Monday, 30 September 2013

Well, Well, Well. What Haven't We Here?

As a retiree of the University of California I was looking forward to remote library privileges in perpetuity. Little did I suspect. Two days ago, while trying to call up someone's questionable research through the library's proxy, I was precluded from doing so. Without knowing it, I'd been living on *cough* borrowed time. As a retired member of the administrative staff, and not of the academic staff, I'm entitled to borrow hard things, in person only. No more remote access to e-journals. I'm, as the Antipodeans would say, stuffed, rooted, and let's not forget buggered.

Henceforth, I'll be shooting in the dark if I see some laughable knowledge claims parrotted in the press. I'll be forced to guess at the quality of the data that led to the claim. Fat lot of good that'll be.

You're witnessing the twilight of the Subversive Archaeologist.

But hey, you and I made it almost two years!

Maybe it's for the best. I've been neglectful for the past few months, with my mind on other matters. That hasn't stopped.

Maybe a hiatus is the answer.

OK. So, in honour of my disconnection from all that is archaeological research, it's me and the Bombay Sapphire this afternoon. Cheers, Dears! I'll be thinking of you.


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Well, Well, Well. What Have We Here?

Well, well, well. What have we here? A crisis in the hard sciences?

You and I know that there's the equivalent of a Berlin wall between the self-styled hard sciences and the so-called soft [read "flaccid"] sciences, to which group most of the readers and I belong. Well, it appears as if that demarcation line has gone from solid to dashed—from im- to permeable. And the news is percolating into the mainstream.

On September 10th, 2013, the good citizens over at—Fiona Fidler and Ascelin Gordon—asked the nearly existential question
"Science is in a reproducibility crisis: How do we resolve it?"
"What?" you say You're "Shocked!" Shocked to find that the reproducible experiment isn't a ticket to objective truth? Shocked to find charlatans, fakirs, and stupids amongst all those bright, shiny Nobel Prize winners?

Well. I'm not. But this isn't about me.

Let's see what Fidler and Gordon have to say.

They start with a couple of examples that have stirred up the fear in the experimental sciences. Some psychology journal published a finding of extrasensory perception. A number of cancer studies have not been replicated. The psychology story is a real hoot. Who really cares. But, cancer studies? No wonder I'm eating butter again after eating no-trans-fat margarine for a long time after being told that any margarine was better for me than real butter!

The authors point to the following as possible culprits in this breakdown of credibility [or is it an up-tick in credulity?]
mechanised reporting of statistical results and publication bias towards "statistically significant" results.
softer fraud—or "undisclosed flexibility" in data collection—is well documented and appears to be very widespread.
Data sharing . . . can be time-consuming, and currently provide little academic reward. 
Funding bodies and academic journals that value "novelty" over replication deserve blame too.
J. R. R. Tolkein's portrait of Smaug
protecting the dwarf treasure.
I presume they mean that 'hard' science suffers from the GIGO syndrome—Garbage In; Garbage Out—when research depends on highly complex statistical analyses that originate from algorithms that no one but the code writer knows anything about! Likewise, there are many scientists playing Smaug the Dragon, and planting themselves threateningly on any pile ['scuse the expression] of data they generated.

But, help is on the way through 'initiatives' aimed at stemming the flow of bad research. One found me laughing out loud.

there's the Reproducibility Initiative. . . . backed by [among others]  . . . , the journal PLOS ONE . . . to be published in PLOS ONE.
LMFAO! The reader will find that this subversive archaeologist has many times lamented the quality of archaeoloigical research that makes into PLOS ONE. Good luck with the initiative, Boys!

Here's another 'initiative' that's almost too ludicrous. It'll remain a mystery to me how the napkin made it past the door of the pub where the napkin-back came from that the shit-faced publisher wrote it on.
a "reproducibility index" for journals, similar to an impact factor . . 
There's a non-starter for you. The authors then relate another pie-in-the-sky notion, needed changes

[to the way scientists] prepare, submit and peer review journal articles, as well as changes in how science is funded.
open peer-review, and open notebook science
'Nother two non-starters, there. Now, here's a good one, which I've said many times would have helped me in being authoritatively critical of archaeological quantifications.
Publishing computer source code and supporting data sets . . . a greater incentive to publish their data by making scientific datasets citable contributions . . .
But, joy turns to disappointment. Alas,

In many areas of science, researchers are not trained in data curation, version control of source code or other methodologies required for research to be replicable.

I'm slack jawed at this moment. Not trained? How is that even thinkable?

Today's take-home message. Avoid acting smug around 'hard' scientists.

Any suggestion that theirs might not be as hard as they've been maintaining all these years is likely to provoke violence.

I hope I'm leaving you with a smile. I'm reminded of a satirical gender joke from the 70s .
Question: "Why is it that women don't make good carpenters?
Answer: "Because for years men have been telling them, as they hold their grimy index fingers out in front of them—about 6 inches apart—that the distance thus indicated was a foot."
Over and out.


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Lingua Franca? Lingu Sinica? Lingua Britannica?

I must admit. I'm a bit befuddled by the geographical distribution of the Subversive Archaeologist's readership: the data below, from the past seven days, is a pretty good proxy for the all-time number. 

I might allow myself to be flattered, or encouraged, by the proportionately large numbers from the PRC and the Ukraine, if I didn't find it so unexpected. 
My first reaction was to suggest that those two tallies might be the result of spammers. But that thinking would amount to disparaging hundreds of non-Enlgish speaking anthropologists. Maybe if we look at the numbers in a different way their meaning might become clearer.

As a proportion of that country's total population, the 412 visits from the PRC represent 4.12 X 10-7 percent. What's that—something on the order of one ten-millionth of the total? That's pretty close to the same datum for the United States: 3.6 X 10-7 percent—nearly identical. Of course, those nearly identical numbers gloss over a fundamental difference between the two countries. For these numbers to be considered comparable, would it not require that the U.S. readership be made up entirely of American anthropologists who speak, or at least read, Chinese? Hold your horses.

