Mind & Matter
Mind & Matter
Diet, Hunting, Culture and Evolution of Paleolithic Humans & Hunter Gatherers | Eugene Morin | #160

Diet, Hunting, Culture and Evolution of Paleolithic Humans & Hunter Gatherers | Eugene Morin | #160

Download, watch or listen to M&M episode #160

About the guest: Eugene Morin, PhD is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Trent who studies Paleolithic humans and animals.

Episode summary: Nick and Dr. Morin discuss: evolution of Paleolithic humans; Neanderthal diet & cultural capacity; key human adaptations related to endurance and stamina; hunter gatherer hunting strategies; evolution of human digestion; and more.

*This content is never meant to serve as medical advice.


Full AI-generated transcript below. Beware of typos & mistranslations!

Eugene Morin 2:27

Well, I'm a Paleolithic specialist. And I study animal bones, mostly in Europe, more specifically in France and Montenegro. And you know, I started working about 20 years ago. I'm a specialist of Neanderthals and early modern humans. And I focus my I would say most of my research focuses on diet subsistence foraging. And I do a bit of more and more I would say over over the years I'm doing more and more ethnography and that no history. So the study of a non western societies, and I tried to use that as kind of framework to help me interpret the past.

Nick Jikomes 3:14

Is there a particular period in time that you focus on?

Eugene Morin 3:17

Yeah, so when I send you out to doors and early modern humans, so I study mostly people who lived about 200 to 50,000 years ago, that's basically the range I work on. But I've worked on stuff that is like, almost 600,000 years old. And

Nick Jikomes 3:36

would this be the Paleolithic period? Yeah. So

Eugene Morin 3:39

that would encompass the lower middle, and Upper Paleolithic as well. Sometimes I work on on later stuff. So but mostly it's it's the Palaeolithic, I would say the later part of the pelvis. And

Nick Jikomes 3:52

can you can you just talk about like, what is the Paleolithic era? When did it start? When did and and what defines it? Are there particular archaeological discoveries or events in history that that start? Yeah, yeah. So

Eugene Morin 4:05

the public starts as soon as we have them any cultural objects. And so objects made by humans with the goal of assisting them in their activities. So in Africa, it starts about 3.3 million years ago. And we usually take the arm emergence of agriculture as the end of the time period. So it's occurred about 12,000 years ago, in the Near East. I see. So basically, 3.3 million years ago to 12,000 years ago, that's the prolific.

Nick Jikomes 4:39

I see. And over that period of time, really just in very general terms, where were humans coming and going. So at the beginning of the Paleolithic were were humans was our lineage of humans. And by the end, where were we across the globe? Yeah,

Eugene Morin 4:53

so the prolific it's a world of hunter gatherers, okay, so there's no agriculture and It starts in Africa. And we have hints that there there are some expansion of dominance out of Africa, starting probably around 2.5 million years ago. So they start to colonize the, you know, eastern part of, sorry, the southern part of Europe. Well, it mostly southeast, sorry, Southeast Europe. And then they move into the tropics of Asia. And so we find them, you know, probably around 2 million years ago, 2.5 million years ago, in southern Southeast Asia. And then the two continents, continents are populated later. So Australia would be probably occupied around 45 to 60,000 years ago. And then we have occupation of the Americas. About 25 to 30,000 years ago,

Nick Jikomes 5:58

the first species of hominids that were leaving Africa, what what subspecies would that be was that Homo erectus? Was it some other species? Well, that's

Eugene Morin 6:09

that's a good question. People are debating this. So some, you know, some people have argued there possibly later, you know, the very late Pleistocene, sorry, very late Australopithecines. Other people think it's only early almost that we're moving out. So that's still debated. I think on the safe side would say these are early Elmo populations.

Nick Jikomes 6:32

When we think about the evolution of the genus Homo, that would include ourselves that would include Neanderthals and other things. What, what are some of the key phenotypic features of this, of this genus that distinguish it from other mammals? In particular, I'm hoping you can start out by talking about like physical adaptations, muscular skeletal adaptations, aspects of the body that relate to how we move throughout the world. What are some of the key adaptations of homo?

Eugene Morin 7:02

Well, what we see in early amo, is there, you know, we see first they're getting taller relative to Australopithecines. So I'll strip it, the scenes are basically the height of mother and chimpanzees. And so with early on Mo, we see people are standing up, and now are close to, you know, our height. We see in their body that, especially with OMO rectus, the postcranial, that is down the neck, we see that they are having a features that are similar to what we see today. So most of the changes that we see in early hominids do occur before they move out. These hominins moved out of Africa. And so basically, it's quite similar. We see throughout the Palaeolithic, you know, and enlargement of the brain. So that's really a major change we see. And contrary to what has been thought, you know, a century ago, and even perhaps even 50 years ago, is that what we see is that the brain comes late in the store the human story, the enlargement of the brain, as we have tools way before we have large brains.

Nick Jikomes 8:12

What were some of the like musculoskeletal changes that happened that enabled homo, generally, in Homo sapiens particular to be a hunter gatherer species tend to engage in the types of foraging and hunting behaviors that are typical of humans.

Eugene Morin 8:29

So what we see in humans that is very different from other mammals is that we have two key features that are quite distinct. First, we have the about the ability to sweat a lot, okay. And this might seem, you know, not particularly adaptive, but there's a good reason for this is that humans need to, well, in collage activities, you need to disseminate a to dissipate heat. Okay, so if you're, for instance, if you're running, and you're running for, you know, extended periods of time, what will happen is that your body will build up heat. And if you don't have this, you know, an efficient way of evacuating this heat, you will overheat. Basically, think about the car that has no radiator, you know, you can do so much, but at some, at some point, the heart the car will overheat, and you will, you will be forced to stop. So that's the same thing with our body. So we need to evacuate this heat. Animals like cheetahs are an example. It's a very good example of an animal that can sprint very well that you know can achieve almost 100 kilometer per hour, but this animal cannot sustain prolonged activity for more than a few minutes. And then the they become, you know, they overheat. So that's one feature, this ability to dissipate, you know, building heat. The other feature is that we you know, our locomotor muscles. So the muscles that help us to move there are dominated by what we call slow twitch fibers. Whereas most other mammals have fast twitch muscles. So these ones that fast, which one are related to power. So for instance, if you will need to sprint, you will use these fast twitch fibers. And what's interesting about them is that these are, you know, they will use the stored glycogen in the muscle to fuel them. Whereas humans will use the slow twitch fibers, which are fed by our breathing. So, in other words, when we, when we run, for instance, you will note, if you're running the first 30 seconds, your your breath, you know, your breathing rate will not change. That's because you're still working on the story, glycogen. But when you start to breathing to breathe heavily, that's because now you're starting to use the oxygen to help transport the glycogen to the muscles, okay. And so that's why that's one feature that is very distinctive of humans is that we use the slow twitch fibers way more, and we have more of them. So

Nick Jikomes 11:13

you've got slow and fast twitch muscle fibers, they have different physiological properties, I would assume that all amp, most mammals probably have some amount of both, but what you're saying it sounds like is that humans are proportionally more of the slow twitch fibers compared to the fast exactly

Eugene Morin 11:27

and more relative to our close cousins, too. I mean, to chimpanzees, like for instance, if you are involved with a, in a fight with a chimpanzee, you know, you will, your button will be kicked, they they're really, really strong, much stronger than humans. And that's because they are, they are among other reasons that they have a lot of fast twitch muscles. Whereas humans, as I pointed out, you know, they have the slow twitch muscles, and that allow them to run for longer, with minimal use of fuel.

