Hunter-Gatherer fish and game laws

I don’t think that there are any. But  then how did they manage to  be one-with-the-land custodians of wildlife?  Uh….

Conservation is hard.  Even if the population as a whole would be better off if a given prey species persisted in fair numbers,  any single individual would benefit from cheating – even from eating the very last mammoth.

More complicated societies, with private property and draconian laws against poaching, do better, but even they don’t show much success in preserving a tasty prey species over the long haul.  Considers the aurochs, the wild ancestor of the cow.  The Indian version seems to have been wiped out 4-5,000 years ago. The Eurasian version was still common in Roman times,  but was rare by the 13th century,  surviving only in Poland.  Theoretically, only members of the Piast dynasty could hunt aurochsen –  but they still went extinct in 1627.

How then did edible species survive in pre-state societies?  I can think of several ways in which some species managed to survive voracious humans, but none of them involve green intent.

First you have to realize that driving a prey species to extinction is unusual: it doesn’t happen often with normal predators. Specialized predators obviously can’t do it – when their prey gets scarce, so do they.  On the other hand, unspecialized predators generally won’t be as efficient. On the gripping hand, at any given moment, a predator and its prey have been co-evolving (and co-existing) for millions of years.  Both are highly optimized – which means that further improvements would be difficult – and it shouldn’t easy for the predator to suddenly develop a crushing superiority.  This argument doesn’t apply to newly introduced predators, of course.

Mass extinction is even less likely, because even an unspecialized predator should become rare when the total amount of prey (all relevant species)  goes way down..  Unless this potent predator is really an omnivore — but that means even less specialization in predation.  Omnivores (bears, for example) usually aren’t that effective.

If we go back far enough, protohumans simply weren’t very good hunters, because they weren’t smart. Lions manage to be pretty good predators without being particularly smart, but humans, who don’t have impressive natural armament,  have to succeed in hunting  through tools and social cooperation.   They were probably death on turtles early on, but in general early humans advanced slowly, giving prey species lots of time to adapt – African and Eurasian species, that is.

The pace of innovation gradually increased, and I can think of some species in Africa and Eurasia that were probably ganked by humans a long time ago – but it wasn’t dramatic.  Progress in hunting, new tactics and weapons, was still slow enough to allow adaptive response in prey species. Consider the Neanderthals:  I can’t think of a single species they wiped out.   Wimps.

By the Upper Paleolithic, modern humans were innovating much more rapidly, and human-driven extinction starts to become really important. It wasn’t just better hunting that mattered.  Better food preparation – getting more out of each carcass – increased human density, and thus hunting intensity. You might think that greater efficiency would mean that we didn’t need to bring down as many beasts – not so, in a Malthusian world.

Developing new ways of gathering food other than hunting,  such as fishing and better preparation of plant foods, meant that human density could stay high even as mammal biomass crashed. Innovations in clothing and housing let people colonize the high Arctic, and eventually the Americas.  Invention of boats and rafts led to the colonization of Australia and numerous islands.

We were omnivores and generalists:  population collapse of prey species couldn’t stop us. We could kill anything – but the biggest threat of extinction was to large animals, which were worth a lot (mucho calories for the tribe) and bred slowly.  Worst off were those animals that had never had a chance to adapt to humans.

There were some modifying factors.  It probably wasn’t just adaptation to humans that saved much of the African megafauna:  African pathogens may have played a role too, keeping human numbers down and possibly even creating  natural game preserves  (I’m thinking of sleeping sickness).  Contrariwise,  Australia and the Americas were almost disease-free, as far as humans were concerned.

War is bad for us, good for our prey.  The no-man’s  land between hostile tribes  is oddly full of game, since people are afraid to go there.  In much the same way, rabbits flourished  next to the Berlin Wall, while Asiatic black bears and musk deer inhabit the Korean DMZ.

It may be that it took some time for the original Paleoindians to split into hostile tribes: life may have been particularly difficult for the megafauna during that period.

It’s also possible that there was enough violence to reduce human density below the caloric Malthusian limit.

Once in a while a local taboo may have preserved a species, but it would have have to have lasted a long long time to keep a species alive until today.  Unlikely.

