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The Origins of Tidiness

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Author Topic: The Origins of Tidiness  (Read 89 times)
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« on: December 26, 2009, 05:22:11 am »

The researchers, led by archaeologists Nira Alperson-Afil and Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, mapped the precise locations and densities of thousands of plant and animal remains as well as stone tools found in one of GBY's 14 archaeological levels. The excavated area, a long strip covering about 26 square meters, had been covered rapidly by lake sediments in ancient times, thus preserving the remains in place.

The team found that hominin activities were concentrated in two main areas at opposite ends of the strip. Knapping of stone tools made from flint was concentrated in the northwest area, while production of tools made from basalt and limestone was concentrated around a hearth in the southeast. There was also a clear pattern of animal and plant remains. For example, remains of crabs consumed by the hominins were clustered around the hearth, as were the remains of nuts and stone tools, such as anvils and choppers, suitable for cracking them open. On the other hand, fish bones were found in two clusters, one at each end of the excavated area.

The team concludes, in its report on the findings in the 18 December issue of Science, that the GBY hominins' division of their living space into designated activity areas is a sign of "sophisticated cognition" once thought to be the special preserve of modern humans. Clive ****, an archaeologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, says the new work confirms other research showing that H. heidelbergensis "was a very tidy species." At the 500,000-year-old site of Boxgrove in southern England, **** points out, "across a landscape with no hearths they followed rules about where to get, make, and throw away their stone tools. There was nothing random in these activities, and GBY now extends this pattern back in time."

But Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, sounds a cautionary note. "The GBY site is remarkable and the use of space there is more complex than one might expect for the age of the occupation," Wadley says. But she thinks it would be a sure sign of sophisticated cognition only if the GBY hominins had attributed symbolic meanings to the way they divided their living quarters—something the research team has yet to demonstrate.
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