesn't have a great ring to it.
posted by zerokey at 6:11 PM on May 17, 2009


What's he doin? "He's eatin' bushes, that's what he's doin!"
posted by cashman at 6:57 PM on May 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


>It's fascinating that we've got so much DNA from neanderthals. I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to clone one.
From what I heard on Escape Pod, Very soon.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:58 PM on May 17, 2009


Of course Neanderthals were smart. They were redheads.

They must have been hard to drug, too.


You may be right about that but being better at flaking stone doesn't make eating another sentient being OK.

Transmutation into meat always will.


Did you perhaps mean transubstantiation?
posted by TedW at 7:03 PM on May 17, 2009


My mistake. Like turning lead into gold. Useless, offensive people become effective fertilizer, ant food, even dog food. The imagination has its way in that direction.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:14 PM on May 17, 2009


Oh really.
*eats some yoghurt*


*Nibbles on a slice of sharp cheddar on sourdough washed down with a little stout, while heating up a little sauerkraut.*
posted by TedW at 7:32 PM on May 17, 2009


Tastes like chicken.
posted by monospace at 8:18 PM on May 17, 2009


The story in the second link considers two possibilities: either the Neanderthal jawbone they found in a Homo Sapien cave had been stripped of flesh in the same manner meat was stripped from deer jawbones because people ate the Neanderthal, or they just wanted to make a necklace with his teeth. Either way, doesn't look like they were the best of neighbors.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:19 PM on May 17, 2009


How is it cannibalism to eat a member of another species?
posted by signal at 8:26 PM on May 17, 2009


Sentientophage!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:48 PM on May 17, 2009


where was PETA when we needed them?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:56 PM on May 17, 2009


People for the Ethical Treatment of Anthropoids?
posted by The Tensor at 9:23 PM on May 17, 2009


Maybe we could clone them just enough for some vat-grown steaks.
posted by codswallop at 9:39 PM on May 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


maybe if we wander around the swiss alps enough we can find one frozen, thaw it out and have a barbecque
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 PM on May 17, 2009


Recent research has shown Neanderthals were sophisticated

And then Ship B of the Golgafrincham Ark Fleet arrived...
posted by DreamerFi at 10:20 PM on May 17, 2009


It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life, was greatly daunted by death. "They all eat one another!" he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed the verb, said, "They all feed one another," and called it good.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 PM on May 17, 2009


According to this link early humans were not technologically more sophisticated than Neanderthals. What really matters here though is the context of this discovery. Was it unique? Was it predatory or ritual cannibalism? We are close enough to Neanderthals that I think it qualifies as cannibalism. Given the sample size, I don't think we can make that many assumptions yet, my misanthropic leanings notwithstanding.
posted by Tashtego at 11:06 PM on May 17, 2009


Cloning + Neanderthals + edible... the new McCaveman sandwich! Extra pickles and lettuce, please.
posted by jamstigator at 2:23 AM on May 18, 2009


I'm just ticked off that our ancestors didn't leave us any sweet, juicy Neanderthal bacon.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:41 AM on May 18, 2009


Dear AskMe,

I have a whole neanderthal that has been sitting out for a few years. Is it safe to eat? If so, I need your best neanderthal recipes!
posted by orme at 8:35 AM on May 18, 2009


As if we needed more evidence that it's the 1970s all over again: it's the return of the Killer Ape Theory.
posted by happyroach at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2009


I need your best neanderthal recipes!

take a 8 foot log and shave all the bark from it - then thoroughly cover the log in several gallons of butter that has had crushed garlic and cloves added to it

skin and field dress neanderthal and chain to log - stainless steel chains are preferred as rust can affect the taste

put log over a fire that has been made by mixing oak, hickory and mesquite wood in a 50/30/20 proportion - this is EXTREMELY important to the taste - make sure that the fire only flames a couple of inches high - the neanderthal must be at least 3 feet above the flame and it is better if the fire merely smoulders

braise neaderthal constantly with a mixture of clarified butter and your favorite bbq sauce, rotating log slowly, using a drip pan to catch as much of the juice as possible to be reapplied

continue for 12 to 16 hours - it's a lot of work and you'll probably need at least 6 to 8 people to help you

when all parts of the neanderthal have reached a temperature of 185 degrees it is time to take him off the fire

carefully unchain the neanderthal and throw him in the garbage

saw the log into 6 to 12 oz pieces and serve - you'll like that a lot better than some old mangy neanderthal
posted by pyramid termite at 9:54 AM on May 18, 2009


You really can't blame Homo Sapiens if Neanderthals were delicious.
posted by chairface at 11:15 AM on May 18, 2009


The cannibalism article's opening line is a great example of what's wrong with popular science reporting:

One of science's most puzzling mysteries - the disappearance of the Neanderthals - may have been solved. Modern humans ate them, says a leading fossil expert.

Nothing in the article, nor, as far as I can tell after a quick scan, in the original article indicates that anyone involved in the study thinks modern humans ate Neanderthals to extinction. Some reporter seems to have pulled that out of thin air--impossible to say which one, since every story on the subject seems to be repeating the line, in one form or another. Also, no mention of the high prevalence, during the place and time studied, of using human teeth as adornments.

Cannibalism in modern primitive cultures is far more often associated with funeral practices: the mourners eating portions of the dead as part of an accepted grieving ritual. It'd be rather ironic, if unlikely, if a group of modern humans gave a Neanderthal what they considered a proper funeral, only to have it misinterpreted centuries later as culinary genocide.
posted by crake at 11:46 AM on May 18, 2009


Not only that but, as others have pointed out, Neanderthals were a different species. It isn't cannibalism to eat other species. Although I'm sure the whole "Ah, c'mon, I can't eat this it's staring at me" conversation came up around the fire.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:51 AM on May 18, 2009




Just don't mention the pig stealing.
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


« Older Nasty nets   |   Falling James Lives Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post