THE BOOK
Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my book called "The Bluestone Enigma" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Sunday, 10 March 2013

How smart were our Neolithic ancestors?

Now this is interesting -- I haven't read the book, but my impression from reading the article is that the author might well be challenging some of the fondly-held assumptions about the brilliance and expertise of our Neolithic ancestors.  As readers of this blog will know, I have often argued that it is a profound mistake to assume that 5,000 years ago the tribal groups who lived their rather short if not brutish lives in the British Isles were "modern people in fancy dress."   I have often questioned their ability to undertake complex mathematical or geometrical calculations, to make accurate astronomical observations, to record and classify large bodies of information, to navigate accurately by the stars, and to undertake gigantic engineering or logistical tasks including the long-distance and coordinated transport of scores of very large stones across great distances of land or sea.  I have also questioned the assumption that there was a sort of "ancient wisdom" which has been lost -- and which is often cited in arguments against those who are cautious about the technical abilities of communities who lived 5,000 years ago.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but what this book seems to be saying is that there has been a great deal of evolution -- physical and mental -- since the Stone Age, and that we are in grave danger of going up the creek if we think that we know either the minds or life styles of those who lived at the time Stonehenge was being built.  (This of course is the sort of thing which MPP greatly enjoys doing, often on the basis of remarkably little hard evidence.  It appears to be a malaise which afflicts a lot of archaeologists across the world.....)

I like this too:  ".........to draw conclusions about ancestral hunter-gatherers by examining diverse forager communities existing now, as some anthropologists do (we might add "archaeologists" as well), is dubious in itself."  Madagascar comes to mind, as do the stones of the ancestors.......


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Sunday, Mar 10, 2013

“Paleofantasy”: Stone Age delusions

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/10/paleofantasy_stone_age_delusions/
An evolutionary biologist explains why everything you think you know about cavemen (and their diet) is wrong

By Laura Miller



Four years ago, biology professor Marlene Zuk was attending a conference on evolution and diseases of modern environments. She sat in on a presentation by Loren Cordain, author of “The Paleo Diet” and a leading guru of the current craze for emulating the lifestyles of our Stone-Age ancestors. Cordain pronounced several foods (bread, rice, potatoes) to be the cause of a fatal condition in people carrying certain genes. Intrigued, Zuk stood up and asked Cordain why this genetic inability to digest so many common foods had persisted. “Surely it would have been selected out of the population,” she suggested.

Cordain, who has a Ph.D in exercise physiology, assured Zuk that human beings had not had time to adapt to foods that only became staples with the advent of agriculture. “It’s only been ten thousand years,” he explained. Zuk’s response: “Plenty of time.” He looked at her blankly, and she repeated: “Plenty of time.” Zuk goes on to write, “we never resolved our disagreement.”

That’s not, strictly speaking, true. Consider “Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live,” a conclusive refutation of Cordain’s quixotic, if widespread, view of human evolution, along with many other misconceptions. Zuk — who has a puckish humor (she describes one puffy-lipped Nicaraguan fish as “the Angelina Jolie of cichlids”) and a history of studying evolution, ecology and behavior — found herself bemused by how the object of her research has been portrayed in various media and subcultures. She cruised the New York Times’ health blog and sites like cavemanforum.com, collecting half-baked interpretations of evolutionary “facts” and eccentric theories ranging from the repudiation of eyeglasses to the belief that carbs can make one’s nose “more round.”

Although she writes, “I would not dream of denying the evolutionary heritage present in our bodies,” Zuk briskly dismisses as simply “wrong” many common notions about that heritage. These errors fall into two large categories: misunderstandings about how evolution works and unfounded assumptions about how paleolithic humans lived. The first area is her speciality, and “Paleofantasy” offers a lively, lucid illustration of the intricacies of this all-important natural process. When it comes to the latter category, the anthropological aspect of the problem, Zuk treads more gingerly. Not only is this not her own field, but, as she observes, it is “ground often marked by acrimony and rancor” among the specialists themselves.

