Aggiornamento 31 dicembre

The Origins of the Concept of ‘Palaeolithic Art’: Theoretical Roots of an Idea, di E. Palacio-Pérez, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", December 2013, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 682-714

This paper explores the origin and theoretical roots of the concept of ‘Palaeolithic art’ in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (1895–1906). It identifies three main sources for this concept: the Western category of ‘art’, the idea of evolution and the notion of primitive. This article shows how the traditional conception of ‘Palaeolithic art’ is a particular case of the wider idea of ‘primitive art’, a category that was born as an attempt to harmonise the notion of ‘primitive society’ and the nineteenth-century bourgeois concept of ‘art’. Additionally, I discuss this traditional conception as the source of a number of ideas that have persisted in our way of interpreting Palaeolithic images until recently, including the understanding of prehistoric images through the lens of the modern notion of ‘art’, their interpretation in symbolic-religious terms and their formal definition based on the idea of naturalism.

Alternative Pathways to Complexity: Evolutionary Trajectories in the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age, "Current Anthropology", Vol. 54, No. S8, December 2013

- Alternative Pathways to Complexity: Evolutionary Trajectories in the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age: Wenner-Gren Symposium Supplement 8 (pp. S173-S175), di L. C. Aiello

- Alternative Pathways to Complexity: Evolutionary Trajectories in the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age: An Introduction to Supplement 8 (pp. S176-S182), di S. L. Kuhn, E. Hovers

- Paleoclimate Variability in the Mediterranean and Red Sea Regions during the Last 500,000 Years: Implications for Hominin Migrations (pp. S183-S201), di E. J. Rohling, K. M. Grant, A. P. Roberts, J. C. Larrasoaña

- Neanderthal Demographic Estimates (pp. S202-S213), di J. P. Bocquet-Appel, A. Degioanni

- Agreements and Misunderstandings among Three Scientific Fields: Paleogenomics, Archaeology, and Human Paleontology (pp. S214-S220), di C. Lalueza-Fox

- Hominin Evolution in the Middle-Late Pleistocene: Fossils, Adaptive Scenarios, and Alternatives (pp. S221-S233), di O. M. Pearson

- Variability in the Middle Stone Age of Eastern Africa (pp. S234-S254), di C. A. Tryon, J. T. Faith

- Roots of the Middle Paleolithic in Eurasia (pp. S255-S268), di S. L. Kuhn

- The Evolutionary Implications of Variation in Human Hunting Strategies and Diet Breadth during the Middle Stone Age of Southern Africa (pp. S269-S287), di J. L. Clark, A. W. Kandel

- An Unshakable Middle Paleolithic? Trends versus Conservatism in the Predatory Niche and Their Social Ramifications (pp. S288-S304), di M. C. Stiner

- Technological Trends in the Middle Stone Age of South Africa between MIS 7 and MIS 3 (pp. S305-S319), di S. Wurz 

- Change and Stasis in the Iberian Middle Paleolithic: Considerations on the Significance of Mousterian Technological Variability (pp. S320-S336), di I. de la Torre, J. Martínez-Moreno, R. Mora

- On Variability and Complexity: Lessons from the Levantine Middle Paleolithic Record (pp. S337-S357), di E. Hovers, A. Belfer-Cohen

- Paleolithic Cultures in China: Uniqueness and Divergence (pp. S358-S370), di X. Gao

- Identifying Mechanisms behind Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age Cultural Trajectories (pp. S371-S387), di F. d’Errico, W. E. Banks

- Population Size as an Explanation for Patterns in the Paleolithic Archaeological Record: More Caution Is Needed (pp. S388-S396), di M. Collard, B. Buchanan, M. J. O’Brien

- Measuring the Complexity of Lithic Technology (pp. S397-S406), di C. Perreault, P. J. Brantingham, S. L. Kuhn, S. Wurz, X. Gao

Les gisements de Galería, Gran Dolina TD10 et Ambrona (le Complexe Inférieur) : trois modèles technologiques dans le deuxième tiers du Pléistocène moyen, di M. Terradillos-Bernal, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 5, November–December 2013, Pages 494–514

En Europe, le deuxième tiers du Pléistocène moyen est une période clef dans laquelle le peuplement humain augmente, il y a plus de lieux occupés et les hominidés commencent à utiliser le feu. Le Mode 2 se généralise, le Mode 3 commence à apparaître et la méthode d’exploitation Levallois s’étend. Dans ce laps de temps, les occupations de Galería, de Gran Dolina et d’Ambrona se développent. Ce sont trois gisements du Plateau Nord avec des séquences archéologiques très complètes et de long développement. Ces gisements représentent trois modèles technologiques différents, déterminés par : la qualité des matières premières employées, le contrôle et la sécurité du gisement, le temps investi dans la taille, les caractéristiques des tranchants actifs, la fonctionnalité et les traditions culturelles.

