Lagar Velho: Tattersall's response

A heated scientific wrangle has arisen from competing interpretations of the Lagar Velho skeleton found in Portugal. Following is Ian Tattersall's reply to an article by Eric Trinkaus and João Zilhão.

Together with colleagues, Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University, has published in the PNAS a description and interpretation of the child's skeleton recently discovered at Lagar Velho, Portugal. It was accompanied by a polite, if critical, commentary by Ian Tattersall of the AMNH, and Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh.

Trinkaus has now posted on the Internet an intemperate, inappropriate, and inaccurate (not to mention defamatory) attack on our commentary and on ourselves. In our view this extraordinary screed represents a grave abuse of the privilege of unfettered communication that is conferred by the Internet.

For any who might be interested, the text of Tattersall's deliberately short response to Trinkaus follows:

Dear Erik:

I have inevitably seen your internet response to Jeff's and my commentary on your Lagar Velho article. I am saddened that you have chosen to view our commentary as a personal attack, which is something we were at pains to avoid. You must have been aware that your claims were bound to generate controversy, and we tried to be as diplomatic as well as honest as possible in our commentary. I am also saddened that you have chosen to respond by portraying us all over the internet as self-deluding and intellectually dishonest incompetents with a mission to denigrate the Neanderthals. However much we may disagree on technical issues, this type of reaction has no place in scientific discourse. We intended no disrespect to you and your colleagues either personally or as scientists, as any dispassionate reading of our commentary would instantly suggest. You will thus understand that we are both hurt and disappointed by your ad hominem response. We hope in future to continue our discourse on a more civilized level, and that you will also see fit to post this note on your Lagar Velho website.

With best regards,

Ian Tattersall, American Museum of Natural History

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