April 13, 2015

Neandertal flutes debunked

Royal Society Open Science DOI: 10.1098/rsos.140022

‘Neanderthal bone flutes’: simply products of Ice Age spotted hyena scavenging activities on cave bear cubs in European cave bear dens

Cajus G. Diedrich

Punctured extinct cave bear femora were misidentified in southeastern Europe (Hungary/Slovenia) as ‘Palaeolithic bone flutes’ and the ‘oldest Neanderthal instruments’. These are not instruments, nor human made, but products of the most important cave bear scavengers of Europe, hyenas. Late Middle to Late Pleistocene (Mousterian to Gravettian) Ice Age spotted hyenas of Europe occupied mainly cave entrances as dens (communal/cub raising den types), but went deeper for scavenging into cave bear dens, or used in a few cases branches/diagonal shafts (i.e. prey storage den type). In most of those dens, about 20% of adult to 80% of bear cub remains have large carnivore damage. Hyenas left bones in repeating similar tooth mark and crush damage stages, demonstrating a butchering/bone cracking strategy. The femora of subadult cave bears are intermediate in damage patterns, compared to the adult ones, which were fully crushed to pieces. Hyenas produced round–oval puncture marks in cub femora only by the bone-crushing premolar teeth of both upper and lower jaw. The punctures/tooth impact marks are often present on both sides of the shaft of cave bear cub femora and are simply a result of non-breakage of the slightly calcified shaft compacta. All stages of femur puncturing to crushing are demonstrated herein, especially on a large cave bear population from a German cave bear den.



dwaggonerstr said...

The interior rim of the holes show polishing consistent with having been bored out by stone rotated via hand drill or bow drill so yeah, the author of this report needs to be stripped of his titles and sent to the wall.

Unknown said...

There is also no thought given to that animal-damaged bones might have been where proto-humanity got its start inventing instruments. A child picks up a hollowed-out leg bone with holes in it and blows it, and it whistles. The kid figures out the holes change the pitch, and decides to find, and eventually make a better version, and shows others. Sounds plausible to me, especially given, as dwaggonerstr mentioned, the holes are polished. Does Diedrich have some sort of academic axe to grind?

Grognard said...

I agree with dwaggonerstr. Just one look at the flute shows they are human-constructed. Nothing else is possible.

This is just a pathetic attempt to rewrite archaeology that doesn't go along with popular theory.

Grognard said...

Also, hyena are bonecrushers. They don't bite bones with their canines in the first place....

eurologist said...


Both the work, and, sarcastically, a comment above.

arch said...

Its funny to see the Neandertal hysterics getting a dose of reality. It reminds me of a old Dracula movie - 'The light.. it burns!'
Make any nonsensical claim about Neandertal and / or Denisovan DNA ingress INTO modern humans ..

(RELIABLY its NEVER the other way around, which is virtual ABSOLUTE prerequisite for a dying population.. because that would not serve the purposes of the promoters - but I digress)

and the brotherhood of fantasists cant wait to marvel at the theory that pretty much leaves out any really plausible path to focus only on the totally unsubstantiated fantasy they are seeking to promote.

In this case, its not merely a factor of IF the gnawed bone is or is not a human utilized musical instrument, its the gleeful abandon in citing it as a NEANDERTAL created and improvised instrument, against all possible reason or the slightest of likelyhoods. The Neandertal centric folks seem reliably, for a plethora of intrinsic reasons, to be the most likely within the scientific community to propose rubbish as fact or close to it, and to relate anything that they get hands on in some manner to their pet fetishes.

There is not a single shred of even abstract evidence to suggest any Neandertal ever created a instrument, or for that matter ever verbalized song for entertainment, and no Neandertal deposits contain any such instruments or human constructed technology of such a type. This is a case of the peculiar mania run amok as relates to dragging the entire modern human genetics field into 'Neadertal land' using whatever publicity or media that will be useful in promoting what is often total rubbish, such as brazenly linking certain phenotype to such heritage, with great fanfare.

