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The Palaeolithic Origins of Human Burial, by Paul Pettitt, 2010. London:
Routledge; ISBN 978-0-415-35489-9 hardback £70.00 & US\$115; ISBN
978-0-415-35490-5 paperback £22.99 & US\$35.95; xi + 307 pp., 77 gs., 9

April Nowell

Cambridge Archaeological Journal / Volume 22 / Issue 02 / June 2012, pp 298 - 299
DOI: 10.1017/S0959774312000327, Published online: 23 May 2012

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April Nowell (2012). Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 22, pp 298-299 doi:10.1017/S0959774312000327

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I find Pettitt persuasive when he argues that the Honorary Fellow. distinguishes this from structured abandonment because tories of the hominin skeletal remains whose preservation is the ‘place is given meaning beyond prosaic concerns such as likely the result of some kind of mortuary behaviour. he emphasizes that it is an over- volume fills a true void in the literature and will remain an generalization to say that Neanderthals ‘bury their dead’. processing at the pre-Neanderthal site of Gran Dolina within xi + 307 pp. he argues. 77 figs. He also The book is divided into eight chapters. Seen in this way. Pettit includes an extensive bibliography as well as detailed inven. It is clear that this are no Neanderthal burials. London: Routledge. Examples can include is an absorbing and intriguing read that I found difficult to the back of a cave. audience and individual idiosyncrasies. Like Riel-Salvatore and behaviour in the behavioural repertoire of non-human Clark (2001). Exeter University complexity of behaviours exhibited by non-human primates Murtwell Barn could. spectacularly furnished single. 2) in his recent book The Palaeolithic Origins of ary caching is described as the deliberate deposition of Human Burial. emergence of ritualized burials — particularly the often ated with the treatment of dead conspecifics than is gener. The first is describes other aspects of mortuary behaviour engaged in an introduction which outlines the volume and defines the by Neanderthals. Chapter 7. draw on it to update a guest the dead’ and ‘places for the living’. This is probably not a bad thing. In the corpse protection (p.. titled ‘From Fragmentation to Collectivity’ morbidity (a keen interest in the injured or deceased) and looks at the circulation of human relics (isolated body parts). 298–9 © 2012 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research doi:10. suggest it to a graduate student as background The fifth chapter is devoted to Neanderthals. While he reading for her MA thesis and refer to it in a book chapter I rejects Robert Gargett’s (1989.00 &US$115. 9)’. This any modification of that location. The sixth and longest chapter of the book focuses The second chapter traces the roots of hominin funerary primarily on Gravettian burials. including ‘curation’ children and adolescents. ISBN 978-0-415-35489-9 example of ‘structured abandonment’. it is densely packed with data and reappropriated or any natural depression or fissure. p. in some places and at some times bury their dead. Pettitt may be on hardback £70. among our ancestors. have become codi- Diptford fied. injure or consume parts of the bodies of one’s circumstances in archaeology — and to think through an conspecifics’. Funerary caching is an important short time it took me to read this volume I had the occasion concept because it can be seen as the basis for a symbolic to recommend it to a colleague who was looking for a recent transition of landscape — over time there can be ‘places for review of Palaeolithic burials. Funer- Pettitt (p. he traces the origins and development of a corpse or parts of corpse in a specific location without human mortuary practices throughout the Pleistocene. over time. (the carrying around of a corpse in its entirety or in pieces). archaeology.1017/S0959774312000327 eteries (places of multiple burial that are dedicated primarily 298 . ritualized and taken on symbolic meaning that they Devon lacked in the non-human primate context. Reviews relation to flow and I have found since reading this book what Pettitt terms the ‘Cronos Compulsion’ (‘the urge … to that ‘flow’ appears to have potential in myriad further dismember. In Chapter 3 and more fully in Chapter 4 Pettitt traces ‘At what point in human behavioural evolution did the development of funerary caching and the emergence responses to death become culturally meaningful?’ asks of the earliest burials amongst early Homo sapiens. Pettitt characterizes the Gravettian as a true primates. terms and concepts that will be used throughout the book. important resource for students and professionals in the It is more correct. While other mortuary beha­ with chimpanzees and while it is largely anecdotal evidence viours continue to be elaborated upon Pettitt describes the it is clear that there is a larger variety of behaviours associ. and the incidence of burials and the emergence of true cem- CAJ 22:2. 9 tables the framework of an elaborated Cronos compulsion. it may be a stretch to describe the The Palaeolithic Origins of Human Burial. well-known Australopithecus afarensis site AL-333 as an early tralopithecines and in hominins of the Lower and Middle Pleistocene. TQ9 7NQ In Chapter 3 Pettitt explores the transition from UK morbidity to actual mortuary behaviour in Pliocene aus- Email: Paul. the distinction between nutritional and ritual April Nowell cannibalism becomes less important. double and triple burials of ally acknowledged. is an important chapter because it lays the foundation for interpreting the hominin finds in subsequent chapters of Paul Rainbird this book. 9) are clearly meaningful and vary according archaeology of flow as one way of approaching the material to situation. ISBN 978-0-415-35490-5 surer ground when he interprets the evidence for soft tissue paperback £22. a pit dug for another purpose but then put down. Pettitt focuses on behaviours associated primarily break with what came before. At 15 pages this is one of the shortest chapters and with good reason as the evidence is more fragmentary. In it. For many researchers.99 & US$35. At 307 to say that some Neanderthals field for years to come.Rainbird@bristol.. Sites such as Atapuerca lecture I give on Gravettian burials for a class in mortuary are discussed within this context. 1999) extreme thesis that there was writing on Neanderthal symbol use. These behaviours. by Paul Pettitt.

