Jewelry among modern humans

From: Glenn Morton (
Date: Fri Feb 22 2002 - 23:32:18 EST

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    RTB's Connections has an article in the 1st quarter issue reporting on
    Steven Kuhn's "Ornamets of the Earliest Upper Paleolithic: Proc. Natl. Acad.
    Sci. USA 98(2001):7641-7646. The RTB article is Fazele R. Rana, “A
    Fashionable Find,” Connections, 4(2002):1:2,3. It states:

    "The earliest humans appear to have been absorbed with making jewelry.
    Ornamental shells far outnumber shells used for food in the earliest
    geological layers investigated.
            “This discovery indicates that artistic expression and the use of symbolic
    language belong inherently and uniquely to humanity. Bipedal primates
    preceding modern humans lacked such capabilities."

    As usual, they get their facts totally wrong and/or ignore other
    anthropological data which doesn't fit in with their viewpoint. If, as Rana
    says, Jewelry is a mark of humanity, then Neanderthals are human. Hublin et
    al write:

    "The French site of Arcy-sur-Cure is a key locality in
    documenting the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe.
    Reliable attributrion of the fragmentary hominid fossils
    associated with its early Upper Paleolithic Chatelperronian
    industry has not been possible. Here we report the first
    conclusive identification of one of these fossils as Neanderthal
    on the basis of newly discovered derived features of the bony
    labyrinth. Dated at about thirty-four thousand years (34 kyr)
    ago, the fossil is representative of the youngest known
    Neanderthal populations, and its archaeological context indicates
    that these hominids used a rich bone industry as well as personal
    ornaments. The evidence supports the hypothesis of a long term
    coexistence with technocultural interactions between the first
    modern humans and the last Neanderthals in Europe. However, the
    complete absence of the derived Neanderthal traits in labryinths
    of modern Upper Palaeolithic specimens from western Europe argues
    against phylogenetic continuity between the two populations in
    this region." ~ Jean-Jacques Hublin, Fred Spoor, Marc Braun
    F.Zonnenveld and Silvana Condemi, "A Late Neanderthal Associated
    with Upper Palaeolithic Artefacts," Nature, 381: May 16, 1996, p. 224

    Hublin believed that the Neanderthals traded with Cro-magnon for the
    necklace but Joao Xilhao et al demonstrated the the Arcy-sur-Cure necklace
    was manufactured by techniques unique to this specimen, thus they were not
    due to the techniques used by Cromagnon. Braineard wrote:

            "These ideas are disputed by Joao Xilhao of the University of
    Lisbon in Portugal and his French colleagues in the June CURRENT
    ANTHROPOLOGY. They analyzed other ornaments and tools from the cave
    that yielded the 1996 discovery, the Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-
    Cure, near Auxerre, France.
            "They argue that Neandertals probably made Chatelperronian-
    style ornaments at Arcy-sur-Cure, using methods and materials quite
    different from those of the Aurignacian style attributed to modern
    humans." ~ Jeffrey Brainard, "Giving Neandertals Their Due," Science
    News 154(Aug. 1, 1998), p. 72-74, p. 72

            "Hublin et al, cite Lejeune and Taborin to stress the
    similarity between the Chatelperronian personal ornaments of Arcy
    and those found in the Aurgnacian layers of Belgian and French
    sites. The technique of grooving the tooth or the bivalve's umbo,
    very commmon in the Arcy Chatelperronian, is unknown, however, among
    the 121 teeth of the nine Belgian sites which have yielded
    Aurignacian pendants. Also, according to Taborin's survey of the
    evidence, the belemnite and the fossil Rhynchonella shell used at
    Arcy have never been found in an Aurignacian context. Although the
    use of fox canines is indeed a shared feature, bovid, marmot, and
    reindeer incisors and fragments of rhinoceros molars, used at Arcy,
    are absent in the Belgian sample. Even when the same species is
    used, differences appear in the choice of the teeth. The
    Chatelperronians from Arcy made pendants of bear incisors and wolf
    canines, while the Belgian Aurignacians preferred bear canines and
    wolf incisors.
            "The only possible point of similarity would be the ivory
    rings. Before interpreting these as evidence of imitation or
    exchange, as suggested by White and Otte, one should bear in mind
    that this raw material was worked at Arcy, as demonstrated by the
    long ivory point (possibly a spear) recovered in level Xc and by the
    many thin points discussed above. This means that the
    Chatelperronians from Arcy had the technical ability to produce
    ivory rings. A similar object, apparently produced with a different
    technique, was recently found at the Roche-au-Loup cave, a few
    kilometers from the Grotte du Renne. Though the object comes from a
    reworked layer, this site has revealed a single Chatelperronian
    occupation, dated to ca. 40,000 years B.P. Given the in situ
    condition of the arcy material, this new find makes it clear that
    trading is the least parsimonious explanation for the presence of
    such rings in Chatelperronian contexts.
            "Furthermore, it should be noted that all other ivory rings
    traditionally attributed to the Aurignacian come from old
    excavations at the sites of Spy, Grotte de la Princesse, and Trou
    Magritte (Belgium). At Spy the layer in which they were found
    contained a mixture of Mousterian, Aurignacian, and 'initial Upper
    Paleolithic with foliate points' (the chronological equivalent of
    the Chatelperronian in France and the Uluzzian in Italy). At Trou
    Magritte, the ivory ring was found in layer 3 and was attributed to
    the Aurignacian on the basis of its similarity to the one from Spy.
    The layer in question was reexcavated recently. Its radiocarbon
    dating indicated an age of ca. 40,000 years B. P., but it yielded a
    nondiagnostic lithic assemblage hardly classifiable as Aurignacian,
    dominated by Mousterian elements and in all likelihood corresponding
    to an oxygene-isotope stage 3 mixed context identical to that from
    Spy." ~ Francesco d'Errico, et al, "Neanderthal Acculturation in
    Western Europe? Current Anthropology, Supplement, 39(1998):1-44, p.