Les matières premières, la technologie lithique et les stratégies d’occupation dans le site du Pléistocène moyen de Covacha de los Zarpazos (gisement de Galería, Sierra de Atapuerca, Espagne), di P. García-Medranoa, A. Ollé, C. Díezc, E. Carbonell, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 5, November–December 2013, Pages 515–540

La variabilité est l’un des sujets les plus débattus dans les études lithiques. En ce qui concerne la période du Pléistocène moyen, ce débat s’est centré spécifiquement autour de la signification des grands outils standardisés comme les bifaces et les hachereaux. Cet article présente l’assemblage lithique de Covacha de los Zarpazos qui fait partie du gisement de Galería à la Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Espagne). Nous analysons ici la gestion des matières premières, les séquences de taille identifiées, et la variation morphologique des grands outils standardisés. Les résultats montrent que, bien qu’elles ne présentent aucune contrainte réelle, les matières premières jouent un rôle important dans la variabilité morphologique définitive. Nous démontrons également que la variabilité globale d’un ensemble lithique est déterminée par une stratégie d’occupation régulière et des activités spécifiques développées dans le site.

Néandertal et le feu au Paléolithique moyen ancien. Tour d’horizon des traces de son utilisation dans le Nord de la France, di D. Hérisson, J. L. Locht, P. Auguste, A. Tuffreau, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 5, November–December 2013, Pages 541–578

Cet article a pour but de dresser un bilan des traces d’utilisation du feu par les premiers Néandertaliens du Nord de la France, durant la seconde partie du Saalien (SIM 8 à 6). Ce tour d’horizon rappelle la rareté des témoignages de feu durant la phase ancienne du Paléolithique moyen (300–130 ka BP) à l’échelle de l’Europe du Nord-Ouest. Pour le Nord de la France, seuls les gisements de Biache-Saint-Vaast et Therdonne présentent des vestiges de combustion. À Biache-Saint-Vaast, ce n’est pas moins de six niveaux qui présentent des indices de combustion : silex et restes fauniques brûlés et parfois charbons de bois. À Therdonne, en plus de nombreux silex et quelques rares restes fauniques brûlés, ont été mis au jour lors de la fouille du niveau N3 plusieurs zones riches en résidus organiques et micro-charbons de bois. L’ensemble des données recueillies concernant les témoins de combustion à Biache-Saint-Vaast et Therdonne est compilé, analysé et interprété. Cette démarche débouche sur l’établissement de l’utilisation du feu ou son absence dans les occupations saaliennes des Néandertaliens de France septentrionale et à une discussion concernant les modalités de son utilisation notamment à Therdonne. En conclusion est brièvement discuté le statut du feu dans les premières occupations néandertaliennes et ses implications.

The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains, di K. Prüfer et alii, "Nature", doi:10.1038/nature12886, 18 December 2013

We present a high-quality genome sequence of a Neanderthal woman from Siberia. We show that her parents were related at the level of half-siblings and that mating among close relatives was common among her recent ancestors. We also sequenced the genome of a Neanderthal from the Caucasus to low coverage. An analysis of the relationships and population history of available archaic genomes and 25 present-day human genomes shows that several gene flow events occurred among Neanderthals, Denisovans and early modern humans, possibly including gene flow into Denisovans from an unknown archaic group. Thus, interbreeding, albeit of low magnitude, occurred among many hominin groups in the Late Pleistocene. In addition, the high-quality Neanderthal genome allows us to establish a definitive list of substitutions that became fixed in modern humans after their separation from the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

· Genome of Neandertals Reveals Inbreeding, "Science NOW", 18 December 2013

· Le parentele dei Neanderthal raccontate dal DNA, "Le Scienze", 19 dicembre 2013

· L'amore proibito dei Neandertal, di D. Vergano, "National Geographic Italia", 23 dicembre 2013

Paleolithic Ecodynamics in southern Iberia, "Quaternary International", Volume 318, Pages 1-138 (18 December 2013), edited by Jonathan Haws and Nuno Bicho

