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Comments on Homo sapiens Is as Homo sapiens Was. Behavioral Variability versus Behavioral Modernity in Paleolithic Archaeology, by J. J. Shea

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Comments on Homo sapiens Is as Homo sapiens Was. Behavioral Variability versus Behavioral Modernity in Paleolithic Archaeology, by J. J. Shea
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  Shea BehavioralVariabilityversus Behavioral Modernity theanatomicalRubiconof H sapiens whendealingwithbehaviorallyvariablespeciessuchas Homo heidelbergensis Mostarchaeologistsstillarguethatearly H sapiens, letalone pre-sapiens, provideslittlematerialevidenceforhavingsymbolicallystructuredsocietiesandassuchis not recognizably modern (e.g.,Henshilwood and Marean2003).Thismayindeedbethecaseifweequatebehavioralmodernitywithmarkersofexternalsymbolicstorage(art,artefactstyle,sociallystructureduseofspace), but asSheaobservesfromtheperspectiveoftheethnographyofEastAfrica, much contemporaryexpression of artandstyletakesplaceonperishablematerialsthatwould not surviveinthearchaeologicalrecord.Taphonomicfiltershaveno doubt playedaroleinbiasing our perceptionofthesymboliccapacitiesofearlierhominins, but weworkwithwhatwehave and build our modelsonexistingdataratherthanonspeculatingonwhatmighthavebeen(ChaseandDibble1987).Ido not wishtoprolongthedebateoverabsenceofevidenceversusevidenceofabsenceofsymboluse, but we must alsobecognizant of theepistemologicaldilemmafacedwhenconsideringevidenceforearlysymboluse.AsG.A.Clark(2002)observed,thatevidencemaytakeformsthatwesimplydo not recognizegiven our existingexpectationsofwhatconstitutessymboluse.Weliveinasymbol-saturatedworld, and toseealternativeexpressionsofthiscapacitymaybedifficultgiven our currentrelianceonunambiguoussignals. Other indirectmarkersofsymbolicallystructuredsocialsystemsexisttoday,asinthecaseofcomplextechnologiesthatinvolveconsiderableinvestmentinsociallearning.Perhapsweneedtothinklaterallytofindarchaeologicalcorrelates(Barham2010).Sheaofferssomebriefguidancehere.Aswellastaphonomiclimitationsobscuring our vision of pastcapabilities,theremayhavebeentimeswhentherewere weakincentives orstrongdisincentivesforinvestingindurablesymbols.Thesewerepresumablyamixtureofdemographic,social,historical,andecologicalforces,andherebehavioralecologyofferstestablepredictionsthatcanbeappliedarchaeologically(O Connell2006).Powell,Shennan, and Thomas(2009:1301)havemodeledthe criticaleffectivepopulationsize,andthereforedensity,necessaryfortheaccumulationofmarkers of modern behaviour. Modernityinthissenseis not speciesspecific but aproductofthecoalescenceofcertainpressuresincertainplacesatcertaintimes,places and timesthatcanbeestimated.Thisformulationshouldintheorybeapplicabletootherhominins,suchasNeanderthals(e.g.,Zilhaoetal.2010),whichhadthecapacitytotransmitculturallyinheritedskills.Thelogicalextensionofbreakingthelinkagebetweenspecies and behavioristherecognitionthatexternalsymbolicstorageisanemergentratherthanuniquelyderivedproperty of LatePleistocene H sapiens Thelabel demographicmodernity capturesthis phenomenon ofacontextuallycontingentflorescenceofsymbolicbehaviors(Barham,forthcoming)andhasobviousimplicationsforunderstandingtherecursionsandconvergencesinbehaviorhighlightedbyShea. 