Blitzkrieg may be not quite the right word, but dense megafauna should have been able to sustain a fairly dense human population – for a while. After most of the megafauna  bit the dust, human population density would have decreased (remember, this was before agriculture), and this might have saved some of the medium-sized animals that we still have today, like white-tailed deer: not as valuable a target as the giants, just as hard to catch, and more prolific.

Modern humans meant to make tools, and meant to have steaks, but there’s no reason to think that anyone intended to drive anything to extinction, or tried to avoid such extinction.  I will say that some of the PaleoIndians may have heard  their grandfathers complaining about how much better hunting was in their day (and how the strawberries were sweeter, and the girls prettier) – but I doubt if anyone listened.

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53 Responses to Hunter-Gatherer fish and game laws

  1. Suggests that cultural transmission is finely attuned to means and ends, but not to circumstances as evidenced by megafauna (other than wistful stories about the past). Conservation awareness may be one such wistful story. So, not so much the tragedy of the commons but the invisibility of population density fluctuations and food chain dependencies.

  2. And on another topic, it seems that parasites may be responsible for global warming.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02595.x/abstract
    (In sticklebacks) perhaps.

    And on another topic, any interest in a HBD conference in London, April or May next year? Change to meet, exchange ideas, central London venue provided, pay your own air fares?

  3. j3morecharacters says:

    Of course there were laws. Genesis 9:3 “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” So we finecombed the Earth and took the best and left the rest. And truly, tomatoes tasted like tomatoes and the girls, oh…the girls!

  4. Cattle Guard says:

    “Death on turtles”. I really like that. I’m imagining the Grim Reaper riding a slow-moving turtle.

  5. not_my_subject says:

    I was just thinking about this subject today. Odd.

    It seemed such a bizarre idea that a primitive tribe would’ve somehow regulated their mating and hunting to the exact well being of the surrounding forest, and presumably the surrounding tribes. And if some such population control mechanisms were in place, it would seem odd that they were there for the love of one another and the harmony with the forest.

    I mean how would they manage to pull off such a balancing act by compassion alone? Who is told to not have kids? To not go hunting more? How do you prevent having kids without contraception – maybe they mastered the art of pulling it out before ejaculation after having two kids? And how does the high mortality rates from violence for hunter gatherers go with this theme of compassion and harmony? Or was the compassion only reserved for the plants and animals, not fellow human beings?

  6. IC says:

    Simple answer: Habitat lost

    • IC says:

      Large prey animals bring a lot of destruction to good farm land. Farmers used to kill deer to cut down the corn lost. No prey animal, no predator. Only now, deer are kept alive for regulated hunting. On my private land, farmers actually leave some corn unharvested to feed the winter deer. So they have more deer to hunt.

    • IC says:

      Chernobyl waste land become virtual wild animals heaven. Regained habitat for wild animals after human evacuated.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Herbivores evolved a successful strategy that worked since the age of the dinosaurs but lead to their undoing when man came along. Grow large enough in adulthood to fight off carnivores and protect the young and reproduce less often. All man had to do to kill big game was puncture an intestine and wait for the animal to die. We sometimes imagine in our modern day ignorance that a group of hunters fought very dangerous long horned animals to the death. That would have been stupid and reckless. As a pack of wolves will surround a much larger herbivore and nip at its hind quarters slowly weakening it, man would surround an animal and all it would take to doom an animal was one good jab with a spear puncturing an intestine. It would then be a waiting game, the fight was over.

      Habitat loss did not lead to extinction. We now know that climate crashes that caused animals to retreat to far smaller areas was the norm for at least the last three million years, the era of the ice ages. An ice core from central Greenland tells us with great accuracy the weather patterns of the last 150,000 years and in that time there was 25 separate periods of intense cold, some of then occurring with a suddenness that should give us great concern. Large animals have proven themselves to very very resilient to extinction because of climate change. The last brief ice age however some factor changed, and we now know with over 99% certainty what that factor was, man.

  7. IC says:

    Only one exception to the rule of habitat relationship with wild animals is INDIA.

