Archaeology and anthropology news


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Neanderthal Childhood? WTF? Spikins et al. Should Get A Grip!

Sometime you just need to rant. This is one of those times. It's not altogether scholarly. But, neither is the work we're dealing with today. I guess it goes without saying: it's your choice whether to read or take a pass.

I'm talking about Spikins et al.’s latest oeuvre,
"The cradle of thought: growth, learning, play and attachment in Neanderthal children,” Oxford Journal Of Archaeology 33(2):111–134, 2014
I’m sure there are those who’d claim that my work is ‘substandard,' ‘subjective,’ ‘sub-par,’ ’substantively lacking,’ ’superficial,’ even ’superfluous.’ I say let them think so. I’ll just keep pointing errors large and small. The biggest knock I can come up with, after having read only the title of this 'thought' paper, is that even the best clinical psychologists have trouble capturing the empirical indicators of such concepts as learning, play, and attachment. Moreover, there's nothing—N. O. T. H. I. N. G. unique about play in our evolutionary lineage. Dogs 'play,' fer gawd sakes! It's a specious foundation on which to build any kind of discussion about the 'evidence' for Neanderthal cognitive—especially emotional—experience. But that's an incredibly long row to hoe, and I'm not even going to attempt it here: I'm leaving it up to sharper minds, and like-minded palaeoanthropologists with their feet on the ground, and evidence that comes out of the ground—not like this castle in the clouds from Spikins et al. [which, by the way, is just the latest in a line of speculative—that's the charitable reading—treatises].

Kayso, I'm gonna stick to the obvious for a change. I'm also not going to ignore deviations from clear expression, nor will I overlook just plain dumb stuff. Here's a good example. In Spikins et al., Paul Pettitt is given credit for having published the idea that the Neanderthal existence was, to quote him, “nasty, brutish, short.” I’ll admit that Pettitt didn’t say “nasty, brutish, and short,” which demonstrates that he can paraphrase a Classic with the best of them, and at the same time fail to credit the phrases originator, Thomas Hobbes, who put those words to paper in the seventeenth century [C.E., that is], and whose arguments inspired Charles Darwin to develop the theory of natural selection. Speaking of the ’natural state’ of people like you and me, Hobbes said that there is
"no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, 1651.
In a clerically sterner age Pettitt might have been upbraided for his omission, but Spikins et al. could easily have been metaphorically hung, drawn, and quartered for parrotting Pettitt without any idea of his source—or, if you will, Pettitting—thereby demonstrating their complete ignorance of one of the most salient connections between minds—those of Malthus and Darwin—in the whole history of so-called Western thought. I realize it’s a small point. But, it reminds me that, to have a critical capacity in any domain of enquiry, the critic must have a care for the history of the discipline—much in the way that theatre critics depend on the history of theatre and of theatrical presentation to have the authority to critique new works. Since I consider my task an essentially critical one, I depend heavily on my half a lifetime spent with the history of palaeoanthropological thought, to say nothing to having contributed, in my own small way, to its progress [despite what you might glean from a reading of Spikins et al.].

You may well think that pointing out such mundane shortcoming in Spikins et al. has no bearing at all on the veracity of their conclusions or the value of their arguments. I agree wholeheartedly. For me to say so would be to resort to argumentum ad hominem, a thoroughly illogical construction of reality. Yet, I would remind you that, however mundane, such gaffes—on the part of Pettitt and Spikins et al.—do not inspire confidence in an informed and historically connected peer scholar. For me, such gaffes as those of Pettitt and Spikins et al. only make me hungry to find more, and more theoretically substantive ones! So, let’s go. Shall we? Down the rabbit hole, once more?

Looking down the rabbit hole. Millicent Sowerby. Illustration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; Chatto & Windus, UK, 1907.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by
Rene Cloke. London: Waverly Book Company, 1943.
And so. To business!