Isn't it much more likely that the highly educated of those non-English speaking countries have learned English for scholarly reasons? If so, we're looking, once again, at an artifact of geopolitical history—the part that resulted from English imperialist, capitalist, and Christianist oppression of the world's people. A different historical trajectory might have seen this blog written in Mandarin Chinese, with all of the non-PRC visitors reading Mandarin Chinese as the scholarly lingua franca, instead of English.

Aside: you'll recall, in post-Medieval Europe the scholarly lingua france was classical Latin, which put the Germanic language-speaking northern Europeans at a slight disadvantage as compared with the Italians, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. But, for a time—until England had its way with half the world—so-called western science was more linguistically egalitarian. Not so today.

The inference I draw from these numbers is quite simple. I can't be otherwise than hugely gratified that so many gifted people from other countries and cultures choose to spend their time here at the Subversive Archaeologist. Either that, or I'm a sentimental, self-aggrandizing, descendant of English immigrants to North America. Never mind that. It's ancient . . . er . . . Medieval history.

Thank you, all, for dropping by!


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

"All Right, Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready For My MacArthur Fellowship."

*tongue pressed firmly in cheek*

Each year, when I'm passed over for a MacArthur Fellowship [yet again], I wear the lack of recognition like a hair shirtBrain the size of a [small] planet[oid, really] and here I am: stuck sticking pins in little clay effigies of more-successful palaeoanthropologists than I. What would—what could?—convince the hundred-or-so so-called nominators to award me one of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's $625,000, no strings attached, gifts?

You see, MacArthur Fellows are chosen because they're reckoned to be able to parlay the $125K a year for five years into stuff that moves humanity in a positive direction. When was the last time an anthropologist of any stripe received one of these 'Genius Grants?' And why not me? Or you?

I was inconsolable when I discovered the truth. In chronological order, beginning in 1981, the following have been MacArthur Fellows.*
Shelly Errington
Lawrence Rosen
Alfonso Ortiz
William H. Durham
Shirley Brice Heath
Jared M. Diamond
Allan C. Wilson
Richard Wrangham
Ruth Behar
John G. Fleagle
Alan Walker
Patricia C. Wright
Sherry B. Ortner
Eric Wolf
Steven Feld
Faye D. Ginsburg
Brackette F. Williams
Gary Urton
Erik Mueggler
Lee Ann Newsom
Stanley Nelson
Camilo José Vergara
Guillermo Algaze
Jim Yong Kim
Heather Hurst
Lisa Curran
Mercedes Doretti
Sven Haakanson
Stephen Houston
Shannon Lee Dawdy
Carl Haber
Julie Livingston
Yes, yes. Well done all of you. Well done all of you. However, what have you done for us lately? Richard Wrangham recently published a cookbook. Jared Diamond drones on and on about how mean people can be. Sherry B. Ortner probably snuck in there on name recognition. Alan Walker? In the right place at the right time is the way I see it. William H. Durham was probably a sympathy vote—whose parents would be so thoughtless as to name their child such that, throughout his life, he'd be known as Bill Durham? Alan C. Wilson would o' bin a nobody if Watson and Crick hadn't stolen Rosalind Franklin's idea for the structure of DNA. Talk about coat-tailing! With the exception of John G. Fleagle and Eric Wolf, I've never heard of the rest of 'em. Must be socio-cultural people.

When do I get my turn? I mean, really. Am I not the black fly on the newly clothed Emperor of Palaeoanthropology's arse? Seriously. That's gotta count for something. Right? Anyone?

*[Hey, d'ya think we should start making a distinction between fellows (masculine) and fellas (feminine)?]


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Middle Palaeolithic Burns While The Subversive Archaeologist Plays Violin On The Subway To Earn A Living

You really must have your wits about you, what with all of the latest findings from the Middle Weirdolithic of Europe coming out while I've been busily trying to keep my head above water [sense #2]. The article in question, by Marie Soressi et al [and there are a lot of als here] received some positive press when it first saw the light of day on 12 August of this year. For example, from my home and native land's national news, the headline read
Modern humans may have copied Neanderthal technology: Leather-working tool dates back before arrival of modern humans
Metaphorically speaking, my own compatriots stabbed me in the back! I gotta tell ya: it's lonely at the top.
Accessible at
On the left, from top to bottom, are  the British Isles, France and the 
Low Countries, and the northern portion of the Iberian Peninsula, 
i.e. Spain. The two sites whence came the putative lissoirs are in 
France, near Bordeaux.

Just look at that authorial line-up! No lightweights here, Toto! And hark who's listed as the "editor"of this one. Yep. The Great and Powerful Wizard, himself. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! But, don't worry. This will be no argumentum ad hominem.

These authors claim that a few cervid ribs have been purposefully worked to produce lissoirs—hide-working polishers. Three are from excavations at Abri Peyrony and one from Pech-de-l’Azé I.

As with so many before, this paper trumpets these discoveries as the earliest, etc. etc. etc. Horse hockey! The objects are pictured below. All have been identified as cervid, but they aren't diagnostic, so they could either be Red deer or Reindeer.
(A) AP-7839. (B) AP-4209. (C) AP-4493. (D) PA I G8-1417. From Soressi et al. 2013.
I think it best if I spit out my misgivings now, and back them up further down.

These authors have failed to take into account an adequate range of carnivore behaviour in their really quite weak effort to rule it out natural bone modification. The modification that these authors report is the expectable outcome of a bored canine, which, having exposed the trabecular bone, will quickly produce rounding on break margins by licking with its rasp-like tongue. What's more, this paper's illustrations clearly show negative hertzian cones that result when powerful jaws and strong teeth assert transverse bending forces and remove flakes of bone from an exposed edge. In at least one of the illustrations in this paper, it's possible to see what are very likely tooth drags on the broken margins. Soressi et al. also state, without qualification, that deer ribs flare distally, and in so doing imply that the presumed bipedal ape had removed much more cortical bone than could have occurred naturally. But only some of a deer's ribs widen distally. In sum, the evidence provided for these putative lissoirs is equivocal. Je crois que les lissoirs n'ont pas fabriqué par les neanderthaliens.