It is striking how fixated on the alleged behavior of our hunting-and-foraging forbearers some educated inhabitants of the developed world have become. Among the most obsessed are those who insist, as Zuk summarizes, that “our bodies and minds evolved under a particular set of circumstances, and in changing those circumstances without allowing our bodies time to evolve in response, we have wreaked the havoc that is modern life.” Not only would we be happier and healthier if we lived like “cavemen,” this philosophy dictates, but “we are good at things we had to do back in the Pleistocene … and bad at things we didn’t.”

The most persuasive argument Zuk marshals against such views has to do with the potential for relatively rapid evolution, major changes that can appear over a time as short as, or even shorter than, the 10,000 years Cordain scoffed at. There are plenty of examples of this in humans and other species. In one astonishing case, a type of cricket Zuk studied, when transplanted from its original habitat to Hawaii, became almost entirely silent in the course of a mere five years. (A parasitical fly used the insects’ sounds to locate hosts.) This was all the more remarkable because audible leg-rubbing was the crickets’ main way of attracting mates, literally the raison d’etre of male crickets. The Hawaiian crickets constitute “one of the fastest cases of evolution in the wild, taking not hundreds or thousands of generations, but a mere handful,” Zuk writes. Adjusted to human years, that amounts to “only a few centuries.”

There are human examples, as well, such as “lactase persistence” (the ability in adults to digest the sugar in cow’s milk), a trait possessed by about 35 percent of the world’s population — and growing, since the gene determining it is dominant. Geneticists estimate that this ability emerged anywhere from 2200 to 20,000 years ago, but since the habit of drinking cow’s milk presumably arose after cattle were domesticated around 7000 years ago, the more recent dates are the most likely. In a similar, if nondietary, example, “Blue eyes were virtually unknown as little as 6000 to 10,000 years ago,” while now they are quite common. A lot can change in 10,000 years.

Zuk detects an unspoken, barely formed assumption that humanity essentially stopped evolving in the Stone Age and that our bodies are “stuck” in a state that was perfectly adapted to survive in the paleolithic environment. Sometimes you hear that the intervention of “culture” has halted the process of natural selection. This, “Paleofantasy” points out, flies in the face of facts. Living things are always and continuously in the process of adapting to the changing conditions of their environment, and the emergence of lactase persistence indicates that culture (in this case, the practice of keeping livestock for meat and hides) simply becomes another one of those conditions.

For this reason, generalizations about the typical hunter-gatherer lifestyle are spurious; it doesn’t exist. With respect to what people ate (especially how much meat), the only safe assumption was “whatever they could get,” something that to this day varies greatly depending on where they live. Recently, researchers discovered evidence that people in Europe were grinding and cooking grain (a paleo-diet bugaboo) as far back as 30,000 years ago, even if they weren’t actually cultivating it. “A strong body of evidence,” Zuk writes, “points to many changes in our genome since humans spread across the planet and developed agriculture, making it difficult at best to point to a single way of eating to which we were, and remain, best suited.”

Social and family relationships, too, vary greatly. But to draw conclusions about ancestral hunter-gatherers by examining diverse forager communities existing now, as some anthropologists do, is dubious in itself. Tribal people, too, have had tens of thousands of years to evolve. And unlike paleolithic hunter-gatherers, they live on the margins of developed societies and are almost always affected by them in some way.

Furthermore, the fossil record of the Stone Age is so small and necessarily incomplete that its ability to tell us about paleolithic society is severely limited. Consider this: For all we know, the first tools were not stone implements but woven slings designed to allow a mother to carry an infant while foraging; it’s just that stone happens to survive longer than fibers.

