The Invisible Frontier. A Multiple Species Model for the Origin of Behavioral Modernity

Abstract

AND DEPICTIONAL REPRESENTATIONS; PERSONAL ORNAMENTS Little evidence of abstract or depictional representations exists in the Middle Stone Age.7 Apart from the objects I mentioned at the beginning of this paper, the only evidence of depictions are the painted slabs with animal figures from the Apollo 11 site, Namibia, found in a level overlying assemblages with Howieson’s Poort affinities. The chronological attribution of this level, however, is unclear. The young age suggested by radiocarbon dating, 26 to 28,000 years ago, seems to contradict the cultural attribution of the assemblage. No personal ornaments are known at Middle Stone Age sites. The oldest traces of their manufacture come from the Kenyan site of Enkapune ya Muto, dated to 40,000 years ago,87 and from the site of Ntuka River 3, GvJh11, associated with a 29,975 year old Late Stone Age microblade industry (Ambrose, personal communication). Perforated and ochre-stained Glycymeris shells apparently were found at Qafzeh in association with early modern human burials dating to 90,000 to 100,000 years ago; the Mousterian levels of Skhul may have yielded similar shells.88 However, as long as no detailed publication of this material is available it is difficult to evaluate the evidence. In fact, the oldest evidence of the production of personal ornaments comes from the Early Upper Paleolithic levels of Uçagizli, Turkey, and perhaps from the contemporary layers at Ksar’ Akil, Lebanon. Recent excavation at the former site by Kuhn and colleagues89 has yielded a large number of perforated marine shells of different species from levels dated to ca. 39 to 41,000 years ago. The stonetool assemblage associated with the beads is characterized by pointed blades and small end-scrapers; it shows no Aurignacian affinities. The makers of these shell beads are still unknown and, considering the age of the layers, might well have been Neandertals. A morphologically modern child was found in the Aurignacian layers of Ksar’ Akil, but the layer from which the modern remains come is dated to ca. 29,000 years ago90 and overlies the Ahamarian layers in which the oldest beads occur. It is difficult to establish whether or when Neandertals or earlier hominids produced deliberate engravings or used personal ornaments because many objects that have been described as such are actually the result of natural phenomena.91 This is the case with the Pech-de-l’ Aze II rib and several purported engraved bones from Cueva Morin, Stranska Skala, and other sites. It is also true of perforated bones from Pech-de-l’Azé, Bois Roche, Kulna, Bocksteinschmide, and Repolusthöhle, as well as putative musical instruments like the “flute” from the Slovenian site of Divje Babe. The putative engravings are blood-vessel impressions, the putative pendants are actually bone fragments regurgitated by hyenas, and the perforations on the so-called flute are punctures produced by cave bears.92 Although no reports have been published regarding some of them, a limited number of bone and stone objects from Acheulean and Mousterian sites in Europe and the Near East do seem to bear deliberate engravings in the form of sequences of more or less parallel incisions. These include the wellknown mammoth shaft fragment from Bilzingsleben, which has an engraved fan-like motif; the Tata “engraved” nummulite and polished mammoth dental plate; the parallel lines on the Temnata slab; parallel incisions on bone or antler from Ermitage, Ferrassie, Vergisson IV, and Vaufrey; shaft fragments with dozens of parallel lines from the late Mousterian levels of the French sites of Unikote, La Chapelle-aux-Saints, and Marillac; and shaft fragments with criss-cross patterns from Peyrère. We also have seen an increase in the number of sites dated to ca. 35,000 to 40,000 years ago and located in periarctic regions that have yielded Middle Paleolithic or “transitional” stone-tool industries associated with sequentially notched bone and ivory working.93 At the moment, nothing demonstrates that these assemblages were not produced by Neandertals. In spite of the consistent, albeit discontinuous, presence of anatomically modern humans, near Eastern Mousterian sites are as spare as those from Europe in potentially symbolic objects. The only two examples are, so far, a flint cortex engraved with a set of concentric lines, which was found at Quneitra94 in a level dated to ca. 60,000 years ago, and another cortex with a set of parallel incisions, which was found at Qafzeh in the same levels as the burials.95 The only evidence from the Near East that might offer symbolic expressions from periods comparable with the most ancient African evidence of systematic use of pigments is the so-called Berekhat Ram figurine.7,79–81 This piece comes from an Acheulean layer sandwiched between two well-dated volcanic deposits, indicating that the human presence at the site is older than 230,000 years and probably lies between 250,000 and 280,000 years ago.96–97 A recent microscopic analysis has shown that the object was purposely modified by humans, but this, of course, does not demonstrate its symbolic nature.98 It is noteworthy that most of the more convincing “representations” found in Europe come from relatively late Neandertal sites, indicating an increase in the production of possible symbolic objects more or less at the same time as the increase in the production of engravings and pigment use in the southern African Middle Stone Age. We see no difference in the frequency and nature of such objects between Europe and the Near East, where anatomically modern humans 198 Evolutionary Anthropology ARTICLES

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@inproceedings{dErrico2003TheIF, title={The Invisible Frontier. A Multiple Species Model for the Origin of Behavioral Modernity}, author={Francesco d’Errico}, year={2003} }