Video: Love and Death in the Stone Age


Humans are the only animal species that bury their dead, and this practice is preserved in Paleolithic sites as early as 120,000 years ago. The emergence of burial traditions in this time period implies that both Neanderthals and early humans had already begun to conceive of the individual as unique and irreplaceable. Mary Stiner discusses the archaeological evidence for burial practices in the Paleolithic, the earliest-known ritualized bridge between the living and the deceased in human evolutionary history.

About the Speaker

Mary C. Stiner is Regents Professor in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. She is also curator of zooarchaeology at the Arizona State Museum. She conducts archaeological research on human ancestors, and examines paleoeconomics and social evolution across the Mediterranean Basin. She is particularly interested in the ever-changing relationship between human societies and Eurasian ecosystems. With an expertise in zooarchaeology, she has worked on a wide range of topics in human evolution, Paleolithic archaeology, hunter-gatherer ecology, animal domestication, the transition from hunter-gatherer to early village economies, and early art as media for visual communication.

Hallam L. Movius, Jr. Series Lecture presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.


Love and Death in the Stone Age

[00:00:08.32] Good evening, everyone. My name is Jane Pickering and I am the William and Muriel Seabury Howells Director of the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. I'm delighted to welcome you to our annual Hallam Movius Jr. Lecture. And our next speaker will introduce you to Dr. Movius's distinguished career.

[00:00:34.12] But I would like to personally thank the Movius family for their generous support of this annual lecture. And I'm delighted to say that we are joined by members of his family, including his son, Geoffrey Movius, daughter-in-law, Barbara, and grandson Hal or Hallam. And it is now my pleasure to introduce Dan Lieberman, the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, who will introduce our speaker, Mary Stiner.

[00:01:12.22] Greetings. Hello, everyone. Thank you very much, Jane. It's a pleasure to see you all. I'm a professor in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, and I'm honored to welcome you all to the 2020 edition of the annual Hallam Movius, Jr. Lecture.

[00:01:26.02] The bad news is that I wish we were all together in our usual venue in the geological lecture hall. But the good news is that we are all together, thanks to technology sort of undreamt of by our Stone Age ancestors that enable us to assemble online and still interact and learn from each other. I was just thinking today-- just imagine trying to explain to a Neanderthal or an early modern human that their descendants would be sitting at home, staring into magical windows of glass and metal, and interacting with each other all over the globe because of a contagious disease.

[00:01:57.82] Before I introduce our speaker, Dr. Mary Stiner, I'd like to say a few words about Hallam Movius, Jr, in whose honor this lecture series is named. So Movius was a towering figure in paleoanthropology and archaeology. Born in 1907 in Newton, Massachusetts, he attended Harvard as both an undergraduate and a graduate. After serving in World War II as an intelligence officer, he returned to Harvard as a professor, and taught for many decades until 1974.

[00:02:23.52] He had an enormous influence on Paleolithic archaeology. As an avid collector and student of Paleolithic tools, he was arguably the first modern archaeologist to take a really global view of the Paleolithic. And he traveled to just about every corner of the world, including every country in Europe, as well as China, Burma, what was then Palestine, Indonesia, various countries in North Africa, and so on.

[00:02:47.31] He's still celebrated for the Movius Line, his recognition that hand axes are very rare in East Asia. But Movius is probably most celebrated for his landmark excavations in France, most notably the Abri Pataud, which revolutionized our understanding of the upper Paleolithic in France and Europe in general, and trained multiple generations of Paleolithic archaeologists in modern interdisciplinary methods of excavation and analysis. His students are so numerous it's impossible to mention them all. They're literally a veritable who's who of Paleolithic archaeology.

[00:03:21.54] But I'd also like to mention briefly Professor Ofer Bar-Yosef, who was Movius's successor at Harvard. And in case you had not heard the sad news, Professor Bar-Yosef passed away on March 4th, 2020. Like Movius, Ofer was a towering and much-loved figure in Paleolithic archaeology, and like Hallam Movius Jr, Ofer recognized the need to study the Paleolithic all over the world, and his research took him to France, China, Turkey, Tanzania, Georgia, and other locales.

[00:03:49.29] But he's most deservedly famous for his excavations in Israel, spanning the early Paleolithic to the origins of agriculture. If you were lucky enough to meet Ofer-- and many of you who are at these lectures remember him very well-- you know that he had an infectious love of archaeology, teaching, and conveying science to the public. For many years, Ofer organized these Movius lectures, and we miss him deeply.

[00:04:12.66] And one person I know who also misses Ofer is our speaker, Dr. Mary Stiner, who collaborated with Ofer for many years. In fact, I met Dr. Stiner because of Ofer, who was my professor. So Mary is the distinguished Regents Professor in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. She's also the curator of zooarchaeology at the Arizona State Museum in the University of Arizona. Mary began her academic career at the University of Delaware, and received her PhD from the University of New Mexico.

[00:04:42.74] And she is a prolific scholar, who has excavated sites in Italy, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, France, and the US. She's authored hundreds of important publications and many books, including one of my favorites, Honor Among Thieves, which is a terrific book. And she's probably one of the most highly cited archaeologists in the entire world because of her research on how Paleolithic humans lived, which she has studied in numerous ways, but especially by studying excavated animal bones.

[00:05:09.27] Mary is especially famous for original, insightful, and sometimes controversial ideas about Neanderthal behavior, the origins of modern humans, and the origins of agriculture. I know that both Hallam Movius Jr. and Ofer Bar-Yosef would agree that we could not have selected a better speaker for this year's Movius Lecture. And so without further ado, allow me to welcome Mary Stiner to talk about her wonderfully titled talk, Love and Death in the Stone Age.

[00:05:35.02] Dan, thank you very much for your kind introduction, and also the mention of Ofer Bar-Yosef. This is actually the second time I've given the Movius lecture. I had the pleasure of doing it more than 10 years ago, and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. I met his son, Geoffrey Movius. And one of the real treats with not only the Q&A after the talk, but also having dinner with a number of really lively scholars and interested parties and Movius family members. And so it's an absolute pleasure for me to be able to do this again.

[00:06:15.14] So what I'm going to go ahead and do now is share the screen. But in addition, I'd just like to thank you all for coming out and hearing me now. I guess that's a euphemism at this point. But I appreciate tremendously, nonetheless, your attendance. And I see that it's really quite a large crowd, so this is truly an honor all round. So I'm here to talk about love and death in the Stone Age, which is the simple title for a more complex theme, which has to do with when early people began to engage in mortuary ritual, and specifically, special treatment of the human body as a gesture indicating their care and their attempt to bridge or keep connected the life-death divide.