Childhood has received little attention in the evolutionary past1 despite its2 importance in influencing cognition, social relationships and culture . . . . However, with apparently3 critical differences between Neanderthals and modern humans now less clearly defined4 the debate over difference has shifted to more subtle aspects5 and pushed ever more into the social and cultural realm.6 Given this context7 and that the foundations for adult behaviour and society8 are put in place during childhood, we argue that it is now crucial to forward our understanding of children in prehistory.
1 Grammar: no one was there in the “evolutionary past” who might have paid attention
2 Grammar: a pesky ambiguous modifier, leading to the redundant assertion that the evolutionary past had
3 Clarity: to whom is anything ‘apparent?'
4 Clarity: it’s unclear how critical differences have been defined, in the first place,
5 Clarity: of what? evolution? cognition? social relationships? culture?
6 Clarity: A. Is there a distinction between the social and the cultural? The authors do not provide a definition by which we might understand their stance from the outset. B. There’s nothing new in this goal of paleoanthropology.
7 Grammar: do the authors mean the social or cultural ‘context’?
8 Clarity: which are we to infer from this ambiguous antecedent: that the authors mean "adult behaviour" and ‘adult' “society?" Or, should we take from this that it’s in fact "society" qua 'society,’ which is neither juvenile or adult?”
All in all, this paragraph is so poorly written and edited that readers are left to infer the authors’ intent based on probablity and extrapolation. Not a very good start, all things considered.

Neanderthal children rarely appear in our discussions of Neanderthal society despite making up a significant proportion of the population . . . .9 Indeed, and as Nielsen . . . notes, in some quarters it is still debated whether Neanderthals actually had a childhood at all.10 Of course, children are less visible than adults in the archaeological record, both in terms of the preservation potential of bone and the difficulty in identifying material traces of childhood . . . . However, visibility has not been the only issue. It has been a long-standing problem within archaeology that children are perceived as of marginal importance, accorded little attention in key discussions or even disregarded when recovered.11 It is telling that although the original skeletal material from Engis Cave included the crania12 [sic] of a four year old child, it was the adult Neanderthal that gained fame and detailed study, while the child fossils13 [sic] languished unnoticed in a museum for over a hundred years . . . . Similarly, a neonate from Le Moustier also14 remained unrecorded in a cardboard box for over a century . . . , while the remains of two well-preserved neonates from Saint-Césaire were only recently discovered within faunal collections, 15 years after the end of the excavations (Colombert et al. 2012).15
9 By analogy to almost any vertebrate’s population dynamics, we can infer that the majority of those Neanderthals that died were juveniles or the elderly. However, and importantly, they represent just a hint in the fossil record. For that reason, unless we start makin’ shit up we have precious few opportunities to say anything about the young, much less the possibility that the Neanderthals were capable of having a cultural construct of childhood.
10 True enough. I’m in one of those quarters. See note 9.
11 Children perceived to be of “marginal importance.” Hmm. No, marginal archaeological presence. And what might one of those “key discussions” be? A tutorial in college? Disregarded? Ask me about Amud 7!
12 One head = one cranium
13 Child’s fossil, not child fossils
14 Also is here redundant. And I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the Le Moustier cardboard box screw-up. The kid wasn’t ignored: they thought they’d lost it!
15 Lameness abounding. This is an example of why I’m calling this paper another trip down the rabbit hole. Here’s the citation for Colombert et al. (2012) from the REFERENCES section of Spikins et al.
Colombert, P., Bayle, P., Crevecoer, I., Ferrié, J-G. and Maureille, B. 2012: New Mousterian Neonates From The South-West Of France. PESHE 1, 57.
PESHE? Hmm, I thinks to meself. Never heard o’ that one. So I starts looking for a journal called PESHE. Nothing. Well, it’s the first volume, I thinks; mayhaps I need be more ingenious. I won’t leave you hanging. You probably already knew what I’ve just learned. PESHE 1 [sic] is the shorthand term for the 2nd [!] Annual Meeting of the European Society for the study [sic] of Human Evolution. Still no clue as to where PESHE 1 came from. The title page provides a clue: see if you can pick it up.

There it is! At the very bottom of the title page, which is not where one would expect to find a book title—or, in this case, a book of abstracts. Kayso, it’s the 2nd annual meeting, but it’s the 1st proceedings of the society. I’m just guessing, but, the 1st annual—or, rather the 1st meeting—probably wasn’t much of a proceeding, thus not warranting a book of abstracts. Or not. But why PESHE 1? After all, it’s the European Society for the [deliberately, but inscrutably, small ’s’] study of Human Evolution. Obviously there’s something magical about the initialism ‘PESHE’ or they wouldn’t have buried the second ’s’ in the society’s official name! I guess we’ll have to wait for the Mad Hatter’s tea party to hear the goss about the initialism, PESHE. But what about the citation. Why put the PESHE 1 in the list of references as the volume in which the abstract appears? Deeper down the rabbit hole we go, to the copyright page. There ya has your answer. It’s all official and all. The real title, despite what’s inscribed in the traditional place for the actual title, is, after all, what we found at the bottom of the title page.

