Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

  title={Mirror, Mirror on the Wall},
  author={Marianne Sommer},
  journal={Social Studies of Science},
  pages={207 - 240}
This paper investigates an historical episode that involved an object that was both scientific and popular. In 1908, the first almost complete Neanderthal skeleton was discovered at La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. From its very rebirth, the specimen became an object of interest to scientists holding different views of human evolution. It also was of interest for a public whose Catholic and anti-clerical stances were voiced through the press, and for the modernist clerical prehistorians who had… 

Figures from this paper

One Skull and Many Headlines: The Role of the Press in the Steinau Hoax of 1911
In May 1911 a seemingly spectacular discovery from the ‘Devil's Cave’ near Steinau, east of Frankfurt caught the attention of German anthropologists. Soon a debate ensued whether the skull was
Inventing the Menton Man. Rivière's Discovery as Reflected in the French Media
When the fossil skeleton discovered in Menton was shown in the Natural History Museum in Paris in 1872, it was the first fossil man to be presented to the public in France. Popular representations of
The Lost World as Laboratory: The Politics of Evolution between Science and Fiction in the Early Decades of Twentieth-Century America
The essay focuses on the writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950)—the creator of Tarzan—and his contemporary and president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn
The most brutal of human skulls: measuring and knowing the first Neanderthal.
  • Paige Madison
  • History
    British journal for the history of science
  • 2016
Much of the scientific controversy surrounding the first recognized Neanderthal centred on questions of methodology and practice, and this will contribute to a growing historical recognition of the complex exchange between disciplines including geology, archaeology and comparative anatomy in the early study of fossil hominins.
Prehistoric ‘Taskscapes’: Representing Gender, Age and the Geography of Work
It is highly conceivable that prehistoric peoples richly narrated and celebrated their lives and relationship with their environment, but, with no written records available and limited artefacts,
Characterized by Darkness: Reconsidering the Origins of the Brutish Neanderthal.
This essay challenges the narrative of "Boule's error," arguing instead that the brutish Neanderthal concept originated much earlier in the history of Neanderthal research and was, in fact, an invention of the earliest analyses of the first specimen recognized as a Neanderthal in the mid-nineteenth century.
Brutish Neanderthals: History of a merciless characterization
A reexamination of Boule's predecessors' work is examined to underline an argument that this idea that Neanderthals were brutish and unintelligent has much earlier origins and is rooted in the first recognized specimen discovered in the Neander Valley in 1856.
The Daily Press Fashions a Heroic Intellectual: The Making of Florentino Ameghino in Late Nineteenth-Century Argentina
This article considers the emerging career of school preceptor Florentino Ameghino (1854?–1911), a fossil collector from the Argentine countryside who became an international authority in the 1880s
Bringing Bones to Life: How Science Made Piltdown Man Human
The story of Piltdown man today has the unfortunate status of being perhaps the most notorious scientific hoax of all time. Announced in 1912 by a team led by prominent British scientist A. S.
Prehistoric Art as a Boundary Object: Technology and Temporality of South African Petroglyphs
Decades ago I argued for the limited analytic purchase of the term “art.” I was then primarily concerned with the relatively recent invention of the present day category; the lack of local and


Ancient Types of Man
IN this little book Prof. Keith gives a most interesting account of the known fossil remains of man, and enlivens his pages by numerous allusions to the circumstances in which the various discoveries
The Fate of the "Classic" Neanderthals: A Consideration of Hominid Catastrophism [and Comments and Reply]
The Current View That the "Classic" Neanderthals Were an aberrant, specialized, or otherwise peculiar side branch which eventually became extinct without descendants has its origins in
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life
A man is unworthy of the name of a man of science who, whatever may be his special branch of study, has not materially altered his views on some important points within the last twelve years.
Ancient Hunters and Their Modern Representatives: William Sollas’s (1849–1936) Anthropology from Disappointed Bridge to Trunkless Tree and the Instrumentalisation of Racial Conflict
The paper will illustrate this general shift in anthropological theory for one particular scientist, William Sollas (1849–1936), who achieved a synthesis of human morphological and cultural evolution in what will be referred to as an imperialist model.
Erect Men/Undulating Women: The Visual Imagery of Gender, "Race" and Progress in Reconstructive Illustrations of Human Evolution
Based on intensive study of human origin illustrations, responses from students and colleagues and research into reconstructive illustration and feminist criticism of Western art, this
The Expulsion of the Neanderthals from Human Ancestry: Marcellin Boule and the Social Context of Scientific Research
The paper tries to delineate the factors that made the stooping Neanderthal caricature so appealing and plausible to Boule and his contemporaries, thereby setting the stage for the infamous Piltdown forgery.
Pathology and the Posture of Neanderthal Man
The La Chapelle-aux-Saints keleton has constituted the type specimen for the assessment of Neanderthal posture; for it is the only Neanderthal skeleton possessing any significant quantity of vertebrae, and vertebraes must needs provide a decisive factor in any attempt at reconstruction of body-posture.
Anthropology as a weapon of social combat in late-nineteenth-century France
The evolutionary anthropology and radical political commitment of Gabriel de Mortillet and his colleagues at the Ecole d'Anthropologie in Paris played a major role in the growth of anthropology in
The Third Republic in France, 1870-1940: Conflicts and Continuities
An essential introduction to the major political problems, debates and conflicts which are central to the history of the Third Republic in France, from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 to the fall
Institutional Ecology, `Translations' and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39
A model of how one group of actors managed this tension between divergent viewpoints was presented, drawing on the work of amateurs, professionals, administrators and others connected to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, during its early years.