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C u r r e n t A n t h r o p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

䉷 2001 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved 0011-3204/2001/4204-0001$3.00

Since it was recognized in the early 20th century that

Grave Markers Upper Paleolithic humans buried their dead (Defleur
1993:17–18), debate has raged over whether the practice
also existed in the Middle Paleolithic. Although often
implicit, this controversy is linked to perceptions of the
Middle and Early Upper respective cognitive capacities of Middle and Upper Pa-
Paleolithic Burials and the Use leolithic hominids and thus deeply imbedded in the con-
troversy over the origins of modern humans. Although
of Chronotypology in many archaeologists and physical anthropologists work-
ing with Paleolithic material have come to accept the
Contemporary Paleolithic existence of Middle Paleolithic burials, their meaning in
behavioral terms is still much discussed (Chase and Dib-
Research1 ble 1987, Hayden 1993).
In 1989, Robert Gargett proposed that all of what had
typically been accepted as evidence of Middle Paleolithic
by Julien Riel-Salvatore and burials could be explained in terms of natural processes.
For him, burials first appeared in the Upper Paleolithic,
Geoffrey A. Clark presumably as part of a “symbolic explosion” heralding
modern behavior claimed by some archaeologists to have
taken place at the Middle–Upper Paleolithic transition,
roughly 35,000 years b.p. (see, e.g., White 1989a, b). Al-
Comparison of mortuary data from the Middle and Early Upper though his view was met with much skepticism (e.g.,
Paleolithic archaeological record shows that, contrary to previous Belfer-Cohen and Hovers 1992, Hayden 1993, Defleur
assessments, there is much evidence for continuity between the 1993, Gargett 1989, Louwe Kooijmans et al. 1989), Gar-
two periods. This suggests that if R. H. Gargett’s critique of al-
leged Middle Paleolithic burials is to be given credence, it should gett has recently published another paper on the issue
also be applied to the “burials” of the Early Upper Paleolithic. (1999). In this latest salvo he attributes more cases, in-
Evidence for continuity reinforces conclusions derived from cluding some recent ones that were excavated more “sci-
lithic and faunal analyses and site locations that the Upper Pale-
olithic as a reified category masks much variation in the archae-
entifically,” to natural depositional and taphonomic
ological record and is therefore not an appropriate analytical tool. processes.
Dividing the Upper Paleolithic into Early and Late phases might While his call for a more rigorous examination of al-
be helpful for understanding the cultural and biological processes ternative explanations for Middle Paleolithic burials is
at work.
welcome, we suggest that his view is too extreme. Belfer-
j u l i e n r i e l - s a l v a t o r e is currently a graduate research fel- Cohen and Hovers (1992) have convincingly argued that
low at the Archaeological Research Institute, Department of An- if Gargett’s criteria for Middle Paleolithic burials were
thropology, Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz. 85287-2402, to be applied to the Natufian burials of the Near East,
U.S.A. []). Born in 1977, he was educated at Mc- we would still fall short of conclusive evidence of pur-
Gill University (B.A., Honours, 1999) and at Arizona State Uni-
versity (M.A., 2001). He has conducted fieldwork in Spain and It- poseful burial in that region. This suggests that Gargett
aly, and his research interests include the symbolic capacities of is selective in the application of his principles—an ap-
Eurasian Paleolithic hominids, lithic technology and classifica- proach that he never adequately justifies. We argue here
tion, rock art, and research frameworks and traditions.
that the only way in which his approach could be jus-
g e o f f r e y a . c l a r k is Distinguished Research Professor of tified would be to submit the earliest, if not all, Upper
Anthropology at Arizona State University. Born in 1944, he was Paleolithic burials to the same critical scrutiny. We pro-
educated at the University of Arizona (B.A., 1966; M.A., 1967) pose to test some of the implications of Gargett’s posi-
and the University of Chicago (Ph.D., 1971). His recent
publications deal with the logic of inference in modern-human- tion by comparing the Middle Paleolithic evidence with
origins research (e.g., with John Lindly, “Modern Human Origins that for the Early Upper Paleolithic. If, as Gargett (1999:
in the Levant and Western Asia,” American Anthropologist 91: 30) argues, burial practices developed only in the Upper
962–85, and “Symbolism and Modern Human Origins,” current
anthropology 31:233–61) and applications of neo-Darwinian ev-
Paleolithic, no Upper Paleolithic burials from any period
olutionary theory in archaeology and human paleontology (e.g., should share any significant patterns with putative bur-
with coeditor Mike Barton, Rediscovering Darwin [Washington, ials from the Middle Paleolithic.
D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1997]).

The present paper was submitted 20 iii 00 and accepted 2 i 01.

ymous referees. Filippo Salvatore (Concordia University) and Steve
Schmich (Arizona State University) read earlier versions of the man-
1. We are grateful to many friends and colleagues for helping us uscript and provided useful comments. We thank Alexandra de
bring this work to fruition. We thank Bill Kimbel (Institute of Hu- Sousa (George Washington University) for stimulating discussions
man Origins, Arizona State University) for incisive comments on on the nature of Paleolithic burial, the subject of her B.A. honors
an earlier draft; we have tried to incorporate his suggestions when- thesis at Arizona State University. We are, of course, responsible
ever possible. We also acknowledge the useful remarks of two anon- for all errors of fact or omission.

450 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

The Question of the Early Upper Paleolithic gested for the Middle Paleolithic, this paper will also test
the validity of the Upper Paleolithic as an analytical unit,
since it will show whether an unambiguous Middle/Up-
Recent work in various areas of the Old World has pro- per Paleolithic division exists in a body of evidence other
vided scholars with “hard” evidence that what is often than stone tools. By extension, the validity of typological
interpreted as typically Middle Paleolithic behavior, no- and etic approaches to the dynamic cultural and biolog-
tably subsistence strategies and tool making, shifted to ical processes of the Paleolithic will also be assessed.
typically Upper Paleolithic patterns only after about
20,000 years ago (Lindly and Clark 1990, Duff, Clark,
and Chadderdon 1992, Stiner 1994, Kuhn 1995). In fact, Burials and Modern Human Origins
observable patterns often show a great deal of continuity
across “cultures” and over time (Clark 1992). Recent Almost everyone involved in modern-human-origins re-
claims of a possible Neanderthal/Homo sapiens sapiens search accepts that humans had started to bury their dead
hybrid dating to the latter part of the Early Upper Pa- by the earliest phases of the Upper Paleolithic. The issue
leolithic (Duarte et al. 1999, Trinkaus, Zilhão, and before us, then, is whether purposeful burial also existed
Duarte 1999) also suggest that the simplistic equation in the Middle Paleolithic.
of “cultures” with hominid types, a correlate of tradi- One group of researchers, spearheaded by Gargett
tional interpretive frameworks of Paleolithic research, is (1989, 1996, 1999), argues that geological or nonhuman
seriously flawed and probably counterproductive for an natural processes alone can account for all apparent Mid-
understanding of the transition. dle Paleolithic hominid burials recovered so far. This
Recognition of distinct Early and Late Upper Paleo- implies that they view Upper Paleolithic graves in gen-
lithic periods has not been unanimously accepted. Some eral as radically different from all the material claimed
scholars have insisted that the Upper Paleolithic is a in support of intentional burial in the Middle Paleolithic.
coherent temporal and cultural unit (see White 1989b A major difficulty with this point of view is the unlike-
and various papers in Knecht, Pike-Tay, and White 1993). lihood that the geological processes at work in Middle
This period, they claim, was associated exclusively with Paleolithic sites would not also have affected those of
modern humans and a very few acculturated Neander- the Upper Paleolithic. The presence of proportionally
thals and was defined by an unmistakable “symbolic ex- greater numbers of Upper Paleolithic graves should be
plosion” that included as a single package art, symbolism perfectly explicable by such processes. Indeed, besides
(including burials), bone and antler technology, complex the fact that Early Upper Paleolithic sites were more
social structures, and perhaps even language (Noble and numerous and widespread than Middle Paleolithic ones
Davidson 1991, 1993, 1996). This point of view, which (White 1985:57), bodies buried 100,000 years ago are
ignores much of the evidence for Middle Paleolithic sym- much less likely to have been preserved to the present
bolism (e.g., Marshack 1989), agrees well with Gargett’s than those buried a “mere” 25,000 years ago. This per-
perception of the differences between the Middle and the spective suggests that modern humans, who were, after
Upper Paleolithic. Indeed, his view effectively “dehu- all, present for most of the Middle Paleolithic, eventually
manizes” Neanderthals and implies that they were, for crossed some kind of cognitive threshold beyond the
all intents and purposes, evolutionary dead ends. reach of the “symbolically challenged” Neanderthals,
Both positions, however, appear to accept that cultural who were destined to be replaced. It is not surprising,
diversity intensified in the course of the Upper Paleo- therefore, to see proponents of this interpretation invok-
lithic. This being the case, we can assume that the ear- ing the extreme replacement scenario of Stringer
liest phases of that chronotypologically defined period (Stringer, Hublin, and Vandermeersch 1984, Stringer and
would be characterized by simpler forms of the same Andrews 1988; but cf. Clark and Willermet 1995) and
behavior found in its later phases. Thus, if we are to take Mellars (1989, 1996; but cf. Clark and Lindly 1989a,
some fraction of the Upper Paleolithic as a basis for po- Clark 1997b).
tential behavioral comparisons with the Middle Paleo- Another group of researchers accepts the existence of
lithic, it appears sensible to take the allegedly behavior- Middle Paleolithic graves but sees them as different from
ally “incipient” portion of that period as that baseline. those of the Upper Paleolithic. Chase and Dibble (1987;
The first three Upper Paleolithic “technocomplexes” Chase 1991) argue that Middle Paleolithic burial is ev-
(Châtelperronian, Aurignacian, and Gravettian) will be idence of a level of caring and emotional attachment well
the ones characterized by the earliest and presumably above that of any other higher primates but that “there
simplest manifestations of symbolic behavior, including are no other obvious signs of ritual” (Chase and Dibble
purposeful burial. If Gargett is right and intentional in- 1987:276). In other words, Middle Paleolithic hominids
terment begins only with the earliest Upper Paleolithic, were gregarious, emotional, socially complex, and adept
the patterns derived from this limited sample should at hunting but had no ritual or symbolic behavior to
show no qualitative similarities whatsoever to those de- organize their sociality. (Exactly how emotion is de-
rived from a sample of alleged graves from the Middle tached from “humanness” is never made clear.) This po-
Paleolithic. sition has the notable advantage of being able to account
By trying to discern how burial practices in the Early for the very limited number of apparent graves recovered
Upper Paleolithic differed from or resembled those sug- from Middle Paleolithic contexts, since it implies that
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 451

burial was not a regular part of the Neanderthal behav- have, in fact, been described as very robust and showing
ioral repertoire and was, therefore, likely to have been Neanderthal affinities (see Wolfpoff 1997:746–58; 1999:
sporadic. It is handicapped, however, by evidence that 761–69). The problem is that it is impossible to compare
Middle Paleolithic modern humans also sporadically them with Neanderthals as a whole because, despite
buried their dead for no symbolic reason. This observa- claims to the contrary (see Stringer, Hublin, and Van-
tion can be interpreted as suggesting that modern hu- dermeersch 1984), we do not have a list of traits that
mans and Neanderthals were the same species and unambiguously characterizes Upper Pleistocene homi-
shared a behavioral repertoire—a view that is supported nids as Neanderthal or modern (Willermet 1993, Willer-
by lithic (Boëda 1988) and faunal (Chase 1989) evidence met and Clark 1995, Clark 1997a). This renders the clas-
strongly suggesting that the two hominids had similar sification of limitrophe specimens difficult if not
lifeways for an interval of at least 60,000 years (Lindly impossible, resulting in a conceptual impasse in which
and Clark 1990). The alternative interpretation preferred players from multiregional and replacement camps cite
by Chase and Dibble (1987:285) is that Neanderthals and the same evidence but interpret it differently. It is in-
modern humans were two distinct species and that only teresting, however, that the robust modern humans pre-
modern humans would eventually develop the capacity sent in the earliest Upper Paleolithic (see descriptions of
for symbolic behavior, or “neoculture,” giving them a Combe Capelle, Les Cottés, and Předmostı́ in May 1986)
competitive advantage over “paleocultural” Neander- are precisely what is expected by continuity advocates
thals, who were driven to extinction. Despite a lack of and can be accommodated only with difficulty by the
concrete evidence, most of the proponents of the non- replacement model. The recently discovered Lagar Velho
symbolic-burial interpretation adhere to this view. Neanderthal/modern “hybrid” (Duarte et al. 1999, Trin-
Others in this group see both kinds of Middle Paleo- kaus, Zilhão, and Duarte 1999) is another “aberration”
lithic hominids as having the capacity for symbolic be- that can be explained more adequately from a continuity
havior, but what this means is debated. Some researchers than from a replacement perspective (but see Bräuer
argue that despite their ability to act symbolically, Ne- 1984, 1989).
anderthals apparently never “refined” this capacity to We take the position that burials are crucial for un-
the same degree as modern humans and were therefore derstanding both the biological and the cultural transi-
condemned to be replaced by them (Defleur 1993; Mel- tion and that, like stone tools, they can serve as impor-
lars 1996). A broadly similar expression of this view tant sources of information about the origins of what is
based on the analysis of stone and bone tools and per- seen as typically modern behavior. As with stone tools,
sonal ornaments has recently been proposed by some however, it is quite unwarranted to link burials with
European workers (d’Errico et al. 1998, Zilhão and specific hominid taxa. It is very unlikely that interment
d’Errico 1999a; see Clark 1997a, 1999a). Others argue, was the only way our Paleolithic forebears had of dis-
however, that the “embryonic” ritual behavior embodied posing of the dead (Ucko 1969), and their mortuary prac-
in burials postdating 100,000 years b.p. provides support tices may not always have left traces in the archaeolog-
for the hypothesis that the two hominid groups were ical record (e.g., Le Mort 1988). Therefore, while burials
simply regional variants within a single, wide-ranging, can certainly be used as a source of evidence in inferring
polytypic species (Brose and Wolpoff 1971, Wolpoff, Wu, past lifeways, if we are ever to resolve the issues sur-
and Thorne 1984, Clark and Lindly 1989a, Wolpoff 1989). rounding our origins they cannot be studied in isolation
In their view, the Middle Paleolithic archaeological rec- from other lines of evidence (e.g., tool technologies, set-
ord provides evidence of a fair degree of social complexity tlement and subsistence patterns, etc.).
that increased at a different rate from that of biological
evolution (Marshack 1989, Hayden 1993). May (1986:
157, translation ours)2 sums up this position when she Some Comments on Burial Analysis
states that “the Upper Paleolithic is in continuity with
the Middle Paleolithic, developing further what it con- In analyzing mortuary data, regularities or patterns must
tained in germinal form. . . . It is the very principle of be identified in grave contexts. Following Binford (1971),
evolution.” This position has the advantage of being able patterns in the mortuary record can be assumed to reflect
to indicate some of the elements that should or could some of the various social personae (statuses occupied
be found in Early Upper Paleolithic burials, thereby pro- or activated in life) of the deceased (see also Clark and
viding the test implications for Early Upper Paleolithic Neeley 1987). This suggests that, if we can control for
burial that the other approaches have studiously avoided. taphonomy and diagenesis, at least some of the patterns
In fact, the multiregional hypothesis predicts that ex- in the Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic record could
tremely robust modern humans showing some Nean- represent or index the social personae recognized by the
derthal features will be the earliest buried hominids of societies in which purposefully interred individuals once
the Upper Paleolithic. It happens that many of the ear- participated. As is pointed out by Harrold (1980:196),
liest recovered hominids from the Upper Paleolithic however, this approach is based on cross-cultural obser-
vations derived from fully modern populations that typ-
2. “Le Paléolithique supérieur est en continuité avec le Paléoli- ically use formal cemeteries to dispose of their dead.
thique moyen, développe ce qu’il contenait en germe. . . . C’est le Paleolithic burials are much fewer and much more
principe même de l’évolution.” widely distributed in space and time than those of any
452 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