But it’s not over yet! In the fine print of the copyright page, immediately beneath the non-title official title are the words
Citation: PESHE 1, 2012
I think it’s probably proof of the existence of God, or something like that: if Spikins et al. can’t even properly cite a quotation from Malthus, how in the world did they find this completely anomalous invocation to cite the volume as PESHE 1? This is truly Alice’s Wonderland. And I’m Tweedle-Dum.
Do you have any idea how badly the world needs copyeditors?

OK. Enough fun. Back to business!

Despite this neglect, there has been some previous work on Neanderthal children.16 This has taken the shape of primarily biological accounts, detailing any facts that can be easily and robustly established from direct skeletal analysis, such as growth and development. While this clearly lies at the core of much of what we can say about children in prehistory, we must go further and discuss childhood, considering the social and cultural role of children and how they experienced life and were treated during it17 [emphasis mine rhg]. The traditional view of Neanderthal children stems from a focus on biological evidence, and portrays childhood as unusually harsh, difficult and dangerous.18 This view has remained dominant despite the reappraisal of many other aspects of Neanderthal life, including language capacities . . . , genetic descendance . . . and symbolism . . . .19  Trinkaus and Zimmerman . . .  even suggest that if a Neanderthal was lucky enough to survive childhood and adolescence then they [sic] would already bear the scars of a harsh and dangerous life.20 This view of a ‘nasty, brutish and short’ existence21 . . .  remains unquestioned, fitting with preconceptions about Neanderthal inferiority22 and an inability to protect children23 epitomizing Neanderthal decline. However, we argue that a lack of a recent review24 in this area could mean we are neglecting important insights into Neanderthal life.
16 Shocked! Shocked, I tell you! Who new there’d been previous work on the Neanderthal pups? Let’s see . . . me, Erella, Bill, Yoel, April, Kathy, me. I'm probably forgetting you, for which I apologize. Blame Canada.
17 See note 9 again
18 Well, obviously, someone’s been talking about them if Spikins et al. can get up on their collective soap-box and announce that we all think the Neanderthal’s juvenile life stages were brutal! [Unlike Spikins et al., I prefer to avoid using terms like ‘child’ and ‘childhood’ until the jury comes back with a verdict on the real, not imagined or claimed by reference to, at best, equivocal evidence.]
19 Seriously. Is it just me, or is it a bit hollow to hear Spikins cryin’ about the poor, neglected Neanderthal juveniles when she can cite at least a half-dozen refutatory papers?
20 She’s right. How do we know those Neanderthal pups had a harsh early life. After all, just because the poor kids of Dickens’s England, Marie Antoinette’s France, Stalin’s Ukraine, or a gazillion other lives of the poor throughout recorded history left real scars, physical and emotional, who are we to simply assume that the same must have been true for the Neanderthals.
21 It's enuff to make the hair on the back o' my neck stand up.
22 Who are these authors talking to here? As far as I know there are only about three people on the planet who think the Ns were inferior! I'm one. And I'm sure the names of the other two will come to me. Someone should explain to them the fallacy of the Straw Dude argument.
23 Who said that?
24 I hardly think that the lack of a recent review has any bearing on whether or not "we" are neglecting anything, except maybe our thinking caps, and the desperate need for copyeditors in the world of academe.
Thank gawd there’s only one more paragraph in the Introduction! Can you imagine that I originally thought I could give this whole paper the SA treatment? Me, neither. What. Was. I. Thinking?