Nick Jikomes 11:59

I see. So if you try to fight a chimpanzee head on, you're gonna lose because they're way stronger, because their muscle composition, and other things are different. But if you run away, you probably have a good chance of getting away. Exactly. That's perfect. That's exactly it. And so if we sort of put all these things together, so we have this ability to sweat a lot, which enables us to dissipate heat, so we could move around in the environment for longer without overheating. We also have more of these slow twitch muscle fibers, which are less about power and and strong bursts of energy right now. And they probably enable the slow twitch fibers more long term, locomotor activity. So does this point to and enhance the ability to engage in long distance running and and something that might relate to certain forms of hunting.

Eugene Morin 12:47

Yeah, that's exactly it. So Deus, the these two features indicate that there was selection for stamina in humans, okay, that power, but stamina. And there are a few context, you know, few activities that that would require that kind of stamina. And an obvious locus of selection is hunting, and possibly scavenging. So we can imagine that humans found a niche in which, you know, running, you know, how hours and after hours after long, you know, large prey was a locus of selection, and a niche that was not occupied by other mammals. And so that's what we think we happen with, you know, or at least, these are factors that probably contributed to the evolution of these traits in humans.

Nick Jikomes 13:37

And sort of related to that, you know, I've seen some interesting data around some of our metabolic and physiological adaptations, particular things that have to do with our digestive system. So if you just sort of take a broad view of human digestion and metabolism, and you asked things like, what is our gut look like? How long is our GI tract? What is our stomach pH, all of these types of things, and you compare it to other mammals, herbivores versus carnivores versus scavengers? What sort of metabolic profile or digestive system would you say humans have in comparison to other mammals? And how does that maybe sort of tie into some of these physical adaptations that tell us about what early humans may have been adapting to in terms of diet?

Eugene Morin 14:23

Well, that's not my area of expertise, but that, you know, some notion that I'm aware of that then I've worked on, for instance, if you think about pH, you know, our pitch is not that different from that of, let's say, over wolves, for instance, who are, you know, noted for sometimes scavenging, and so, or highness, so in that respect, we're not different. Vultures have really high pH. So these are literally animals that looked at low pH or high pH. I pH so they can so they can I'm sorry, low pH does so they can they can process these, you know, very rotten meat in a way that we cannot. So no, sorry, low pH, low pH, high acidity. Yeah, exactly. So they can tolerate very, you know, acidic things. And so that helps them to process a rotten meat. And so this could also be, you know, in some way related to our ability to use to use scavenging as an a form of meat procurement method. So that would be one thing. Other people think that our gut became larger for processing complex carbohydrates. And that might be related, for instance, to an increasing use of plants and plants that, you know, contain toxins, the the invention, or I would say the discovery of fire and the use of fire could be related to an attempt by humans to attempt a sorry, as an attempt to reduce toxicity of plants. And so cooking helps in this way, because you, you can get rid of the officers some of these toxins by this way,

Nick Jikomes 16:15

when when we're humans first using fire.

Eugene Morin 16:19

Well, that's a very controversial problem. There's, I would say there's a safe answer. The the safe answer is that's at least 400, maybe 500,000 years ago. Now, there's another answer, which suggests there might be some evidence for us, but that would say, on an occasional basis, maybe ad hoc basis, and that could go as far as some say, 2 million years ago. So steady, consistent use of fire is recent fire hunt may be no more than 500,000 years old. But regular occasional use could have occurred or a little bit earlier. But again, that's debated. And one reason it's because many fires might have been very ephemeral. And they might not leave an archaeological signature that are quite robust.

Nick Jikomes 17:16

I see. So so we know, it's at least at least a certain amount of years old. And it might be older, but we just can't detect it, or andorre. Humans weren't using it frequently. Yeah.

Eugene Morin 17:27

Yeah. And it might have varied regionally. It's just that by 400,000 years ago, we're fairly certain that it's being mastered in many regions of the world, and that it's a habitual behavior. And

Nick Jikomes 17:39

is that unique to Homo sapiens? Or did other species of Homo have fire as well?

Eugene Morin 17:44

Well, we sit in the earth, Some see it as a different species, some as a subspecies. So that depends on your view, or more practice us, if we say 500,000 years ago, that's, that would be a more practice. So you know, we can you imagine that it's, you know, was used by several species. For instance, we know of The Hobbit, the so called Hobbit in Southeast Asia, it's unclear yet if they use fire, but that would be another species. So

Nick Jikomes 18:16

we have humans have these adaptations that enabled stamina, we could run long distances, we could dissipate heat efficiently. We had the muscle composition that that enabled all of that. It's presumably related to food procurement, whether that's active hunting, or scavenging for these early humans in Africa, in the Paleolithic, do you have any evidence, any good evidence as to the types of creatures that they were hunting or scavenging the types of meat they were eating or anything like this?

Eugene Morin 18:47

Yeah, so we didn't know what, what range of species they're hunting. So if we go back to Money and years ago, it seems that they are already able to procure some large game, such as gemsbok or are to be store, you know, and in some smaller ones, probably dykers, these animals were probably in the range of what they could acquire. A Elans are also thought to be sometimes acquired, but there's some debate about the larger range of the larger game. Something they were probably scheduling scavenge more frequently than the than, but so it's unclear, but at least for the medium size, animals, you know, something like maybe a gemsbok that seems to have been in the range of what humans could could acquire. For those who are unfamiliar with the species. James Bach would be about the size of, let's say, caribou in North America.

Nick Jikomes 19:48

A big deer. Yeah, so

Eugene Morin 19:50

a big deer. Yeah.

Nick Jikomes 19:51

And do we know like, when, when these early humans were hunting was was meat like that? Was it an occasion No treat that they would get whenever they could was it a very? was? Was it a staple of the diet? How like, what proportion of the diet came from hunting? And do we know very much about like the full composition of these early human diets? That's

Eugene Morin 20:13

very difficult to answer. We think that they, you know, if they show up in the archaeological record, it means there, you know, it's more than occasional. But whether this is a staple that remains to be determined, we have quite a few evidence, you know, that they're, you know, like, we have slice marks or tool marks on bones that suggest they're using different species. We know they're extracting marrow, very early on by a 2.5 million years ago, they're already extracting marrow. In fact, that might have been one of the main incentive to on these animals to get fat, because marrow is full of fat. So fat is often more important to modern foragers than the acquisition of meat, actually.

