"Cro-Magnon" by Brian Fagan

I just finished reading Cro-Magnon by Brian Fagan. Overall, it’s pretty good reading, though it’s clearly meant as a primer. It doesn’t have much in the way of Earth-shattering, ground-breaking, material.
From an HBD standpoint, I wanted to highlight some interesting statements that Fagan makes:

Neanderthals may have also interbred with moderns in Europe, where they survived alongside Cro-Magnon for a long time… Perhaps it resulted from very rare encounters between solitary or near-solitary individuals rather than bands, where commonly shared prejudices, especially among modern human groups, might have militated against any form of close contact, let alone sexual intercourse (pg. XI of the preface).

I’ll admit it’s likely I’m missing something obvious here, but this looks like a Freudian slip to me. Why would Fagan assign prejudices more to modern humans than to Neanderthals? Is there any evidence that early Cro-Magnons were more prejudiced than late Neanderthals? I seriously doubt it. I think Fagan is sub-consciously equating Cro-Magnons with whites, and Neanderthals with blacks. Since it’s customary to be critical of white prejudices, but not black ones, Fagan carries this over to prehistory as well.

What can we say about them from this research? They were striking people, with brains as large as our own, but their heads were shaped differently. We have high foreheads and rounded heads, whereas the Neanderthals had long, low skull vaults, which were larger and protruded at the back. A pair of large, rounded, and continuous ridges overhung the eye sockets. The front of the skull was somewhat flattened and constricted like that of much earlier, archaic humans. This may be significant, for it is in this area, the so-called prefrontal association cortex, that much of our thinking takes place( pg. 46).

Is Fagan a proponent of phrenology? I doubt it. Most likely, he would make a distinction between comparing the skulls of members of the same species and those of different species. Though both human, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon were certainly different species – or were they? Milford Wolpoff and Rachel Caspari, in “Race and Human Evolution” (which I reviewed here) claim we are the same species. Either way, we have here an admission that consistent differences in skull shape may have deeper meaning. How would Fagan’s description of modern skull structure pertain to this person?

For all I know, the man could be a genius; I don’t believe we can conclude anything, about an individual, from his skull shape. But if this skull shape is typical for his population, it isn’t far fetched to surmise that it may have deeper significance – at least according to Fagan.

The African Eve is a fictional person, a product of molecular biology… If such a person existed, she would have been dark haired and black skinned, a member of a small hunting band, and strong enough to tear apart human flesh with her hands and carry heavy loads (pg. 89).

This is a rather bold statement, especially considering the fact that much of Africa was populated by Khoisan-type people until they were overrun by Bantu tribes only a few thousand years ago. The Khoisan are not “black skinned”. In fact, Fagan himself writes (pg. 91):

They concentrated much of their effort on the Khoi and San peoples of southern Africa, because they are surviving representatives of ancient hunter-gatherer traditions – people with a slender, light build… Their paternal and maternal lineages are along the deepest branches known among modern humans.

What would motivate a scientist to make such a statement without any evidence? It looks more like a political statement than a scientific one.

The harsh environmental conditions after the Toba disaster would have fostered strong pressures for cooperation over longer distances, even entire regions. Such cooperation would have come from expanding social networks far beyond the limited contacts between neighbors…
These developments came at a time of stress and reduced population, when only a few thousand people lived south of the Sahara and when Africa was cut off from the outside world by intense drought. Then, after seventy thousand years ago, Africa’s population began to grow once again as the cold receded. Small numbers of people, with all the cognitive abilities of modern humans, now moved out of Africa into Asia and lands beyond…

Fagan elaborates upon the pressures of a harsh environment. He makes much of the Toba vulcanic eruption, which occurred 70,000 years ago. But would not the much longer ice ages, which affected Eurasia far more than Africa, have exerted at least as much pressure? It makes no sense to assume that these ice ages exerted no evolutionary pressure upon the humans who lived through them. According to Fagan, once humans attained the status of “modern humanity” (a title arbitrarily bestowed by people such as himself), then their cognitive abilities must be equal to our own. Fagan allows for no variance, in cognitive ability, within Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Fagan is even more blunt about his position on page 146, where he writes:

How, then, does one explain the sudden appearance of sophisticated cave paintings at just one location? Certainly, painting the Chauvet art was well within the intellectual capabilities of people who had exactly the same cognitive abilities as painters of later millennia…

Was Fagan there to administer I.Q. tests to both populations? Even if he was, how can he be sure they weren’t “culturally biased”? I think it’s irresponsible for a scientist to make such blanket statements. Perhaps he believes that his experience and expertise gives him carte blanche to make, under that same authority, any fanciful statements he wishes. But getting back to the rigors of the ice ages, Fagan writes (pg. 170):

Infinite patience and persistence were also qualities common to tropical and cold-climate hunters alike. Everywhere, mental attitudes were important, but they were particularly central to survival in environments where strong winds and the bitter cold of subzero temperatures for days on end sapped human energy. Successful hunting and survival depended on deeply ingrained attitudes of self-assurance and competence, on mental attitudes that were part of the Cro-Magnon personality.

