Interested in Lithic Analysis?

Kambiz has an excellent post on the recent news about the recent research comparing Middle and Upper Paleolithic tool sets.


At issue, really, is the concept of the “Creative Explosion”. A lot of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists see a clear divide between the two in terms of patterning of the archaeological record, use of symbols, the possible origins of language, and a lot more. Others argue that behavioral continuity can be seen bridging the two. (Two good papers on the subject can be found here and here.) At any rate, according to Kambiz in the new paper:

…Eren and crew made some wide flakes (from discoidal cores) that resembled Neandertal and human tools from the Middle Paleolithic tools and compared them to more specialized narrow blades made by modern humans, from the Upper Paleolithic, who came from a more recent expansion out of Africa.

Basically, they engaged in some experimental archaeology to answer the question. I bring all this up because over at Uncommon Descent the ever incomprehensible Denyse O’Leary has a post on the subject as well. According to Denyse:

The textbook belief was in fact based on the now-rotting Tree of Life popularized by Darwin and his modern-day followers. They assumed that modern humans (homo sapiens) were “superior” to the Neanderdumbsters, and interpreted all facts about the latter to fit that view.

Which ignores the last 30 years, or so, of paleoanthropology concerning Neanderthals. But that is a different story. Denyse concludes:

These findings generally support the non-materialist view that human consciousness is not a slowly evolving thing. Once present, it changes everything very quickly. Assuming otherwise leads to mistakes about early humans.

So, if I understand Denyse correctly, this current materialist study of lithic artifacts undermines the previous materialist view of Neanderthals so ID wins? Even odder, she doesn’t seem to think much of this study to begin with. It’s like she is saying “this crap study proves the other crap studies wrong so I win!”
The point of all this is that in looking around for some interesting resources on the subject of lithic analysis I stumbled across “the lithics site” a resource for archaeological lithic analysts. Another valuable reference is Multiple approaches to the study of bifacial technologies, also Stone Age Reference Collection

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4 Responses

  1. My recollection is that Neanderthals used bitumin (coal tar) to bind blades into spears and the like, giving them too high-tech “compound weapons.”
    Beyond that … what has Harold Dibble said to this? He’s THE MAN.
    -ms

  2. Thanks for the references! But I must say, I fail to see the connection to ID. The fuller lithic record, in Europe both in the west and in the east, and the newer information on Neanderthal technology in Central Asia, seem to indicate that after a long period of almost stasis, they developed a variety of transitional cultures as Homo sapiens entered their territories. Outside of Europe — especially in Africa, India, and Asia, the transition to the Upper Paleolithic appears to have been a gradual process technologically and artistically. It is mainly in Western Europe that there is some evidence of a discontinuity when the newcomers arrived. If one compares the universal stages of esthetic production of modern preschoolers to ancient “art” produced by both Neanderthals and early H. sapiens, one has the impression that there was a very early stage shared by both species in which there was no realistic production of images, but only dots, lines, and what are generously called “rings.” In modern children, these appear during the one and two-word phase of language production. It is my theory that the same was true of ancient humans. Perhaps Neanderthals and Homo erectus (antecessor, heidelbergensis, etc.) spoke, then, but did not yet have what linguists would call syntax, as theorized by Steven Pinker, Derek Bickerton, and others. That may have been what developed later, around 100 kya or so in South Africa, with H. sapiens. That may have been the key to our ultimate success, better communication, and with it, more elaborate culture all around.

  3. This is for DianeGainer. The kind of “brain mutation” you’re referring to, is not thought to have taken place, since it seemsw that a number of aspect of Neandertal brains and language are identical to “ours”. And there’s enough evidence from things like hyoid bones to back this up. Be that as it may(and this is for everyone) it’s obvious Neandertals were not dumb, whatever else they may have been. They had a perfectly adequate lithic technology for their situation, and this experiment in archaeology would appear to bear this out. Whatever differences there were between “us” and “them” — aside from the obvious anatomical ones, which may not be all that great — would seem to have more to do with different cultural “styles” than anything else. Of course this is anoversimplification, but this is what all these archaeological and paleoanthropological reports are saying to me.
    Anne G

  4. Some about this at http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/early_modern/africa/giant-clam-exploitation-2008.html too, with link to http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825203924.htm .
    Thanks Afarensis, reading all this i’ve stuff for weeks!
    I’m not a scientist, just interested. Never could imagine why Neandertals should have been less [intelligent or whatever]. So much depending on what you can find and how you interprete it. As far as I know, there isn’t a Neander Ötzi, for instance. Impossible to me, not remembering my grandfather, handmaking special shoes professional. His sewing needle: a pig’s hair, glued to the thread with tar. Easy to handle through punched holes in the leather, with better results than needles of steel ever could. Rope, hair, leather and so on, materials from plants and animals: probably not conservable in the archeological record tenthousands of years. But therefore impossible to Neandertalers having used something like this? Their way less effective? Why [DianaGainer for instance] the need, only modern in a specific way like hers, being “the better”? Don’t expect me getting reliable information about their reality in fact that way, i think.

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