[00:07:11.55] Now human beings are preoccupied with immortality. It's hard to find a person today who hasn't thought about it in some way. And generally, we see two pathways to being immortal, or at least partially so. The first is through the genes that we pass on to our descendants. And the best we can do with that is 50% success, which is enough for most of us. And we put a lot of time and effort into that issue, you know only too well.

[00:07:44.97] But there's a second path to immortality-- also imperfect but important to us-- which is by persisting in the minds of the living. And in this case, we do acts during life, we have relationships during life that we hope we will be remembered positively for in some way. But it's the survivors, the people who lose us and live on that must do the work to keep those memories alive.

[00:08:13.97] Now there's a direct connection in human culture between concepts of immortality and commemoration of the deceased. And these are widely evident in our culture, and in fact, in every single human culture that exists today. And not only does commemoration have cognitive aspects to it, we frequently also engage material culture, and we often use places as a metaphor for the nature of those kinds of connections.

[00:08:48.24] So here's a very unusual commemoration. It's people who were not family to James Dean, but they commemorated loss of a truly great young actor by erecting an important sign not far where he had his fatal car accident. So place and artifacts are a part of this commemoration. And that's really important to people like us archaeologists, because we can only work with the physical evidence.

[00:09:16.79] Maintaining social bonds through commemoration and mortuary ritual is something that you see in every single human culture today. The ways they do it vary tremendously, but it is a characteristic of us as a species. It doesn't matter which culture you consider, we all do it in some way. And so it's natural for paleoanthropologists to ask, when did early humans develop this concept, or more specifically, when did they start to engage aspects of material culture and reconstructing the environment, and using place as a metaphor for those kinds of connections?

[00:09:56.89] So the evolutionary question that a scientist might ask is when did human ancestors begin to commemorate their lost loved ones through mortuary ritual, something that is kind of a marker that others can see and experience? This talk has three parts. And I'll try to keep it fairly quick and straightforward.

[00:10:18.52] The first part is just a quick survey of recent human and non-human behavior that is somehow relevant to the question, and also helps to sharpen the question. The second thing we'll do is consider the archaeological evidence for burial-- which is just one kind of mortuary behavior, but a very important one in the past, and also, one that archaeologists can easily recognize-- and using evidence of burial as a proxy for symbolic expressions of commemoration. In doing that, we are simply looking at the minimum age at which these kinds of behaviors may have emerged in the Paleolithic record.

[00:10:59.40] We can't exclude the possibility that commemoration occurred earlier. But we can at least use burial to understand the minimum age at which this kind of behavior emerged. And then the last thing I want to do is look at the outcome of this examination of the evidence in terms of its broader developmental context, to ask the question, what is the evolutionary crucible in which mortuary ritual emerges first in humankind?

[00:11:35.73] OK, moving to behavior, we have two definitions that we need to be clear about. And they're familiar to every human in the audience in some way, I'm sure, and that is our reactions to the loss of a loved one. Grief is the immediate response, and it is essentially a passive response. You lose somebody you deeply care about, and you feel terrible. You feel sad, you feel distressed.

[00:12:00.72] Then there's the second part of our reactions to loss, and that is mourning. Mourning, importantly, is a proactive behavior. Mourning involves work on the part of the survivors to keep that memory alive, and it's a much more long-lasting endeavor. It can last a lifetime. Now mourning is essentially a cognitive function, and sometimes humans do not leave material traces of their efforts to cultivate memory. But efforts at commemoration are so common, and do involve props, essentially, and artifacts, that archaeologists can study the record of commemoration.

[00:12:45.55] Now the animal world supplies many insights for human evolutionary studies, and the study of mortuary ritual is one example of that. And we can ask, how do other really intelligent social mammals react to the loss of friends and relatives? And let's start with our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, and also bonobos, and look at what they do.

[00:13:15.08] So the photograph on the left shows chimpanzees in captivity. The photograph on the right shows them in the wild. And researchers who've worked with chimpanzees for years insist that chimpanzees clearly grieve, but they also seem to do some extraordinary things that go beyond simple passive grief in order to keep the connection with the deceased. And they do it in rather physical ways, but the behavior is so extreme, that it really goes beyond the anything that's realistic in terms of holding on to those that you love.

[00:13:55.54] So on the left, we have two chimpanzees. You probably don't need to be told how they're feeling. They are grieving, they're very sad. They've lost an elder in their group. This is in Blair Drummond Safari Park in Scotland, where there's a colony of chimpanzees. An older female named Pansy had been ill for some time, and then died a rather slow and painful death from illness.

[00:14:21.22] And they attended her while she was sick. And after she died, the daughter sat vigil by her body for the full night, rocking, crying, just sitting there with her. And other members of the group groomed her body after the death. And then the male of the group tried to shake her awake. I don't know if you want to call that mourning behavior or not, but he seemed to be trying very, very hard to rouse her. And then for weeks afterwards, they were listless and very depressed. So they seemed to mourn.

[00:14:57.28] Examples in the wild are even more important, because no one could say that chimpanzees are simply emulating some of the gestures or behaviors of their keepers. And in Bissau Reserve in Guinea in Africa, there's a group of chimpanzees intensively studied. And three females in that group-- at least three now-- who gave birth to infants who then soon died did some really extraordinary things.

[00:15:25.03] They carried their infants about. They groomed them, they attempted to nurse them, they protected them for weeks-- not just a few days, but weeks. And as those corpses decomposed, they would not give up. And one female holds the record of 68 days of continuing to try and care for and nurture her infant, which looked nothing like a baby by the end of that time. So people who know a lot about chimpanzees quite often argue that not only do they grieve, they also mourn, trying to keep a connection alive to a point that is physiologically ridiculous, but they will go to those great lengths.

[00:16:12.13] There are other animals that also surprise us among the cetaceans. Particularly the toothed whales-- dolphins, porpoises, killer whales, et cetera-- do some unusual things too. They will carry deceased infants or other young pod members for days perched on their dorsal fin, animals that are dead, decomposing. And they'll do this for days. This is a very exhausting thing for them to do, because they are physically holding a heavy body-- or even a small body-- up to the surface, and going without food in order to do this. Mothers will do it, but other pod members will cooperate or also do it themselves.

[00:16:56.98] Now this piggyback's a life-giving gesture that mothers and other pod members do. When a live infant is born, they move the infant up to the surface of the water so that they can take their first breath of air and learn to do that. But that's a quick process, whereas this is going on for days, and the animal's really paying a physical price to do it, yet they won't let go. They won't let go. So they certainly grieve. It seems like they mourn as well.

[00:17:29.45] The third kind of animal I want to talk about are Probiscideans, or the elephant family, and particularly work on the African elephants. Researchers there are quite certain that African elephants grieve. It's actually pretty easy to see. On the left, you see a matriarch named Eleanor who died. Members of her group-- I think including a daughter-- are trying to right her, trying to get her to stand back up, rocking and moaning next to her body for long periods. They're grieving.

