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What we know sex with Neanderthals was like (bbc.com)
42 points by daegloe 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments





The links in this article are amazing. Most go to academic papers. All articles, including regular news articles, would benefit from that kind of linking. If I wasn't supposed to be working, I could spend the afternoon meandering my way through that article and links and probably learn a meaningful amount about early humans.

I recommend anyone who's interested in early humans and human development to read the book Sapiens: https://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-Humankind-Yuval-Noah-Harari/d... I really enjoyed it!

If you are into biased, opinionated history, then Harari is the way to go.

I understand and agree that the author adds his own $0.02 here and there. But you don't have to agree with every word in the book to think it provides value. I think the book functions as an easy read high level overview of human history, particularly the early chapters.

Who do you recommend instead?


Dominion by Tom Holland, actually everything by this author

The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond


you can't make a good omlette without breaking a few eggs...

Harari's books are decent entertrainment and popular science, nobody pretends them to be Nature-worthy articles


Ok, I won't start a rant here on Hacker News, the night's too good for rants, I will only say this, one chapter into Harari’s 2015 "smash hit" Homo Deus and you will be grateful that you've just learned pandemics are a thing of the past. five years later

I was going with "Hobbesian" in a nutshell. I wonder how much exogamy ("hey, you look interesting!") played into it, aside from just being lonely.

What is a "0 AD"?

> Weyrich explains that one possible route for the transfer is kissing.

or, you know, eating each other.


In some pacific cultures, and probably others, parents and other close family members masticate food and pass it via the lips, not dissimilar to birds except the food isn't regurgitated. I always thought this is how kissing began.

To be fair, it says “one possible route” ;)

> It’s even been suggested, too, that such hook-ups weren’t consensual.

I feel like a vast majority of hook ups in human history have been non consensual.


You understand that half of people ever born lived during last two thousand years. 7 percent of people ever to walk Earth are still alive.

Prehistoric humans are actually small minority of all people that ever lived. It is estimated that about 1 to 2 percent of people who ever lived were born before advent of agriculture.

So, while prehistoric people lived for hundreds of thousands of years, the population tended to be very, very small.


We need to introduce human population inflation factor and normalize the numbers :)

When you apply a normalization like that I don’t think my statement is true anymore. But as a proportion of sex over any given time slice over time I still think it holds.

Is this based on any particular evidence though or just a feeling?

I don't think it's really guaranteed at all. Sexual behavior and courtship (or lack thereof) varies a lot over different species and I don't think I've personally seen much to indicate one way or the other what early human or pre-human behavior would have been.


Definitely feel, not evidence based.

Is that based on reading of actual research or is this based on movies?

You know, movies are pretty bad at very easy and tangible things like physics. The can't adequately show very contemporary activities like hacking or programming. How accurate do you think is portrayal of prehistoric cultures in mainstream entertainment movies and TV shows?


Well that’s a patronizing comment. It’s based on research of how great apes act as well as readings on how hunter gather societies today function.

A vast majority? How do you arrive at that conclusion?

By the modern standard of consent, as an example, the patria potestas [0] rules effectively meant a power imbalance such that all hooking up would be under duress.

I'm not arguing that anyone thought it was non-consensual then, because I don't think it's appropriate to try to apply modern emancipative thinking to societies of previous millennia, but one could certainly argue it.

edit: markup

[0]https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/patria%20potestas


I'd say it's a fair assumption given how much of the world has approached relationships for such a long time. Sex slaves, brothels, selling women off to be married, pillage villages and taking their women, etc..

Women couldn't vote in the U.S. until 1920. That's closer to today than it is to the founding of the country. These are relatively new and human history is much much older.


Yeah, vast majority seems like a stretch. Back-of-the-envelope calculation:

Google says ~100 billion humans ever lived ~60 billion since 0 AD.

Let's say since 0 AD, 10% of the average person's lifetime encounters are non-consensual, while the ancient human had 33% non-consensual. These proportions are totally made-up by me.

Anyway, that would give us .33 * 40 + .1 * 60 = 19.2% of all intercouse being non-consensual. It seems like any reasonable estimate would put the number well below 50% just given how many modern people there are.


I think if you put the modern norm of affirmative consent on things, this is probably a “true” statement, although much less interesting. Otherwise it seems p hard to substantiate

It’s the norm with great apes and what few hunter gatherer societies we can observe. The vast majority of Europe also has male genes from only the Yamnaya implying a massacre of all men and interbreeding with the women. I can’t imagine all of that was consensual.

I doubt it, but probably true for the period between paternity and/or virginity emerging as social things that mattered and some quiescent point afterwards.

Go back far enough and my assumption is there's a lot of pleasureful promiscuity going on, just look at bonobos.


But in the same vein, look at all the great apes besides bonobos. Bonobos are the exception because of the abundance of resources.



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