Fagan chose his words carefully. It is becoming more and more obvious that mental capabilities are largely heritable. But there is far less consensus when it comes to the heritability of “mental attitudes”, “self-assurance” and “competence”. Note that Fagan carefully avoids using the word “intelligence” or “cognitive ability” in the above paragraph. Doing so would have implied that the colder environment might have led to smarter people. Perhaps Fagan knows this, but he prefers to avoid controversy. In any event, it doesn’t take much “cognitive ability” to replace the words “mental attitudes” with “mental capabilities” in the above paragraph – and understand that the statement makes just as much sense. We don’t need Fagan to tell us that.
Along the same lines, Fagan implies that civic mindedness was also a trait that was more necessary in the cold north:

All of these qualities would have served the Cro-Magnons well in a world where climate change was often rapid, winters were severe, and periods of warmth and abundance were usually short. Of course there were exceptions to the norm: quarrelsome individuals, volatile family situations, interpersonal violence, and other far-from-ideal circumstances –  but in general, the personal qualities shared by the Cro-Magnons, and their encyclopedic knowledge of their world, were their most powerful weapons for survival… (pg. 173).

Indeed, the subtitle of the book is “How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans”. So maybe Fagan is a closet believer in HBD, not that he’ll admit it. But he does proclaim pride in his own heritage at the very end of the book (pg. 264):

The genes of the Cro-Magnons are still dominant among modern Europeans today. My DNA tells me that genetically I’m one of them, and I’m proud of it.

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31 Responses to "Cro-Magnon" by Brian Fagan

  1. I’ll admit it’s likely I’m missing something obvious here, but this looks like a Freudian slip to me. Why would Fagan assign prejudices more to modern humans than to Neanderthals?
    The appositive “especially among modern human groups” certainly does seem out of place, though I suspect that the author isn’t specifically connecting the Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals to contemporary racial groups, but rather scrutinizing the psychology of the group with whom he more greatly identifies more than that of the other. This general attitude is what results in liberal scrutiny of white motives and not those of blacks (and ironically enough, can be interpreted as a dehumanization of blacks or, in this case, Neanderthals), but it doesn’t require specific identification of groups with each other.
    As for phrenology, physical anthropologists often note the difference in cranial shape found in Neanderthals along with the fact that they were a bit larger on average than those of today’s humans. The lack of emphasis on these types of differences among today’s races is probably a combination of the fact that they are less pronounced and the dominant ideology on race of our time.

  2. Apopkian says:

    Speaking the truth about HBD can instantly destroy a person’s career and sometimes their whole life. So I suspect any academic who has survived in his field for decades either consciously lies or has developed some sort of subconscious ability to navigate around these issues.

    • Stealth says:

      After having a conversation with a co-worker of mine, it occurs to me that the biggest obstacle in coming to some sort of peaceful social arrangement between blacks and whites is the fact that black people are basically left to just guess what white people think – and they usually assume the worst. This is a consequence of whites having to suffer severe repercussions for merely being honest about what we think.
      Even well-meaning liberals must carefully calculate what they say about race. We all must read from the great script, leaving black people to wonder just what in the hell we really believe about them. After all, it doesn’t take a genius to know that much of what we say is total bullshit, and I don’t think black folks try to fool themselves about it.
      We can’t simply tell black people that there’s a VERY big difference between the desire to harm another group of people and the desire to just get away from them because you fear for your own safety. Some white people dislike blacks but wish them no harm. Other white people, like me, believe that the two groups are simply too different to just “integrate” on command.
      But most of all, we can never tell them that white people, even the few who actually are hateful, don’t sit around and dwell on race at every waking moment like they appear to.

      • Apopkian says:

        What black people think is something I think about often. It seems that most black people do know on some instinctive level that most white people are phonies when it comes to race. In that primitive way blacks are actually more intelligent. They sense primal emotions through body language and tone better than whites. They know when a white man is lying and afraid.
        The problem is that many blacks assume that white people are all hiding hate for blacks, when whites just want to be left alone.
        The worst part of our society is that we are forced to talk about race all the time and are never allowed to speak the truth. It’s very Soviet. They can’t even leave you alone even when you keep your mouth shut.