[00:18:02.32] The other thing about elephants is-- I don't know if we can really say they mourn. They may well, but it's hard to demonstrate. But there's another thing about elephants that's utterly fascinating. They are very interested in the bones of other elephants, and the places where these bones occur. And experimental situations with elephants have shown that they are not interested in large bones in general, such as those of rhino or hippo. They are only interested in the bones of elephants.

[00:18:36.34] It's not clear if they recognize the bones of particular individuals. We just don't know. But they seem to have a real death awareness. In fact, they have a sense of self as well. They recognize themselves in mirrors and so on. The other thing is they remember the places of death. They clearly have some strong sense of social spatial relations in life that to some extent, they may transfer to their understanding of death as well.

[00:19:04.76] Now social spatial relationships are also very important to people. People map out their world. They have a cultural landscape, and it has meaning to them. And one of the things that they attach to that cultural landscape is mortuary ritual.

[00:19:24.13] Now in humans today, mortuary rituals are as diverse as culture itself. Everybody's got them. Everybody does it differently. Here's one from my home city of Tucson, in the tradition of Mexico, the Dia de Los Muertos, which we have a procession every year, with lots of people attending, path walking, start points, a special end point, and lots and lots of paraphernalia that goes with it. This is just one example.

[00:19:56.65] People may dance with the dead every year. They may carry body parts around with them, a lock of hair, a tooth from a child, et cetera, for all of their lives. They may build monuments. They do many, many different things.

[00:20:13.44] Mortuary practices have a pretty deep evolutionary history. In the more recent prehistoric record, we find all kinds of mortuary monuments and graves, et cetera. One kind of mortuary behavior that is of very particular interest to this talk and to archaeologists in general is the practice of interring bodies in graves. This has a lot of benefits for archaeology and human paleontology, in that it greatly enhances the chances of preservation of those bodies. And it's also something that archaeologists can realistically study with considerable accuracy.

[00:20:52.60] Now let me move on to the next one. So the interesting thing about burial, which is only one kind of mortuary behavior, but a widespread one-- and it has a deep temporal legacy-- is that the placement of the burials is often a metaphor for relationships in life. In this case, you're looking in the interior of an ancient Neolithic house, one of the first farming communities in central Anatolia, in Turkey. And the grave has been cut into an existing house floor, the body placed, covered over with dirt-- of course, it's been excavated recently by archaeologists-- covered over with dirt, re-plastered, and then life continued as normal for generations and generations afterwards.

[00:21:44.98] So the body is actually folded into this domestic interior, and stays with the family. To one side of the body is the hearth, to the other side of the body is an adobe house wall. And to another side of the body, is a milling stone for milling grains to feed the family.

[00:22:06.57] Now when we look at burials, it's important to understand that we need to look at the context of those burials. Because first, we need to prove that the body was placed in a hole of some kind. And we also need to prove that humans created that hole, or at least chose a hole in a highly deliberate way, and then third, that they're actually placing the body with some kind of indication of respect. In other words, it's not smashed to bits, it's not desecrated, but it just looks like it's been put in with care. That's the simple question that we need to be able to answer.

[00:22:51.45] Now the Paleolithic people lived by hunting and gathering, and they moved their camps with the seasons. Nonetheless, they were quite particular about burying bodies, quite often in places where they were highly familiar with the location. They frequently used it, and apparently were very likely to return to that place.

[00:23:13.44] And these are some actually atypical burials from the Upper Paleolithic. The one on the left has a tremendous amount of jewelry, or grave goods, that accompany the body. This happens in the Upper Paleolithic, and they can be spectacular, such as the Sungir burial from 28,000 years ago, eastern Gravettian culture in Russia. But there are plenty of other very nice Upper Paleolithic graves with no goods at all.

[00:23:39.81] The important thing here is that you can see how the body is laid that it's in pretty good shape. And even if they were burying small parts of the body, such as the head or part of the body, that in some way, it's put in with care. It's covered with dirt, and it isn't disturbed by those people again if they can help it.

[00:24:02.79] On the right are two other burials, a double burial of two infants or young children from Austria, also from the same period, the Krems-Wachtberg site. And in this case, there are no ornaments, but the babies were wrapped in some kind of covering, probably leather, and this was soaked or painted with red ocher. Burial not only helps to preserve skeletons, we probably wouldn't have much knowledge of children and infants in the Paleolithic if it weren't for these burial practices.

[00:24:37.20] Well, it turns out that the Middle Paleolithic-- the time of the Neanderthals and early anatomically modern humans-- people also buried their dead. Here we have a Neanderthal burial from Kebara Cave in Israel. This was a project directed by Ofer Bar-Yosef. And you can see most of the body of a Neanderthal skeleton in a fairly typical death posture there.

[00:25:06.20] And as it turns out, where you find one body, if you keep digging, you're likely to find more bodies. Most of the burials we find in the Paleolithic are either from rock overhangs or inside caves, because these are very protected environments. People may have buried their dead in residential camps in open areas too, but that's more of a blind spot for us archaeologists. So I'm really focusing on burials in relatively sheltered locations, because the chances of preservation are very good.

[00:25:38.17] And what's so interesting within this biased window is that people come back and they bury more people, sometimes over a span of several thousand years. So they don't necessarily remember where the last body was buried, but these places have a perennial importance to them. At Shanidar Cave in Iraq, more than 10 Neanderthal skeletons have been found, most of them in pretty good shape. Some are disturbed by looters and so on in recent times. But at least five of the individuals, and probably more, definitely are intentional burials from the middle Paleolithic.

[00:26:15.71] We even find instances-- they're rare-- but instances of individuals who are in some way debilitated, not only by advanced age, but perhaps infections they're suffering from, and in other cases experiencing serious trauma, and then living many years after, which suggests some supplemental or extra extended care that's given on the part of other members of the group. And this certainly indicates a valuation of group members that goes well beyond their ability simply to contribute to the food quest, reproductive enterprises, and so on.

[00:26:56.84] And there's a lot of children in this record. So at Dederiyeh Cave in Syria-- this is a University of Tokyo project conducted over many years-- they have at least two very amazing Neanderthal child burials that date to the Middle Paleolithic. And these are in wonderful condition, again, because they were carefully buried, completely covered over with dirt, and then left there. And people routinely would come back to this site again and again and again. How do we know they kept coming back? Well, we find more and more layers of cultural debris on top of these deposits.

[00:27:40.56] Now there's been a lot of talk about remarkable things in the Middle Paleolithic that everyone loves to read about. And these ideas, they're near and dear to all of our hearts-- well, not all of ours, but many of our hearts-- and they're really hard to give up. And I can understand why, because they're wonderful to read about when you first discover the literature.

