Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Us and Them Phenomena in Archaeology

This morning, I stumbled on a discussion board at the Archaeologica discussion forum referring to my blog.  A quite long diatribe, posted anonymously under a pseudonym, attacks the Portable Rock Art Blog, and my blog.  Apparently, the entire contents of my blog is "suspect" because I happen to have this Portable Rock Art Blog linked in my blog sidebar.

While I do find the Portable Rock Art Blog to be rather far fetched, and even think that most of the objects are not archaeological, the purpose of my blog is to explore, and not obliterate every idea that I think suspect or marginally probable, as so frequently happens in archaeology.   I had been even thinking of dropping the Portable Rock Art Blog because I find some of their posts to be poorly supported by evidence, and not well photographed, but again, who knows if they will come up with something interesting at some point.

That being said, the anonymous critique on the Archaeologica forum comments on the "non-lithic nature" of the articles posted on the Portable Rock Art blog.  There is no discussion of manuports of found objects in this critique; just a wholesale dismissal of the Portable Rock Art blog and, it seems, a dismissal of the idea that people thousands of years ago might have collected objects that symbolized their narratives of the world around them.  A good alternative discussion could touch upon the research of Robert Bednarik (Link), but the anonymous forum commenter does not bring that up.  The us [elite and unquestionable archaeologists and paleoanthropologists] and them [the unwashed masses among the public] phenomena, now so familiar to me in these discussions, rears its nasty head here.

Note I am not even a member of the Archaeologica discussion forum.  I am not in a discussion where someone is saying they disagree with me.  Instead, these comments are leveled at my blog in absentia, without provocation and by inferences made from something as peripheral as the content of a blog sidebar link.

Getting back to the paper at the center of the Archaeologica forum discussion, the Eric Boëda, Christophe Griggo & Christelle Lahaye paper about the Cerutti Mastodon site, published in PaleoAmerica 3:  In general, the archaeological community seems highly resistant to the observations of this paper.  It does indeed challenge the evolutionary model for Homo, popularized in the press in the last twenty years.

For years, many archeaologists and anthropologists have questioned the simplistic human origins model promoted by Chris Stringer, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Bernard Wood, Svante Pääbo, David Reich and Spencer Wells.  Unfortunately, we just did not hear these alternative views because of the overwhelming number of papers promoting the Recent Out of Africa model published at Science magazine, at the twitter feed @Qafzeh, on the Eurogenes Blog, at the Anthrogenica forum, and from a cadre of abiding journalists (especially Ann Gibbons, Carl Zimmer, Ewen Callaway, and Debbie Kennett).  This has drowned out dissenting voices and blocked their publications for years.  Many have left the field of archaeology because of this.

Luckily, a few remain.  I will enjoy reading and following the work of these dissenting voices on my blog, elite and unquestionable archaeologists notwithstanding.

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