October 7, 2016 / Modified jun 22, 2017 4:39 p.m.

Episode 49: The Emergence of a Modern Division of Labor in Hunter-Gatherer Societies of the Upper Paleolithic

Division and specialization of labor in early humans.

Archaeological evidence shows us that, half a million years ago, early hominins were accomplished big-game hunters. In those societies, women's economic activities would have revolved around the men's work of hunting. But by about 50,000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic, early humans in Eurasia started supplementing their meat intake with a broad spectrum of small animals and probably plant matter. Division of labor and specialization of duties of all sorts emerged, providing significant roles for women, children and the elderly. With that, human societies were significantly restructured, and the complementary economic roles of men and women that are typical of today's hunter-gatherers appeared. These socioeconomic changes gave Upper Paleolithic humans a demographic advantage over the Neanderthals, and the replacement of Neanderthal groups was inevitable.

IN THIS EPISODE

Mary Stiner, Ph.D, Regents' Professor in the University of Arizona School of Anthropology
Leslie Tolbert, Ph.D. Regents' Professor in the UA's Neuroscience Department

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