Through reviewing the evidence of Neanderthal childhood25 and the treatment of Neanderthal children,26 we suggest that our current knowledge negates the traditional perspective.27 Instead28 we argue that a close attachment and particular attention to children is a more plausible interpretation of the archaeological evidence,29 explaining an unusual focus30 on infants and children in burial, and setting Neanderthal symbolism within a context which is likely to have included children. Subtle differences in the nature of emotional attachment in childhood, as well as a lack of safe affiliative interactions with outsiders, may have had key consequences for Neanderthal society, culture and symbolism.
25 Just exactly to which ‘evidence of Neanderthal childhood’ could the authors be referring?
26 Treatment by whom? Disinterested palaeoanthropologists?
27 No need to read farther if that’s the case.
28 Wait! ‘Instead' of what? Instead of suggesting that current knowledge trashes the ‘traditional’ view? That would be sort of self-contradictory. Wouldn’t it?
29 I’m getting a very bad feeling, now. Spikins et al. are going to round up the usual suspects, and a few even I never would’ve expected. [Spoilers] The Teshik-Tash child so-called burial, for one.
30 The only unusual focus here is on equivocal evidence and argument from authority. Oh. Almost forgot. The biggest issue here is that we're told we must pay attention to just plain credulous archaeologists purporting to write about something about which they have no frigging idea.
I've only time here to display the most egregious example of cognitive archaeological bullshit than has ever sullied the pages of even so insignificant and poorly edited a journal as the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, courtesy of Spikins et al.

Close your eyes until I tell you to open them. Promise?

Okay. Open ‘em.

Un. B. Effing. Lievable. Mask? Art? WTF? Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid! Somebody, please, make it stawwwwwwwwwwp!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The OS Wars Through the Eyes of the Subversive Archaeologist

As a quasi-retired, semi-unemployed, academic archaeologist I have plenty of time to ply my trade, and keep up with current events. But I have to admit that after the disappointments of the G.W. Bush years, and the let-downs bought on by the current POTUS, SCOTUS,* and successive iterations of the United States Congress, my interest in the news of the day has flagged. So, when I'm writing I use my late-model iMac. When I'm recreating, I sit in front of an Apple TV-assisted giant flat screen, being entertained by whatever I can get free through the Apple TV, including my basic subscription to Netflix. For long stretches I amuse and inform myself with an iPad Air. I'm Apple rich, but penny poor. In my small world Apple does: Droid doesn't [for all kinds of reasons that I won't bore you with]. When I hear the A-word [i.e. Android], I'm at pains to keep the bile from rising in my gullet. This Tech War is fought on hardware—and I'll take Apple over the so-called competition any day.

"But, Rob, where are you getting all these goodies from? You're practically a ward of the state; your credit-card debt must be stratospheric!"

Easy answer: "Prioritizing! Something I'm getting very good at, and my credit-card principal lessens, incrementally, by the month."

"So, what's all this to do with archaeology, Dear Boy?"

Not a lot, really. It has more to do with my on-line avocation and the tools that I use most of the time in its pursuit. Shielded by choice from real world news, I've become an avid follower of Apple, Inc., and each technical advance they introduce. I'm being a bit silly, I know. But for me it's kinda like following geopolitics. Samsung, wielder of the weird—Google's Android mobile operating system—versus Apple's iOS—the world's most popular mobile operating system.

"But, wait. I thought Samsung outsold Apple by a ton!"

You're right, of course, within limits, but I've heard different when it comes to the number of people actually using their Android devices to do what you and I do almost constantly—use the world-wide web to stay informed. Today I found some seriously empirical evidence to support that claim.

I've known for a while that The Subversive Archaeologist is fast approaching 350,000 page views. Today should see that milestone passed. I know that datum because the service I use to mount this blog——provides statistics for my amusement. I'm astonished, as ever, by the staggering numbers of 'hits' I get. So, as always, thank you for your support. Wanna see some of my evidence?

This first graphic is capped from the SA stats page, just a few moments ago. Daily visits are averaging about 800--900, and the all-time number stands at 349,486.
In terms of the Apple iOS—Google Android wars, look below at the past month's tally of the operating systems behind page views. Before we get to the mobile results, you might be surprised, as I am, to see the magnitude of the gap between Microsoft Windows users and Mac users. Compared to the way it once was, this represents massive growth in Apple's market penetration. Windows wins, with 57%; but Apple's not that far behind, at 35%. Oh, yeah, and Linux garners 1%.

Now to mobile. iPhone and iPad combine for 944 of the 25,654 visits last month. Android, supposedly the Apple defiler—the guts of vastly more mobile units than those running iOS—added up to 313, almost exactly just 25% of the iOS/Android total. Furthermore, as you can see, the numbers are very small for Canadian RIM's BlackBerry. Believe it or not, this imbalance in OSs used for accessing the Subversive Archaeologist is reflected everywhere else on the web. People use Android far less for web access than iOS. Quite astounding. Lots of theories, most having to do with the difficulty obtaining web access for vast numbers of smart phone users. 