STN CSC of molluscs. increases ing from prehistory.00.. Marcello A. none of the studies makes use of geochemical methods. Grave markers: middle and development. shells primarily for their use as artefacts. & G. 2005. Shells of practices that he describes in such detail. In fact. 1999. Finally. This is not so. which are April Nowell increasingly being adopted to determine the provenance Department of Anthropology of ornamental shells (e. an increase in the ‘dichotomy in scholarly focus’ (p. between male Gravettian burials and female Gravettian Archaeomalacology is the study of molluscs (terrestrial. Many archaeomalacological papers in population. a temporal and geographic bias come from. Journal of Human Evolution 37. In addition. For instance. as a more suitable for professionals. I personally have difficulty with ies of marine shells recovered from archaeological sites and Pettitt’s insistence in the reality of an inverse relationship used for non-dietary purposes by humans living in the past. Pettitt takes a pragmatic approach to inter. at face value is that SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) gists (particularly of the Palaeolithic period) and human is the main (and virtually only!) analytical tool important palaeontologists interested in mortuary archaeology. A definite limitation were living in complex social worlds and it is likely that of the book. For example. Nonetheless. and the development of large centres especially in which focuses heavily on the New World and. of the arguments presented in this volume. readers likely will not Archaeomalacology Revisited is a collection of papers on stud- agree with everything. In the last ten years or so. the only true shortcoming of this freshwater and marine) from archaeological sites and is book is that Pettitt often fails to contextualize the mortuary considered a sub-discipline of archaeozoology. Saint-Césaire. 27–90. practices. and cover different time periods start- (although Pettitt does discuss Gravettian figurines). has makes links to Middle and early Upper Palaeolithic funer. diately demonstrate (Claassen 1998). for Archaeozoology) meeting. J. 2011. increasing sedentism. References In the introductory chapter. R. Clark. in particular. Grave shortcomings: the evidence for Neandertal present trend in archaeomalacology. 55 figs. R. All the evidence suggests that Gravettian people which would not in itself be limiting.. Overall. of course.g. which approximately as the ‘Golden Age’ of the Palaeolithic these practices seem coincide with the transition from the Middle to the Upper even more unusual. Çakırlar heralds the Gargett. Eerkens et al. BC raw materials and dyes (Thomas & Mannino 2001). such as their utilization as tools. ceramic technologies including the construc.. which is witnessing burial. past. 299–300 © 2012 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research doi:10. Mannino preting the data presented in this book and mostly avoids overextending himself.00 & US$60. study of shell artefacts and. changes in subsistence presented at the meeting are not included in this volume. I concur with the view that every aspect of early Upper Paleolithic burials and the use of chronotypol- ogy in contemporary Paleolithic research. It is important to contextualize these Palaeolithic (d’Errico & Stringer 2011). the data used to Oxford: Oxbow Books. subsistence and symbolic the richness and unusual composition of Gravettian burial behaviours (Claassen 1998). however. Chapter 8 provides a short summary in Archaeological Settings. CAJ 22:2. Vanhaeren et University of Victoria al.1017/S0959774312000339 299 . artefacts. 449–79. Middle Paleolithic burial is not a dead issue: between researchers that study molluscs to reconstruct the view from Qafseh. Kebara. edited by Canan Çakırlar. Eastern Europe where many of the more spectacular burials on pre-Columbian Mexico. 157–90. for molluscs can inform us about a variety of aspects of our those without a background in Palaeolithic archaeology. as sources of Victoria. ISBN 978-1-84217-436-4 paperback support them and the implications of mortuary behaviour £30. xviii + 95 pp. 2001. 2004). all the other studies focus on the use of shells as ornaments. Even still. vi) Gargett. figurines. 1989.. Amud and their role in past human subsistence and those that study Dederiyeh. It is for the study of shell ornaments. is that it does not offer a complete pic- their mortuary practices were intertwined with these other ture of the range of methods available for the study of shell socially construed practices and values. with the exception of a single Canada interesting article on the use of shell waste for lime produc- Email: anowell@uvic. which took place in Mexico tion of kilns. burials practices within the broader framework of other The ten articles published in this small book were developments happening at this time such as textile dying presented at two sessions of the ICAZ (International Council and weaving. portable art including personal adornment City five years ago. of ornaments. many aspects of the non-dietary use PO Box 3050. Current Anthropology 30. 13 tables for the debate on hominin symbolic capacity. graduate students and advanced careful evaluation of the relevant literature would imme- tion (Carannante).A. allowed us to gain information on the evolution of human ary caching and Cronos compulsions as discussed above behaviour and ethno-linguistic diversity from the remotest but without knowing that the Gravettian is often described periods of their use for these purposes. Current Anthropo­ logy 42(4). particularly. including the environment. Reviews or entirely to the dead) in the late Upper Palaeolithic and Archaeomalacology Revisited: Non-dietary Use of Molluscs Epipalaeolithic. are not V8W 3P5 covered in the book. as a positive Riel-Salvatore. the practices seem to develop out of nowhere — Pettit. The impression that emerges by taking the articles Bottom line — who should read this book? Archaeolo.