    If you visit India, you will notice rich number and variety of wild animals despite of high human density. It is dute to dominant religion practice in the region which prohibit killing of animals (most due to belief of reincarnation). Most Indian resturants in India are vegetarian. Not only they do not kill animals, but also they actively feed those animals on the street and wild (some believe they feed their reincarnated relatives). Here you go. From lion to tiger to elephant, you got almost every thing there.

    In other part of world outside India, large wild animal number is inversely related to density of human habitat. If you travel enough places, you will notice the pattern.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Do you think humanity is ultimately bound to live under Malthusian conditions again? Is our (partial) escape from the Malthusian trap temporary?

    • reiner Tor says:

      We could avoid it similar to how altruism (towards non-kin) could have evolved: altruists identifying and actively harming non-altruists.

      In other words, if you could imagine a society where any household paying less income tax than USD 100,000 per person would not have the right to have additional babies (and if such a household has an additional baby, the adults or possibly everybody would be sterilized there, maybe along with the newborn child), it would be possible to have decent living standards. This would still be Malthusian in the sense that population size would reach the carrying capacity of (if tax rates are 50%) USD 200,000 per person (it wouldn’t be higher in the long run), but we could raise it by constantly raising the limit.

      I’m not sure how desirable such a society would be, but it would certainly be possible.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      I like the question and think about it so I’ll answer. I think we have one foot out of the malthusian trap and one foot in it. The economic pinch which everybody moans and groans about, has translated to the best choice long term for humanity, namely first and second world countries have fallen below replacement level and this trend is continuing. All long term projections of world population from ten years ago are now looking to be completely wrong. Hip hip hooray. The latest projections have us topping out at 8 billion extra smart apes mid century and at that point we will have reached the top of the population pimple. By 2200 we could be as low as 3 billion humans and 2300 1 billion. Thank God, thank dwindling natural resources, thank struggling selfish people making the choice of “hell no I’m not having a bunch go kids, I’ll be a broke and struggling fool till the day I die.” Only a few rare numbskulls like our fearless leader are still having five kids. Poor fellow has his nose to the grindstone till the wee one is out of college.

      But then we have the other leg. Anybody planning a long scenic drive across Africa to enjoy the sights? The world is in process of sealing off the desperately poor places where population is controlled by AIDS, AK 47’s, and rapidly expanding deserts. I’m not religious but God have mercy on these poor souls.

      • reiner Tor says:

        struggling selfish people making the choice of “hell no I’m not having a bunch go kids, I’ll be a broke and struggling fool till the day I die.”

        Those struggling selfish people remove themselves from the gene pool. While those willing to make sacrifices only to have children (because “happiness doesn’t depend on money” or whatevs) will be better represented in the next generation. Eventually we’ll have people willing to sacrifice to have as many children as physically possible. We won’t have struggling selfish people, because they won’t be represented in the next generation. So I would bet the declining trend to reverse itself. Except if civilization disintegrates, but even then we should have a Malthusian world.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        The declining trend could easily reverse itself, but that is only because our future predictions have been unreliable to date so no future trends are certain. I am a struggling selfish person when it comes right down to it, I had two kids because to have more would have meant too much self sacrifice, but I didn’t remove myself from the gene pool. From what we know today in 2013 there has been a radical change in the choice of how many children parents have now as compared to just a generation ago in every single country in the first and second world. Each country has to be looked at separately but with a few third world exceptions it looks like the world is very quickly and with unexpectedly rapid speed reducing family size. Mexico went from 6 kids per family to 2.2 in one generation! Its very important news IF you care about our long term future AND you find analysis that includes math interesting. But most folks get that dazed WTF are you bothering me for look when you talk numbers and talk about the future as if it is important. I’ll bet the declining trend doesn’t reverse itself, I’ll bet it increases. We have birth control now and people are going to continue to make the choice to have smaller families because it is an enormous hardship for almost everybody to have a large family. Of course there are exceptions but those exceptions will not change the accelerating trend of smaller family size in first and second world countries.