I couldn't let you get away without showing you the Top 10 geographic origins of machines visiting this site. I'm a little suspicious of the tallies for the Ukraine and China. But the rest are at least more plausible.


United States


So, there ya have it! That's the way it is, Thursday, April 17, 2014.
* Odd, isn't it, that for the past five decades or so SCOTUS, constitutionally the third branch of government by the people, of the people, and for the people, seems less like a third branch, and more like a fifth column in its fascist, Christianist, and Christian Supremacist manipulations of the United States Constitution and the corpus of legal decisions taken at the highest level. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Levallois Technique: Human Evolution or Intelligent Design?


I'm feeling my oats, today. I've been thinking about my efforts to overturn ideas about the Levallois technique of chipping stone. For a great many archaeologists it represents a technically complex process that is governed by the desired end product. This view is so deeply entrenched in palaeolithic archaeological theory that it is tantamount to orthodoxy. I've tried to dispel this idea using sarcasm, innuendo, irony, satire, and . . . oh, yeah . . . empirical observation, to no avail. A few days ago, sitting on the porcelain throne, it came to me that there's an almost one-to-one correspondence between the way the Levallois is viewed and . . . *waits while the room becomes suddenly, deadly quiet* Intelligent Design [ID]. If you're not familiar with this so-called scientific theory, all you need to know is that ID is the movement formerly known as Creationism [or the theory of Special Creation]. Yup. ID is the same old poppycock about the ultimate goal of a Christianized supernatural being that has been a pain in the ass for science since the nineteenth century [where it should have remained], and is now very much favoured by Christian Supremacists in North America. Same bull; different moniker. So I'd like to bring my novel argument to the intertubes—run in up the flag-pole, as it were—to see if anyone salutes.

Speaking of saluting. Let's hope that if someone metaphorically 'salutes' my newest brain-child, it won't be in the same manner as these youthful citizens were doing in May 1942 while the group was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America, in Southington, Connecticut ;-)]. This tiny slice of US history was brought to you by the Subversive Archaeologist's irony allele.

This was,  indeed, the posture prescribed when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States, from the time American socialist Francis Bellamy wrote it in 1892, until it was replaced in 1942, for fairly obvious reasons. This image was captured in May 1942 by photojournalist Charles Fenno Jacobs, who was at the time employed by the US government. The US Congress formally adopted the Pledge in 1942. At that time a new-and-improved approved salute was written into law. Photograph in the Library of Congress.
I found it on this web site

Now, back to our story.
[If you're in need of a Levallois technique refresher, I've created a special Subversive Archaeologist Primer that recaps my past arguments, and provides links to SA articles that bear on this matter.]
You may know that I've repeatedly called for the revision of palaeoanthropological thought on the Levallois technique. You remember? The Levallois method of knapping stone is claimed to be a way to reduce a block of stone in a complicated sequence that achieves a desired end-product [that even modern humans have a lot of trouble replicating]. Of course, being able to replicate a stone artifact cannot, logically, stand as evidence that the object being replicated was manufactured with the same end point in mind. It's the fundamental fallacy of stone artifact-replication experiments.

François Bordes
Nevertheless, on the basis of François Bordes's ingenious 'reverse-engineering' of Middle Palaeolithic artifacts, French archaeologists have, for over half a century, described the presumed Levallois technique as très pensée [~ingenious]. I've prattled on about the [very real] possibility that, rather than its being a really ingenious method, it's ingenuity is entirely in the minds of the archaeologists that construct its use in this way. There's another logical fallacy at work here, too. It's this: the orthodox view of the technique was constructed from a experience-near, source-side analogy* to the way modern humans have prepared stone tools over the past 40 ka or so. It's completely bass-ackwards. We should be trying to understand the Levallois technique from the point of view of what came before. That's crucial if we're ever to achieve a more objective understanding of the cognition behind this behaviour. [Notice I didn't say, merely, "objective." At best we can hope for an objectivity mitigated by our understanding of the intellectual and cultural 'baggage' that we carry with us in our quest for knowledge of our past.]

This proposition, while independently theorized by your favourite subversive archaeologist [but not in print], isn't original. In the early 90s Iain Davidson and Bill Noble recognized the same theoretical bias, calling the phenomenon the 'Finished Artifact Fallacy.' Indeed, most palaeolithic archaeologists labour under the anachronistic and erroneous mind-set that imagines a stone-worker's intent can be directly inferred from an artifact's morphology. It's not just bad inference-making; it's bad science!

