Neanderthal culture (long)

Glenn R. Morton (
Mon, 07 Sep 1998 11:59:15 -0500

Many Christian apologists have excluded Neanderthal from the ranks of
spiritual man. Examples include Hugh Ross (1993, p. 141; 1995, p. 22) who
refers to them as bipedal mammals and David Wilcox (1996, p. 92) who states:

"There is debate over whether (and for what reasons) they may have
occasionally buried their dead, over whether they used ochre as paint, and
over their hunting methods... However, there is no evidence of art, no
ornaments, no symbolism, no indication of graving tools or sewing, and
clear indication of permanent settlements or trade of raw materials."

This note is going to show that Wilcox is wrong in all of his claims
concerning Neanderthal. And by doing that, this will also show that Ross is
incorrect. I will start with ornaments (i.e. jewelry) and then go through
the rest of Wilcox's list in his order. Because of my desire to prove the
case for jewelry, I will spend more time on it.

In 1996, Jean-Jacques Hublin and colleagues (1996, p. 224) proved that the
human remains at Arcy-sur-Cure were Neanderthal. This site is a
Chatelperronian site--the Chatelperronian being the earliest Upper
Paleolithic technological complex. The importance of this was the
association of Neanderthals with personal ornamentation, including pendants
and necklaces. The necklace made the cover of Nature magazine. At that
time, Hublin et al, suggested that Neanderthal had obtained the necklace by
means of trade or imitation. The assumption was that Neanderthal could not
be intelligent enough to have invented such a symbolic object. But this is
nothing more than a prejudice as later study proved.

In June of this year, d'Errico et al published a study of the Neanderthal
necklace and showed that it was not obtained by trade or imitation. It was
unique. D'Errico et al. (1998, p. 3) state the various arguments which had
been advanced against the Neanderthal manufacture of the tools:

"1. If a product of postdepositional disturbance, the personal ornaments
and the bone tools from the Chatelperronian levels of Arcy should be
typologically identical with and less numerous than those found in the
overlying Aurignacian; furthermore, their intrusion should have been
accompanied by that of other kinds of diagnostic Aurignacian objects,
namely, lithic artifacts.
2. If these artifacts are a product of trade or collection no traces of
their in situ manufacture should be present in those levels.
3. If they represent imitation, they should be identical or at least very
similar to those found in the culture presumably imitated (the Aurignacian)
4. If Chatelperronian bone and lithic technologies were learned from modern
humans, the conceptual models underlying the respective production
sequences should be identical to those found in the Aurignacian;
furthermore, they should be markedly discontinuous with the technological
behaviors documented in Neanderthal contexts clearly preceding the time of
5. If resulting from contact, the emergence of the Chatelperronian and
similar industrial phenomena cannot have occurred earlier than the first
appearance of the Aurignacian in Western Europe.
. . .
"In the following sections we will show that the archeological record is
patterned in opposition to these expectations." ~ Francesco d'Errico, et
al, "Neanderthal Acculturation in Western Europe? Current Anthropology,
Supplement, 39(1998):1-44, p. 3

For argument 1, the suggested postdepositional mixing of the Aurignacian
tools above with the Neanderthal layers below, this can be totally ruled
out because the violet colored soil of the Aurignacian layer stands in
sharp contrast to the yellow soil of the Neanderthal layer where the
ornaments were found. If there were mixing, the colors should be mixed
also. This argument is falsified. (d'Errico et al, 1998, p. 7)

For argument 2, that there are no evidence for in situ manufacture. This
also is false. The ornaments were found in association with habitation
structures. This association could not occur if the personal ornaments
hadn't been made INSIDE the huts. (d'Errico et al, 1998, p. 8). There are
also partially made ornaments found in the Neanderthal layers but none of
these ornament types are found in the upper Aurignacian.

Argument 3, that they were made by imitation of modern human techniques of
ornament manufacture. This is also observationally false. A variety of
D'Errico et al (1998, p. 12-13) write:

"Chatelperronians made perforations in the roots of the fox canines and
grooves on the other teeth, while the latter technique is unknown among the
ornaments found in Aurignacian layer VII."

