Acculturation, What Acculturation?-An Eurocentric view

complexity neanderthal


This is an MTA Handaxe from Lembras / Bergeracois in the  Perigord;  a Chatelperron Point from Les Cottes / Vienne and three implements from the Aurignacian (La Rochette / Vezere near Le Moustier). The master narrative tells us that the Handaxe was made by Neanderthal, the Chatelperron Point by acculturated Neanderthals and the Aurignacian scraper and burins by AMHs. In other wors intelligent AHMs were the teachers of their rather dull Cousins.

Anyhow, from an evolutionary perspective, the roots of advanced cognition of Hominins lie in the Middle Pleistocene, prior to the split of Neanderthals and AMS. Here I argue for an equivalence model, as archeology showed during the last 20 years, that there are marginal differences between he behavior repertoire Neanderthals and of AMHs, which are limited to the presence of artistic manifestations. I will not go much in detail here, excellent literature about this theme can be found at the end of this post. Here I discuss the “Acculturation” model, that is put forward by the partisans of the “Human Revolution” paradigm.

Acculturation comprehends those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups“(Redfield, Linton, and Herskovits 1936).

The basic assumption of adeherents of the “Human Revolution” paradigma is, that Neandethals were acculturated by AHMs either by direct contact or by ideas, that moved over common networks. Transitional industries should in this view a signatures of this one-way interaction. Here I argue that “there was no such thing as acculturation during OIS3” (Modification of a famous sentence of M. Thatcher-one of the founders of the highly ambivalent European Neoliberal reality).

What are Transitional industries?

mauernVery  different entities and constructs in Europe are subsumed under this label of a MP-UP transitional industry: Althmühlian (Late Micoquian; Figure 2: Blattspitze from Mauern), Szeletian (sensu Valoch: the only really transitional industry with affinities between the Micoquian in Moravia and the Upper Paleolithic , Bohunician (Fully fledged Upper Paleolithic), Châtelperronian (Upper Paleolithic), Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanovicien (LRJ) (Upper Paleolithic) and the Uluzzian (Upper Paleolithic). It is generally suggested, that such industries would combine Middle and the Upper Paleolithic components both on a typological and technological level and are the signature of “acculturated” Neanderthals. But this Mix of “old” and “new” holds true only for the Moravian Szeletian.maybe the only possible excample of a one-way acculturartion…….

Stratigraphical Realities

There is no stratigraphically proof that the Middle Paleolithic was interstratified with truly Upper Paleolithic Industries like the [Proto-] Aurignacian, Bohunician, Althmühlian, Uluzzian, Bachokirian. Stratigraphically there is no indication that Neanderthals and AHM ( if they were bearers of the [Proto-] Aurignacian ) really met (except by paleogenetics, but not from the Central and South European contact zone ). In contrast to such a meeting scenario, at least in Central Europe, there are often clear sterile strata between the Mousterien / KMG and the following UP (for example in the Upper Danube Region).

A short Time for interaction

protoaurignacian-957x1024Higham et al. used improved accelerator mass spectrometry 14C techniques from 40 good characterized Mousterian and Neanderthal archaeological sites, ranging from Russia to Spain. Bayesian age modelling was used to generate probability distribution functions to determine the latest appearance date.  According to calibrated dates Mousterian ended by 41–39 k.a. cal BP (at 95.4% probability) across Europe. The Chatelperronian and Uluzzian started at 43-42 and ended coincident with the Mousterian. The earliest Aurignacian in Central Europe starts at 43,3 k.a. cal B.P. in Willendorf, and 41 k.a. cal B.P. in the Aquitaine (Pataud) and likely at 42 k.a. cal B.P in Nothern Iberia. If the Chatelperronian was made by Neanderthals and the Uluzzian bei AMHs than the time for interaction between these groups would have been of 2,600–5,400 years (at 95.4% probability). If not-the interaction time would be almost zero! During most Parts of Europe the interaction between the Aurignacian, if the bearers were AHMs and the Neanderthal Middle Paleolithic would have lasted for max. 1000 yrs. Figure 3: Protoaurignacian bladlets.

Iberia: Since the early 1990s, it has been widely acknowledged that the region south of the Ebro River and Cantabrian Cordillera in Iberia provided a refugium for the final Neanderthals. In this view, the Mousterian persisted south of the Ebro until ca 32 k.a., while the earliest stages of the (Proto) Aurignacian were absent from Southern Iberia. This “Ebro Frontier” model was not really questioned until recently. In contrast, in northern Iberia the Aurignacian appeared around 42 ka calBP, shortly after the disappearance of the Mousterian, a Middle Paleolithic industry usually associated with Neanderthals.

It has to be remembered, that two-thirds of C-14 dates from the south are “old” conventional radiocarbon dates, and sampling and pretreatment protocols do not meet modern requirements.  Recently advanced C-14 AMS techniques combined with rigorous pretreatment protocols were for the first time used in the evaluation the reliability of chronologies of eleven Southern Iberian Middle and early Upper Paleolithic sites, including the Mousterian from Jarama VI and Zafarraya.

