Re: mtDNA Eve and the determination of humanity

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Date: Thu Feb 23 2006 - 08:00:02 EST

This is a continuation of my previous post. But it appears I must split it into 3. There must be some length limit.
***begin quotation from Adam, Apes and Anthropology by Glenn Morton*****
If this is true, that Neanderthal man constructed rectangular stone pits and placed bear skulls in them, then a reappraisal of a discovery earlier this century is in order. If Neanderthal engaged in this type of activity at 80,000 years ago, then there is absolutely no reason to believe that he was unable to do this 70,000 years ago. The discovery at Drachenloch, in the Swiss Alps, has been discounted by many authorities for over half a century.  The reader needs to be aware of this rejection by the majority, but by no means all, of archaeologists before we discuss this find. F. Clark Howell,58 J. M. Coles and E. S. Higgs59 accepted Drachenloch as did Lissner. As is the case with most of the archeological discoveries early in the twentieth century, there are problems of documentation that are validly problematical.  Besides, the standards of scientific control were less stringent during this early period and this applied to every other excavation.  The problems at Drachenloch have been used as a basis for the rejection of the conclusion, when at other equally early and equally problematical sites the conclusions are not questioned.  Drachenloch, if true, sheds  a fascinating light on the religious aspects of Neanderthal and the problems of ideas born before their time.
            In 1911, Marcellin Boule published a four part monograph on the La Chapelle-aux‑Saints skeleton which was destined to securely fix him as one of the leading anthropologists and to distort the view of Neanderthal for many years to come.  Boule had painted a picture of Neanderthal in which he was apish, stooped, slow-witted and shuffling.  Pictures drawn in the popular press at the time show an extremely hairy, vicious, animal-like creature.  This was not the sort of creature to which one would attribute any spirituality.  This picture, drawn by Boule, ignored the fact that the skeleton he had studied was preserved through the ages largely because it had been intentionally  buried.  Among modern primitive peoples, burial is always associated with a belief in an afterlife.60 This is a religious belief, not something that would be expected from the sort of creature that Boule described. Boule's view also ignored the fact that the cranial capacity of the Neanderthal was equal to or greater than ours. Yet the people in the early twentieth century preferred an apish view of Neanderthal.
            Emil Bachler reported on his excavations at the cave at Drachenloch in 1921.  What he reported certainly did not fit into the picture of Neanderthal which had just been published ten years earlier by Marcellin Boule.61 Bachler believed that Drachenloch was a sacrificial or ritual site for Neanderthal man. Bachler had found a cave situated  7335 feet above sea-level.  Bachler claimed that his workmen found a rectangular stone cyst or pit with seven cave bear skulls piled up. Cave bears are unusually large as Figure 13 shows.  A second stone chest held the leg bones of the animals.  He gave inconsistent information on which direction the skulls were facing.  He claimed to have found Mousterian flint tools and fireplaces. He claimed that ancient man had carried the cave bear bones up to that height and left them there. He claimed to have found bones aligned in peculiar patterns.  His critics would have nothing to do with this. Today this cave is high on a rocky mountain with no trees at that level.62 In Figure 14,  the white dots lead up to Drachenloch.  figure 14
           Over the last 20 years, as archaeology has downplayed the abilities of both Homo erectus and Neanderthal, Drachenloch has been forgotten. Bednarik tells of this denigration,
            "After the Neanderthals were recognized as a hominid group almost 140 years ago, they were initially considered to be brutish, primitive and rather ape-like creatures, an opinion prompted by deformed skeletal remains, evolutionary paradigms and inadequate reconstructions.  During the twentieth century, their position on the ladder of evolutionary recognition improved gradually, culminating in the pronouncements relating to finds in Teshik Tash (Tadjikisthan) and Shanidar Cave (Iraq).  But in the 1970s and 1980s came a skeptical reaction and the human status of the Neanderthals waned in response to a change in archaeological fashion.  During the reign of the 'New Archaeology' it became popular to question all of their hard-earned cultural and cognitive capacities, and the most daring critics of previous work suggest that  the Neanderthals had no art, hence could not have had any language, and really belonged to the apes rather than the humans."63
Drachenloch is rarely mentioned in the anthropological literature today, and in those in where it is mentioned it is always quickly dismissed. If Neanderthal was merely a scavenger, someone totally unlike us, then any evidence of his religious activity was ignored. The reasons given by anthropologists for the rejection of Drachenloch by the anthropological community are a study in sloppy scholarship. Bruce Dickson wrote:
"However, recent comparative analysis of similar bone material from cave bear sites that were never occupied by hominids has led Kurten (1976:83-107) to the conclusion that Drachenloch was never anything but a cave-bear lair and Bachler's piles of cave-bear 'trophy heads' probably accumulated naturally in it without  human agency.  Binford (1983), studying bone attrition and patterns of bone accumulation by both modern people and animals, rejects Bachler's Neanderthal cave-bear cult hypothesis for similar reasons."64
