by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved
Middle and Early UpperPaleolithic Burials and the Useof Chronotypology inContemporary PaleolithicResearch
by Julien Riel-Salvatore andGeoffrey A. Clark
Comparison of mortuary data from the Middle and Early UpperPaleolithic archaeological record shows that, contrary to previousassessments, there is much evidence for continuity between thetwo periods. This suggests that if R. H. Gargett’s critique of al-leged Middle Paleolithic burials is to be given credence, it shouldalso be applied to the “burials” of the Early Upper Paleolithic.Evidence for continuity reinforces conclusions derived fromlithic and faunal analyses and site locations that the Upper Pale-olithic as a reiﬁed category masks much variation in the archae-ological record and is therefore not an appropriate analytical tool.Dividing the Upper Paleolithic into Early and Late phases mightbe helpful for understanding the cultural and biological processesat work.
is currently a graduate research fel-low at the Archaeological Research Institute, Department of An-thropology, Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.
,U.S.A. [email@example.com]). Born in
, he was educated at Mc-Gill University (B.A., Honours,
) and at Arizona State Uni-versity (M.A.,
). He has conducted ﬁeldwork in Spain and It-aly, and his research interests include the symbolic capacities ofEurasian Paleolithic hominids, lithic technology and classiﬁca-tion, rock art, and research frameworks and traditions.
geoffrey a. clark
is Distinguished Research Professor ofAnthropology at Arizona State University. Born in
, he waseducated at the University of Arizona (B.A.,
)and the University of Chicago (Ph.D.,
). His recentpublications deal with the logic of inference in modern-human-origins research (e.g., with John Lindly, “Modern Human Originsin the Levant and Western Asia,”
, and “Symbolism and Modern Human Origins,”
) and applications of neo-Darwinian ev-olutionary theory in archaeology and human paleontology (e.g.,with coeditor Mike Barton,
[Washington,D.C.: American Anthropological Association,
]).The present paper was submitted
20 iii 00
2 i 01
We are grateful to many friends and colleagues for helping usbring this work to fruition. We thank Bill Kimbel (Institute of Hu-man Origins, Arizona State University) for incisive comments onan earlier draft; we have tried to incorporate his suggestions when-everpossible.We alsoacknowledgetheusefulremarksoftwoanon-
Since it was recognized in the early
th century thatUpper Paleolithic humans buried their dead (Deﬂeur
), debate has raged over whether the practicealso existed in the Middle Paleolithic. Although oftenimplicit, this controversy is linked to perceptions of therespective cognitive capacities of Middle and Upper Pa-leolithic hominids and thus deeply imbedded in the con-troversy over the origins of modern humans. Althoughmany archaeologists and physical anthropologists work-ing with Paleolithic material have come to accept theexistence of Middle Paleolithic burials, their meaning inbehavioral terms is still much discussed (Chase andDib-ble
, Robert Gargett proposed that
of what hadtypically been acceptedasevidenceofMiddlePaleolithicburials could be explained in terms of natural processes.For him, burials ﬁrst appeared in the Upper Paleolithic,presumably as part of a “symbolic explosion” heraldingmodernbehaviorclaimedbysomearchaeologiststohavetaken place at the Middle–Upper Paleolithic transition,roughly
(see, e.g., White
). Al-though his view was met with much skepticism (e.g.,Belfer-Cohen and Hovers
, Louwe Kooijmans et al.
), Gar-gett has recently published another paper on the issue(
). In this latest salvo he attributes more cases, in-cluding some recent ones thatwere excavatedmore“sci-entiﬁcally,” to natural depositional and taphonomicprocesses.While his call for a more rigorous examination of al-ternative explanations for Middle Paleolithic burials iswelcome,wesuggestthathisviewistooextreme.Belfer-Cohen and Hovers (
) have convincingly argued thatif Gargett’s criteria for Middle Paleolithic burials wereto be applied to the Natuﬁan burials of the Near East,we would still fall short of conclusive evidence of pur-poseful burial in that region. This suggests that Gargettis selective in the application of his principles—an ap-proach that he never adequately justiﬁes. We argue herethat the only way in which his approach could be jus-tiﬁed would be to submit the earliest, if not all, UpperPaleolithic burials to the same critical scrutiny. We pro-pose to test some of the implications of Gargett’s posi-tion by comparing the Middle Paleolithic evidence withthat for the Early Upper Paleolithic. If, as Gargett (
) argues, burial practices developed only in the UpperPaleolithic, no Upper Paleolithic burials from any periodshould share any signiﬁcant patterns with putative bur-ials from the Middle Paleolithic.
ymous referees. Filippo Salvatore (Concordia University) and SteveSchmich(ArizonaStateUniversity)readearlierversionsoftheman-uscript and provided useful comments. We thank Alexandra deSousa (George Washington University) for stimulating discussionson the nature of Paleolithic burial, the subject of her B.A. honorsthesis at Arizona State University. We are, of course, responsiblefor all errors of fact or omission.