The authors tell us that these specimens were carefully examined to find evidence of the manner in which these so-called lissoirs were manufactured. They claim they were able to rule out natural modification because they went looking for the telltale marks they had read about. As they put it
The criteria used to identify taphonomic and anthropic traces [on the artifacts] are those listed by [the following publications]
Blumenschine RJ, Marean CW, Capaldo SD (1996) Blind Tests of Inter-analyst Correspondence and Accuracy in the Identification of Cut Marks, Percussion Marks, and Carnivore Tooth Marks on Bone Surfaces. Journal of Archaeological Science 23:493 – 507.

Olsen SL, Shipman P (1988) Surface modification on bone: Trampling versus butchery. Journal of Archaeological Science 15:535–553.

Pickering TR, Egeland CP (2006) Experimental patterns of hammerstone percussion damage on bones: implications for inferences of carcass processing by humans. Journal of Archaeological Science 33:459–469.

Given that Soressi et al. refer to only those three works as their key to the past, it's understandable how they could have missed pertinent marks and modifications on the four artifacts. I'll elaborate. Not one of the studies referred to above is a comprehensive discussion of carnivore modification. Indeed, they each discuss a very limited set, and none deal with canids. For example, Blumenschine et al. (1996) deal with tooth marks on bone made by hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) and lions (Panthera leo), and not canids, ursids, or other animals capable of leaving marks on bone. Olsen and Shipman (1988) deal only with distinguishing trampling [treadage] modification from stone-tool butchery marks. Finally, Pickering and Egelund are interested in the marks left by processing animal bones using a 'hammer' and 'anvil.'

Fail No. 1.

Soressi et al. aver that deer ribs widen distally. They then illustrate what they mean in relation to the largest specimen, AP-7839 (see above). While it is true for certain of a deer's ribs, it's not true of all. I didn't happen to have a full set of deer comparative skeletal specimens, but I did what photo research I could on the Google. And, as you can see in the photo below, deer ribs distally are not uniform. And some, like the second, third and fourth, actually taper distally. It's easy enough, therefore, to view the specimen above as being one of the tapered variety, which wouldn't have needed the degree of cortical bone reduction as the authors claim. Nevertheless, this error is small when compared with the major claim of this paper: that these four 'facts from two French sites were worked by Neanderthals.

Fail No. 2.


And here's where it gets tricky. I say tricky because, obviously, I don't have the archaeological specimens in front of me. So, I can't really say anything definitive about the process that brought about four such similar rib ends. All I can do is plant a seed or two of doubt. Mind you, my doubt seeds are way more logical than their Neanderthals-made-these seeds.

My doubts arise from the knowledge gained from my own professional experience, together with the accumulated observations and insights from three animal bone archaeologists that, one would have thought, formed an authoritative group: Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, Gary Haynes, and Lewis Binford.

The first insight I want to highlight is one having to do with the variable bone-modifying behaviour of wolves. Gary Haynes (1982):
Bones at [Canis lupus] homesites characteristically have been gnawed much more than bones found at killsites. Elements may be carried from carcasses to dens or rendezvous sites to be gnawed at leisure, and may become play items for pups . . . If carcasses or body parts are too bulky for adult wolves to transport to pups or to rendezvous sites, the wolf group may relocate itself close to certain carcasses, which become temporary rendezvous sites . . . Bones at such sites exhibit significantly more tooth scoring and scratching on compact bone tissue, fracture-edge rounding (produced by abrasion against teeth, paws, tongue, and the ground) and gouging and furrowing of cancellous tissue caused by teeth . . . , than do bones found at kill sites. [emphasis added]
Canids have very raspy tongues. When they're bored they'll gnaw, chomp, wrestle, and lick a chunk of bone, especially if there is exposed trabecular bone that contains even the minutest quantity of tasty soft tissue. All of the specimens described in Soressi et al. show the kind of rounding that a dog's tongue can produce in a very licks of its raspy tongue. More importantly, this rounding is found away from the much vaunted rounded 'business ends.' Have a look. I've left the image huge like this so you'll have a better chance of seeing what I see.

Re: AP-4493, shown above.
First, on the leftmost view, on the bottom-right fracture margin, check out the little crenulations along the edge. These sort of scalloped edges are most likely the result of a canid, in this case a young one, gnawing at the edge, removing bone flakes in a serial manner. Now look at the middle view, which is the edge-on surface of the leftmost image's bottom-left fracture margin. Along the slanting margin at the bottom of this view you can plainly see the sheen caused by the rounded and polished fracture margin. This is not the natural state of a fracture margin: it could only have been caused by an abrasive object coming into repeated contact with the margin. It's unfortunate that we don't see the other edge-on view. I suspect that we might be able to see the negative flake scars on the crenulated fracture margin that I mentioned a moment ago. Here, too, we are unfortunate that the authors didn't publish the other edge-on view. It might have been possible to see the topography of the fracture that separated this specimen from the rest of the rib.

Staying with the edge-on view a bit longer, you can observe the profile of the topography on the side of this specimen where the trabecular bone is exposed. Notice that it is in no way smooth like the other side. This would have been the unaltered result of the behaviour that split the rib in two, something that a dog could easily manage. There's been no attempt to make the trabecular surface smooth, which you might expect if this item had been purposefully made as a hide polisher. The lissoir-weilding Neanderthal might have gotten a blister, or worse, from such an uneven and sharp surface. But I'm not tryin' t' second guess a Neanderthal. They were tough. So I'm told.

Next, some more indications of carnivore modification. For the specimen below, I'm added some arrows.  The top pair indicate the points at which my ability to resolve the image fails me. This scar could quite easily be what's known in the vernacular as a 'tooth drag.' On the bottom-right margin you see a negative flake scar that very likely resulted from the hypothetical dog prying away on the edge. The bottom-left fracture margin also looks suspiciously like the kind of damage a dog can do to a rib this size. Again, you can see the crenulations from serially chipping off small flakes. Moreover, the very uneven margin is commonly seen on dog-modified bones.

