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Thread: More Evidence Neanderthals Made The Chatelperronian

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    More Evidence Neanderthals Made The Chatelperronian

    From John Hawks blog 9/16/16 www.johnhawk.net





    Châtelperronian bone fragments identified as Neandertal based on protein residues

    16 Sep 2016

    Frido Welker and colleagues have applied a new method to identify tiny bone fragments as Neandertal remains, based on the protein residues that they contain.

    The study uses a fairly simple concept—take a lot of unidentifiable bone fragments and test them with a protein mass spectrometry toolkit (ZooMS) to identify them to genus if possible. They were pretty successful. The real innovation is that they were able to identify a protein polymorphism for which 99% of living humans have a derived amino acid, and all known Neandertals have the ancestral amino acid. In the context of a Châtelperronian archaeological layer, finding the ancestral allele gives a strong indication (but not an infallible one) that a bone fragment probably has a Neandertal heritage.

    I think the result is pretty cool because Welker and colleagues were able to identify a large number of bone fragments that probably belong to an infant skeleton, which they already knew was in the site based on a handful of identifiable remains.

    Despite their spatial proximity within Layer X and squares C7 and C8, none of the newly described specimens could be fitted together to form larger fragments. The morphologically informative specimens, however, seem to represent small fragments of an immature cranium and an unfused vertebral hemiarch of neonatal age (SI Appendix, Fig. S10 and Table S13). This is supported by isotopic evidence suggesting that these fragments belonged to a nonweaned infant and by proteomic evidence in the form of proteins present in bone before bone remodeling has started. All the newly identified specimens were found in close spatial association with a previously described hominin temporal bone from square C7, Layer Xb, assigned to an infant around 1 y old, as well as 10 dental specimens from squares C7 and C8 (6, 7). These dental specimens overlap in developmental age, suggesting they represent one or possibly two individuals between 6 and 18 mo old (7). The 28 newly identified specimens, together with already described specimens, may therefore represent the skeletal remains of a single infant.

    Châtelperronian makers

    The reporting on this paper has emphasized the conclusion that the bones are Neandertal, which in addition to the protein evidence is also indicated by some mtDNA sequence fragments from some of the remains. To me this is basically a failure to reject a long-substantiated association: Neandertals made the Châtelperronian industry.

    The Châtelperronian has been found across much of France and into the Pyrenées of Spain, and dates to around 40,000 years ago. It is termed a “transitional” industry because although it is based upon flaking strategies typical of earlier Mousterian assemblages, the Châtelperronian includes elements usually attributed to Upper Paleolithic toolkits including many bone artifacts and elongated flake tools that share many details with the blades of later Aurignacian assemblages.

    The identity of the makers of the Châtelperronian has been a white whale for some archaeologists. The only diagnostic skeletal remains ever found with Châtelperronian tools have been Neandertals, notably the Saint-Césaire skeleton but also more fragmentary skeletal remains from Arcy-sur-Cure. Yet despite this association, some archaeologists have doubted that Neandertals made such apparently “sophisticated” tools. They have examined whether Châtelperronian assemblages are a palimpsest or mixture of elements from earlier Mousterian and later Upper Paleolithic contexts, whether Neandertal remains might have moved out of stratigraphic position, whether Châtelperronian layers may have slumped in a way not recognized in old excavations.

    Today it would be truly surprising if an unambiguous modern human skeleton turned up in a Châtelperronian archaeological layer. If a specimen with modern human traits emerged, or a tooth that shared traits with modern humans, I would not be surprised, but that’s because I expect there was likely population mixture in Europe at the time of the Châtelperronian some 40,000 years ago.

    Ten years ago, a debate erupted about the type locality of the Châtelperronian industry, Grotte des Fées du Châtelperron. I wrote about that episode here (Interstratified palimpsests), and it was never really satisfactorily resolved.

