Dr Paige Madison

The history of the characterisation of the Neanderthals

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Thursday 28th October 2021
Type: Webinar / Category: Department / Series: Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology Seminar Series
  • Suitable for: Everyone.
  • Admission: Free.
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A classic caricature of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) depicts them as brutish and dumb. This caricature is often traced to paleontologist Marcellin Boule, who published a detailed analysis on a Neanderthal skeleton in the early twentieth century. The historical narrative claims that Boule made an error in his analysis, conflating pathological deformity with species-wide idiocy. My talk dissects and challenges the tale of “Boule’s error,” arguing that the brutish Neanderthal concept was instead an invention of the earliest analyses of the Feldhofer specimen in the mid-nineteenth century. Relocating this conception of Neanderthals allows for a better understanding of the interconnected nature of the study of fossil humans, the science of living humans during the nineteenth century, and scientific perspectives on extinction. This new view also allows for reflecting on Neanderthal conceptions in the present. By inspecting the ways in which the Neanderthals’ image was a product of a particular time and place, this provides a new basis for thinking about the conceptions of other human species.

Speaker: Dr Paige Madison

Affiliation: Natural History Museum of Denmark

Zoom registration information: contact Lucy Timbrell lucy.timbrell@liverpool.ac.uk