Human Origins Leiden

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Human Origins Leiden

Breitenbach: excavators wanted

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The Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, in cooperation with the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University and Das Landesmuseum Sachsen-Anhalt, are looking for excavators of the Breitenbach site. The excavations run from the 12th of august till the 28th of september and they offer free accomodation, a pleasant environment and a very interesting site. See attachment for more information!


Further info on "Red Ochre Use by Early" Neandertals

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A PNAS paper by members of our group and colleagues from other institutes on red ochre finds from Maastricht-Belvédère (The Netherlands) has just gone on-line in PNAS Early Edition. It is an Open Access article (courtesy of NWO, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research). Below is some additional information on the study, assembled in Q&A form.

What was the ochre used for, in your opinion? In the paper you do not come up with an interpretation. Why is that?

From the archaeological site itself we could not derive any evidence regarding the specific use of the ochre. That is often the case at prehistoric sites. We know from the ethnographic record that iron oxides/red ochres can be used for a wide range of purposes, including food preservation, preparation of hides, decoration of bodies and artifacts, as insect repellent, as an ingredient in hafting cements/glues, and even as medicine (refs 3-10 in our paper). Some archaeologists interpret the presence of red ochre at a site as an indication of “symbolic” behaviour, or “abstract” forms of reasoning. Red ochre is indeed also well-known from Ice Age cave paintings and from burials of Palaeolithic modern humans. However, given the wide range of more “mundane” purposes and the lack of clear clues to its use at Maastricht-Belvédère, we have refrained from speculating on the specific application of the red ochre in this case. The earliest unambiguous case of ochre use in a “ritual” context comes from a burial at Lake Mungo, New South Wales, Australia. There the body of a man was sprinkled with red ochre, 42,000 years ago.

Where did the hematite come from? In the paper you suggest that these early Neandertals may have picked it up in the Maas river bed, but that import from larger distances is also possible. 


Northern Neandertals?

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Comment on “Late Mousterian Persistence near the Arctic Circle”, by Nicolas Zwyns, Wil Roebroeks,Shannon P. McPherron, Adam Jagich & Jean-Jacques Hublin

Slimak et al. (Reports, 13 May 2011, p. 841) reanalyzed the lithic assemblage from the northern site of Byzovaya (Russia) and concluded that it was Mousterian and produced by Neandertals. The previous interpretation of this assemblage as falling within Early Upper Paleolithic variability remains the most parsimonious explanation; pending additional fossil discoveries, there is no evidence supporting the occurrence of Neandertals at these high latitudes.


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