Why are we so intent on establishing how paleolithic people ate, exercised, coupled up and raised their kids? That’s a question Zuk considers only in passing, but she hits the nail pretty solidly on the head: “We have a regrettable tendency to see what we want to see and rationalize what we already want to do. That often means that if we can think of a way in which a behavior, whether it is eating junk food or having an affair, might have been beneficial in an ancestral environment, we feel vindicated, or at least justified.” Even if we wanted to live like  cavemen, Zuk points out (noting that the desire to do so somehow never seems to extend to moving into mud huts), we couldn’t. In reality, we don’t have their bodies, and don’t live in their world. Even the animals and plants we eat have changed beyond recognition from their paleolithic ancestors. It turns out we’re stuck being us.

56 comments:

geocur said...

The nonsense spouted by Neo Darwinian evolutionary biologists needs all the knocks it can take and it's a good to see a pop effort from Ms Zuk having an impact . However her targets are not talking about the relatively recent past of 5,000 years ago but as the title suggests , the Paleolithic , which began 2.5 million years and ended long before Stonehenge was a twinkle in a the Mesolithic eye .

geocur said...

What were these gigantic engineering tasks that you question ? Stonehenge , cursus monuments , passage graves , chambered cairns ,ziggurats , pyramids ?
Why shouldn't a person in the Neolithic make an accurate astronomical observation or navigate accurately by the stars ?

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Very interesting post and relevant to our many debates. Especially debates I had here with GeoCur, Chris, RJL and others in the past. Though the main argument by Zuk focuses on biology, societal organization and cultural evolution are even more powerful arguments. How could anyone believe a lost civilization that had no written language had nonetheless the technical knowledge to haul stones over great distances and difficult terrains? To build a half completed monument for purposes that would suggest great organization, belief system and mighty rulers? And do all this at a time when the population was barely in the tens of thousands and barely surviving?

Every which way we look at Stonehenge, 'human agency' just doesn't make sense.

Kostas

Anonymous said...

"I have often argued that it is a profound mistake to assume that 5,000 years ago the tribal groups who lived their rather short if not brutish lives in the British Isles were "modern people in fancy dress."

If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?
Here are some leading theories about the why the human brain has been getting smaller since the Stone Age.

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-modern-humans-smart-why-brain-shrinking#.UT2JfhxdB8E

They also lived longer and were much taller than the Romans, Medieval Europeans and Victorians.

"Forgive me if I am wrong..."

No! But, I would suggest your broaden your reading list.

Chris Stinger

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Chris -- interesting article. I'm not sure where this leads us. Are you suggesting that because our Palaeolithic ancestors had bigger brains, they were more accomplished / sophisticated intellectually? You and the others cited in the article don't seem, on the whole, to be suggesting that...... and neither does the evidence on the ground suggest that these people belonged to a superior civilization of some sort.

geocur said...

Brian , I suggest that Anonymous has forgotten an R from his pretend surname ,coincidentally the first of his christian name and should really be addressed as Anon . Of course larger brain size within typical HSS parameters has nothing to with intelligence any more than height .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Point taken, Geo! These anonymous contributors are the bane of my life.....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- yes, agree that the period of time elapsed in the Palaeolithic is very long indeed, and that on this time scale the Neolithic was just the other day. But the point is an interesting one nonetheless -- that evolutionary shifts or surges can occur very rapidly, with these pulses superimposed upon the longer-term Darwinian adaptations. The recent work on the workings of the genome seem to support this -- with medical researchers seeming to suggest that the relationship between genes and genetic expressions is highly complex, with multiple genes fulfilling multiple roles. The old adage "You are what you eat" seems to be coming back into favour...

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- I don't have a problem with Neolithic people being ambitious and often very clever. Stone circles and alignments, cromlechs and great mounds also attest to considerable engineering and organizational skills. What I have a problem with is the degree of precision involved, and the ability to record and transmit observations and to turn them into a "scientific synthesis" or theory capable of testing and modification by a community of thinkers. I think this might be one of the few things on which MPP and I agree -- he seems to like the idea that alignments (on the solstices, for example) were generally approximate rather than precise, since a high degree of mathematical precision was not actually needed if you were simply interested in the passage of the seasons and the turning of the year.

geocur said...