- Paleolithic ecodynamics in southern Iberia, di J. Haws, N. Bicho

- Neanderthal diets in central and southeastern Mediterranean Iberia, di D. C. Salazar-García, R. C. Power, A. Sanchis Serra, V. Villaverde, M. J. Walker, A. G. Henry

- A model for raw material management as a response to local and global environmental constraints, di T. Pereira, M. M. Benedetti

- Osseous industry and exploitation of animal resources in Southern Iberia during the Upper Palaeolithic, di M. Évora

- Mobility, settlement, and resource patchiness in Upper Paleolithic Iberia, di E. Lena Jones

- In glacial environments beyond glacial terrains: Human eco-dynamics in late Pleistocene Mediterranean, di C. M. Barton, V. Villaverde, J. Zilhão, J. Emili Aura, O. Garcia, E. Badal

- The beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in the Baetic Mountain area (Spain), di P. de la Peña

- Lithic technology variability and human ecodynamics during the Early Gravettian of Southern Iberian Peninsula, di J. Marreiros, N. Bicho

- The ecodynamics of the first modern humans in Southwestern Iberia: The case of Vale Boi, Portugal, di N. Bicho, T. Manne, J. Marreiros, J. Cascalheira, T. Pereira, F. Tátá, M. Évora, C. Gonçalves, L. Infantini

- Hunter–gatherer ecodynamics and the impact of the Heinrich event 2 in Central and Southern Portugal, di J. Cascalheira, N. Bicho

- The sources of the glacial IRD in the NW Iberian Continental Margin over the last 40 ka, di
V. A. Martins, J. F. Santos, A. Mackensen, J. Alveirinho Dias, S. Ribeiro, J. C. Moreno, A. M. Soares, F. Frontalini, D. Rey, F. Rocha

Evidence supporting an intentional Neandertal burial at La Chapelle-aux-Saints, di W. Rendu et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Early Edition", December 16, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316780110 

The bouffia Bonneval at La Chapelle-aux-Saints is well known for the discovery of the first secure Neandertal burial in the early 20th century. However, the intentionality of the burial remains an issue of some debate. Here, we present the results of a 12-y fieldwork project, along with a taphonomic analysis of the human remains, designed to assess the funerary context of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neandertal. We have established the anthropogenic nature of the burial pit and underlined the taphonomic evidence of a rapid burial of the body. These multiple lines of evidence support the hypothesis of an intentional burial. Finally, the discovery of skeletal elements belonging to the original La Chapelle aux Saints 1 individual, two additional young individuals, and a second adult in the bouffia Bonneval highlights a more complex site-formation history than previously proposed.

· Le sepolture dei Neanderthal, "Le Scienze", 17 dicembre 2013

· L'eterno riposo del Neandertal, di K. Thar, "National Geographic Italia", 17 dicembre 2013

Early Pleistocene third metacarpal from Kenya and the evolution of modern human-like hand morphology, di C. V. Ward, M. W. Tocheri, J. M. Plavcan, F. H. Brown, F. Kyalo Manthi, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Early Edition", December 16, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316014110 

Despite discoveries of relatively complete hands from two early hominin species (Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus sediba) and partial hands from another (Australopithecus afarensis), fundamental questions remain about the evolution of human-like hand anatomy and function. These questions are driven by the paucity of hand fossils in the hominin fossil record between 800,000 and 1.8 My old, a time interval well documented for the emergence and subsequent proliferation of Acheulian technology (shaped bifacial stone tools). Modern and Middle to Late Pleistocene humans share a suite of derived features in the thumb, wrist, and radial carpometacarpal joints that is noticeably absent in early hominins. Here we show that one of the most distinctive features of this suite in the Middle Pleistocene to recent human hand, the third metacarpal styloid process, was present ~1.42 Mya in an East African hominin from Kaitio, West Turkana, Kenya. This fossil thus provides the earliest unambiguous evidence for the evolution of a key shared derived characteristic of modern human and Neandertal hand morphology and suggests that the distinctive complex of radial carpometacarpal joint features in the human hand arose early in the evolution of the genus Homo and probably in Homo erectus sensu lato.