Dickson's reference to Binford's 1983 In Pursuit of the Past, is quite interesting.  Dickson makes it sound like  Binford reports on a study of the Drachenloch bones in this book,  but this is not true. A glance at Binford's index reveals no references to Drachenloch, Bachler or a study of the taphonomy of bones in a cave!. There is only one reference to bear on page 55.  On that page Binford talks about how grizzly bears destroyed some of his experimental wolf kill sites.  There is nothing on Drachenloch or cave bears.  Dickson has  another book by Binford in his bibliography, Bones, Ancient Men and Modern Myths.65  Thinking that Dickson might have mixed up his references and that this might be the book which had Binford's careful study of Drachenloch, I checked it out. Binford does mention Drachenloch in this book but he provides no study of the material. His only mention of  Drachenloch is part of a review of the lines of reasoning defining human behavior.  He actually never says that he rejects the evidence of religion among the Neanderthals at Drachenloch, although his tone would suggest this.  On page 28 of Binford's Bones: book, he says that all interpretations of bear cults, cannibalism and hunting of elephants by Homo erectus at Torralba, Spain, are unproven because the arguments are circular.  But this is not to say that they are wrong.  When we find a seven-foot-long wooden spear stuck in the ribs of an elephant, as occurred at  Lehringen, Germany in 1950,66   what are we to think, that the elephant grew a spear? While it is true that religious intent can never be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, such a hypothesis is consistent with the evidence.
            Dickson's reference to Kurten was even more enlightening, because while Kurten does indeed reject Drachenloch as evidence of religion among the Neanderthals, he did not actually examine the Drachenloch material. Kurten criticizes what he says are terrible inconsistencies in the Bachler's two published reports on Drachenloch. Bachler published two reports, one in 192167 and one in 1940.68  Kurten points out that the drawings of the cross section of the cave showed crucial differences that he felt invalidated Bachler's conclusions.69 Kurten's criticisms are based upon the cross-sections and are only valid if one assumes that a cross section is supposed to show only those items absolutely cut by the cross section.  Most cross-sections are not so constructed.  A north-south cross-section attempts to show the characteristics of the layers in a north-south direction.  They can include items which are slightly east or west of the plane of the cross section.  Cross sections are used to convey a stratigraphic framework for the deposit and in Bachler's day were not usually used to state precisely the location of each artifact.  While this is modern practice, it was not earlier practice.  Kurten seems to want to hold Bachler, who excavated in the 1910s and 1920s, to the standards required in the 1980s. This is unfair since other early sites are not so criticized.  At Le Moustier, another early archaeological site, a body was excavated, re-buried and re-excavated several times for financial supporters.70 Yet most accept the data from that cave.   Kurten cites the types of problems that plagued all early anthropological sites, even those whose validity have not been questioned. Obviously this makes it easy to attack the validity of what was found under these circumstances.  This is a pervasive problem in the early excavations that were little more than high-minded grave-robbing. Yet archeology will accept this early data if it supports the downplayed view of these ancient men. figure 15
Kurten says that the "1923" picture shows two stone chests, one holding two skulls facing south, the smaller one holding leg bones.71   Kurten points out that the 1940 drawing shows six or seven skulls facing east.  This is true and Bachler hurts his case here.  Kurten also points out that the size of the empty stone chest  in the 1940 drawing is smaller than in the 1921 drawing, although there is no scale on the 1921 drawing. This is somewhat of a nitpick. I measured the height of the two stone chests in both photos.   The ratio of the smaller to the larger is .78 in the 1921 drawing and .72 in the 1940.  The relative widths of the two chests  change from .6 to .5. This is not much of a difference, especially considering the lack of scale in the  1921 drawing. Another nitpick is that Kurten criticizes the shape of the stones in the two drawings.  He further claims that the longbones and skull shown in level IV in the 1921 drawing disappear in the 1940 drawing.  Kurten claims "..the skull in layer IV has vanished."72 This is true, it vanished in the drawing.  Since there is a photograph (plate 16) of the level IV skull in the 1921 report, I would presume that this should be documentation enough for the skull's existence, and for the fact that Bachler didn't presume to make the cross sections show only what cut the plane of the cross section itself.  It should also serve to demolish Kurten's criticism of the vanishing skull.  If Kurten had examined more than the two drawings, he would have seen that photo.  Kurten also criticizes a wall that was drawn differently between the two reports. The area behind the wall contained more bones in the 1940 drawing.  However, there are bones in the same location in the 1921 drawing.
Quotation from Adam, Apes and  Anthroplogy continued in the next post.

Received on Thu Feb 23 08:03:36 2006

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