The Mesozoic Park: A Snapshot in Time part 2 - The Daohugou Biota

In the first post of this pair (see: we discussed the Jehol formation in China, the best example of an early Cretaceous environment, preserved like Pompeii by a series of volcanic eruptions pushing dead animals into lakes and burying them in the ash that fossilised them.

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Geertz rejects the Enlightenment view of man:

The Enlightenment view of man was, of course, that he was wholly of a piece with nature and shared in the general uniformity of composition which natural science, under Bacon’s urging and Newton’s guidance, had discovered there. There is, in brief, a human nature as regularly organized, as thoroughly invariant, and as marvelously simple as Newton’s universe.

Geertz does not accept this view! Geertz believes, instead that man is completely dependent on his context. Geertz’s anthropology is one much more dynamic, shifting, and dialogic than that of the 19th century.

This article proposes various concepts of note:

  • the STRATIGRAPHIC CONCEPTION: “In this conception, man is a composite of ‘levels,’ each superimposed upon those beneath it and underpinning those above it. As one analyzes man, one peels off layer after layer, each such layer being complete and irreducible in itself, revealing another, quite different sort of layer underneath.” (37)
  • culture as CONTROL MECHANISMS (as opposed to “complexes of concrete behavior patterns”) (44)

All these concepts ultimately point towards Geertz’s prizing of the concept of “culture” as a layer that explains a mutable and diverse “human nature”.

On page 49, Geertz emphasizes that there is no human nature independent of culture. I will end with what seems to me to be a most Geertzian argument, that of the primacy of particularities in explaining humanity:

We must, in short, descend into detail, past the misleading tags, past the metaphysical types, past the empty similarities to grasp firmly the essential character of not only the various cultures but the various sorts of individuals within each culture, if we wish to encounter humanity face to face.


At the headwaters of the English Channel river: considering Late Neanderthal archaeology in the Sussex Weald 

  • by Matt Pope, Lesley Blundell, Hannah Cutler and Beccy Scott

“The Cretaceous landscapes of the Weald, in southern Britain, have been largely bypassed by Palaeolithic research for almost a century. After the betrayal of Piltdown, the moderate interest held in the river gravels of the region waned and the finds from the interfluves were largely restricted to isolated handaxes perceived as offering little research potential. But the results of recent excavations carried out at the site of Beedings in West Sussex, suggest that the potential of Wealden geologies in general and the Lower Greensand in particular should be reconsidered. The excavations revealed local capture points in the form of fissures within bedrock (gulls) preserving Late Middle Palaeolithic (LMP) and Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) material in broad stratigraphic succession at shallow depth and within datable, fine-grained sediments. Encouraged by Roger Jacobi, who suggested to us a wider consideration of Palaeolithic archaeology from the Lower Greens and of Sussex, we present in this paper an overview of isolated finds in the Weald and consider what they might be able to tell us about both processes of artefact preservation and the potential landscape preferences of late Neanderthal populations. More generally we outline a framework in which the data provided by these ‘interfluve’ records can begin to bring areas of the landscape away from the river terraces under closer scrutiny, offering research directions which can begin to address the role Plateau, Interfluve and Escarpment edge (PIE) locations played in Palaeolithic settlement. The paper concludes by proposing a Unified Palaeolithic Landscape Approach, one which integrates the entire landscapes record at a regional scale into a model of past human activity and geomorphological change. We suggest that until a more unified account of the record is attempted and PIE contexts addressed directly by British Palaeolithic research and then integrated with that of similar landscapes on the near continent, we run the risk of developing interpretations of the record which are unhelpfully skewed towards the records of fluvial environments” (read more/open access).

(Open access source: Ashton N & Harris C. 2015. No Stone Unturned Papers in Honour of Roger Jacobi. LondonLithics Study Society via; top image: Peter Lorimer)

there is a contempt.  a syntax of latent contempt, little quakes set it loose out to bubble up now and then.  such small regard

be careful of your tells, of your tells of tells.  they are none of them so discreet, so stratigraphic as you might think when yr not taking care.  plenty know how to read, how to make rope without being given any.  smug won’t be dissembled, not really.  not behind a pageant of anxiety, a semaphore of authentic warmth.  about as opaque as a periscope.

