Shanidar 1 at the Iraq Museum

Shanidar 1 at the Iraq Museum

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File:Shanidar I skull and skeleton, c. 60,000 to 45,00o BCE. Iraq Museum.jpg

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File:Prehistory Hall, the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, Iraq.jpg

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Materials and methods

The ≈50 ka BP Shanidar 1 Neandertal cranium [6,44] (S1 Text) was analyzed visually with low magnification assessment of the intact right and left external auditory meatus in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad in 1976–78. It is part of the largely complete skeleton of an adult (40–50 years old, based on his pubic symphysis and dental wear comparisons to the histologically aged Shanidar 2 to 6) male (pelvically sexed based on the greater sciatic notch) [6,45]. Cranial radiography was not available in the Iraq Museum, and reanalysis since then has not been feasible. Observations are therefore based on the externally visible configurations of the auditory pori and lateral meatus (Fig 1).

A and B: lateral views of the left and right external auditory meatus illustrating the large external auditory exostoses, especially the bridging ones on the right side. The arrows point to the exostosis growths described in the text.

The degree of development of the EAE is scored using an ordinal scale of Grade 0 (absence of EAE) to Grade 3 (large EAE that largely block the meatus) (Grade 1: <1/3 Grade 2: 1/3–2/3 Grade 3: >2/3) [19,25,26] (see also [13]). Similar observations are provided for four other Neandertals with EAE, the younger adult Spy 1 and Tabun 1 and the modestly older La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 partial skeletons, plus the Krapina 39.1 isolated mature temporal bone (S2 Text).

Neanderthal Burials

The Shanidar IV Neanderthal Flower Burial

Does the Shanidar IV burial therefore, like so many other Neanderthal burials from the Mousterian, provide evidence of intentional burial? Solecki specifically noted that the sediment surrounding the skeleton was much looser in compaction and composition than the surrounding area and that the body was positioned in a partially-foetal position, a common burial position throughout prehistory (Louwe Kooijmans et al., 1989, 324).

Even if we accept that the evidence for the inclusion of flowers as burial goods is spurious, it still seems that Shanidar IV was intentionally deposited in a grave cut within the cave, and that throughout the Mousterian several other individuals were interred here. Gargett (1989, 1999) however, argues that all the burials of Shanidar are a result of death-by-rock-fall, and that all seven adults, the adolescent and the child, on separate occasions, entered the cave and were killed and buried by a rock fall in much the same way as most of the other potential Neanderthal burial sites such as Qafzeh, Dederiyeh Cave and Saint-Césaire. Evidence for this is visible in some of the skeletons which display indicative fractures and shattered bones, but it is difficult to delineate between when the rock falls covering some individuals happened, be it at time (and subsequently as cause) of death, or some time after the fact (Pettitt, 2002, 8). It has been put forward that as many of 7 of the 9 individuals found here are the result of burial, and that only II and V are the result of death-by-rock-fall that Gargett suggested and that Shanidar is one of large number of cemeteries such as La Ferrassie (Zilhão, 2002, 521).

So what do these burials tell us about the behaviour and culture of the Neanderthals? The growing number of recognised Neanderthal burials and cemeteries that have been discovered and the very fact that these burials exist clearly indicate a change in the cognitive processes of the hominids during this period. Almost no complete, articulated skeletons exist before 100 kyr (with the notable exception of the Australopithecus aferensis ‘Lucy’ and Nariokotome Boy, a Homo ergaster) and it is difficult to accept that natural, geological processes are the cause for all complete burials before the Upper Palaeolithic (Zilhão, pers comm.).

Neanderthal burials however, are relatively simple in contrast to those of the Upper Palaeolithic, with little or no grave goods and resemble those of the contemporaneous early modern humans (Klein, 1999, 468). This is not to say that there weren’t burial rituals and practices were not going on during this period, it merely suggests that they have not been preserved in the physical record and the age-old maxim of ‘absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence’ comes into play. As Speth notes in his 2004 article, we have no way knowing if singing, dancing, praying or any other number of ritual activities were undergone at burials. This type of behaviour will never be visible in the archaeological record and it is up to other observable indicators to provide the evidence for Neanderthal society and culture. Shanidar Cave, as noted above, is an important site because not only does it provide evidence for burial, but also for healthcare and group concern, a significant marker of modern human behaviour.

Looting Iraq

Looting has been a part of war at least since 333 B.C., when Alexander the Great strolled into the tent of King Darius III, helped himself to the vanquished Persian's best tapestries and commandeered the royal bathtub for a soothing victory soak. In the years since, victors have taken the spoils, and in their wake, ordinary citizens and opportunistic thieves have grabbed anything of value in that confused pause between war and peace.