      • Ilya says:

        Tend to agree with reiner Tor here, though I’m probably less of a believer in likelihood of regression into late hunter-gatherer/agrarian Malthusianism. Some people, among them Robin Hanson, argue that institutions/organizations have an ever-increasing role to play in societal formation and survival. Hence, while there is indeed a general tendency for the most impulsive and dumb (as per Idiocracy’s main point) to have higher fertility, this phenomenon is being counteracted by economic pricing of people necessary for complex society to survive (programmers, physicists, engineers, biologists, propaganda specialists, etc), a good chunk of whom tend to have high IQ.
        How strong are these counteracting forces? Don’t know. A lot of things are changing right now. Institutions/organizations are becoming more globalized, consolidated, computerized/automated. This, on the one hand, forces many people to lose their niche in life (like what has been going on in manufacturing in the industrialized world and the farmers in industrializing parts). On the other hand, this creates new opportunities for some entrepreneurial types who see and leverage opportunities to extract livelihood by either creating overall value (say, inventing autonomous tractors) or, intriguingly, by massively destroying it (say, organized malware writers that are part of crime syndicates).
        Again, as society is ever-evolving, it’s impossible to say what’s going to come out of it in the next few decades, even assuming no disaster strikes.
        Still, my guess is that societies/groups that will prosper in the future will combine high-IQ, cohesion, and a purpose to procreate (whether via religion or sheer sentimentalism, or a government imposed, mother-queen-type cloning or some other means, potentially absurd to us, living in present time).

      • reiner Tor says:

        @Dave Chamberlin: You didn’t remove yourself from the gene pool, but those who are even more selfish (or even more struggling) than you are did (or at least greatly reduced themselves by having just one kid). Now there are those who think that happiness has nothing to do with money and had three or four kids with the same money you had. They easily doubled their representation in the gene pool. The human population will contain more and more of those willing (and capable) to make huge sacrifices just for the happiness of having more descendants, and less and less of those struggling selfish types you just described. In the long run they will be so numerous that life will get even more expensive. This will be a world in which even people exactly like you will choose to have just one kid or no kids at all (because it will be so much more expensive), and so on until it reaches a Malthusian equilibrium.

        BTW don’t exaggerate how expensive it is to have children. Most – in fact, probably all – of your (or my) ancestors were much worse off than any first world two-kid couple, so actually it wouldn’t be all that terribly difficult to have one more kid. I’m thinking about riding a bike to work instead of driving a car, not having vacations at all, and things like that, which would make it possible to have four or five kids even with below average income. How difficult would it be for evolution to increase the desirability of having one more kid, and to make people actually enjoy working their asses off to support your kids? I’m betting on evolution to solve this problem.

        @Ilya: I don’t think it’s terribly likely that we’ll revert to hunting-gathering. What I meant by civilization disintegrating was simply some reversal, not all the way to hunting-gathering, just maybe something that is happening in South Africa right now, or what has happened when Rhodesia slowly transformed into the Zimbabwe we can see now. Actually a reversal to hunting-gathering strikes me as particularly unlikely.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        My computer is a mess, and my two year old grandchild could wake up any minute, could someone please help me and link to the very cool graph within Hans Rosling’s Gapminder that shows births per women per country going back in time to the present. The raw data which supports my contention that family size is shrinking rapidly around most of the world is is presented in as clear a format as can be done. I don’t want to speculate when, where, or how, this trend will reverse itself because I don’t think any of us know.

      • reiner Tor says:

        @Dave Chamberlin: I agree that the present direction of things is ever falling birth rates everywhere. However, in the long run, I can think of no scenario which does not involve humans having as many babies as physically possible under the circumstances.

      • aisaac says:

        @dave chamberlain – we don’t know exactly when the trend to lower fertility will reverse itself, but we can set an upper bound on the time it will take. There are currently at least half a million highly fertile religious groups in the US – the Amish, the Hasidic Jews, and some smaller ones like the FLDS and the Hutterites. They purposefully isolate themselves from the larger culture so they’re immune to trends from the outside world. There is absolutely no reason to believe that they will ever voluntarily limit their fertility.

        You can calculate how many of them there will be n years in the future – the formula is (current population)*)(1+growth rate)^(years in the future). So, starting with 500K and assuming (conservatively) a 3% growth rate, in 400 years there will be 68 billion of them. This probably won’t really happen, but the only thing that will stop it will be exogenous pressures – most likely lack of means to support that many people – Malthusian conditions (or government quotas on fertility. Take your pick as to which is more likely).