Site Distribution at the Edge of the Palaeolithic World: A Nutritional Niche Approach, di A. G. Brown, L. S. Basell, S. Robinson, G. C. Burdge, "PLoSONE", December 10, 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081476 - open access -

This paper presents data from the English Channel area of Britain and Northern France on the spatial distribution of Lower to early Middle Palaeolithic pre-MIS5 interglacial sites which are used to test the contention that the pattern of the richest sites is a real archaeological distribution and not of taphonomic origin. These sites show a marked concentration in the middle-lower reaches of river valleys with most being upstream of, but close to, estimated interglacial tidal limits. A plant and animal database derived from Middle-Late Pleistocene sites in the region is used to estimate the potentially edible foods and their distribution in the typically undulating landscape of the region. This is then converted into the potential availability of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) and selected micronutrients. The floodplain is shown to be the optimum location in the nutritional landscape (nutriscape). In addition to both absolute and seasonal macronutrient advantages the floodplains could have provided foods rich in key micronutrients, which are linked to better health, the maintenance of fertility and minimization of infant mortality. Such places may have been seen as ‘good (or healthy) places’ explaining the high number of artefacts accumulated by repeated visitation over long periods of time and possible occupation. The distribution of these sites reflects the richest aquatic and wetland successional habitats along valley floors. Such locations would have provided foods rich in a wide range of nutrients, importantly including those in short supply at these latitudes. When combined with other benefits, the high nutrient diversity made these locations the optimal niche in northwest European mixed temperate woodland environments. It is argued here that the use of these nutritionally advantageous locations as nodal or central points facilitated a healthy variant of the Palaeolithic diet which permitted habitation at the edge of these hominins’ range. (...)

Elusive Denisovans Sighted in Oldest Human DNA, di A. Gibbons, "Science", 6 December 2013: Vol. 342 no. 6163 p. 1156 

Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and thought to have lived across Asia. Now, traces of them have turned up in an unexpected place—Spain. In a technical feat, researchers sequenced the oldest human DNA yet, retrieving an almost complete mitochondrial genome from a 300,000- to 400,000-year-old sliver of human bone found in Spain's Atapuerca Mountains. To their surprise, this proto-Neandertal yielded ancestral Denisovan DNA.

First Partial Skeleton of a 1.34-Million-Year-Old Paranthropus boisei from Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, di M. Domínguez-Rodrigo et alii, "PLoSONE", December 05, 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080347 - open access -

Recent excavations in Level 4 at BK (Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania) have yielded nine hominin teeth, a distal humerus fragment, a proximal radius with much of its shaft, a femur shaft, and a tibia shaft fragment (cataloged collectively as OH 80). Those elements identified more specifically than to simply Hominidae gen. et sp. indet are attributed to Paranthropus boisei. Before this study, incontrovertible P. boisei partial skeletons, for which postcranial remains occurred in association with taxonomically diagnostic craniodental remains, were unknown. Thus, OH 80 stands as the first unambiguous, dentally associated Paranthropus partial skeleton from East Africa. The morphology and size of its constituent parts suggest that the fossils derived from an extremely robust individual who, at 1.338±0.024 Ma (1 sigma), represents one of the most recent occurrences of Paranthropus before its extinction in East Africa. (...)

A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos, di M. Meyer, Q. Fu, A. Aximu-Petri, I. Glocke, B. Nickel, J. L. Arsuaga, I. Martínez, A. Gracia, J. M. Bermúdez de Castro, E. Carbonell, S. Pääbo, "Nature", doi:10.1038/nature12788, 04 December 2013

Excavations of a complex of caves in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain have unearthed hominin fossils that range in age from the early Pleistocene to the Holocene. One of these sites, the ‘Sima de los Huesos’ (‘pit of bones’), has yielded the world’s largest assemblage of Middle Pleistocene hominin fossils, consisting of at least 28 individuals4 dated to over 300,000 years ago5. The skeletal remains share a number of morphological features with fossils classified as Homo heidelbergensis and also display distinct Neanderthal-derived traits6, 7, 8. Here we determine an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos and show that it is closely related to the lineage leading to mitochondrial genomes of Denisovans9, 10, an eastern Eurasian sister group to Neanderthals. Our results pave the way for DNA research on hominins from the Middle Pleistocene.

· Hominin DNA baffles experts, di E. Callaway, "Nature", 04 December 2013

· Ha 400.000 anni il più antico DNA umano mai scoperto, "Le Scienze", 05 dicembre 2013

New evidence suggests Neanderthals organized their living spaces, 3-Dec-2013

Scientists have found that Neanderthals organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans, a discovery that once again shows similarities between these two close cousins. The findings, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, indicate that Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters. "There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans," said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. "But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space." The findings are based on excavations at Riparo Bombrini, a collapsed rock shelter in northwest Italy where both Neanderthals and, later, early humans lived for thousands of years. This study focused on the Neanderthal levels while future research will examine the more recent modern human levels at the site. The goal is to compare how the two groups organized their space. (...)

