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Keywords:

  • adult survivorship;
  • modern human origins;
  • West Asia;
  • Neandertals

Abstract

Increased longevity, expressed as the number of individuals surviving to older adulthood, represents a key way that Upper Paleolithic Europeans differ from earlier European (Neandertal) populations. Here, we address whether longevity increased as a result of cultural/adaptive change in Upper Paleolithic Europe, or whether it was introduced to Europe as a part of modern human biology. We compare the ratio of older to younger adults (OY ratio) in an early modern human sample associated with the Middle Paleolithic from Western Asia with OY ratios of European Upper Paleolithic moderns and penecontemporary Neandertals from the same region. We also compare these Neandertals to European Neandertals. The difference between the OY ratios of modern humans of the Middle and Upper Paleolithic is large and significant, but there is no significant difference between the Neandertals and early modern humans of Western Asia. Longevity for the West Asian Neandertals is significantly more common than for the European Neandertals. We conclude that the increase in adult survivorship associated with the Upper Paleolithic is not a biological attribute of modern humans, but reflects important cultural adaptations promoting the demographic and material representations of modernity. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.