Brian , Punctuated equilibrium and an incredulity towards a single gene for x approach ,coupled with the recognition of multiple gene expression is not new and was understood not that much later than the Watson & Crick's central dogma and certainly long before the human genome was sequenced .
But that understanding doesn't impact on the capabilities of people in the Neolithic .

I didn't get the impression from your intro that you did accept that Neolithic people were as clever, or stupid , as us more recent moderns or that they might have had “ considerable engineering and organizational skills “ quite the opposite ,you seemed to be questioning that ability .
MPP is not an archaeoastronomer and his view is likely to be based on that of Clive Ruggles . There were those who have made extravagant claims about the precision of early astronomers but that was extreme and was refuted nearly twenty years ago .Other than the unqualified to comment crackpots found in any discipline no-one is making claims for great precision today, ,but some of the astronomical observations were accurate , not just approximate ,after all it isn't very difficult and hardly compares with the skill involved in having the lintels at Stonehenge level .

BRIAN JOHN said...

The capabilities of Neolithic people -- sorry for any confusion on this. I am not arguing, as certain contributors might, that Neolithic people did not move stones and build things. The evidence is very clear that they did some very ambitious things, and that there were traditions of customs of building which were followed in certain geographical areas at certain times. My main concerns are with the degree of sophistication involved.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian you write,

“My main concerns are with the degree of sophistication involved”

Would you say transporting and erecting 40 ton sarsens is sophistication of the highest degree for Neolithic people? And do you not wonder why such technical know-how was not used to build palaces and temples? It doesn't make sense. Does it make sense to you?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Why would they want to build palaces and temples? Every culture makes the things that have meaning for them -- I'm happy to think that the builders of Stonehenge thought it was a good idea (for some reason or other) and that they got on and almost managed to do it -- before they ran out of steam and stones.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

I am afraid you miss the point. The point being technological know-how finds its way in many variety of ways in a culture.

Where else do we see in the Neolithic mortice and tenon joining of stones, for example?

Kostas

Geocur said...

Brian , could you elaborate on " My main concerns are with the degree of sophistication involved."

BRIAN JOHN said...

As I have explained many times before, Geo, the people who built Stonehenge and the other stone monuments in Britain (cromlechs etc) around 5,000 years ago did not have the wheel and they did not have writing or complex methods of recording and calculating or transmitting ideas and evidence-based hypotheses. They could pass on things verbally and remember them, and certain classes (eg farmers and sailors) might have had access to "privileged" information about star alignments, the management of animals and crops etc -- but the "civilisation" will have been relatively simple. I don't go in for all this Ancient Wisdom stuff. As I have said before, all the evidence I can see suggests that the main priority of family groups will have been survival, even in zones where hunting and gathering had been replaced by agriculture -- ie animal husbandry and crop sowing and harvesting. People will have been very vulnerable to tribal conflicts and the vagaries of the weather. They will not have had a great deal of time for "frivolous" pursuits...... maybe the odd BBQ now and then!

In that context, they will also have been opportunists and scavengers who are much more likely to have collected whatever stones they could find when they decided to build Stonehenge, rather than expending vast amounts of time and energy gathering stones from West Wales. We've been through all that before....

geocur said...

Brian , there seems to be an assortment of Aunt Sallies , 1) the content of “Paleofantasy “ was inapplicable to the abilities of the people in the Neolithic 2)the Ancient Wisdom stuff . Nobody who suggests that stuff is taken seriously by anyone who knows the terrain .3)From your original list of five points “ I have often questioned their ability to undertake complex mathematical or geometrical calculations, to make accurate astronomical observations, to record and classify large bodies of information, to navigate accurately by the stars, and to undertake gigantic engineering or logistical tasks “ we were given no examples of any of these claims that we could judge .
The first would be impossible to prove either way , 2nd is obvious , people in the Neolithic could make perfectly accurate astronomical observations . 3rd : who has claimed that large bodies of information were recorded and classified and how could it be proved or disproved either way ? 4th, it seems a reasonable assumption that people in the Neolithic could navigate by the stars but once again difficult to prove either way 5th ,you appear to have changed your mind on the one point we could actually be sure on ““Stone circles and alignments, cromlechs and great mounds also attest to considerable engineering and organizational skills.” whilst I wouldn't have included the first two I wondered why more obvious examples like pyramids , cursus and ziggerats were excluded . You appear to be more concerned with diminishing the capabilities of Neolithic peoples than understanding them , this has little influence on your primary debate and if anything diminishes that too .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