The authors didn't want to rest on their laurels with respect to specimen G8-1417. So they did some close-up work to illustrate the micro-damage evident on the cortical face. The cartoon on the left shows the locations of the four blown-up portions.

I have to say that there seems no pattern to the gouges seen in any of these views. They vary in width, apparent depth, and most importantly, in orientation. Had this artifact been a real lissoir you might have expected more parallel and uniform modification.

So, I don't think the authors have done themselves any favours in publishing this part of their analysis.

Fail Nos. 3 +

I'd like to wrap this up, now. I hope that I've pointed out enough shortcomings of the authors' claims to say that CBC news was parroting a questionable set of conclusions when they went to press with this one. As for the Journal of Human Evolution's referees . . . 'nuff said.

As ever, comments welcome. Spread the word. 'Share' with your archaeological twitter pals and your palaeoanthropological LinkedIn connections. You and I have to get the word out! And speaking of getting the word out. At the top I alluded to The Wizard of Oz and the magic moment when Toto discovers and then outs the old snake-oil merchant passing himself off as the Great and Powerful Oz [which is how I view, for the most part, my palaeoanthropological peers].

And now, for a brief trip down Memory Lane, courtesy of MGM.

 Scene from the movie, The Wizard of Oz, 1939. Source: MGM and YouTube 

[Juicy aside] According to Soressi et al.
Minimal postdepositional disturbance is indicated by anatomical connections of a number of bones
I hope Erella Hovers and a few dozen others are tuning in. The term 'anatomical connection' is the English translation of a French expression. In plain English it's what's known as being 'articulated.' I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you, that these authors aren't claiming that the parts they found were purposefully buried. According to Erella and dozens of others, Middle Palaeolithic bipedal ape skeletal remains that are found articulated must—must—have been buried by Neanderthals.]


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

Monday, 16 September 2013

It's Sunday, And It's Gonna be a Dark and Stormy Night.

Well, the jerk pork tenderloin is marinading in the fridge, the sweet pineapple chutney is simmering, and the sweet potato fries are cooling their jets waiting for the oven to get to temperature. Alas, it'll be frozen veg tonight. Yup. No shopping this week. The kitty is at an all-time low. Seriously, I needed a bed! Mind you, I still don't have said bed. So far, I've just paid for it!

But you know I didn't come here to read you my bank statement [which would have been almost as exciting as me reciting, yet again, how I came to be embittered, but later emerged from the bittersweet embitteredness a sweeter man but wiser, having found solace in the fermented grape].

Nope. I came here to stick pins a very much inflated balloon that arrived in the archaeological literature at the end of August. It's about language and stone artifacts and flint-knapping:
Uomini NT, Meyer GF (2013) Shared Brain Lateralization Patterns in Language and Acheulean Stone Tool Production: A Functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound Study. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72693. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072693
We present the first-ever study of brain activation that directly compares active Acheulean tool-making and language. Using functional transcranial Doppler ultrasonography (fTCD), we measured brain . . . hemodynamics . . . in subjects who performed . . . Acheulean stone tool-making . . . We show highly correlated hemodynamics in the initial 10 seconds of task execution.
Which they argue, might well have been the catalyst for language evolution. Wow. When I read that I was blown away. But it's not what you think. I was blown over by the prodigious amount of air whooshing out of their balloon once I had pierced it with my rapier-sharp mental intelligence-icity, and, I might add, my own, highly evolved, hemodynamics.

[Now, Rob. You shouldn't be so disparaging of people tryin' t' figger stuff out. You did it once. Remember?] [How could I possibly forget?]

I know I'm being bad. As penance, I'll ditch the new foam bed in favour of a bed of nails upon, because there's no way in 'ell I'm gonna give this paper the same credulous treatment that it seems to have received from the media. I know—they're not scientists: they just report on science. Problem is, people who aren't scientists—and even people who are, they're just not palaeoanthropologists—read that stuff and, not knowing any better, buy it.* Then, when the tune changes in the succeeding months and years, we wonder why the public complains about the money spent on research.

*catches breath*

OK. Here's a diverting little video snippet, Video_S1 from the article, showing one of the participants performing the tasks that were being monitored. The first part is the 'control' portion, in which the knapper was asked simply to knock two rocks together, repeatedly. This was to emulate a rock-knocking activity that wouldn't have required too much thought—the proposition being that such physical activity wouldn't be sufficient to somehow lead to language. The rest of the video shows our knapper, clearly, thinking out every flake removal, with the thought in mind of arriving at the end point of the process—an Acheulean hand axe. He's really having to think hard to turn his large flake into a decent Acheulean hand axe. As would you or I. But there's no guaranteeing that the thing we call the hand axe required so much brain activity.

The problem with such experimentation is that it presumes the ancient bipedal apes were knocking rocks together to create an Acheulean hand axe.

And that, as you prolly know, is something that I simply can't allow them to get away with. Their experiment and it's thrilling and important results may, at the end of the day, have been nothing more than a waste of their time, yours, and mine.

Remember? Remember that this thing called a hand axe may well be just a bifacial core that had been reduced only to the point where it looks [a little] like an axe head to your garden variety palaeoanthropologist. Don't worry, I'm not gonna go into a big explanation at this point. I'll just put up a few choice images that more or less speak for themselves [well, after I put words in their mouths in earlier posts]. The montage below is one I made to illustrate the enormous variety of these artifacts, both size and shape. It wasn't possible to portray them all at the same scale. However, in a few of these images there are people parts that do give an idea of the scale. My favourite is the one with several laid out on a table, from a fist-sized one to one that could easily be 500 mm from stem to stern. If this thing they call a hand axe is in fact as variable as these images demonstrate, there was one eff of a lot of lousy flint-knappers in the Lower Palaeolithic.