[00:28:00.25] One is the cave bear cult, which was-- there are no bodies, but lots of cave bears assembled into a cultish kind of arrangement, apparently, at Drachenloch cave in Switzerland. That turned out to be a giant cave bear den used repeatedly by cave bears over millennia. It had nothing to do with Middle Paleolithic people. And in fact, there's not a single real artifact in there.

[00:28:26.28] There was also the claim of cannibalistic mortuary ritual at Guattari Cave in Italy. That turned out to be a hyena den. And actually, parts of two individual Neanderthals were carried by hyenas into the cave. It was not a mortuary ritual space at all.

[00:28:45.10] And then finally, this one made me really sad. We're not even sure there was a laying of flowers at the famous Neanderthal burial in Shanidar Cave. It turns out that those deposits are severely riddled with rodent burrows made by a species of rodent called a jird, which not only store seeds for later use. It also stores lots and lots of flowers. So even this wonderful case has been called into question, but no matter.

[00:29:15.06] It doesn't matter. The most remarkable thing about the Middle Paleolithic is that this practice of burying the dead was very widespread in time and space. They were doing it over 100,000 years of time, and they were doing it all over Europe and southwest Asia, at the very least. So this consistency is exactly what you want to see in terms of symbolic behavior, a widely repeated gesture that connotes some kind of attempt to keep a connection between the survivors and the deceased. And these tend to turn up in places that are very familiar to people, places where people are likely to return. That's remarkable.

[00:30:07.30] So it's normal in Middle Paleolithic graves to find cultural debris, artifacts, bits of bone from people's dinner in the dirt, the fill that covers the body. This is how we know that these individuals were definitely buried in a human-familiar place. We may also have subsequent layers from later occupations as well. But the fill of the grave is full of artifacts. They're not necessarily grave goods, but they tell us how familiar and normal, basically, domestic, the kind of place was where burials were made.

[00:30:48.96] Burials are unadorned, but they're pretty common in the Middle Paleolithic. And moreover, there's another interesting cultural signal. The age and sex structures of these burial populations, when you look at them overall, are actually really distinctive, which also indicates that there are certain social rules, or at least circumstantial rules about who gets buried where.

[00:31:12.15] Now in this table, the blue bar on the bottom represents a Middle Paleolithic sample from Europe and southwest Asia. The two top tan bars in the table are different phases of Upper Paleolithic in various places in Europe. And we're looking just at the sex ratio of the adults whose sex could be determined from their pelvis.

[00:31:35.88] And the first thing you see-- assuming the Upper Paleolithic is a great standard for judging what's a burial, and then you look at the Middle Paleolithic-- that every single one of these sets of examples, the adults are dominated by males. Two-thirds of them are men. This probably has to do with the nature of personhood and land tenure in these hunting and gathering peoples. It's a very, very consistent bias. And if you accept it for the Upper Paleolithic, then you have to accept it for the Middle Paleolithic too.

[00:32:11.21] The age structure of these burials is also fascinating. Again, same rules, the tan is Upper Paleolithic, the blue bars are various phases of the Middle Paleolithic. Let's start at the bottom there, the period in southwest Asia, when we have anatomically modern humans-- not behaviourally modern, but anatomically modern humans-- who used Middle Paleolithic culture from 120,000 to 90,000 years ago. And you can see that there are lots of adults in the sample of burials, and there are lots of infants and children.

[00:32:51.06] The same is true for the period of the later Middle Paleolithic, which is dominated by Neanderthal-looking hominins from 70,000 to 35,000 years ago across Europe and southwest Asia. Again, lots of adults, and lots and lots of infants and children. Same thing for the Upper Paleolithic. These are very different periods of time. They have a lot in common, in terms of the age structure of the burials.

[00:33:18.45] And the thing that's really odd here is that there are surprisingly few adolescents, which doesn't reckon very well with the normal mortality patterns of human populations, or actually, a lot of other mammals too. Is it that people didn't generally die in their adolescent years? That would be a question to ask, and the answer is no.

[00:33:44.46] There was a study by Erik Trinkaus in 1995, a survey of 206 known Neanderthal fossil cases, where he was just looking at the age structure of those. And that sample included 35 known burials, so there is a little mixing of the sample here. But the majority came from palaeontological or non-cultural situations. And what he found is that that age structure was dominated by adolescents and prime adults, and that's even with the burials thrown in there. So adolescents died, but they didn't often get buried in caves.

[00:34:25.21] What the archaeological evidence tells us is that the earliest undisputed Middle Paleolithic graves date to just after 120,000 years ago. That's kind of interesting, because the Middle Paleolithic period defined by technology actually began 250,000 years ago. So they don't start doing this burial thing until halfway into that period.

[00:34:50.68] And the earliest burials are actually anatomically modern humans in the Levant, who also relied on Middle Paleolithic technology. So in many ways, they're similar folks. And then subsequent to that, Neanderthals of Eurasia, and Aterian people of North Africa were also burying members of their communities. So a very widespread phenomenon in time and space. So that's cool. Was there nothing earlier?

[00:35:21.54] Well, two cases have come to the fore, and actually been suggested at least by some researchers to represent proto or early mortuary rituals, they're just cruder. And one of these is Sima de los Huesos in Spain, dating to about 430,000 years ago-- translating to the Pit of Bones, and you'll see why in a minute-- where there are more than 28 individual hominins represented by their skeletal remains. And these are kind of a proto or early Neanderthal-looking type of hominin.

[00:35:56.28] And they were found at the base of a vertical shaft in a complex cave system in the region. Because of the configuration of the cave and the total lack of artifacts save one, there's no evidence that the hominins were actually living in this kind of cave. And as soon as you look at it or get into it, you can see why. It's really not the kind of habitable environment that we look for in Paleolithic. And there's no confirmation of habitation in the form of garbage.

[00:36:31.63] So at the base of this vertical shaft-- and the arrow points to that-- within the cave system is where the great majority of these hominin bones were found, along with bones of some other large mammals as well. The bones are really broken up. They are no whole bodies, but a lot of different body parts, some of which can be kind of reassembled, some can't. And this is before the excavations were very far along.

[00:37:01.95] And this is what it looked like after years of meticulous excavation to expose the bodies. And some of the bones are broken up, some aren't. But you can see that the bodies are totally disassembled, and you basically have a big pile of hominin remains, and one artifact, which happens to be a hand axe. So lots of questions about what was going on here.

[00:37:28.17] Early on, one of the investigators suggested that this was too weird to be a normal paleontological gravity-fed trap, something else is going on. I agree. But he also went on to suggest that it was actually a form of mortuary treatment of the dead, because you have a pile of bones. Subsequent research called that into question on a number of different grounds.

[00:37:54.87] Bermudez de Castro and his colleagues in 2004 noted that the age structure of these 28-plus individuals is actually dominated by adolescents and young adults. This is a paleontological pattern. And they don't even see a bias towards one or the other sex, it's an even sex ratio. So that's a red flag right there. And then there's been a lot of taphonomic work-- forensic-like work-- on the bones.