        Bear in mind this is an *upper* limit. Most likely, more fertile elements in the mainstream population will beat them to it.

    • The escape from the Malthusian world is a huge anomaly never seen before. Since the pressures of evolution (natural selection) keep all forms of life under Malthusian conditions, as have been humans for most of their existence. I think, we are bound to fall back into the Malthusian trap eventually. Be it only because “Malthusianistic” individuals, who are not willing to suppress their urges to procreate, will outbreed everybody else.

    • The Monster from Polaris says:

      I certainly expect our escape from the Malthusian trap to be temporary. There are religious sects that encourage their adherents to have as many children as possible. Several years ago I happened to hear somebody mention on TV that among old-style Laestadians families with 10 or more kids are common. That scared the hell out of me. And the Laestadians aren’t the only ones, see Eric Kaufmann: ‘Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?’.

      What I expect is that those sects will account for ever-increasing fractions of the population, raising the TFR for entire nations and eventually our whole species far above the replacement level, resulting in a new population explosion (perhaps becoming noticeable in the 22nd century?) Certainly it will gradually become obvious to thinking people that we’re heading for catastrophe, but if they merely respond by breeding less themselves they’ll become an even smaller fraction of the population than now. Any voluntary restraint will just result in the people practicing it becoming ever fewer. I fear that enforced limits on procreation will become necessary at some point, and by then those who see that as unacceptable will probably dominate by sheer numbers.

      My only consolation is that most predictions of the future turn out to be wrong. Let’s hope that this is one of them.

  9. ghazisiz says:

    “You might think that greater efficiency would mean that we didn’t need to bring down as many beasts – not so, in a Malthusian world.”

    Yes. This is the “Jevons Paradox”: when humans become more efficient at using a resource, they will use more of it, not less. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox )

  10. RS says:

    > Herbivores evolved a successful strategy that worked since the age of the dinosaurs but lead to their undoing when man came along.

    Huh… why didn’t immense carnivores come back over the last 60 M?
    And what would have happened if they did?

    > As a pack of wolves will surround a much larger herbivore and nip at its hind quarters slowly weakening it, man would surround an animal and all it would take to doom an animal was one good jab with a spear puncturing an intestine. It would then be a waiting game, the fight was over.

    You know, I could never catch or outmaneuver my 20-lb terrier over a short sprint, not even close. Four wolves therefore sounds horrifying to me compared to four dudes with sharp sticks. (I’m assuming I’m a musk ox.)

    Therefore, tho no expert, I’m thinking projectiles and not hand-held spears as you seem to be implying.

    • RS says:

      I’m second-guessing myself. Maybe a man’s handheld spear can pierce better than a wolf’s or lion’s canine and that makes the difference. It’s possible.

      Still, notice Cochran’s claim that neanderthals didn’t wipe any fauna out. I think I may have read that some people think sapiens may have been a projectile man. If so that could fit with what I’m expostulating.

      Projectiles could also be the main reason sapiens marched neanderthals to the Atlantic. We know that took a very, very long time. But this doesn’t surprise me. Projectiles aren’t /that/ much better. They are so much weaker, and they miss, and you run out of them, and neanderthals can pitch them right back at ya even if they are rather inferior at it — and so on. But the fact remains, they strike farther. How excited would /you/ be about coming at me when you have a heavy spear and I have three javelins and a light spear. Let alone three atlatl javelins and a light spear.

      • kai says:

        Spear doesn’t have to pierce better than canines to be effective. The only fact that it can inflict damage at a distance, without putting the predator body close enough for the prey to hurt the hunter, is a huge advantage. To a lion or wolf, the big risk is being hurt enough by the prey to be unable to hunt again. Just being less able to hunt is a very bad news: At this point, even if the wound is not fatal, it is often a downward spiral….and then there are infections too.

