Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Old Abilities

In speaking of the part played by anatomically modern humans in the demise of the Neanderthals, Adam Rutherford is careful not to place modern thinking in a causal role: “to invoke genocide suggests some sort of intentionality and strategic planning for which we simply have no evidence.” He is not so careful in this sentence: “It’s well established that [Neanderthals] ritually buried their dead, made tools and explored from the westernmost tip of Europe, well into Asia.” [1] The geographical spread of Neanderthals is no evidence for exploration, which is for the purpose of discovery. Nevertheless I should think they were capable of curiosity, and of many other attitudes besides, perhaps even of pedantry.

[1] Adam Rutherford, “Long-lost Cousins”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 12th August 2008.


Anonymous said...

He's using "explored" in the sense in which modern masochistic exhibitionists are said to be "explorers" because they attempt to reach the South Pole on a pogo stick, or some such escapade. Or, come to that, in which the Chinese Great Fleet is said to have "explored" the Indian Ocean and the East African coast, when all they did was visit places already well known to their literate neighbours. They took pilots, for heaven's sake.

Deogolwulf said...

I bet the Neanderthals weren't so "creative" with their language. "Ug" meant "ug" and no arguments.