Nick Jikomes 21:00

So it sounds like there's, you know, it's hard to get a lot of direct evidence for this stuff. But we have things like bones with cut marks. And it's common enough that when you see it in the market, archaeological record, it couldn't have been rare, because otherwise we just wouldn't find artifacts like that. Are there also indirect sort of measures of this type of thing? So for example, I know that when you look at cave art, a disproportionate of the cave art seems to be centered on animals that presumably would have been hunted. And that would suggest that perhaps it was quite common. Yes,

Eugene Morin 21:31

so there's cave art, but before we addressed cave art, there was also some isotropic studies. So when you eat certain animals, or certain types of resources, you will acquire some, some isotopes through the tissue. And this might, you know, be detected by looking at. And by extracting collagen from the bones, you might be, you know, we're able to make some inferences. So we know when we look at early dominance, it looks more like they're eating plants more. The acquisition, or at least the procurement of game seems clear in the totals. So it seems to be effort, you know, in fact, near those have been described as hyper carnivore, which is probably, you know, a stretch, but there are definitely, you know, having meat on their regular basis. So probably why I would say by, I would say, five, 500,000 years ago, humans eat meat on a regular basis. Now, with respect to cave art, the oldest cave art is about 5050, maybe 55 60,000 years ago, 60,000 years old. And what we find the earliest ones are not depictions of animals, they're often dots or hand stencils. So the cave art with representation of animals slightly younger, maybe 45 40,000 years ago. And, you know, we see a range of animals often they are spectacular ones, we have Bisons, you know, cave lions, stuff like that. And whether this indicates that people are trying to acquire these animals, or they are somewhat scared by these animals are trying to acquire the power of these animals is, of course, a matter of debate. And the true meaning of this cave art remains a little bit nebulous to us. But what's interesting is that when you look at the, you know, the skills that are shown in these things, you know, early on, they look like, you know, Leonardo da Vinci, they often some of them are really the already beautiful and spectacular. So it

Nick Jikomes 23:49

sounds like the earliest hominids, were eating mostly plants, maybe occasional meat. So, you know, in broad terms, probably not that different from something like, you know, great apes like chimpanzees, mostly, mostly plants, but some animal based foods. And then, as our lineage emerged homosapiens, Neanderthals, we have these adaptations that allow, you know, we had bigger brains happening, we had the ability to have more stamina evolving, that unlock the ability to hunt. And so meat became more important in our diet than it was for other apes. But we're still eating an omnivorous diet.

Eugene Morin 24:25

Yes. What's important to emphasize on this point is sometimes overlooked is that chimpanzees and bonobos, which are our closest ancestors, they both hunt not on very frequently, but they will they will hunt, especially red colobus monkey, sometimes dykers which are small antelopes, they can acquire turtles, so they can hunt and they're successful to some extent, is highly variable regionally, some population will hunt more frequently than others, but Did there it until maybe 20 years ago, it was thought to be extremely marginal. And now, you know, there's some evidence that in some population, it's it's a, I would say, a treat, you know, something not common, but it's definitely there. So in other words, humans are not qualitatively different than that respect from the apes unbeknown boasts, it's more the extent and the size of the of the animals that we capture that is different. No, chimps will capture something as big as a caribou. You know?

Nick Jikomes 25:36

Because they don't have physiological adaptations that enable them to catch an animal. Yes.

Eugene Morin 25:40

And also because they don't use tools for that. And you know, are they use very simple, you know, it's not exactly true, they do use some tools, but often is for acquiring, you know, the tissue itself. So they might, you know, they might bang a Turdus on a tree to open it and stuff like that. Or there's some suggestion made it sometimes they may be using stones, but it's unclear, you know, to what extent they use tools. But overall, when we look at them, it's mostly catching by the hand, which limits what you can do. Humans use projectiles, they use snares, they use traps, and other methods that allow us to overtake you know, prey that are much larger than ourselves.

Nick Jikomes 26:28

And what kind of artifacts do we have for the tools humans were using for hunting? When it became more common? Were they using spears and projectiles like that? Were they also using traps and other things? What was their preferred method for selling game? That's

Eugene Morin 26:44

an excellent question, one that, you know, I've been working on for a while. The oldest tools that we have the oldest spears are about 400 300 400,000 years old. We don't have any ball on our road that are older. Some say that they're already present by 60,000 years ago. And directly based on the size of the of the spear points, or the arrowheads for snares, and traps. These are very ephemeral products. And so we don't know at all, when they were used, I assume they're quite old. We know indirectly, there's some figurines made of clay, in grievous in context, so about 30,000 years ago, and these figurines, they show nets on the hair. And so these nets, you know, if they were used for, you know, as a, as a piece of, you know, you know, as clothing or so on, or at least using for clothing, it's possible that the could have been this, these skills could have been transferred to Ponting. So we could assume that there are nets at least 30,000 years ago, but for anything older, it's the question is open.

Nick Jikomes 28:03

So, you know, roughly half a million years ago, I think is when our lineage diverged from Neandertals. And so we sort of go down two separate routes to some extent. Neandertals get to present a year before our lineage, I believe. And eventually, our lineage goes out of Africa, goes into Eurasia, and eventually moves West and colonizes what is present to Europe, and they encounter Neanderthals along the way, as Homo sapiens was leaving Africa and starting to populate Eurasia and into Europe. Do we know anything about their diet and how it might have been changing over the course of that period?

Eugene Morin 28:42

Yeah. So when we look, first of all, what's important is that there was the divergence between our thoughts and modern humans, but they're also some significant gene exchange. That's why we see they call it introgression. So we have some evidence that there's you know, it's not to population completely diverging, there's some divergence, but also some exchange of genes in the process. Now, with respect to their diet, that's a topic that I've worked on. We don't see any major differences in terms of what modern humans and Neanderthals eats. In fact, there's almost a complete overlap in terms of what they do have a focus on the same kind of tissue, same kind of animals, their transport behavior is similar. So they transport the same element, usually for fat, so there's no on this on the basis of subsistence, there's no striking difference between the two population, either Neanderthals or modern humans.

Nick Jikomes 29:42

And how like, what were they getting most of their fat from animal products?

Eugene Morin 29:48

That's a good question. In southern Europe, it's possible that they got some through nuts, okay. You have some fat and nuts but it's it's presumed that Most of the fat came from marrow and the subcat cutaneous fat that is the Mac fat that we see on animals.

Nick Jikomes 30:08

In what so, you know, so there was all of these integrations, at least sporadically between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, we exchanged DNA, you can still see evidence of Neanderthal genes in you and me today. How often do we think that was happening? Was it pretty rare? Was it can you give us like a sense for just how rare or how common it might have been?

Eugene Morin 30:31

Well, it was really quite rare, because if not the two population, you know, the genome would be more similar. In fact, it would be identical if it was very common. So there's enough for divergence to occur. But there was enough gene, or gene Exchange, which could have been maybe once a generation in between two population. And this was enough to prevent full divergence and respect. And it's unclear still, what happened to the last near adults. I'm, you know, some people think it's related to in fact, a different mode of survival, sorry, a different life way that was promoted by the modern humans when they invaded, and that these, you know, cultural that dictation allowed them to overtake Neanderthals. In my opinion, I think it's related to the habitat that was occupied the Neanderthals, I think the habitat became, in some way, there was a climatic deterioration, about 45,000 years ago, that was probably severe enough, that the population became very small. And this could have led these elite to small population simply collapsing because there's not enough gene flow between different groups. So in my opinion, environment, you know, ecological aspects or environmental aspects have been neglected in that in that respect.