      • worx92 says:

        Great post.

  3. Yew Among You says:

    One man’s honest perspective about racism, why it exists and why we deny it.

  4. spesbona cape says:

    I’m always reading and hearing in the MSM that the “first fully modern humans” (or some such phrase) evolved in Africa about 120,000 years ago (or some such figure). But surely, as this author seems to imply, the “first fully modern human” was Cromagnon man from whom modern Europeans are descended. Therefore, since they are NOT descended from Cromagnon then negroes should not be considered as “fully modern humans”? Am I alone in being confused here?

    • I think sub-Saharan Africans are wholly descended from Cro-Magnon man, while Eurasians are 96-99% descended from Cro-Magnon man and 1-4% descended from Neanderthals etc.

    • jewamongyou says:

      The claim, repeated by Fagan in his book, is that the first “modern humans” evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago. The term “Cro-Magnon” is more a cultural term than a physical one; it refers to the modern humans who lived in Europe during the middle and late Stone Age. But there were other modern human groups elsewhere.
      My beef is with the assumption that, since a group is “modern human”, it automatically must have exactly equal mental capabilities with other modern humans. The demarcation line between “archaic human” and “modern human” is a fuzzy one at best – so how can the assignment of “equal cognitive abilities” be so clear cut? Doesn’t make sense.

      • spesbona cape says:

        I am no anthropologist but, from what I understand, Cro-magnon man was not just a “cultural term” since they were the first humans to demonstrate through their cave paintings that they had an appreciation for “art”.

  5. spesbona cape says:

    How could that be? Firstly sub-saharan africans look nothing like us, Secondly they have significantly smaller brains than modern Europeans whereas I have read that Cromagnon had even larger brains than us. But, most importantly, what evidence is there for a European colonisation of sub-saharan Africa (as opposed to North Africa) from about 30,000 BCE? I have never heard any suggestion that negroes are descended from Cromagnon – what if any are your sources for this?

    • If you want Cro-Magnon to refer exclusively to European, fine. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be used, I don’t know. I was using Cro-Magnon synonymously with Early Modern Human which may be wrong; if so mea culpa.
      So let me rephrase:
      While sub-Saharan Africans are descended entirely from early modern humans, Eurasians and their descendants are 1-4% Neanderthal by descent; the rest from early modern humans. Here is a link; it may not be where I originally read that.

      • spesbona cape says:

        Its not a matter of what “I want” – it just seems likely that Cromagnons are the ancestors of Europeans, but not Africans or Orientals. And I dont see that anything published by the “Guardian” is going to answer anything racially controversial. The debate as to whether or not Cromagnons mated with Neanderthals is just a red-herring IMO.

      • All right, let me assert that it was wrong for me to use Cro-Magnon the way I did, instead of leaving it up in the air. My bad.
        So Cro-Magnon are the branch of EMH who lived in Europe; together with a small amount of Neanderthal blood, the created the Caucasoid race. Another branch of EMH remained behind in Africa and created the Capoid and Congoid groups. Another branch of EMH, together with a small amount of Denisovan blood, created the Greater Asian race. (This paragraph is not intended to be read as a linear sequence of events.)
        I don’t trust The Guardian much myself, but they summarized and quoted Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. If he can’t be trusted on this then I honestly have no idea how we would get data on the subject. I’m not going to know how to find Neanderthals bones, or grind them up, or analyze their DNA. It’s not my skillset.
        It’s clear at this point that Eurasians have very little in common with sub-Saharan Africans, if you treat us as the same species. There is easily enough genetic distance in there to warrant calling the two groups subspecies.

      • spesbona cape says:

        “There is easily enough genetic distance in there to warrant calling the two groups subspecies.”
        Now THATS a statement I can agree with..! Of course the usual suspects always claim that all humans must be the same species because we can mate with each other and produce viable offspring. I’m not sure this is entirely true however, does anyone know of any exceptions to this “rule”?
        For my money the litmus test is whether different human races (or sub-species) can live together harmoniously for any length of time. Clearly this is not the case with negroids and whites. The first blacks who move into a white area tend to be quite well-behaved but once their numbers get above a certain % in any area they revert to form and their bad behaviour tends to drive out the whites. Not sure what the tipping point is, but I suspect around 10%.

