April 5, 2010

Neanderthal flint

Dorothy A.E. Garrod was the first woman (1939) to be elected Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge. Her career started in the early 1920's and brought her from Gibraltar, to the east Mediterranean, to Kurdistan. 

Arguably, her most important achievement in the field is the excavation at Mount Carmel where, among thousands of stone tools, she recovered the first Neanderthal burials outside Europe. During the 1931 season Garrod was assisted by Theodore D. McCown, a PhD student at UC Berkeley, who later served as a curator for the museum between 1947 and 1957.

The excavation of the Mt. Carmel caves lasted a few years and the results were published in a large volume in 1939. As was customary for those times, the lithic collections were then split among numerous institutions around the world. Here is a list of all the places one should travel if interested in these assemblages.

Through the study of the skeletal remains and animal bones, Garrod and McCown offered early reconstructions of the changes in the environment from the Middle Paleolithic to the early Neolithic in the Near East.  Reporting on their findings in 1934, The Pittsburgh Press points out that the region was home to the Neanderthals from the early Mousterian until their final demise. The short article doesn't provide any details as to how or why the brutes went eventually extinct but it offers an interesting choice of words to describe their character while they were alive and roaming around: Neanderthals were uncouth and clumsy
Think twice before inviting a Neanderthal to a formal dinner: they will probably show up unshaved, half naked, and they will leave all their food scraps on your floor.

Hearst Museum # 9-1286
Acheuleo-Mousterian flint
Palestine; Mt. Carmel region; Tabun Cave; Wady el-Mughara
Collected by Dorothy A.E. Garrod, 1932-1933

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