anthropological culture. We may also be dealing with Technically, the number of supposed Middle Paleo-
two different species (or, more likely, populations of the lithic burials included in this study should be of no im-
same species), with the result that anthropologically de- portance, since, if they do not carry a symbolic loading,
rived principles are probably not applicable to the period they should not show any patterns similar to those de-
under scrutiny. Therefore, while patterns may be visible rived from Early Upper Paleolithic burials (Gargett 1999:
in the mortuary record of the later phases of the Paleo- 30). Nevertheless, we classified the apparent Middle Pa-
lithic, one must be extremely careful in interpreting leolithic burials as “certain,” “probable,” or “possible”
them and wary of generalizing them to archaeologically (Defleur 1993) and omitted the “possible” burials from
defined analytical units, which are by definition fairly our sample. When possible, reference was also made to
static and of very long duration and therefore quite dif- the original publications for the older sites reviewed by
ferent from cultures in the purely anthropological sense Defleur (e.g., Solecki 1971; Heim 1976, 1982) to increase
of the term (Clark 1997a). the accuracy of our interpretations. Additional data from
recently discovered Middle Paleolithic burials were gath-
ered from articles or excavation reports and included in
Selection of Data the sample (Bar-Yosef et al. 1992, Rak, Kimbel, and Hov-
ers 1994, Akazawa et al. 1995, Hovers et al. 1995, Tillier
The geographical area under scrutiny consists of most of 1995, Vermeersch et al. 1998).
Western Eurasia and Western Russia, that is, the whole A number of criteria were used to determine if a burial
area in which typologically defined Middle and Upper belonged to the Middle Paleolithic. First and foremost,
Paleolithic tool assemblages have been identified. This given that typological approaches have repeatedly been
is an area of several million square kilometers. Although shown to be seriously flawed (Dibble 1984, 1987; Dibble
many sites there have yielded human remains, only and Rolland 1992; Bisson 2000), we looked instead for a
those considered to have been purposefully buried are Middle Paleolithic or Mousterian technological “signa-
examined here. ture”—the dominance of flake-based retouched tools in
One of Gargett’s major criticisms of research on Mid- lithic assemblages (except in the Levant, where blade-
dle Paleolithic burials is that the mere presence of an based tools appear to be the norm for that period [see
articulated skeleton in an archaeological context is often e.g., Bar-Yosef and Kuhn 1999]). This definition roughly
taken as evidence for purposeful burial (1989:160–61; parallels the traditional typology-based one and makes
1999:31–33, 41–42). This criticism is a valid one. Al- identification of Middle Paleolithic archaeological strata
though is it true that skeletons are rarely so preserved possible even in a survey that must depend on second-
(1989:157–58), nonhuman processes can and sometimes hand sources. If a proposed burial associated with an
do result in the preservation of articulated skeletal parts. assemblage of Middle Paleolithic signature was recorded,
Many researchers (May 1986, Smirnov 1989, Defleur
it was assumed to date to the Middle Paleolithic. (The
1993) do in fact start their analyses of Middle Paleolithic
use of this concept of signature is proposed simply as a
burials with the presumption that an articulated skele-
tool for classifying burials for the purposes of this study.)
ton represents intentional burial (but see Vandermeersch
In the rare instances when dates were available, if the
1993 for an alternative approach). All agree, however,
burial was dated to over 40,000 b.p.3 it was also included
that an articulated skeleton by itself is never sufficient
in the Middle Paleolithic sample. A big problem here is
evidence of a burial.
that the various dates available were obtained by differ-
A common solution is to look for other elements that
ent methods applied to different materials across the
may indicate purposeful interment. These include a skel-
eton’s position, the presence of a pit or some other type sites (for a very detailed discussion of dating methods
of burial structure, and the presence of grave applied to the Paleolithic period, see Zilhão and d’Errico
goods—objects unambiguously associated with the re- 1999a). Effectively, this means that the dates cannot be
mains and therefore assumed to have been intentionally directly compared with each other. Since there are no
placed in a grave (Defleur 1993:57–58). As concerns the temporally distinct Middle Paleolithic tool traditions
identification of burial inclusions as “grave goods” in (but see Mellars 1996), dates never contradicted the at-
Middle Paleolithic contexts, we refer the reader to De- tribution of a grave to the Middle Paleolithic based on
fleur’s (1993) thorough and competent discussion of the assemblage signature.
matter and to the original sources in which they were The Early Upper Paleolithic burials considered here
reported as such in recently discovered burials (i.e., De- were compiled from a variety of sources, including syn-
deriyeh 1 [Akazawa et al. 1995] and Amud 7 [Hovers et theses (Oakley, Campbell, and Molleson 1971, May 1986,
al. 1995, Hovers, Kimbel, and Rak 2000, Rak, Kimbel, Palma di Cesnola 1993) and detailed journal articles
and Hovers 1994]). May (1986:4) also suggests that at- (Klima 1987a, b; Svoboda 1989; Svoboda and Vlček 1991).
tention be paid to the total area in which the remains There were, however, significant problems in identifying
are found, and Smirnov (1989:216) proposes that the pres-
ence of associated features be taken into account. When 3. The date of 40,000 b.p. is not typically associated with the end
of the Middle Paleolithic but is used here because it excludes even
one or more of these elements co-occurs with an artic- the earliest recorded manifestation of the so-called Middle–Upper
ulated skeleton, it seems likely that we are dealing with Paleolithic transition, characterized by the development of Upper
a purposeful inhumation. Paleolithic tool types.
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 453

the sites to be included in the sample. Very few sites are determinant of who was buried in the Middle Paleolithic.
securely dated, and, although the “cultures” included in The relevant information is tabulated in tables 1 and 2.
the time interval chosen, 40,000–20,000 years b.p., are It might have been interesting here to generate and use
only the Châtelperronian, the Aurignacian, and the a “diversity index” like that employed by Harrold (1980:
Gravettian, these denominations are not valid over the 200) in his comparative study of Paleolithic burials.
whole geographical area under investigation. For exam- However, since we do not know the relative cultural
ple, the Gravettian in Moravia is called the Pavlovian, value of various types of grave goods or whether the ab-
defined as a unique and distinctive Moravian variation sence of grave goods could be mitigated by more elabo-
on the Gravettian theme (Svoboda 1994). This lack of a rate ritual ceremonies that left no archaeological traces,
unified terminology points to the need for revision of the we considered it risky to do so.
conceptual frameworks used for dealing with Upper Pa-
leolithic “industries” (see Barton, Olszewski, and Coin-
man 1996 for a lithic-based example). Furthermore, the Data Analysis
“cultural sequence” is not necessarily the same in the
various parts of the area under scrutiny. This often makes middle paleolithic burials
it difficult to understand precisely what researchers
mean in temporal terms when they use similar Analysis of the Middle Paleolithic sample (table 3) allows
chronotypological designations in different areas. If noth- the following general observations. First, juveniles com-
ing else, this fundamental problem should cast serious prise the largest part of the sample. Most recovered ju-
doubt on the unilineal cultural evolution implied in the veniles appear to be under 10 years of age, while most
Upper Paleolithic typology devised by de Sonneville-Bor- males belong to the 16–30 and 41–50 age brackets.5 Fe-
des and Perrot (1953, 1954, 1955, 1956). males are underrepresented.
Another problem was the significant discrepancies be- Roughly one in five Middle Paleolithic burials con-
tween typological designations and absolute dates. For tained an individual who showed signs of pathology. Two
example, while Palma di Cesnola (1993:406–10) assigns out of seven identified females (disproportionately high
all the Barma Grande graves to the earliest part of the for this period) exhibited pathology.
Upper Paleolithic, recent 14C dates (Bisson, Tisnerat, and The vast majority of inhumed individuals were Ne-
White 1996) show that they really postdate 20,000 years anderthals. That the three sites that yielded modern hu-
b.p. and therefore fall outside of our time range. This is man burials produced roughly 30% of the burials might
a major problem, since most Early Upper Paleolithic sites be interpreted as evidence that modern humans showed
have been classified chronotypologically but never dated. a higher propensity to bury their dead, but this would
It can be hoped, however, that renewed interest in this be a risky assertion. Two of these sites (Qafzeh and
material, most of it excavated in the late 19th or early Skhūl) are among the oldest in our sample, while the
20th century, will eventually result in a more adequate third, Taramsa, yielded a single rather plain grave and
radiometric chronology. In sum, most of the material in dates to between roughly 80,000 and 50,000 years b.p.
the Early Upper Paleolithic sample was either supported (Vermeersch et al. 1998). Following the same dubious
by absolute dates or assigned to the Châtelperronian, the line of reasoning, one could conclude that modern hu-
Aurignacian, or (more rarely) the Gravettian. man behavior actually became simpler rather than more
The compilation of the data resulted in a sample of 45 complex over time.
alleged Middle Paleolithic and 32 alleged Early Upper In most cases, the placement and resting plane of the
Paleolithic burials (excluding the 18 individuals from the recovered individuals were not reported by the excava-
Předmostı́ mass grave, for which secure information is tors. This is unfortunate, since in many ethnographic
lacking). The variables selected for study include sex, cultures body position is a significant part of the mor-
age, body position, grave orientation, grave features, and tuary program (Carr 1995). Those bodies for which in-
grave goods, all of which are fairly standard in the study formation was available show that roughly equal num-
of Paleolithic burials4 (Binford 1968, Harrold 1980, Smir- bers rested on their backs or right sides and
nov 1989, Defleur 1993). In addition, the hominid “type” proportionally fewer of them on their left. This period
of recovered skeletons was also recorded on the chance has the only evidence for “kneeling” and “seated” po-
that species- or population-specific mortuary practices sitions. Most of the skeletons were found in a contracted
might be identified. Finally, evidence of pathology on the or tightly flexed position.
recovered skeletons was also noted, following Defleur’s Data on grave orientation are also scarce, but most
(1993:225) suggestion that it may have been a significant burials for which information is available were oriented
one way or another along an east-west axis. The only
sites where bodies were consistently oriented along a
4. Most of these criteria are far from unambiguously identified.
Besides those characteristics of skeletons which can often be mis- particular axis are La Ferrassie and Qafzeh, and the sites
interpreted in incomplete individuals (age and sex), the question of
burial orientation is also difficult, since burials may have been 5. Most paleodemographic studies rely on five-year age-brackets,
oriented according to nearby features of the landscape that have but we are using the brackets proposed by Defleur not to reconstruct
long since disappeared (rivers, trees, etc.) rather than according to a life table but to compare patterns between Middle and Early Upper
the eight cardinal directions of Western geography. Beyond that, Paleolithic groups. This use should not mask much of the varia-
orientation relative to a specific spatial referent is rarely evident. bility in the mortuary record.
454 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

table 1
Middle Paleolithic Mortuary Data

Age– Physical Body Orien-

Burial Status Sexa Age Class Pathologyb Typec Positiond tatione Featuresf Grave Goods

La Chapelle-aux- Certain M Ⳳ50 41–50 N Ne D/C W–E P Bones, lithics?, nearby

Saints pits (lithics, bone
Le Moustier 1 Probable M Young 16–30? N Ne R/F? ? – Bone shard ⫹ lithic
adult “pillow”
Le Moustier 2 Probable J Child 2–10 N Ne ? ? P Lithics?, nearby pits
(lithics, bone
La Ferrassie 1 Certain M 40–45 41–50 N Ne D/F W–E P Bone shards, rocks
La Ferrassie 2 Certain F 25–30 16–30 N Ne R/C E–W P –
La Ferrassie 3 Certain J Ⳳ10 2–10 N Ne ? ? P Lithics, nearby pits
(lithics, bone
La Ferrassie 4a∗ Certain J Foetus Foetus N Ne ? ? P Lithics, rock over
La Ferrassie 4b∗ Certain J 1 mo. 0–1 N Ne ? ? P Lithics, rock over
grave, three nearby
La Ferrassie 5 Certain J Foetus Foetus N Ne ? ? P/M Lithics
La Ferrassie 6 Certain J Ⳳ3 2–10 N Ne ? E–W P Lithics, rock over
La Ferrassie 8 Probable J Ⳳ2 2–10 N Ne ? ? – –
La Quina Certain F ? 16–30 Y Ne R/? ? – Spheroid, bone shards,
sediment covering?
Le Régourdou Certain ? ? 31–40 N Ne L/C W–E P/M/H Lithics, bear bones,
rock over skeleton
Le Roc-de-Marsal Certain J Ⳳ3 2–10 N Ne L/F? N–S P Sandstones, bone
shard “pillow,” ant-
lers, sediment
Spy 1 Certain M ? 31–40 N Ne ? E–W – –
Spy 2 Probable F ? 16–30 N Ne ? ? – –
Tabūn Certain F Ⳳ30 16–30 N Ne D/F W–E P –
Skhūl 1 Certain J Child 2–10 Y AMH K ? P –
Skhūl 4 Certain M 40–50 41–50 N AMH R/C SE–NW P Lithics?
Skhūl 5 Certain M 30–40 31–40 N AMH D/C W–E P Boar mandible
Skhūl 6 Probable M ? 31–40 N AMH ? ? – –
Skhūl 7 Certain F Ⳳ35 31–40 N AMH R/C ? – –
Skhūl 9 Probable M ? 41–50 Y AMH ? ? – –
Qafzeh 3 Certain F ? 41–50 N AMH L/E? ? – –
Qafzeh 8 Certain M Adult 31–40 N AMH R/F E–W P Lithics?, ochre, stones
over skeleton, dou-
ble grave
Qafzeh 9∗ Certain F Young 16–30 Y AMH L/F N–S P –

Qafzeh 10 Certain J Ⳳ6 2–10 N AMH L/C E–W P –
Qafzeh 11 Certain J 13–14 11–15 N AMH D/C N–S P Ochre?, bone shards,
trophies, rocks over
Qafzeh 15 Probable J 8–10 2–10 N AMH ? ? P –
Shanidar 1 Certain M 30–40 31–40 Y Ne D/? W–E P/M Sediment covering?
Shanidar 2 Probable M 20–30 16–30 N Ne ? ? M/H Lithics?
Shanidar 3 Certain M 40⫹ 41–50 Y Ne R/? E–W P/M –
Shanidar 4 Certain M 30–40 31–40 N Ne L/C SE–NW P/M Flowers, sediment
Shanidar 5 Certain M 40⫹ 41–50 Y Ne ?/C ? M/H Large mammal bones?
Shanidar 7 Certain J 9 mos. 0–1 N Ne R/C N–S H –
Amud 1 Certain M Adult 16–30 N Ne R/C N–S – –
Amud 7 Certain J 10 mos. 0–1 N Ne R/E NW–SE P Red deer maxilla on
Kebara 1 Probable J 7 mos. 0–1 N Ne ? ? – –
Kebara 2 Certain M Adult 16–30 N Ne D/? E–W P/H –
Dederiyeh 1 Certain J 1–3 2–10 N Ne D/E S–N P Limestone slab over
head, triangular
flint flake over
Taramsa 1 Certain J 8–10 2–10 N AMH S/C E–W P/M –
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 455

table 1

Age– Physical Body Orien-

Burial Status Sexa Age Class Pathologyb Typec Positiond tatione Featuresf Grave Goods
Kiik-Koba 12 Probable M Adult 31–40 N Ne ? ? P –
Kiik-Koba 2 Probable J Ⳳ1 0–1 N Ne ? ? P –
Teshik-Tash Certain J 8–10 2–10 N Ne ? ? P Circle of goat horns
Staroselje Probable J Ⳳ2 2–10 Y Ne D/E W–E P –

∗Multiple burial.
M, male; F, female; J, juvenile (impossible to determine sex).
Y, present (injury, disease, malformation); N, absent.
Ne, Neanderthal; AMH, anatomically modern human.
D, dorsal; L, lying on left side; R, lying on right side; V, ventral; F, flexed; C, contracted; K, “kneeling”; E, extended (based on head-
feet axis); S, “seated.”
W, west; E, east; N, north; S, south; SE, southeast; NW, northwest.
P, pit (visible or deduced); M, mound; H, hearth.