“people ... around 5,000 years ago did not have the wheel and they did not have writing or complex methods of recording and calculating or transmitting ideas and evidence-based hypotheses....
... They will not have had a great deal of time for "frivolous" pursuits”“


Same points I have been arguing for years! Why Geo doesn't see it? Doesn't want to see it?

Kostas

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- we are going nowhere, as usual. You will probably accuse me of making wild assumptions, but it seems to me that you are indeed a subscriber to the Ancient Wisdom set of beliefs, in that you seem to assume a considerable range of skills and intellectual capacities until somebody comes along and proves that Neolithic people didn't have them...... rose tinted spectacles and all that. I have reviewed several books on this blog which make huge assumptions about the accuracy of measurements at Stonehenge, the precise placing of the stones, and the use of Stonehenge as a calculator, astronomical observatory, and even (in Jon's case) as a sort of Planetarium for the entertainment / edification of the locals.

It's all very well for you to say: "Nobody who suggests that stuff is taken seriously by anyone who knows the terrain...." But many people DO take it seriously -- all I am saying is that I am very sceptical about it, because I don't think people had the abilities attributed to them.

Like you, I am rather keen to understand the abilities of Neolithic people. That's what this blog is all about. Your opinion of their abilities is just rather higher than mine.

geocur said...

Brian , yes wild assumptions fits ,why do it ? . What beliefs have I ever expressed here that lead you to assume I subscribe to the Ancient Wisdom set of beliefs ? Wouldn't it make more sense to quote examples and then point out the flaws /discuss ,rather than simply assume?

BRIAN JOHN said...

"2nd is obvious, people in the Neolithic could make perfectly accurate astronomical observations. 3rd : who has claimed that large bodies of information were recorded and classified and how could it be proved or disproved either way ? 4th, it seems a reasonable assumption that people in the Neolithic could navigate by the stars but once again difficult to prove either way." What I see here is a number of beliefs that you appear to subscribe to -- and add in your belief that Neolithic cromlech builders rather liked movinbg stones over considerable distances -- as against my belief that if it made sense to use them where they found them, that is what they did. Been there, discussed all that before....

Phrases like "it is obvious" and "it seems reasonable" betray where you are coming from. I use phrases like that too -- we all do.

geocur said...

Kostas , you don't argue . You only make an appeal to common sense . Never having read the literature you have no understanding of the subject which has to be spoon fed and when it inconveniently shows an misunderstanding it is instantly ignored and later forgotten .Have you ever refuted anything on this blog ?

geocur said...

Note that the points were in relation to your original 5 points and two were considered unproveable either way . The third point
" 3rd : who has claimed that large bodies of information were recorded and classified and how could it be proved or disproved either way ?" That is an unanswered question ,how can you assume any belief from that ?
Coupled with the use of two phrases which you accept are used by us all is hardly expressions of a belief in Ancient Wisdom .
The exception was " is obvious, people in the Neolithic could make perfectly accurate astronomical observations." .Which you only quote and make no effort to refute .
Accurate astronomical observations are hardly evidence for Ancient Wisdom ,it's not difficult but it was obviously carried out , what was far more skillful was the incorporation of these simple observations into the architecture of major monuments .
Moving stones over short or considerable is hardly wisdom either it was simply something people did in the period . This is more along the lines of "considerable engineering and organizational skills " best illustrated by the construction of the pyramids ,although there was also an element of the accurate astronomical observation involved there too .
No sign of any beliefs in Ancient Wisdom ,in it's pejorative sense there . Anything that is accepted can be supported by evidence .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Now we are getting into semantics, Geo. What you think of as Ancient Wisdom is clearly not the same as my understanding. I am not getting into a tangled debate on what my understanding of your position may be -- nor am I going back through all your posts in order to discuss in minute detail what you may or may not believe. Your pleasure is to throw in comments now and then (often very helpful ones, I may say!) but not to give any of us the benefit of a body of work to which we can refer and which we can debate. So we don't actually know what you believe, and just have to make inferences. At least you are honest enough to give your name -- anonymous contributors are the bane of many an honest blogger's life.....