Argument 4, the Neanderthals learned Upper Paleolithic stone tool making
from the Homo sapiens. D'Errico et al (1998), p. 13) note:

"Chatelperronian lithic technology is very different from that of the
Aurignacian both in the procedure for producing blades and in the way
blanks were transformed."

Argument 5, the Chatelperronian is definitely OLDER than the Aurignacian.
D'Errico et al (1998, p. 35) write:

"There are 30 examples of Chatelperronian under Aurignacian 0 or
Aurignacian 1. Once the above-mentioned interstratifications were seen for
what they might be, we did not find a single demonstrated instance of
Aurignacian under Chatelperronian."

Paul Bahn writing last month in Nature (1998, p. 720)about this work said:

"The Neanderthals were cultured human beings, and we cannot assume that
they were incapable of 'modern behaviour'. In fact, we have probably
systematically underestimated their technological and symbolic
sophistication. But opinions vary on the new study. Some feel that the
authors have demonstrated their case beyond reasonable doubt; others cling
to the traditional orthodoxy and question almost every fact, often
contradicting their own earlier statements. One commentator, Margherita
Mussi, makes a telling point-- in Italy, Neanderthal sites with
'head-dominated' animal-bone collections have been interpreted as the
result of scavenging from carnivore kills, whereas similar bone collections
from Upper Palaeolithic sites (that is, Aurignacian or later) have been
attributed to poor preservation and/or discard of 'non-diagnostic' bones by
excavators and analysts. Such prejudice is also highlighted in a reanalysis
of the large mammal bones form the Mousterian of Kobeh Cave, Iran."

I mentioned the work at Kobeh Cave the other day and it can be found at:

And Bahn also writes (1998, p. 720):

"The Neanderthals of Arcy clearly had objects created for visual
display on the body, and this implies the communication of some meaning.
Indeed, d'Errico et al. claim that 'Chatelperronian Neanderthals
elaborated, used and transmitted autonomous codes, the reflexion of
possible different social roles and the expression of a different cultural
system'. They conclude that Chatelperronian Neanderthals and Early
Aurignacian modern humans were biologically different groups with important
similarities in their cultural development."

Ian Tattersall is one of the severest critics of Neanderthal intelligence
yet he concludes from this 1998, p. 164):

"In a Chatelperronian layer at Arcy-sur-Cure (along with a Neanderthal
fossil) was found a carved bone pendant, complex in shape and quite finely
made and polished, that was most likely an item of personal adornment worn
by a Neanderthal."

If a critic like Tattersall finally admits that Neanderthal wore jewelry in
a symbolic manner, why is it so hard for Christians to believe that these
men were capable of symbolic behavior?


Wilcox cites Gargett's 1989 article which examined various Neanderthal
burials. What Wilcox fails to relate is that Gargett only examined the
OLDEST excavated burials (those excavated early in this century with poor
documentation) and Gargett does not examine the more recently excavated
burials which are much, much better documented scientifically. In Current
Anthropology, comments by various authorities follow an article. Wilcox
also fails to inform his reader that in the case of this article the
reviews were 9-2 against his conclusions. One went so far as to
state(Frayer and Montet-White, 1989, p. 180):

"We have difficulty finding any scientific merit in this paper."

Even Tattersall rejects Gargett's view (Tattersall, 1993, p. 126).
Gargett's 1989 paper does not discuss the 1983 Neanderthal burial which is
described as (Shreeve 1995, p. 74):

"The bones were arranged exactly as they had been found. Moshe was resting
on his back, his right arm folded over his chest, his left hand on his
stomach, in a classic attitude of burial. The only missing parts were the
right leg, the extremity of the left, and except for the lower jaw, the

Thus, the use of Gargett's paper seems a weak argument against burial


Anyone who has seriously examined the Neanderthal record will know of the
Tata plaque (Marshack 1976, p. 277). It is the four and a half inch long
molar tooth of a mammoth that was painted red by ochre. Originally dated
at 50,000 years, more recent work indicates that it was made between 78,000
and 115,000 years ago, prior to the time that modern man entered Europe
(Stringer and Gamble 1993, p. 160). Neanderthals used ochre to paint that
object and this has been known for a long, long time.