which contained the most burials, Skhūl and Shanidar, too strict when it comes to Middle Paleolithic burials
show a lack of standardization in grave orientation. This (Belfer-Cohen and Hovers 1992).
may be significant, since one would assume that a co-
herent mortuary program represented by multiple suc-
early upper paleolithic burials
cessive inhumations would consistently orient bodies in
the same or similar directions. For the Early Upper Paleolithic, it appears that males
Slightly more than three-quarters of the burials had were buried more often than both females and juveniles.
associated features (pits, hearths, mounds, stone casings). Adults appear to have accounted for at least three-quar-
Most were associated with pits. Mounds and hearths ters of the burials, but females were half as numerous
were also reported with some burials but were rare. Most as males. Burial seems to have been reserved mostly for
graves had a single associated feature. This implies that individuals in age-brackets 16–30 and 31–40.
at least some effort and energy was expended in disposing Pathology is rare and distributed evenly between adult
of most Middle Paleolithic bodies in graves. males and females. This suggests that pathology may not
A little more than half the burials contained grave have been a significant consideration in the selection of
goods. Most of these appear to have been stone tools individuals for burial, although Dolnı́ Věstonice XV (the
(although no use-wear studies appear to have been con- “female” of the triple burial) exhibits pathology (Klima
ducted to see whether they were used prior to being bur- 1987a, b).
ied), but animal bones, oddly shaped rocks, and sedi- The overwhelming majority of burials were modern
ments of distinctive color or texture were all also found humans; only one Neanderthal (Saint-Césaire 1) and a
in graves (Defleur 1993:257). Only two graves contained supposed Neanderthal/modern hybrid (Lagar Velho 1)
ochre, and when present this material was found only were recovered. In the absence of clear criteria for dis-
in pebble form. Striae show that these pebbles had been tinguishing Neanderthals from modern humans, it was
rubbed repeatedly across relatively hard surfaces prior to impossible to determine whether “extremely robust” in-
their inclusion in the graves. dividuals represented a significant part of the sample.
If one thing characterizes putative Middle Paleolithic Interesting insights regarding the biological processes at
grave goods, it is that they are not extremely variable in work during the Early Upper Paleolithic might well be
nature and that, except perhaps for the associated animal derived from isolating such a group and analyzing it
bones, most do not appear to have been “exceptional” along with Lagar Velho 1.
items. The problem, of course, is that we have no way The preferred body position appears to have been a
of knowing what, if anything, was symbolized by the dorsal and fully extended one, although some tightly
inclusion of these items. Vandermeersch (1976) is of the flexed (contracted) and semiflexed burials account for a
opinion that many of the so-called grave goods could fair share of the reported graves. Interestingly, this period
have become associated with the skeletons as a result of is the only one to show evidence of skeletons buried face
the filling of the pits. This may be true, but the fact that down (two cases). These observations would tend to sup-
some bodies were found with unambiguous grave port the notion of a widespread mortuary program, al-
goods—despite Gargett’s claims to the contrary— though the high frequency of burials with unknown body
suggests that the practice was present (see Hovers et al. positions precludes any statistical assessment.
1995, Hovers, Kimbel, and Rak 2000). Subtlety is de- Grave orientation does not appear to be patterned in
manded in assessing whether items recovered with any remarkable way. Only bodies found in multiple bur-
graves represent intentional inclusions, as it has been ials were found oriented either in the same way or, as is
shown that the criteria used by researchers may often be the case for Sungir 3 and 4, in complementary ways.
456 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

table 2
Early Upper Paleolithic Mortuary Data

Age– Physical Body Orien-

Burial Status Sexa Age Class Pathologyb Typec Positiond tatione Featuresf Grave Goods

Balzo della Torre I Certain M 25–30 16–30 N AMH D/E NW–SE – Headdress, necklace,
bracelet, armband,
ochre cover, bone
point, ochred split
bear canine, animal
Balzo della Torre II Certain M Adult 16–30 N AMH D/E NW–SE H Necklace, armband,
“kneecap,” flat uni-
facial blade, ochred
flint pebble
Balzo della Torre III Certain J 15 11–15 N AMH V/E NW–SE – –
Grotta del Caviglione Certain M Adult 16–30 N AMH L/F N–S S, H Headdress, “kneecap,”
I ochre cover, 2
blades, ochre-filled
“canal,” animal
Grotta dei Fanciulli I∗ Certain M Young 16–30 N AMH R/C ? P, S Ochre cover (thick on
adult/17 skull), blade,
Grotta dei Fanciulli Certain F Older 31–40 N AMH R/C ? P Ochred bracelets, 2
II∗ adult/40 scrapers, 2 serpen-
tine pebbles on
Paglicci II Certain M Teen/13 11–15 N AMH D/E SW–NE S Headdress, necklace,
bracelet, “anklet”,
ochre cover (thick
on head), many
“good” lithics
Paglicci III Certain F 18–20 16–30 N AMH D/E S–N P Two diverse fill types,
ochre cover (thick
on head) and bed,
chunks of ochred
stone over grave,
lithics, “diadem”
Veneri Parabitta I∗ Certain M 125 16–30? N AMH F/L ? P –
Veneri Parabitta II∗ Certain F 125 16–30? N AMH D/E ? P Ochred pebble, head-
dress, ochre over
Agnano Certain F Ⳳ20 16–30 N AMH ?/C ? – Ochre, headdress,
Dolnı́ Věstonice III Certain F 38–42 30–40 N AMH R/F ? P Ochre, 2 incised
mammoth shoulder
blades as cover, 10
fox canines
Dolnı́ Věstonice XIII∗ Certain M 17–23 16–30 N AMH D/E S–N P Ochre on head, mam-
moth ivory stake
through pelvis, “di-
adem,” mammoth
ivory pendant
Dolnı́ Věstonice XIV∗ Certain M 17–23 16–30 N AMH V/E S–N P Ochre on head,
Dolnı́ Věstonice XV∗ Certain F? 17–23 16–30 Y AMH D/E S–N P Ochre on head and
between thighs, “di-
adem,” piece of
deer or horse rib in
Dolnı́ Věstonice XVI Certain M 40–50 41–50 Y AMH R/F E–W P, H Ochre on head, chest
and pelvis, 4
pierced canines,
Pavlov I Certain M 40–50 41–50 N AMH ?/C ? P Incised mammoth
shoulder blade as
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 457

table 2

Age– Physical Body Orien-

Burial Status Sexa Age Class Pathologyb Typec Positiond tatione Featuresf Grave Goods
Brno II Probable M Middle- 31–40 N AMH ? ? P Ochre, necklace,
aged bone/ivory discs
and rings, various
bone/stone tools
Brno III Probable F Middle- 31–40 N AMH R/C ? – Ochre
Předmostı́ 22 Probable J 9–10 2–10 N AMH ? ? – Hare teeth on
Předmostı́ 27 Probable ? Adult ? N AMH D/E ? – Traces of defleshing
Předmostı́ 1–18 Certain n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. P Multiple grave (differ-
ent times)
Sungir 2 Certain M 55–65 50⫹ N AMH D/E NE–SW P Headdress, lithics,
necklace, bracelets,
armbands, “suit”
Sungir 3∗ Certain J 7–9 2–10 N AMH D/E SW–NE P Ochre bed, medium
mammoth tusk
spear, 8 javelins, 2
knives, disc near
right temple,
beaded clothes,
headdress, bracelets,
pins, rings, 2 bone
ornaments on
chest, 2 “bâtons de
Sungir 4∗ Certain J 12–13 11–15 N AMH D/E NE–SW P Ochre bed, long mam-
moth task spear, 3
javelins, 1 knife,
disc near right tem-
ple, beaded clothes,
headdress, bracelets,
pins, rings
Combe Capelle Certain ? Adult ? N AMH D/E N–S P Pierced shells, tooth
on right wrist
Les Cottés Probable M? 50–60 50⫹ Y AMH ? ? – –
Saint-Césaire Probable M Adult – N Ne SB? ? – –
Cro-Magnon 1∗ Probable M 50⫹ 50⫹ N AMH ? ? – Shells? Pendant?
Cro-Magnon 2∗ Probable F 20–30 16–30 Y AMH ? ? – Shells?
Cro-Magnon 3∗ Probable M 30–40 31–40 N AMH ? ? – Shells?
Cro-Magnon 5∗ Probable I 1 mo. 0–1 N AMH ? ? – Shells?
Lagar Velho 1 Certain J Ⳳ3 2–10 N Hybrid D/E E–W P, H Ochre, wrap, stones
and red deer bones
lining, single
pierced shell

∗Multiple burial.
M, male; F, female; J, juvenile (impossible to determine sex).
Y, present (injury, disease, malformation); N, absent.
Ne, Neanderthal; AMH, anatomically modern human.
D, dorsal; L, lying on left side; R, lying on right side; V, ventral; F, flexed; C, contracted; K, “kneeling”; E, extended (based on head-
feet axis); S, “seated.”
W, west; E, east; N, north; S, south; SE, southeast; NW, northwest.
P, pit (visible or deduced); M, mound; H, hearth.

A significant number of graves were found with no based on figures that include the four Cro-Magnon bur-
associated features, although most showed traces of a ials claimed by May (1986:37–38) to be associated with
pit. A few exhibited hearths or stone casings over their over 300 shells and a single pendant. The association of
heads and/or feet. No mounds were reported for any bur- this material with any of the Cro-Magnon skeletons is
ial of this period. Only a handful of burials had as many far from unambiguous, and some writers discount it al-
as two associated features. together (Oakley, Campbell, and Molleson 1971:104–5;
Finally, the vast majority of Early Upper Paleolithic Harrold 1980:205). If this were done here, the proportion
burials appear to have contained grave goods of some of Early Upper Paleolithic graves unambiguously asso-
kind. This pattern may be more apparent than real. It is ciated with grave goods would fall to three-quarters.
458 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

table 3 ized sets of mortuary practices. In fact, except for the

Characteristics of Middle (N p 45) and Early Upper probably insignificant recurrence of grave orientation,
(N p 32) Paleolithic Burials Compared these clusters do not appear to be internally consistent
in the distribution of the variables analyzed in this study.
Characteristic Middle Upper This suggests that they represent random accumulations
of burials over long periods of time and that they were
Sex not used as formal cemeteries by specific hominid groups
Male 17 16
Female 7 8
with different customs in the Middle Paleolithic. Simi-
Juvenile 20 6 larly, for the Early Upper Paleolithic, although most
Unknown 1 2 graves were found clustered in the Grimaldi Caves in
0–1 7 1 Italy (Balzo della Torre, Grotta del Caviglione, Grotta dei
2–10 12 3 Fanciulli) or near Pavlov Hill in Moravia (Dolnı́ Věsto-
11–15 1 3 nice, Brno, Pavlov, Předmostı́), the burial practices re-
16–30 9 12
31–40 9 5 flected in individual graves in these “clusters” are quite
41–50 7 2 variable. In fact, most of the observable “within-cluster”
50⫹ 0 3
Unknown 0 3
similarities are derived from multiple burials. Multiple
Pathology burials do appear, however, to be much more frequent
Present 8 4 in the Early Upper Paleolithic than in the Middle Pale-
Absent 37 28
Physical type olithic, perhaps because increased population density
Neanderthal 32 1 made multiple simultaneous deaths a more frequent
Modern 13 30 occurrence.
“Hybrid” 0 1
Placement Both samples have many more males than females,
Extended 4 13 but the proportion of juveniles is much higher in the
Flexed 6 4
Contracted 14 6
Middle Paleolithic than in the Early Upper Paleolithic.
Unknown 21 9 Purposefully buried individuals do not constitute an ad-
Resting plane equate basis for reconstructing the population of which
Dorsal 9 12
Ventral 0 2 they were part, since it is likely that certain individuals
Left 6 2 were accorded preferential treatment as a result of status
Right 10 5 and prestige derived from other aspects of their social
Seated 1 0
Kneeling 1 0 personae (Ubelaker 1978). Therefore it is hazardous to
Unknown 18 11 try to interpret this patterning, especially across time.
Grave orientation
N 4 3
The large number of buried juveniles in the Middle Pa-
NE 0 2 leolithic may reflect an emphasis on the value of young
E 6 2 individuals or a higher juvenile death rate, but it would
SE 2 0
S 1 4 be dangerous to accept either of these interpretations
SW 0 2 given the extremely small and almost certainly non-
W 7 0 representative sample available. Doing so would also im-
NW 1 3
Unknown 21 16 ply acceptance of the reified interpretation of the Middle
Grave features and Upper Paleolithic derived from typological syste-
Pit 31 17
Hearth 5 4
matics that portray them as distinct by definition (Bordes
Mound 8 0 1961; Sonneville-Bordes and Perrot 1954, 1955, 1956).
Stone casing 0 3 Nothing reliable can be said of the position of the bod-
Number of features
0 11 12 ies or of grave orientation because for many graves from
1 26 16 both periods these data are unrecorded. We can, however,
2 8 4 say something about the prevalence of particular hom-
3 1 0
Grave goods inid taxa in the two periods; it is interesting that a Ne-
Present 23 28 anderthal and a “hybrid” are present in contexts that,
Absent 22 4
defined typologically and chronometrically, are unques-
tionable Early Upper Paleolithic.
Lagar Velho 1 is especially interesting in this regard.
The Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic Indeed, the presence of this “hybrid” in a Gravettian or
Compared proto-Solutrean context dated to roughly 24,500 b.p.
(Duarte et al. 1999, Trinkaus, Zilhão, and Duarte 1999)
Despite claims that both periods display definite regional underscores the realization that first emerged with the
burial groups with fundamental similarities (Binford discovery of the Saint-Césaire Neanderthal in a Châtel-
1968, Defleur 1993), the case for such clustering is shaky. perronian context (Lévêque and Vandermeersch 1980,
While concentrations of Middle Paleolithic graves have 1981)—that “cultures” as defined by typological syste-
been found in the French Périgord as well as in northern matics cannot be equated with specific hominid “types”
Israel, these graves are not contemporaneous within the (Clark, cited in Norris 1999:46). Typological interpreta-
limits of dating techniques and do not exhibit standard- tions are based on retouched stone tools, but the habit
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 459