        For humans, hunting with spears (or better yet, projectiles), this is less likely. In fact, the bigger the prey, the better: it may be big enough so that it is slower than human and it is easier to hit a bigger target. Once u gather a large group of coordinated humans with projectiles, big game is doomed. Also, the fact that humans will (usually) care for the wounded hunters is also something that can change the prey/predator equilibrium, although I think it has a (much) smaller effect than the ability to inflict damage with invulnerable extensions of our own body…

        Sticks are so effective than even chimpanzee use them….and for all their strength advantage, they are much much less efficient with a stick than us…You can watch some video of stick-handling chimps then some humans fighting with sticks, chimps looks pathetic ;-)…There is even a theory than human wrist show mark of specialisation for stick-handling….

      • Gilbert P says:

        “There is even a theory than human wrist show mark of specialisation for stick-handling”
        Yes. Today we have the PGA – Paleo Golf Association. As Harvey Pennick said: “If you have a bad grip, the last thing you want is a good swing.’

  11. RS says:

    > The escape from the Malthusian world is a huge anomaly never seen before. Since the pressures of evolution (natural selection) keep all forms of life under Malthusian conditions

    Nay. Most animals do not ‘fill the land’. The combo of predation and parasitism keeps malthus pressure off of them. That’s why few of them engage frequently in serious intraspecific combat, unless they are heavily polygynous.

    Their lives are not the ‘toil toil toil’ life of malthus pressure. Rather, it’s a life of fear and glancing around in terror. Food itself is fairly abounding much of the time. Food adjacent to protective terrain, or distant from redoubts of ambush, is not so abounding. At least so it goes for predation-dominated species — may be kind of different for those more dominated by parasitism.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Food availability is a major regulating factor for many species, and a lot of animals (especially predators like wolves) are territorial, meaning intraspecific combat. BTW I think that Greg Clark explains that lower population density in Europe (with a society demanding that you have money before you can procreate) was still Malthusian in the sense that people were fruitful and multiplied until they could support themselves at the minimum, albeit at an artificially enhanced minimum. So my proposal to sterilize anybody in a household which has an additional baby without paying at least USD 100,000 in annual per capita income tax would still be a Malthusian world, even if living standards would be much higher than in a “real” Malthusian world.

      • Anon says:

        Your idea is already being tested by China’s one-child plus permits idea. Also, is there significant advantage in allowing top 25% reproduce more over not allowing bottom 25% reproduce at all?

      • Ilya says:

        (Sorry for answering for reiner Tor)

        > is there significant advantage in allowing top 25% reproduce more over not allowing bottom 25% reproduce at all?

        This is one of the main topics of Greg Clark’s “Farewell to Alms.” The short and definitive answer is: YES! (More elaborately: yes, as this was one of the necessary conditions for Industrial Revolutions)

        As to government incentives/disincentives, at the very least, the government should retract programs like Earned Income Tax Credit, which support fertility en masse… just because.

  12. RS says:

    > I’ll bet the declining trend doesn’t reverse itself, I’ll bet it increases.

    Well, how long? It won’t reverse next week. It might increase for like another 80 years. But the superfecund pops, robustly resistant to voluntary infecundity, are already present and ‘at it’. There are also mesofecund pops, fairly resistant, which will keep on keeping on, as well as give rise to highly resistant subpops.

    Of course that’s not for sure. The ‘superstimuli’ that underlie voluntary infecundity could become like 10x more intense this century, or like a billion. But they will probably become more like 1.3275 more intense, which means selection for resistance to them will turn the tide in about 80 years.

    Meanwhile there are like 700 M in Black Africa (plus Afghanistan and maybe a couple other places) with TFRs around 5.0. They aren’t necessarily ever going to complete a ‘true’ second demographic transition where TFRs go near 2.5. Instead they are highly likely to starve en masse within decades, with a return to massive child mortality and pretty massive general mortality. I’m not saying there’s no chance some food will reach them until they reach stable low-mortality TFRs, but it looks really unlikely. The incentive for individual families will be to have as many kids as possible, or a lot, same as it ever was in malthus-like societies.

    (Seen the price of food lately? She’s steady at 2x over baseline, and been so for 2.5 years. That’s probably the rising price of liquid hydrocarbon, the exhaustion of ‘Borlaug’ innovations, the increased export of Imperial funny money by USA (?), and ever more rich Chinese and Indians feeding plants to animals at a 20x caloric dissipation just like you and I do — most of which is probably, though of course not definitely, going to keep on keeping on.)