    Why was it such a big deal? The last refuge of scoundrels has been the notion that Neandertals were incapable of making Châtelperronian artifacts on their own and needed the enculturating influence of modern humans to do so. This idea was popularized by Jared Diamond in his book, The Third Chimpanzee and has hung around within European archaeology for more than thirty years. The importance of possible interstratification of Châtelperronian and Aurignacian industries is a test that Neandertals who made Châtelperronian artifacts and modern humans who made Aurignacian artifacts might really have encountered each other on the same landscape. Without the possibility of such contact, it is hard to conceive of the idea that Neandertals were “acculturated” by their encounters with modern humans.

    What is my opinion? I have to say, two or three thousand years is a lot of time, and it is hard for me to imagine that populations did not exchange a good amount of information across Europe during that time, whether they lived in overlapping areas or not. I doubt that the early Aurignacian people were very much different from late Neandertals in their cultural and technical abilities. Even if they were different on average for some cognitive abilities, which I can well imagine, I expect their abilities would have overlapped to a substantial degree.

    The conclusion of the paper sums up my feelings fairly well.

    Our biomolecular data provide evidence that hominins contemporaneous with the Châtelperronian layers have archaic nuclear and Neandertal mitochondrial ancestry, supporting previous morphological studies (6, 7). They are therefore among some of the latest Neandertals in western Eurasia, and possible candidates to be involved in gene flow from Neandertals into AMHs (or vice versa) (48). Future analysis of the nuclear genome of these or other Châtelperronian specimens might be able to provide further insights into the direction, extent, and age of gene flow between Late Pleistocene Western European Neandertals and “incoming” AMHs (49, 50).

    More results coming

    Doing more to uncover the hominin remains at a site is valuable even if the anatomical information to be gained is minimal, and even if genetic information cannot be reliably obtained from the fragments with today’s techniques.

    Still, in the short term at many sites, what the method reveals about the fauna will be even more interesting. Identifying rare species in faunal assemblages from non-diagnostic fragments should greatly increase the representativeness of the archaeological record. As reported by Welker and colleagues in an earlier paper (2015), they can reliably identify bone fragments to genus in a large fraction of cases, even for bone fragments that have passed through a carnivore’s digestive tract.

    This result is published this week just after a number of studies were presented in talks at an international conference on ancient biomolecules. That other work is reported by Ann Gibbons (“Oldest-ever proteins extracted from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich shells”), which includes a statement that protein has now been recovered from tooth enamel of extinct fauna from Dmanisi. Protein analysis of ancient fossils suddenly looks like a very big deal.

    References

    Brown, S., Higham, T., Slon, V., Pääbo, S., Meyer, M., Douka, K., ... & Derevianko, A. (2016). Identification of a new hominin bone from Denisova Cave, Siberia using collagen fingerprinting and mitochondrial DNA analysis. Scientific reports, 6. doi:10.1038/srep23559

    Welker, F and others. 2016. Palaeoproteomic evidence identifies archaic hominins associated with the Châtelperronian at the Grotte du Renne. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. (early edition). doi:10.1073/pnas.1605834113

    Welker, F., Soressi, M., Rendu, W., Hublin, J. J., & Collins, M. (2015). Using ZooMS to identify fragmentary bone from the late Middle/Early Upper Palaeolithic sequence of Les Cottes, France. Journal of Archaeological Science, 54, 279-286. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.12.010

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    Both the Chatelperronian and the Aurignacian represent a cognitive and behavioral downgrade, anyway. Levallois is far more cognitively demanding to produce, and yields a vastly superior product. Personal adornments have no practical value of any kind and accomplish nothing of any meaning whatsoever, regardless of whether they are perforated or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pool Closer View Post
    Both the Chatelperronian and the Aurignacian represent a cognitive and behavioral downgrade, anyway. Levallois is far more cognitively demanding to produce, and yields a vastly superior product. Personal adornments have no practical value of any kind and accomplish nothing of any meaning whatsoever, regardless of whether they are perforated or not.
    Levallois is a technique of making tools which is found within stone tool cultures. The difference between blade and flake tools is just the length of the tool. A core for a blade tool would just look like a levallois core but thicker and perhaps narrower. It is about preparing a striking platform.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
    Levallois is a technique of making tools which is found within stone tool cultures. The difference between blade and flake tools is just the length of the tool. A core for a blade tool would just look like a levallois core but thicker and perhaps narrower. It is about preparing a striking platform.