of linking modern humans with symbolic behavior or duced smoother surfaces on ground and polished bone
burials inferred from the Upper Paleolithic archaeolog- beads, served as an astringent or antiseptic, or even
ical record is simply an extension of that traditional ty- slowed down putrefaction (Wreschner 1980; May 1986:
pological framework. 203–4). Therefore its presence in graves may simply in-
Comparing the number and kinds of features associ- dicate knowledge of a useful substance that was gradu-
ated with burials also results in interesting patterns. Pro- ally invested with aesthetic and/or ritual properties over
portionally more Middle Paleolithic than Early Upper the course of the Upper Paleolithic. Its occurrence in
Paleolithic burials have associated features, and Middle some of the Qafzeh burials shows that it was known
Paleolithic burials have more of them. Except for Tar- (and probably used) in the Middle Paleolithic. This sug-
amsa 1, which was covered by a mound, none of the gests that it may have come into widespread use only
Middle Paleolithic modern human burials was associ- later, perhaps after 20,000 years b.p.
ated with more than a pit. The presence of pits is note- In any case, even if the Cro-Magnon burials are ex-
worthy here, since it is one of Gargett’s criteria for pur- cluded from the count, a higher proportion of Early Upper
poseful burial and he sees pits as absent in the Middle Paleolithic than Middle Paleolithic burials are associated
Paleolithic. Roughly 70% of Middle Paleolithic graves with relatively unambiguous grave goods. The propor-
were reported as associated with a pit that either was tional difference between the two is significant. Rather
visible to the excavators or could be inferred from the than suggesting a radical behavioral departure in the
skeleton’s position. This is substantially more than the Early Upper Paleolithic, however, what this pattern sug-
roughly 50% of Early Upper Paleolithic burials claimed gests to us is the emergence of a behavior that appears
to have included pits—pits that in all probability were to have been already well established in the Middle
detected in much the same ways as in Middle Paleolithic Paleolithic.
contexts. Mounds were reported only from Middle Pa- Although Early Upper Paleolithic grave goods tend to
leolithic contexts, while stone casings were found as- include bracelets, headdresses, necklaces, armbands, and
sociated exclusively with the Early Upper Paleolithic. other ornaments in contrast to the animal bones found
Mounds were, however, somewhat more frequent. A in Middle Paleolithic contexts, it is now clear that Mid-
number of possible interpretations of this clear-cut pat- dle Paleolithic Neanderthals did manufacture some or-
tern could be offered, but they would be of little utility naments (see d’Errico et al. 1998 for a review of some of
because the meaning attached to each is likely to be the evidence). Given the evidence of continuity sug-
culture-specific. gested by the inclusion of stone tools in many burials of
The one variable that has repeatedly been argued to both periods, this suggests that the meaning originally
show a strong dichotomy between Middle and Early Up- associated with unworked bones or bone fragments may
per Paleolithic burials is grave goods (Binford 1968, Har- gradually have come to be embodied by ornaments. The
rold 1980), although some believe they provide convinc- gradual nature of this phenomenon is supported by the
ing evidence of continuity (e.g., May 1986). The only co-occurrence of animal bones and ornaments at Early
supposedly empirical treatment to which grave goods Upper Paleolithic sites such as Pavlov, Dolnı́ Věstonice,
have been subjected is Harrold’s “diversity index.” What and Lagar Velho. Perhaps the higher incidence of grave
should in fact be measured, however, is not so much the features in the Middle Paleolithic sample also reflects
difference between the two periods as variation within this phenomenon. It is, of course, impossible to know
them. If grave goods are consistently the same within the precise meanings these grave goods had for the ex-
each period, then we cannot use them to monitor change tinct societies of which they were once part. Their time/
in mortuary behavior. The differences in the nature of space distributions are orders of magnitude beyond those
the grave goods characteristic of each period could be of any real or imaginable foraging society or group of
explained in a number of ways. For example, recent work societies known to us from ethnography (Clark 1993). It
by Stiner in Italy and Israel has shown that small game is indisputable, however, that grave goods were an in-
and shellfish were increasingly incorporated into Upper tegral part of mortuary practices starting in the Middle
Paleolithic diets but were virtually absent in some areas Paleolithic and increased in frequency in later peri-
during the Middle Paleolithic (Stiner 1994, Stiner, ods—slowly during the Early Upper Paleolithic and more
Munro, and Surovell 2000). If this was indeed the case, rapidly in the Late Upper Paleolithic (Duff, Clark, and
the presence of discarded shells and the bones of small Chadderdon 1992).
animals in Early Upper Paleolithic burials would surely
constitute little evidence for a significant “cognitive
leap” over the Middle Paleolithic pattern of including Discussion and Conclusions
the discarded bones of large mammals in graves. A sim-
ilar argument could be made about the “incised” mam- Comparing the Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic ev-
moth scapulae reported from a number of Eastern Eu- idence for burial proves to be an illuminating exercise.
ropean Early Upper Paleolithic burials. Gargett’s assumption that “the Upper Paleolithic evi-
Similarly, ochre, which becomes relatively common dence reveals differences that obviate the need for a com-
in Early Upper Paleolithic graves, can be explained in parison between the two” (1999:30) is wrong. Indeed, the
functional rather than symbolic terms. It could have pro- picture that emerges is one of broad continuity between
vided better insulation against cold and humidity, pro- the two periods. That said, there is also little doubt that
460 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

analyzing burials from the Upper Paleolithic en bloc

would show a quite different picture, as is suggested by Comments
the pioneering studies of Binford (1968) and Harrold
(1980). This is largely because of the numerical domi-
nance of Late Upper Paleolithic, especially Magdalenian, iain davidson and william noble
burials that postdate 20,000 years b.p. (Duff, Clark, and School of Human and Environmental Studies/School
Chadderdon 1992). However, the continuity clearly vis- of Psychology, University of New England, Armidale,
ible in the mortuary data of the Middle and Early Upper N.S.W. 2351, Australia (
Paleolithic suggests that the Upper Paleolithic taken as 31 iii 01
a whole is not an appropriate unit of comparison. A com-
parison of the patterns derived from an analysis of Late Riel-Salvatore and Clark do not address what Gargett
Upper Paleolithic burials with the patterns here identi- (1999) demonstrated. Gargett’s point was that the good
fied for the Early Upper Paleolithic is under way. taphonomic information from well-excavated Neander-
The continuity documented across the Middle–Upper tal skeletons allows discussion of the taphonomic his-
Paleolithic transition, at least as far as burials are con- tories of the bodies. He showed that among the remains
cerned, cannot be reconciled with the radical culture of Neandertals claimed as burials, two processes seem
change at the onset of the Early Upper Paleolithic en- to have operated. On the one hand are bodies crushed
visioned by most replacement advocates (e.g., Mellars by rockfall like beer cans that someone has stomped on.
1989, 1996). It also contrasts sharply with Gargett’s ex- These tend to be complete but broken collections of
pectations about the Upper Paleolithic as a whole. It bones, as at Shanidar and Saint-Césaire. This process is
would appear from all this that the Upper Paleolithic as also evident in the bodies of “early modern humans,”
a category is not a very useful analytical tool (see also contemporary with Neandertals, from Qafzeh. On the
Lindly and Clark 1990, Straus 1990, Stiner 1994, Kuhn other hand are bodies that had lain in natural depressions
1995). Subdivision into early (40,000–20,000 years b.p.) in the sediment such as might have been formed by cry-
and late (20,000–10,000 years b.p.) phases would make it oturbation at La Ferrassie. Natural processes of sediment
a much better framework for examining the behavioral formation had generally covered these bodies slowly; the
and biological processes that were taking place in West- typical absence of significant limb segments strongly
ern Eurasia at the time (Duff, Clark, and Chadderdon suggested that the meat had rotted before interment of
1992). the bodies. This taphonomic history would explain the
The results of the work reported here reinforce those absence of the skull from the Kebara 2 skeleton. There
of studies of lithic and faunal assemblages and of site will be modern human bodies in caves for the same two
settings and context in underscoring the problems as- reasons as for Neandertals. That people were wandering
sociated with uncritical use of temporal constructs de- around in dangerous landscapes long after the emergence
rived from typological systematics (Clark and Lindly of modern human morphology is shown by Otzi, the
1991, Dibble and Rolland 1992, Bisson 2000). While use- Neolithic body found in the Austrian/Italian Alps (Spin-
ful as a descriptive tool and a lingua franca for scholars, dler 1994).
la méthode Bordes, besides masking much variability in The inclusion of Saint-Césaire in table 2 confirms our
the archaeological record, is based on unsupported as- expectation that “beer cans”/rockfall victims occurred
sumptions about qualitative differences between more after 40,000 years ago, and we have no doubt that some
or less arbitrary phases of the Paleolithic. The findings bodies from this period would have been found with
presented here call into question the basis for this tra- missing parts just like the “rotten meat” Neandertals.
ditional approach to the interpretation of Upper Pleis- The numbers of bodies subject to the Neandertal ta-
tocene assemblages. phonomy will be much smaller because the time period
In sum, categorical rejection of Middle Paleolithic bur- is shorter. If there were about 12 “beer cans” in the
ial is clearly unwarranted, and the continued use of tra- 100,000 years of table 1, in the 20,000 years of table 2
ditional temporal and conceptual frameworks in Paleo- there should be about 2. This in itself suggests that there
lithic research is in need of serious rethinking. Such is something rather different about the Early Upper Pa-
rethinking should not be undertaken in the spirit of de- laeolithic sample that would account for the larger num-
fending entrenched positions in the modern-human-or- bers of bodies per thousand years, and indeed there is
igins debate, although it will likely have a significant something different. Many of the burials are in the
impact on them. Rather, it should be part of an effort to open—certainly Dolnı́ Věstonice, Pavlov, Brno, Před-
increase the credibility of our interpretations, an objec- mostı́, and Sungir are—and there are none in the open
tive often sidelined in scholarly disputes despite its cen- for the sample in table 1. We have commented elsewhere
tral importance in affirming the significance and unique- (Noble and Davidson 1996) that a single open-air “burial”
ness of archaeology as a form of scientific inquiry. of a Neandertal would do more to confirm the hypothesis
of Neandertal deliberate burial than any manipulation
of the currently available (and not very reliable) evidence.
The presence of burials of modern humans in the open,
of course, is not unexpected, as the earliest (and earlier)
burials of modern humans in Australia are also in the
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 461

open (Davidson 1999a). Nothing could be a clearer in- issue of variation in symbolic behaviour during the Up-
dication of the danger of ignoring taphonomic histories. per Palaeolithic (Davidson 1997, 1999b).
That there are more bodies per thousand years in the
sample in table 2 is itself suggestive of different occur-
rences affecting the items in the two tables, and further f. d’errico and m. vanhaeren
analysis of the samples reveals what that difference Institut de Préhistoire et de Géologie du Quaternaire,
is—modern humans were and Neandertals were not de- CNRS, and Université Bordeaux I, Talence, France
liberately buried. ( 3 iv 01
It comes as a surprise, therefore, that Riel-Salvatore
and Clark argue that there is a similarity between table The potential of Palaeolithic burials for the debate on
1 and table 2. Inspection of the data in table 2 shows the the origin of symbolism and, by extension, of articulated
extent to which they have been willing to overlook ev- oral language and cultural modernity has been often un-
idence that they present. A x2 test on the frequencies of derestimated, and the literature on the subject is mainly
grave goods in the two sets of data gives a value (x2 p composed of surveys, mostly of old finds, and osteolog-
9.5), which is highly significant (p ! 0.01). Further in- ically based descriptions. Therefore, we welcome Riel-
spection of the nature of the grave goods confirms a sub- Salvatore and Clark’s attempt to use burials as an in-
stantial difference between table 1 and table 2—all of the dependent means of evaluating processes of biological
things claimed as grave goods in table 1 occur as part of and cultural change during the Upper Pleistocene. That
the debris left in caves used by Neandertals and might said, we find that their attempt has some major
have washed into natural hollows as part of the normal weaknesses.
sedimentation process. This has been pointed out before The assumption on which they base their analy-
by Harrold (1980). The grave goods in table 2 are different sis—that the earliest phases of a cultural phenomenon
from what is found in the earlier sample and would be must necessarily be characterized by simpler forms of
easier to associate with symbolic structuring of the world behaviour—should certainly be substantiated before be-
(albeit we acknowledge the need for caution pointed out ing accepted as a reliable theoretical framework. Not
by Riel-Salvatore and Clark). only have many cultural anthropologists already criti-
We have classified the specimens from table 1 accord- cized this faith in the continuous and inexorable progress
ing to Gargett’s (1999: fig. 9) analysis of “beer cans” (Qaf- of mankind (e.g., Kuper 1988) but also one can wonder
zeh, Shanidar, Dederiyeh) and “rotten meat” (La Cha- whether mortuary practices are the best place to apply
pelle-aux-Saints, La Ferrassie, Le Roc de Marsal, Amud, such a model. As is shown by the ethnography of tra-
Kebara, and Kiik-Koba). We omit Teshik Tash because it ditional societies, complex cultural systems may be
is so clearly ravaged that little can be said about the characterized by simple burials with high archaeological
original state of deposition of the body except that it was visibility or, alternatively, complex mortuary practices
not buried. “Grave goods” are rare with the “beer cans,” that leave little or no archaeological evidence. Also, du-
and those with the “rotten meat” are mostly lithics. rable grave goods may be absent in burials produced by
There are two possible scenarios that do not require these highly complex societies. We see, in principle, no reason
finds to be grave goods. Either the “rotten meat” had this should have been different in Upper and even Middle
their gear with them, like Otzi, and died in their beds, Palaeolithic societies. If we are right, the pattern that
or the lithics washed into the natural hollows where they Riel-Salvatore and Clark try to read as a process may
died. The fact that most of those in the sample were the instead represent snapshots of behaviours from different
juveniles from La Ferrassie suggests that these are wash- societies with equivalent cognitive abilities. It would, in
ins, as it may be less likely that very young infants were this case, be only the presence or absence of funerary
carrying their gear. The “beer cans” did not generally practices rather than their apparent variability that mat-
have grave goods (except for the flowers—and these have ters for identifying evolutionary trends.
been dismissed many times [Gamble 1989; Gargett 1989; We see a major epistemological problem in Riel-Sal-
Noble and Davidson 1989, 1996]). We might be tempted vatore and Clark’s way of “testing” Gargett’s natural
to go farther and suggest that Neandertals may not have interpretation. It is not by comparing and looking for
carried gear with them in the manner of Otzi anyway, differences between Middle Palaeolithic and Upper Pa-
but carrying seems to have been the distinctive homi- laeolithic burials that one can establish whether the for-
nine adaptation since 2.5 million years ago. It is more mer are natural or anthropic in origin. We need natural
likely that they did not sleep with their gear. analogies to test natural interpretations, and it is pre-
Overall, then, the data in tables 1, 2, and 3 show that cisely the lack of these analogies that, in our view, keeps
there was a substantial difference between the bodies the debate on Neandertal burial practices open and even-
that date earlier than the Early Upper Palaeolithic and tually weakens Gargett’s position. The inadequacy of
the sample of later ones. Riel-Salvatore and Clark have Riel-Salvatore and Clark’s approach is demonstrated by
elegantly confirmed the importance of Gargett’s (1999) the fact that, according to their model, they would have
analysis. Neandertals (and contemporary early modern considered the Middle Palaeolithic burials natural in or-
people) were not buried; people from the Upper Palaeo- igin if they had found significant differences between
lithic (and contemporary people in other parts of the them and the Upper Paleolithic burials. Still, given the
world) often were. This is a separate matter from the variability of mortuary practices in traditional societies
462 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