[00:38:24.42] And one of the most recent studies, by Sala at all in 2016, concluded that there are few if any cut marks on the bones. So you don't really have good evidence of cannibalism of them. But there's a lot of trauma on the bones. In other words, this is not a loving situation. There's pre-mortem, and especially, post-mortem trauma to the crania or skulls of some of these individuals, as if they had just been dropped down into this 30-meter chimney to crash down to the bottom of the pit.

[00:39:04.29] There's some evidence of carnivore scavenging. There's some evidence of bones having slid along surfaces, so there is some gravity feed to the situation as well. But the general conclusion is that it's very likely that hominins were playing a major role here, and it was they who were dropping other hominin bodies into this shaft. So these are just some examples of the kinds of trauma that you see on skulls. This is actually just one example, close up and far off.

[00:39:37.00] So the question I have is was this done with affection and respect, or is this an example of furtive disposal and a kind of indifference about the fate of those bodies? Is there any evidence of trying to keep the connection alive, so to speak? Well, they're certainly not disposed in the bosom of the residential camp, or any kind of human domestic environment. They're pretty smashed up, which doesn't look too friendly either. They're just not in the kind of place that we normally associate with people trying to maintain some kind of spatial connection to the deceased.

[00:40:18.91] The second example is newer, and we don't know nearly as much about it. This is Rising Star or Naledi Cave in South Africa. It contains multiple hominin individuals, again all broken up and disassembled. And the lead investigators have been quite vocal in suggesting that this is an example of a proto or pre-mortuary custom evolving. It dates to around 300,000 years ago.

[00:40:51.16] There are more than 15 individuals reported in the initial discovery. And they're all collected in a remote isolated chamber in the cave system. It's a complex cave system, very, very, very difficult to get to. And yet the claim is that hominins in the past deliberately again and again brought dead bodies and deposited them there. There are very few other kinds of non-hominin animal bones, and there are no artifacts whatsoever. And you can see on the lower right the example of the condition of these remains pretty smashed up.

[00:41:29.86] Now more information is coming to the fore about this case, and I don't want to presuppose too much. I just want to look at it from the outside in, and note a few things about the case that don't really fit with preconceptions, or even empirically derived expectations from later Paleolithic burials. And they've since explored the cave more, and realized there are other chambers and fragmentary remains of hominins in those as well, and they're even harder to get to, so it's a bit odd.

[00:42:07.24] Are these really examples of primitive mortuary ritual sites or not? Well, you have to ask, is there any evidence whatsoever-- knowing what we know-- that the survivors were doing anything to care for the deceased, that they are treating them in any way with respect, or trying to keep any kind of spatial connection between themselves and these remains? Well, we don't have a perfectly clear answer.

[00:42:34.36] But it is very interesting that neither of these two early cases contains substantial cultural refuse. It's not a human-familiar or a happy place in any sense. There is no clear evidence the bodies were treated with care. You could even argue the opposite. And the age structures don't match burial populations at all, they match paleontological patterns.

[00:43:01.15] So I don't think these cases really pass muster. And I think as more evaluations come to the fore-- and this is certainly true for Sima de los Huesos-- they too question that possibility. So the depositional or the sedimentary context of the burial and the nature of the place are important elements for understanding or interpreting whether human remains are being treated with respect versus indifference or hostility. And the demographic structure of burial populations overall is another very helpful measure.

[00:43:39.00] So the answer-- when was the life-death connection translated to an overt consistent symbolic act? Halfway through the Middle Paleolithic-- not at its beginning, but halfway through, starting around 120,000 years ago. But burial practices were not an isolated development. They emerged within a more complex and very interesting crucible that begins in the Middle Pleistocene, even before the middle Paleolithic.

[00:44:09.35] But by the Middle Paleolithic, even as early as 250,000 years ago, we have the galvanization or the full development of a phenomenon that archaeologists call the residential camp, and specifically, something that is a hearth-centered or fire-centered facility that people come and go from, they plan around. They cooperate in feeding fires, bringing food in, et cetera. This is the residential camp, and it becomes something that we as modern humans today can understand around 300,000 to 250,000 years ago. Very important development, and it is in a sense, a forum of selection, potentially, for the further social evolution of hominins.

[00:45:00.27] What's the lead up? Well, we know that before this, we have the final phase of brain expansion, and also the emergence of fire technology. Hominin brain expansion-- mainly of the forebrain, which is the master of executive functions, advanced reasoning, strategic , planning and so on-- expands, and you could see that with the expansion of the temple area, going from Homo erectus 700,000 years ago-- this example-- to this example on the right being Neanderthals-- a fully modern-sized brain. We don't know what the internal structure, but it's a huge metabolic cost that is apparently supported, because it's worth it.

[00:45:45.05] Fire is the other thing. You probably don't need to be told this is a fireplace. But as archaeologists, we have to look at the secondary traces of fire in order to learn about the history of fire technology. Now most people will agree that we have evidence of fire technology at least 800,000 years ago. Some will say earlier, that's fine. We can continue to debate that.

[00:46:14.45] But by around 800,000, we think we already have some evidence of it. But it doesn't really become a widespread technology or widely repeated technology-- in other words, a major innovation-- until after around 500,000 years ago. And by around 400,000, we began to see fire regularly appearing in sites that are often used by hominins. Qesem Cave in Israel has a fire record that goes-- based on burned bone-- from 400,000 to 200,000 years ago, and you're seeing one example on the left there.

[00:46:50.00] We have cases of early, early Middle Paleolithic sites such as HaYonim Cave, shown on the right. And from 200,000 years ago until Paleolithic people stopped using that, you have traces of fire pancaked one on top of another, on top of another, on top of another, repeated use of a domestic space that is centered around fire. Fire is a universal facility by this period. This is how we know people come back and use a place again and again and again and again as a residential camp-- not just the artifacts, but layer upon layer of these fire traces.

[00:47:38.87] So long before the appearance of burials in the Middle Paleolithic, we have the sort of final phase of encephalization-- brain expansion of hominins-- and we also have fire technology becoming not just something you can do, but something that becomes a central and uniting, or anchoring feature, of the residential camp. Burial practices appear on the tail of those trends, as do the use of mineral pigments for-- well, they have many uses-- probably body coloration, body paint, as well as preserving hides and so on. And we also have-- rare, but we have it-- extended care for the aged and the infirm all coming up sort of together into this bouquet of really quite complex, and I think rather emotionally moving aspects of Middle Paleolithic people.

[00:48:41.69] And so summarize, the emergence of reliable hearth facilities as central places may have created yet another forum for later evolution of human social relationships. And they have many, many different facets, of which mortuary behavior is just one. And let's not forget that location of burials clearly-- at least from the Middle Paleolithic onward-- serves as a metaphor of the continued connection between the living and the deceased.

