Tuesday 7 February 2012

Wait For It...

What I'm working on at the moment will be less a discussion of Neanderthal capabilities than it will be one of distinguishing between sense and nonsense in an archaeological arugument. After pointing out some empirical shortcomings of the Pawlik and Thissen article on Middle Palaeolithic production and use of birch tar as a hafting mastic I've been asked [in a way] to have a look at another paper that makes a similar claim. I have grave reservations about it's conclusion as well, but from an entirely different point of view. In this case, I'm quite happy to accept the interpretation that it was birch tar, and that the lithic fragments had at one time been hafted to something. My reluctance to accept the argument has to do instead with the sedimentary context, and the real likelihood that these artifacts have been ascribed to the wrong time period, which is something that all archaeologists can appreciate, regardless of their area and period of specialization. [Students of the North America Archaic will recognize the problems that I think inhere in the Mazza et al. paper. So, wait for it... 
Tip o' the hat to Marco Langbroek for passing along this image of the Campitello Quarry birch-tar hafting mastic adhering to a couple of what look like exhausted bifaces.
     Unfortunately this stuff doesn't write itself, and no critique is possible without some background research and a close reading of the data presentation. All I can do is beg your forbearance, and thank you for your patience. 
     The article in question is another one suggested by Marco Langbroek, Mazza et al.'s 2006 'A new Palaeolithic discovery: tar-hafted stone tools in a European Mid-Pleistocene bone-bearing bed,' Journal of Archaeological Science 33:1310-1318.
     Stay tuned. And fear not. The Subversive Archaeologist is on the job! [I can't help feeling a little like Sherlock Holmes at times. You wish, Rob!]

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that a material derived from a biological source can persist for so long in wet ground with no apparent change.

    Do you know if ancient birch tar retains its thermoplastic properties as if it were new, or do chemicals volatize out of it over time like happens in the formation of amber?


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