This advanced technique now puts the Mousterian from Jarama VI and Zafarraya to a pre-42 k.a. date. It seems that the demise of the last Neanderthals in Iberia happened before Homo sapiens reached larger parts of the Iberian Peninsula.

aggsbach-musterienIn S-Europe
a Protoaurignacian or an Uluzzian always lies below an Aurignacian, if both entities are present. Wherever the (CI) Y-5 tephra marker is present (South East Europe), the classic Aurignacian consistently overlies the Campanian Ignimbrite. In these parts of Europe the classic Aurignacian therefore seems to be relative young. The Mediterranean Protoaurignacian (at Castelcivita) and Uluzzian (at Castelcivita and Cavallo) and the “Transitional” Paleolithic industries of the Kostenki area (loci 14 and 17) are found below the tephra and must therefore be older than 39 k.a. cal BP. These data are affirmed by the fact that pretreated-AMS dated-C-14 samples at of the Protoaurignacian in Italy situate this techno complex at ca. 41-40 k.a. cal BP and the Uluzzian at 43 to 41 k.a. cal BP. Figure 4: South European Middle Paleolithic Scraper.

solutreen blades coreIn S/W- France the earliest Aurignacian of Abri Pataud dates slightly later than Willendorf to around 41-40 k.a cal BP.  Other sites in the Aquitaine seem to be younger. Towards the Paris basin, at Les Cottes the Protoaurignacian is dated to a short episode around 39 and early Aurignacian around 39-36 k.a. k.a. cal BP. The Chatelperonnian starts at 43 to 41 k.a. cal BP at the site. Figure 5: Upper Paleolithic cores from Badegoule (commune Lardin-Saint-Lazare; S/W-France).

neanderthal coreCentral Europe: The heavily debated lowermost Aurignacian levels at Geissenklösterle (AHIII) in the Swabian Jura dates to 42,9- 39,9 cal B.P k.a cal BP if we take for sure that AHIII is an archaeological reality and not a secondary reconstruction bias. The chronostratigraphic position of AH 3 (Willendorf II) is now the best evidence for a an early Aurignacian technology in Central Europe at least slightly before 43,3 k.a. cal B.P. Mousterian ended by 41–39 k.a. cal BP (at 95.4% probability) across Europe. In Central Europe, there could be a contemporaneous Middle Paleolithic and Aurignacian, which is not substantiated by stratigraphy (Swabia, Lower Austria) and proven by the evidence of absence  of the Middle Paleolithic in Lower Austria near Willendorf (except the non dated Gudenus cave). Figure 6: Mousterian prepared cores from Lenderscheid, Hessen, Germany.

The dating for the Bohunician cluster at Brno is less clear. Radiocarbon age estimates from charcoal associated with Bohunician sites suggest a wide age range between 33 and 41 ka 14C BP (non-calibrated). The weighted mean of 48.2+/-1.9 ka BP TL for heated flint samples from Brno-Bohunice, the type site of the industry,  provides  non-radiocarbon data on archeological material from the Bohunician. I have my problems with the “frog- leap migration” of AMHs from the Negev to the Brno basin and the makers of this industry remain completely unkknown.

Who were the makers of the  Upper Paleolithic and the “Transitional Industries” 

We should not a priory rule out that Neanderthals and AHMs were both the bearers of the same technological traditions. This possibility heavily depends on the question if these anatomical and genetical distinct humans recognized each other as different or not.

Since the discovery of Neanderthal remains associated with Chatelperronian industries (Grotte du Renne and Saint Césaire), it became probable, but not definitely proven, that Neanderthals were the maker of the Châtelperronian. Anyhow according to our present knowledge, the Chatelperronian is older than the first AHM remains found in Europe inside Peștera cu Oase cave in south-west Romania (<41 k.a. cal. BP).

That means that the Chatelperronian may be the invention of Neanderthals. Knowing the complex history of skilled laminar Middle Paleolithic tool production in France during the last glaciation, this hypothesis comes not as a surprise. Anyhow, genetic analysis of the Oase jaw bone shows an early modern human had a Neanderthal great-great-great-great-grandparent, but most probably in the Near East and not in the Dordogne….

Recently the  morphology of two deciduous molars and radiocarbon ages from layers D and E of the Grotta del Cavallo (Lecce, Italy), which were assigned to the Uluzzian, was taken as an indication that AHMs were the makers of the Uluzzian. Anyhow, a meticulous reading of the excavation records show that Uluzzian, Protoaurignacian, Aurignacian and Early Epigravettian lithics exist in the assemblages from layers D and E. There was a major geological disturbances at this site and therfore the data remain highly ambivalent.

In sum: we cannot answer to the questions who were the makers of all these technocomplexes.  From our standard of knowledge, safe ground under our feet, appears only during the advanced Aurignacian and the Gravettian, where AHMs (you and me) were left alone as the only European Human Species. Maybe AHM were not teachers of the Neanderthals…

Suggested Reading: 

R. M. Wragg Sykes: To see a world in a hafted tool: Birch pitch composite technology, cognition and memory in Neanderthals (via reserchgate)

At the same time?

Down with the “MP-UP Transitional Industries” of Europe !

Interesting presentation given by  Tom Higham. Plus a Figire of Dufur bladelets from Aggsbachs blog  around the 52th minute of his spech…..

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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