2002 Paleoanthropology abstracts

From: Glenn Morton (glenn.morton@btinternet.com)
Date: Sun Jan 06 2002 - 19:47:47 EST

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    The 2002 meeting abstracts of the Palaeoanthropology Society are now out.
    The papers that caught my eye cover the following issues.

    The last Neanderthal in the Caucasus
    Neanderthal symbolic abilities
    More information on the genetic continuity between Neanderthals and modern
    Technological inventiveness of the earliest toolmakers at 2.5 myr ago
    Evidence for an extremely early hominid migration out of Africa
    The earlist out of Africa H. erectus
    A chimpanzee stone tool archaeological site
    A novel thought that hunting indicates symbolic thought
    Neanderthal fishing and exploitation of the environment
    The age of the original Neanderthal

    The data contained here has implications for fossil man, his intelligence,
    his humanity. As such, it needs to be incorporated in any apologetic. I
    would refer anyone to my web site
    http://www.glenn.morton.btinternet.co.uk/dmd.htm for information on fossil
    man and his place in apologetics.

    I will separate the topics by ----, the abstracts by ****begin*** and the
    comments and asterisks or mark short quotes by quotation marks.
     D. S. Adler, N. Tushabramishvili, and G. Bar-Oz,"The latest Neandertals of
    the southern Caucasus: new dates and new data from Ortvale Klde, the
    Georgian Republic" This reports on the last known Neanderthals in the
    Caucasus. They lasted there until 35,000 years ago. Based solely on tool
    type, the authors conclude that the Neanderthals were abruptly replaced.
    There is no report of Neanderthal bones at this site and until there is, one
    can't rule out that anatomically modern man made the earlier stones. Prior
    to 35,000 years, Neanderthals and modern humans made identical tools. See
    Garraldo and Vandermeersch below.

    An interesting paper will be presented at the Paleoanthropological Society
    meeting in Denver. It presents evidence for similarity in symbolic behavior
    between Neanderthals and modern humans. Most authorities believe that the
    use of body paint as a cultural symbol is an indication of symbolic
    thinking. Thus to find that there is little difference in the use of such
    pigments between Neanderthal sites and those of modern humans should
    indicate that Neanderthals, like us, were capable of social and cultural

    ****Beginning of d'Errico and Soressi abstract*****
    Systematic use of manganese pigment by Pech-de-l’Azé Neandertals:
    implications for the origin of behavioral modernity

    F. d'Errico and M. Soressi
    Institut de Préhistoire et de Géologie du Quaternaire, UMR 5808 du CNRS,
    Université Bordeaux I, Avenue des Facultés, Bat. B 18, 33405 Talence cedex,

    The systematic use of pigment is generally considered evidence for symbolic
    thinking and a hallmark of behavioral modernity. In recent years, the
    observed increase in the number of ochre pieces during the MSA has been
    used, along with other discerned changes in African hominid lifestyle, to
    support the hypothesis that modern cognitive abilities gradually arose in
    Africa in conjunction with the biological changes that mark the origin of
    our species. Neandertals are seen from this perspective as unable to fully
    develop symbolic behaviors in an autonomous way. Some aspects of their
    material culture, potentially symbolic in nature, are interpreted as
    resulting from long-distance cultural diffusion or contact with AMH migrants
    at the end of the Middle Paleolithic.

    Although pigments, mostly manganese dioxides, are reported from at least 15
    Mousterian sites in Europe, little is known about pigment use by
    Neandertals. Our analysis of the unpublished collection of 250 specimens of
    pigment found by F. Bordes at the Mousterian of Acheulean tradition site of
    Pech-de-l'Azé I demonstrates that Neandertal use of black pigment does not
    differ significantly from that known from MSA sites. The majority of these
    pigments clearly bear modification and use traces, namely scraping marks
    and, more frequently, single or multiple facets produced by rubbing against
    a soft material. Some pieces appear intentionally shaped into pointed
    crayons. Microscopic analysis of the worn tips and experimental
    reproduction of the traces suggest that they were used to draw linear
    designs. Two pieces bear an engraved abstract pattern produced with a
    lithic point.

    In sum, early pigment use is not a peculiar feature of early AMH, and
    Neandertal production of pigment seems to contradict the popular single
    species model for the origin of behavioral modernity. Very close species
    may behave similarly and, in the case of our close ancestors, our shared
    features probably include many of the traits we have considered our
    *****end D'Errico and Soressi abstract**
    Another paper discusses physical and genetic continuity between Neanderthals
    and modern men. The teeth of those who are called early anatomically modern
    humans, are indistinguishable from those of neanderthal!