Nick Jikomes 32:01

So can you give us a sense for the time period in which there was the most overlap between homosapiens and Neanderthal populations was it was 10s of 1000s of years? How far back to that stretch?

Eugene Morin 32:13

Yeah, if you go if you're in Southeast Europe, and then the areas, there's evidence of Neanderthals and modern humans for at least 50,000 years, if not more, okay, and maybe some say, even 100,000 years. So there was significant overlap in terms of the use of these two areas. Now, with respect to whether the made contacts and everything that's difficult to say, but in these regions, the stone tools made by inheritance and modern humans are not different or not, we cannot distinguish them. So this suggests there's some form of cultural trends of cultural transmission between the two groups, or at least diffusion of ideas that, you know, crossguard these boundaries are these genetic boundaries.

Nick Jikomes 33:02

So it sounds like you've told us so far that Neanderthals had a very similar diet to Homo sapiens. It sounds like we're using the same hunting tools, and therefore, we would have had comparable hunting abilities. We know that they had big brains. What about culture? To what extent did Neanderthals have culture? Do we see them using art and ornamentation and the types of markers that Homo sapiens groups use to define one group versus another group? 20 years

Eugene Morin 33:33

ago, 30 years ago, the answer was no, Neanderthals didn't have much of, you know, it didn't show any evidence that they were using symbols in any forms. But in the last 1520 years, there's, I would say, growing evidence that they were habitually using symbols. For instance, we, you know, with with some colleagues, we publish a number of claws from raptors, these club shows cut marks on them, and these clubs would not have been an edible. So we think that they were probably used as some form of on earning mentation. And that's interesting, because claws, you know, for instance, wolves have claws bears out claws to get they use only raptors and not a very specific range of raptors, the big ones like vultures and eagles. And so it's hard to escape the conclusion that this as the this has no symbolic reason behind it. So as I saw, so

Nick Jikomes 34:37

enough, enough of those artifacts exists where you see the wrapper clause, the clause from birds of prey showing up over and over again, but you don't see see it from other creatures.

Eugene Morin 34:47

Exactly. So it's it's a combination of evidence here. The fact that these it's always large raptors, there are not many it may be one per site. You know, now we have probably 30 Lights and in Europe showing the these this use of rafter claws. And what's interesting is that, as I said, large rat, and it excludes the other form of claws from other animals. As I say carnivores or, or herbivores, the claws are not used for saying purposes. So for this reason, it's probably link in at least in my opinion, it has some form of symbolic use.

Nick Jikomes 35:27

What about other cultural artifacts from Neandertal sites? Do you see clothing? Do you see beads?

Eugene Morin 35:35

Returning to the question of symbolic use. So what's very well known and has been known for a while is that they're using pigments and mineral pigments like Hawker manganese. And so it's, it's this is a little bit more, I would say, difficult to interpret, because some people think this guy could be related to non symbolic use. That is, for instance, some people think it might be for cleaning skin, for instance, and other purposes. But I think it's, there's some evidence, for instance, in Iberia, where pigments are associated with some bone tools made by Neanderthals. And so it could have been used for decoration, you know, or body or argumentation. There's also some cave art now, that is stuck to date from the period that was occupied by Neanderthals. So we would have near the cave art. Again, these are hand stencils, or dots on cave walls. And these data about 50,000 years ago, in a pier that would only been occupied by narratives, although this has also been challenged recently. There are some people think there's some modern human incursion in the Upper Paleolithic, sorry, in the middle of Pacific, in, in, in France and Iberia. But that's quite, that's quite controversial, in

Nick Jikomes 36:58

terms of these cultural artifacts that are tied or potentially tied to Neanderthals, do we know is there any strong evidence that these were Neandertal inventions? They came up with these things independently? Or is it possible that they acquired them from coming into contact with homosapiens, or vice versa, that we acquired maybe some things that yeah,

Eugene Morin 37:20

for the Raptor clause, as far as I know, this is something this is a feature we only see in their tools. Pigments are found, you know, from basically from France to South Africa. So this seems to be, you know, widely spread trait for cave art. The cave art, we see very early cave art in Southeast Asia, probably around 45 to 50,000 years ago. So this would be linked probably to modern humans. But again, this this is, you know, unclear. So right now, a few lines of evidence that is only limited to needles or modern humans. But we, for instance, modern humans early on, by 50 60,000 years ago, they're using an even before that they're using body shells, you know, shells that are found on the beach. And these sometimes have natural perforations. And they're used possibly as necklaces. These are not found in near atolls, as far as I know. So there's some differences like that. But that's to be expected, because we have some regional variation. I think the point here is that what whether it's shell or Claus is not important. What is important is the fact that both are some form of symbolic, and they're present in both population.

Nick Jikomes 38:50

And when approximately, when did Neandertals disappear? When were they gone? For? Sure?

Eugene Morin 38:56

Well, that's that would have been about 30 to 40,000 years ago. That's about the dates we have new even, yeah. So for you 35,000 years ago, that's where last year it's all those that are genetically, sorry. Anatomically identified as has never thought these are the last ones we find.

Nick Jikomes 39:17

Are there any Neandertal burial sites where there are indications that they buried their dead on purpose?

Eugene Morin 39:23

Of course, that's an important line that I forgot to mention. So they're, in fact, Neanderthals are some of the earliest Neanderthals that we found in 1908 and are from burials from instance. Lafayette, I see or less Schopenhauer say, these are our burials. There has been some debate about whether they are true burials but for people like me work on on font ah, this does not seem very convincing, because when you look at the font of the font is shattered. You know, we never find refits between you know, we own We find sometimes a wrist that complete wrist or a complete four leg, but that's very rare. And so when we see these complete, fully articulated, you know, tall individuals, for us that it's clear, it's related to intentional burial. Some people have argued that this has no symbolic purpose. That's possible. But I think that's, in some way, some kind of double standards, because if it was a modern human being buried in that position, nobody would question that that has symbolic meaning attached to it.

Nick Jikomes 40:34

How has so I mean, I think we've already hinted at this to some extent, but how has our picture of Neanderthals and how sophisticated they were changed over the past few decades? And how does that relate to any potential biases we might have as humans wanting to think that our lineage is special?

Eugene Morin 40:51

Yeah, you know, I've always been, well, we still say, you know, my brother looked like the neurotypical or so we still have this Neanderthal or somewhat, you know, retarded, or, you know, you know, backward and so on. So, I would say the last 50 years has been to push the boundaries above their cognitive abilities. Like, you know, in the 80s, there was a much debate about whether they could speak. Now we see there, if they're able to, you know, express, you know, some form of symbolism. So, we have moved a lot, we have moved a lot, a lot of the, the arguments that have been put forward to show that they could not survive, have not fared well over the years. And so that's why people like me, would would emphasize rather, environmental factors to explain they're very extinction rather than some cultural ones. It

Nick Jikomes 41:52

sounds based on what you told me before, like, it wasn't like modern humans in the intertitles met, and then Neanderthals very quickly disappeared. It sounds like it was a pretty gradual process. And you have smaller and smaller pockets of Neanderthals persisting near homosapiens for 10s of 1000s of years, and they just sort of gradually fade away. Is that more accurate?