[00:49:21.59] Now Middle Paleolithic people, and especially the Neanderthals, have undergone pendular swings in how they rest in our imaginations, from crude beasts barely able to hang on to a bone, struggling with an infant, shown in music museum exhibits more than a century ago, to renditions that are looking more and more like the human being that we see in ourselves. And just as we like to think that we can live on-- be semi-immortal in the lives of the people we love who survive our own death-- it seems that Neanderthals and other Middle Paleolithic people thought so too.

[00:50:14.35] So thanks very, very much for listening. Hopefully, I've left plenty of time to receive your questions, which I look forward to. I have a lot of people to thank, but I'll just note a few of them here ever so briefly, and then thank you. Thank you very much.

[00:50:43.25] Sadly, in the world of Zoom, you can't hear all the applause for your wonderful talk.

[00:50:48.08] Oh! Can you hear it?

[00:50:49.95] [LAUGHTER]

[00:50:52.40] Thank you, everyone. Thank you very, very much. I'm just honored that you're tuned in here. I see that there's 222-- maybe even more-- people listening, and that's really great. I'm honored, so thank you.

[00:51:05.81] So I'd like to sort of MC for questions, because some questions have come in, including a lot of people saying thank you. But let me ask the first question, which is from Roxanne Reddington-Wilde. "Have you cross-tabulated age and gender of the Upper and Middle Paleolithic burials to see if older females are more represented in the burial record than younger adult"--

[00:51:28.04] I have not. I'm sure that biological anthropologists have. We do struggle here, because you may notice that the size of the samples is not huge. And so when you try to dissect the age and sex structure into finer and finer subsets, it becomes statistically impossible to know for sure. But there are certainly older females. I think there are younger females. Maybe Dan would like to weigh in on that one?

[00:52:00.71] Well, I mean, maybe if I can follow up on that-- because I'm interested, because you showed that for the most part, the representation of ages in the burials follows what you predict, based on demography. The exception are females, right?

[00:52:16.78] Yeah, yeah. Well, and where are the adolescents? There should be more adolescents.

[00:52:21.11] Sure. Well, I can see maybe they're just they're--

[00:52:24.89] They do die, we know that.

[00:52:25.70] --irritating, and they go out and do crazy things outside the cave, and maybe they never make it back. But females seems like a very--

[00:52:34.40] Isn't that odd?

[00:52:34.97] --it's like a puzzle, right?

[00:52:35.93] Yeah.

[00:52:36.35] And you suggest that maybe it has to do with patriarchal/patrilineal societies, but that's just-- we don't know that, so I'm curious what other kinds of information we would use to kind of evaluate that bias?

[00:52:53.51] Yeah, yeah. I was initially surprised by it too. And just to make this even more mysterious, when you get to the beginning of early farmers, it flips, and those are two-thirds women that get buried inside the houses. So because of these cultural rules that they have, we're only seeing parts of the death population, those that get buried in very specific places. So we have a lot of blind spots in our work as well.

[00:53:34.06] So another question is from Nick Patterson. He's kind of questioning anatomically modern humans in southwest Asia before 90,000 years ago because of the lack of genetic data. I assume you're basing that on the Misliya skull, right?

[00:53:51.09] Well, maybe I should say 100,000 years ago. It depends on who you ask about the dates. But I would not include Misliya in what I was presenting to you. I was trying to work with publications that others have done specifically on that. So Misliya wasn't part of that sample, but I guess it could be. I don't know.

[00:54:18.78] Another question from Victoria. Is there any evidence of multiple adults found in one grave, something to denote relationships in life being important?

[00:54:28.56] In the Upper Paleolithic, yes. In the middle Paleolithic, I don't know of any.

[00:54:36.03] And [? Kuff ?] said there were some mothers and--

[00:54:39.57] Yeah, maybe mother-infant, I don't know. Have you heard of anyone actually saying they were definitely a double interment?

[00:54:49.53] No, I think. But it looks like it from just looking at the pictures, but I don't know.

[00:54:54.10] Yeah. Well, it could be. But aside from those, no, I don't know of any.

[00:55:02.50] Another question from [? Daniela ?] [? Guran. ?] When do you first see evidence of material culture being buried with the deceased?

[00:55:10.12] Such as grave goods? Well, I would say Upper Paleolithic. In fact, the earliest Upper Paleolithic graves, some of them do have material in them. Noting that, I should also point out, though, that not all Upper Paleolithic groups or subcultures-- whatever you want to call them-- bury their dead. In fact, we have a real problem with the early Upper Paleolithic, because it's such an interesting period, rich in artifactual material, economic evidence. But it's hard to find a single body, because clearly, whatever they did with dead people, they did not bury them anywhere that we could ever find.

[00:55:49.29] Wow.

[00:55:49.60] And we looked. I mean, archaeologists sample all over the place, not just where there's shade, and we never find them, so it's very weird.

[00:55:59.41] Yes, it's frustrating.

[00:56:00.01] It just goes to show you that burial is just one way to honor the dead, and we're lucky when cultures do it. And that's why I emphasize that the minimum age of mortuary treatment by burial is all we're really establishing.

[00:56:17.74] So another question-- there's plenty of questions here, as you can imagine-- so from Irv Plotkin, how do you know the bodies dropped down the cave-- and I'm assuming he's talking about the Sima de los Huesos, but possibly in Naledi-- how do you know the bodies dropped down the cave were already dead?

[00:56:34.09] I don't. But the Sala et al claim that most of the damage is post-mortem trauma. And they would have used forensic techniques in order to establish that. I don't think it's a foolproof thing, but they did a careful job. And what they said is that we think most of them are post-mortem.

[00:56:58.11] Yeah. I could just add to that, because I've looked at some of those data. When somebody is damaged prior to death, then usually, there's some evidence of biological repair processes, and there's none on those skulls.

[00:57:09.82] Right, right.

[00:57:10.64] So that kind of suggests a post-mortem tumble down that long, long shaft.

[00:57:17.05] Yeah.

[00:57:17.44] Another question from Rachel Meyer. "As a gravestone conservator, I am constantly confronted with gravestones that have been abandoned by the community."

[00:57:26.94] Yeah.

[00:57:28.84] "Is there any evidence of there being caretakers of burial places even back then?"

[00:57:35.02] Not that I know of. Well, I guess it depends on how you think of caretaker. What my sense is from knowing what I know about certain records, where we have Upper Paleolithic cemeteries, is that people will keep using an area to bury bodies, but they do lose track of who's already been planted, and they quite often will disturb old graves. So they remember the area, the place. There's probably some oral histories that reinforce that. But they don't actually care for the positions of the graves.