17 Sheaalsochallengesustoreconsiderthetaphonomicandmethodologicalbiasesthatcanunwittinglystructurethearchaeologicalrecordandcolor our interpretationsofprocessbetweentheextremesofgradualistandpunctuatedchange.Suchareminderistimelyifanewparadigmistoemergefromthelooseningoftheintellectualshacklesimposedbytheconceptofmodernity.Wewillbebetterplacedtoshift our gazetowardlong-termtrends,awayfromthedistortingeffectoffirstappearances(e.g.,Gowlett2009),andatthesametimefocusonthecomplexinterplayofvariablesthatunderpinparticularlocalizedbehaviors.Aclearerunderstandingoftheevolutionofbehavioralvariabilitywillresult.Themoreinfluentialvoicesthatjointhischorus,themorelikelywearetosinginharmony.Nicholas   Conard AbteilungfurAltereUrgeschichte und Quartarokologie,UniversitatTiibingen,SchlossHohentiibingen,72070Tubingen,Germany(nicholas.conard@uni-tuebingen.de).6VIII10Becauseweknowthatasrecentlyasafewtensofthousandsofyearsago,atleastfourformsof hominins- l) modern humans,(2)Neanderthals,(3)Denisovahominins(Krauseetal.2010),and(4) Homoj1oresiensis-occupied differentpartsoftheglobe,thetask of tracking and examiningthepatternsofPleistocene hominin evolutionhasbecomemorecomplexandmoreinteresting.Howdidwegofromthisdiversifiedstatewithmultipletaxatothecurrentsituation,inwhichonly modern Homosapiens arealivetoday?Ifwedefinealllivingpeople,despitetheirvastbehavioralvariation,as modern (Antweiler2007),itislegitimatetoaskwheninthecourseof human evolutionpeoplebecamemodern.ThisquestioniscertainlyflawedforreasonsSheapointsout, but itisstillavalidquestionthathelpsustodefinethe human condition and our placeinthediversity of life.Ifarchaeologistsandpaleoanthropologists,whoproduceandstudythekeydata,sidestepthisissue,weleavethisjobtothepractitionersofotherfields,whoarealmostalwaysfartherremovedfromthedataandlesscompetenttoanswerthisquestion.Manyscientificquestionsareflawed, but that does not meanthatallflawedquestionsare unimportant orinappropriatetopicsofscientificinquiry.Likemostconcepts,Shea semphasisonthestudyofbehavioralvariabilityisalsoflawed,aswellasdifficulttoimplement.Sheaattemptstoshiftthedebateawayfromindicatorsof modernity andtowardananalysisofvariationinculturalsystems.This,hesuggests,shouldbedoneusingmodelsbasedonevolutionarytheoryand,morespecifically,behavioralecology.Thispositionisbynomeansnew,andSheaispreachingtothechoironthispoint,becausemostresearcherstodayregularlyuseconceptsfrombehavioralecology.Theissue,asBirdandO ConneU(2006)andmanyotherresearchershave  18 pointed out foryears,ishowcanwebestdothis?Ifdevelopingmethodstoconductthesekindsofstudieswereeasy,wewouldalreadyhavemanyconvincingexamplesofsuchstudiesratherthancontinuedcallstodevelopwaystoproceedalongtheselines.WhileShearejectsthenotionofbehavioralmodernity,heexchangesthisconceptfortheequallyvagueconceptof currentdegreeofbehavioralvariability. HisarticlearguesthatthepresenceandrelativelyheavyreductionofredjasperandthepresenceofnonutilitariangreenishwhiteopalsilicafromatleastISkmawayfromitsplaceoforigininthelateMiddlePleistoceneofEastAfricanplausiblydocumentsymbolicbehavior.Thisargumentstrikesmeasinconclusiveand not soverydifferentfromwhatSheacriticizesas cherry-picking inothercontexts.ThediscussionofvariationintheuseofClark smodesinlithicassemblagesisequallyvagueandinconclusive.AsSheawrites,multipletechnologicalmodesoftencoexistinarchaeologicalcontexts.Thisisneithernewnorexceptional.Sheaalsoclaimsthattheconceptofbehavioralmodernityraisesproblemsrelatedtowhathereferstoas recursive behavior.Hestatesthatthisproblemcanbeavoidedbyashifttowardstrategicmodeling.Idisagree.Thewayculturalpatterns and kindsofartifactscomeandgorequiresexplanation,regardlessofwhichperspectiveoneusestoexaminetemporalchangesintechnology.   