(see Pearson 1999), differences between Middle Palaeo- opposite view—that Neandertals were fully capable of
lithic and Upper Palaeolithic burials do not imply the symbolic behaviours and may even have produced them
natural origin of the former and may, in the absence of before contact with anatomically modern humans, as is
a natural analogue, simply reflect cultural changes with suggested by archaeological evidence, notably from Arcy,
no evolutionary implications. In other words, we cannot and a critical reappraisal of relevant sites and C14 dates.
oblige Middle Palaeolithic people to bury their dead in Riel-Salvatore and Clark’s attempt to examine the em-
the same way Upper Palaeolithic people did to grant pirical evidence without any wishful thinking about a
them the right to be incorporated into modern humanity human type’s cognitive abilities in fact complements
while at the same time claiming diversity of mortuary Zilhão and d’Errico’s effort, which was, however, carried
practices to be a hallmark of cultural modernity. out in a quite different theoretical framework.
We also have reservations about the criteria used here
to separate the Middle from the Upper Palaeolithic and
subdivide the latter. The chronological criterion—before ro b e r t h . g a r g e t t
and after 40,000 b.p.—is of little value considering the Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, School of
uncertainty of the dating methods of this period and the Human and Environmental Studies, University of
fact that most of the burials are not directly dated. The New England, Armidale, N.S.W. 2351, Australia
blade/flake ratio is even more inadequate. Blade-based ( 1 iv 01
industries occur in the Middle Palaeolithic, and not just
in the Near East (Bar-Yosef and Kuhn 1999), and flake- Riel-Salvatore and Clark caricature my recent contri-
based industries occur in the Upper Palaeolithic. The use butions (see also Gargett 2000) by implying that Gargett
of this last criterion seems to overlook the contribution (1999) is nothing more than a replay of Gargett (1989)
to the characterization of Palaeolithic industries of re- when in fact it examines a wide range of processes that
cent technological studies (see Zilhão and d’Errico determine the preservation of skeletons in caves and
1999a:357 for an extensive discussion). These studies rock-shelters. Furthermore, instead of grappling with the
have shown that Upper Palaeolithic technocomplexes, issues I raise they defer to Binford (1968), Harrold (1980),
seen as chronologically and spatially defined technical and Defleur (1993), none of whom has adequately ex-
systems, are useful analytical entities for exploring cul- amined the variables with which I deal in my recent
tural variability, including changes in mortuary prac- article. Their unwillingness to acknowledge my misgiv-
tices, and the ecological adaptation of European hunter- ings about what they treat as evidence for burial severely
gatherers during oxygen-isotope stages 3–2. Independent hobbles their argument. Beyond this, their paper has
of their views on the transition, most of our colleagues other serious failings.
share with us the opinion that insight into this time First, their argument begs the question whether pur-
period will not be reached without a better characteri- poseful burial occurred in the Middle Paleolithic. Their
zation of these entities. Riel-Salvatore and Clark’s cru- “sample” of Middle Paleolithic “burials” includes only
sade against the Upper Palaeolithic technocomplexes is those specimens that conform to criteria they say allow
even more surprising given that they use chronological one to infer purposeful burial. If this is truly a test of
limits between technocomplexes (Gravettian/Solutrean) what they claim is my “position” (i.e., that purposeful
to establish an “arbitrary” frontier within the Upper Pa- burial first occurred in the Upper Paleolithic), why do
laeolithic. Why not, instead, get rid of all chronological they ignore the many fragmentary Middle Paleolithic re-
barriers and look for significant clusters in the available mains? The relatively few more-or-less-intact specimens
data? This would be more coherent and avoid the im- claimed as burials represent only a small subset of a
pression that boundaries are being chosen to fit the sample that describes a continuum of preservation in-
model. cluding, for example, single fragments, disarticulated,
Criticisms can also be leveled at their database. Given fragmented, and incomplete skeletons, articulated por-
that many scholars believe that the placing of grave tions of skeletons, articulated complete or nearly com-
goods in Neandertal burials has not been unambiguously plete skeletons, and everything in between. The vast ma-
proven, a thorough examination of the evidence, includ- jority of Middle Paleolithic specimens fall into the first
ing observations on site taphonomy, should have been two of these categories, and the vast majority of putative
their first concern. This does not appear in their list, burials fall into the third; only a few could be considered
which incorporates almost all of the claimed evidence, complete or nearly so. Riel-Salvatore and Clark draw the
sometimes dubious, for symbolic behaviour associated line opportunistically at various places along that con-
with Middle Palaeolithic burials. tinuum. Clearly, this is stacking the deck in favor of their
Incidentally, Riel-Salvatore and Clark group Zilhão hoped-for outcome.
and d’Errico with researchers such as Mellars who “argue Furthermore, they contend that they began by select-
that despite their ability to act symbolically, Neander- ing articulated specimens and included only those for
thals apparently never ‘refined’ this capacity to the same which other archaeological discoveries supported the in-
degree as modern humans and were therefore con- ference of purposeful burial. Yet their sample includes a
demned to be replaced by them.” From the debate on number of specimens that are anything but articulated
this topic (see d’Errico et al. 1998; Zilhão and d’Errico (to say nothing of those for which the degree of articu-
1999a, b; Mellars 1999) it is clear that they defend a quite lation is a matter of interpretation)–for example, Teshik-
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 463

Tash, Régourdou, La Ferrassie 4a, and Saint-Césaire. of sexual dimorphism. What this means for Riel-Salva-
These specimens were apparently included because of a tore and Clark’s data on differential mortuary treatment
belief that they had been purposefully buried based on is an open question, but one can certainly be skeptical
fragments of bone or chipped stone interpreted as funeral about their conclusions. They seem unconcerned that
offerings and inferences of invisible pits and other so- many of these “patterns” are reified categories that have
called ritual structures. Thus, Riel-Salvatore and Clark’s their origin in the questionable interpretations of other
sampling technique has the effect of skewing the data archaeologists.
on which their test is to be conducted. Next there is the kind of pattern that one needs to
Perhaps most damaging to their argument, the “evi- argue more strenuously for. For example, Riel-Salvatore
dence” that Riel-Salvatore and Clark employ is at best and Clark aver that fragments of bone might just rep-
equivocal. For example, in the absence of articulation as resent the beginning of a trajectory of cultural transfor-
a sign of purposeful burial, interpreting Teshik-Tash’s mation that sees them as the meaningfully constituted
goat horns as a ritual structure depends on the belief that Middle Paleolithic equivalent of the carved images and
the individual had been purposefully buried (or at least ornaments of the Early Upper Paleolithic. Although this
that Neandertals were capable of burying their dead). In is a plausible scenario, it is by no means the basis for an
much the same category is the claim that the mounds unequivocal inference of “continuity.”
at La Ferrassie are “ritual structures,” which fails to take The most egregious misuse of the notion of pattern is
into account the obvious, abundant evidence of cry- in their so-called burial features (primarily pits and
oturbation in stratum c/d (from which all of the remains mounds). We are told that there are 31 pits associated
at La Ferrassie derive). The mounds that Peyrony (1934) with Middle Paleolithic remains, and these are presented
describes are in all probability sediments that have been as support for claims of purposeful burial. In all cases of
distorted and convoluted by cryoturbation. Laville and unobservable pits, the inference that the pit once existed
Tuffreau’s (1984) photograph of the witness profile at La depends on the a priori assumption that the individual
Ferrassie clearly shows the result of cryoturbation in had been purposefully buried—more circular argument.
stratum c/d, and Heim (1968) includes a profile that Moreover, such pits could just as easily be seen as pre-
clearly and unequivocally illustrates the convoluted sed- requisite for natural burial. Low spots (regardless of how
iments. Four of these convolutions are on the order of they were created, and there are many natural ways) pro-
50 cm high. However, in Heim’s diagram the tops of at mote natural burial. Under the circumstances it is hard
least two of them are leaning to one side and have the to see such “evidence” as compelling, especially given
shape of cresting waves. Such a profile could not have that the very few observable depressions were filled not
occurred if the mounds had been artificially created and with the same sediments into which they were dug,
later covered naturally with sediment (unless they were which would be expected in a purposeful burial, but with
then subjected to cryoturbation—a coincidence that I the same sediments that overlie those into which they
would find it hard to imagine, although it is impossible were dug, which is strongly suggestive of natural in-fill-
to rule it out). Here, then, are the present-day remnants ing and in any case precludes the use of the pit or low
of “mounds” like the nine so often considered mortuary spot as unequivocal support for the claim of purposeful
structures. With clear evidence for cryoturbation just a burial.
few meters away from the putative burial mounds, must All of Riel-Salvatore and Clark’s conclusions rest on
one go on believing that they were created with a ritual arguments from want of evident alternatives. Ultimately
purpose in mind? their argument is fallacious and their analysis uncon-
Finally, Riel-Salvatore and Clark’s criteria for assessing vincing because both rest on the a priori acceptance of
behavioral “continuity” are only weakly justified. On shakily supported claims of purposeful Middle Paleo-
the face of it, comparing the Middle Paleolithic with the lithic burial.
Upper Paleolithic is a reasonable test of what they call I am resigned to the reality that most paleoanthro-
my “hypothesis.” But is it reasonable to suggest that pologists will never be persuaded by my “position,” but
significant patterns will be observable on both sides of I hope that readers will see that my skepticism is rig-
the Middle/Upper Paleolithic “boundary”? The answer orously empirical and grounded in a nuanced under-
seems to depend on one’s definition of “significant” and standing of archaeological site formation. Moreover, I
one’s choice of “pattern.” hope that they will see this paper for what it is—a whole-
There is, first of all, the straightforward kind of pattern sale recycling of dubious archaeological claims in the
that one can read off the skeletons—sex, age, patholog- pursuit of evidence for the regional “continuity” model
ical lesions. But sex and age are “straightforward” only of modern human origins.
if one overlooks the difficulty of, for example, determin-
ing sex in skeletons that are, more often than not, miss- erella hovers and anna belfer-cohen
ing the telltale pubic architecture, requiring a determi- Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of
nation based on robusticity and comparison with Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905, Israel (hovers@
present-day human sexual dimorphism. Assessing rela- 30 iii 01
tive robusticity is in no way straightforward in a very
robust, biogeographically widespread morphospecies Tracing uniquely human behaviors has always been a
such as the Neandertals, which have an unknown degree focal point of prehistoric research. Riel-Salvatore and
464 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

Clark are to be congratulated for bringing to the forefront order to explain first the revolutionary and dramatic ap-
of contemporary discussion the complexities of the ar- pearance of such art and second its coexistence with the
chaeological record concerning intentional human burial relatively conservative mortuary behavior.
in the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. They achieve this Moreover, gradual shift in burial practices does not
by confronting the available data instead of accepting appear to be an all-inclusive pattern of change through
Gargett’s (1999:30) premise that “the Upper Paleolithic time between the Middle and the Early Upper Paleo-
evidence reveals differences [in burial behavior] that ob- lithic. Gradualism is more apparent than real for some
viate the need for a comparison” between these two characteristics of burials, as is clearly seen from Riel-
periods. Salvatore and Clark’s table 3. For instance, at Sungir, an
Indeed, in the Paleolithic we are dealing with time and Early Upper Paleolithic site dated to 30,000–25,000 years
space distribution orders of magnitude greater than those ago (Bader 1998:217), the sheer numbers (over 13,000
“of any real or imaginable foraging society or group of beads) and variety of grave goods are overwhelming
societies known to us from ethnography.” Another im- (Bader 1998:72–73, 77; Gamble 1994:186–87). Certainly
portant point made by Riel-Salvatore and Clark is that this site resembles more the finds known from the Late
the simplistic equation of culture with hominid type is Upper Paleolithic than it does accepted instances of in-
counterproductive to attempts to understand culture tentional burial in the Middle Paleolithic.
change at the Middle/Upper Paleolithic boundary. With Gradual transformation as the main explanatory
these points taken, a caveat is called for: human behavior mechanism of culture change masks the boundaries be-
is multifaceted, encompassing as it does constituents tween “cultures.” The differences among the Chatel-
which are variably and not always understandably in- perronian (considered to be a Mousterian-based tradi-
terrelated. Dealing with the Paleolithic, we rest assured tion), the Aurignacian (believed to be intrusive into
that the unfolding record is one of mosaic cultural ev- Western Europe), and the regional variants of the Grav-
olution rather than of a linear trajectory of change. Un- ettian (d’Errico et al. 1998, Otte and Keeley 1990) are
derstanding the Paleolithic story depends on the scale of obliterated when burial data are used to treat the Early
one’s observations and insights as it does on the data Upper Paleolithic as a whole. These classifications and
themselves. Unquestionably, human behavior becomes cultural subdivisions of the entities of the Early Upper
more complex through time, but when observed in more Paleolithic rely mainly on lithic techno-typological cri-
restricted time spans the Paleolithic pattern of culture teria and certainly have their problems. Nevertheless,
change is clearly not linear. At any given time and place, classifications of this type are more consistent with the
some behaviors may change gradually while others re- dynamics of the period, including population move-
main static and yet others may undergo dramatic mod- ments and influx into Europe during the time span of
ifications. The European Middle and Upper Paleolithic the Early Upper Paleolithic (e.g., Semino et al. 2001).
record is a case in point. While the article deals with a particular phenomenon
Much of the recent anthropological literature epito- of human behavior, it relates to a profound analytical
mizes intentional burial as the marker of a plethora of issue—the “measure” of the phenomena observed in the
symbolic capacities (see Gargett 1999 and references archaeological record. It seems that whenever we suc-
therein). But the existence of intentional burial in the ceed in obtaining an answer that has eluded us for years
Middle Paleolithic record speaks only to the presence of (in the case, the validity of Middle Paleolithic burials),
this particular behavior as part of the cultural package we have to face the consequences of that answer. These
of hominids at this time. Intentional burial is not as- are rarely, if ever, simple or clear-cut. One way to come
sociated exclusively with any one of the hominid taxa to terms with this unsettling reality is by remembering
known from this time span (Belfer-Cohen and Hovers that this is, in fact, the normative procedure of scientific
1992, Schepartz 1993, Tillier 1990) and may well be an inquiry.
expression of a shared, “pleisiomorphic” capacity for
symbolic behavior (Hayden 1993, Hovers et al. 1995).
From the perspective of mosaic cultural evolution, the g ro v e r s . k r a n t z
occurrence of intentional burial need not be taken a 363 Gunn Rd., Port Angeles, Wash. 98362, U.S.A.
priori as an indication of the existence of other symbolic ( 2 ii 01
behaviors, nor is it a yardstick against which the inten-
sity of other symbolic behaviors can be measured. By Riel-Salvatore and Clark have done rather well in fol-
extension, where change through time is patterned as lowing the modern rules of successful publication: (1)
mosaic evolution, the rate of change in mortuary behav- keep the subject as narrow as possible to minimize the
ior cannot be used as a proxy for the tempo and mode number of people who are qualified or likely to criticize
of cultural evolution. It is for this reason that, even if it; (2) quantify all data for at least arithmetic manipu-
one accepts that mortuary behavior changed gradually lation (statistics is better and computer analysis is best);
from the Middle Paleolithic to the Early Upper Paleo- (3) follow Established Doctrine wherever possible; and
lithic, the occurrence of large-scale parietal art in the (4) provide an impressive bibliography that proves that
Early Upper Paleolithic, ca. 30,000 years ago, at Chauvet you did your homework.
and Cosquer Caves (Bahn and Vertut 1997) remains un- Their biggest failing is in rule 1, where they have in-
accounted for. Other mechanisms need to be invoked in cluded both Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) and Early
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 465

Upper Paleolithic interments and covered the fairly large lars larsson
area of Europe and the Near East; there are simply too Institute of Archaeology, University of Lund, S-223 50
many people who are or believe they are familiar with Lund, Sweden ( 31 iii 01
this subject. Still, they have managed to keep their da-
tabase down to just 77 examples. Their major opponent, There are good arguments both for and against the ex-
Gargett, did somewhat better with rule 1 by covering istence of deliberate burials in the Middle Palaeolithic.
only the earlier time zone and using far fewer examples, Let us hope that the debate over natural processes versus
but at least they avoid the Later Upper Paleolithic and culturally based activities will continue. What tends to
stay out of the rest of the world. receive less consideration is the fact that burial is an act
rooted in a mental conceptual world. It is not just a ques-
The quantification of data (rule 2) is a bit looser than
tion of the criteria for regarding a collection of human
might be desirable because so much information is miss-
bones as a grave but also what variations within a cri-
ing or unclear, but the arithmetic treatment is as detailed
terion one is prepared to accept.
as the data allow. At least they are able to make a fairly We project our own conceptions of symbolic acts onto
good case, given these data, for a less-than-dramatic a culture borne by Neanderthal man—a species seem-
change of interment circumstances at the Middle-to- ingly different from our own, with a conceptual world
Early-Upper Paleolithic boundary. which may have differed significantly from that repre-
They follow rule 3 in accepting without question that sented by Homo sapiens sapiens. This is why Riel-Sal-
the Skhūl and Qafzeh burials are of Mousterian date. I vatore and Clark’s claim to be able to distinguish clear
disagree, however, and hope soon to publish some in- similarities in the treatment of human bodies during the
formation showing that the Skhūl burials were almost Middle Palaeolithic and Early Upper Palaeolithic is so
certainly about 35,000 years old and those at Qafzeh per- important. Certain differences are suggested between
haps a bit more recent. What bothers me most is their burials in this period and those in the later Upper Pa-
acceptance of La Ferrassie as “definite” burials when the laeolithic. Further interesting aspects of mortuary prac-
excavators themselves (Capitan and Peyrony in 1909, tice could also have been considered. One of these is the
cited in Boule and Vallois 1952:215) stated quite clearly preservation of the skeleton. If only complete, articu-
that there was no evidence to this effect. Without them lated skeletons are accepted as evidence of burial (Gar-
Riel-Salvatore and Clark’s picture of a gradual transition gett 1999), many finds will probably be excluded. At the
from Middle through Upper Paleolithic would be greatly end of the Upper Palaeolithic and the beginning of the
Mesolithic, there are several instances in which consid-
altered. Their conclusion is an apparent requirement of
erable handling and circulation of skeletal parts occurred
the multiregional-evolution theory. An alternative view
both peri- and postmortem (Cauwe 1998, Cook 1991).
would be of a remarkably rapid in-place transition. For Articulated skeletons are rarely found here, which means
this to have been the case, the reason for that transition that these cases are not included among burials. Yet there
would have to be correctly identified. are strong indications that human bones were used in
My inclusion of rule 4 will annoy some of my good rituals associated with conceptions about the special
friends. For students’ papers, the bigger the bibliography status of humans, and there is no doubt that they rep-
the better—it shows that they have read all the pertinent resent traces of actions with symbolic value.
material. For a professional paper the practice ought to This means that the identification of collections of
be to cite only enough sources to avoid plagiarism and human bones as graves is not really such an important
those that the usual readers might want to consult. issue. Is it not more important to try to discover the
Despite all of the above, I find some useful contribu- preconditions for the deliberate handling and deposition
tions here. The need to decouple Early from Late Upper of skeletal parts, using arguments for or against some
Paleolithic is not sufficiently appreciated, and yes, there form of symbolic act? In this context the assessment of
is clear continuity from Mousterian to their immediate the Early Palaeolithic hominid remains from Atapuerca
successors in Europe in terms of lithic techniques and assumes significance (Bahn 1996). The same applies to
skeletal remains, while in the Levant this seems not to the interpretation of the distribution of hominid remains
be the case. Until the appearance of the Chatelperronian and other bones at the Early Palaeolithic site of Bilzings-
leben—whether as a form of symbolic handling (Mania
there was no change in the Mousterian Neandertals
1998:51–55) or the result of natural taphonomic pro-
other than the beginning of tooth-size reduction (Brace
cesses (Gamble 1999:172). If it is possible to distinguish
1995). It was gratifying to learn that the rare occurrences
special patterns in the distribution and composition of
of Mousterian red ochre had been rubbed on hard sur- these skeletal parts, then they are of more significance
faces, not on soft bodies. What is most conspicuously for abstract thinking about ideas on the treatment of the
missing is any successful explanation of why the earliest body after death than complete skeletons in cave
Upper Paleolithic in Europe included Neandertals deposits.
whereas the Mousterian in the Levant included some The discussion of grave goods in conjunction with
skeletons of more modern anatomy. What was the nature skeletons can scarcely be left as a simple matter of pres-
of the cultural transition, and how did it relate to human ence versus absence. This is clear from observations from
anatomy? Mesolithic burials (Larsson 1993)—admittedly much
466 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

