Re: mtDNA Eve and the determination of humanity

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Thu Feb 23 2006 - 07:45:45 EST

This is long. And, I seem to have trouble getting some emails to go through from here. I sent this this morning and it didn't go through. Lots of my emails don't make it from here. Thus I split this up into two and send it from Yahoo.
  David wrote:
>Glenn, I'm curious about the Neanderthal Cave Bear cult idea. My understanding, which I admit is not even up to the >novice level, is that the idea of a Neanderthal Cave Bear Cult is not widely accepted
>(see e.g.,
>This seems to me to represent part of the problem with archaic hominids. It seems that there simply isn't enough data to >make any definitive conclusions about what they were, which means that any attempt to relate them to the Biblical >narratives is only speculation.
  I would say this about Tattersall. I don't beleive much of what he says. And I know some anthropologists who have told me privately the same. He picks and choses his evidence to support whatever he wants to support and acts as if the contrary data doesn't exist. To my knowledge, he is a museum jockey not an excavator. I have never seen his name on an excavation report.
  First off, you are right that the bear cult is largely rejected (although the most controversial seems to have been talked about in a recent textbook favorably), but, when I read the evidence and the original descriptions of the original excavators, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that there was something going on. And, other sites, like Bruniquel were excavated with modern techniques and have similar evidence. Second thing to remember, one can find people holding all positions in anthro because one can't talk to a Neanderthal now to ask questions of them. In the past 20 years, expecially since anthropology decided that mtDNA defines our species, there has been a tendency to downplay anything the Neanderthals did. ( for the life of me I can't figure out why mtDNA defines our species when one chimp species has 8 times the variation of mtDNA than exists as a difference between modern humans and Neanderthals). One of the most famous derogatory articles was by Gargett w
 claimed to re-examine all the old burials and decided that there was no evidence of intentional burial among the N's
  "Gargett makes a strong case for rejecting a number of skeletons
reported to have been intentionally buried and is most convincing
when discussing sites dug early in the 20th century by less
controlled excavation techniques. He casts his net too far in
rejecting all such reports, however. As Trinkaus notes, Gargett
is unable to explain how a number of Neanderthal skeletons
'managed to be found in highly accessible upper Pleistocene
rockshelters and caves in near-anatomical position and overall
skeletal-part frequencies identical to those of recent cemetery
samples. These partial skeletons retain many fragile elements
largely intact, despite the ubiquitous presence of carcass-
destroying carnivores... and rodents in the vicinities of the
sites, the lack of evidence in most cases for sufficiently rapid
natural sedimentation rates to shield them from scavengers, and
the absence of comparably preserved nonhominid skeletons in
similarly accessible upper Pleistocene locales." ~ D. Bruce
Dickson, The Dawn of Belief, (Tuscon: The University of Arizona
Press, 1990), p. 50
   "Neandertal remains consist of a few more or less well
preserved skeletons and numerous dislocated bones in nonfunery
contexts. Strangely, we observe exactly the same situation
during the middle neolithic in northern France and western
Germany, where no scholar has called into question the sapiens
sapiens nature of the populations concerned. Because he often
confuses ritual and burial, Gargett does not prove anything about
Neandertal behavior." ~ Catherine Farizy and Claude Masset,
"Comments," Current Anthropology, 30:2(April 1989), pp 157-190,
p. 179
  This bone frequency itself says that there was burial
  I wanted this as a back ground because there is a decided bias against anything humanlike for Neanderthals. The levels of proof required are twice as high. A bone flute was found with exactly round holes spaced exactly as a diatonic note scale on flutes made by anatomically modern men and the flute is in precisely the same preservational state as many sapiens made flutes, yet most anthropologists will reject it, one going so far as to say hyaena stomach acid while the bone was in the stomach produced holes exactly like a human made flute. What horsehockey. maybe we should put that hyena to work making flutes.
  Now to your question. One needs to understand that there was a huge circumpolar religion which worshipped the bear which still exists in some places but was everywhere 200 years ago. A bear cub is raised by a village and then as it achieves maturity, it is sacrificed and its remains ritualistically arranged (sometimes it is just a pile of bear skulls.
  "Since a bear's skull contains the most tasty part of the
animal--its brains--and since the leg bones contain the delicious
marrow, the Tungus have always, from very early times, sacrificed
them to their god. When I questioned some Orochi and Manega
about this, they said that they always buried a bear's skeleton
to pacify the animal's soul but that it was an age-old tradition
to place the skull of a slaughtered bear in a tree as a sacrifice
to the supreme god. The practice of laying out the skeleton on a
platform above ground was a form of burial, but the exposure of
the head must have been a form of sacrifice. The Tungus are quite
explicit about this, even today, when they owe allegiance less to
a supreme god than to a 'lord of the forest and mountain.'" ~
Ivars Lissner, Man, God and Magic, (New York: G. P. Putnam's
Sons, 1961), p. 160
      "The Russian scholar B. Zitkov, describing a journey to the
Yamal Peninsula in 1913, refers to a sacrificial mound composed
of polar bear's skulls. He learned that the Samoyeds had been
accumulating bears' skulls on this spot for over a hundred years.
 The Samoyeds' supreme being is called 'Num,' and it was tho this
single deity that the skull sacrifices had been offered. Like
Boa, the god of the Orochi and the Tungus in general, the
Samoyeds' high god is all-embracing. He is earth, sky, the whole
of nature and the universe in its entirety. The fact that the
Samoyeds also recognize numerous spirits does not change their
conception of Num as an invisible being of unequaled sublimity
who loves men and gives them good hunting by dispatching spirits
whom he has entrusted with its bestowal." ~ Ivars Lissner, Man,
God and Magic, (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1961), p. 165
  The method of death varies a bit but very similar things were seen among the earliest modern humans in Europe. Montespan is an old modern human site (upper paleolithic)
   "The Ainus and Gilyaks kill a bear by shooting it through
the heart or lungs iwth an arrow. The wounded bear depicted in
the cave of Trois-freres is spewing blood from its snout and
muzzle. The Gilyaks stone a bear before killing it. Small ovals
on the bear picture in the Trois-Freres cave show where stones
are striking the body.
 "The Ainus shoots a bear with blunt arrows before putting it
out of its misery. The bear sculpture of Montespan exibits
indentations made by arrows of this type or other weapons. The
gilyaks hand the skin of a dead bear on a framework. The same
applies to the bear sculpture of Montespan." ~ Ivar Lissner, Man,
God and Magic, (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1961), p. 242
  Regourdou is a site which is easy to reject because it is old, but here seems to be the facts, from Groves (a guy I know) who is not entirely a fan of bear cults
  "At Regourdou, a rectangular pit covered with a large stone slab
was found which contained the skulls of at least 20 cave bears.
A complete bear skeleton as well as an incomplete Neanderthal one
was found nearby. This find has been considered an example of a
Neanderthal bear cult, a form of cult that has been practiced
until recently by many arctic peoples. The circumstances
surrounding the find are unclear, though, and today many experts
feel dubious about this interpretation." Colin Groves, "The
Neanderthals," in Goren Burenhult, ed. The First Humans, (San
Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), p. 72-73
  Ok, how does a series of rock falls from the roof of a cave result in a stone lined pit in which the pit has small stones around the edges of the pit? There was a 1 ton stone originally on top of this pit, the bears and humans inside and so, if that one ton stone fell and killed 20 bears and a neanderthal, one has a real problem. First I would expect it would be a bit uncomfortable for a Neanderthal to be in a cave with 20 huge cave bears. Secondly, you have to beleive that miraculously all the skeletons which belonged to the bears disappeared entirely. Probabilities don't support an accidental arrangement in my mind. If someone can explain the above accidentally with a fairly high level of probability, then I would be delighted to hear it.
  Drachenloch is a fascinating site which is quite controversial, but it made a recent Anthro text to the surprise of many anthropologists
   "The most famous example of what has been claimed to be
Neandertal hunting magic is the so-called bear cult. It came to
light when a German archaeologist, Emil Bachler, excavated the
cave of Drachenloch between 1917 and 1923. Located 8,000 ft
(2,400 m) up in the Swiss Alps, this 'lair of the dragons'
tunnels deep into a mountainside. The front part of the cave,
Bachler's work made clear, served as an occasional dwelling place
for Neandertals. Farther back, Bachler found a cubical chest made
of stones and measuring approximately 3.25 ft (1 m) on a side.
The top of the chest was covered by a massive slab of stone.
Inside were seven bear skulls, all apparently arranged with their
muzzles facing the cave entrance. Still deeper in the cave were
six bear skulls, seemingly set in niches along the walls. The
Drachenloch find is not unique. At Regourdou in southern France,
a rectangular pit, covered by a flat stone weighing nearly a ton,
held the bones of more than 20 bears." ~ Bernard G. Campbell and
James D. Loy, Humankind Emerging, (New York: HarperCollins,
1996), p. 441
  I got the original german papers and had them translated. I for one think there is a case to be made for Drachenloch, especially after the discovery of Bruniquel, a 47,000 year old site. This is from my site:
  The fact that 30,000 years ago man was apparently worshipping the bear lends credence to the next oldest probable religious site. Except this one was built by Neanderthal. At Bruniquel, France, archeologists have excavated a square stone structure dating to more than 47,000 years ago (prior to the advent of modern man in Europe) in which the Neanderthals burned a bear. Bednarik (1996, p. 104) writes:

"The cave of Bruniquel in southern France has just produced fascinating new evidence. Several hundred metres in from the cave entrance, a stone structure has been discovered. It is quadrilineal, measures four by five metres and has been constructed from pieces of stalagmite and stalactite. A burnt fragment of a bear bone found in it was radiocarbon analysed, yielding a 'date' of greater than 47 600 years BP. This suggests that the structure is the work of Neanderthals. It is located in complete darkness, which proves that the people who ventured so deep into the large cave system had reliable lighting and had the confidence to explore such depths. Bruniquel is one of several French caves that became closed subsequent to their Pleistocene use, but were artificially opened this century."

This appears to have been the ritual sacrifice of a bear. It is also the first proof that man went deep into caves long before they painted the walls. (Balter, 1996, p. 449)
  This is a modern site, excavated with modern techniques. To reject it means that one has to beleive that stalacties and stalagmites fell in a square pattern around a burned bear. (natural fires are quite difficult deep in a cave. I feel certain someone ,someday, in order to avoid having to admit Neanderthals did anything remotely human, will say a bear caught fire outside and fled into the dark cave and died in the midst of a highly improbable arrangment of stalagtites laid out in a square) To me, this site excavated with modern techniques obligates a re-examination of Drachenloch. I want you to notice that I do not hide the controversy from my readers. That is something people like Tattersall do and it burns me. (see part two)

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Received on Thu Feb 23 07:47:17 2006

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