    Eventually Hublin agreed that Neanderthals had skill in working ivory

            "Hublin is now ready to accept that Neanderthals possessed
    'some' skill in bone and ivory technology. Our analysis of the Arcy
    bone artifacts and the more refined study of this material that
    three of us (Baffier, d'Errico, and Julien) are currently carrying
    out confirms the high level of complexity in the technical choices
    made--a complexity that does not appear to be in any way
    qualitatively different from that observed in more recent periods.
    Here again we see an a priori against Neanderthals cognitive
    abilities." ~ Francesco d'Errico, et al, "Reply," Francesco
    d'Errico, et al, "Neanderthal Acculturation in Western Europe?
    Current Anthropology, Supplement, 39(1998):1-44, p. 34

    But this isn't all. THere are other examples of Neanderthal Jewelry:

            "Much of what is called 'parure' (jewellery) belongs in this
    category--ie fossils, teeth, shells or bones which have been
    incised, sawn or perforated. Such techniques are by no means
    restricted to the Upper Palaeolithic: a growing number of
    specimens are known from the preceding (Mousterian) period, and
    can therefore be attributed to Neanderthalers: two bones (a wolf
    foot-bone and a swan vertebra), with holes bored through the top,
    from Bocksteinschmiede (Germany), dating to c 110,000 years ago;
    a carved and polished segment of mammoth molar, and a fossil
    nummulite with a line engraved across it (making a cross with a
    natural crack), from Tata (Hungary), dating to c 100,000 years
    ago; a bone fragment from Pech de l'Aze (Dordogne), with a hole
    carved in it; a reindeer phalange with a hole bored through its
    top, and a fox canine with an abandoned attempt at perforation,
    from La Quina (Charente). As will be seen below, other forms of
    'aesthetic expression' are also known from the Mousterian.
            "The earliest phase of the French Upper Palaeolithic, known
    as the Chatelperronian (c 35,000 BC), has yiedled a few more
    examples: the best known are those from the cave of Arcy-sur-Cure(Yonne).
    These levels at the site also contained a
    Neanderthal tooth; in view of the discovery of a Neanderthal
    skeleton in a Chatelperronian layer at St Cesaire (Charente
    Maritime), it is more than likely that the earliest Arcy
    ornaments can be attributed to Neanderthal craftsmanship. They
    include wolf and fox canines made into pendants by incising a
    groove around the top, at least one sawn reindeer incisor, a
    bone-fragment with a wide carved hole, a sea fossil with a hole
    bored through its centre, and a fossil shell with a groove cut
    around the top.
            "The next layer at Arcy, representing the Aurignacian (c
    30,000 BC), has material which features the same techniques,
    clearly drawing on what had been developing for millennia:
    perforated fossils, a bone pendant with a wide carved hole, and
    so forth. Even older Aurignacian sites, such as the cave of
    Bacho Kiro in Bulgaria (over 41,000 BC), contain perforated
    animal-tooth pendants." ~ Paul G. Bahn and Jean Vertut, Images in
    the Ice, (Leichester: Windward, 1988), p. 72

    In the Foreward to a book produced by the BBC, Christopher Stringer writes:

    "There is also some evidence of 'advanced' behaviour by
    late Neanderthals, behaviour that has sometimes been
    thought exclusive to modern humans ű such as the
    exploitation of marine resources (excavations in Gibraltar
    show that over 50,000 years ago their diet included baked
    mussels, as well as birds, wild goat, deer and rabbit), and
    the working of bone and mammoth ivory to make jewelry." Chris
    Stringer, "Foreward," in Douglas Palmer, Neanderthal, (London:
    Channel 4 Books, 2000), p. 7

    not only in bone and antler, but in ivory as well. The
    Neanderthals perforated animal teeth and made grooved ornaments,
    but the Cro-Magnons with their superior technology achieved much
    greater ornamental sophistication, which played a central role in
    their social and ritual life." ~ Brian Fagan, The Journey From
    Eden, London: Thames and Hudson, 1990, p.160

    And Neanderthals made flutes and whistles. To claim that they were merely
    bipedal mammals as Ross and Rana do is simply silly and totally ignores
    data. When are these apologists going to at least tell their supporters the
    anthropological facts?


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