Wednesday 12 September 2012

A Final (Maybe Not) Word on The Regourdou 1 Micro-Scratches: A Case of Archaeological Foot-and-Mouth?

Once again I'm brought low by my graphic art shortcomings. 
     Lucky Reader. You'll have to persevere while I try to describe in a thousand words what I could easily illustrate in a single, short, animated film. 
    I'm the Regourdou 1 Neanderthal. [Actually, that individual is dead and gone. So, in that case imagine that I was the Regourdou 1 Neanderthal before I met my maker in some nasty, short, and brutish Middle Palaeolithic way.] I'm hungry, and I've just found a pile of well-aged beef while I was out looking for a snack of...well...well-aged meat. But there are hyaenas all over the place, eyeing me and slobbering. So, I quickly [and, of course, deftly] remove a filet or a brisket, or whatever it is people are gonna call such things in fifty or so thousand years, throw my best manuport at the alpha hyaena female, and hie myself off to my damp, dark cave retreat to enjoy my snack in peace. 
     The first decision I need to make is whether or not to just bite off hunks, chew, and swallow, or try to be kewl just like the eaters of raw meat are gonna be [again in about fifty thousand years], clamp some of the brisket between my front teeth and, with my pinky raised, slice through the piece of meat while making a satisfying cutting sound, and trying not to amputate my lips. I choose the seductive snicker-snack of the well-used sharp rock in my [right] hand. in case I'm ever eating with my con-specifics [an open empirical question] and I want to impress a cute cave girl.
     Are you with me? 
The picture above is a representation of the tiny striations that Volpato et al. observed on the Regourdou 1 anterior tooth crowns. [Note that the roots have been 'dropped out' of these views, such that all we are seeing--give or take--is the well-attrited crowns.] You don't need to be a statistician to notice that the trend of these striations is lower-left to upper-right. This, according to the authors, is de facto proof that the Regourdou 1 Neanderthal was right handed. Huh?
     Think about it for a second. I have a hunk of meat clamped between my teeth. I have a sharp flake in my right hand. How am I gonna cut through the piece of meat? Am I gonna hold the flake at an angle almost perpendicular to the tooth row, then, starting at the top on the left side of my mouth, slice downward and to my right such that the flake's sharp edge is able to come in contact with my lower teeth, all the while without slicing through my lip?
     Mull it over for a bit. Even if I was so uncoordinated that I would start the cut on the top of the meat hunk on the side opposite my right hand, I wouldn't be able to make a satisfactory cut if I'm holding the flake in my right hand almost perpendicular to my teeth. Instead, I'd end up making a sushi cut. And I ask you, 'What's the point of that if they're not gonna invent sushi for at least another forty thousand years?' 
     No. If I'm right handed, I'm gonna do just what this northern North American is doing in the picture below. I'm gonna start nearest my hand and [at least make an effort] to cut across the meat hunk in a vertical plane, without doing bloody damage to my soft tissue. Look at the picture and tell me how the knife is ever gonna do damage to the front teeth without completing futzing up the activity?

Seriously. What's going on here? If Volpato et al. are right, the Regourdou 1 Neanderthal must have been... What? A fool? One who shouldn't be allowed near sharp objects? One who prolly died from blood loss after another unsuccessful attempt at being kewl?
     I'm sorry. There's nothing in Volpato et al.'s arguments or observations that compel me to accept the hypothesized activity as the reason for fine striations on the anterior tooth crowns.
     Chalk up another winner for PLOSone! Jebuz. Who do they get to referee this stuff?

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1 comment:

  1. Uhmm... "Lower left to upper right"? (Is the photo inverted?) From the perspective of the photographer maybe, but from the individuals points of view they are lower right to upper left. Have another glass of wine Rob.


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