This depends upon what one means by art. If geometric motifs are considered
art, as they are in modern Islamic societies then there is plenty of
evidence of art among the Neanderthals. The Tata plaque itself has a cross
inscribed on it. This was also the case with the fully modern Azilian
peoples. These people lived between 10 and 12 thousand years ago and the
only art found at their sites are cobbles painted with geometric
shapes.(Dickson 1990, p. 83). Marshack notes (1990, p. 460):

"In central Europe, for instance, in the early Mousterian at Tata,
Hungary, dated by uranium series to 100 000 BP by Schwarcz (personal
communication), there is a carved mammoth tooth plaque. At Bacho Kiro, in
a Mousterian level, Kozlowski excavated a bone fragment with an
intentionally engraved accumulation of zigzag motifs. There is, in
addition, apparent evidence of Micoquian beads from Germany of
approximately the same age as the Tata plaque (c.110 000 BP) at
Bocksteinschmiede in Germany. There is a possibility, therefore, that
symbolic traditions developed or assayed by the Neanderthals during the
Mousterian were preparatory to traditions that were to be later developed
'explosively' in the Upper Palaeolithic."

And if one require that spiritually accountable humans must make
representative art (something not found in scripture) then it must be
concluded that many peoples today are not spiritually accountable.


The best documentation of symbolism is found in Neanderthal burials in
which the bodies are preferentially oriented east-west. This orientation is
also found among early Christian burials in Egypt if I recall correctly.
Hayden (1993, p. 121) says,

"Mousterian burials are oriented in a highly preferential fashion
(especially east-west); the sex ratio of burials is almost exactly the same
as in Upper Paleolithic burials; the taphonomic profile displays no
resemblance to profiles of natural death assemblages, but does resemble
interment assemblages; and finally, grave good, pits, rock piles, auxiliary
offering deposits and the use of fire in association with burials
constitute strong recurring themes."

I might note that rock piles even had great symbolic significance to the
early patriarchs in the Bible (Genesis 31:46-48; Joshua 4:4-6). Those
stones were symbols and Neanderthals left similar piles near their burials.

I would also point out that there is growing evidence of Neanderthal
religious activities which is also a symbolic activity. At Bruniquel,
France, Neanderthals went deep into a cave (which would require artificial
lighting) built a square structure and burned a bear on it. There is
little that can explain this behavior except religion (Bednarik 1996,
p.104; Balter, 1996, p. 449). There is also the case of a Neanderthal skull
which was carved into a drinking cup. This also has symbolic implications.
( )


Remembering that Chatelperronian sites were made by Neanderthal, Wilcox's
assertion that there is no evidence of graving tools can be dismissed with
a single quotation. Fagan (1990, p. 148) says of Arcy-sur-Cure--the
Neanderthal site:

"The Chatelperronian levels were between 16 and 30 in (45-75 cm) thick.
They contained many flakes made on Levallois cores, Middle Paleolithic side
scrapers and triangular points, also notched and saw-edged flakes. But, at
the same time, new elements appeared, including classic Chatelperron
points, Upper Paleolithic end scrapers and rare burins (a type of engraving

Neanderthals had graving tools. Period.

I ran across this last night in a book I read several years ago. I had
failed to notice this earlier. Birdsell (1972, p. 283) provides the
evidence for Neanderthal clothing and sewing. He writes of Combe Grenal
which dates (115,000 years ago):

"In the Mousterian horizon of Combe Grenal, Professor Francois Bordes has
recovered bone needles, indicating beyond doubt that classic Neanderthal
men made tailored fur clothing. The severity of the periglacial climate
would not have permitted men to survive unless they were capable of making
sophisticated clothing."


In spite of the fact that many modern humans today do not have permanent
settlements and thus this requirement is irrelevant to spiritual
accountability, the fact is that Neanderthals DID have permanent
settlements. Mellars notes (1996, p. 55)

"The point is that by locating settlements or hunting locations directly
astride these major migration trails it was possible for human groups to
intercept animal populations deriving from relatively large territories
within southwestern France - i.e. the combined summer and winter ranges- at
a single location."