Related Content

All the looting at Baghdad's Iraq Museum had taken place by the time U.S. troops—engaged in toppling Saddam Hussein—arrived to protect it, on April 16, 2003. Between April 8, when the museum was vacated, and April 12, when the first of the staff returned, clubs in hand, thieves had plundered an estimated 15,000 items, many of them choice antiquities: ritual vessels, heads from sculptures, amulets, Assyrian ivories and more than 5,000 cylinder seals.

The looting proved less extensive than the early reports of 170,000 stolen artifacts, but the losses were nonetheless staggering. "Every single item that was lost is a great loss for humanity," says Donny George Youkhanna, the former director general of Iraqi museums, now a visiting professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. "It is the only museum in the world where you can trace the earliest development of human culture—technology, agriculture, art, language and writing—in just one place."

Before the war, leading archaeologists had warned that the museum was vulnerable, but neither Iraqi officials nor invading troops were prepared for such aggressive plunder. There was nothing like the World War II-era Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives task force poised to secure, track down and recover Iraq's venerable treasures. But there was the "Pit Bull," also known as Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos, a reservist, classics scholar and amateur boxer, who had earned his civilian nickname as a homicide prosecutor in New York City.

"I felt exactly the way the rest of the world did—outraged—when I heard of the looting in Baghdad," says Bogdanos, who was leading a counterterrorist unit in southern Iraq when he learned of the pillaging. He quickly got permission from the U.S. Central Command to form an ad hoc "Monuments" team, composed of 14 members with investigative experience. Bogdanos and his team dashed north to Baghdad, arriving April 20. They established security at the museum complex and, huddling with museum authorities, began an inventory of missing treasures. They dispatched descriptions to border guards, customs agents, international police agencies and archaeologists around the world. They put out the word that no one returning stolen items would be prosecuted. "If you bring something back to the museum," Bogdanos was fond of saying, "the only question you will be asked is whether you would like a cup of tea."

Over the next few weeks, stolen goods began to trickle back, including a 6000 B.C. pot wrapped in a 21st-century garbage bag and the Sacred Vase of Warka (c. 3200 B.C.), in the trunk of a car. Objects were unearthed from backyards, fished out of a cesspool, recovered in pre-dawn raids. Some simply reappeared on museum shelves. Other treasures were seized from international antiquities markets in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and New York. A scholar returning from the war zone was collared at John F. Kennedy International Airport and convicted of smuggling three 4,000-year-old cylinder seals from the museum's collection.

"Mothers turned in items stolen by their sons," says Bogdanos. "Sons turned in items stolen by their friends. Employees turned in items stolen by their bosses." And as the investigation unfolded, it developed that hundreds of the most valuable items missing from the museum—including a cache of gold jewelry from Nimrud—had not been stolen at all but stashed, since the Gulf War of 1990-91, for safekeeping in Iraq's Central Bank.

George estimates that about half of the 15,000 looted treasures have either been returned or secured in other countries until they can be safely repatriated. Still missing are thousands of cylinder seals, a famous eighth-century B.C. gold-and-ivory plaque known as The Lioness Attacking a Nubian and choice pieces of statuary from the ancient city of Hatra. An optimist with an archaeologist's long view of history, George believes that in the fullness of time, all of the antiquities will be returned. Meanwhile, many of Iraq's 12,500 archaeological sites continue to be vulnerable to looting, and the Iraq Museum remains closed, its treasures bricked up within interior storage rooms. "The museum must be the last place to be opened after everything else is completely secured in the country," says George.

After two tours in Iraq and service in the Horn of Africa and at the Pentagon, Bogdanos returned home to New York City in 2005, in time for the publication of his book, Thieves of Baghdad. (All royalties are being donated to the Iraq Museum.) He continues to investigate the Iraqi thefts as chief of a newly created antiquities task force in the New York County district attorney's office. "Until every last piece stolen from the Iraqi Museum has been recovered and returned to the Iraqi people," he says, "I will continue to be haunted by what is still missing."

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Some people have expressed interest in knowing a little bit about me. For those people, here is a potted biography:

I live in Australia, and I am a semi-retired high school mathematics/science teacher.

The Donsmaps site is totally independent of any other influence. I work on it for my own pleasure, and finance it myself. I started before there was an internet, when I thought I could do a better job of the small map on the end papers of Jean Auel's wonderful book, Valley of the Horses, by adding detail and contour lines, and making a larger version. I have always loved maps since I was a young boy.

I had just bought a black and white 'fat Mac' with a whopping 512 kB of memory (!), and no hard disk. With a program called 'Super Paint' and a lot of double work (hand tracing first the maps of Europe from atlases, then scanning the images on the tracing paper, then merging the scanned images together, then tracing these digital scans on the computer screen), I made my own black and white map.

