Blame my 6 yr old daughter for this one (or possibly me, for attempting to teach a 6 yr old palaeanthropology in the first place…) …the local supermarket were giving away free DVDs along with jars of processed cheese. The titles were up to a decade old (probably why they were freebies) but as I don’t have many DVDs besides all the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Harry Potter ones (nerd? me? never!), and I have no-where near enough kids’ ones given that I actually have two kids, you can possibly understand why I purchased a stupid quantity of processed cheese to acquire some free DVDs.
So anyway, Ice Age and Ice Age 2 were among the kids ones I obtained. My 6 yr old, watching Ice Age asked me of the humans “mummy, are they neanderthals?” Me being me, I didn’t just answer “yes darling, very clever, they’re neanderthals”… I said “well, yes, they are a lot like neanderthals in many ways, but they’re a bit too tall, and their clothes are a bit too sophisticated and they have pointy chins too.” I came to the conclusion that they’re possibly a hybridised population of neanderthals and Homo sapiens sapiens… but I couldn’t explain that to my daughter as we haven’t done the birds and the bees yet, so she won’t get admixture.
The inevitable consequence of this conversation was to try to determine which species of human various cartoon depictions of palaeolithic people are, and here are the results:
So you can see from the cartoon record that there is not only very clear evidence of neanderthal admixture, but also Homo erectus too. Well I really can’t say I’m surprised, I mean Homo sapiens sapiens got it on with neanderthals and denisovans, so why not Homo erectus too? All these years of watching The Flintstones and I never realised that it could be presented as evidence of interbreeding between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.
I’m amazed how much human evolution they managed to cram into The Croods though, I mean you have a family of Homo erectuses (small cranial capacity, no foreheads, lower palaeolithic tools, scavenging birds’ eggs rather than hunting, no use of fire) but their daughter looks more like a neanderthal and is clearly cognitively advanced compared to her family, and well, neanderthals were descended from Homo erectus so that’s kind of accurate (give or take thousands and thousands of generations) and then she falls in love with a Homo sapiens sapiens. I mean that’s a huge significant chunk of human evolution played out in one film with one family. I’m impressed!
I’m also impressed that I managed to sit through all of Ice Age and all of the Croods without feeling the need to correct all the anachronisms and scientific inaccuracies, and I actually enjoyed them both (as did the kids of course!). In fact I even ended up seeing the Croods twice, as the kids wanted to see it in 3D as well (and well worth it; if you have the choice, definitely see it in 3D!) When I used to watch The Flintstones and Captain Caveman as a child, scientific accuracy bothered me less. But having said that, the horrific anachronisms in the Flintstones are a big part of what makes it funny.
And if anyone wants any processed cheese, just drop by and I’ll give you several jars of it.
Captain Caveman: Joe Ruby/Ken Spears – Hanna Barbera Productions
The Flintstones: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Ice Age: Blue Sky Studios
The Croods: DreamWorks Animation