Neanderthals moved material across the landscape for long distances
probably further than any individual actually walked. At Schweinskopf,
Germany, Roebroeks et al (1988, p. 19) note:

"At this last site, flink flakes imported from the 'Maas flint' area more
than 100 kilometers from the site were found in association with debris of
local quartz and quartzite materials. (The distances mentioned here and in
the rest of this paper are all measured as the crow flies.)."

They go on to note that some lithic material traveled up to 300 kilometers
across Neanderthal Europe. (Roebroeks et al, 1988, p. 30). And someone, 200
thousand years ago carried a stone tool 193 kilometers from Tisbury to
Swanscombe England. Oakley (1981, p. 209-211) wrote:

"There is only one location in Britain where coral-bearing chert containing
Pseudodiplocaenia oblonga is known to occur, namely the Portlandian beds
outcropping at Tisbury in Wiltshire, about 120 miles (193 km) from


While this ends Wilcox's list it is not the end of Neanderthal cultural
remains. Christians can no longer state that Neanderthal was not human
without seriously ignoring the anthropological and archaeological data. If
old-earth creationists, accept the verdict of science that the universe is
old, why do we have such problem accepting that Neanderthal was actually a
human? Is it because of our theological preconceptions? And if it is
because of this, why is this different from what the young-earth
creationists do when they reject the data of geology on the basis that it
conflicts with their theological preconceptions?


Bahn, Paul G., 1998, "Neanderthals Emancipated," Nature 394:719-720

Balter, Michael, 1996, "Cave Structure Boosts Neandertal Image", Science,
271, p. 449

Bednarick, Robert G., 1996, "Neanderthal News," The Artefact 1996, 19:104

Birdsell, J. B., 1972, Human Evolution, (St. Louis: Rand McNally).

Dickson, D. Bruce, 1990. The Dawn of Belief, (Tuscon: The University of
Arizona Press).

Fagan, Brian M., 1990, The Journey From Eden, (London: Thames and Hudson).

Frayer David W., and Antra Montet-White,, 1989, "Comments" Current
Anthropology, 30:2, p. 180

Gargett, Robert H., 1989, "Grave Shortcomings," Current Anthropology,
30:2, pp 157-190

Hayden Brian, 1993, "The Cultural Capacities of Neandertals", Journal of
Human Evolution,, 24:113-146.

Hublin, Jean-Jacques, Fred Spoor, Marc Braun F. Zonnenveld and Silvana
Condemi, 1996, "A Late Neanderthal Associated with Upper Palaeolithic
Artefacts," Nature, 381:224-226

Marshack, Alexander, 1976, "Some Implications of the Paleolithic Symbolic
Evidence for the Origin of Language," Current Anthropology, 17:2.

Marshack, Alexander, "Early Hominid Symbol and Evolution of the Human
Capacity," in Paul Mellars, editor, The Emergence of Modern Humans,
(Ithica: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), pp 457-498.

Mellars, Paul, 1996, The Neanderthal Legacy, (Princeton: University Press).

Oakley, K. P., 1981, "Emergence of Higher Thought 3.0-0.2 Ma B.P.", Phil.
Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B, 292, 205-211

Roebroeks, Wil, Jan Kolen and Eelco Rensink, 1988, "Planning Depth,
anticipation and the organization of Middle Palaeolithic Technology: The
'Archaic Natives' Meet Eve's Descendants," Helinium XXVIII/1, pp 17-34

Ross, Hugh, 1993, Creation and Time, (Colorado Springs: NavPress).

Ross, Hugh Ross, 1995, "Link with Neanderthals Cut by Computer," Facts &
Faith, 9:3, 3rd Qtr. 1995.

Shreeve, James, 1995. "The Neanderthal Peace," Discover. Sept.

Stringer, Chris, and Clive Gamble,1993, In Search of the Neanderthals, (New
York: Thames and Hudson)

Tattersall Ian,, 1993, The Human Odyssey, (New York: Prentice Hall)

Tattersall, Ian, 1998, Becoming Human, (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company).

Wilcox, David L., 1996, "Adam, Where Are You? Changing Paradigms in
Paleoanthropology," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith , 48:2(
June 1996), pp. 88-96


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