‘Alpha cavewomen’ roamed the plains while slothful menfolk stayed at home, according to a study.
It’s finally been confirmed what every woman from Raquel Welch to Wilma Flintstone has always suspected. The female of the species was very much the boss even back in prehistoric times.
A study has found evidence of ‘alpha cavewomen’ roaming the plains and calling the shots while the menfolk slobbed at home.
The discovery could put paid to the belief that cavemen were the aggressive, violent go-getters in the relationship between the sexes.
It also raises the intriguing possibility that Fred Flintstone, the eternally henpecked half of the cartoon partnership with Wilma, might actually have mirrored life on Earth all those centuries ago.
And that Raquel Welch, the doeskin-bikini-clad heroine of One Million Years BC, could have got her movie portrayal spot on.
Alpha cavewoman appears to have travelled far wider than her male counterpart, the research showed. She might even have been the one who went out clubbing, so to speak – reversing the popular conception that it was the bloke who bashed the girl on the head and dragged her home by the hair.
But something seems to have happened to the evolution of the species after those times between 1.7million and 2.4million years ago.
A couple more millennia would have to pass before female independence re-emerged with the bra-burning liberation of the Swinging Sixties.
The findings, detailed in the journal Nature, were made by Oxford University researchers and an international team of scientists.
Using lasers and advanced technology, they analysed enamel from fossilised teeth found in cave systems a mile apart in South Africa.
‘Finding new ways to make old bones speak’ was how one of the team described it.
Oxford professor Julia Lee-Thorp said the difference between males and females was ‘completely unexpected’.
Her team measured the strontium isotope ratios in canine and third molar teeth — which are formed by about the age of eight — in 11 Paranthropus robustus individuals from the Swartkrans cave, as well as in teeth from eight Australopithecus africanus individuals from the nearby Sterkfontein cave, about 50 kilometres north-west of Johannesburg.
The researchers also measured the strontium in 170 plants and animals currently living near the caves to get a sense of the different strontium signatures of the region, including the thin Malmani dolomite formation that includes both caves.
Analysis of their teeth showed whether or not individuals were local or had arrived from another area.
More than half the female teeth were from outside the region, compared to about 10 per cent of the male teeth, the international team of researchers found.
The experts concluded that most males lived and died in their birthplaces, while females were more likely to find new homes.
‘One of our goals was to try to find something out about early hominid landscape use,’ said lead researcher Professor Sandi Copeland, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, U.S..
‘Here we have the first direct glimpse of the geographic movements of early hominids, and it appears the females preferentially moved away from their residential groups.’
The two populations were from different early human species. One, Australopithecus africanus, may have been a direct ancestor of modern humans. The other, Paranthropus robustus, belonged to a ‘dead end’ branch of the human evolutionary tree.
The shape of ancient human families has been the subject of much speculation, based mainly on differences in the relative size of male and female fossils, and the behavioural patterns of our primate relatives.
Female chimpanzees, for instance, typically leave their social group once they hit maturity. Among gorilla groups, which are dominated by one large male ‘silverback’, both males and females tend to strike out.
Modern humans, who are influenced by relatively recent cultural practices such as marriage and property ownership, are difficult to compare to our early ancestors, Professor Copeland added.
Via Daily Mail