Schematic representation of the Levallois technique, involving removal of a 
great number of preparation flakes intended to set up for removal of a 
final flake with a morphology that was envisioned before the process began.  
Kayso, in the Levallois Technique the two major claims are 1) that it first demands careful preparation to produce what's called a tortoise shell-shaped core, and 2) that the tortoise-shell core is the platform from which will be struck one and sometimes two flakes that have a morphology akin [only akin] to an artifact shape for which modern archaeologists claim a certain function based on its topological resemblance to stone artifacts known from the ethnographic record [and a lot that aren't]. It's . . . pardon my French . . .absurde, in the first place, to think such thoughts, and in the second place, abracadabrantesque, simply to assume it was so. As the basis for one's inferences of Middle Palaeolithic bipedal ape behaviour and cognitive complexity, we need a bit more than weak argument and a leap of faith!

The Levallois Point is a perfect example. I took the photograph below while excavating at Kebara Cave, Israel, in 1989.** Well, actually,*** the original depicted only the Levallois Point in the middle. I've superimposed a Dalton Point  and a generic fluted point, from North America's Archaic and Paleo-Indian Periods, respectively. I've brought them in to illustrate how patronizing it seems to me to look at the one in the middle and say that it bears enough of a resemblance to the generic type category, 'projectile point,' to be considered one and the same thing. In fact, it's downright condescending to point *cough* to the item in the middle and say that it must be such a tool—sub-text: "We all know those big, lovable blockheads, the Neanderthals, couldn't quite get the symmetry in the way that modern humans can, nor, for that matter the idea that a simple flake can be turned into such a shape through judicious application of retouch." Patronizing? I'll say! And so 1990! [Aside: at the end of the day, 'retouch' may be seen as the only, real, Middle Palaeolithic innovation in stone-tool making. Just sayin.]

Left, Dalton Point; middle, Levallois Point; right, fluted point.
That brings us to today's matter. A lesson in how to talk to dyed-in-the-wool advocates for a genius behind the so-called Levallois technique. Forget highfalutin talk about equifinality, and misplaced formal analogy.**** Forget trying to show them that Bordes's Levallois core and flake types are a load o' hooey. Instead, get straight to the point *coughs [again!]* and embarrass the Hell outa them. How? Let me count the ways! Well, actually, the way. One. Just one.

It's rather easy. You need only point out to them that their view of the so-called Levallois technique uses the same ill logic as the theory of Intelligent Design promoted by Christian Supremacists as the holy alternative to evolution by natural selection.

That's it, Rob? That's the best you can do? You said as much in the first paragraph! What gives?

Need I say more?

Oh, all right! I'm really sorry for dragging you this far, and having said so very little about my novel idea. What I've said is all there really is to say about it. Seriously. So, I ask you again, "Need I say more?"

All right! No need to yell! My last word? OK. Today's final word will be a riddle. What do you get when you prepare a Levallois tortoise-shell core but don't remove the final flake? Answer: a hand axe, of course!

* Gotcha! Experience-near, source-side analogy means those that are based on knowledge constructed in the present, and which are then used to infer that a process or phenomenon from the past is the result of the same process or phenomenon in the present. Or, words to that effect. Sort of.
**Thanks again, Ofer and Paul, and the rest of the équipe for letting me play in the dirt with you at Kebara! Sorry about the whole burial thing. Nothing personal!
*** There's a strange harmony between what the English say to contradict or to affirm the reality—actually—and what the French say in a similar social context—en verité, [literally 'in truth']. In fact, the French word actuellement [literally 'actually'] is actually used to signal something that is happening 'as we speak,' as it were. My mischievous, satyrical historical--satirical side thinks this may reflect the long-standing [but for the past couple of centuries, simmering] antipathy between the French and the English over who owns what, where. 
****  A formal analogy is made when two things—whether processes or phenomena—that share some similarities—usually readily observable—are claimed to be more or less the same, by presuming other—usually unobservable—similarities.  It was Alison Wylie who first brought to my attention the distinction between formal analogies and relational analogies, those analogies in which causal relationships between different processes or phenomena that can be observed or inferred. For me, formal analogy is like inferring that a doggy bone in the shape of a real bone is, in fact, a real bone; while relational analogy describes the reasoning behind identifying once-living organisms from their fossils. 

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