All in Good Time: Exploring Change in Neanderthal Behavioural Complexity

01st December 2007

Michelle C. Langley

BA(Hons), School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, October 2006

Since their discovery 150 years ago, Neanderthals have been considered incapable of behavioural change and innovation. Traditional synchronic approaches to the study of Neanderthal behaviour have perpetuated this view and shaped our understanding of their lifeways and eventual extinction. In this thesis I implement an innovative diachronic approach to the analysis of Neanderthal faunal extraction, technology and symbolic behaviour as contained in the archaeological record of the critical period between 80,000 and 30,000 BP. The thesis demonstrates patterns of change in Neanderthal behaviour which are at odds with traditional perspectives and which are consistent with an interpretation of increasing behavioural complexity over time, an idea that has been suggested but never thoroughly explored in Neanderthal archaeology.

Demonstrating an increase in behavioural complexity in Neanderthals provides much needed new data with which to fuel the debate over the behavioural capacities of Neanderthals and the first appearance of Modern Human Behaviour in Europe. It supports the notion that Neanderthal populations were active agents of behavioural innovation prior to the arrival of Anatomically Modern Humans in Europe and, ultimately, that they produced an early Upper Palaeolithic cultural assemblage (the Châtelperronian) independent of modern humans. Overall, this thesis provides an initial step towards the development of a quantitative approach to measuring behavioural complexity which provides fresh insights into the cognitive and behavioural capabilities of Neanderthals.

Michelle C. Langley
All in Good Time: Exploring Change in Neanderthal Behavioural Complexity
December 2007
65
69-70
Thesis Abstracts
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