When its later shown that the mutation in Neandertal is different that the mutation causing a similar range of phenotype in modern humans, these maniacs have no comment and dont publicize the fall of their claims. I think that the claims are so weak and often so outrageous and unfounded that to admit a mistake or concede that you are wrong in any aspect as relates to this Neandertal hijacking of DNA sciences makes the proponents fear that such a deserved admission will lead to more careful and skeptical study of their remaining claims, which is not going to withstand much determined scrutiny.

Portia said...

I dunno gents. It seems like they weren't too good with fire either. http://news.yahoo.com/did-neanderthals-die-off-because-couldnt-harness-fire-174335162.html

Grognard said...

Arch - looks like you are the one worked up into some fantasies.

You can look at the flute itself on wikipedia. It's either a flute or some other sort of tool, or a fraud. It's not a chewed up bone.

You can also see videos of a hyena chewing bones on youtube. They don't chew with their canines, and don't have pronounce canines. They crush the bones. If a hyena had chewed the bone, it would be crussed not perforated.

Hyena may have chewed on the missing pieces but they did not produce those holes (which are polished smooth and have no microfractures lol).

Neanderthals had rope, string, medicinal tea, chewed gum, wore makeup, used eagle feathers and talons as decoration.

I don't really think a flute is even that impressive. They have probably been around a million years. We just don't have the archaeology for them because artifacts become extremely rare back in time and wood does not often last many thousands of years.

The next oldest flute is also fount in europe about 38k years ago. Modern humans like we know it really took off in europe. You can fantasize it's just a coincidence that humans 'got to' europe and then became advanced, but that is a cowardly ethnocentric viewpoint. It's clear that neanderthals were the most advanced of their time and that they were a part of moving humans forward into what they are today.

Unknown said...

There is ample evidence for 1) Neanderthals using fire. They wandered, so they did not create long-term fire pits, as are found in even merely semi-mobile stone age communities, thus the evidence for fire is scanty. 2) There is evidence that indeed, they *were* a dying population, because over time, there is a larger portion of H. sapiens sapiens genes in the H. s. neanderthalensis samples. And 3), obviously the assumed bone flutes are associated with either Neanderthal tools, bones, or other (?) evidence, otherwise I would agree, this would just seem like pipe dreams.

Now on the other hand, why are some people *so* upset by the idea that three or four subgroups (including separately derived from H. erectus populations) came back together to form modern humans? I would be willing to entertain that this could be evidence of something else, another type or human, or an atypically presenting grouping of animal chewings, if only the, shall I call them "anti-Neanderthalers," would present their own data without themselves sounding breathless to defend potentially outdated hypotheses. We have proof in our own genes of Neanderthal/Denisovan contributions, so why not assume if they were good enough to breed with, and clearly had stone tools, that they also had speech culture, potentially including music (which, btw, I believe may have arisen before speech within Great Ape mimicry, but that is another story for another day).

Grognard said...

published april 1st btw.

Grognard said...

Hole spacing and alignment

The probability that four randomly placed holes would appear in-line in a recognizable musical scale is on the order of a few in several million, was shown in the analysis made in 2000 by Canadian musicologist Bob Fink.[20] Responding to the D'Errico et al.'s carnivore-origin hypothesis, Turk (2005, 2006) pointed out that the features "common" between the carnivore-origin artifact and other chewed bones studied by D'Errico (see hole shape below) do not include the line-up of the holes.

There is also no evidence that the two holes could have been bitten at the same time. The tooth spans were checked by all taphonomists concerned to see if any animals could bite two or more such holes at once. No match could be found to any known animals. If a match had been found, it could have been cited as prima facie evidence that the holes were animal-made. This was noted by Turk, et al., in his monograph, and was also noted from the opposing hypothesis holders Nowell and Chase in their Current Anthropology article in the August–October 1998 issue. "Holes in the specimen", wrote Nowell, et al., "were almost certainly made sequentially rather than simultaneously and that the distance between them has nothing to do with the distance between any two teeth in a wolf's jaw."[21]

The National Museum of Slovenia argues that this evidence has "finally refuted hypotheses that the bone was perforated because of a bear bite". The manufacture by Neanderthals "is reliably proven" and its significance in the understanding of their capabilities and the development of music and speech is secure.[6]

Grognard said...

There's use of fire found at least 800k years ago. I imagine talking and fire have been in use at least a million years.