[00:58:14.20] Also, at least in the Paleolithic, these people can't just stick around for economic reasons, and actually, social reasons too. They have to move their residential camps seasonally. And so they return to places, and they're in certain territories that they either defend socially or physically, so in that sense, they are caretakers of those places. And ethnographically, among hunter-gatherers in the last centuries, we know that people care for places in the sense that certain things can happen there, other things cannot happen there-- you don't go there unless we say you can go there, that kind of thing. So there is caretaking of that place in the sense of a larger cultural landscape.

[00:58:59.60] So I need to ask you this question. Because I have that burial of the Kebara Neanderthal on my office wall that Ofer gave me. And the third--

[00:59:09.88] Apparently, not the original one.

[00:59:11.57] No, not the original, but a beautiful cast.

[00:59:13.60] Yeah,

[00:59:13.90] But the third upper molar is right where you expect it to be.

[00:59:16.39] Yes! And the rest of the head is gone!

[00:59:19.03] And the rest of the head is gone. And so it was argued by Baruch, Arensberg, and Ofer, and others that what happened was that after the skull started decaying, the third molar fell out, but somebody must have lifted the rest of the skull. Because it's right in the right place it should be.

[00:59:35.38] Yeah.

[00:59:35.80] And maybe they took that skull with them--

[00:59:36.94] That's what it looks like to me--

[00:59:38.14] --they took the cranium with them when they went somewhere else. And I'm wondering what you think of that hypothesis. Because that seems evidence of some kind of curation.

[00:59:45.66] Oh, it could be. It could be. And some of us actually think in the early Upper Paleolithic, they curated body parts. But in that case, you do have to be careful. Somebody lifted the head out, I totally agree. And the body had to be pretty well on the path to decomposition for that tooth to stay and the cranium to come out.

[01:00:08.23] But don't forget that in that part of the world, as well as in Europe, you have the spotted hyena, and other species of hyena, which are notorious collectors of heads of all kinds of mammals. And we actually have the spotted hyena to thank for many of the most important Paleolithic fossils from paleontological situations. Zhoukoudian, Grotta Guattari, there are many, many of them. So it's entirely possible a scavenger took it too. I just wish we could find the head. It would be awfully nice.

[01:00:42.31] So there's so many questions. This is a tough one, so maybe you want to pass on it. Because it's a good question, but it maybe it will require another lecture. But Jim Simmons asks a hard question for sure. "Do we think consciousness began at this time or some other time?"

[01:00:59.14] Oh, I would say it must have begun earlier. I would.

[01:01:04.48] OK. [INAUDIBLE]

[01:01:06.06] Yeah, keep in mind that in the case of burial, we're actually looking for hard action and really unambiguous physical clues for mortuary ritual. But remember that there's a cognitive process that may or may not be accompanied by physical props, or pits, or laying a body a certain way. So I think, just in terms of the logic of what comes first, the cognitive capacities are probably around longer than that. So I wouldn't say this is the moment where they suddenly, or even gradually, attain those properties. I think they're much older.

[01:01:55.32] So there are two questions here.

[01:01:57.39] Oh, sorry, just one more thing. I have to tell you my bias. Like Franz de Wahl and people like that, I think a lot of other animals are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for. And that's why I chose to show you some of these complex mammals that do these things. They're not us, we're not them. But the complexity of their reactions must make us realize that even early hominins had fairly complex social sensibilities.

[01:02:29.88] Well, I agree with you vigorously. So there are two questions that are kind of similar, so I'm going to combine them together-- from Nancy and Katherine-- basically asking about if there's any evidence of warfare or violence in these burials? Shanidar, I think is [INAUDIBLE].

[01:02:46.70] In most of the Neanderthal burials, I'd say no, but then you don't always have evidence of why someone died. But we do know that one of the Shanidar individuals-- the one who then continued to live apparently a long time after very severe trauma to the face and the shoulder and a withered lower arm-- whether that was from interpersonal violence or a hunting accident, we don't really know. These people hunted some big animals, and you can really get hurt doing that too.

[01:03:20.68] There are also cases of Neanderthal remains, in Krapina, for example, that look as if that was not a friendly situation. They were cannibalized. So I'm sure there was some degree of internecine violence. I wouldn't call it warfare, because these are small societies. And more likely, you have skirmishes, rather than true warfare. And quite often, violence is one on one, or at least, one person dies, and everybody's done.

[01:03:58.59] Yeah, yeah. Question from Giuseppina. Thank you for your interesting seminar. Is it possible to extract DNA from the Upper Paleolithic? And there is any--

[01:04:10.08] Sometimes.

[01:04:10.92] --evidence that disease could affect the mode of burial?

[01:04:14.11] Ah. Well, that's a wonderful question, and I wish that science was up to the standards that are needed to answer it. Certainly, ancient DNA has been extracted from some Upper Paleolithic, as well as Middle Paleolithic hominin remains. It's a very interesting literature on that. I have not yet seen anything that would identify causes of death from disease vectors, though.

[01:04:45.45] One thing that I just remembered, though-- since you're asking about Paleo DNA-- and personhood and land tenure, we talked about earlier-- recent DNA evidence from the case in Spain, where there's six individuals they get paleo DNA. And what's so fascinating about that is that the men are all related to each other, and each individual woman isn't related to anybody else.

[01:05:12.48] Yeah.

[01:05:12.99] So it really, at least in that case, looks like males stay in the natal region, and females move.

[01:05:23.53] So here's an interesting question from Paula. Is it possible that the older examples of cemeteries, such as the Sima de los Huesos or the Naledi case still represent a belief in the afterlife, or how bodies affect the landscape, even if they don't represent care [INAUDIBLE]--

[01:05:39.81] Yeah.

[01:05:40.95] --there seems to be great effort to hide or put the bodies away in deep caves.

[01:05:45.50] Yeah, yeah. OK. Well, in Naledi I think, it's very likely that it will be geological and other forces that explain the collection of bones there. But Sima de los Huesos is different, and that one really deserves a serious think on this. And the truth is, I don't know. I can only say that they don't really fit with any of the later examples of how people have treated the dead.

[01:06:13.95] But if people think that a hole is sacred, they might drop bodies in there, and figure they're going to some wonderful place. It's possible. I don't know why mom and dad don't get in there, or little baby sister-- just mostly the adolescents and very young adults, who are also the great risk takers, and most likely to be in an unfamiliar social environment because of their age grade-- marrying out systems and things like that.

[01:06:43.44] But I don't know. I really don't know. And I also think that it is quite possible that these hominins are already fairly cognitively advanced in many ways. I don't know what was in their brain. I'll never know, unfortunately.

[01:06:57.12] Yeah. But it must have been a lot of effort to drag those bodies.

[01:07:00.09] To throw them in a hole?

[01:07:01.05] Yeah.