Uomini and Meyer's study has, perhaps, captured brain connections that played a role in language evolution. However, until it's possible to say, unequivocally, that the so-called hand axe was the shape sought from the moment a Lower Palaeolithic bipedal ape started knocking rocks together, this study cannot stand as evidence that making Acheulean artifacts could have played a part in language evolution.

Thank you all for your kind attention. I'll see you soon.

By the way, the jerk pork and sweet potato fries were delicious, but the warm pineapple chutney was quite forgettable.

* in the sense of definition #5


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Karen Ruebens, Part Two: It Was Touch And Go, But the Neanderthals Still Can't Grab a Break. Beam Me Up, Scotty, There's No Cultural Traditions Here

My last post began a critical review of 
Ruebens, K., "Regional behaviour among late Neanderthal groups in Western Europe: A comparative assessment of late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tool variability," Journal of Human Evolution (2013),
in which she rationalizes the various European Late Middle Palaeolithic (MP) stone bifaces. In my previous post I had a little fun with the five categories of biface that she settled on as suitable for comparison across Late MP Europe. My favourite is the fifth and final type: the Partial Biface. [For which we are given no information as to the reason for calling it that. I mean, really, whether or not its partial is irrelevant if what you're dealing with is Mousterian bifaces. If you are able to tell that it was once a larger bifacially flake artifact, it's still a biface!]

It turns out that Ruebens took an excruciatingly long path to settle on those five types. It was a journey that she could have cut short if only she'd asked me. After all of the various attributes were tabulated, the five types are just those that you would have arrived at following a traditional morpho-typological regime. Be that as it may, the author moved on. I've created a montage of the bifaces published in three photographs in the paper. They appear below.

Add caption
Having once established the five types for comparison, the author went looking for geographical patterning. In so doing she discovered what, to her, looked like three distinct regions of Europe, in which the Neanderthal inhabitants maintained a tradition (or three) of making and using artifacts only of a certain kind and in numerical proportion to one another, throughout the Late MP. That's a revolutionary claim. Unfortunately the revolution turns out to be a dud.

It seems we've caught François knapping!
The deeper I get into this paper, the more I'm disappointed that it was published in the high-impact Journal of Human Evolution. For, when I began looking closely at the fourteen sites that the author personally examined, and which appear on the map below. It shows the extent of the three "culturally" distinct regions that the author proposes—the Mousterian of Acheulean Traditon (MTA), the Mousterian with Bifacial Tools, and the Keilmessergruppen (KMG). No, the letters in the initialism MTA are not transposed. The initialism for the MTA was born in France in the mid-twentieth century, to one François Bordes, the primary author of the French palaeolithic typology. He dubbed assemblages fitting this pattern Le Moustérien de Tradition Acheuléenne. Hence MTA.

I hope it'll become clear to you, as it has to me, that this study is a total disaster. 

Big mistake. You look at the map above and you see three areas encircled by dashed lines—one yellow, one blue, and one red. And, in the absence of descriptive information [of which there seems to be in regard to this graphic] you might think that the little triangles that denote the locations of the 14 sites the author personally examined for this work. However, the reader who's interested enough to go looking, you aren't told the regional affinity of any of the 14 until the paper's done. Yep, those bits of information occur in Table A.1. There the author gives us the "General characteristics" of those fourteen sites. Table A.1 is first mentioned in the Materials and Methods section, where the author explains 
. . . detailed typo-technological attribute data was collected from 1303 late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tools from 14 case study sites. These 14 assemblages were selected to form a sample representative of the bifacial tool variation across the study area, including classic French MTA and German KMG assemblages, assemblages from other, lesser-studied areas, [AND] assemblages that do not conform to the MTA/KMG dichotomy (for an overview see Table A.1). [emphasis mine: hold that thought]
We're told that the 14 provide a 'representative' sample. We're also told that, in addition to the MTA and the KMG, there are other assemblages . . . and [those] that do not conform.

There's no subterfuge there. But unless you're aware of what's to come, those 'other' two kinds of assemblages are just there, something, presumably, for the author to deal with further on. Later on, they are referred to again, this time as "other biface bearing entities." Yet, all through the meat of the paper, we're repeatedly informed that the 1303 artifacts cluster in patterned ways in three [count 'em, three] regions. It came as a surprise to me, and I'm certain it will for everybody that's read this paper, there is, in fact, a fourth kind of assemblage that doesn't fit in the tripartite regional picture. In Table A.1 these are referred to as "Other." And, as you can see, there are FOUR OF THE EFFERS!

Once again I'm having to place it sideways for legibility.

The FOUR of the fourteen sites that, oh, by the way, didn't fit into one of the author's three 'cultural traditions' are: Sint-Geertruid, Grotte du Docteur, Champlost, and Abri du Musée. That's juicy. No? Four of the sites that appear in the distribution map of 'regional cultural traditions' don't belong. This paper should have had an epigraph: Caveat emptor. So, we're down to nine sites that Ruebens has used to construct her cultural 'typology.' But, the revelations don't stop there.

EVEN MORE DISTRESSING, Table A.1 informs us that the 'assemblages' from Sint-Geertrud, Bois-du-Rocher, and St-Julien de la Liègue were all surface collections amassed unsystematically over the past, oh, century or so. *big exclamation mark emerges from writer's head* What? That's really bad.

So, I think there'll be no detractors if I toss out the four sites that Ruebens deems to be 'other,' and ignore the surface collections from Bois-du-Rocher and St-Julien de la Liègue.

If you're keeping score, six of the fourteen "Case Study" site collections have just shown themselves to be worthless. That leaves eight that are, we're told are, really, really, comparable and useful for such regional comparisons. Oh, yeah. I remember, Ruebens also included insights drawn from publications dealing with 67 other sites across Europe. That sounds good, I know. And it might have rescued her thesis if it hadn't been for this, which the author leaves behind as she breezes past in a vapour,
In many [of the 67 other] site reports, exact numbers are not given for the different types of bifacial tools. 
 Wait for it . . .
Therefore for comparison purposes the occurrence of bifacial tools was divided into four categories: absent (blank), low (<15 and="" high="" medium="">50%).
Quelle desastre! Who knows how much weight the author gave to these so-called data? It's a good thing we don't need to know. This whole house of cards comes down right before your eyes, and just a little further down.

