Questioning Middle Palaeolithic Burial is NOT Like Beating a Dead Horse: Science’s Michael Balter Writes About Neanderthal Burial As If It’s an Open Question. More Power to Him!

For one of the very few times in my role as the leading subversive archaeologist on the internet I can say that every anthropologist needs to see this article. The subject goes to the heart of the ‘debate’ [more like a never-ending disagreement] as to whether or not the Neanderthals, their Mousterian contemporaries, and their antecedents had what you and I would recognize as the equivalent of the symbolic behaviour that is the hallmark of us modern humans.
     I am very pleased to point the interested readers of the Subversive Archaeologist to the Michael Balter article in Science to which I alluded in a blurt a few days ago. Kudos to my friends Harold Dibble and Alain Turq [and the whole équipe] for their courage in opening new excavations at the mega-important Middle Palaeolithic site of La Ferrassie (Dordogne, France). And a rousing ‘Huzzah!’ for Michael Balter for featuring this *cough* ground-breaking work in Science, and for having the good sense to interview me for the piece.
     While you’re reading, remember that whenever Alain Turq says that articulated skeletons MUST have been purposefully buried, remember Rule #1 and what I’ve said previously about how wrong-headed the notion is.
     So, without further ado: Ta-Da!
     ‘Did Neandertals Truly Bury Their Dead?‘ by Michael Balter.

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I DON’T CARE WHAT THE EXPERTS THINK! THIS IS NOT A VULVA! [But It Is An Excuse To Drink Rum!]

Once again, PNAS abdicates its mandate and lets this most unscientific crap infest what are widely regarded to be its rigorously empirical pages. 

I’m so very tired of seeing this tripe repeated again and again. Whenever there’s a circle and a line superimposed in the rock art record, they’re automatically (and I mean knee-jerk automatic) interpreted as female genitalia. Nothing new in this now [forgive me] somewhat stale story from sciencemag.org. [I’ve been otherwise occupied and was unable to opine until this afternoon.]
     In the first place, the interpreters have clearly never seen a vulva! If they had, they’d know that there’s no circle or oval in which appears the vertical line described by the vagina-obscuring labia minora in their unexcited state. 
     If anything [think about it, boys and girls], an observer looking straight at that vertical line would see anything but a circle or an oval. They’d see the hourglass described by the woman’s inner right and left thighs, with the vertical line in the centre. Depending on the angle, they might see the navel. A circle? Are they kidding?!!
     Randy White ought to be ashamed of himself for making this claim. But Harold Dibble can be congratulated for his understated and oh-so-professional response to the claim.

As for the long-standing tradition among archaeologists working in France of interpreting such images as vulvas, Dibble says, “Who the hell knows” what they really represent? Dibble adds that such interpretations could be colored by the worldview of Western archaeologists whose culture probably differs greatly from that of prehistoric peoples. “Maybe it’s telling us more about the people making those interpretations” than the artists who created the images, Dibble says.

You think???!!! You can’t even blame this on androcentrism! This is pure fabrication!  

     This petroglyph from Abri Castanet resembles nothing so much as a horseshoe crab. But a horseshoe crab petroglyph at 37 kya wouldn’t make PNAS. So they make this shit up and get it published. I’m, frankly, disappointed.
     In fact, I’m so disappointed, I’m gonna crack a bottle of my favorite rum: 
That’s 300 years, folks. In fact, they’ve been making it in Barbados, traditionally thought to have been the birthplace of rum, since before 1651. A document from that year contains this almost inscrutable sentence: ‘The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor.’
     I’ve never heard it called a fuddling before, but if you think about it, what else does booze do but be’fuddle’ the mind. ‘Fuddling’ would be a natural nominative for such a substance.
     Anyway. They didn’t have Coca-Cola in them days, so Ima drink it with some cold water and a splash of orange juice. Care to join me?

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