Then the internet came along, the terms of my internet access gave me space for a small website, and Don's Maps started. I got much better computers and software over the years, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for example, and my maps became colourised and had more detail. I did a lot of maps of the travels of Ayla from Jean Auel's books, and I gradually included other pages with more and more photos available from the web, and scanned from books or from scientific papers, since I was not happy with the quality generally available. I became very interested in the Venus figurines, and set out to make a complete record of the ice age ones. Along the way I got interested in archaeology for its own sake.

In 2008 my wife and I went to Europe, and when we arrived in Frankfurt at sunrise after the 24 hour plane trip from Sydney, while my wife left on her own tour with her sister, they visited relatives in Germany and Austria, I went off by myself on the train to Paris. Later that afternoon I took a train to Brive-la-Gaillarde, found a hotel and caught up on lost sleep. The next morning I hired a car, and over the next four weeks visited and photographed many of the original archaeological sites in the south of France, as well as many archaeological museums. It was a wonderful experience. My wife and I met up again later in the Black Forest, and cycled down the Danube from its source to Budapest, camping most of the way, a wonderful trip, collecting many photos, including a visit to Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic, as well as visiting the Vienna natural history museum. Jean Auel fans will realise the significance of that trip!

Luckily I speak French, the trips to France would have been difficult or impossible otherwise. No one outside large cities speaks English (or they refuse to). I was travelling independently, not as part of a tour group. I never knew where I was going to be the next night, and I camped nearly everywhere, except for large cities. I am a very experienced bushwalker (hiker) and have the required equipment - ultra lightweight tent, sleeping bag, stove, raincoat, and so on, all of which I make myself for use here when I go bushwalking, though for Europe I use commercial two person lightweight tents, since weight is not so much of a problem when cycling or using a car.

In 2012 we went to Canada for a wedding and to visit old friends, and I took the opportunity to visit the wonderful Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, where I took many photographs of the items on exhibit, particularly of the superb display of artefacts of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.

In 2014 my wife and I did another European cycling tour, from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, then from Cologne up the Rhine to the Black Forest, camping most of the way in each case, and taking many useful photos in museums along the way, including the museums at Leiden, Netherlands, and Roskilde in Denmark, and the National Museum in Copenhagen. Again, I later hired a car and did more photography and visited many more sites in France.

In 2015 I made a lone visit to all the major museums in western Europe by public transport, mostly by train, and that went very well. I had learned a lot of German while travelling with my wife, who is a fluent speaker of the language, and of all the European countries, Germany is my favourite. I feel comfortable there. I love the people, the food, and the beer. Germans are gemütlich, I have many friends there now.

I repeated the visit to western Europe in 2018, to fill in some gaps of museums I had not visited the first time, because they were either closed for renovation the first time (such as the Musée de l'Homme in Paris) or because I ran out of time, or because I wanted to fill in some gaps from major museums such as the British Museum, the Berlin Museum, München, the Louvre, the Petrie and Natural History Museums in London, the Vienna Natural History Museum, the important museum in Brno, and museums in northern Germany. It takes at least two visits, preferably three, to thoroughly explore the items on display in a major museum.

I spend a lot of time on the site, typically at least a few hours a day, often more. I do a lot of translation of original papers not available in English, a time consuming but I believe a valuable task. People and fate have been very generous to me, and it is good to give back a very small part of what I have been given. With the help of online translation apps and use of online dictionaries there are few languages I cannot translate, though I find Czech a challenge!

I will never be able to put up all the photos I have taken, each photo needs a lot of research, typically, to put it in context on the site. I do not have enough time left, life is short and death is long, but I am going to give it a good shot!

Life has been kind to me, I want for nothing, and am in good health. Not many in the world are as lucky as I am, and I am grateful for my good fortune.

My best wishes to all who read and enjoy the pages of my site.

May the road rise up to meet you.
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Smithsonian Collections Blog

Connecting Archives and Artifacts: Year Two of the Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki Papers and Artifacts Project

Year two of the Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki Papers and Artifacts Project is underway! In the upcoming weeks, you’ll hear from three Solecki Project interns about how the Solecki Project Team integrated artifacts into storage, a Neanderthal murder mystery, and the fascinating Proto-Neolithic site of Zawi Chemi Shanidar.

While the first year of the Solecki project focused on processing the archival materials of paleoarchaeologists Ralph and Rose Solecki including field notes, maps, photographs, and correspondence, this year the project is devoted to cataloging artifacts unearthed during the Soleckis' excavations at sites throughout the Near East, most notably at the site of Shanidar Cave and Zawi Chemi Shanidar in northern Iraq in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as artifacts from their teaching collections.