After ferreting out the details that are only to be found in Appendix A, someone more critical than I might understandably suspect that, in the distribution map (repeated below), the author might appear to be being disingenuous. I don't say that. But some might. Simply because there is no fine-grained discussion of this crucial graphic. If there had been, I might not have been duped by what I see in this map. I shows all 14 of the 'Case study' sites personally examined by the author [which we now know to be, in fact, eight in total.]

See all those sites within the boundary of the MBT? Does it surprise you that TWO of them are classed as MTA: Bois-du-Rocher and Saint-Just-en-Chaussée. In fact, only two of those sites illustrated within the MBT area are classified as MBT. And one of them we have already tossed—St-Julien de la Liègue—because it was all collected from the surface over the past century or so. The remaining three sites shown within the bounds of the MBT 'cultural tradition' area are from the "Other" category, i.e. cannot be assigned to any of the three 'traditions' that Ruebens has erected in this paper. Meet me after this map. So, you see, this map is almost completely misleading.

Okay. Where do we go from here? There are still eight 'Case Study' sites and the information from the 67 published assemblages. Do they still tell the same story? In a word? No. And I'll show you why right now!

The two images that follow are based on a geological map, which I serendipitously found while searching on the Google for Europe+map+karst. The areas shown in blue are karst. They are the only places on that map where bipedal apes would have found flint. In the map immediately below I've plotted [as nearly as I could] those fourteen sites from the Ruebens map, above. The second map shows Europe without the six collections that we've had to toss out.

BEFORE. Yellow dots: MTA. Green dots: MBT. Red dots: KMG. Purple dots (!): OTHER. Source give in the next caption.

And after the six unsuitable sites are dropped.

AND AFTER. Ruebens 'Case Study' sites after culling the sic that are unsuitable for these purposes. Yellow dots: MTA.  Green dot: MBT. Red dots: KMG  Source: University of Aukland, School of Environment, "World Map of Carbonate Outcrops 3.0."
We're not through, yet. Even if, and I mean IF, the data from the 67 published collections made this paper a slam dunk, the only map that matters is the one right up there. And now I'll tell you why, if you haven't already figgered it out.

In addition to the 'data' that I've been discussing to this point [including yesterday's post], Ruebens's gives us a half-dozen morphological comparisons that I'm choosing not to worry about right now. I don't think they'll help the argument one bit. During her discussion of the THREE 'regional traditions,' we get the following graph, showing the relative proportion of raw material types found in the fourteen "Case Study" sites that I've been discussing thus far. Oops! I meant to say eight! No worries!
Figure 5. Proportional occurrence of different bifacial tool concepts across different macro-regions based on the data from 14 case study sites (Table 9) and 67 comparison sites (Table B.2). Northeast’ relates to the German sites (n: 15), Southwest’ to the sites from southwest France (n: 13) and Central Northwest Europe’ to the sites from the Netherlands (n: 3), Belgium (n: 19), Britain (n: 7), northern France (n: 8), western France (n: 7), and eastern France (n: 9). [taken verbatim from Ruebens 2013]
For those of you who are red-green colour-blind, the stacked bars illustrate the relative proportions of the five artifact concepts/types/traditions that Ruebens has defined, from left to right, and darkest to lightest. NOTE: here Ruebens employs the entire corpus of 14 'Case Study' sites and the 67 published reports. So, this graph is the only place you'll see what the author has used to construct and instantiate the three [not four] Neanderthal 'cultural traditions.'You'll see on the bottom bar that in the region the author terms the 'southwest' the numbers of hand axes approaches 90 percent of the overall assemblage. For the central area the hand axe proportion is just over 60 percent. In the northeast it's less than 10 percent.

Ruebens concludes that these apparently persistent assemblage patterns are a clear indication of cultural traditions, and Neanderthal smarts.

Culture. Yep. Neanderthal culture. Cultural traditions. Time-honoured traditions. Dad and Mum showing little Eva and Adama how to make little sharp rocks from big dull ones.

Sorry. But Ruebens paints a completely erroneous picture with these data.There is really no evidence to support her thesis. And there is a perfectly good explanation for the distributions she has inadvertently come across.

Now, have a look at this map of Europe showing areas where one might acquire flint, by far the best material available, and perhaps, on balance, the best, all-round knapping rock of them all. The circles roughly outline the northeast (red), central (green) and southwestern (blue) regions used in the graph shown above.

Remember that the blue bits are sources of flint. 
What do you see within those three areas that Ruebens obviously did not see, much less consider? Yeppers. Blue stuff. Flint-bearing rock. So, now what do you think best explains the relative proportion of hand axes in each of the three circled regions—culture? Nope. I have a rock-solid alternative explanation. Lithic analysts call it curation, I believe.

In the northeast (red circle), where good chipping rock is really, really scarce, I'm proposing that if you live in that red circle, whether you're a Neanderthal or one of us, any worthwhile lump of flint that you could get your mitts on would be used, retouched, used, retouched, used, retouched, and used to within an inch of its imperishable life. Moreover, if the FAF is correct, and I believe it is, the dearth of workable rock in Germany meant that if you got to the stage where in the southwest the lump would yell "Hand Axe" to unwitting palaeoanthropologsts, you wouldn't stop to admire it's symmetry.

On the other hand, if you lived in the central portion (green circle), where good rock is abundant, but not ubiquitous, depending on your location you'd either think you were in flint heaven and be a total profligate, or conserve, conserve, conserve like those poor buggers in Germany.

As for the southwest of France. Le magnifique Sud-Ouest! Wine. Great food. An equable climate, which would have come in handy to a Neanderthal as the world descended into the last major ice age. Again, depending where you are, you'd have to be stingy or you could say forget it, as, no doubt those in the yellow dots near the Dordogne Valley must have done. 

