The Privatization of

Ape societies are driven by intrasexual competition, the rivalry between males for access to females. Although male chimpanzees form coalitions to seize power within the male hierarchy, these are shifting, ad hoc arrangements. A male chimp probably sees most other adult males as potential rivals, an attitude that limits the degree of cohesiveness in chimp society. The human line of descent probably inherited the ape system of separate male and female hierarchies. But around 1.7 million years...

The Long Struggle against the Neanderthals

Unlike the still fragmentary evidence about the fate of Homo erectus, much more is known about the interactions of modern humans with the Neanderthals, the archaic humans who occupied Europe and the Near East. The Neanderthals, who evolved west of the Urals some 127,000 years ago, were a strikingly distinct variation on the human theme. Their bodies were stocky, with barrel chests and muscles like weightlifters'. They had large heads, with bony brow ridges on the front of their skulls, and...

The Origin of Icelanders

England was invaded by Vikings from both Denmark and Norway. The influence of the Danish Vikings can be seen most strongly in Y chromosomes from York and Norfolk in the eastern regions that bore the brunt of the Danish invasions. The Norwegian Vikings operated to the north of the Danes. In the ninth century AD they captured the Orkney Islands to the northeast of Scotland and made them a base of operations. Norn, a form of old Norse, was spoken on the islands until the eighteenth century....

Can Languages Be Dated

European genetics seems at present compatible with both theories of Indo-European spread. A more decisive test would be to put a date on when proto-Indo-European was spoken, since the two theories imply very different times of expansion. The Kurgan warrior expansion started some 6,000 years ago, the spread of farming from the Near East some 9,500 years ago. The dating of languages is not yet a settled science. One approach is to estimate the rate of historical change in a group of languages by...

Origin of the Mongoloid Peoples

Mongoloid, a term from physical anthropology, refers to the skull shape typically found among East Asians and many American Indians. Skull shape figured prominently in racial theories of the nineteenth century, which erroneously linked skull type with behaviors or abilities deemed characteristic of certain races. Modern craniometry, or skull measurement, is almost purely descriptive and has nothing to say about behavior. It depends on examining a large number of detailed anatomical features of...

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What made the two alleles spread so quickly It seems likely that each conferred some cognitive advantage, perhaps a slight one yet enough for natural selection to work on. In Lahn's view, many genes are likely to be involved in constructing the human brain. He has found alleles of two of these genes, both of which happen to be quite common in Europeans and East Asians, but there almost certainly exist alleles of other genes that may be more common in other populations. Each population may...

Genes versus Geography

Even though the individual members of every race may be much the same, human societies differ considerably in their levels of technology and organization. Some societies, like those of New Guinea, are just emerging from Stone Age cultures, while others, like those of Finland or Taiwan, are highly educated and lead in manufacturing sophisticated goods for the global economy. Is the difference solely because New Guineans were dealt a bad hand in terms of geography and resources, or could there be...

The Costs and Benefits of Warfare

Besides being well adapted or designed for their environments, chimp and human societies possess another salient feature in common, that of a strong propensity to kill their own kind. A willingness to kill members of one's own species is apparently correlated with high intelligence. It may be that chimps and people are the only species able to figure out that the extra effort required to exterminate an opponent will bring about a more permanent solution than letting him live to fight another...

The Bonobo Alternative

Bonobos are so similar to chimpanzees in physical appearance that it took biologists many years to recognize that they are a separate species. Their behavior, however, is very different. Unlike in chimp societies, where males may violently coerce females to respect them, in bonobo land the females run the show. They manage this feat by forming close alliances with each other and facing down any male who tries to interfere in their affairs. Because of their dominance, they have managed to banish...

Language Spread Zones and Mosaic Zones

Across the United States a single dominant language is spoken. New Guinea, by contrast, has some 1,200 languages, a fifth of the world's total, jammed into an area a quarter the size of the continental United States. Why should the linguistic situations be so different Linguists call a large area dominated by a single language a spread zone. An area parceled into many small regions, each of which has its own language, is a mosaic zone. Most of the world's language zones fall into one or other...