    Blades are narrower and thinner than Levallois flakes. This means they cannot be retouched as often as a wider, thicker, more disc-like or pentagonal object. When blades get dull, they can only be retouched once or twice before they get discarded. This is an ignorant waste of raw material by a mentally inferior hominid with no visual intelligence. Blades also generally lack plano-convexity which produces a superior cutting and scraping edge, in addition to fostering retouch. Aurignacian people would have had to carry hundreds of pounds of blades to compensate for their 3-dimensional shortcomings. Hence the Levallois toolkit offered not just superior performance, it was also lighter to carry.

    Levallois also features the Levallois point, a thick triangular point that was superior as both a cutting tool and a projectile point, which could be produced in seconds by a skilled technician. Other industries like the Aurignacian lacked this, and had to make their projectile points out of bone and antler, a laborous and time consuming process that involved days of engraving bone or antler, nanometer by nanometer, just to produce a bone shank. The finished product was dull and extremely fragile, and was usually destroyed upon first use. Levallois points on the other hand lasted hundreds of years. There are Levallois points that Neanderthals dug out of the ground and retouched, hundreds of years after they had been made.

    The proof in the pudding is that there are plenty of people who can hammer out Aurignacian blades and bladelets. Only a few people have what it takes to consistently produce Levallois products.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pool Closer View Post
    Blades are narrower and thinner than Levallois flakes. This means they cannot be retouched as often as a wider, thicker, more disc-like or pentagonal object. When blades get dull, they can only be retouched once or twice before they get discarded. This is an ignorant waste of raw material by a mentally inferior hominid with no visual intelligence. Blades also generally lack plano-convexity which produces a superior cutting and scraping edge, in addition to fostering retouch. Aurignacian people would have had to carry hundreds of pounds of blades to compensate for their 3-dimensional shortcomings. Hence the Levallois toolkit offered not just superior performance, it was also lighter to carry.

    Levallois also features the Levallois point, a thick triangular point that was superior as both a cutting tool and a projectile point, which could be produced in seconds by a skilled technician. Other industries like the Aurignacian lacked this, and had to make their projectile points out of bone and antler, a laborous and time consuming process that involved days of engraving bone or antler, nanometer by nanometer, just to produce a bone shank. The finished product was dull and extremely fragile, and was usually destroyed upon first use. Levallois points on the other hand lasted hundreds of years. There are Levallois points that Neanderthals dug out of the ground and retouched, hundreds of years after they had been made.

    The proof in the pudding is that there are plenty of people who can hammer out Aurignacian blades and bladelets. Only a few people have what it takes to consistently produce Levallois products.
    Aurignacians used antler for harpoons, weirs, and things used as fish hooks. The advantage of UP industries is you can get more cutting surface out of a volume of core. But anything which can be done in blade technology can be done in flake technology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
    The advantage of UP industries is you can get more cutting surface out of a volume of core.
    That used to be a commonly held belief among archaeologists... Until Metin Eren came along and blew it out of the water. Turns out the apparent increase in cutting surface of UP industries is more than cancelled out by the thinness and narrowness of the blades. They have no capacity for retouch. The brittle flint dulls quickly and the entire blade must be discarded or turned in to a burin. Levallois flakes on the other hand are wider and thicker, and their thickness is optimally distributed -- and the large retouch debitage has uses of its own. They can be retouched many times over, providing a new cutting edge over and over again. People who say UP industries offer more cutting edge aren't taking retouch in to account. UP industries have a great sales pitch, but you're not getting what you pay for.

    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/art...l.pone.0029273

    Another thing that is never taken in to account is that archaeologists long ignored the "waste" flakes of Levallois debitage, which were in fact heavily utilized. Nothing takes a regular rock and turns it in to edge like Levallois. The only pitfall is that it takes an extremely talented person to actually pull it off -- a Neanderthal. Few modern humans have ever been able to do it, none of them pure. Anyone off the street can do UP or Neolithic stuff with a little practice, however.

