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off topic we hunted the mammoth

They Hunted the Cave People

Hey ladies!
Welcome to the club, homo naledi!

So I was reading a fascinating story on the BBC website on the discovery of a WHOLE NEW HUMANOID SPECIES that lived in South Africa up to three million years ago. The new species, named homo naledi, may have even been the first in the genus homo. The first of us!

Reading about the discovery of the homo naledi skeletons themselves, I came across this unexpected detail. The scientists who literally went into the caves where the bones were found all had something in common:

Small women were chosen because the tunnel was so narrow. They crawled through darkness lit only by their head torches on a precarious 20 minute-long journey to find a chamber containing hundreds of bones.

Here they are:

scientists

I mention this because so many of the doofuses I write about on this blog simply assume that male bodies are physically superior to those of women — larger, able to lift heavier objects, and so forth — and so, in their minds, men must have done all the important work in human history (and prehistory), from hunting the proverbial mammoth to building the pyramids to mowing the lawn.

But not all jobs — even the very physical ones — require the brute strength of a big burly man. Especially if the burly men in question literally can’t fit in the tunnel.

 

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Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

The Ad was brilliant. Essentially “Are you tiny, good at science and willing to work for no pay?”

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/sep/10/homo-naledi-small-spelunkers-required-how-an-advert-led-to-the-discovery-of-homo-naledi

ej
ej
5 years ago

Hooray for women scientists!

smilodonichthys
smilodonichthys
5 years ago

The Underground Astronauts are amazing. No doubt there will be more–the cave is still full of bones and will have years, maybe decades of further excavation.

reallyfriendly
reallyfriendly
5 years ago

Brilliant! Thanks for highlighting this David, and I hope this will inspire females to pursue STEM fields and understand that there is no valid reasons for it to remain male-dominated.

Also much gratitude for all their hard work. It clearly is not an easy job to do!

Buggybird
Buggybird
5 years ago

My younger sister worked as an archaeologist on digs. Half the team consisted of men, half of women. The whole team hauled rocks in the sun all day long, no distinction made between genders. On their cave expedition, even a few elderly women climbed up slippery ladders into the unlit cave.

Unfortunately, despite the high numbers of women on the field, almost all archaeology professors here are male. The one female professor we do have teaches a course about how museum exhibitions and scientific writings have been willfully altered to fit stereotype gender roles.

For example figurines in skirts described as female dancers, despite having male anatomy underneath the skirt. A depiction of a bearded male slave on a Roman mural changed into a beautiful young woman for the “recreated” museum display.

Tracy
Tracy
5 years ago

Hooray for the power of the small 🙂 Also – wow. *off to read the article*

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

David,
Thank you for this, these are some awesome women. Strength and being larger is not always the answer. We definetly need to encourage and inspire women and girls who wish to be in STEM fields and more.

Also

“I mention this because so many of the doofuses I write about on this blog simply assume that male bodies are physically superior to those of women — larger, able to lift heavier objects, and so forth.”

But later they claim misandry why men/boys being hit by women/girls is taken less seriously than the other way around. I’m not saying it’s ok absolutely no one should hit anybody but if you want to help male victims then don’t spread “men are superior” around.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

Woot, woot!

Thanks, David. I can’t wait to click through and find out more.

pkayden
5 years ago

Nice!

Kreator
Kreator
5 years ago

On top of everything else, I have to point out how brave these women are (practically a requirement for spelunkers in general, of course). I would be terrified to the point of having a claustrophobia attack if I had to crawl through those narrow passages even if I knew there was Aladdin’s lamp on the other side to grant all my wishes (including getting out of the cave without going through the passage again). Such a dedication to the job is admirable.

kupo
kupo
5 years ago

@reallyfriendly I know you didn’t intend it this way, but using “females” instead of women a noun rather than an adjective is needed sounds dehumanizing. It’s like when you’re watching a nature documentary and the voice over is describing a lioness. It’s also used frequently by MRAs for that reason. So, “we need more female engineers” is fine because it’s an adjective there, but “more females should be engineers” is not so great.

katz
katz
5 years ago

I keep wondering how you get through the Dragon’s Back. Do you crawl through and then have to go down headfirst? Do you go backwards?

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

@ Katz

Judging by some video on the BBC news site, you go head first and then sort of shuffle round as you come out and slide down feet first.

Even with ropes it looks like you get a few bumps and bruises.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
5 years ago

Holy shit, a whole new species of human! :O

Paradoxical Intention
5 years ago

Pandapool — The Species that Endangers YOU | September 10, 2015 at 7:04 pm
Holy shit, a whole new species of human! :O

Anyone want to take bets as to when the manosphere is going to claim that these women were led by men, and those men deserve all the credit? Or when they claim that all those bones must have been poor, poor, men who were tossed down there by the early Overlord Katie?

weirwoodtreehugger
5 years ago

On top of everything else, I have to point out how brave these women are (practically a requirement for spelunkers in general, of course). I would be terrified to the point of having a claustrophobia attack if I had to crawl through those narrow passages even if I knew there was Aladdin’s lamp on the other side to grant all my wishes (including getting out of the cave without going through the passage again). Such a dedication to the job is admirable.