Eugene Morin 42:14

Yeah, I would say that's variable regionally. For instance, in areas clearly the both populations seem to have coexisted for long periods of time. But in other regions, for instance, if you go to Western Europe, at least at the geological scale, this was fairly quick. So or Russia, for instance. So it depends where you are. And that's why it makes it felt a bit difficult to make general a to to look for a general factor to explain the disappearance of Neanderthals because they are variable. So live in Liberia, at the probably a life where there was quite different from those who live in the Near East, for instance. Yeah,

Nick Jikomes 42:54

and I think that makes sense. Because even among modern human populations that I've discussed with others on the podcast, which depends on the region, sometimes two groups come together, they mix a lot, sometimes one group wipes the other one out very, very quickly. Sometimes they sort of live in close proximity, but effectively in separate niches, and they don't really interact that much. And it probably just really depends on where you look on the globe.

Eugene Morin 43:19

Yeah, I think the real challenge is that if we had only the archaeology, we would not see two species or two semi species. When we look at the physical evidence or skeletal evidence, we seem to see, you know, different populations. And that's why it's hard to reconcile the two, you know, based on the cultural fat, the cultural aspect, they don't look that dissimilar, but the skeletal, you know, especially, is tell us that they're, you know, you can you can easily not easily but you can segregate the two population based on their features. And so the challenge has been trying to reconcile these two lines of evidence that conflict, you know, on two important aspects. By

Nick Jikomes 44:02

the time you get to the late Paleolithic, if you just look at the bones of Homo sapiens, and you compare them to modern humans today, are we more or less phenotypically identical to humans from the late Paleolithic, or are there distinctions between us now?

Eugene Morin 44:22

I'm not a specialist on this question. But I would say, based on my knowledge, that distinctions are not different. That being said, we know from a genetic perspective, that there are some important distinctions. For instance, you know, tolerance to lactose, you know, this is a recent trait, it was evolved at least twice in Europe in Africa, if I remember correctly, and this occurred then less than six or 7000 years ago. So you know, there we know our genetically speaking that some of these features are very recent. They don't show up in our skeleton, but Are there?

Nick Jikomes 45:03

And so what? Are there any major? So when humans left Africa, Homo sapiens, you know, some of them went east, some of them went west, they went to all different parts of the globe. Were there any? How much divergence was there in terms of physical adaptations related to things like diet and hunting strategies? Did it very heavily region to region? Or are there a lot of similarities?

Eugene Morin 45:30

Well, I would say it has to, because if you're in Southeast Asia, you know, the range of species you can hunt is very different. The plants are different to what we know, for instance, in Southeast Asia, there is evidence for fishing that is quite early, why 45,000 years ago, we have also evidence they're using some trees grills, which probably required some farmers projectiles, maybe blow pipe, stuff like that. So some of this occurs very early in the region. Whereas if you look in France, for instance, at the same time, they're basically just hunting large gain. So there's quite a bit of variation. You know, when you compare different regions, and that's, that's to be expected.

Nick Jikomes 46:16

And so in the work that you've done, related to ethnography and looking at hunter gatherer, hunter gatherer tribes from more recent times, is there anything that studying recent hunter gatherers tells us about the hunting strategies and things of ancient humans in terms of, you know, when you think about the adaptations you spoke about earlier, or our high stamina, our ability to sweat, like where we were rerunning down game, like running miles and miles, and being persistence hunting, what do we what do we really think that hunting actually looked like that was unlocked by some of those adaptations?

Eugene Morin 46:54

Well, that's a good point. First, what we learn is that many, many archaeologists, and many ethnographers tend to think that recent ethnographer, your sort of recent hunter gatherers, are more or less are, I would say, tend to perceive them as being relatively static, that is not having changed much in the last century or two centuries. Whereas, and of course, that's here, I'm exaggerating a bit. But when we turn to had no history, so that is, to the records left by people before the emergence of ethnography as a field, which occurred in the 1850s, to or under, you know, year 1900, what we see are sometimes quite different pictures. Because people tend to forget the impact of colonization, it had a huge impact on Native population, versus led to decline in pre densities. That is, that was, you know, if you read some G Suites, or missionaries or travelers, they will all tell you that in the 19th century, in Africa, there's a big decline in the number of large game that is being encountered. If you're in Europe, or in North America, you will see similar picture where people say, since the Europeans came, we see fewer and fewer animals. Other introductions were really important, the horse in North America completely to change, the story completely changed our way of acquiring bison. It also changed the way pronghorn antelope were acquired. In other regions, the impact was probably less important, for instance, in the north, you know, horses are not as useful in the Arctic. So in this case, there was the the impact could have been smaller, but then there are other aspects that were very detrimental or at least had a significant impact. For instance, the introduction of firearms, you know, especially the repeat repeating rifle the early firearms contrary to what people think, are the firearms good, they were really bad, you know, they would explode the accuracy was low they were noisy as a native we're not really fond of early guns in fact, when we read about you know, let's say 18th century accounts, the native still use bow and prefer the bow and arrow because you know, it's more accurate and less noisy because with a bow and arrow you can shoot five deer one after the other, but you know, with with a rifle, you can only kill one because animals sleep, okay. So always created by the you know, by the impact will will scare the herd away. So that's so these things in combination means that the native habitat, the ecology has changed significantly. So Since the or the arrival of Europeans in North America and Africa,

Nick Jikomes 50:03

yeah, it sounds like what you're saying is, you know, we can't just, you know, hunter gatherer populations have changed for many reasons, in the past few centuries for all, you know, all the reasons that you mentioned. And therefore, we can't just look at recent hunter gatherers, and assume that they're a good proxy for ancient hunter gatherer. Yeah,

Eugene Morin 50:20

and here, as I said, I've exaggerated that, you know, archaeologists, ethnographers, they're, they're not naive, they know, things have changed. But I think the amount of changes on the estimated okay with with these, with the expansion of Westerners into Africa, Asia, and North America and South America, and, and also, because these are the best models, we have the, we have so much data that at some point, we you know, we forget that there are a lot of blind spots in our study. And therefore, like the some were extremely influential, like the study of the sun, or the sun, the study of the hodza, or the actually in South America, so these population became proxies. And, in some ways, by maybe be because they were the only good models we have, they became the, you know, you know, the proxies for the public. But when you go back in time, using that no historical record, sometimes you see things that, you know, are now lost. And the entrance pursuit of large game is a good example, until the 80s. This was not mentioned at all. And then David carrier came up with this model of, you know, he noted that there were some important differences in physiology between mammals and humans. And he suggested that this might be related to insurance hunting. And when we started to work on this, my colleague, Bruce winter older and I, this method was described as being marginal, anecdotal, it was described as costly. And in fact, when we, when we started to dig in depth, no historical literature, we started to find examples of endurance pursuit all over the world, not, you know, just in arid open environment that was, but we found it in the tundra, we found it in the boreal forest, in the mountains of Hawaii, we found it, you know, the tropical settings of Southeast Asia, in South America. So it became a common method. And when I say common, I don't mean, that was practiced daily. But it was something that was habitually practice, in certain contexts, for instance, when there's a lot of snow, or when the weather is very hot. And so that's an example of a technique that became obsolete when the rifles was introduced.

