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Lecture 6

ANT 104 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Lewis Binford, Processual Archaeology, Mousterian

Anthropology, Cultural and Archaeology
Course Code
ANT 104

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The nature of the archaeological record and research goals
Culture-Historical Archaeology: the record is incomplete, we need to build sequences of cultures
for the whole world. Emphasis on typology, time-space systematics
Processual Archaeology: the record is as complete as it needs to be in order to formulate
testable hypotheses. Emphasis on reconstructing behavior through actualistic research
Culture-Historical vs. Processual Archaeology: The Mousterian Debate
1. Prologue
1. Neanderthals
1. Lived 40,000-200,000 years ago in Europe and Western Asia
2. Since 1856 Long debate about their role in our evolution
3. All non-African humans have 1-4% of their DNA from Neandertals
4. From Europe to Turkey and maybe above India
2. Mousterian Stone Tool "Industry"
1. Middle Paleolithic about 40,000 and 250,000 ya
2. Handaxes, Levallois prepared cores, retouched flake-tools (pointers, scrapers)
3. Found in Europe, Western Asia, North Africa about 40-250 ka
4. Found with Neanderthal fossils in Europe, humans in Africa, both in Near East
1. Very common in Africa and Asia, relatively uncommon in Europe
3. Mousterian Culture or Cultures?
1. Léon Henri Martin (1864-1936) Excavates La Quina Rockshelter
2. Notes differences in tools from different levels
3. Proposes "evolving" sequence of Mousterian cultures
4. Controversial b/c Neandertals not thought capable of spech, culture,
"progressive" evolution
2. Bordes vs. Binford
1. Francois Bordes (1919-1991)
1. Bordes, French, naturalist, during 1950s he excavated many caves in southern
France, recovering "Mousterian" stone tool assemblages made by Neandertals
2. After WW2 he went to school
3. When he conducted experiments, found that there many procedures to get the
exact same tool
4. Most caves have more than one occupation level. In order to compare the
assemblages, Bordes developed a detailed typology of Middle Paleolithic stone
1. In order to display the relative frequencies of different tool types,
Bordes recalculated the raw numbers into percentages, then graphed
them as cumulative percentages
2. Noticed five recurring patterns
1. LED TO 5 different Mousterian Cultures!
5. Bordes' five Mousterian assemblage-groups, or "cultures"
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1. Typical
2. Denticulate
3. Quina
4. Ferrassie
5. Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition
6. Earlier archaeologists proposed that different Mousterian cultures "evolved"
over time in a regular and progressive evolutionary sequence, BUT Bordes' data
showed NO REGULAR ORDER to the chronological sequence
7. Borde concluded these assemblage-types represented the "cultures" of distinct
Neandertal tribes whose occupations of the French caves varied randomly over
8. Bordes invited many foreign students to join his excavations. In the mid-1960s,
Sally, who was participating in his excavations, brought her husband, Lewis
Binford along
2. Lewis R Binford (1931-2011).
3. Sally R Binford (1924-1994) THE FOLLOWING IS MOSTLY LEWIS
1. Unlike many European researchers (but as is typical of American
archaeologists), both Binfords' had extensive training in ethnography, the study
of living human cultures
2. Lewis Binford thought two things odd about Bordes Explanation
1. Unlike Modern human cultures, Bordes Mousterian cultures remained
the same for extraordinarily long periods of time, for tens of thousands
of years, and in spite of wide changes in climate
1. Modern human cultures and their technologies vary in response
to climate and change rapidly through time
2. It is unlikely that five distinct Mousterian cultures could live in a small
area of southern France for thousands of years without influencing one
1. For this to be true, mousterian cultures would have to be
evolving like actual organisms, once speciation occurs it cannot
be undone
2. Ethnographic cultures influence one another. Unlike in organic
evolution however, different cultures influence on another,
"evolving" by adopting and passing along acquired traits
3. The region in which Bordes Neandertal "cultures" occurred was much
smaller than the ranges of recent hunter-gather groups.
3. Concluded that Mousterian assemblage-groups were not cultures, like those of
the ethnographic record.
4. The Binfords' Functional Argument: Part 1
1. The Mousterian industries reflected variable combinations of tools used for
different purposes, such as woodworking, butchery, plant harvesting, etc.
2. Each site as function of the big picture
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