Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Ongoing Struggle to Correct

For those who know me, know I find the need to correct people a lot when they are misinformed (mostly when it comes to anthropological topics). Sometimes this means writing into Jeopardy to notify them that the answer to “What Specimen was found in Skhul cave at the Mount Caramel site?” was not Neanderthal as the contestant answered but instead the more specific Cro-Magnon specimen. Needless to say though I never did get an email back in regards to that correction, but you get my point; I like to make sure that the correct information is being distributed to the masses properly.
That being said there are a couple of things that as of late have really driven me to the point where I just want to scream to everyone how I feel on the subjects. That though is less effective than writing a blog post, so here I am. Now my corrections aren’t always limited to the anthropology field English is another subject that I feel the need to correct people on. The other day a friend (yes you know who you are) constantly kept switching around “good” and “well” using them both improperly. Of course I had to correct them multiple times but now I think they understand the concept. Then there are the people on twitter, facebook, blogs and texts who incessantly mix up words. Among the top: using “you’re” and “your” interchangeably, using “then” instead of “than” and vice versa, “to” instead of “too,” and then the all-around misspelling of things.
Don’t get me wrong, I make these mistakes sometimes too, especially when quickly typing a tweet or updating a facebook status on my phone. That is one thing but the fact is the majority of the populous that use these social networking sites really don’t know the difference. Anyways I digress since the main reason for this post is to address anthropological mistakes.
So the one I mentioned above in regards to the jeopardy question is really just semantics and people can argue about that until the cows come home (which sometimes is actually quite fun). What isn’t semantics is the fact that so many people have these wrong notions out there when it comes to the information surrounding evolution and the “dawn of man.” Most of these misconceptions have been driven by popular culture and the media around us. So let’s address some of these shall we?
First off one related misconception is that archaeologists dig up dinosaur fossils. False. Paleontologists dig up prehistoric fossils, archaeologists dig up artifacts and paleoanthropologists/paleoarchaeologists dig up bones. This is not to say that during a dig of any sort that there isn’t presence of specimens outside of the field of study. If that was the case however an expert would be called in to evaluate those particular findings. There is a big joke among archaeologists (which have been made into many a bumper sticker and T-shirt) that “we don’t dig dinosaurs, though if we could get a permit we’d try.”
Now that that’s out of the way we can address yet another issue. Men and Dinosaurs never coexisted. Forget everything you saw on the Flintstone’s, Land of the Lost, Jurassic Park and other popular TV shows/movies that portray “cave men” running around chasing dinosaurs. This just wasn’t the case. Dinosaurs were long extinct when man finally made their way onto the food chain. This then completely nullifies the creationist theory that dinosaurs were wiped out by the great flood. This also argues the case for the earth being 6.4 million years old.
The next bunch of misconceptions all surrounds the subject of Neanderthals. Now when most people think of Neanderthals they immediately picture the bent over, club swinging, hairy, grunting “cave man.” This has been once again a product of television, artwork, movies and the media. First off the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens at one point did coexist. There was no sudden wipe out of Neanderthals and then a bunch of Homo sapiens showed up. Also Homo sapiens are not decedents of the Neanderthals. I won’t get into a long drawn out explanation but the Neanderthals were on a different branch of the evolutionary tree that eventually was a dead end. They were also not hairy and in fact there is more of an argument for them having no hair. Excess hair would’ve caused them to sweat thus possibly leading them to freeze to death as the sweat froze on them in their environment. They did not use clubs, but rather stone tools such as hand axes and projectile points to attach at the end of spears and the like. They also didn’t grunt, in fact in 1983 scientists discovered that the Neanderthals had hyoid bones that were almost identical to humans. Thus there is no reason to think that the Neanderthals weren’t capable of speech.
There you have it, some of the basic things that people tend to get wrong that royally make me cringe inside and want to scream the right answer. There are of course many more of them in a wide range of different categories, but these are just the ones that I felt the need to bring up today. Once again if anyone has any questions or wants me to clear up anything in particular drop me an email ( or tweet me (@curtincall89).


Lilac Wolf (Angie or Angela) said...

This is awesome, but be warned-excessive correcting can lead to early death. LoL I never knew that neanderthals were possibly hairless. Keep writing, i love reading it.

Anonymous said...

Neanderthals also buried their dead with objects which possibily meant that they had a belief in the Afterlife and certainly had an established culture.

Good work with the misconceptions...I have a degree in Anth/Arch too :)

Sam Curtin said...

Ooh I forgot about that one, Cora! Always nice to meet another Anth degree holder :)

None said...

You did really good on this post. Your just so smart. In fact, I think I might start writing anthropology based topics on my blog to. I gotta go, but before than I just wanted to say that their is a lot more meets the eye. Okay, bye.


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