Nick Jikomes 52:57

I see. Yeah, it makes sense to me that endurance hunting in particular would have been relatively common in our species, because of the adaptations you spoke about before the our ability to sweat and the changes to our muscle fibers, because in the absence of those adaptations, hunting is still possible, right? Humans could have quietly crept through the woods and use camouflage to engage in hunting, but the endurance hunting aspect seems to be what those adaptations really unlocked.

Eugene Morin 53:22

Yes, and it so it's probably related to the context of hunting. But what's important also to notice about endurance pursuits, is that they have a higher success rate than other methods, then many other methods, because you exhaust the animal, the animal still does not have many options when it's getting very tired and overheated, whereas an animal you're crept it, you know, creeping on, while the animal, you know, often you cannot, you know, keep in mind that these, these games have evolved and CO evolved with humans for a long time. Yeah, so their sense of smell is highly developed. They, their sense of hearing too, is well developed. So, it makes it very hard to creep, and come close to, to an animal like, for instance, a good example is moose. You know, when you read about news, people will say, it's extremely difficult to get close, or even to view, you know, to see a moose most often, the animal will have vanish away before you see it. And so just to rebound on this, and many people describe insurance, hunting, we'll say that you run after an animal you don't see you try to predict where the animal is going. And sometimes you will, you know, at some point, you will succeed in catching up with the animal, the animal will be scared away, and bounce and you know, leave again, and then you catch up again, and so on. And it's this repeating cycle of sprint and rest But that leads to the procurement or at least to success. Okay? So and it's again, it's the buildup of feet that allow us to to overtake these games and other methods, either snaring, spearing, ambush, all these methods are assessed with a lot of failures.

Nick Jikomes 55:23

Yeah, that makes sense. I'm not sure if this is your area of expertise. But as you leave the Paleolithic, and you get to the period of time when agriculture is developing, when people first started developing agriculture and becoming sedentary, did this lead to any phenotypic changes based on how their diet was changing? Because I've heard before, things like, you know, at the dawn of agriculture, skeleton start to become less robust. There are changes in bone density and teeth that have to do with eating different foods. Can you speak a little bit about what we might know there? Yeah. So

Eugene Morin 55:59

what we what we see at least in terms of the skeleton, yeah, there's some of these more cavities associated with the, you know, a greater intake of plants, the skeleton is more or less robust, probably because they're running less they're, you know, ranging less also. In terms of the brain, we don't, as far as I know, there is no difference in but there's probably also some genetic evidence that there's selection for greater tolerance to certain toxin. As I said before, lactose intolerance, you know, that's something a feature we see in many humans. This, you know, with agriculture, often you have domestication of animals, with the domestication of animals. Yep. Milking. And when you have milking, well, some people don't tolerate milk well. And so there was probably selection for or, you know, people can tolerate lactose, lactose better. And so all these things are indicating there are still significant changes occurring at the genetic level. At the skeletal level there, the changes are more modest. At the geological scale, of course.

Nick Jikomes 57:20

What like, when you when you look at humans can modern humans our lineage in comparison to the now extinct the many forms of now extinct? Species of homo? What What are like some of the salient differences that you think, explain why our species persisted? And these other ones declined all over the world? Does it have a lot to do with our symbolic cognition and our big brains and our ability to have in general culture doesn't have a lot to do with our ability to adapt to physical environments and our local motor capabilities and things like that? Or is it not so clear cut?

Eugene Morin 57:57

Well, one aspect that is very clear, to me, is the importance of socialization. When you look at other species, you don't see for instance, sharing much other than between offspring and mothers. But in humans, you see humans giving food to a non kin, which is very unusual in mammals. And I think so that's probably one of the key features of our lineage is this, you know, selection for increased socialization, increased cooperation. This is something again, that is not seen in, in Ma'am, you know, is rare and other mammals you will see it, you know, are animals that are Greek areas to some extent, but not to the extent we see it in humans?

Nick Jikomes 58:48

And do you think that relates at all to how our diet and our procurement of food have evolved over time? So for example, I could imagine, I mean, if you want to go hunt big game, you can do that in a solitary way, I suppose. But I imagined that a lot of a lot of those sounds probably require coordination between individuals. If you want to scavenge a big kill from apex predators, I would think that probably necessitates a group that really coordinates between each other and uses language, and is able to move and use tools very quickly. Do we know anything about the relationship between the ability to cooperate in order to get food either from hunting or scavenging as being maybe part of the basis for our our cooperative abilities more generally? Yes,

Eugene Morin 59:34

I think we can definitely say that procurement of food. The the the aspect of cooperating is very important, but not just with animals. For instance, with plants, it's very important to transmit 10 transmit the import, sorry to transmit the information about plant phonology. For instance, if you are moving around the landscape, you know, you need to know where plants are First, but also in what state? You know, do do the flowers or the, you know, where are the patches? How can you detect, where, for instance, if you're looking for tubers you want to know, the they are which month are likely to be edible and so on. So this is in the very important aspects. And now with respect to animals, well, you know, if someone sees tracks of animals, because when you read the ethnographic record, there had no surgical literature, often people will say, what's very critical is that that was informed there were trucks over there. And so a men will tell that his wife told him to look for Steam Box and that region or for gemsbok, or for caribou. So that's when you're you have individual hunting, but a form of hunting that has been very important before, let's say 1900, was coming out hunting, and we just published a paper on it, actually, it's still under, not under review, but it's still being it's in press right now. And in this paper was stressed the importance of coming out hunting as another form of hunting that was impacted by Western Westerners and, you know, sort of, above Westerners in coming in to Eurasia and so on a story about Africa and South America, and so on. And so in this paper, we stress that this is a locus for selection, probably because, you know, with with, with Colonel hunting, you increase also the, the odds of success, because you by using a lot of beaters, and by driving them toward a special locus, you can have Spears away there. And you know, these hunts tend to have high returns, especially if you're hunting gregarious species, like bison, or caribou, some of them, you know, will result in large quantities of meat being acquired. But then this creates a collective action problem. How to you distribute this meat? Who gets apart? Is it only the person who have hunted? Is it the person that we're meeting those who did not collaborate? Or could not collaborate? Do they get the share? So these crates, you know, very important problems, where socialization becomes a key. And so I think that might have been a key, I think, in terms of devotion of socialization in humans, I mean, these kinds of settings.

Nick Jikomes 1:02:38

And, you know, given how much diets vary regionally and across time even before the dawn of agriculture, right you know, people living different parts of the world would have been eating vastly different things just based on the local flora and fauna that that was in their habitat. Given that diversity doesn't make a lot of sense to you when people today talk about things like the Paleolithic diet.

Eugene Morin 1:03:00

For for archaeologists, this is a nonsense This is pure nonsense. There is no pelo thick diet there pelo diets plural. And because this is not possible, when you look at the diversity, I mean, it would be in terms of selection, they would be crazy to have a pelo diet, because in some regions, you know, plants are not available during you know, two thirds of the year. In other regions. Large game is not abundant. In other regions, what you have are marsupial's rather than an placental mammals. So you have to adapt and you know, to the environment, and that creates the cause for flexibility. That's what we see in humans variability, flexibility. So the pelo diet is nonsense to archaeologists.