    • RS says:

      The pop stabilizing curve where we all level off at some 9.5 B or whatever (at least for a while) is clear, has been clear, only when you ignore Africa.

      I mean you just look at the trendlines, that is what you see. Its pretty obvious. The only postulate being leaned on is that societies don’t /totally/, huugely go to pieces organizationally.

      Its never been real obvious for Africa though. Masses of people bake and eat dirt there for their hunger pangs (Haiti). That’s the kind of thing that looks like the edge of ‘hugely’ going to pieces.

  13. athEIst says:

    Massive wars in Africa in about 20 years. The only thing predictable about the East African drought is that it will unpredictably happen.

  14. Greying Wanderer says:

    “They were probably death on turtles early on”

    This made me wonder about a turtle-hunting tribe on the east cost of Africa wiping out all the local turtles and so heading north up the coast a bit to find more, then doing it again, then again, then around the Arabian coast etc.

    Out-of-Africa to China via a turtle-extinction tour.

  15. Don Strong says:

    Your take on Wederlin’s work?

  16. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    It is funny how silly ideas like Noble Savages Carefully Manage the Environment persist.

    There is another one around as well. The Government cares about our well being, each and every one of us.

    • Why then do you think human language even exists?

      Singing with nonsensical vocables is sufficient for social bonding but articulate, uniquely human speech allows a more effective, transgenerational flow of practical knowledge that increases fitness beyond immediate learning through observation. If the transmission of technology takes place across just one or two generations, technology cannot explain why language is advantageous, although long-term resource management practices can.

  17. RS says:

    Some interesting stuff from wik:

    Also, while they had weapons, whether [neanderthal] had projectile weapons is controversial. They had spears, made of long wooden shafts with spearheads firmly attached, but some think these were thrusting spears and not projectiles.[20] Still, a Levallois point embedded in an animal vertebra shows an angle of impact suggesting that it entered by a “parabolic trajectory” suggesting that it was the tip of a projectile.[21]

    Moreover, a number of 400,000-year-old wooden projectile spears were found at Schöningen in northern Germany. These are thought to have been made by the Neanderthals’ ancestors, Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis. [Though as mentioned in the above paragraph, it may not always be obvious how you approach certainty that a given spear to be missile or thrusting. –RS] Generally, projectile weapons are more commonly associated with H. sapiens. The lack of projectile weaponry may be an indication of different sustenance methods, rather than inferior technology or abilities. The situation is identical to that of native New Zealand Māori—modern Homo sapiens, who also rarely threw objects, but used spears and clubs instead

    I also looked into the date of the atlatl, spear-thrower. Wik’s text is a little confusing but it sounds like the device may be associated with the time of sapiens expansion. Just think what a quantum leap a powerful and antomically optimized missile user is — let alone one using atlatl (for those unfamiliar with it, if you take a look at what it is and how it works, you’ll see intuitively how powerful it is). It’s really something new in nature. Not to speak of the fletched atlatl dart — or even the bow, which could be pretty early: “the earliest potential arrow heads date from about 64,000 years ago in the South African Sibudu Cave”.

    Thinking about what a novel and rough situation this was for animals, it’s almost a wonder that there are still bears and wolves in America, or sheep. Pronghorn, that’s easier to understand. I guess bison are also easy to understand because of their massing migratory behavior. As with passenger pigeons, this strategy may oversate local predator pops, including man, which could prevent hunting to extinction.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “The lack of projectile weaponry may be an indication of different sustenance methods, rather than inferior technology or abilities.”

      Also the prey and terrain.
      I’d have thought
      – javelins would be more useful in the open against larger targets and/or targets that ran away as soon as they spotted you
      – thrusting spears would be more useful in dense forest and/or against prey that charged

      Maybe neanderthals lived off wild boar?

  18. diana says:

    “Developing new ways of gathering food other than hunting, such as fishing and better preparation of plant foods”

    Fishing as a form of gathering – now that’s interesting. I’ll steal it.

    ” Innovations in clothing and housing let people colonize the high Arctic, and eventually the Americas. ”

    Someone’s got to innovate. I imagine Steve Sailer will figure out a way to attribute the innovation in clothing to men. He and his crowd have a very low opinion of female intelligence.

