DR. ANA CRISTINA PINTO LLONA, Instituto de Historia, Madrid, Spain, was awarded a grant in May 2007 to aid research on 'Sopena Archaeological Project: Late Mousterian and Early Upper Paleolithic in the Northern Iberian Peninsula.' The extinction of Neanderthals and the European colonization of modern Cro-magnon humans around 40,000 years ago is one of the most debated issues in paleo-anthropology -- obscured by the unreliability of C14 dates that, at 40 ka, are reaching their limits, and the fact that lithic typologies employed to analyze stone tools, often seem equated to human species or cognitive differences. Although it is popularly assumed that it was 'our' arrival into Europe and 'our inherently superior cognitive ability' that produced or accelerated the demise of Neanderthals, recent research suggests that Neanderthals were well on the way out, and that Early Upper Paleolithic peoples populated a largely deserted landscape. On the other hand, investigations have shown that in much of Europe, the earliest Homo sapiens sites do not show traits we refer to as 'modern human behavior,' and that this came about by the Gravettian. The grantee proposes that the origins of modern human behavior are rooted in the standardization of gendered division of labor, and that this was the first large-scale, economic human revolution, more reaching than that of agriculture, since not all peoples of the world even today know agriculture, but all -- by ethnographic accounts -- have a gendered division of labor social organization. The capability was probably in place long before, as testified by Blombos in Africa, and required a certain mass of population. The symbolic ability necessary to abstract from sex to gender had been in place for a long time. The grantee proposes that gendered division of labor was fully settled by the Gravettian, and that the markers known as indicative of 'modern human behavior' are the markers of this conventionalized form of social organization. Properly documented archaeological sites - being dug with accurate methodology, employing sound and well-dated stratigraphies - are essential for addressing these issues, with the Sopena rockshelter in the Asturias region of northern Spain serving as a rare and very relevant example.
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
Institut de Historia
Pinto Llona, Dr. Ana Cristina, Instituto de Historia, Madrid, Spain - To aid research on 'Sopena Archaeological Project: Late Mousterian and Early Upper Palaeolithic in the Northern Iberian Peninsula'