Nick Jikomes 1:03:53

And when you so one of the key physical adaptations we talked about, was, you know, aspects of the body that enable physical stamina, and that unlock the ability to do things like endurance hunting, as we were talking about. This also presumably created a selection pressure for mental stamina. We had to, you know, focus on a problem for extended periods of time. So do you think those two things evolved hand in hand the ability for physical stamina on the one hand, and our attentional capacities our ability to sustain attention on the other?

Eugene Morin 1:04:25

That's an excellent question. I think, you know, I found an excerpt about about STEM mental stamina, maybe just a month ago was really interesting because the guy was saying, we have in our group I think he was a Nash, Nabil or someone from the boreal forests in Canada, around the Hudson Bay, and it was saying basically, we have you know, in a paraphrase basically said we have something about mental toughness that is being transmitted between you know, now We're a group, and we tell each other and we, you know, tell the kids how it's important to, you know, keep on running and running and running, and not give up because the animal will give up before you and so on. So there's part of it, that's probably cultural, whether it's also genetic, that's, you know, that's a topic that would be a bit more difficult to evaluate. But clearly, there's, there's something about, about Ultra trans cultural transmission, that is important. And one thing we have to keep in mind too, is that running, it has other important evolutionary implications. Keep in mind that, you know, in a politic past, what we have, are groups that are, you know, competing for resources. So warfare, and in the context of warfare, running is key. So we see, you know, even if our sample of running pursuits just show, basically, the presence of males, females are poorly represented in our sample, maybe four or 5%. We have a lot of evidence that women are running in, you know, and training for running. And we have a, you know, examples where dads are telling their daughters, you know, you have to know how to run, because it might save your life, you know. And so, this, this aspect is also critical to keep in mind when we address this problem.

Nick Jikomes 1:06:32

And as you know, does the Archaea is the archaeological record rich enough that we can see, as humans were spreading across the globe? You know, we're hunting animals of different types. How, how sensitive were humans as they were migrating to the maintenance of animal populations? They were interested in hunting? Are there any instances, pre pre colonialization? Before, you know, modern technology before guns and those things would peep would people move into a region and just sort of hunt everything until it was gone? Did that happen? Sometimes, were they able to figure out how to hunt enough to feed themselves but not so much they deplete local populations? Or did ancient humans drive a lot of animals to extinction through hunting?

Eugene Morin 1:07:19

That's an interesting debate. What we see, we have to think a little bit about how the native see these things. First, natives are incredibly knowledgeable about animals. It's just astonishing the amount of information didn't know, one aspect that is harder for them to evaluate is the mytab population level. For instance, if you hunt caribou, and you live in the region, let's say close to the Hudson Bay, it's really hard for you to know how the population is doing on the scale of a continent. And so your decision will be off course based on your local knowledge. And so when you ask about, you know, when you ask natives, or at least when you read about natives, what they say, often they say, if you kill an animal, the animal is not really dead. It's sold if you behave in a respectful way, and if you do the proper ritual, the animal will actually go and or the soul of the animal will go, and we'll create a new animal. And in fact, the animal will come back. And they say that about fish, for instance, you're saying, If you treat fish with respect, you know, the fish will come back, I even found an example where the guy says, I made a mark on the bone, just to make sure. And then later on, I found in another animal of that species, and I found that St. Mark, so the animal came back. And so when you have this kind of thinking, then you don't have the idea that then species can become extinct. Because if you are spiritually and ritually taking care of the animal, the animal will come back. And so when we and some studies have been done some ethnographic studies that have been conducted, and the natives are not trying to minimize their intake of females or you know, of juveniles, they just kill what they need. So, and I would say that makes sense. Because if they have been doing it for, you know, millennia, why would you change your method, you know, why would you start to focus on certain game, and for those who do ecology, in fact, if you kill a lot of animals, you reduce pressure on those who survive, and those who survive will often do better. And so they come back. So extinction is a very difficult concept, until you have some metapopulation data. In fact, until you know, the early 20th century, we didn't have a really good idea of extinction. You know, it was a topic that was really hard to address, because we have poor data. And so to make a story short, extinction is not something that people worried about when they hunt, because their method had a small impact on the on the game population. And also because they believe that if you are treating animals with respect, they come back.

Nick Jikomes 1:10:26

Where do you think like a lot of the a lot of those rituals and spiritual beliefs? Do you think at all about like, the purpose the sort of ecological purpose of those things for human hunter gatherers? Are those you know, are the spiritual practices and beliefs that the different tribes have? Are they epiphenomenon? Or do they serve some kind of behavioral regulation purpose that's important for survival?

Eugene Morin 1:10:49

That's a good question, too. We talk all you know, there's a lot of talk about sympathetic magic, you can imagine, if you are, you know, living in a boreal environment where you know, it's cold during six months, there are no plant. So, you know, game procurement is critical. One way to reduce stress is to use rituals, you know, and, you know, to reduce ambiguity about, you know, procurement. So these ritual often have this purpose of trying to help, you know, and secure success in the future. So there's some, I would say, maybe evolutionary aspect in that respect. So it's cultural, but it has some evolutionary implications still. So I don't, you know, I will not dwell too much on that. But it's interesting to keep in mind that these things are there, because there's some stress and in the first place, what,

Nick Jikomes 1:11:47

so So over the course of your career, in your own understanding of Paleolithic humans, and the evolution of our lineage, what's something that has, what's an example of something where your viewpoint has changed, or the field has really come to a different conclusion? In terms of where it's at today, compared to where we were, you know, 1020 30 years ago? Are there any major sort of 180s or, or something like that, that we've done in terms of how we think about the the evolution of early modern humans, I would

Eugene Morin 1:12:20

say that happens a lot more than you would expect, Francis it, you know, the idea that that middle politic was only occupied by Neanderthals was a, you know, a given for everybody. Now, it's being you know, thought as something to rethink about. That's a good example. And trans hunting is an example. I didn't know about this month, that method where I had, well, I shouldn't say didn't know, but I thought really, it was marginal. And so that's an example where I completely changed my mind about its importance. I remember the Hobbit, the discovery of The Hobbit in Southeast Asia, some kind of species that look like in this trope at the scene, but dating 200 to maybe 50,000 years ago, that came to a shock to everybody. Nobody thought that there was nothing that there was a species that would be that would look like an ostrich at the scene, but being sown young in age. So that's another example. Another one, and this is more of a conceptual one. For the third, let's say 30 years ago, the idea of speaking about kinship, how people relate to each other, was unthinkable when you think about the politic, there was nothing we could use to talk about kinship. But now with DNA. There's a study that has been published a few years ago, where they say Nero toes were patrilineal, which means basically, male stick together, and women migrate to other groups. This is something that we never thought we could do. I never thought this would be possible to talk about this in my lifetime. And this is a major for me a major kind of change. So some are technological discoveries. Some are, you know, are important, I would say conceptual findings, and other examples of the importance of fat. Before I started doing political research. I never thought that fat was that important. You know, like any Westerner? You mean, whether dietary fat? Yeah, we think about meat. You know, when we think about animals, we talked about meat, we always talked about meat. Whereas when you talk to, you know, a native, it's about fat. They wonder about how fat the animal is. They don't really care about the muscle. You know, another example a few years ago, I published with my colleague, John Smith, about rotten meat. You know, rotten meat is something that Western think is, you know, not edible. While we found tons of evidence that it's being eaten and some Plants are preferred by natives in the rotten state, because it makes digestion easier, and some prefer to taste. And so that's another example where rotten meat was considered a no, no. And then, you know, by doing some non historical research, you discovered that now this is a cultural construct, actually, rotten meat is palatable. And if, you know, if you're used to eating rotten meat, well, over the years, you will, you know, be able to metabolize it in, in a reliable way, and you'll be fine. And