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

On the one hand you argue, “people ... around 5,000 years ago did not have the wheel and they did not have writing or complex methods of recording and calculating or transmitting ideas and evidence-based hypotheses... They will not have had a great deal of time for "frivolous" pursuits”

On the other hand you claim, “they [5,000 years ago] will also have been opportunists and scavengers who are much more likely to have collected whatever stones they could find when they decided to build Stonehenge”

So 5000 years ago there was no great civilization to have built Stonehenge. But opportunistic scavangers could have built Stonehenge and all the other thousands of prehistoric monuments.

“Houston, we have a problem!” This 'rock it' does not fly!

Geo: For just this once, we may agree Brian's position is contradictory. But we may disagree on which side of that contradiction we stand.

Kostas

geocur said...

Brian , fine , if you don't what I believe then maybe should ask or find out before making assumptions .Introducing straw men when someone disagrees is too easy .I don't accuse you of being a member of the Contemporary Ignorance squad because I disagree with you or make assumptions about your beliefs .

geocur said...

Oooops meant to mention . I have never knowingly given my name here . It's just a nomme de blogue

geocur said...

Kostas ,I doubt we would be in agreement as both comments are mostly assumptions and generalisation with any meaning predicated on various interpretations of “ frivolous “ i.e. yours , mine , Brian's and the people of 5000 years ago .

The two points that could be evidence based “around 5,000 years ago did not have the wheel and they did not have writing. “ are both wrong .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Evidence please, Geo, that both the wheel and writing were used in Neolithic Britain 5,000 years ago? (And please don't tell us that because they had these things somewhere else, they had them here too....)

geocur said...



I never said they had the wheel and writing in Britain 5000 years ago . I was responding to the quote " “people ... around 5,000 years ago did not have the wheel and they did not have writing " .
Which is wrong .
Possesion or lack of either is not a indication of capabilities or intelligence , those who had the wheel earlier than here did not build monuments on the scale of Stonehenge , this does not make them incapable of doing so .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- we are now in a circular argument that will go on for ever -- like the wheel. If we go on arguing along the lines of "the fact that people did not do something does not mean that they were incapable of doing it, given the right circumstances" we will get precisely nowhere. Let's move on.

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

“we may agree” referenced the inherent contradiction in Brian's position regarding the capabilities of Neolithic people and them building Stonehenge.

Is that now clear? You need not respond. It really does not matter to me!

Kostas

geocur said...

Brian , the exchange , not an argument ,was with Kostas ,and had nothing to do with "the fact that people did not do something does not mean that they were incapable of doing it, given the right circumstances" .
The point to you was , the argument that a culture that has developed that which is not found in another at the same period might be seen an indication of superiority ,greater intelligence or greater capability is only dependent upon the development being useful in their environment and appropriate to their needs . The builders of Stonehenge didn't necessarily need the wheel , (considering it had been in use , just across the sea for a millennium before the megaliths were erected , the builders could have been well aware of the technology ) any more than they needed a writing system .
The suggestion that certain elements of one cultural package are a prerequisite for success or a measure of ability in another is simply chauvinism . Possession of the wheel and a writing system does not entail superiority over those that don't have a need for them . The Maya had a “civilisation “ and understood the uses of the wheel but chose not to use it as it was not appropriate to their needs .

geocur said...

