The New York Times Magazine has just published a feature article by Jon Mooalem detailing his visit to the excavations at Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves in Gibraltar, and how they are informing new perspectives on Neandertal behavior: “Neanderthals Were People, Too”
There is a worldview, the opposite of Joachim Neander’s, that sees our planet as a product of only tumult and indifference. In such a world, it’s possible for an entire species to be ground into extinction by forces beyond its control and then, 40,000 years later, be dug up and made to endure an additional century and a half of bad luck and abuse.
That’s what happened to the Neanderthals. And it’s what we did to them. But recently, after we’d snickered over their skulls for so long, it stopped being clear who the boneheads were.
Mooalem combines some good description of the work at the archaeological sites with some perspective on the history of how scientists have looked at Neandertals. It covers many of the essentials (Boule, Solecki) without seeming stale. It would be a good article for introductory classes in anthropology.
And it features some of my favorite people!