This article in the NY Times quotes this scientific paper that says Neanderthals died out because the women were too busy hunting with the men to stay cave bound taking care of baby cave people, and hence or voilá, whatever scientists say, if you want to maintain a viable breeding population, you can't be throwing Mom in front of wooly mammoths.
One proof they offer is that “Neanderthal sites include no bone needles, no small animal remains and no grinding stones for preparing plants.”
Which is kind of like saying since the last archeological study that sifted through my living space* did not find any frilly dresses, curlers, bobby pins or high heels, obviously no female of the species resided herein.
Now, according to my in-house anthropologist, this study ignores a few things, like Neanderthals and the humans that became us lived side by side for quite a while before the hunting/gathering activity developed. The Neanderthal tool set was different from the archaic human tool set. And, if I might add, we really haven’t got a freakin’ clue what was going on back then. The evidence is too scarce. These scientists are evaluating a partial record through the perspective lens of modern times to make gigantic leaps of logic.
Or, as one of the scientists who commented on the paper said more elegantly;
“While archaeologists have spent a vast amount of time and effort attempting to identify male versus female artifacts, activity areas, and task roles in the archaeological record, the more fundamental question why we expect hominins to have a gender-specific division of labor remains unanswered.”
The topic of the article was Neanderthals, but the conclusion to be drawn about good old homo sapiens is no small one. That the division of labor is what allowed our version of humanity to prosper. Keep that little woman at home and the next thing you know, you’ve conquered the world. That sexism is bred into our DNA, which makes it a problem more likely to linger.
Although, there is more evidence for that theory, it’s not a leap I’m willing to make.
*In this Era commonly called Spring Cleaning.