Kostas , it was clear the first time but as I suggested I don't see any contradiction as both are effectively meaningless .
See above why writing the wheel and your concept(s) of civilisation have nothing to do with the building Stonehenge .
The opportunist and scavengers out of context quote from Steve Burrows is equally meaningless as well as misleading , seeing as Burrows is a human transport proponent . To choose two adjectives applicable to any human group from almost any period and expect them to define their approach to the building of Stonehenge or non utilitarian monuments in general is not a point worth making or considering .
However as you may not consider them pointless and have appended the “frivolous “ comment to one , I can understand why you might see them as being contradictory .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- you say: "Burrows is a human transport proponent." That's just your humble opinion. Kindly don't put labels on other people -- his book called "The Tomb Builders" is a powerful argument for Neolithic folk using stones more or less where they found them, and not carrying them over a great distance.

Then, of course, Burrows kicks himself in the teeth by agreeing with the long-distance transport of bluestones to Stonehenge. It doesn't seem to occur to him that this is such an aberration as to be absurd. I put this down to his reluctance to part company with the orthodoxy of the day, as found within museum circles in Wales! As we all know, when it comes to Stonehenge there is great pressure to conform -- and he has done that in spite of what his own collected evidence tells him about the methods of working of the people of the time.

geocur said...

Brian , I don't think I have caught your label pinning habit .
Burrows in "The Shadowlands " says “at present it seems more likely to the author that the builders of Stonehenge acquired their stones from the Preseli Hills themselves."
That seems like the view of a human transport proponent to me .
I'm sure he is perfectly capable of making up his own mind . In areas where the transport of stones over great distances are obvious you also find that that the builders transporters were also scavengers and opportunists . The two methods are not mutually exclusive .

geocur said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BRIAN JOHN said...

oops -- sent and posted twice -- once removed. Yes, that's exactly what I said he said about Stonehenge, Geo. And in the process contradicting what he says about all the other megalithic monuments in Wales. We won't go into this stone moving business again -- we have done it to death already.

geocur said...

ooops , I thought I might have done that .
Burrow's view isn't a contradiction , Stonehenge isn't in Wales.
BTW he also believes that the Bryn Celli Ddu is aligned on the solstice ,astronomical licence , it isn't .Simply because he saw the sun shine in the passage on the solstice he thought that meant it was aligned .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Brian,

Geo's logic: It is a fact the bluestones at Stonehenge came from Preseli. Therefore, prehistoric people had the capability and desire to have carried them to Stonehenge.

Good luck getting through!

Kostas

geocur said...

Kostas ,it's little wonder that your comments make no sense if you can derive such a distorted syllogism from anything I have said .
If you are attempting to have a discussion then quote or provide falsifiable statements instead of creating more fantasies .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- I see that Kostas is successfully winding you up..... chill out.

geocur said...

Bri ,that for real bro ?. I thought he was 404 . He never do that befo .
I can't adamaneve it , until I hear from him , innit .
Deffo kotch zzzz .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo-quote,

“Possesion or lack of either [wheel, writing] is not a indication of capabilities or intelligence , those who had the wheel earlier than here did not build monuments on the scale of Stonehenge , this does not make them incapable of doing so .“

Is there some point in the History of Mankind when men were not capable of building Stonehenge? Or men 10,000 years ago also possessed the same capabilities of building Stonehenge, under the right circumstances!

Like to describe those circumstances Geo?

Kostas

geocur said...