Early Tree-Dwelling Bipedal Human Ancestor Was Similar to Ancient Apes and 'Lucy' but Not Living Apes, Dec. 4, 2013 

In the research paper, titled "The femur of Orrorin tugenensis exhibits morphometric affinities with both Micoene apes and later hominins," Lead Investigator Sergio Almécija, PhD, a Research Instructor from the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and co-authors clarify and contextualize Orrorin tugenensis, or Millenium Man's place in human and ape evolution. The team completed 3D geometric morphometric analyses on the shape and characteristics of the femur of Orrorin, which revealed its morphology to be an "intermediate" between fossil apes and later human ancestors (hominins). The findings opens a new avenue in bipedal evolution research as they illustrate that hominins and living apes evolved in different directions from fossil apes from the Miocene (23 to 5 million years ago). (...)

· The femur of Orrorin tugenensis exhibits morphometric affinities with both Miocene apes and later hominins, di
S. Almécija et alii, "Nature Communications", 03 December 2013, doi:10.1038/ncomms3888

Comportement des Homo heidelbergensis au Lazaret il y a 160 000 ans, di P. Valensi, V. Michel, K. El Guennouni, M. Liouville, 27/11/13

Nouvelles données sur le comportement humain d’après un niveau d’occupation de la grotte du Lazaret (sud-est de la France), vieux de 160 000 ans. Apport archéozoologique. (...)

Aggiornamento 24 novembre

Plant foods in the Upper Palaeolithic at Dolní Vestonice? Parenchyma redux, di A. J.E. Pryor, M. Steele, M. K. Jones, J. Svoboda, D. G. Beresford-Jones, "Antiquity", Issue 338 - December 2013, Volume: 87 Number: 338 Page: 971–984 

The classic image of Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in Europe envisages them hunting large mammals in largely treeless landscapes. That is partly due to the nature of the surviving archaeological evidence, and the poor preservation of plant remains at such ancient sites. As this study illustrates, however, the potential of Upper Palaeolithic sites to yield macrofossil remains of plants gathered and processed by human groups has been underestimated. Large scale flotation of charred deposits from hearths such as that reported here at Dolní Vӗstonice II not only provides insight into the variety of flora that may have been locally available, but also suggests that some of it was being processed and consumed as food. The ability to exploit plant foods may have been a vital component in the successful colonisation of these cold European habitats.

The depiction of the individual in prehistory: human representations in Magdalenian societies, di O. Fuentes, "Antiquity", Issue 338 - December 2013, Volume: 87 Number: 338 Page: 985–1000 

The Magdalenian stage of the Upper Palaeolithic is renowned for its ‘art’, both in the form of portable objects and of motifs and depictions on cave walls. Many of these portray animals, with human imagery playing a relatively minor role. Systematic analysis of human images from three separate zones of south-western France demonstrates that different styles of image were chosen by different communities. The evocative power of the human form, and the conceptual importance of the human image as a depiction of the self, highlights the significance of these Magdalenian representations. Particular attention is drawn to the realistic styles of portrayal employed in some parts of the region. This, it is argued, betokens the arrival of the individual, and the regional styles illustrate the presence of separate Magdalenian territories, occupied by communities that were in contact with one another but that chose different approaches to the human form as expressions of group identity.

A critique of evidence for human occupation of Europe older than the Jaramillo subchron (~1 Ma): Comment on ‘The oldest human fossil in Europe from Orce (Spain)’ by Toro-Moyano et al. (2013), di G. Muttoni, G. Scardia, D. V. Kent, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 6, December 2013, Pages 746–749

 

Primate brains, the ‘island rule’ and the evolution of Homo floresiensis, di S. H. Montgomery, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 6, December 2013, Pages 750–760

The taxonomic status of the small bodied hominin, Homo floresiensis, remains controversial. One contentious aspect of the debate concerns the small brain size estimated for specimen LB1 (Liang Bua 1). Based on intraspecific mammalian allometric relationships between brain and body size, it has been argued that the brain of LB1 is too small for its body mass and is therefore likely to be pathological. The relevance and general applicability of these scaling rules has, however, been challenged, and it is not known whether highly encephalized primates adapt to insular habitats in a consistent manner. Here, an analysis of brain and body size evolution in seven extant insular primates reveals that although insular primates follow the ‘island rule’, having consistently reduced body masses compared with their mainland relatives, neither brain mass nor relative brain size follow similar patterns, contrary to expectations that energetic constraints will favour decreased relative brain size. Brain:body scaling relationships previously used to assess the plausibility of dwarfism in H. floresiensis tend to underestimate body masses of insular primates. In contrast, under a number of phylogenetic scenarios, the evolution of brain and body mass in H. floresiensis is consistent with patterns observed in other insular primates.