later than those studied here but nevertheless capable of ently produced the hole and that “the width of the open-
providing important insights into human behaviour over ing shows that the brain must have been injured . . . but
time and space. Here deliberately deposited objects occur the skull shows that she survived some 15 days” (Broca
not just alongside the interred but, in several cases, in 1873). The woman would probably have had some loss
the grave fill a few centimetres above it. This makes the of language or cognition. When I reported Broca’s de-
question of grave goods more complicated. It has not scription (Marshack 1985) I was informed by numerous
been possible to determine whether such deposits can colleagues that there was no evidence of interpersonal
be compared to the “real” grave goods in the Middle and violence or intergroup aggression in the Upper Paleo-
Upper Palaeolithic graves discussed here. lithic. An argument against Broca’s interpretation of the
If, with Gargett, one assumes that some deaths were hole was, in fact, published some years later, suggesting
caused by rockfalls, one may wonder why similar oc- that it had probably been caused by the pickaxe of a
currences are not found in southern Africa, where nu- worker during the excavation (Delluc and Delluc 1989).
merous caves were inhabited during the Middle Palaeo- A macrophoto of the hole, prepared for me by M. Sakka
lithic—although it should be pointed out that relatively of the Musée de l’Homme, documents a rounding of the
few have been studied in detail. That rockfalls really did edge in a process of healing rather than the jagged edge
occur is clear from the pieces of cliff found in the stra- that would occur if a pickaxe had struck an ancient skull.
tigraphies. If they were a common cause of death, not A dozen years later an arrowhead was discovered in the
only humans but also other cave-dwelling animals, such thigh of a late Upper Paleolithic female buried at San
as hyenas, would be found in more or less undisturbed Teodora Cave in Sicily (Bachechi, Fabri, and Mallegni
positions. This aspect does not appear to have been 1997), with the comment that “new bone growth . . .
considered. indicate(s) that the individual under study survived the
Gargett argues ad absurdum in cases where a natural wound for some time.” Broca had also noted that the
death on account of natural processes cannot be ruled “old man” buried at Cro-Magnon had a “hollow similar
out. It would be more rewarding to learn his criteria for to that produced in our day by a spent ball” in one of
accepting something as a grave. Riel-Salvatore and Clark his femurs. It is not the fact of such injury that is relevant
have adopted more creative approach. We must keep in but that such injuries may have been more common than
mind that we are not going to arrive at an unambiguous is indicated in our rare Paleolithic burials.
view of the occurrence of burials during the Middle Pa- Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were seasonally mobile,
laeolithic or even, in certain cases, the Upper Palaeo- and so deaths would periodically have occurred during
lithic. It is important, however, that the phenomenon a group’s seasonal round. Would accidental death at a
continue to be critically studied, chiefly with arguments seasonal camp have invited a burial that was different
for and against the criteria for interpreting remains as from that found at longer-term sites or shelters or in their
the result of a conscious act of symbolic relevance. nearby caves? Would the pragmatics of burial at a tem-
porary habitation have led to a simple burial, probably
in a shallow pit, have grave goods or criteria indicating
alexander marshack status or rank as noted by the Binfords, or have contained
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, at most the momentary weapon or tool of that individ-
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 02138, U.S.A. ual? Such simple burials would not have persisted ar-
1 iv 01 cheologically, not only because of taphonomic processes
but also because of their seasonal locale and context. The
Riel-Salvatore and Clark have evaluated the flaws in Gar- “old man” at Cro-Magnon had survived till his burial at
gett’s arguments and data concerning Middle Paleolithic the apparently “long-term” seasonal site at Les Eyzies;
burial and symboling capacity. I agree with much of their the female, with an injury to skull and brain, would not
presentation and will not dwell on the details. However, have been highly mobile and was probably able to survive
having for years argued for a broad and diverse range of for some weeks because of a seasonal encampment at
pre- and early Upper Paleolithic symboling and problem- Les Eyzies. There is a sense in Cro-Magnon that there
solving capacities, I present some data and pose some had been separate recurrent burials. The cave is at the
questions concerning the presence or absence of Paleo- foot of the high cliff shelf and overhang of the Abri Pa-
lithic burial data that may have relevance to the issues taud, which overlooks the Vézère River and its flood-
they raise. plain. Hallam Movius excavated many levels at Pataud
Riel-Salvatore and Clark note that the dating and sig- extending from the Aurignacian and Perigordian to the
nificance of the beads and imagery found in the multiple Proto-Magdalenian and Solutrean, a period encompass-
burial at Cro-Magnon have been questioned. There are ing some 15,000 years. Where, except for the four skel-
data at Cro-Magnon that raise issues of a different type. etons in Cro-Magnon a few yards below, were all the
The left temple of the female interred in the same cave burials? Did their absence mean that no one had died
of Cro-Magnon has a hole the size and the shape of a near there, that there were no burials, or that tapho-
spear point. When Paul Broca, the neuroanatomist who nomical processes had destroyed thousands of years of
had recently found that language could be disabled by evidence? Would those who died while the group was
injury to the left frontal lobe, examined it, in the 19th camped on the shelf have been buried on that shelf, on
century, he wrote that a “flint instrument” had appar- the floodplain below, or, depending on the season, on the
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 467

plateau a few yards above the overhang? If interred on some late Upper Paleolithic imagery that childbirth may
the plateau in winter when the ground was frozen, would have occurred at some remove from a site’s hearth, craft,
a “burial” have been under a lattice of antlers or and sleeping areas. Would the death of a woman or infant
branches? Such a plateau “burial” would not have lasted at such a time have invoked a simple burial near the
for centuries, but it might have lasted long enough to birthing place? Would such a contextual burial, which
mark that territory and place for some generations of a might skew the available record, indicate a cultural dis-
cultural group using the shelter. The pragmatics of con- crimination of women?
text, as much as the symbolism of burial, may always This is simply a set of questions concerning the pos-
have been part of burial behavior. sible variability of early burial behavior and its depen-
The Neanderthals, like anatomically modern humans dence on context and circumstance. The available data
of the early Upper Paleolithic, were seasonally mobile. are, of course, crucial, but can one adequately argue pro
Their close-encounter hunting of big game was often or con degrees of early species capacity for symboling
dangerous. Would the pragmatics of a Neanderthal burial behavior from the nature, quantity, or presence/absence
at a transitory hunting site or encampment have differed of a particular class of data at a particular time or place?
from more “formal” burials at long-term seasonal shel-
ters such as those at La Ferrassie? The well-known burial
at Shanidar may not, as some argue, have been a “flower m. mussi
burial,” but it was certainly a seasonal burial at a sea- Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichità, Università di
sonal place. What type of burial would have occurred Roma “La Sapienza,” Rome, Italy (
when a Neanderthal group was “on the road”? At the 2 iv 01
other end of our chronology, by the later Upper Paleo-
lithic not only had there been an increase in population, To comment on a review paper such as this, two ques-
social complexity, and intensive exploitation of re- tions must be answered first: (1) Is the assembled data
sources within a territory but longer-term sites had in- base adequate? and (2) Is the chronology correctly
creasingly become embedded in a more complex sym- assessed?
bolic cultural surround. The Franco-Cantabrian sanctu- As far as the data base is concerned, I will focus on
ary caves regionally document this generic process. the Italian sample of Upper Palaeolithic burials, includ-
Would burials at culturally embedded sites have differed ing adjacent south-eastern France. As my table 1 shows,
from burials at transitory ones? Would the grave goods in the time range considered there are approximately
found or absent in different burials have often been con- twice as many specimens from Italy as are presented by
textual and seasonal? There is inferential evidence in Riel-Salvatore and Clark. Six were discovered at Barma

table 1
Mid Upper Palaeolithic (30,000–20,000 years b.p.) Burials from Italy and Adjacent South-Eastern France

Specimen Sex Age Positiona Orientation Ochre Featuresb Grave Goods

Grotta du Marronier ? ca. 8 ? ? yes P yes

Grotta du Figuier ? 2–3 ? SE-NW yes D yes
Grotta dei Fanciulli 4 M adult E N-S yes P, St yes
Grotta dei Fanciulli 5 F old F N-S ? P, St yes
Grotta dei Fanciulli 6 F? 13–15 F N-S yes P, St yes
Grotta del Caviglione M adult E/F S-N yes P? St yes
Barma Grande 1 M adult E N-S yes P? St yes
Barma Grande 2 M 33–35 E E-W yes P yes
Barma Grande 3 F? 12–13 E E-W yes P yes
Barma Grande 4 F? 14–15 E E-W yes P yes
Barma Grande 5 M adult E N-S no ? yes
Barma Grande 6 M adult F N-S ? ? yes
Baousso da Torre 1 M adult E NW-SE yes ? yes
Baousso da Torre 2 M 25–30 E NW-SE yes ? yes
Baousso da Torre 3 ? ca. 15 EV NW-SE no ? no
Arene Candide 1 M 14–15 E S-N yes P, St yes
Paglicci 2 M 13–14 E SW-NE yes St yes
Paglicci 25 F 18–20 E N-S yes P yes
Ostuni 1 F ca. 20 E/F S-N ? P, St yes
Ostuni 1 bis ? fetus – – – – –
Ostuni 2 ? not child E/F S-N ? ? ?
Veneri 1 M ! 30–35 E/F S-N yes P yes
Veneri 2 F ! 30–35 E/F S-N yes P yes

sources: Onoratini and Combier (1996), Mussi (2001).

E, extended; F, tightly flexed; E/F, extended with flexed legs; EV, extended on the abdomen.
P, burial pit; D, use of a natural depression; St, stones variously arranged.
468 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

Grande, one of several Ligurian sites at which C14 de- The time gap and some recurrent characteristics of the
terminations on human remains are currently under way Mid Upper Palaeolithic burials such as a mostly ex-
(V. Formicola, personal communication, 2000). The pre- tended position, stones and other arrangements, gener-
liminary results do not contradict previously suggested alized use of ochre, and elaborate grave goods all argue
archaeological correlations (Mussi 1986, 1996, 2001). against the hypothesis of continuity in mortuary prac-
While state-of-the-art knowledge cannot be expected of tices. Furthermore, the many robust and tall adolescents
authors working with secondhand inventories (including and adults of the Mid Upper Palaeolithic burials are
May 1986, notorious for both incompleteness and du- linked by recent studies not to hybrids but to anatomi-
plication [Mussi 1989]), there should be at least some cally modern human groups interconnected by signifi-
critical assessment of the literature. Bisson, Tisnerat, and cant gene flow and enjoying high nutritional standards
White (1996), instead, are quoted at face value to claim (Formicola and Giannecchini 1999, Churchill et al.
that the Barma Grande burials “postdate 20,000 years 2000).
b.p.” The so-called new dates for Barma Grande have To sum up, this poorly researched paper fails to provide
already been discussed elsewhere (Bolduc, Cinq-Mars, either a new methodological approach or circumstantial
and Mussi 1996). Suffice it to say that Bisson, Tisnerat, evidence allowing a better understanding of Palaeolithic
and White make use of three bone samples, one without graves or of the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition.
any known depth and a second belonging to a rodent;
the third was apparently found at ⫺8 m, where an Au-
rignacian level once existed: the resulting age is 19,000 lawrence g. straus
years, while an age in excess of 30,000 years would be Department of Anthropology, University of New
expected if this futile exercise in “paleostratigraphy” had Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M. 87131, U.S.A.
any scientific meaning at all. ( 23 iii 01
At a general European level, Riel-Salvatore and Clark
do not mention the “Red Lady of Paviland,” redated by The time-honored and deeply ingrained but ultimately
Aldhouse-Green and Pettit (1998), and omit most of the arbitrary categories of Middle and Upper Paleolithic
evidence on Předmostı́ that is easily available in Jelı́nek mask long-lasting processes of biocultural evolution in
(1991). Combe Capelle and Les Cottés are included, but, Western Eurasia. Reifying them has forced prehistorians
according to Gambier’s revision (1990), they do not be- to support an essentially punctuationist model of change
long to the Palaeolithic. that is increasingly indefensible. Riel-Salvatore and
Then, much emphasis is given to the “proposal” of Clark’s analysis adds to the evidence indicating consid-
subdividing the Upper Palaeolithic into “early” erable continuity in many aspects of human adaptation
(40,000–20,000 years b.p.) and “late” (20,000–10,000 across the latter half of the Upper Pleistocene and sup-
years b.p.) to allow a better understanding of changes ports an analytical distinction between earlier and later
through time. Not only has such a subdivision long been Upper Paleolithic time.
standard among both archaeologists and physical an- This is not a new idea; it was clearly enunciated by
thropologists—and obviously in the study of burial prac- John Campbell (1977) in his study of the Upper Paleo-
tices—but it has already been further refined: at an in- lithic of Britain—which is not surprising, since the two
ternational symposium held in Moravia in 1995, the periods of human occupation were separated by a hiatus
need for the identification of a Mid Upper Palaeolithic, in settlement of this northerly region of Europe due to
between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago, was discussed by abandonment during the Last Glacial Maximum. Among
a group of 27 specialists from 11 European countries and many others seeing such a distinction in the record, Free-
substantiated by an even wider number of scientific con- man (1973) and then I (e.g., Straus 1977) suggested that
tributions (Mussi and Roebroeks 1996, Roebroeks et al. there was major intensification in human subsistence in
2000). If this more detailed subdivision is used, not only the later Upper Paleolithic in Cantabrian Spain, with
all the specimens assembled in my table but practically more similarities in terms of hunting and gathering be-
all those of Riel-Salvatore and Clark fall within the Mid tween the Middle and the earlier Upper Paleolithic than
Upper Palaeolithic time range: they are Cro-Magnon bur- between the Early and the Late Upper Paleolithic. The
ials related either to the final Aurignacian or to the Upper notion of the “Upper Paleolithic” as a monolithic
Perigordian (Bouchud 1966, Movius 1969), with Combe “stage” in human evolution is highly debatable. Human
Capelle and Les Cottés best dismissed and only one Early culture and even anatomy were not the same under, for
Upper Palaeolithic grave left, Saint-Césaire, the only Up- example, the interstadial conditions of Hengelo or Arcy,
per Palaeolithic burial of a Neandertal. It is quite clear the pleniglacial ones of the Last Glacial Maximum, the
that, all over the middle latitudes of Eurasia, from the nearly interglacial ones of Bölling/Alleröd, or the Dryas
Atlantic coast to Siberia, the Mid Upper Palaeolithic bur- III crisis. The distinction between Early and Late Upper
ials are the first uncontroversial evidence of anatomi- Paleolithic is of proven significance in the study of bi-
cally modern humans’ burying their dead. Their age clus- ological stress and functional anatomy, as linked with
ters in the millennia around 25,000 years b.p., while the behavioral changes including technology and subsis-
Neandertal graves span 50,000 years or more, with the tence (e.g., Brennan 1991, Churchill, Weaver, and Nie-
latest, Saint-Césaire, some 10,000 years earlier than the woehner 1996). There are major differences in technol-
Mid Upper Palaeolithic burial. ogy, subsistence, art, and human settlement between the
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 469

