Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Cultural (Dis)abilities of the Neanderthals (with apologies to Brian Hayden)

Let's see......

Bar-Yosef and Bordes and Higham, et al. have chipped away at the idea of a Châtelperronian 'industry' at the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition.

No evident ability to emulate modern human technology?
Sandgathe, et al.'s ground-breaking paper from Roc de Marsal pretty much buried the notion of Neanderthal mortuary ritual.
No evidence of the abstract thinking needed to conceive of an afterlife?
Dibble showed us that the 50+ Bordesian Mousterian 'types' are reduced to a variation on a single theme. This means that the Mousterian amounts to the addition of retouch to a core and flake industry that's as old as the Oldowan!
No evidence of anything but the need for a sharp edge?
Rolland and Dibble demonstrated to any who'd listen that the Bordesian assemblage classifications are in fact artifacts of the Bordesian artifact classification system (see above).
No evidence, therefore, of various 'cultures' within the Neanderthal inhabitants of Europe?
The Denticulate Mousterian totally bit it once McBrearty et al. were through with it.
See above.
Koby thoroughly demolished the idea of a Neanderthal 'cave bear cult' in the 1940s, notwithstanding Jean Auel's efforts to resurrect it.
No evidence of attaching symbolic importance to dead ursids?.
Any spatial patterning in a Neanderthal site may be due to nothing more than the habitual behaviours of that species, similar to those of hyenas and wolves, and not necessarily indicative of semiotic abilities.
Back to the drawing board for the majority of palaeoanthropologists?
I can stop trying to beat this horse deader?

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