Monday, January 08, 2007

New Neanderthal archaeology papers in Before Farming

This is my first post on a series of three papers in the latest issue of the online journal Before Farming, all of which deal with aspects of Neanderthal archaeology. I've read all of them, and they're quite stimulating.

I intend to post about them in greater depth shortly, but in the meantime, I'll just mention that the first paper by, J. Speth and J. Clark, documents the large mammal procurement patterns of Middle Paleolithic hominins at Kebara Cave (Israel); one of the most provocative conclusions of the paper is that the Kebara record documents overhunting of ungulates by Neanderthals. The implications of this pattern for increasing diet breadth are also discussed.

The second paper, by A. Verpoorte, deals with a theoretical model of Neanderthal energetics, and how these might have conditioned their mobility patterns relative to those of modern humans. The paper is based on a simple hypothetical model based on the concept of central place foraging, the conclusions of which are then compared to patterns in the archaeological record of European Neanderthals, which they broadly appear to match. Verpoorte concludes that Neanderthals aimed to reduce their overall mobility by adopting a behavioral (and energetic) strategy that revolved around a pattern of "frequent, short-distance movement."

The last paper, by J. Zilhão and P. Pettitt, to my knowledge, is the first peer-reviewed critique of the new, very late dates for the Mousterian of Gorham's Cave (Gibraltar) (Finlayson et al. 2006). The authors show that there are a number of logical, methodological, taphonomic, and empirical problems with Finlayson et al.'s (2006) arguments for a 28-24 kya occupation of Gorham's Cave by Neanderthals, and they conclude instead that the available dates support an age of 30-32 kya for the last Mousterian occupation of the site. Noting that the new Gorham's Cave dates came out in September 2006, this also suggest a very fast turn-around time for papers submitted to Before Farming, which can only be a positive pattern for the world of paleanthropological research.

Overall, a very nice series of papers to start the new year with!


Finlayson, C, Giles Pacheco, F, Rodríguez-Vidal, J, Fa, DA, Guiterrez López, JM, Santiago Pérez, A, Finlayson, G, Allue, E., Baena Preysler, J, Cáceres, I, Carrión,
JS, Fernaández- Jalvo, Y, Gleed-Owen, CP, Jimenez Espejo, FJ, López, P, López Sáez, JA, Riquelme Cantal, JA, Sánchez Marco, A, Giles Guzman, F, Brown, K, Fuentez, N, Valarino, CA, Villalpando, A, Stringer, CB, Martinez Ruiz, F & Sakamoto, T 2006.
Late survival of Neanderthals at the southernmost extreme of Europe. Nature 443:850-853.

Speth, J.D., and J.M. Clark. 2006. Hunting and overhunting in the Levantine Late Middle Palaeolithic. Before Farming 2006/3:1.

Verpoorte, A. 2006. Neanderthal energetics and spatial behaviour. Before Farming 2006/3:2.

Zilhão, J., and P. Pettitt. 2006. On the new dates for Gorham's Cave and the late survival of Iberian Neanderthals. Before Farming 2006/3:3.


Anonymous said...

These papers are "to die for". Unfortunately, I don't have access to this journal. . . .
Anne G

Tim Jones said...

Good to see you back Julien, posting the usual intriguing stuff - quite a surprise to see the proposed new radiocarbon dating capabilities, and of course those Neanderthal studies should make for good reading as well.