On Research History and Neanderthal Occupation at its Northern Margins

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


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
Pages (from-to)506-527
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

Press/Media items

ID: 119294881