    ***begining of abstract************
    -Neanderthal or modern human? The enigma of some Archaic and Early
    Aurignacian remains from southwestern Europe

    M. D. Garralda and B. Vandermeersch
    U. D. de Antropología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense de
    Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria, 28040 Madrid, Spain

    Numerous and important archeological sites from southwestern Europe are
    dated to the late Middle Paleolithic or the beginning of the Early Upper
    Paleolithic. Absolute and chronostratigraphic dates place them around 40.000
    BP, with an overlapping period ranging from ca. 45.000 to 35.000 BP. Only a
    few of these sites have yielded human remains assigned to the late
    Mousterian, the Chatelperronian, the Archaic and Early Aurignacian and the
    Uluzzian. With the probable exceptions of the fossils assigned to the first
    two cultures, the other remains are fragmentary and their allocation to
    Neanderthals or to modern humans is highly problematic. Furthermore, in the
    past their interpretation was conditioned by the assumption that “…if humans
    are associated with Upper Paleolithic tools,… they must have been modern
    humans”. This dictum, no longer valid, has been clearly disproved by the
    Saint Césaire discovery.

    Among these enigmatic remains, several were found in different French sites
    (e.g., La Ferrassie Grand Abri, Les Rois, Isturitz…); while others were
    discovered in Southern Italy (Cavallo) and in Northern Spain, at El Castillo
    Cave (old and new excavations). In these specimens numerous archaic
    morphological characteristics are found on the fragmentary mandibles and
    teeth. In addition, our review of dental dimensions demonstrates that these
    earliest Upper Paleolithic humans fall within the Neanderthal range of
    variation. In our opinion, it is impossible to identify these fossils
    unambiguously as Neanderthal or modern. However, we note that if most of
    these specimens had been discovered in Mousterian layers, they would have
    been unquestionably designated as Neanderthals. Our study complements others
    which have shown evidence for continuity (or the blurring of taxonomic
    features) across the Mousterian/Upper Palaeolithic divide.

    ******end of abstract***********
    One fascinating paper on the earliest stone tools has strong implications
    for the intelligence of these hominids 2.5 million years ago. Often the
    earliest stone tool makers are portrayed as making their tools simply as an
    outgrowth of some sort of genetic program, with little thinking. Stephen
    Mithen is one advocate of this view:

            "I believe that Early Humans experienced the type of consciousness when
    making their stone tools that we experience when driving a car while engaged
    in conversation with a passenger. We finish the journey with no memory of
    the roundabouts, traffic lights and other hazards we negotiated and appear
    to have passed safely through these without thinking about driving at all.
    as Daniel Dennett has remarked, while this type of driving is often
    described as a classic case of 'unconscious perception and intelligent
    action', it is in fact a case of 'rolling consciousness with swift memory
    loss'." ~ Steven Mithen, The Prehistory of the Mind, (New York: Thames and
    Hudson, 1996), p. 148

    However, technological creativity is not compatible with this view and that
    is precisely what some new discoveries at Hadar, Ethiopia show. The abstact

    "While the Hadar assemblages resemble in their typological composition those
    from Gona (Semaw, 2000; Semaw et al. 1997) and from West Turkana (Roche et
    al. 1999), they exhibit a different combination of techniques of core
    reduction than those seen in these broadly contemporaneous sites. " E.
    Hover et al Late Pliocene archaeological sites in Hadar, Ethiopia," Abstract
    Paleoanthropology Society 2002

    What this says is that they used different techniques to manufacature their
    tools even this early on! That requires THINKING.
    Dmanisi, Georgia continues to provide surprises. This is the site of the
    earliest European, a Homo ergaster/erectus which dated 1.6 myr ago. D.
    Lordkipanidze and A.Vekua in "A new hominid mandible from Dmanisi (Georgia)
    " note the new mandible may indicate an even earlier migration out of Africa
    than 1.8 myr. They say:

    "D-2600 differs significantly from the mandible described earlier, both in
    terms of its dimensions and the morphology of the corpus and teeth. The
    specific combination of archaic features (characteristic of ancient African
    Homo), together with some signs of relatively advanced evolution, also
    distinguishes it from the mandibles of all other Early and Middle
    Pleistocene hominids. This specimen could support the view that hominid
    migration out of Africa took place even before the dispersal of the Homo
    erectus/ ergaster group and indicates that there was quite possibly more
    than one hominid expansion out of Africa in the Early Pleistocene. "

