Articles about Neandertals?
November 30, 2006 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I've always been interested in early hominids, specifically Neandertals. I'm currently working in a research institution with access to PubMed and a huge array of scientific journals -- a perfect opportunity to get my caveman-learnin' on! Can anyone recommend some good scientific articles about Neandertals? Is there a paleoanthropologist in the house?
posted by Greg Nog to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
(I cannot give you articles, but a very well researched and great scifi trilogy about Neanderthals is The Neanderthal Parallax, of which the first novel is called Hominids, highly recommended.)
posted by jacobjacobs at 10:29 AM on November 30, 2006

This is the question of my dreams. I am indeed a paleoanthropologist, specializing in Neandertal and other Middle Paleolithic stone technologies. The first thing I would recommend for an overview is Richard Klein's book The Human Career (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1999). Chapter 6 (367-493) deals with Neandertals specifically and provides a good overview of the available data on history, finds, technology, range, diet, behavior, etc through 1999, though Klein's views are of course not unbiased.

Chase, P. G., and H. L. Dibble. 1987. Middle Paleolithic Symbolism: A Review of Current Evidence and Interpretations. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 6:263-296.

For Neandertal DNA studies (gets technical, but interesting):
Green, R. E., J. Krause, S. E. Ptak, A. W. Briggs, M. T. Ronan, J. F. Simons, L. Du, M. Egholm, J. M. Rothberg, M. Paunovic, and S. Pääbo. 2006. Analysis of one million base pairs of Neanderthal DNA. Nature 444:330-336.

Serre, D., A. Langaney, M. Chech, M. Teschler-Nicola, M. Paunovic, P. Mennecier, M. Hofreiter, G. Possnert, and S. Paabo. 2004. No evidence of neandertal mtDNA contribution to early modern humans. PLOS Biology 2:313-317.

Ovchinnikov, I. V., A. Gotherstrom, G. P. Romanova, V. M. Kharitonov, K. Liden, and W. Goodwin. 2000. Molecular analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the northern Caucasus. Nature 404:490-493.

Krings, M., C. Capelli, F. Tschentscher, H. Geisert, S. Meyer, A. von Haeseler, K. Grossschmidt, G. Possnert, M. Paunovic, and S. Paabo. 2000. A view of Neandertal genetic diversity. Nature Genetics 26:144-146.

Krings, M., A. Stone, R. W. Schmitz, H. Krainitzki, M. Stoneking, and S. Paabo. 1997. Neandertal DNA sequences and the origin of modern humans. Cell 90:19-30.


Some current debates:

In regards to lithic technology, there are currently two competing schools, one primarily French (chaîne opératoire) and the other primarily Anglophone (reduction). Most of the articles get pretty technical and probably wouldn't be too interesting to you, but I can supply more references if you are interested. To start:

Dibble, H. L. 1995. Middle paleolithic scraper reduction: Background, clarification, and review of the evidence to date. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 2:299-368.

Chaîne Op:
Audouze, F. 1999. New advances in French prehistory. Antiquity 73:167-175.

And the first 22 pages of this are a good background in MP typology:
Bisson, M. 2000. Nineteenth Century tools for Twenty-First Century archaeology? Why the Middle Paleolithic Typology of François Bordes must be replaced. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 7:1-48.

As far as subsistence goes (you know: hunting, scavenging, diet, etc), check out articles by Curtis Marean and Mary Stiner, who represent opposing schools of thought.

In my opinion, skeletal paleoanthropology is and should be receding from prominence. It's just too imprecise and laden with guesswork and untestable assertions. With new incoming genetic evidence (see Green et al 2006 above) of not just mtDNA but nuclear DNA, assessment of relationships between fossils is becoming more accurate than ever before, without the need for what sometimes amounts to bone phrenology. That said, some great work is still being done with digitization, particularly by people like Katerina Harvati.


If all of this isn't enough, some good journals to watch:
Current Anthropology usually has some good paleo articles (available online via JSTOR and U of Chicago Press)
Evolutionary Anthropology (via Wiley Interscience)
PaleoAnthropology (available free from this site)
Journal of Human Evolution (via Science Direct)
and many others (Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Journal of Archaeological Research, etc)

If there's some specific aspect of Neandertals in which you're more interested, let me know, and I'd be happy to provide more citations and links. Thank you for making me relevant.
posted by The Michael The at 11:51 AM on November 30, 2006 [24 favorites]

I hope this comment isn't too pedantic: Neanderthals aren't considered "early". An example of an "early" hominid would be Australopithecus ("Lucy").

Neanderthals are very late. Some think they may have survived long enough to enter human mythology as "trolls" and "ogres".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:59 AM on November 30, 2006

Oh my god. The Michael The comes to the rescue with the unstoppable force of a runaway mastodon. God damn, man. Thank you.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:54 PM on November 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wrote an paper in college about the theoretical speech capability of H. S. N. I found the topic very interesting and it took quite a while to sort through the conflicting research on the matter. At the time (1989), it appears that Phillip Lieberman was the foremost authority on the matter. I ended up doing a phone interview with him in lieu of getting his most recent publication in time for my deadline and he was a very kind and provided some great information. By the way - Dr. Lieberman - if you're reading this - that paper got an A+ and the prof kept a copy for her files - thanks for the help.
posted by plinth at 12:55 PM on November 30, 2006

Erm, in light of The Micheal The's comment, this seems, well a little superfluous, but I like The Fossil Trail which follows the order of fossil discoveries to talk about the development of our understanding of human evolution. My evolution prof called it good bedtime reading, and it could provide some starting places.
posted by carmen at 1:02 PM on November 30, 2006

the only way the micheal the 's comment would have been better was if he had my name. to bad, the.

some important information you should look further into using the resources at your disposal.

1920's neandertal
Marcellin Boule's reconstruction and (mis)interpretation

1960's neandertal
Strauss, William L., Jr., and A. J. E. Cave 1957 Pathology and the Posture of Neanderthal Man. Quarterly Review of Biology 32(4):348-363

concerning culture and emotion
1. La Ferrassie rock shelter, France
2. Shanidar cave, Iraq
posted by Paleoindian at 1:33 PM on November 30, 2006

concerning culture and emotion
1. La Ferrassie rock shelter, France
2. Shanidar cave, Iraq

La Ferrassie is notable in this context because one of the recovered individuals was an old man with few teeth likely unable to take care of himself without help. Therefore there was mutual cooperation between group members and care of the elderly.

Shanidar, however, is important because of a misinterpretation. Solecki found pollen of a certain flower on at least a few of the skeletons found there and it was asserted to be "ritual" and "culture." However, it is far from certain that it was put there by the Neandertals (which would have implied ritual in burial). Rather, the skeletons were in a cave with a gaping mouth that faced oncoming winds, and moreover, Solecki himself notes that his workmen (the ones that were doing the digging) adorned themselves and their wheelbarrows with the very same flowers! So yeah, the "flower people of Shanidar" were not actually.

For a great review/debunking of Neandertal "burials," see:
Gargett, R. H. 1989. Grave Shortcomings: The Evidence for Neandertal Burial. Current Anthropology 30:157-190 (including comments, particularly Clive Gamble's).

Kooijmans, L. P. L., Y. Smirnov, R. S. Solecki, P. Villa, T. Weber, and R. H. Gargett. 1989. On the Evidence for Neandertal Burial. Current Anthropology 30:322-330 (more responses to Gargett's paper).

And for Solecki on his workmen's flower use (pp. 93-94):
Solecki, R. 1971. Shanidar: The First Flower People. New York: Knopf.
posted by The Michael The at 5:59 PM on November 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

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