Human evolution News

Neanderthals organized their living spaces by task

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Neanderthal excavation/Fabio Negrino

From ScienceDaily:

“There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans,” said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. “But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space.”

But why was there “this idea” that Neanderthals would “just throw their stuff everywhere” anyway? Underlying the idea is, of course, the neo-Darwinian “ascent of man,” in which natural selection is

daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good…,

slowly turning the swine-man into a slob-man into a … frontiersman who can weather the great outdoors.

Fat chance. If Neanderthals didn’t know how to be organized, they would not have survived as separate groups of humans as long as they did. As has often been pointed out, we survive by intelligence, which requires and makes for order.

In the middle level, which has the densest traces of human occupation, artifacts were distributed differently. Animal bones were concentrated at the front rather than the rear of the cave. This was also true of the stone tools, or lithics. A hearth was in back of the cave about half a meter to a meter from the wall. It would have allowed warmth from the fire to circulate among the living area.

“When you make stone tools there is a lot of debris that you don’t want in high traffic areas or you risk injuring yourself,” Riel-Salvatore said. “There are clearly fewer stone artifacts in the back of the shelter near the hearth.”

Any chance Neanderkids were more likely to play there?

The bottom level, thought to represent a short-term base camp, is the least well known because it was exposed only over a very small area. More stone artifacts were found immediately inside the shelter’s mouth, suggesting tool production may have occurred inside the part of the site where sunlight was available. Some shellfish fragments also suggest that Neanderthals exploited the sea for food; like ochre, these are found in all the levels.

Shellfish would make good snacks while working; besides which, persons of all ages can gather them.

See also: Neanderthals used string?

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