Introducing Trashtalk Thursday: Dibble, Aldeias, Goldberg, McPherron, Sandgathe, and Steele’s Blinkered Effort to Undermine Rendu et al.’s Claim To Have Proven That The La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neanderthal Had Been Purposefully Buried.

On 16 December 2013 Rendu et al. published online their claim to have, once and for all, settled the question of whether or not the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neanderthal had been purposefully buried.

On 14 May 2014, in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Dibble, Aldeias, Goldberg, McPherron, Sandgathe, and Steele published what is certain to be a classic of palaeoanthropology.

A Critical Look at Evidence from La Chapelle-aux-Saints Supporting an Intentional Neandertal Burial

This careful examination of Rendu et al. leaves *cough* no stone unturned. If you’ll recall, in 1908 Bouyssonie, Bouyssonie, and Bardon published their findings from a small excavation in a small cavelet in a small town in France, called La Chapelle-aux-Saints. This diorama from the Musée de l’Homme in Paris purports to represent the circumstances of the claimed Neanderthal burial.

This diorama in the Musée de L’Homme, in Paris, is a falsified rendering of what B, B, and B (1908) published, which itself was undoubtedly add odds with reality. 

Dibble and Co. (2014) pay particular attention to the morphology of the putative grave pit, which they note is nothing like the one depicted in the 1908 publication. The illustration below is from Dibble et al., and clearly shows the disparity between the 1908 profiles and that of the pit that Rendu et al. exhumed over the past several years.

From Dibble et al., 14 May 2014.

I’m really excited to see these, because it means that I was very much on the right track when I wrote three lengthy posts and published a similar set of composites back in December 2013, just one week after Rendu et al. was made public. My montage appears below.

It’s nice to know I was on the right track, and to know that I’m no longer just a lonely voice crying in the wilderness.

Of course, my comments on the matter had been in the public domain for two months before Harold and Co. submitted this paper on 20 February 2014. [By the by, does anyone else think it’s extraordinary that an article like theirs could be made public barely three months from submission?]

From The Subversive Archaeologist, 26 December 2013.

What I had to say on the subject is catalogued separately, down below, with links to all five of my contributions on the matter, only one of which post-dated Dibble et al.’s submission date [and knowledge of which, of course, I could have had none at the time]. The reader will find my arguments a little redundant after reading the JAS article. O’ course, it would be the other way around if you were paying attention at the end of last year!

Dibble et al. point out that, if one were to go by the stratigraphic profile drawings, what fills the pit is part of the extensive stratum that covers the entire cave floor to a depth of a metre in places. The authors are careful to reference the identical argument in my 1989 paper, “Grave shortcomings,” for which I was roundly derided. However, the reference is rather perplexing, since it says “see also Gargett, 1999,” which is quite at odds with the truth of the matter, which was that I thought it up all on my own in the late 1980s, I published it in a high-profile general anthropology journal, I committed career suicide in so doing, and for 25 or so years saw little to no attention paid to my argument, clearly demonstrated by Rendu et al.’s complete misrepresentation of my 1989 contribution, and Dibble et al.’s throw-away reference to it.

Indeed, Rendu et al. say only that

. . . some scholars have remained skeptical [of the Old Man’s purposeful burial] . . . [Gargett 1989], arguing that most of these special treatments of the dead were identified in the context of old and inadequate excavations.

W.T.F? I ‘argued’ nothing of the kind. I described the early work as such, but it didn’t form any part of my ‘argument’ on the site formation processes at La Chapelle.

In terms of the bouffia Bonneval discovery, the lack of information regarding the Bouyssonie’s excavation procedures has been used as support for reservations concerning the burial hypothesis . . . [Gargett 1989].  

Huh? How many different ways can you say the same thing, and still have it be a misrepresentation of my published contributions?

The lack of evolved karstic morphologies and sedimentation connected to groundwater action in the bouffia Bonneval and in the adjacent La Chapelle-aux-Saints loci reject the hypothesis . . . [Gargett 1989] . . . of an endokarstic origin for the depression. 

Wha’? I offered my impression of the possibility that the Bouffia had been a karstic stream channel, and that streams were capable of creating depressions like the one in which the Old Man’s skeletal bits were discovered. It was just one possibility, and it was more or less irrelevant to the real substance of my thesis.

That has little valence with respect to public awareness of my work. The reality is that any naive reader of Rendu et al. would remain clueless, as is just as likely to happen to anyone coming to Dibble et al. (2014) without knowledge either of my 1989 and 1999 papers [to say nothing of what I published in these pages five months ago].

I hope the reader will forgive me for saying that I feel gutted by Dibble et al.’s [obvious] ignorance of my work here at The Subversive Archaeologist. I know from corresponding with Harold that he was aware of this blog, and nobody in our little corner of this field should, or even could, be unaware of my contribution to the question of Middle Paleolithic burial. Frankly, I’m astounded that neither Harold nor his co-authors wondered what I might have said about Rendu et al. Theirs is, of course, merely an act of omission, not plagiarism; however, it does beggar [at least] my imagination. I mentioned my chagrin in an email to Harold a couple of days ago. He hasn’t yet responded.

I’ll now return to my perch beneath the rock out from under which I appeared for this blurt. I’ll be back from time to time, but with a growing sense that it’s not worth bothering to do if one is so roundly ignored.

For The Record:

On 16 December 2013 Rendu et al. published online their claim to have, once and for all, settled the question of whether or not the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neanderthal had been purposefully buried.

Evidence supporting an intentional Neandertal burial at La Chapelle-aux-Saints

I waited a discrete period while the media hyped it to the Moon. Then on 20 December 2013 I published

Still No Proof That Neanderthals Buried Their Dead. Part One, or O.M.F.G! I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry.  The Old Man of La Chapelle is a Zombie!

a professional archaeologist’s reasoned and well-supported critique of the notion that by uncovering a hole in the ground, Rendu et al. 2013 felt they could argue that the Old Man of La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France had been, after all, purposefully buried. On 23 December 2013 I followed with

Still No Evidence that Neanderthals Buried Their Dead. Part Deux

in which I continued my professional critique. Then on 26 December 2013 I planted the third nail in the coffin that Rendu et al. had built for themselves.

The Neanderthals Buried Their Dead? Nu-Uh! Part Three—The Final Chapter

Following that, on 2 January 2014 I responded to a public comment on my trilogy, and once again resoundingly eviscerated Rendu et al.’s claim.

Even Less Proof That Neanderthals Buried Their Dead

Dibble & Co. submitted their article on 20 February 2014.

Then, as an afterthought, on 11 March 2014, I capped off my effort with a consideration of the bullshit claim that the so-called burial pit had been rectangular.

Not Again!!! Yep! The La Chapelle Not-A-Burial-Pit Not So Much Rectangular as Irregularly Ovaloid

Yep. Seriously pulled the carpet out from underneath them.

The only thing I didn’t do was submit my work to a refereed archaeological journal.

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