isonlythestereotypical,strawmanmodelsthatSheaportrays that relyonnotionsofunilinearevolutionandanessentialistdichotomybetweenbinarystatesof modern andnonmodern.VeryfewresearchersIknowapproachtheseissuesfromsuchschematicpointsof view, IagreefullywithSheathatweneedtestablemodelsthatcanbeoperationalizedusingthearchaeologicalrecord.ForsomeyearsIhavebeenconductingexcavationstogainhighqualitydatafromseveralregionstotrytoaddressthesequestionsandformulatetestablehypotheses(ConardandBolus2003;Conardetal.2006).Onepromisingapproachistoexamineunderwhatspecificsettingsonehomininwasabletooutcompeteanother(Conard2008,2010).Thisiscloselyrelatedtothequestionofwhyittookanatomically modern humansatleast150,000yearstoreplaceNeanderthals and otherarchaichumans.LikeLewis-Williams(2002)andShea  2003b , Iarguethatsomeculturalandtechnologicalinnovationsdevelopedattheinterfacebetweendifferentpopulationsandcontributedtotheevolutionarysuccessofonegroup.Inothersettingswecanobservetechnologicalconvergenceandculturalexchangebetweenpopulations.RecentstudiesbyGreenetal.(2010)havealsoshownthatinterbreedingbetweenarchaicandanatomicallymodernhumansoccurred.Inmyviewtheavailableevidencesuggeststhattherewas not oneplaceandtimewhere modernity evolvedliketheflippingofaswitch.Insteadwecanviewtheevolutionofbehavioralpatternsthatfallwithintherangeoflivingpeopleasapolycentric,mosaicprocess,adiffusemembranethroughwhichmultiplepopulationspassedinavarietyof CurrentAnthropology Volume52,Number1,February2011 settings.Thiswas not aone-time-only quantum leap but aprocessthattookondifferentcharacteristicsindifferentsettings.IwelcomeShea sapproachusingcost-benefitstudiesandstrategicmodeling, but Ialsochallengehimtogiveusbetterexamplesofhowwecanoperationalizetheseideastoformulaterefutablemodelsfortheevolutionofthecurrentrangeofbehavioralvariability.  tin   ErenDepartmentofAnthropology,SouthernMethodistUniversity,Campus p Box750336,Dallas,Texas75275-0336,U.S.A.(meren@smu.edu).16VII10Theconceptsof modern human behaviorand/orbehavioralmodernityareloadedwithovertonesofevolutionarydestiny.Thecallforashiftawayfromsuchtermsisoverdue,andthisoneistobewelcomed. Shea s articleshowsushowthequestfor modernity bringslittle butharm tothestudyof human evolution,andheoffersusapossiblyviablealternativeapproachforthesystematicanalysisofPaleolithicbehavior.  l- thoughmorethanwillingtoseeaseachangein both theconceptsanditsterminology,IhavetowonderifbehavioralvariabilitywillbethepanaceathatSheapromises.Theprincipalchallengetothisalternativeapproachwillbemethodological:howis behavioralvariability tobemeasured?Whywouldthisconcept not beaffectedbyallthesamesuspectsthatalsoplaguebehavioralmodernity?Tomeasurevariability,somesortofunitsof input willhavetobecounted;onceagainitwillbetheresearcherwhodecideswhichunitsareimportantenoughtobeincluded.Thissoundssuspiciouslylikethedreaded traitlist somalignedbyShea.Preservationissuesandsamplingbiaswillcontinuetolimitthecategoriesofbehaviorthatcanbereachedinthematerialrecord.Thefrequency and distributionofsuchbehaviors,allrequiredforarobustmeasureofvariability,willcontinuetobehauntedbythesamefalsenegativeshereviewshere.Agreed, behavioralvariability lacksthekismetstigmaofitsdivisivepredecessor, but itfacesthesamesetofmethodologicalchallenges.Marlize  omb rd DepartmentofAnthropologyandDevelopmentStudies,UniversityofJohannesburg, p Box524,AucklandPark,Johannesburg2006,SouthAfrica(mlombard@uj.ac.za).5VII10Thoseinterestedintheoriginsorearlyevolutionarystagesof our species,eitheranatomicallyorbehaviorally,grapplewithcountlessvariables that mayexplainaspectsofthepreservedfossiland/orarchaeologicalrecords.Addingtothesechal-
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