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Neanderthal artists and Homo Erectus woodworking

24 November 2023
Archaeology, Evolution

At https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/11/231121224642.htm … now we have Neanderthal artists – making geometric shapes on cave walls. The cave in question is at La Roche-Cotard in France, and it has been sealed for thousands of years. The research involved the Swiss archaeologist Dorota Wujtczak. Soil sediments in the cave have been dated to around 50,000 years ago. Assuming the dating method is correct this is somewhat prior to the arrival of modern humans. However, no Ice Age mammals are depicted as the art is geometrical. Lines and triangles.

At https://www.livescience.com/animals/extinct-species/huge-mammoth-jaw-at-least-10000-years-old-pulled-up-from-florida-river … a mammoth jaw was pulled up from the bottom of the Peace River in Florida. It died during the last Ice Age. Presumably it had survived buried in sediment at the bottom of the river.

Meanwhile, in Current World Archaeology 122, see https://www.world-archaeology.com … pages 16-21, we learn about some remarkable archaeological discoveries in Zambia. At Kalambo Falls. The excavation took place in 2019 and the finds included a range of wooden objects. This included structured elements that go back between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago. The article can be read at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06557-9 … in order to gain a more comprehensive explanation of how the dating  was obtained. Archaeologically, this is the period in which the Acheulian stone assemblage was in vogue – as used by Homo Erectus [and their immediate successors, such as Homo Heidelbergensis]. The stone tools are primarily hand axes, what is called cleavers, and picks. Basically, to kill butcher and prepare carcasses. The date seems to have startled the archaeological world. They are only just getting used to the idea that Neanderthals were not grunts but a lot brighter than they had imagined, but now, it seems like Homo Erectus has to be reappraised as well. The idea that humans improved in an evolutionary manner, grunts to modern humans, has taken another tumble. That is what happens when you apply Marxist principles to science. It happened in other disciplines – and now it is happening in archaeology. It seems that Homo Erectus had woodworking skills, and was capable of building permanent structures – remarkably preserved in the mud and water at the bottom of a river in Africa.

A wooden plank, dated at 750,000 years ago, was found in Israel not so long ago. It was mostly ignored by archaeologists. At the Kalambo Falls the preservation of wood has revealed remarkable artifacts such as digging sticks – used to pull out roots and tubers. The structural element requires fresh excavation in order to find out if there was perhaps a village located at the site. The site was in fact first investigated back in the 1960s and the excavator delineated Early and Middle Palaeolithic levels. He also found evidence of the use of fire which was remarkable as archaeologists resisted for a long time the idea that Neanderthals made camp fires and cooked food. He also found what looked like wooden tools. That idea was swiftly repudiated as their smoothness was put down to water – somewhat like a pebble on a beach. The authors say that in order to build a wooden structure Homo Erectus must have had language in order to pass their knowledge on. Another paradigm might be broken as it was only recently that Neanderthals and language was accepted.

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