That’s just what I was going to say. One of the reasons that The Descent is my favorite movie is because I’m claustrophobic (even a crowded bus makes me anxious) and that cave collapse scene is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen.

Sometimes it’s not about being physically strong. It’s about being mentally strong. Something that really isn’t gendered.

reallyfriendly
reallyfriendly
5 years ago

@kupo Good point. I see what you are saying and will switch my word usage. Thank you for your understanding!

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

Paradoxical Intention

“Anyone want to take bets as to when the manosphere is going to claim that these women were led by men, and those men deserve all the credit? Or when they claim that all those bones must have been poor, poor, men who were tossed down there by the early Overlord Katie?”
comment image
All 10 bucks
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ljy2008
5 years ago

This gives me hope that there are spaces on Earth where these dickheads literally can’t fit; not DON’T fit, but CAN’T fit.

There’s hope for the human race yet 🙂

ljy2008
5 years ago

BTW, hopefully they rename ‘Superman’s crawl’ to ‘Superwoman’s’ crawl…

Bina
Bina
5 years ago

‘Course, the manospherians will still be claiming men > women, because the skeletons were classified as Homo sp. As opposed to, say, Femina.

Also, female scientists, daring to go where no big, macho man would fit? MISANDRY!

cupisnique
cupisnique
5 years ago

So kind of OT but also slightly relevant to the whole we need to encourage women in University thing. . . (and sorry for it being a buzz-kill)

This was posted around in multiple places in comment sections on various Toronto news sites and the University of Toronto even issues a statement that teachers are not required to come in to the classroom if they are worried about theirs and their students safety:
comment image?oh=f3b42b5cac0b3c85b6a2f95f41b615c5&oe=567504F3

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

cupisnique
Should have put a trigger warning.

reallyfriendly
reallyfriendly
5 years ago

@cupisnique Seconding what Fruitloopsie said. Please append a trigger warning about your link.

kupo
kupo
5 years ago

@cupisnique
Not that it really makes a difference, but what the holy hell was that in response to?

GrumpyOldSocialJusticeMangina

One of my hiking buddies was also a high-caliber spelunker. (She was 4’11”.) She told me that to be a good spelunker, you had to be able to take a common wire clothes hanger and pass your body through it starting at your feet and ending with your hands above your head. (You are allowed to bend it as much as you need to, but still …) To be a GREAT spelunker, you need to be able to pass through the clothes hanger starting with one hand and one foot and ending with the other hand and foot.

Shadow
Shadow
5 years ago

‘Course, the manospherians will still be claiming men > women, because the skeletons were classified as Homo sp. As opposed to, say, Femina.

Ahhhh, but those sneaky feeeeemales named them naledi, which is a very popular female name

Jules
Jules
5 years ago

[QUOTE: GrumpyOldSocialJusticeMangina]
One of my hiking buddies was also a high-caliber spelunker. (She was 4’11”.) She told me that to be a good spelunker, you had to be able to take a common wire clothes hanger and pass your body through it starting at your feet and ending with your hands above your head. (You are allowed to bend it as much as you need to, but still …) To be a GREAT spelunker, you need to be able to pass through the clothes hanger starting with one hand and one foot and ending with the other hand and foot.[/QUOTE]
*Goes to find wire hanger.*
*Tries……*
*…………….*
Man, I really thought I had a chance.

cupisnique
cupisnique
5 years ago

It wasn’t in response to anything

Catalpa
Catalpa
5 years ago

*shivers* I’m not generally claustrophobic- the only thing that really makes me feel uncomfortable is the idea of being in a tube or tunnel that is narrow enough to pin my arms against my body- but hoo boy you would not get me into that cave for love or money. Kudos to all those women scientists! And such an awesome discovery, too!

Carayak
Carayak
5 years ago

[QUOTE:GrumpyOldSocialJusticeMangina]
One of my hiking buddies was also a high-caliber spelunker. (She was 4’11”.) She told me that to be a good spelunker, you had to be able to take a common wire clothes hanger and pass your body through it starting at your feet and ending with your hands above your head. (You are allowed to bend it as much as you need to, but still …) To be a GREAT spelunker, you need to be able to pass through the clothes hanger starting with one hand and one foot and ending with the other hand and foot.[/QUOTE]

I’ll never be a good spelunker. On the plus side, I never need to pack a cushion in case of hard chairs.

kupo
kupo
5 years ago

@cupisnique
Huh, it looks like they’re replying to someone in a thread. It’s messed up, either way.

Funkula
Funkula
5 years ago

I would be an amazing spelunker for caves that did not require me to enter past my knees.

guest
guest
5 years ago

Walking back to our office after a client meeting with my architectural team, I got to chatting with one of them, a small woman wearing an astronaut’s jacket (I forget now where she got it, or why she was wearing it–it was just a fashion thing I think). I mentioned offhandedly that women were typically better suited to be astronauts than men–in general we’re smaller, use less oxygen and other resources, have more physical stamina, and tend to make better decisions under pressure. And one of the guys in the group just had an utter freakout. Not even coherently attempting to disagree, just emotionally unable to cope with the fact that I had said that sentence.

