O. M. G. !!!!!!!!!!
R. O. L. M. F. A. O. !!!!!!!!!!!!
Available online today!
Journal of Human Evolution
‘Modeling Neanderthal clothing using ethnographic analogues,’ Nathan Wales. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.08.006
In the first place, when I saw the title announced I expected to see a parade of plough pullers on a catwalk. But I gave my head a shake the minute I clicked on the link. It was JHE. I knew it was the kind of modelling that always makes me nervous, whether or not there’s a stick of a justification for doing it at all.
Jeebuz. And to think I was getting a little depressed because it’s been a while since anything really worth biting on came over the transom. Well. This is it! This is the jackpot! This…is delicious. I could take this apart on soooooooo many levels. But I’ll spare you, just for now.
My first response is to shower JHE with expletives. I always new those guys were Very Serious Scientists. But I had no idea. This paper takes archaeological science completely out of the ground, pumps it up with hot air, let’s it go, and whaddayaknow, it floats. Okay. Okay. I know. I shouldn’t be so hard on them. After all, they clearly have no inkling of the degrees of separation between the theoretical space in which Nathan Wales exists and any theoretical framework that resides in reality. Did I imagine it? Did I not live through a time in archaeological thought when [archaeologists actually thought] Middle Range Theory, philosophy of science, and reality coincided on a sensible approach to inference making? Diane. Help !@&*
At best this is a ‘thinking’ paper. A ‘what if’ scenario. You might even call it a momentary lapse of sanity. At worst, it’s a thinly veiled attempt on the part of JHE’s referees to publish anything that aims to reify yet another category of presumed Neanderthal behaviour–in this case, making clothing. There is not a shred of evidence. Not a shred. [heh, heh. Just realized I made a bad pun.] There’s less than a fragment. There’s not just an emperor without any clothes. There’s no damned Emperor!
Analogy. *catches his breath* Analogical reasoning depends for its veracity on the linkages between the object under examination and the objects being used as the source of hypotheses as to how things might have been. Show. Me. The. Linkages.
No. Wait. I’ve just found the linkages. Wales isn’t suggesting that the Neanderthals made clothes, he’s arguing that the traditional societies supplying the ethnographic analogues are, in fact, modern Neanderthals. Else, why could he use them against which to compare the ‘modelled’ Neanderthal fashions. It’s inherently racist. It’s obscene [even if you ignore the vapid referees]. Show me where I’m exaggerating!
Indeed, the corollary implicit in Wales’s paper compels me to ask, why should anyone accept the premise that modern humans are anything like the Neanderthals? ‘If they build it Neanderthals will come,’ is the best answer I can come up with. I’m beginning to think that the weight of the so called-evidence supporting a modernized view of the Neanderthal cognitive abilities is so damned heavy that there’s no getting out from under it. I might as well fold up the tent and steal away into the night.
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