Thursday, 25 September 2014

Focus on PAS: Homo who?

Public dumbdown says:
This amazing handaxe was made by a Neanderthal about 45,000 years ago
Actual record DOR-57AD64 says: Date: Middle Palaeolithic - 60,000 to 30,000 years BP (58,000 - 28,000 BC), so where does "45000 years ago" come from? The PAS record does not say anything about geological position or associated (eg faunal, palaeoenvironmantal) marker material. So why specifically Neanderthals? The PAS record itself says that recent criticism has tended towards not treating bout coupé handaxes like this "uncritically as a Mousterian marker fossil", and recent work (for example at  Grotta del Cavallo, Puglia) seems to be pushing the arrival of non-Neandertahal homo saapiens back to the 44000 BP timerange to which the PAS arbitrarily (?) date this object (a chance find on cultivated land).

The PAS may envisage themselves as lording it over the paying public as some omniscient  'experts' who pull their "facts" from a magical expert black box. They say it was "45000BP" and "definitely Neanderthals" and they expect the forelock-tugging public just to accept this is not "guesswork" and pay up. I think though that if they were serious about their outreach role (a) they'd explain how they/we know what they/we know in the case of this isolated loose find, and (b) give more nuanced information and (c) would show a little intellectual honesty in NOT deleting comments on their tweets questioning what they say without providing any further justification to what they say. This is what they've been doing when I have been asking for more transparency on previous dumbdown statements in the thread. A million artefacts and zero explanation? Is that what we all (archaeologists included) get for seventeen million pounds of public money? Why ignore the issues all the time, is it not time to give a better account of yourselves instead of constant dumbdown spin and dodging the questions and blocking out the questioners?

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