Ralph and Rose Solecki analyzing artifacts at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, 1966. [1]
As archaeologists, Ralph and Rose Solecki meticulously documented the sites at which they excavated. This documentation included detailed maps of their excavations with the exact locations of artifacts, faunal (or animal) remains, charcoal and soil samples, and other finds like Neanderthal remains in situ, or in its original position in the ground field data cards with drawings or photographs of each artifact data sheets containing analysis of artifacts to determine the methods in which they were created and utilized by ancient peoples and countless other mediums of recording their archaeological work. All of this documentation created by the Soleckis can be found within their archival collection and is crucial for fully understanding the artifacts during the cataloging process.

Notched Steep Side Scraper (A607238-0) and an illustration from Season IV excavations of the Zawi Chemi Shanidar site, 1960. [1&2]

Now that the wealth of information within the Soleckis’ archival collections has been realized through the first year of the project, the goal of the second year is to catalog the artifacts and connect the information in the archival collection to the catalog records for each artifact within the NMNH Department of Anthropology’s collections database. By consulting the documentation, the catalog records will include exact locations from which the artifacts were uncovered, the temporal and cultural affiliation of the artifact such as Mousterian (the time period associated with Neanderthals) or Protoneolithic (the era just before the emergence of agriculture), and the type of tool or purpose of the artifact as evaluated by Ralph and Rose Solecki. All of this information from the archives provides context to the artifacts that could otherwise be lost and make future research of the material much more difficult if not impossible. By connecting the archives to the artifacts and vice versa, both collections become more accessible to anyone who might be interested in the Soleckis’ seminal archaeological work.

Catalogued artifacts from Season III excavations (1956-1957) of the Shanidar Cave site [2]
Revisiting the Soleckis’ archives and the original finds is a vital part of new investigations at Shanidar Cave, which have been ongoing since 2014 and which are led by Professor Graeme Barker from the University of Cambridge, UK [3]. Shanidar Cave is one of the most important Neanderthal sites ever discovered, and modern archaeological techniques that were unavailable at the time when Ralph Solecki was excavating have enormous potential to deepen our knowledge of when Neanderthals and modern humans used the cave, what they ate, the tools they used, and how they lived. Dr. Sacha Jones (University of Cambridge) has already re-analyzed the stone tools recovered during Ralph Solecki’s excavations to better understand Neanderthal and modern human technologies at Shanidar. Unpublished archive photos from Ralph Solecki’s excavations also proved invaluable for identifying and understanding exciting new Neanderthal remains discovered during the more recent excavations [4]. The archival material provides an essential foundation on which to build current and future research, and to which researchers return with new questions, methods and perspectives to gain a more complete picture of the lives of our ancestors.

As the second year of the Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki Papers and Artifacts Project continues, look out for more highlights from both the archival and artifact collections of Ralph and Rose Solecki!

Thank you to Drs. Ralph, Rose, John, and William Solecki Dr. Melinda Zeder, curator emeritus in the NMNH Department of Anthropology the staff of the National Anthropological Archives and the NMNH Department of Anthropology the Solecki Project volunteers, Michelle Fuentes, Kennis Pieper, and Taylor Reynolds the Fall 2018 interns, Matthew Capece, Sophia Carroll, and Tiffany Priest Winter Break Intern Moni Islam and Spring 2019 interns Viridiana Garcia and Kayla Kubehl for their diligent work and overall support of the Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki Papers and Artifacts Project. Thank you to Dr. Emma Pomeroy of the University of Cambridge for contributing updates on the current archaeological work at Shanidar Cave. The Ralph S. and Rose L. Solecki Papers and Artifacts Project was made possible by two grants from the Smithsonian Institution’s Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Molly Kamph, Project Archivist and Archaeological Collections Technician
Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History



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Shanidar Cave

We came from Dohuk, and the region is stunning. I'm not overstating this. It's truly beautiful. The people are friendly and accommodating. The region is predominantly Muslim, but relaxed. Kurdish people are mixed (Christian, Muslim, Yazidi), and tend to the view that your religious persuasion is your own affair. There is a bridge decked with Kurdistan flags about 25 minutes from Shanidar (Rezan Bridge) and there are eateries to right and left. We went to the Rubar Restaurant (on the right, which is also the Kurdish name of the river), and it was so well worth it. There is also a hotel here. Might be worth checking up. I didn't visit it, but it looked really very nice. The food was excellent. It was a Friday, so it was VERY busy, but the service was excellent, as was the food. HIGHLY recommended.

Shanidar has a parking lot (no toilets!) about 500m below the cave entrance. It's a hike in the summer heat, so if you're not physically fit, then I recommend that you either take your time, or perhaps avoid. Which is a shame. There are steps on a switchback type format leading to the cave entrance. BRING WATER. LOTS OF WATER. The cave is, well, it's a cave, and they're still excavating. We talked with the archaeologists for a bit, but that's not the point. You're looking at really ancient history going back 80,000 years. The cave was occupied by Neanderthals, so I guess it's a bit special.

Watch the video: Neanderthal Cave Excavated. Shanidar. Human Evolution. Neanderthals


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