Reginald Aldworth Daly - Geologist
March 18, 1871 – September 19, 1957

Reginald Aldworth Daly was a Canadian geologist.

While working for the Canadian International Boundary Commission, working in six field seasons, Daly mapped the border from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Plains, a rugged swath 400 miles long and 5 to 10 miles wide – an area of about 2,500 square miles. He documented the geology alone, but had the help of one field assistant and numerous wranglers and porters. He collected 1,500 rock specimens and made 960 thin sections, using a German polishing technique he learnt as a student. The project also included 1,300 photographs, dozens of lake soundings, stratigraphic and structural mapping, petrology, and morphology. In 1912, he filed his final report with the Geological Survey of Canada, a massive 3-volume tome he called North America Cordillera: Forty-Ninth Parallel. This work along the 49th parallel led him to formulate a theory of the origins of igneous rocks, and later publish his seminal work Igneous Rocks and Their Origin in 1914.

Photo:  Wikipedia


Preliminary results from new Palaeolithic open-air sites near Bayonne(south-western France)

  • by David Colonge, Emilie Claud, Marianne Deschamps, Christophe Fourloubey, Marion Hernandez, Farid Sellami, with the collaboration of Lars Anderson, Nathalie Busseuil, Nick Debenham, Henri Garon and Magen O'Farrell

“Rescue archeology operations conducted by INRAP (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives) over the past five years on the eastern plateaus of Bayonne (south-western France) have contributed significant new elements to our knowledge of the Paleolithic occupations of Basque Country. New stratigraphic data, combined with numerical dating techniques, have enabled us to develop a new and reliable chronology for the region, enabling a better understanding of the evolution of the landscape since the end of the Middle Pleistocene. A brief Gravettian occupation, unusual in the classic Pyrenean context, provides evidence for complex economic and territorial strategies. Several late Mousterian occupations show an intensive and complementary exploitation during MIS 3, while the Patinated Mousterian lithic assemblages from MIS 5 may correspond to the oft-argued “classic” low mobility strategies of Neandertal groups. Despite their disturbed conditions, the Acheulean assemblages, pre-dating the Eemian, are mostly composed of  flint and raise new questions regarding their Cantabriane-Pyrenean context, where coarse stones usually dominate” (read more/open access).

(Open access source: Quaternary International 364:109-125, 2015 via

Upon transport to the ocean, sediment can be transported further by wave-induced longshore sediment transport in delta-shoreface depositional systems. Nonetheless, the nature of relations between sediment supply and wave reworking is poorly understood, yet has implications regarding shoreline and stratigraphic evolution. Using a numerical model of shoreline dynamics, Li et al. quantify the relation between wave-induced longshore sediment transport and shoreline orientation under conditions of steady sea level, and apply the insights to a case study of the Po delta-shoreface system. The results reveal that a decrease in delta progradation rate can in part be considered as an autogenic response to steady wave conditions offshore. They conclude by suggesting that wave-induced longshore sediment transport can markedly impact deltaic and adjacent shoreface shoreline progradation rates, and as such, has sequence stratigraphic implications as well.

Stan Finney, a geologist at California State University at Long Beach, current chair of the International Commission of Stratigraphy, and one of the biggest Anthropocene sceptics, doesn’t deny that human activity is impacting the planet at an unprecedented scale and speed. His major issue is a logical fallacy in the pursuit of geological formalisation. ‘In the Holocene we have all the human records, so we don’t need to use the stratigraphic record,’ Finney says. ‘Why use an interpretive time scale when you have direct observations? We don’t know if the buildings and excavations that are relics of humans will leave traces in sediments, but we do have exact numbers and dates for when they were laid down.’

Finney and other geologists are baffled by the category error of using stratigraphy as an authority on human activities over the past 70 years, today, and into the future. Why, they wonder, are we looking for evidence in low‑resolution – subtle signals buried underground – when we already have super‑high-definition effects playing out right in front of our face? Why the obsession with rocks, when we have historical records, data on hard drives and CDs?