15. Ornamental Feathers without Mentalism: A Radical Enactive View on Neanderthal Body Adornment
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15  Ornamental Feathers without Mentalism: A Radical Enactive View on Neanderthal Body Adornment Neanderthals were a species of the genus Homo closely related to Homo sapiens, living between circa 250 and 38 ka. They evolved along relatively separate evolutionary paths from modern humans for several hundred thousand years, Neanderthals inhabiting a cold area in Europe, though also reaching regions in the Near East, whereas modern humans lived in a warmer African environment (Harvati 2015). Neanderthals were thus European aborigines, likely evolved from a local population of the more archaic Homo heidelbergensis species (Stringer 2002). The discovery of Neanderthals occurred within a scientific context deeply entrenched in ideas of modern human perfection and colonial dogmas according to which primitives, including nonindustrialized historical populations, were located at an inferior cognitive and cultural level (Bednarik 2013, chap. 3). However, Neanderthals challenged the position of modern humans as located on the highest rank of such a scala naturae of living beings. Indeed, despite a first attempt to depict them as feral humans (Zilhão 2012, 36), Neanderthals appeared too similar to modern humans to justify the idea of a modern superiority based on merely anatomical considerations. Most importantly, Neanderthals were provided with big brains, with a range of 1,250 to 1,700 cubic centimeters, which is larger in absolute size than the modern human brain (Schoenemann 2006). It is unclear whether this larger absolute size was also associated with an increased encephalization quotient, namely, the size of their brain scaled against their body size, due to the Neanderthals’ higher muscularity (A. Gallagher 2014; Ruff, Trinkaus, and Holliday 1997). In any case, we have no reason to believe that their encephalization quotient was different from that of modern humans, who have both smaller brain and body sizes. Many scholars therefore shifted the focus from anatomy to cognition, attempting to show that the specialness of Homo sapiens lies in a set of behavioral features uniquely ascribed to the “moderns.” In this way, scholars devoted great efforts to defining criteria for the identification of “behavioral modernity” within the archaeological record (Henshilwood and Marean 2003; McBrearty and Brooks 2000; Wadley 2001). Over time, the notion of behavioral modernity has gradually been approximated to cognitive modernity by implicitly assuming that “modern behavior” necessarily requires the existence Duilio Garofoli 280 D. Garofoli of a “modern mind” shared by all human beings (e.g., Conard 2010; Henshilwood, d’Errico, and Watts 2009; Klein and Steele 2013). According to Nowell (2010), the archaeological community today has reached an agreement about the nature of quintessentially modern behavior, which has been associated with the rise of symbolically mediated lives, as reflected by linguistic abilities and the symbolic storage of information within material culture typical of many ethnographic contexts (Henshilwood 2007; Henshilwood and Marean 2003; Noble and Davidson 1991; Wadley 2001). The presence of artifacts considered to be symbols was both consistent and qualitatively various in the European Upper Paleolithic. The most relevant examples are artifacts used as body ornaments (Vanhaeren and d’Errico 2006), ivory figurines (Conard 2009), depictions of therianthropy (Wynn, Coolidge, and Bright 2009), and parietal art (Fritz and Tosello 2007). This evidence initially led scholars to argue that the European Upper Paleolithic represented a revolutionary event in the technological, social, and cultural complexity of modern humans (e.g., Mellars and Stringer 1989). The human revolution model is synergic with the idea that some mutational event occurred in the brain of some Middle Stone Age African populations that were facing a bottleneck at circa 60 ka, causing enhanced cognitive phenotypes, armed with a modern set of abilities, to quickly replace the unenhanced ones and migrate out of Africa (Klein 2000; Mellars 2005). However, evidence of symbolic behavior, represented by engraved objects (H. Anderson 2012; Texier et al. 2010), ochre fragments possibly used for body painting (Barham 2002; Henshilwood, d’Errico, and Watts 2009), and, most of all, perforated shells interpreted as body ornaments (e.g., Bar-Yosef Mayer, Vandermeersch, and Bar-Yosef 2009; Bouzouggar et al. 2007; d’Errico et al. 2005; Vanhaeren et al. 2006), was registered in several early modern human African sites. This evidence was used to reject the idea that modern humans incurred a discrete event of revolution and enhancement, arguing for an incremental acquisition of behavioral modernity. During the last years, proponents of the multiregional model rejected the idea that behavioral modernity was a prerogative of modern humans only (d’Errico 2003; Villa and Roebroeks 2014; Zilhão 2007). In contrast, they claimed that this condition...


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