    • “He and his crowd have a very low opinion of female intelligence.”

      What scientific facts support your supposed “high opinion of female intelligence”?

      • Richard Sharpe says:

        I don’t think Diana said that, although I think she is mistaken about Steve’s low opinion of female intelligence.

        If you believe that females are, on average, not inferior to males, IQ wise, I don’t think that means you believe they are superior.

      • diana says:

        Nope, Diana didn’t say that.

        Apparently Paleolithic people had very nice, tailored clothing. These items were invented and created painstakingly by women. The majority of traditional clothing for children, women and men was also created by women. Its artistry and craft outstrips any of the garbage created by modern male clothing designers. All the original clothing geniuses in the West were women (Chanel, Vionnet, Pacquin, Lanvin, and more) were women. Men just ripped their ideas off and got rich off them.

    • Richard Sharpe says:

      It is not clear that we know enough to figure out which sex invented clothing, and does it matter?

      However, those individuals who spent lots of time outside of shelter in very cold temperatures might have had a greater incentive or opportunity to come up with a solution.

      On, the other hand, it does seem likely, that with their better fine-motor skills, females quickly became responsible for making clothing irrespective of who came up with the idea.

      • You would have to define what “inferior” and “superior” means in regard to men and women. There are clearly differences in “inventiveness” between men and women, imho because men have more to gain from being “inventive”. High intelligence coupled with stamina, determination and curiosity can be considered as increasing the likelihood of making an important invention. All these traits, especially in combination, are more often found in men than in women. So, obviously there are way more male inventors than female inventors. >99% of patents are filed by men.

        Apparently, simple facts discriminate against women these days.

  19. Sinij says:

    What potential population crash in the first world would mean for innovation? Is peak population will be closely followed by peak innovation and then within couple decades by peak technology?

  20. rec1man says:

    Just outside Mumbai ( Bombay ), there are several hundred wild leopards, which feed on stray dogs and stray pigs mostly and are tolerated

    All over rural India, farmers tolerate thousands of wild leopards, as long as they dont become man-eaters or feed on domestic livestock
    The leopards have adapted to preying on pariah dogs and wild boar

    On youtube, watch the movie Ajoba

    China wiped out the Asian elephant, whereas, it was a capital offense , documented from Mauryan times ( 300 bc ) , to kill an Indian elephant

  21. rec1man says:

    In the Indian desert state of Rajasthan, there is a sect called bishnoi with millions of followers
    Per religion, they ban cutting down of forests and hunting and vigorously persecute poachers and tree-cutters.

    http://www.mazda.ahuranews.com/6844/real-human/

    The bishnoi woman in the photo is breastfeeding an orphan deer fawn along with her own baby

  22. RS says:

    > Spear doesn’t have to pierce better than canines to be effective. The only fact that it can inflict damage at a distance, without putting the predator body close enough for the prey to hurt the hunter, is a huge advantage. To a lion or wolf, the big risk is being hurt enough by the prey to be unable to hunt again. Just being less able to hunt is a very bad news: At this point, even if the wound is not fatal, it is often a downward spiral

    Fair point. Surprising this strategy hasn’t appeared more. Off the top of my head I think billfish do hunt with their bills. Not sure any extant terrestrials do anything like that. Why no predacious animals with three-foot horns? Too fragile, too heavy? If they were social hunters they might be too dumb to not gore each other by accident a lot . . . but they could also be solitary.

  23. Greg Paul mentioned the passenger pigeons the other day. According to him, they were specialists upon masts and were in competition with the indigenous peoples in their range, who also depended upon masts. Before Europeans wiped them out inadvertently by deforestation and then by overhunting, they introduced pathogens that decimated the native North Americans causing the pigeon population to escalate till they blackened the sky. Its just a shame no one thought to breed the species in aviaries. (I’m sure its relevant here is that overhunting only damaged the pigeon population because it was to feed a great, urban population size, having evolved to cope with a wide variety of predators.)

    Greg, the larger the tortoise is intuitively the more visible it is when hiding a nest, with less hiding places available. This is why I thought humans and other terrestrial primates have such a negative impact upon large tortoises (both testudids and meiolaniids).

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