Looks like the distorted syllogisms weren't a wind up after all .
At least you provided a quote but the point of quoting is to respond to the content of the quote . The quote was about how one group of people invented something that was useful in their environmental niche i.e. the steppe , but their equally intelligent neighbours didn't utilise the invention for nearly a millenium . Meanwhile the original inventors didn't exhibit the engineering skills of their neighbours in building a large megalithic monument .Their is virtually no difference in the intelligence and capabilities of either group they belong to the same species and are even closely related genetically .The superficial differences in material culture e.g. monuments , pottery , use of tools , are not an index of intelligence , they are an expression of what suits the needs of a group in their particular habitat .
Are a disparate group of 21st C moderns capable of erecting Stonehenge with the same technology as used by the original builders ? Of course not , but they are not inferior or incapable , they have the intelligence and an advantage of having stood on the shoulders of other technologists and if necessary , would manage it eventually .
The same applies to people 10,000 years ago .
Gobekli Tepe is not Stonehenge but there are some similarities and it is nearly 10,000 years old .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- for those of us who like to keep things simple, will you kindly let us know what a distorted syllogism is?

geocur said...

Brian , I believe it to have been a serious post from his view and not an attempt at winding up .Rather than the usual misrepresentation he pointed out what he considered to be my “logic” ,by supplying a couple of unrelated comments , not quotes , in the guise of a syllogism .By omitting a minor premise it avoids any possible likelihood of a logical conclusion thus distorting the form .
Much simpler to stick to actual quotes , in context , and then there is less likelihood for confusion .

Constantinos Ragazas said...

Geo,

There you go again arguing but not reasoning!

I asked a simple question to get to the bottom of all this.

1)“Have homo sapiens ALWAYS been capable of building Stonehenge?”

And, if only capable when the 'circumstances are right',

2)“WHAT ARE THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES?”

Furthermore,

3)What is your evidence the bluestones at Stonehenge were transported by prehistoric people from Preseli? If not the fact that bluestones exist at Stonehenge? This being the “syllogism” I argue your logic reduces to and you find “distorted”. What is YOUR “syllogism” here! Please be brief and to the point!

Kostas

geocur said...

Getting back to the discussion at hand . Further evidence that Steve Burrows is a proponent of human transport comes from “the Tomb Builders “ whre he says “The transportation of the Preseli bluestones from Wales to Wiltshire for the building of Stonehenge was the remarkable exception to the evidence that construction involving megaliths was usually carried out near the source of raw materials."

BRIAN JOHN said...

I'm fully aware of that, Geo. That's why I have pointed out the absurdity of his position in earlier posts.

geocur said...

The point is that he is a human transport proponent. Whether one or both of his views are right or wrong doesn't matter they are not contradictory or mutually exclusive .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Think what you like, Geo. From where I stand, he provides lots of evidence which shows that in all the cases he studied stones were used more or less where they were found. He provides no evidence to support his rather aberrant and illogical belief that the bluestones were carted all the way from Preseli to Stonehenge; so if we look at the evidence on the ground cited in his book -- as you constantly encourage us to do -- we have to conclude that he is a proponent of the scavenger / opportunist / minimisation of effort theory.

geocur said...

Kostas , 1)&2) you have avoided the points of the post which also had a question .Perhaps you could respond to that first .

3) You clearly never pay attention to comments .There is a decent enough search engine here . Can you quote anything that I have said that might lead you to think I might believe there is any evidence for human transport of bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge or alternatively that glaciers brought them to the site .
Once again what you mention is not a syllogism .
Here is one .a)We have convincing evidence that the bluestones of Stonehenge came from Wales . b) there is no evidence for humans transportation of the bluestones or of glaciation to the site . c) therefore we should be prudent before jumping to conclusions about how they got there .

geocur said...

He is also a proponent of human transport ,where it matters in relation to this blog i.e. to Stonehenge and what I assume of most people here would be referring to when using the term , human transport .
Read anything on the building of monuments from the past 50 years and the authors will make it clear that many monuments consist of material that could have been sourced locally .Provenance is rare but it makes sense .The same authors are also aware that materials have been transported over long distances , often unnecessarily .The monuments that have been built by introduced material are built by the same people who also take advantage of local material . That is not being absurd or contradictory .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Geo -- a whole string of unsupported assumptions. we are now going round in circles again. End of this thread.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Kostas et al -- please note -- this thread is closed. Feel free to contribute elsewhere on the blog.