Published on

Outselling Neanderthals


Not too long ago, we shared the Earth with Neanderthals. And in the battle for survival that ensued, we won rather handily. (That is in fact a very clever pun, as you will see soon).

While various theories exist on why we beat the morons, it is well accepted that our superior grip on tools was a contributing factor. This enabled us to use tools with handles a lot, unlike them.

It has been known for some time that the grip of Homo neanderthalis was different from, and in some ways inferior to, that of Homo sapiens. In particular, Neanderthals wielded their tools in a so-called power grip - held in the palm of the hand with the fingers curled around the body of the tool. By contrast, modern people make extensive use of tools with hafts and shafts, such as hammers. That provides mechanical advantage, and thus more force.

Now, proof is emerging that the ability of humans to trade could have been a factor too. The ability of humans to specialize and trade meant that the most efficient guys were hunting while the others were making clothes and equipment for the hunters. Result : An increase in meat supply, and fertility. Against all this, you think they stood a chance?


PS: It is spring (which in Florida is another word for summer) – time to lay sod, plant annuals, mow yards and smell grass. Or time to watch your neighbors do all this while you are perched on a chair. We had a few Silver Buttonwood trees in our backyard, that got blown away during the hurricanes last year, leaving only ugly stumps in the ground. I have been trying unsuccesfully to get the stumps out for the last few weeks. I wedge a shovel underneath the root, and tug and tug and tug: The shovel then breaks. Already down two, and Lavanya thinks I am a Neanderthal. All I can say is: I grip the shovel right.