    There have been some hints of this over the years at various places in China
    etc, but usually these indications have been dismissed.
    Another paper on Dmanisi suggests that there was occupation at the site
    between 1.78 and 1.84 myr. The paper, M. Tappen, R. Ferring, and D.
    Lordkipanidze, "Site formation and taphonomy of the Lower Pleistocene site
    of Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia"
    " New excavations continue to recover fossils, stone tools and manuports
    within sediments with reversed polarity that date to about 1.7 Ma, as well
    as evidence for occupation within the earlier normal sediments, dating to
    between 1.84-1.78 Ma. "

    This means that Homo erectus is found in Europe almost as early as he is
    found in Africa! Dmanisi is as early as the Java erectus which dates
    slightly greater than 1.77 myr. The oldest erectus in Africa is 1.95
    myr.(see Alan Walker and Pat Shipman, The Wisdom of the Bones, (New York:
    Alfred Knopf, 1996), p. 240)
    J. Mercader et al,"Chimpanzee-produced stone assemblages from the tropical
    forests of Taï, Côte d’Ivoire " cites an archaeological excavation of a
    chimpanzee stone tool site in the Cote d'Ivoire. In this part of Africa
    Chimpanzees uses anvil stones to crack open nuts. Occasionally the stones
    break, flaking off tools that look somewhat similar to the earliest stone
    tools in East Africa. It will be interesting to see exacly how similar these
    accidental flakes are to tools when the article is finally published. It is
    certain that some will seize this as evidence of the stupidity, or
    non-humanness, of the early tool makers, but if, as noted above, those early
    tool makers were using different debitage techniques to manufacture their
    tools, this approach won't work.
    One article caused me to think of a novel interpretation of the stone tool
    record which I have not heard before.

    J. O’Connell, K. Hawkes, K. Lupo, and N. Blurton Jones, "Male strategies and
    Plio-Pleistocene archaeology " write:

    "Archaeological data are frequently cited in support of the idea that big
    game hunting drove the evolution of early Homo, mainly through its role in
    offspring provisioning. This argument has been disputed on two grounds: 1)
    ethnographic observations on modern foragers show that although hunting may
    contribute greatly to the annual average diet, it is an unreliable
    day-to-day food source, pursued more for status than subsistence; "

    The thought which struck me in reading the above is that if hunting is
    pursued more for status than for food, that hunting is a symbolic/status
    act. If so, then could it be that the very existence of stone tools,
    evidence for the need to cut meat and hide, is evidence also of the need for
    staus! If so, the manufacture of tools itself could represent the onset of
    symbolic thought.
    Neanderthals were more capable exploiters of the environment than has
    previously been suggested. They were able to exploit fish(species which we
    still fish for today), edible frogs and other resources which had apparently
    been overlooked in earlier excavations. The widespread exploitation of the
    environment requires knowledge and the ability to plan ahead.

    ***********begin abstract of Paunovic and Smith*************
    Taphonomy of lower vertebrates from Vindija cave (Croatia): delicacy on the
    Neandertal table or animal prey?

    M. Paunovic and F.H. Smith

    This study deals with paleontology and taphonomy of lower vertebrates
    collected from the Pleistocene levels of the cave Vindija (NW Croatia)
    ranging in age from OIS 6 to OIS 1. Among 554 recently identified skeletal
    remains the majority belongs to fresh-water fish taxa and amphibians,
    reflecting different micro-habitat requirements but not short- or long-term
    changes in the immediate surroundings of the cave. At the same time,
    analysis of modifications (breakage, digestion) of bones shows a
    homogeneity of patterns for all studied samples which indicate a uniform
    accumulating agent and taphonomic trajectories as well as specific origin of
    the material. The majority of the identified remains belongs to the (also
    today economically, or better to say dietary) prized taxa such as trout,
    pikeperch or edible frog, and was found in sediments together with
    Neandertal bones as well as in association with Mousterian and Aurignacian
    artefacts dated to OIS 3. Thus, in contrast to previous theories of
    long-distance following of herbivores, a territorial model of exploitation
    of all animal sources is more plausible for Middle and Upper Paleolithic
    people, i.e. Neandertals, from Vindija cave.
    ***********end abstract of Paunovic and Smith*************
    In 2000 new searches in the Feldhofer area (the area of the site of the
    original Neanderthal man) found pieces which fit into that 150 year old
    fossil. The abstract says:
    "Direct AMS 14C dating provides age estimates of 39,900 ± 620 BP for the
    type specimen and 39,240 ± 670 BP for the second individual. Mt DNA
    analysis of the second individual has also been conducted. " R.W. Schmitz,
    G. Bonani, and F.H. Smith New research at the Neandertal type site in the
    Neander Valley of Germany , 2002 Paleoanthropology Society meeting.

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