In this paper we report a study designed to shed light on the possibility that clothing differences played a role in the replacement of the Neanderthals by early modern humans. There is general agreement that early modern humans in Europe utilized specialized cold weather clothing, but the nature of the clothing used by Neanderthals is debated. Some researchers contend that they did not use clothes. Others argue that they were limited to cape-like clothing. Still others aver that their clothing was not substantively different in terms of thermal effectiveness from that of early modern humans. To test between these hypotheses, we employed a novel line of evidence—the bones of animals whose skins may have been made into clothing. We used an ethnographic database to identify mammalian families that were used to create cold weather clothing in the recent past. We then compared the frequency of occurrence of these families in European archaeological deposits associated with early modern humans and Neanderthals. We obtained two main results. One is that mammalian families used for cold weather clothing occur in both early modern human- and Neanderthal-associated strata. The other is that three of the families—leporids, canids, and mustelids—occur more frequently in early modern human strata than in Neanderthal strata. There is reason to believe that the greater frequency of canid and mustelid remains in early modern human strata reflects the use of fur trim on fitted garments. Thus, these findings are most consistent with the hypothesis that Neanderthals employed only cape-like clothing while early modern humans used specialized cold weather clothing. We end by discussing the implications of this hypothesis for the debate about the replacement of the Neanderthals by early modern humans.
Bibliographical noteMC is grateful to Karen Lupo and Brian Codding for the invitation to participate in the symposium honouring Jim O’Connell at the 2015 annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in San Francisco, and for the invitation to contribute to this special issue of the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. We thank Conrad Brimacombe, Kate Britton, Keith Dobney, Mana Dembo, Marina Elliott, Ian Gilligan, Brian Hayden, Trenton Holliday, Vance Hutchinson, Steve Kuhn, Dana Lepofsky, Lee Lyman, Luseadra McKerracher, Kim Plomp, Bernard Wood, and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. Ian Gilligan’s comments in particular resulted in major changes to the interpretation of the results. MC is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, and Simon Fraser University. LT work on the study reported here was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (award no. 755-2011-0406). We are grateful to all these funding bodies. Last but not least, MC would like to express his gratitude to Jim O’Connell for his friendship and guidance over nearly 20 years. Thanks Jim. You’re the dog’s bollocks.
- early modern humans
- oxygen isotope stage 3
- specialized cold weather clothing