I think I can stop here. I was gonna go into great [and, frankly, mind-numbingly boring] detail about the metric comparisons, but I don't think it's necessary at this point.

I trust that you've enjoyed this trip to Late Mousterian Europe. Join me next time for another trip down Mythopeoia Lane.

Your comments will always be welcome. It's Miller time.

Adios, muchachos!


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

Friday, 13 September 2013

More Re: Karen Ruebens* and Neanderthal Lithic Cultural Traditions [?]—Part The First

Over the last two years I've barked at and bitten the referees and editors of most of the journals we depend on for new knowledge of us and our origins: Science, Nature, Quaternary Research (QR), QR InternationalQR ScienceJournal of Archaeological SciencePNAS, and the hapless PLOS ONE.

Moving right along . . .

The other day I promised more detail as to why I think Karen Ruebens's arguments in the Journal of Human Evolution (JHE) couldn't stand up to critical scrutiny. Today, I'm fulfilling that promise. This must be your lucky day!

Go here to access the paper.
I'm finding that I'm spending a lot of time on this critique. I suppose it's worthwhile to suggest a good reason as to why I should expect you or anyone else to follow me down this path. I think there's a really, really, important reason for both.

Karen Ruebens is claiming to have achieved what could not be achieved by others in the . . . oh . . . hundred-plus years that archaeologists have been seriously studying the Middle Palaeolithic (MP).

Think about it. It's akin to a fossil hunter revising the entire bipedal ape taxonomy and phylogeny. It's no small thing. And the media are already running with it, and in many languages.

It's for this reason it's imperative that we take a very close look at the premises, the evidence, and the arguments used in support of Ruebens s claims. If her claims becomes orthodoxy, those of us on this side of the palaeoanthropological fence will be rolling it uphill on an even steeper slope.

Get it?

Got it?


This paper deals with the "late" MP, about 115,000 ka to about 35,000 ka [i.e. Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 5d–3, see below]. It was a time during which the Neanderthals had the run of Ice-Age Europe and western Asia—at the same time as the global climate was deteriorating. As you can see from the graphic below, the late MP started off at the height of the last interglacial. Initially the Neanderthals enjoyed a climate much like that of today. But, by the time Neanderthals disappeared from the fossil record, Earth's climate was on its way to being the coldest it had been for several hundred thousand years. The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) occurred considerably later, and by that time our direct ancestors had been the sole inhabitant of Europe for some 20,000 years.

Marine Isotope Stages of the last 300,000 years. Dashed yellow line marks the division between warmer and colder global climate. Dashed grey lines delineate the late Middle Palaeolithic period discussed in the Reubens paper.
Actually, as I began reading this paper I had high hopes, because of what motivated the author: to unjumble the tangle of lithic technological terms and local and regional temporal and typological nomenclature used throughout Europe by palaeolithic archaeologists. Ruebens focusses on bifacially flaked stone artifacts from the last 20 kyr or so of the MP [from about 60 ka to about 40 ka], and a broad swath of Europe including France, England, the low countries, and Germany.

Data collection was aimed at acquiring observations on
1. artefact condition [oddly, not defined, nor does it form part of the presentation];
2. technology—raw material, blank, cortex, back, cross section, shaping and edge angles;
3. typology—both bifacial tool concept and bifacial tool type;
4. measurements and ratios. 
I put the terms concept and type in italics for a good reason: those words are a red flag to me. A concept can reside in the mind of the archaeologist; or, its use can bely the presumption or interpretation that a concept was formed in the head of, in this case, a Neanderthal rock knocker. As for the notion of a type, many of the 50 or so MP types defined by François Bordes are now seen as representing a stage in a time-transgressive sequence of flake removals that had no object other than to create and maintain a useful cutting edge. Many of Bordes's types were erected due to what's come to be known as the Finished Artifact Fallacy (FAF)—the idea that although we are able to group like with like, the group's constituents need not result from deliberate action. Harold Dibble's careful work on lithic reduction sequences gave us the best illustration of the FAF.
From Harold L. Dibble, "The Interpretation of Middle Paleolithic Scraper Morphology," American Antiquity 52:109-117, 1987.
The Ruebens paper's major claims are concisely laid out in the abstract, a snippet of which is reproduced below.
     Results indicate a high level of variation among individual bifacial tools and assemblages. Each bifacial tool concept is correlated with various methods of production, resulting in large degrees of morphological variation. Despite such variation, a distinct three-fold, macro-regional pattern was identified: the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA) in the southwest dominated by handaxes, the Keilmessergruppen (KMG) in the northeast typified by backed and leaf-shaped bifacial tools, and, finally a new unit, the Mousterian with Bifacial Tools (MBT), geographically situated between these two major entities, and characterised by a wider variety of bifacial tools.
     Differing local conditions, such as raw material or function, are not sufficient to explain this observed macro-regional tripartite [word missing? division?]. Instead, the MTA and KMG can be viewed as two distinct cultural traditions, where the production of a specific bifacial tool concept was passed on over generations. Conversely, the MBT is interpreted as a border zone where highly mobile groups of Neanderthals from both the east (KMG) and west (MTA) interacted. [emphasis added]
This isn't the first time the author uses the term correlated, and while it's denotatively correct in this context, the reader's thoughts instantly presume that some robust statistical analyses will be presented. They never materialize. [Further down, these correlations will figure prominently.] Then the other shoe drops. We learn that the author has found evidence of cultural traditions in her research. I was on pins and needles to see the data! 

But, before getting into the gritty business of typologies, I want to pause and consider what the abstract tells us about the primary finding of Ruebens s work. I don't know about you, but after I read the abstract and consulted the map at left, my first impression was that what's identified as "a border zone," and a third "distinct cultural tradition"—the MBT—appears to be anything but. Seriously, the MBT is not a "border zone," even if it says so in the paper. The MBT spans the breadth of the MTA, yet it overlaps the KMG only for about half the length of the total overlap between the MTA and KMG. Moreover, this reader is wondering just how the author managed to distinguish between the two 'cultural traditions,' MTA and MBT, if the MBT is superposed. I say to author Ruebens: "Do tell!"

