Archaeological Zombies Won’t Stay Dead! Neanderthal Burial at Sima de las Palomas, España

I’m tryin’ ta figger out whether or not I’m playing a metaphorical game of Whack-a-Mole. I suppose I could be trapped in an endless loop in The Night of the Living Dead. “These things are sent to try us,” my agnostic Dad used to say. My gut tells me to scream and run very fast for the nearest exit.

Once again I’m face to face with a bit of archaeological inference-making that I missed whilst wandering in the desert. This bit was gleefully dropped in my email inbox just this morning. The news might be half-a-dozen years old, but this news item is hot off the presses. None other than Iain Davidson was responsible. The subject line read “You’re gonna love this!” Love is hardly the word for it!

Published on 10 Jan 2013
Until recently, scientists have encountered scant evidence of Neanderthal ritual or religious practice. A new discovery, though, suggests that Neanderthals—much like today’s bear hunters—ceremoniously cut off panther paws and kept them as trophies.

You’ve all read the ‘book’ on Sima de los Huesos and the other sites in northern Spain. This latest bit of skull-duggery archaeological myth-making comes to us from the other side of that country, from a locality named the Sima de las Palomas, near Cartagena. The depositional circumstances are clear from the flashy graphic they’ve made, shown below.

From labrujulazul: Weblog sobre Patrimonio Cultural, Artístico, Arqueológico, Documental

As with the other Sima, this one is what’s known as a natural trap. All kinds of animals met their death here, including at least nine Neanderthals. What’s strangest of all: I’ve never heard of this guy or his site. Fact, if I mentioned his name in a room full of my closest archaeology buddies it’d sound like a flock of owls.

So, you’ve all read the ‘book.’ Now, thrill to the movie!
Direct from PBS’s Nova… [which, as you know, in Spanish means ‘it doesn’t go’].

I’m convinced. I wonder if it was a black panther. If so, perhaps its proximity to Gibraltar means that these Ns were just like the ones at Gorham’s Cave in picking out for reverence [or evening wear] just those animals with black or very dark plumage/pelage. Food for thought.

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