A spelunking colleague invited me along for a day in what I understand is one of the easiest caves in the country, and it was an incredible challenge for me. I had no idea until then what a total-body experience caving is–crawling, sliding, scooting, pushing with your feet or pulling with your hands, headfirst, feet first, sideways, up a ladder, down a rope, being pulled from in front or pushed from behind–whatever gets you through. I also nearly fell into an underground crevasse that went to the centre of the earth–luckily I was hauled out by another member of the group–but that settled it, I won’t be doing that again.

Chris
Chris
5 years ago

I’ve heard a good argument made for all-female astronauts for similar reasons. Smaller bodies mean lower caloric requirements, reducing mission weight and cost.

BritterSweet
5 years ago

On topic: Amazing discovery. I look forward to any man-trums from the manosphere and your mockery of them. And I’m also curious, hopefully we’ll start to learn more about this newly discovered species. If that cave chamber was where “bodies were tossed,” was this some sort of prison/execution chamber? It’s too impractical to just be a mass graveyard.

Off-topic: Holy crap, those threats to Toronto University!

Here’s some brain bleach for anyone who may need it. (Warning: Do not read the comment section, it’s somehow infested with Redditors).

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

Caving comes under my list of “things that I will never, ever be doing ever at all even in the slightest.” It is among the most nope.jpg things out there. Anyone who can do it has my utter admiration.

Also, a whole new species of early hominid which shows ritualised burial practises? This is amazing. I can’t wait to see what else they find.

guest
guest
5 years ago

Oh and speaking of the coat hanger thing–that night we played the ‘box game’. We took a twelve-pack cardboard box and put it on the ground, and everyone had to bend down from the waist and pick it up with their teeth. Then someone ripped a bit off the top of the box, and we all tried it again–until the box was about an inch high, and only one person could manage to grab it.

rugbyyogi
5 years ago

I’m not dismissing their accomplishments at all. Great science in difficult conditions. But I think claustrophobia is a bit like being able to touch your nose with your tongue. You got it or you don’t. Me, I don’t. I love being in caves and I’m ok with tight spaces (though I’m now too fat and might have always been too big framed for that job) I didn’t have to ‘overcome’ anything or be brave about it, because it’s just not scary to me. My spelunking was always limited by my desperate and paralysing fear of heights. So the last bit after the dragon’s back (depending on how high it was) would have been my no-go.

LordCrowstaff
LordCrowstaff
5 years ago

Brrr, the thought of crawling into those caves, especially the tiny narrow bits, makes me shudder in my well-lit, spacious office. They did good work, and I admire them.

Wetherby
Wetherby
5 years ago

A couple of years ago, I re-read Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen for the first time in about forty years, and was startled by how vividly I remembered the chapter that’s highly relevant to this thread. It must have made a fair impression on me back then.

Tellingly, the people involved were children and dwarfs – in fact, if I remember rightly it’s the only way they could escape the adults that were in pursuit.

CCD
CCD
5 years ago

Right on!

Physical jobs =/= brute strength jobs. Some things involve other kinds of physical skill, such as dexterity, endurance, balance, flexibility, etc. Bigger isn’t always better.

sn0rkmaiden
5 years ago

Adding to the observations above about women astronauts, I’ve heard it said elsewhere that women would be better suited for the first mission to Mars on account of size and stamina.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

NASA has given serious consideration to using amputees as astronauts. Legs in space are just a liability.

As to Mars, one of the objections is the increased cancer risk. This works out at about a 1-3% increased propensity. However someone pointed out that people who smoke already have a 20% increased propensity.

So if you take smokers but don’t let them smoke on the mission, going to Mars actually reduces their cancer risk.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

That sounds about right. The main thing you need for astronauts is people who are in generally superb physical shape: good cardio, good breathing, excellent fitness and endurance. Being able to lift heavy things is what machines are for. This is why, nowadays, you see astronauts in their 40s rather than their 20s: that kind of health coupled with the vast amount of training and knowledge you need for the job just isn’t something that gung-ho youngsters can be expected to have.

If a crew of women in their 40s were the first ones to the Red Planet, just think of the look on the face of every STEM misogynist out there. Their tears would be something delicious with which to toast the achievement.

Moggie
Moggie
5 years ago

I like the idea of chain-smoking women astronauts on Mars. That’s a movie right there.

Could you grow tobacco plants on Mars, like Mark Watney grew potatoes?

gilshalos
5 years ago

@Wetherby Yes, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was what I first thought of as well 🙂 I read it at least every couple of years though

Arctic Ape
Arctic Ape
5 years ago

EJ: I think, even before the mission launched, there would be extensive public discussion along the lines of “Are they really going to choose an all-women crew? Yes they are! What do you think about this?” By the time the mission was completed, pretty much everyone would’ve gotten over it.