Monday, May 16, 2011

neandertals maligned

I had my students read Gifford-Gonzalez (1998) and write a short reflective essay on the role of popular culture in shaping our ideas about early human ancestors. I asked them if they had ever seen a museum display, cartoon, or film about human evolution, and how they felt this affected their perspective on our ancestors. My favorite answer started with these lines:

I can only assume you are referring to the documentary series "Jersey Shore" that portrays an early Neandertal community in its quest for food, shelter, and whatever the hell "smoosh-smoosh" is. (I'm not an anthropologist.)

Funny, but perhaps I need to make them read Speth 2004, too.

Gifford-Gonzalez, Diane
1998 The Real Flinstones? What Are Artists' Depictions of Human Ancestors Telling Us? In Selig, Ruth Osterweis and Marilyn R. London, Anthropology Explored: The Best of Smithsonian AnthroNotes, p.74-82. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC.

Speth, John D.
2004 News Flash: Negative evidence convicts Neandertals of gross mental incompetence. World Archaeology 36:519-526.


  1. That essay sounds awesome!

    In all seriousness, it sounds like a great assignment. Do you mind emailing me a copy of the Gifford-Gonzalez reading? (Melissa.Kruse at Next semester I am teaching an introductory course that uses movies and television to teach anthropology and I think this reading would work well. I was planning a similar exercise asking students to reflect on how neanderthals and early humans are portrayed in popular film and how that matches or conflicts with anthropological research

  2. Sure thing! The essay is mostly about museum depictions, but it has a lot of good stuff. I'll send it over.