Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yes, the Neandertals Knew What They Were Doing...

Science Daily has a report from the University of Kent, in which researchers examined large numbers of Levallois stone tools to determine just how much “engineering” took place in the making of them. From the story:
Now, an experimental study – in which a modern-day flintknapper replicated hundreds of Levallois artifacts – supports the notion that Levallois flakes were indeed engineered by prehistoric hominins. By combining experimental archaeology with morphometrics (the study of form) and multivariate statistical analysis, the Kent researchers have proved for the first time that Levallois flakes removed from these types of prepared cores are significantly more standardised than the flakes produced incidentally during Levallois core shaping (called ‘debitage flakes’). Importantly, they also identified the specific properties of Levallois flakes that would have made them preferable to past mobile hunter-gathering peoples.

Dr Metin Eren, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation and the flintknapper who crafted the tools, said: ‘The more we learn about the stone tool-making of the Neanderthals and their contemporaries, the more elegant it becomes. The sophistication evident in their tool-making suggests cognitive abilities more similar to our own than not.’
This is not news to most palaeoanthropologists, who regard the Levallois core technology, which is found not just in Europe but in the Levant and Russia as well, as being a sophisticated method for mass-producing stone tools. I guess it is finally nice to get confirmation that the Neandertals were more complex than some people thought, even if Dr. Erin damns them with faint praise at the end.

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1 comment:

  1. Their minds were extremely similar to our own, if not identical, right?