Continuous dental eruption identifies Sts 5 as the developmentally oldest fossil hominin and informs the taxonomy of Australopithecus africanus, di B. Villmoare, K. Kuykendall, T.C. Raed C.S. Brimacombe, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 6, December 2013, Pages 798–805

The relatively small Australopithecus africanus specimen Sts 5 has figured prominently in taxonomic debates, and the determination of this specimen as a young male or an elderly female has the potential to offer a great deal of resolution on this question. Sts 5 has been argued to be either a small, immature male or a mature female based on a variety of characters. A proposed model of continuous root remodeling and angular change for heavily worn dentition may account for the extremely short tooth roots, particularly for the anterior dentition, that Sts 5 demonstrates. The anterior tooth roots of Sts 5 are oriented vertically (relative to the alveolar plane), unlike those found in most other apes, humans, and fossil specimens, in which the tooth roots are roughly parallel with the plane of the nasoalveolar clivus. Computed tomography (CT) data of adult apes were examined and a relationship between the angle of the anterior tooth roots and their length was discovered, caused by heavily worn anterior dentition continuing to erupt to maintain occlusion. The extremely short and vertically oriented anterior roots observed in Sts 5 thus suggest that the specimen represents an aged female specimen with extremely worn dentition. Interestingly, this reorientation of anterior tooth roots helps account for the unusual nasoalveolar contour of Sts 5. The remodeling associated with the heavily worn teeth and reoriented roots thus resolves the taxonomic question raised by analyses identifying unusual prognathism of this small specimen.

The spatial distribution of Palaeolithic human settlements and its influence on palaeoecological studies: a case from Northern Iberia, di P. Turrero, M. J. Domínguez-Cuesta, M. Jiménez-Sánchez, E. García-Vázquez, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 40, Issue 12, December 2013, Pages 4127–4138

The aim of this study is to assess the influence of human site location choice on biogeographical and paleoecological studies based on archaeological remains, through a case study in north-western Spain. Data from an exhaustive literature survey and field trips were managed with GIS and subjected to statistical analyses. The results show that the influence of the different variables shifted through the Palaeolithic, although certain general preferences can be seen: low altitudes (median: 151 m a.s.l.), South-facing surfaces, generally gentle slopes (median: 13°) and moderate distances to water courses (median: 297 m). These choices were conditioned by geomorphological factors, with LGM glacier extent imposing an upper limit in the range of occupied altitudes and marine and fluvial terraces conditioning site location patterns. The results suggest that human site location patterns during the Palaeolithic were not random, conditioning the information available from archaeological remains. Our results allow us to identify some key areas where information on past faunal distributions, and more generally on biocoenoses, will be scarce or missing.

On the spatial and technological organisation of hafting modifications in the North African Middle Stone Age, di E. M.L. Scerri, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 40, Issue 12, December 2013, Pages 4234–4248

Aterian stone tools represent one of the clearest indications of technological regionalisation in the North African Middle Stone Age. Found in association with Homo sapiens skeletal remains and more recently with symbolic material culture, the Aterian is widely thought to reflect modern human identity and cognition. As a lithic industry, the Aterian has been primarily defined by the presence of stemmed or tanged tools, but there has been little quantitative study of the relationship between tangs and other forms of hafting modifications, such as shouldering and basal thinning. Understanding the diversity of these features and their relationships with one another will clarify the organisation and adaptations of North African populations during Marine Isotope Stage 5 (MIS 5, ~130–70,000 years ago), a critical timespan for modern human dispersal. This paper presents the results of a stepped analysis of fifteen Aterian and other non-Aterian assemblages from the same spatial and temporal bracket in North Africa. Using Correspondence Analyses together with a suite of other statistics, the results indicate that tanging represents a widely applied strategy of hafting a variety of different tools. On the other hand, basal thinning is specifically correlated with lightweight, highly retouched points. The distribution of these features appears to reflect geographical proximity and shared environments, rather than articulating with traditional named industries. This in turn suggests that a continued focus on tangs to differentiate an ‘Aterian’ from other, contemporary North African MSA industries may be obfuscating regional-scale patterns of technological diversity.

