A Venture into Technology…

Yesterday I was given a book about the Roman limes in the province of South-Holland, with images of how certain forts along the limes used to look and how those regions look now. It’s quite fun and I will definitely be visiting these places in the future. Even more interesting, however, is that there is an accompanying app called TimeTravel – limes which gives you the information and allows you a 360 degree look at any of the forts! It works with virtual reality glasses too, although I do not own a pair, so I haven’t tried that. They have a few other areas in the Netherlands mapped out as well, including Dam Square in Amsterdam and a prehistoric site in Boxmeer. The company aims to recreate 50,000 historical sites according to their website – https://timetravel.world/en/about/.

I find this really cool, but also so important for archaeological progress. A recurring problem in archaeology is the dissemination of information for the public; making it understandable and accessible so non-professionals can feel involved as well. According to the NEARCH survey, conducted in several European countries to better understand what people think of archaeology, 71% of people would like better dissemination of archaeological information (Kajda et al 2018). Given our current reliance on technology, what better way to reach large audiences (and those with no interest in reading academic articles) than with interactive apps! I might be in my 20s and studying for an archaeology MA, but museums with interactive exhibitions are still my favourite. Apps such as TimeTravel mean people can enjoy 3D reconstructions without even having to visit the sites, and they learn new things, too. I really hope more and more interactive games and apps involving archaeology emerge, as there is so much potential for using virtual reality and 3D reconstructions within (pre)history!

Source: Kajda, K., Marx, A., Wright, H., Richards, J., Marciniak, A., Rossenbach, K. S., Pawleta, M., van den Dries, M., Boom, K., Guermandi, M. P., Criado-Boado, F., Barreiro, D., Synnestvedt, A., Kotsakis, K., Kasvikis, K., Theodoroudi, E., Luth, F., Issa, M., and Frase, I. 2018. Archaeology, Heritage, and Social Value: Public Perspectives on European Archaeology. European Journal of Archaeology 21(1), 96-117.

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Neanderthal cave art in Spain

Earlier this year, Hoffmann et al (2018) published an article revealing the dates they obtained for cave art from three sites in Spain: La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales. Using uranium-thorium dating on the carbonate crusts that had formed over the art to obtain a minimum age, they concluded that these examples of cave art are older than 64.8 thousand years. Of course, this places the creation of this cave art well before the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe, and implies Neanderthals were the makers.

For the actual techniques used, I would refer you to the article by Hoffmann et al (2018) – the reference can be found below. The art includes linear motifs, dots and hand stencils. The authors go on to suggest that while the dots and lines found are questionable in terms of symbolism, the hand stencils are evidence of planned production, and their placement in relation to natural features on the cave wall makes it ‘difficult to see them as anything but meaningful symbols placed in meaningful places’ (Hoffman et al 2018).

Considering the ongoing debate concerning Neanderthal cognition and ability, especially whether they were capable of symbolic activities, it is unsurprising this article drew some criticism. I am not in a position to judge whether the criticism is well-founded or not, as I do not have knowledge of the dating or sampling techniques used. However, over the last few years of reading scholarly articles about Neanderthals and early modern humans, I have found that there is often a double standard in place for evidence of symbolism. It is assumed modern humans were symbolically inclined, and anything reminiscent of art or symbolism is thus accepted. Similar evidence for Neanderthals needs to be argued through and through, until no other possibility seems plausible, to gain widespread acceptance. I am not saying this is always the case, as there are enough scholars who approach any evidence with an open mind, and I am not necessarily arguing for Neanderthal symbolism, but it does seem a pervasive issue. It will be very interesting to see if these old dates become acceptable and verified, and what implications this will have for research into Neanderthal behaviour.

Article source: Hoffmann, D., Standish, C., Garcia-Diez, M., Pettitt, P., Milton, J., Zilhao, J., Alcolea-Gonzalez, J., Cantalejo-Duarte, P., Collado, H., de Balbin, R., Lorblanchet, M., Ramos-Munoz, J., Weniger, G-Ch., and Pike, A. 2018. U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art. Science 359(6378), 912-915. DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7778

An Introduction

If you’ve read my About section, this will be old news, but welcome to my blog! As the title may suggest, I will mostly be posting little articles and thoughts on Palaeolithic archaeology and related issues, as this is what I am currently studying. My main interest in this period is looking at Neanderthal behaviour and cognition (to be fair, almost anything about Neanderthals will gain my attention) and at how early modern humans spread across the world. I’m also very interested in the evolution of language and music, and the controversy surrounding some terminology used in archaeology (‘modern’ vs ‘primitive’, ‘complexity’ etc.).

The reason I decided to start a blog is due to one of my classes, actually, as an issue that kept coming up was that the public does not find archaeological information accessible. I obviously don’t think I’m going to change that with one blog, but I do hope archaeological research will become aimed at a wider audience in the future. In a world becoming rapidly more intertwined with technology, social media and blogs are a great way to do so.

If you have any questions, comments or are concerned about anything I write, just let me know! I hope you enjoy your wander through the Neanderthal niche 😛