Mousterian and the Magdalenian (e.g., Straus 1983), but Overall, the story is one of mosaic evolution (see, e.g.,
there are no absolute breaks in all aspects of culture from Straus 1996, 1997). Human burial appears among Nean-
one intervening Mortilletian period to the next. dertals in some regions (Belgium, Germany, southwest-
At the same time, it is now undeniable that Nean- ern France, and Israel), and some of those regions also
dertals (not just Cro-Magnons) were capable of change tend to be rich in Cro-Magnon burials, while other
(see d’Errico et al. 1998, but with caveats in the com- equally archaeologically rich regions (e.g., Cantabrian
ments) and that there were regional developments in Spain) have none. Some regions (Liguria, Moravia) have
subsistence (e.g., Stiner’s 1994 evidence for increased many Upper Paleolithic burials but few or no demon-
hunting in west-central Italy after ca. 55,000 b.p. and strable Neandertal ones. In the critical period between
possibly Farizy, David, and Jaubert’s 1994 suggestion of 40,000 and 27,000 b.p. (uncalibrated), some regions see
specialized bison hunting in southern France), in tech- the early appearance of so-called Aurignacian assem-
nology made by Neandertals (e.g., the Chatelperronian blages, others have particular “transitional” industries
of France and Spain [e.g., Pelegrin 1995; Arrizabalaga and of their own, and yet others (notably southern Iberia)
Altuna 2000], the Olchevian of Croatia [Karavanic 1995], witness the long survival of Mousterian technology
and possibly the Uluzzian of Italy [Kuhn and Bietti 2000] (sometimes associated with Neandertals). The burial ev-
and the Szeletian sensu lato of Central Europe [e.g., idence highlighted by Riel-Salvatore and Clark thus
Allsworth-Jones 1986]), and even in representation (e.g., makes sense in a murky situation. The so-called Middle-
the ca. 54,000-year-old engraving on a flint nodule at to-Upper Paleolithic transition can be characterized as a
Quneitra on the Golan Heights [Goren-Inbar 1990]). In “punctuation event” only from the perspective of a ge-
fact, as has been pointed out (most recently by Bar-Yosef ological time scale. When we want to approach an un-
and Kuhn 1999), Neandertals had repeatedly invented derstanding of processes we must look at things more
prismatic blade manufacturing sometime early in the closely, and then they get complex. In many respects,
time range of the Middle Paleolithic, and this was only the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition may amount
one aspect of the variability and flexibility that charac- to a trait-frequency distribution shift, ultimately part of
terized the technology of this “stage” (e.g., Kuhn 1995). continuum of change that we call “evolution.”
In short, the story can be seen as a play in three Finally, I would note that Riel-Salvatore and Clark
acts: mistakenly classify the Starosele child burial as a Nean-
Prologue: The Neandertals change (whether on their dertal when the latter attribution was convincingly dis-
own or as a result of contacts with Cro-Magnons or both). proven in the pages of this journal by Marks and col-
Act 1: Certain useful inventions (e.g., Aurignacian leagues (1997) as a very likely intrusive Muslim
split-base antler points) diffuse widely via a network of interment.
social relations or via human movements—or both—but
with considerable regional variation in content and tim-
ing under often relatively benign environmental anne-marie tillier
conditions. UMR5809 Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des
Act 2: With a climatic downturn, humans create a yet Populations du Passé, Université Bordeaux 1, Avenue
more elaborate set of regionally specific cultural re- des Facultés, 33405 Talence, France (am.tillier@
sponses (e.g., the Pavlovian, the Font-Robert Gravettian, 6 iv 01
the Périgordian) and then abandon northern Europe for
refugia in the south, where there are dramatic develop- Riel-Salvatore and Clark address the question of the va-
ments in weapons-related technology, subsistence inten- lidity of Gargett’s rejection (1989, 1999) of the present
sification, settlement systems, regional population den- archaeological evidence for purposeful burial of a few
sity and territorialism, and symbol systems and ideology Middle Paleolithic hominids. According to Gargett, most
(e.g., the Solutrean, the early Epigravettian). reports of such discoveries have failed to recognize the
Act 3: Gradual but irregular amelioration of climate role of natural depositional events. As a member of the
brings expansion of the human range into upland and Kebara team, I was quite surprised to learn (Gargett 1999:
montane areas and eventually recolonization of northern 64) that if the right hipbone of the Kebara 2 hominid was
Europe by Magdalenian bands equipped with complex, better preserved than the left it was because it “was near-
specialized lithic and osseous technologies and a wide- est the cave’s entrance” and therefore “nearer the source
spread network of symbols and social relationships made of wind-blown and colluvial sediments.” In fact the Ke-
manifest by portable art styles and exotic objects such bara 2 skeleton was oriented generally west-east and
as marine and fossil shells, amber, and special nonlocal both hipbones had the same orientation with regard to
flints. the cave entrance.
Epilogue: Dramatic environmental changes, with gen- Riel-Salvatore and Clark tend to accept a view already
eralized reforestation, glacial retreat, sea-level rise, and expressed by others (e.g., Tillier 1990, Belfer-Cohen and
extinction of Pleistocene faunas, lead to radical simpli- Hovers 1992, Hayden 1993, Hovers et al. 2000, Bar-Yosef
fication of technologies, termination of the old symbol 2000) that Gargett’s approach to the criteria that appear
system, and a variety of strategies for survival ranging to be primarily of behavioral relevance in the Middle
from (momentarily) clinging to old ways to rapid Paleolithic hominid sample is rather subjective. Indeed,
“mesolithization.” the view that, in contrast to Upper Paleolithic hominids,
470 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

Middle Paleolithic hominids (either Neandertals or early

modern humans) lacked the capacity for innovative be- Reply
havior beyond their quest for food seems to be less com-
mon among scholars trained in the Old World.
Riel-Salvatore and Clark compare Middle Paleolithic g. a. clark and j. riel-salvatore
and Early Upper Paleolithic sites on several categories Tempe, Ariz., U.S.A. 25 v 01
of “mortuary data.” Their aim is to submit both samples
of hominid skeletal remains currently considered as the Although we do not necessarily agree with all of them,
results of purposeful burials “to the same critical scru- we very much appreciate the thoughtful comments on
tiny,” and they deserve credit for this approach. Their our essay. Our position is that, if Gargett’s criteria for
analyses are based on the examination of distributions evaluating the intentionality of Middle Paleolithic bur-
of variation within and between the two hominid sam- ials are to have general applicability, they should also be
ples of biological (age at death, sex, bone lesions, phy- applied to burials claimed for the Early and Late Upper
logenetic affiliation) and taphonomic (body position, pit, Paleolithic. As does Straus, we think it advantageous to
divide the Upper Paleolithic into early and late phases
archaeological deposits) data. While they make some
in pattern searches of all kinds that seek to compare it
cautious remarks in their introduction, we expect them
with the Middle Paleolithic. This is because human ad-
to express more uncertainties in their analysis before
aptations to the middle latitudes of western Eura-
adopting any interpretation. Yet the data presented are
sia—variable from one geographical region to the
not always appropriate and/or up-to-date. Although I next—were also very different before and after 20,000
cannot discuss the paper in detail, I have a few comments years ago, given that the first 20,000 years of the Upper
to offer. Paleolithic correspond to the relatively mild, although
In table 1, the mention of a probable burial for La Fer- deteriorating, paleoclimates of oxygen-isotope stage 3
rassie 8 is quite surprising in the light of its original (57,000–24,000), whereas those of the 24,000–11,000-
description (Heim 1982:13). It is Qafzeh 11 instead of years interval (oxygen-isotope stage 2) correspond to the
Qafzeh 9 that exhibits a bone lesion, as does the Qafzeh pleniglacial maximum and subsequent recovery. The di-
10 immature specimen (Vandermeersch 1981; Tillier visions of the Paleolithic (and, indeed, the Paleolithic
1984, 1999). There is no reason to consider the Staroselye itself) were created (not discovered) by several genera-
child a probable Neanderthal burial; this specimen is tions of French prehistorians in order to erect a temporal
fully modern in its skeletal morphology (Howell 1957, grid that would bring order to Stone Age archaeology in
Alekseev 1976, Tillier in Ronen 1982:315) and absolute the years before the development of radiometric chro-
dating (Marks et al. 1997). nologies (Sackett 1981). They embody all kinds of im-
Discussing the sex distribution of the burials, Riel- plicit preconceptions and assumptions about biological
Salvatore and Clark assert that “more males were re- and cultural evolution and their material correlates that
covered than females.” However, they should recognize have no intrinsic meaning apart from the conceptual
that sex estimation based on invalid criteria is question- frameworks that define and contextualize them. These
able. For instance, among Middle Paleolithic hominids conceptual frameworks are accidents of history, ulti-
in Europe, the low frequency of female skeletons can be mately arbitrary, always vague, and seldom made ex-
explained by the choice of the discriminant variable em- plicit, producing miscommunication as scholars define
ployed in sex estimation, cranial capacity (La Quina 5, and use differently terms and concepts thought to be held
Spy 2). in common (Clark 1991).
Finally, I wonder why there is no analysis of the chron- Davidson and Noble claim that we don’t address Gar-
ological aspects inferred in both the Middle and the Up- gett’s argument that consideration of taphonomic pro-
cesses allows for more nuanced assessments of the in-
per Paleolithic. For each time period all the sites are
tentionality involved in claimed human burials. We
treated as a sample. The available dates for the Middle
disagree. In fact, one of us (GAC) has explicitly defended
Paleolithic sites provide evidence of a long human oc-
Gargett’s approach, describing it as “commendable and,
cupation, and consequently the data come from sites sep-
in fact, essential if the discipline is ever to overcome the
arated by tens of thousands of years. Moreover, regarding naı̈ve and anachronistic expectation that first-hand
the Upper Paleolithic sites listed in table 2, there are knowledge of data is a sine qua non for credible research
major problems in chronology, as most of the sites have conclusions” (Duff, Clark, and Chadderdon 1992:222).
never been accurately dated. Thus, Combe-Capelle can Instead, we take issue with what he concludes from his
no longer be considered part of the Upper Paleolithic research (that all Middle Paleolithic burials can be ac-
sample (see esp. Gambier 1989:195–96). counted for by taphonomic processes). And we are cer-
Examining the Middle/Upper Paleolithic transition, tainly not advocating a disregard for taphonomy. Quite
Riel-Salvatore and Clark argue that it is possible to rec- the contrary (although taphonomic research is still very
ognize a certain continuity in mortuary behavior. From much a work in progress—still in the pattern-searching
my personal experience I am confident that this is the stages). All we claim is that something might be gained
case and that it is one more argument for the humanness by taking into consideration the firsthand observations
of Middle Paleolithic hominids. of the original excavators. A more accurate restatement
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 471

of their final paragraph and one that squares better with ioral changes associated with the Middle–Upper Paleo-
our pattern search would be that some Neandertals were lithic transition.
intentionally buried (and some were not), some Early D’Errico and Vanhaeren misconstrue our interpreta-
Upper Paleolithic hominids were buried (and some were tion of the frequency data (and our view of evolution)
not), and some Late Upper Paleolithic hominids were when they claim that we expect progressive changes in
buried (and some were not). This pattern continues into the material correlates of social complexity over time.
the Mesolithic and beyond (Newell, Constandse-Wes- Evolution is directionless, shaped only by context and
termann, and Meiklejohn 1979, Newell et al. 1990, Clark history (Clark 1999a). Arguing for vectored changes in
and Neeley 1987). Frequency shifts over time are due to particular aspects of adaptation is not the same thing as
the combined effects of better preservation and demo- arguing for “progress” in any global or universal sense.
graphic factors resulting from the compression of human The question is why the incidence of intentional burial
populations into southern European refugia during the apparently increases over time, not whether it was pre-
pleniglacial maximum (clearly a Late Upper Paleolithic sent at all in the Middle Paleolithic. While we acknowl-
phenomenon). We do not doubt the importance of Gar- edge the possibility that our pattern searches might rep-
gett’s research. If we had thought it trivial we would not resent “behavioral snapshots” (i.e., sampling error—this
have bothered to write the article in the first place. is true of any pattern search using archaeological data),
Davidson and Noble also point to the contextual di- we contend that the key to understanding what inten-
chotomy of Early Upper Paleolithic open-air burial and tional burial means is precisely whether Middle and Up-
Middle Paleolithic burial in caves and assert that a single per Paleolithic hominids had equivalent cognitive abil-
Middle Paleolithic burial in an open-air context “would ities. There is no consensus on this. One monitor of
do more to confirm the hypothesis of Neandertal delib- cognitive development is whether, and to what extent,
erate burial than any manipulation of currently available hominids practiced intentional burial.
(and not very reliable) evidence.” This statement is puz- The divisions of the Paleolithic, the Paleolithic itself,
zling because table 1 does include an open-air Middle and the biological taxonomic units Neandertals and
Paleolithic burial, Taramsa 1, in Egypt’s Nile Valley (Ver- modern humans are essentialized, reified, typological
meersch et al. 1998). Gargett also acknowledges the ex- categories the behavioral significance of which is by no
istence of this alleged burial but does not discuss it in means clear. As originally conceptualized, they were just
detail, preferring instead to “leave it up to the reader to arbitrary ways of dividing up time and morphological
scrutinize Vermeersch et al.’s argument in light of the variation. Hominids living in western Eurasia during the
criteria [RG] brings to bear in this paper” (Gargett 1999: later phases of the Middle Paleolithic might have in-
30). In other words, he dismisses the one case that has terred their dead with greater frequency than those of
the greatest potential to undermine his argument. the early phases of the Middle Paleolithic not because
There are, indeed, proportionately more Early Upper of progressive increases in cognitive development
Paleolithic open-air burials than Middle Paleolithic ones. (which, nevertheless, undoubtedly occurred over evolu-
However, most of them (10/13, or 76.9%) are clustered tionary time), but because of changes in adaptation to
in Moravia, where no Middle Paleolithic burials are re- strictly local environments that might have selected for
ported. With the exception of Sungir, all the others (19/ treating dead bodies differently over time. It isn’t clear
32, or 59.4%) are located in caves or rock shelters—the to us what d’Errico and Vanhaeren mean by “natural
same contexts from which claimed Middle Paleolithic analogies” or “natural interpretations.” We acknowledge
burials in those areas are reported. Interestingly, this ap- that modern mortuary practices are extremely variable
plies to all the sites mentioned in Mussi’s table, which and add that, for the same reasons, they were probably
she claims are so evidently linked to the central Euro- extremely variable in the past. We used the conventional
pean sample. To us, this bimodal pattern in burial con- Middle–Upper Paleolithic boundary at 40,000 years ago
texts suggests different land-use strategies rather than a while acknowledging its arbitrary nature and do not dis-
qualitative shift in behavior. It might be linked to to- pute the many conflicting criteria used to define it (see,
pography, bedrock, and geomorphological processes pre- e.g., Clark 1999b). We do dispute the utility of the Upper
ceding and subsequent to the Early Upper Paleolithic, Paleolithic technocomplexes (e.g., Aurignacian) as ana-
which in turn affected the prevalence of caves and rock lytical units. For one thing, it is by no means clear what
shelters in the landscape in the various regions of west- they represent behaviorally. It is our opinion that “tech-
ern Eurasia. Northern Egypt is a good example. In ad- nocomplexes” exhibit little or no time-space discrete-
dition to Taramsa 1, three open-air Early Upper Paleo- ness, are useless for exploring cultural variation, are not
lithic burials (Nazlet Khater 1 and 2, Kubbaniya) are demonstrably “cultural” at all (i.e., do not correspond to
known from the area (Vermeersch et al. 1984, Wendorf identity-conscious social units), and, despite a com-
and Schild 1986). In fact, all Upper Pleistocene burials mendable shift in emphasis from typology to technology,
in northern Egypt are in the open air, just as all western are often interpreted in exactly the same ways as typo-
European burials are located in caves, irrespective of pe- logical constructs (i.e., as due to identity-consciousness
riod. These observations lend support to our argument manifest in social units like the tribes, nations, and peo-
that the context of burial had much more to do with the ples of history). Finally, we did not intend to suggest that
kinds of physiogeographical features available for human Mellars (1999) and Zilhão and d’Errico (1999a) have sim-
use in a given region than with any hypothetical behav- ilar views of human origins. For Mellars, moderns re-
472 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

