Philobiblon: Cavewomen and wives

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Cavewomen and wives

With typical sensitivity and intellectual rigour, The Sunday Times today reports Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun. There is, however, an apparently peer-reviewed science story behind it:

According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.
The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.
Lighter hair colours, which started as rare mutations, became popular for breeding and numbers increased dramatically, according to the research, published under the aegis of the University of St Andrews.

I think, however, there are more than few unanswered questions here. Do we know that only the men hunted? No. Do we have any indication that such societies practiced monogamy? No.

And quite what the quote on the end from Jilly Cooper about getting her bottom pinched has to do with paleoloithic hunters, I'm not quite sure.

The "cavewomen" might anyway have been better off on their own, judging from this study:

Marriage helps husbands to an extra 1.7 years, but it knocks 1.4 years off the average wife's lifespan, according to the study of more than 100,000 people across Europe.

For more intelligent, but highly entertaining reading, I'd recommend an account of hominid fossil-hunting in Ethiopia.
(Hat-tip to John Hawks.)


Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

Then wouldn't blondeness have emerged in other populations that were under enough stress to cause centuries of food shortage? That seems not to have happened. Sounds like nonsense to me.

2/26/2006 03:34:00 pm  
Blogger Dark Daughta said...

"European women evolved blonde hair"

Did european men also evolve blonde hair to compete for more powerful and resourceful male partners?

2/26/2006 03:36:00 pm  
Blogger Nathanael said...

I found this phrase very distubing:

"In Africa there was less dependence on animals and women were able to collect fruit for themselves."

It reads like the cliche of easy living/lazy Africans that existed since the 18th C.

2/26/2006 05:23:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Agreed, agreed, agreed. But I do think you have to challenge this sort of stuff, or even quite sensible people can swallow it. (You do wonder about the referees ...)

2/26/2006 06:25:00 pm  

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