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Felix Riede

On Research History and Neanderthal Occupation at its Northern Margins

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Epistemology and research history significantly shape scientific understandings, debates, and publication strategies, albeit often implicitly. In Palaeolithic archaeology in particular, these factors are rarely examined in depth. Here, we present a historiographic analysis of how research history has influenced the debate concerning the possible Neanderthal occupation in Scandinavia. We provide a qualitative discussion of this contentious research field as well as a citation network analysis that visualizes, quantifies, and hence clarifies some of the underlying conceptual, geographic, and temporal patterns in the development of the debate. Our results show significant regionalism as a structuring principle driving this debate as well as a basic rift between professional and avocational archaeologists in how they interpret and publish the available data. We also identify a troubling lack of cross-referencing, even when taking language barriers into account. We argue that the debate about Neanderthal occupation in Scandinavia has been shaped (negatively) by the following phenomena: regionalism, nationalism, lack of research and researchers, non-cumulative work, publication in Nordic languages, science by press release/sensationalism, and a lamentable trend towards arguments ad hominem. In order to take this research field forward, we propose an epistemological turn towards a cumulative, international, and hypothesis-driven agenda based on renewed research efforts and novel citizen science tools.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Archaeology
Volume21
Issue4
Pages (from-to)506-527
Number of pages22
ISSN1461-9571
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018

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