Nick Jikomes 1:15:34

that was actually that reminds me of what we spoke about earlier, where we talked about the fact that humans like other like certain other animals will say, you know, those vultures that scavenge a lot of meat, eat a lot of, you know, rancid or partially rancid meat, they have very low, very acidic stomach pH. Is it possible that, you know, this is something that goes way back? Humans were scavenging meat to some extent for a long time? And it's actually it's actually a modern aberration that we think of? Yeah.

Eugene Morin 1:16:02

Yeah, what's striking, and when I say rotten meat, I don't mean like high meat. I mean, like meat full of maggots, like really, really transformed. Okay, really, you know, run, not just, and some groups, we have examples of an excellent example, during the Franklin Expedition, you know, when they were trying to find a Northwest Passage, there's an inward guy will come to a boat to the boat of the Franklin Expedition. And he comes with a seal full of maggots, stinking like crazy. And the guy said, you know, it comes, you know, so he's holding that seal. And the guy said, There's no way you're going to put that on the boat. And the the innovators pissed, because for him, it's like, he found a breed, you know, or, you know, a green cheese and camo bow,

Nick Jikomes 1:16:55

he was excited beings,

Eugene Morin 1:16:56

he's being told to get rid of it. And for him, it makes no sense. You know? So that's, that's an another example of, of where, you know, encountering other people's view, make you think your own, you know, make you rethink your own views. Wow.

Nick Jikomes 1:17:14

rotten meat? Yeah, I mean, I guess, I mean, if I stopped, I mean, obviously, it's, it's not what I'm used to. It doesn't sound appetizing to me. But when you start to think about hunter gatherers, and you know, living out in the wild as an ancient human, you know, if there's magnets, the magnets have protein, maybe they've pre digested some of the, some of the mid food material, and it's actually easier if it's eaten raw, if you can't cook it, or things like that. So that's interesting.

Eugene Morin 1:17:39

Yeah, so, you know, throwing out the mystery. It's your you're colliding with others view all the time. And some are trivial, but the others are quite spectacular. And

Nick Jikomes 1:17:53

are there any other way? I mean, are there any other aspects as like an ethnographer, and a pillar anthropologist, like everything that you've studied? Are there any, what are some things today that we take for granted that we think are normal that like you think most hunter gatherers would probably find very bizarre? I mean, besides the obvious, obviously, they wouldn't know what an iPad is. But in terms of something that's maybe more of an everyday thing, do we also do weird things that would be seen seem very weird to them? Well,

Eugene Morin 1:18:19

simple things like, you know, we have three meals a day. There's no that's culturally constructed, you know, some groups eat twice some, some eat all a bit all the day, you know, alter the day, some will have a big meal in the morning and a lighter one. So it's highly variable. So the idea that we have a lunch at six together as a family, that would probably be strange to many people. Well, maybe the obsession about hygiene. Okay, when you read about natives, what the what you see is that they say it's stinky, dirty and everything. And we have example, for instance, a beautiful quote, We found where a woman has a child on her, and she's cutting meat, the baby poo on her, she used the knife to scrape off the the excrement, and she continued continue cutting the meat, you know, that's the level of hygiene. If you're used to that, and you live like that. It's not the you don't think about that. But the idea here that, you know, you must have perfectly sterile toilets and stuff like that, that would be so foreign to Native people who have not met Westerners before.

Nick Jikomes 1:19:42

Does your study of humans and human evolution in particular, you know, things like diet and our ability to adapt and be flexible and the things they eat? Does that influence how you think about what you eat today in our in our suit environment?

Eugene Morin 1:19:57

Yes, completely. Like the, you know, above the high beat, for instance, I'm less concerned that I should be, I guess. So that's an example. A lot of things you just realize, okay, that's, that's this is a customer cultural construct. I'm not saying it's, it necessarily changes the way I do things on a daily basis. But it also clearly opens the mind about how you view things. And, and it makes you understand also why people behave in a certain way. Like I said, about the, when I was talking about the collective action problems, you better understand why people why it's so hard, for instance, to prevent people from hunting species that are, you know, that are close to extinction, it's very hard, because you require some kind of knowledge about the meta population that nobody has, you know, you require scientists to collect information for you and tell you this is how it's going, you know, for that species, but, you know, on the regular empirical basis, you know, observation basis by people, there's no way to know, other than say, it seems that they were more of that animal before then the now but that's it. You know, what,

Nick Jikomes 1:21:12

I'm in your research today, right now, what are some of the questions that you're thinking about and working on today?

Eugene Morin 1:21:18

Well, right now I'm working on the first I'm working on the monograph on hunting, I tried to whether we want it or not, when we think about the pelvic cloak, you know, very quickly, we come to the idea of spears, and individual hunters. But, you know, they have no history and ethnography made me realize, there's way more to hunting than just a single method. And now I realize that hunting is probably, in fact, our range of different methods that are used in different contexts. You know, in our society, a hunter is a guy with a gun, probably waiting in a shelter, something for an animal to show up, okay, that's, that's painting our way of looking at hunting. Whereas, you know, for native, it's really a range of methods that when you are in situation A, you use method one, and in situation b, you use method B, method two, and so on. So that's what I, you know, I'm concerned with right now strike to an hour, in other words, to enrich, or at least rethink our models of hunting.

Nick Jikomes 1:22:28

Are there any final thoughts you want to leave people with with respect to human evolution, how you think about it, or maybe, you know, maybe a good takeaway that you think people should have when they think about our own species and where it came from?

Eugene Morin 1:22:42

Well, I would say, first, we underestimate how things have changed in the recent past. Okay? When you look at foragers, today, there are tiny portion of the variability that existed, let's in 1500, there's so much more to learn from these, you know, these travelers, these these G's, woods, these missionaries that were traveling through the so called Wild, you know, countries, so there's a much much to learn. So, you know, the past was probably way more varied than people think. And, you know, a lot of models are simplistic, they assume, you know, one population moving out replacing another, I think life is way more complicated than that. And as a result, you know, what we need is better richer models that are used, that are based on ethnographic observation at no historical observation.

Nick Jikomes 1:23:44

All right. Eugene Morin, thank you for your time. That was fascinating. A lot of cool stuff. I think you do really interesting research and I had a lot of fun. Looking at some of it in the last couple of days and thank you so much.

Mind & Matter
Mind & Matter
Whether food, drugs or ideas, what you consume influences who you become. Learn directly from the best scientists & thinkers about how your body & mind react to what they're fed. New episodes weekly. Not medical advice.