Faces of Homo floresiensis (LB1), di S. Hayes, T. Sutikna, M. Morwood, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 40, Issue 12, December 2013, Pages 4400–4410

Since being excavated in 2003, the skull of LB1 (the holotype of Homo floresiensis) has been given many faces, though the details regarding how each was accomplished are typically few. Here we detail our application of known, and verified, relationships between the skull and soft tissues of anatomically modern humans to produce an evidence-based facial approximation of LB1. We then compare our results to nine pre-existing LB1 faces using geometric morphometrics. These analyses suggest our facial approximation differs in proportional facial width, upper lip height and nasal morphology. Some of these differences are likely due to a different interpretation of taphonomic and excavation damage, application of different 'forensic' methods and/or an idiosyncratic incorporation of aspects of non-human primate morphology. Other differences, and in particular upper lip height, are less justifiable in relation to the skeletal evidence.

Minateda rock shelters (Albacete) and post-palaeolithic art of the Mediterranean Basin in Spain: pigments, surfaces and patinas, M. Mas et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 40, Issue 12, December 2013, Pages 4635–4647

The inorganic and organic fractions of two microsamples of prehistoric paint from the same site, the Minateda rock shelters, are analysed here for the first time. The two samples correspond to two rock shelters of different styles (Levantine and schematic) – Abrigo Grande de Minateda (The Great Rock Shelter of Minateda) and Abrigo del Barranco de la Mortaja (Del Barranco de la Mortaja Rock Shelter). Since its discovery, historiographical tradition has emphasised the Abrigo Grande de Minateda, with its magnificence and complexity, as emblematic of the origin and evolution of rock art in the Mediterranean Basin of the Iberian Peninsula (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Four complementary techniques –Microphotography, Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDX), Raman Spectroscopy and Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectroscopy (GC–MS)– were combined to identify and characterise the physicochemical properties of the paint and of the surface. We present an interpretation of the results that leads us to define complex taphonomic alterations beyond the usual distinction of layers that include the surface, pigments and patinas.

Neanderthal hand and foot remains from Moula-Guercy, Ardèche, France, di B. Mersey, R. S. Jabbour, K. Brudvik, A. Defleur, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 152, Issue 4, pages 516–529, December 2013

The hand and foot remains from Moula-Guercy cave (Ardèche, France) comprise 24 specimens of Eemian age (ca. 120 ka). The specimens include primarily complete elements, which are rare among the Moula-Guercy postcrania. The hand remains have several characteristic Neanderthal traits including a laterally facing (parasagittally oriented) second metacarpal-capitate articulation, a short styloid process, a wide proximal articular surface on the third metacarpal, and absolutely expanded apical tuberosities on the distal hand phalanges relative to modern humans. The foot remains include several incomplete elements along with an antimeric pair of naviculars, a medial cuneiform and cuboid, and a single complete element from each of the distal segments (one each: metatarsal, proximal foot phalanx, intermediate foot phalanx, distal foot phalanx). Consistent among the specimens are relatively wide diaphyses for length in the metatarsals and phalanges and large and prominent muscle attachments, both consistent with previously published Neanderthal morphology. The hand and foot collection from Moula-Guercy is an important dataset for future studies of Neanderthal functional morphology, dexterity, and behavior as it represents a previously undersampled time period for European Neanderthals. Am J Phys Anthropol 152:516–529, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Impact of the German Harz Mountain Weichselian ice-shield and valley glacier development onto Palaeolithic and megafauna disappearances, di C. Diedrich, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 82, 15 December 2013, Pages 167–198

Three Pleistocene stages are recorded by 3D Google-Earth geomorphology, cave sediments, river terraces, megafauna, archaeological sites of the Harz Mountain Range and its forelands of northern Germany (central Europe, peak 1141 a.s.l.). Late Pleistocene glaciation stages are modeled preliminary in valley elevations between 407 and 760 a.s.l., starting all southeast below the Brocken Ice Field (above 750 a.s.l.). The 14–11 km long Oder and Bode Valley glaciers left typical moraines, kames, or dead ice depressions, such as fluvial cave relic sediments. The Bode River glacier passed during the LGM the Rübeland Caves, where it deposited reworked kames/lateral moraines in the Baumann's Cave, which floods mixed a Neanderthal camp, leopard lair and cave bear den area. 60 km downstream, fluvial to aeolian deposits were trapped in the gypsum karst doline Westeregeln (Neanderthal camp/hyena den). Late Aurignacians replaced in the region Neanderthals, but a gap of Late Palaeolithic (Gravettian–Magdalenian – 26,000–16,000 BP) settlement, and latest starting speleothem genesis (around 24,260 ± 568 BP) correlate to the LGM, when an “arctic reindeer fauna” with alpine elements (ibex, chamois) accumulated in bone assemblages of a wolverine, polar fox, mustelid, such as European eagle owl dens, which allow landscape reconstructions.