[01:07:01.41] Well, I don't know. You don't know-- it could have been a great place to ambush people. I really don't know. I also think that if you really don't want somebody to know exactly what happened to somebody, it's not a lot of effort to throw them in a hole. It's probably a good idea.

[01:07:20.40] Yeah.

[01:07:22.07] That's my evil thinking. If I were evil, that's what I would do.

[01:07:27.84] Well, the problem is it's so hard to know the truth, so it's good at least we're-- it's good [INAUDIBLE].

[01:07:32.48] I feel very sad about the Sima de los Huesos because I think, oh, those teenagers-- they didn't have the experience. They probably couldn't defend themselves as well. They didn't have the wisdom to be careful, whatever. And look what happened to those poor things. That's what I think. Like, my daughter-- that's how I think about it.

[01:07:53.66] Well, there are not many elderly individuals in the Sima cave, which is very interesting.

[01:07:57.43] No.

[01:07:57.90] Yeah.

[01:07:58.83] No, no, and there's no babies.

[01:08:00.44] No, none.

[01:08:01.13] There's none, no!

[01:08:01.76] Yeah.

[01:08:03.08] Weird.

[01:08:03.83] Interesting assembly. So another question from Keith. Given the presence of long-term Terminal Pleistocene archaic burials in rock shelters in South and Central America and Mexico, and some Terminal Pleistocene in cave burials in Alaska, is this a continuation of Paleolithic uses of space in the Old World, and specifically if there are northwest--

[01:08:22.52] I think so, yeah. yeah. And I don't mean that in the argument of it's direct continuity from the Solutrean or whatever. But these are widely held practices across cultures during the Paleolithic. And keep in mind that so far, when we talk about Middle Paleolithic, there are probably several subcultures within it. It's what we call as archaeologists a techno culture, because the elements of technology that we can see in the record are very similar across those cultures.

[01:08:59.67] So my neighbor Nina has written a question. "Could it have been that adolescents and young adults thrown into the holes might have been prisoners of war, or other kinds of enemies?"

[01:09:09.41] It's quite possible. It is quite possible. Maybe not prisoners of war, but victims.

[01:09:16.45] Yeah.

[01:09:16.73] I think they're victims. That's what it looks like to me.

[01:09:19.19] Well it looks--

[01:09:20.07] It looks like somebody is trying to hide them.

[01:09:22.79] Yeah. Well, the more we study hunter-gatherers, the more we realize that violence is not rare among hunter-gatherers.

[01:09:28.85] No, no, no, it's not. It's just that with war, I always think of that as a more formal endeavor, with certain leadership and rules. And usually, when violence breaks out in hunter-gatherer groups, it's just less formal, that's all. But they definitely have violence, lots of it, in some cases, especially when resources get tight, there are territorial infringements, somebody was mistreated, someone else wants revenge. Another reason to hide the body.

[01:10:05.90] Yeah, yeah. You can see there are plenty of questions here.

[01:10:09.66] That's fine.

[01:10:09.92] Another question from Jean-- "is there any indication that patterns of death according to age and sex could have varied by the time of the year, leading to burial some in caves, and others in less protected sites?"

[01:10:22.85] That's really a great question. Because with mobile people, it's not like you could put the loved one in the donkey cart and carry it somewhere. It's really a difficult thing to move bodies around. And there are a number of solutions that hunter-gatherers have. One is to let the body skeletonize, and then pick up the pieces and move those. Another is to bury them in a place that's the closest, even if it's not your preferred situation.

[01:10:51.05] But even then, it seems like people will still say, OK, if we can, let's bury this person in a place that's important to us. But just as in culture today, we have burial at sea. It's just not in the cards that you can move this person's body to the place you really like to leave it. And that's probably why we don't have more burials in the Paleolithic.

[01:11:19.10] So the final question really isn't a question, it's a comment. And I saved this to the last, because it's a beautiful statement about your wonderful talk. It's from Clary. And she wrote in the Q&A box, "Thank you so much for a brilliant presentation. It was both eye-opening, and at the same time, brought the humanity of our early ancestors and the way they honored their dead to the forefront. I find it amazing how it is possible to piece so much together from these pieces of archaeological evidence. I feel very lucky to have been able to learn from you and your work today. It is very inspiring, thank you." And I don't think I could say it better. That's a wonderful way of expressing--

[01:11:55.67] That is a very lovely compliment, and I'm going to cherish that one. And I'd also like to say one more time how grateful I am to the Movius family for this opportunity.

[01:12:08.63] Oh wait, hold on. John Gillen-- we can't miss a question from John Gillen.

[01:12:11.78] Oh, John!

[01:12:13.92] John Gillen asks-- "as many sites in Africa have a long term series of re-occupations-- charcoal doesn't preserve in warm climates-- by the way, for those of you who don't know, John Gillen is in charge of givint out money to archaeology from NSF. So he's a--

[01:12:28.11] He's also a very good anthropologist.

[01:12:29.51] --a very important person, and a great archaeologist, who did his PhD at Harvard. Anyway, so he writes, "Many sites in Africa have long-term series of re-occupations. Charcoal doesn't preserve well in warm climates. Was the sense of place already present in pre-Neanderthals, even though we rarely have the burials?" And he also writes in parentheses [INAUDIBLE]

[01:12:49.87] Yes, I definitely agree with that. In fact, if you think back to the fact that burials show up halfway through the Middle Paleolithic, but these residential camps are emerging much earlier, then yes, that has to be true. People are using place as a metaphor for many, many different things in their social relationships.

[01:13:13.76] Yeah. Well, I mean, we live in a time now when social relationships seem all the more precious, as we are all confined in our homes, and struggling to interact, and struggling to communicate, and struggling to kind of stay sane in this really challenging world. And I can say on behalf of everybody, and especially the Movius family and in the Movius series, and colleagues in anthropology and human evolutionary biology at Harvard, that was the perfect talk, great talk. And we're really grateful that you have joined us virtually. And I'm sorry that you're not here in person so that we can go take everybody upstairs to the third floor of the museum, and have a reception with cheese and [INAUDIBLE]

[01:13:58.98] Yeah, yeah, I miss it, but next time.

[01:14:02.42] But it will happen.

[01:14:03.70] If I live that long.

[01:14:04.36] We will get there. And we really appreciate your being willing to do this virtually, and giving such a stunning, wonderful, interesting, and perfect lecture. And thank you very much. And thanks to everybody for attending. I think we've taken the Movius lecture series into a new generation and hopefully--

[01:14:26.32] And a new technology too.

[01:14:27.74] Yeah, but hopefully, this will not be enduring and lasting forever.

[01:14:31.24] Yeah.

[01:14:31.56] So thank you very much, Mary.

[01:14:33.46] OK, and thank you, everyone, for listening in. Have a good evening.

[01:14:41.19] Yeah, same to you.