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    Saint Cesaire 1 is neanderthaloid but not a Classic Neanderthal: indeed it looms like a hybrid - compare to Predmosti 3, which Coon thought looked Nordic. Nordics and related types having neanderthal-like facial traits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catterick View Post
    Nordics and related types having neanderthal-like facial traits.
    This is absolute false. Nordic skulls are nothing like Neanderthal skulls.


    And


    Coon thought Predmost 3 was similar to the ~90,000 year old Skhul 5 fossil. Metrical analysis actually places Predmost 3 as distant from Neanderthals, more so than other Upper Paleolithic skulls.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=ej...page&q&f=false

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pool Closer View Post
    That used to be a commonly held belief among archaeologists... Until Metin Eren came along and blew it out of the water. Turns out the apparent increase in cutting surface of UP industries is more than cancelled out by the thinness and narrowness of the blades. They have no capacity for retouch. The brittle flint dulls quickly and the entire blade must be discarded or turned in to a burin. Levallois flakes on the other hand are wider and thicker, and their thickness is optimally distributed -- and the large retouch debitage has uses of its own. They can be retouched many times over, providing a new cutting edge over and over again. People who say UP industries offer more cutting edge aren't taking retouch in to account. UP industries have a great sales pitch, but you're not getting what you pay for.

    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/art...l.pone.0029273

    Another thing that is never taken in to account is that archaeologists long ignored the "waste" flakes of Levallois debitage, which were in fact heavily utilized. Nothing takes a regular rock and turns it in to edge like Levallois. The only pitfall is that it takes an extremely talented person to actually pull it off -- a Neanderthal. Few modern humans have ever been able to do it, none of them pure. Anyone off the street can do UP or Neolithic stuff with a little practice, however.
    Great article, Pool Closer, nice find.

    I don't want to deal with the intellectual conclusions of this article. To me Neanderthals were at least as smart as we are. When someone picks up a lump of flint, prepares a core and then produces flakes, retouches the flakes and makes tools, this takes us from conceptualization to completed technology which, of course, requires abstract though.

    The Mousterian lasted hundreds of thousands of years. The divisions shade into one another so that transitional forms are not perfectly one or another. The first was probably Mousterian of the Acheulean Tradition and the last the Chatelperronean. In between there were maybe four others and two divisions of hand axes. The fact we can trace these types over such a long time span is proof of how conservative this culture was. Of all stone cultures, this was the most conservative. This fact gets us to the core of the differences between it and the Upper Paleolithic cultures which were of partial sapiens people.

    It looks to me as if the goal of a Neanderthal flint knapper was to made a tool with was somehow perfect. This took years. The definition of being perfect must have been uniquely Neanderthal. So it was kinda like Plato's forms but much more specific in how it would look. The young Neanderthal strove to make tools like his grandfather who had been making them for forty years. Maybe, if he worked hard enough, he could do it but not everyone in Neanderthal culture could do it or even tried. There was Dentriculate Mousterian which was so sloppy it has been attributed to women and children.

    Retouch: retouch was not only done later to resharpen or remanufacture an existing flake, it was done initially as part of the process. UP makers did this also, creating backed blades, blades which were intentionally dulled on one side so they could be held. The big difference is in UP industries, retouch was not used initially so much. It was not needed. UP methods allowed people to strike off long blades which could be used without retouch in some instances. UP people did retouch old tools, repurposing them into other tools.

    But it is obvious UP people, or at least the Aurignacians, did not see stone tools the way Neanderthals did. To UP people, they were just tools to be made quickly and easily and they didn't want to carry stone around. Neanderthals, on the other hand, thought of stone work as an art form and lived near flint sources. What I am saying is the two groups looked upon stone tools differently. In comparing the two, UP people and sapiens in general took the lazy approach.

    As hybridization became more compete and culture settled down, a bit of Neanderthal ethos was able to shine through and once again the finished product meant something. This was seen in the Solutrean/Blattspitzen of Southern France, Northern Spain and the Alpine region where long, thin, retouched blades took on aspects of art work. These objects were the equivalent of jewelry for women. Men still do this today, collecting knives, guns and things which men consider beautiful and valuable but are not acknowledged so by women or the society in general.

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