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Neanderthals engineered their tools?

From “Neanderthals and Their Contemporaries Engineered Stone Tools, Anthropologists Discover” (ScienceDaily, Jan. 24, 2012), we learn,

Levallois artifacts are flaked stone tools described by archaeologists as ‘prepared cores’ i.e. the stone core is shaped in a deliberate manner such that only after such specialised preparation could a prehistoric flintknapper remove a distinctive ‘Levallois flake’. Levallois flakes have long been suspected by researchers to be intentionally sought by prehistoric hominins for supposedly unique, standardised size and shape properties. However, such propositions were regarded as controversial by some, and in recent decades some researchers questioned whether Levallois tool production involved conscious, structured planning that resulted in predetermined, engineered products.

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.

It’s amazing how much Neanderthals have learned in the last three decades.

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3 Responses to Neanderthals engineered their tools?

  1. What’s amazing is how the evolutionary mindset actually blinds scientists and leads them to make uncalled for assumptions and interpretations of the evidence.

    Well, then again, maybe that is not really amazing after all, but it is a good illustration of that point.

    The idea that Neanderthals are a link in the evolutionary process from ape to man has been a “useful lie” for them. I doubt it was purposeful, but they got a lot of mileage out of it. Almost everything we were taught about Neanderthals in high school and college years ago is now wrong. Probably the same can be said about just about every other supposed hominid we learned about as well.

  2. Well, no. But certainly our understanding has changed. And that change has been brought about by scientists – those very scientists with the “evolutionary mindset” you disparage.

    It seems sometimes that science can’t win. If a theory changes it is “infinitely flexible” and explains nothing. If it doesn’t change it is because of an “blind commitment to materialism at all costs”.

    Scientific theories are constantly changing in response to new data.

    It’s intrinsic to the methodology, and the source of its rigor: its adherence to the principle that you fit models to data not the other way round.

    The Relativity of Wrong

    All scientific models are wrong. But some are less wrong than others, and over time, the less wrong ones are retained and the more wrong ones discarded.

    A bit like natural selection, really :)

  3. … those very scientists with the “evolutionary mindset” you disparage.

    Perhaps you misunderstood his point. The claims of the low-brow apeman, the Neanderthal, was driven by ideological blinders about evolution rather than archaeological evidence. It’s a fair cop.

    But some are less wrong than others, and over time, the less wrong ones are retained and the more wrong ones discarded.

    For various values of ‘discarded’ as can be witnessed with any number of things from the Bohr model of the atom and Newtonian mechanics. Ditto vacuous appeals to model over experimentation such as with the Van der Waal’s radius and the entirety of economics. It’s a very pleasant theory however.

    “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” — Yogi Berra

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