Is Economics Responsible for the Existence of Humanity?

That’s the idea in a research paper by Jason Shogren, of the University of Wyoming, and his colleagues.

Neanderthal man has had a bad cultural rap over the years since the discovery of the first specimen in the Neander valley in Germany, in the mid-19th century. The “caveman” image of a stupid, grunting, hairy, thick-skulled parody of graceful modern humanity has stuck in the public consciousness. But current scholarship suggests Neanderthals were probably about as smart as modern humans, and also capable of speech. If they were hairy, strong and tough—which they were—that was an appropriate adaptation to the ice-age conditions in which they lived. So why did they become extinct?

Neanderthals existed perfectly successfully for 200,000 years before Homo sapiens arrived in their European homeland about 40,000 years ago, after a circuitous journey from Africa via central Asia. But 10,000 years later they were gone, so it seems likely that the arrival of modern man was the cause. The two species certainly occupied more or less the same ecological niche (hunting a wide range of animals, and gathering a similarly eclectic range of plant food), and would thus have been competitors.

I don’t think this assessment (that human tendencies toward economic action: trade, competition, etc) is particularly new, but it is always interesting to discuss human origins and Neanderthals.  And I also largely agree with the premise.

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