Tuesday 21 February 2012

I'm All Fired Up!

As I was saying to one of my astrophysicist friends today, there are enough questionable claims in the archaeological literature that I'll go to my grave before I even have a chance to put a dent in the lot of them.
     But I think I've been a little unfair in picking the low hanging fruit like pesticidal bedding and chemically engineered hafting goo. When I started in the archaeology game back in the 70s there was always, at any given time, at least one good North American 'Early Man' site that needed taking down. Remember Calico Hills?Sandia Cave? Meadowcroft? And, while it is my major area of interest, Middle Palaeolithic archaeologists make it almost too easy to find the howlers. With one exception, that is. Fire. To me, it makes as much sense that a Neanderthal could start a fire as it ever did that they buried their dead. But as anyone knows who looks at that sort of thing, it's gonna be tricky to go after fire, 'cause they use chemistry and stuff. I'm kind of old fashioned. They can Fourier-transform the dirt all they want, but all it's gonna tell 'em is that there was a fire. Sure, they find phytoliths and stuff like that, but plants grow in the lit portions of caves, so if there's gonna be a fire, it's just as likely to involve the plants as not.
     Fire, as everyone knows, is a universal in modern human cultures. So is cooking (at least some even among the groups north of the tree line). So, fire is something everyone knows something about. I'm not talking about palaeolightning strikes, or spontaneous combustion. I'm talkin' about makin' it from scratch. So, there needs to be a way to rule out the natural fire-making from the sort of thing you or I would do to keep warm or cook a Chateaubriand.
     So, soon as I get done with writing up my take-down of MP hafting, I'm going straight from that frying pan (as it were) into the fire. I might get a little singed, but at least I'll have tried. It's just too attractive. I'm feeling very moth-like.
     In the here and now I have a couple of very kewl news items to alert you to, which I'll get to in a few hours. For now, you can content yourself with the prospect of me getting all fired up in the near future.