The Individual Hominid in Context: Archaeological Investigations of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Landscapes, Locales, and Artefacts

The Individual Hominid in Context: Archaeological Investigations of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Landscapes, Locales, and Artefacts

The Individual Hominid in Context: Archaeological Investigations of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Landscapes, Locales, and Artefacts

The Individual Hominid in Context: Archaeological Investigations of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Landscapes, Locales, and Artefacts

Synopsis

This book explores new approaches to the remarkably detailed information that archaeologists now have for the study of our early ancestors.

Excerpt

For too long the Palaeolithic was regarded by archaeologists as the most un-promising of all periods for the reconstruction of society and economy (e.g. Childe 1951; Wheeler 1954). However, in the past fifty years it has been demonstrated that this widespread impression has no basis either in the supposed lack of evidence or in its quality. Well-preserved, high-resolution sites are known from all periods and regions of the Palaeolithic world (e.g. Carr 1984; Conard 2001b; Cziesla et al. 1990; Gamble and Boismier 1991; Goring-Morris 1987; Hietala 1984; Kind 1985; Kroll and Price 1991) and from these have come abundant artefacts and ecofacts to examine such issues as site structure, chaînes opératoires and contextual associations at the scale of both the site and region. the dictum that archaeologists should dig for relationships not facts (Binford 1964) has become standard Palaeolithic practice and the results, as this volume shows, are impressive.

However, while Palaeolithic archaeologists have made the case for the study of economic adaptation and social change at Pleistocene timescales, they are now faced with a wealth of detail requiring further analysis and interpretation. It is time to re-examine what those relationships we are excavating might be. in order to start this examination we have selected the individual hominid as the focus for this book. We are aware that such a focus may not be readily accepted, even by some of our contributors, since the Palaeolithic is predominantly seen as the preserve of group behaviour and selection, especially in the Earlier Palaeolithic which we concentrate upon here.

Moreover, even among those who champion the individual as the locus for selection in a Neo-Darwinian approach the prospects for the Palaeolithic are regarded as grim: 'Ethnographies record the behaviour of individuals, a capacity that is beyond the techniques of archaeology today, and in the forseeable future' (Kelly 1995:340). While we disagree with Kelly's pessimism (see Mania and Mania, Thieme, Pope and Roberts, Petraglia, Shipton and Paddayya, Adler and Conard this volume), neither must we confuse a richly detailed record, where the shadow of the individual can often be seen among the stones

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