As I pored over the text and tables in this paper, it became clear to me that results are squarely based on the a priori presumption that the shiny biface thingies called different names in different places WERE, in fact, the result of concepts in the Neanderthal consciousness—she accepts, holus-bolus, the reality of the various artifact types. Having mentioned the FAF in her introduction, the author completely ignores it for the remainder of this paper. So, she addressed the 25 differently named biface types, lumped like with like, and arrived at five categories, or types, concepts, cultural traditions—you name it. 

Okay. Let's look at what the author distilled from the plethora of counter-productive local nomenclature and typologies. [Sorry to have to put up the entire table in what follows.]

Ruebens states that the five divisions are 
"defined by a diagnostic combination of technological and typological attributes, including the location and extent of the bifacial shaping and/or retouch, the number of cutting and backed edges, the cross section of the piece and its overall outline shape (Table 3). All five concepts can be viewed as rather distinct, with only few transitional forms being present in the archaeological record. Since each concept is based on least common denominators, morphological variation is present within each category, as expressed by differences in size and exact outline shape."
I know exactly what the term lowest common denominator means in arithmetic. However, I have no idea how I'm to understand its use in this context. I'm guessing it must be used figuratively. Unfortunately, it's never mentioned again. Table 3 follows. I had to put it sideways to make it legible. Sorry.
After having a look at Table 3, I think I might have a better understanding of what the author is trying to tell us when using the term correlation. I believe it's that her five concepts share many traits among them, but that each one has a unique 'signature.' Let's look closer at Table 3, although I have to say off the bat that it doesn't inspire confidence. 

Call me a pedant, if you want. But, I believe we can toss out the category "Location of shaping/retouch." Why? Because Ruebens has told us she's undertaking a study of bifaces! So, there's not much point in using ?bifaciality? as one of the diagnostic criteria. No. Wait! She's at least partly justified in using this parameter—one of the five type/concept/cultural traditions is bifacial  only some of the time. Hold the phone. What, fer gawd sakes, is a "partial biface?" A lump of rock is either a bifacially flaked something-or-other, or it's not! More reason to toss out the category.

You are the weakest link! Say goodbye to "Location of shaping/retouch."

I also think we can toss out the attribute of backedness? I mean, once you've recognized a feature of some artifacts, and called it backing, you shouldn't NEED any other criteria to distinguish backed things from things having no back. "Back" is an especially shaky criterion if three of the types may or may not be backed [which is what I take the term 'variable' to mean in this context]. Thus, this category is useful only useful, all of the time, to help distinguish hand axes from backed bifaces. What good is that?

Dave, what parting gifts do we have for "Back"?

Number of cutting edges seems another tosser. 'Cause, if backed bifaces and bifacial scrapers can have 1 or 2 cutting edges, and the other three can have only 2, then we're talking about seven types, not five. Fat lot of good that does! "Cutting edge" [which this research isn't, by the way] is only useful for distinguishing between the three that always have 2 cutting edges and the four other types that can't seem to make up their minds.

Gong! Get that talentless "Cutting edge" off the stage.

So, where does that leave us? Let's re-jig Table 3 using the criteria left once the unhelpful ones are tossed out.

Once the array is culled to this point, it's clear that "outline shape" is capable—all by itself—of uniquely identifying the five concepts that Reubens has proposed.

I guess it's all right if Ruebens wanted to go to so much trouble to substantiate the five concept type traditions. Problem is: to be usefully critical of this paper, this poor reader was compelled to go through the truly painful process that I've just dragged you through. Worse, others might be tempted to ask the question, "Where was the editor when this paper was undergoing review for its publishability? Where were the referees?" I'd never ask such questions. But others might.

So, you've just seen the author find a very strenuous way to replace good, old fashioned, typology.

It's time we saw some of those shiny bifacial thingies.

I extracted these images from each of the three figures in Ruebens's  paper, resized them to the same scale, and placed 'like with like.' Here's what I got. Look long and hard, but not too. Your head might explode.

As you can see, the objects in the left part of the frame are all termed hand axes. The others fall under what the author refers to as "backed and leaf-shaped bifacial tools," which comprise the other four concept/type/traditions. Can you see the same things I see? For example, how do you get a leaf shape out of any of those objects on the right? No plant that I know of has such asymmetrical leaves! And, frankly, the whole issue of the so-called backed artifacts gives me hives. I could easily see any of the 'backed' artifacts in this array arising from continued flake removals on a 'hand axe' such that it ceases to look like a hand axe. [Remember the Dibble diagram up top?]

Logically, the proximal—butt—end of the 'hand axe' that's been whittled down to something resembling the bottom four on the right. That butt would be identified as the backed portion, and the final flake removals on the opposite margin created one final cutting edge before it was dulled beyond usefulness and discarded.

Tell me I'm wrong. Isn't that what the FAF is all about? Regardless of your position on hand axes, it's straightforward: if the FAF is in play with hand axes, logically we should be able to see the results of gradual further reduction along the lines that we saw in Dibble's work with MP scrapers.

Fellow FAFsters, start your engines!

[By the way, no doubt because I'm Anglophone and geographically deprived, I'd never heard of either the Keilmesser or the Faustkeilblatt before today. Live and learn.]

Table 3 isn't all that this paper is about. If it were, I'd be breathing easier. Instead, Ruebens goes on to consider other parameters of European MP bifaces in an effort, one imagines, to bolster her identification of the five concept/type/traditions and to set the stage for the new map of MP Europe. I'm keeping an open mind. [As if.]

So, we've come to the point where I sum up this installment of my remarks on the Ruebens paper.

Here it comes. The summary.

I hope that the referees and editors are squirming by now. This story doesn't have a happy ending for the JHE crew, and it's not the fault of the author.

Next time I'm gonna get into the metrics of this revision of the MP of Europe. Hold on to your hat!

* I apologize for spelling the author's name incorrectly throughout the earlier version of this piece.


SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.