      • Of course the usual suspects always claim that all humans must be the same species because we can mate with each other and produce viable offspring. I’m not sure this is entirely true however, does anyone know of any exceptions to this “rule”?
        I believe there are cases where two species can interbreed and produce viable offspring, and cases where two fertile members of the same species can’t. If all dogs on disappeared except Chihuahua bitches and St. Bernard males (both C. familiaris), the species would disappear. A tiny female dog will die if she is impregnated by a large enough male–the fetus will kill her.
        On the other hand, if the St. Bernard dogs had access to female coyotes (C. latrans) in heat, they would produce a St. Bernard-ish coydog.
        With humans, everything is complicated by cross-breeding. Recently I read something very plausible (if anyone cares, I’ll hunt around for it). It said that Congoid peoples are actually a hybrid of Capoid people and Ethiopid peoples. The latter are considered the southernmost and darkest group of Caucasoid peoples, akin to Arabs, Dravidians, etc. Without Congoid people, there would be no question that Capoid (Khoisan) peoples are extremely different. Their genitals are different from everyone else’s, their body forms are different. It’s too obvious to ignore.
        But with Ethiopid people interbreeding with them, the Black African race was formed (apparently, darker than either of the parent groups, although of course we don’t know exactly what the equatorial predecessors to the modern Khoisan looked like). This blurs the otherwise clear lines that would have distinguished us. The Khoisan need to be treated as an endangered species; the Bantus who live near by are killing and raping them out of existence. They deserve protection; at the very least outsiders should stop having sex with them for heaven’s sake.

  6. EW says:

    Takong into account that recent news hint at much older age of some cave paintings in Europe, who knows, what heritage the “modern” Europeans acquired from their Neanderthal cousins.

  7. destructure says:

    There is a big difference between “anatomically modern humans” and “fully modern humans”. Anatomically modern humans refers to early individuals of Homo sapiens with an appearance consistent with the range of phenotypes in modern humans. While every population alive today is technically a “fully modern human”.
    But since modern humans are descended from other humans why aren’t all previous humans considered “fully modern”? The obvious answer is, of course, evolution. Even though there is an unbroken lineage there comes a time when a subsequent population has become sufficiently differentiated from its predecessors to be considered a different subspecies or even species.
    Clearly, there are a number of different sub species alive today. But it’s problematic to say that cro magnons were the first fully modern humans when not all people living today are descended from them or share their characteristics. In fact, some people living today show similarities to a different and extinct branch called homo erectus. Oops! Now that’s very politically incorrect. Anthropologists had better stop saying “cro magnon” and just start saying “fully modern humans” instead. Otherwise, people might get the idea that racial differences go back a couple of hundred thousand years.

  8. spesbona cape says:

    Your response only adds to the confusion – you begin by attempting to be very PC – every population alive today is technically a “fully modern human”. And yet then you totally contradict yourself by asserting that “some people” are (basically)Homo Erectus…!

  9. 90404 says:

    Theres a blog, if I recall its ‘Robert Lindsay’ blog and he talks DNA.
    I looked briefly at it. He was talking about how ‘the shape of peoples heads have changed in the last 100 years’.

    • Lindsay is interesting because he’s not a regular leftist. He was kicked out of the Communist Party of the USA (or something similar, maybe the Socialist Workers’ Party) for unorthodoxy. He’s also not a regular pan-Caucasianist; he dates (dozens of) women of other races, he can’t stand racial separatists, etc. He hates Trotskyites and fascists, etc.

  10. anon says:

    Fagan’s quote on admixture:
    “Perhaps it resulted from very rare encounters between solitary or near-solitary individuals rather than bands, where commonly shared prejudices, especially among modern human groups, might have militated against any form of close contact, let alone sexual intercourse.”
    This is absurd. Is he just being PC or genuinely believe this? The human nature I’ve observed has no qualms in dipping his oil stick in the tube chutes of enemies’ women. The miscegenation occurred via concubines and odalisques.

  11. worx92 says:

    I can trace myself back to the Basques. Perhaps my thick bones reveal part of that past too.
    It really bothers me that most African Americans have White blood in them. I don’t want to be related to them.
    We were always told that Neanderthals were dumb and brutish, but they lived in areas of Europe where our ancestors came from, and we have their DNA, blacks don’t. And as far as Cro Magnon man, studies say H. sapiens came from Africa, and how has Cro Magnon man been tied into Africa? If anyone knows of one Cro Magnon skull found in Africa, please let me know.
    This business of skin color and location…if black skin inhibits Vitamin D absorption in colder climates, then why do chimpanzees, orangutans, etc., have white skin? Why are their both black and white skinned apes living in equatorial regions?

  12. worx92 says:

    Just more proof that we have been lied to by science and media as far as our origins, and everything is so politicized. Liberal, “feel good” science for the diversity crowd.

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