placed Neandertals without admixture because they we have caricatured his argument. As he points out, the
were cognitively (hence technologically) more advanced importance of taphonomy in Paleolithic archaeology is
and therefore able to outcompete Neandertals and dis- seldom adequately recognized, and the role of geoar-
place them from their traditional homelands. For Zilhão chaeology in contemporary archaeological research can
and d’Errico, moderns and Neandertals were cognitively hardly be overemphasized. However, by depicting it as
equivalent and Neandertals underwent a Middle–Upper an arbitrary approach that seeks to eliminate human
Paleolithic transition independent of and earlier than agency altogether, Gargett misrepresents the aim of
that involving moderns and the Aurignacian; to the ex- geoarchaeology, which is the careful study of all site for-
tent to which the latter replaced the former it was be- mation processes and agents, including those associated
cause of genetic swamping (allowing for admixture and uniquely with hominids. To imply that hominids could
an arguable influx of moderns after 40,000 years ago). have had no role in the preservation of human remains
We are somewhat taken aback by Gargett’s critical at sites that are defined first and foremost by their pres-
reaction to our paper, given our general endorsement of ence courts absurdity.
his approach. We reiterate that we disagree with Gar- We explicitly state that we give the original excava-
gett’s conclusions (which are the same in the 1989 and tors’ reports the benefit of the doubt with respect to their
1999 essays) and with some of the criteria he uses to capacity to monitor intentionality. While we acknowl-
evaluate pattern rather than questioning the appropri- edge that our understanding of site formation processes
ateness of examining the question in the first place (see has advanced considerably over the past 30 years and
Clark and Lindly 1989b). Everything in archaeology is that Gargett is right to be skeptical, second-guessing peo-
more or (usually) less secure inference. It is impossible ple who were fully competent professionals in their era
to address any issue or problem in science without mak- seems to introduce as many problems as it solves. We
ing a priori judgments about the variables considered suggest that we know as much about Neandertal sexual
significant to measure, the methods deemed appropriate dimorphism as we do about sexual dimorphism during
to measure them, and, ultimately, the meaning assigned the Early Upper Paleolithic and that there are many cri-
to pattern. How we go about doing this is what makes teria for determining sex (e.g., gonial angle, cranial boss-
our inferences weak or strong, naı̈ve or sophisticated. As ing, characteristics of the orbits, distal humerus, etc.)
is Gargett’s, our entire argument is circumstantial; nei- other than gracility and pubic architecture. Having ex-
ther he nor we regard a single criterion in and of itself cavated about 50 human burials (albeit from recent time
as sufficient to lead to secure inference. We were curious frames), Clark can testify that in many contexts pits are
to see what pattern would look like if we employed a relatively obvious, clear-cut features and not something
standardized set of criteria to monitor intentionality in that is easily confounded with the action of natural pro-
human burial over the Middle and the Early Upper Pa- cesses. Unequivocal pits are well-documented from Pa-
leolithic and if we divided up time differently than he leolithic contexts (e.g., Freeman and González-Echegaray
does. He accuses us of stacking the deck in favor of be- 1973).
havioral continuity over the transition by using novel It is with some relief, then, that we turn to Hovers
criteria for dividing up time (which, it should be noted, and Belfer-Cohen’s sympathetic comment. Gargett’s as-
is a reference variable used to measure change attributed sertion that “the Upper Paleolithic evidence reveals dif-
to other causes) and by selective use of both burial data ferences [in burial behavior] that obviate the need for a
and criteria designed to support the anticipated outcome comparison” (1999:30) between the Middle and the Up-
of our pattern search. We could turn that accusation per Paleolithic is probably the most unfortunate sen-
around and suggest that Gargett displays only an out- tence he has ever written! We can only agree with Hovers
dated, typological understanding of pattern variation in and Belfer-Cohen that our construal of pattern over the
the Paleolithic archaeological record, compounded by a transition is a complex picture of changing monitors of
variety-minimizing, essentialist view of Upper Pleisto- human adaptation. It is this temporal-spatial mosaic that
cene biological variation. But we don’t do that. We sim- calls into question the relatively abrupt and comprehen-
ply suggest that, until we have a tighter, more reliable sive “replacement” scenarios for the appearance of mod-
chronometric framework for assessing variability in the ern humans in western Europe (Straus 1997, Clark
relevant sites and areas, subdividing the Upper Paleo- 1997a). Hovers and Belfer-Cohen remark on the evidence
lithic into “early” and “late” phases might provide us for Early Upper Paleolithic parietal art and the number
with a better analytical tool for studying the full range of beads and variety of grave goods at Sungir as Early
of hominid behavior and morphological variability over Upper Paleolithic examples that mirror patterns more
the course of the Upper Pleistocene than the conven- common in the Late Upper Paleolithic. We do not argue
tional bipartite subdivision. that there are no Early Upper Paleolithic burials as com-
On the question of fragmentary remains, Gargett plex as some Late Upper Paleolithic burials or that there
seems oblivious to the fact that crucial “bits and pieces” are no Early Upper Paleolithic examples of fully devel-
of humans show up in archaeological contexts through- oped parietal art. However, it is clear that art, ornaments,
out the Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and even Neo- organic technologies, and burials are much more com-
lithic in many areas of western Eurasia. What does that mon when scaled to unit time and space in the Late
say about fragmentation as a criterion for inferring in- Upper Paleolithic than in the Early Upper Paleolithic,
tentionality? We also dispute Gargett’s contention that and it is no coincidence that burials and art are concen-
r i e l - s a l v a t o r e a n d c l a r k Grave Markers F 473

trated when and where they are. Their time-space dis- human-origins debate in general) is that documented in-
tributions can be explained as the material consequences tentionality in human burial tells us something inter-
of the demographic compression that was such a con- esting and important about human cognitive evolution
spicuous feature of the Pleniglacial and Tardiglacial in (although clearly it is not the only monitor of cognition).
the west (Barton, Clark, and Cohen 1994, Clark, Barton, Regarding rockfalls and fragmented but complete skel-
and Cohen 1996) and the relative prevalence of caves in etons (Gargett’s “beer cans”), Larsson remarks that if
these regions. rockfalls were a common cause of death we might expect
We do not dispute Hovers and Belfer-Cohen’s claim to find evidence of other cave-dwelling animals with
that even if intentional burial is shown to exist in the “beer can” signatures. While we acknowledge that rock-
Middle Paleolithic this behavior need not have been falls occurred in caves and rock shelters throughout ge-
symbolic or linked to other forms of symbolic behavior ological time and that they were episodic and occasion-
(Chase and Dibble 1987). At the same time, our study ally cataclysmic, to invoke them to explain complete but
does suggest that at least some of the Middle and Early crushed human skeletons appears to us to be reaching.
Upper Paleolithic burials are directly comparable, with To the best of our knowledge, there is no evidence that
the implication that if we elect to attribute symbolic hyenas and cave bears were ever killed by rockfalls, and,
loading to all Early Upper Paleolithic inhumations we given the very sporadic human use of caves and rock
must also extend this interpretation to comparable Mid- shelters throughout prehistory, the probability is prac-
dle Paleolithic burials. It is also possible that what had tically nil that the two “events” would ever have
originated as an essentially utilitarian form of behavior coincided.
(getting rid of a dead body) might eventually have taken Marshack raises a number of interesting questions
on a symbolic loading, although this possibility lacks any about skeletal evidence for interpersonal violence (better
clear-cut test implications. Our goal was not so much documented in the Mesolithic, when unambiguous cem-
to try to demonstrate that Middle Paleolithic hominids eteries show up for the first time), the possible effects of
had symbolic behavior as to show that we must be care- mobility on whether people were buried, and socio-
ful to avoid interpretive double standards when dealing demographic factors that might have selected for in-
with comparable data sets (Roebroeks and Corbey 2000, creasingly frequent burial (hence improved archaeolog-
Gaudinski and Roebroeks 1999). ical “visibility”) during the Late Upper Paleolithic.
Tongue in cheek, Krantz chastises us for covering too Although we used all the data available to us and ac-
large an area and time span and thereby inviting criti- knowledged that they almost certainly do not represent
cism. The intent of the paper was to compare the Middle the full range of mortuary practices over the relevant
with the Early Upper Paleolithic rather than with the time and space intervals, unless there is systematic bias
Upper Paleolithic en bloc, where, we argue, Late patterns due to contextual factors (e.g., caves versus open sites,
likely swamp Early ones and thus give the impression short-term versus long-term sites, etc.) there is no reason
of less continuity than may in fact be the case. Human to think that the sample we analyzed would be biased
origins research is not for the faint of heart; we certainly in any particular direction (although, of course, it is dom-
were not trying to avoid criticism. Along with the rest inated by remains recovered from caves and rock
of the profession, we will be interested to see evidence shelters).
for very young dates for Skhūl and Qafzeh. At present, Perhaps our most acerbic critic is Mussi, who sees
and depending on the method used, Skhūl is dated from little redemptive value in the paper. She claims that we
81,000 to 119,000 years ago, Qafzeh from 92,000 to have the chronology of the Italian sites wrong (and in
115,000 years ago (Bar-Yosef 1998:47). The Levantine consequence omitted some cases under the mistaken im-
Mousterian now extends back to ca. 270,000 years ago pression that they were late), evidently giving greater
(Mercier et al. 1995). By using the available dates for weight to typological criteria for assemblage definition
Skhūl and Qafzeh we were not subscribing to what than to hard radiometric evidence. This theoretical
Krantz calls “established doctrine.” Although he ac- stance is problematic in a number of respects. For one
knowledges archaeological evidence for continuity in ad- thing, the Italian Upper Paleolithic industries have tra-
aptation in Europe, he appears to think the situation is ditionally been classified according to Laplace’s analyt-
different for the Levant. There is, however, abundant ev- ical framework, which differs markedly from that
idence for archaeological continuity in the Levant, ac- of Bordes. Second, not all Italian workers adopt a chron-
knowledged even by staunch advocates of biological re- otypological approach. Bietti (1991) points out that many
placement (e.g., Bar-Yosef 1998). On a global scale, there of the so-called Upper Paleolithic index-fossil tool types
are no correlations whatsoever between “kinds” of hom- occur in varying frequencies outside the prehistorian-
inids and “kinds” of archaeological assemblages. defined analytical units to which they are supposedly
Larsson’s observations regarding the tricky business of confined (see also Kuhn and Bietti 2000). Italy also ap-
inferring subtle differences in cognition are points well parently lacks a Solutrean. Clearly, radiometric dates and
taken. We tried to take skeletal preservation into account paleoenvironmental data are the only secure foundations
but were often limited by the nature of the published upon which to erect any kind of prehistoric chronology.
accounts and the lack of a taphonomic focus among Mussi advocates dividing the Upper Paleolithic into
many early workers. Having said that, the whole point three stages, including a Mid Upper Paleolithic dated
of the exercise (and an important subtext of the modern- between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago into which most
474 F c u r r e n t a n t h ro p o l o g y Volume 42, Number 4, August–October 2001

of our Early Upper Paleolithic cases would fall. No basis marily because the interval of interest lies at the limits
for this subdivision is offered. While it is clearly a good of the most widely used and reliable radiometric dating
idea to divide the Upper Paleolithic into more meaning- method in Europe, radiocarbon. And there are those (e.g.,
ful units, the division we use makes more sense than Mussi) who put more faith in typology than in absolute
the one proposed by Mussi, since the Late Upper Pale- dates. We acknowledge the probable error, also noted by
olithic marks the beginning of the last glacial downturn Straus, in regard to the Staroselye child (Marks et al.
(i.e., it has paleoclimatic correlates that were likely to 1997). In the years since its discovery in 1953, the phy-
have affected human behavior throughout western Eur- logenetic status of the Staroselye child (an infant of
asia). That our subdivision has “long been standard 18–19 months) has been much debated (see Marks et al.
among both archaeologists and physical anthropolo- 1997:116, 117 for a useful summary). It is interesting that
gists” is news to us, since practically all publications by it has changed in concert with prevailing views of what
replacement advocates use the more conventional Mid- constitutes a “modern human,” underscoring the diffi-
dle–Upper Paleolithic division at ca. 40,000 years ago. In culties attendant on assigning very young (albeit com-
our view, the conventional schema is favored by most plete) individuals to biological taxonomic units.
replacement advocates precisely because of the expec- Whether Paleolithic humans buried their dead has
tation that the archaeological and the biological transi- been debated for well over a century and will doubtless
tions should coincide. They have this preconception continue to be debated for the foreseeable future. We
about pattern because one population (moderns making hope to have shown here that, if we are to develop a
Aurignacian tools) is thought to be replacing another one better understanding of this phenomenon, it is impera-
(Neandertals making Mousterian and/or Châtelperron- tive that we look at Upper Pleistocene burial as a process
ian, Uluzzian, etc., tools). However, as mentioned above, and try to place it in the context of the changing regional
there is no empirical support for a correlation between adaptations of which it was once a part. Our research
hominid biological types and archaeological assemblage casts doubt on the utility of conventional chronotypo-
types. Biology and culture can and do vary independently logical conceptual frameworks as organizing devices, as
of one another. has a complementary study based on the totality of pre-
Since we agree with him, there is little we can add to Mesolithic human interments (Riel-Salvatore 2001). The
Straus’s remarks except that we must find a way to break range of commentary shows that, intellectually, Paleo-
the confines of the normative, typological thinking that lithic archaeology is alive and well and that its practi-
dominates most discussion of pattern in biological and tioners, despite diverse theoretical perspectives, none-
cultural variation over the last half of the Upper Pleis- theless contribute to intelligent discourse about key
tocene. In particular, the basic analytical units (e.g., Au- issues of the remote human past. A plurality of perspec-
rignacian, Châtelperronian, Neandertal) have become tives is essential to the development of the discipline as
“naturalized” and so are seldom subjected to critical a rigorous scientific endeavor capable of generating new
scrutiny. Many workers treat them as if they were ob- knowledge about the human career. The assumptions,
jectively “real,” intrinsically meaningful, and unprob- biases, and preconceptions that underlie the logic of in-
lematic, with the implication that the systematics used ference in the various intellectual traditions involved in
to generate them are themselves unproblematic. We sug- the research must also be subjected to critical scrutiny
gest that this is rather naı̈ve. In default of a concern with if we are to avoid the miscommunication that often re-
epistemology (notably lacking in this type of research), sults when workers differ among themselves with re-
we have no way to determine whether workers in dif- spect to what constitutes data, what questions are im-
ferent research traditions are defining and using these portant to ask of data, and how data should be analyzed.
analytical units in the same ways or to justify them as
behaviorally meaningful (i.e., as appropriate for address-
ing transition questions). In other words, it is simply
taken for granted that the analytical units and the sys-
tematics that underlie them are adequate to address tran-
sition questions. We strongly suspect that they are not
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