Impossible Neanderthals? Making string, throwing projectiles and catching small game during Marine Isotope Stage 4 (Abri du Maras, France), di B. L. Hardy et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 82, 15 December 2013, Pages 23–40

Neanderthal behavior is often described in one of two contradictory ways: 1) Neanderthals were behaviorally inflexible and specialized in large game hunting or 2) Neanderthals exhibited a wide range of behaviors and exploited a wide range of resources including plants and small, fast game. Using stone tool residue analysis with supporting information from zooarchaeology, we provide evidence that at the Abri du Maras, Ardèche, France, Neanderthals were behaviorally flexible at the beginning of MIS 4. Here, Neanderthals exploited a wide range of resources including large mammals, fish, ducks, raptors, rabbits, mushrooms, plants, and wood. Twisted fibers on stone tools provide evidence of making string or cordage. Using a variety of lines of evidence, we show the presence of stone projectile tips, possibly used in complex projectile technology. This evidence shows a level of behavioral variability that is often denied to Neanderthals. Furthermore, it sheds light on perishable materials and resources that are not often recovered which should be considered more fully in reconstructions of Neanderthal behavior.

Human response to Holocene warming on the Cantabrian Coast (northern Spain): an unexpected outcome, di A. B. Marín-Arroyo, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 81, 1 December 2013, Pages 1–11

Subsistence was characterized during the Pleistocene to Holocene transition on the Cantabrian Coast (northern Spain) by a progressive diet widening, with a greater exploitation of marine environments and a more intense consumption of low-ranked species. This trend was also accompanied by a general and noticeable decrease in the amount of ungulates that were recovered from a set of archaeological sites clearly dominated by shells. The causes behind this change in the economic practice of the last hunter–gatherer groups are still being debated. There are currently two opposing views on the matter, with some scholars defending the role of demographic pressure as the main driving force, while other researchers invoke the importance of the environment in the food procurement preferences that were adopted. Due to their overwhelming abundance, the debate has been mainly focused on marine resources, whereas the comparatively less-represented macromammal assemblages have been poorly interpreted. However, it is precisely this scarcity that makes them so remarkable. Here, a new interpretation of the available data is presented, with a special focus on the identification of overhunting evidence and on the comparative productivity of each type of resource. Altogether, the demographic hypothesis seems to be more coherent with the existing facts.

Middle to Upper Palaeolithic biological and cultural shift in Eurasia II, "Quaternary International", Volume 316, Pages 1-200 (6 December 2013), edited by Laura Longo and Norm Catto

- Middle to Upper Palaeolithic biological and cultural shift in Eurasia II, di L. Longo, N. Catto

- Preliminary results from the new excavations of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic levels at Ortvale Klde-north chamber (South Caucasus Georgia), di M.H. Moncel, D. Pleurdeau, N. Tushubramishvili, R. Yeshurun, T. Agapishvili, R. Pinhasi, T.F.G. Higham

-A Middle Palaeolithic to Early Upper Palaeolithic succession from an open air site at Beedings, West Sussex, di M. Pope, R. Dinnis, A. Milks, P. Toms, C. Wells

- What roots for the Uluzzian? Modern behaviour in Central-Southern Italy and hypotheses on AMH dispersal routes, di A. Moroni, P. Boscato, A. Ronchitelli

- The Early Pleistocene human dispersals in the Circum-Mediterranean Basin and initial peopling of Europe: Single or multiple pathways? di N. Rolland

- Hominin dispersals from the Jaramillo subchron in central and south-western Europe: Untermassfeld (Germany) and Vallparadís (Spain), di J. Garcia, G. Landeck, K. Martínez, E. Carbonell

- The Early Pleistocene stone tools from Vallparadís (Barcelona, Spain), di J. Garcia, K. Martínez, E. Carbonell

- Hominin multiple occupations in the Early and Middle Pleistocene sequence of Vallparadís (Barcelona, Spain), di di K. Martínez, J. Garcia, E. Carbonell

- New data on human behavior from a 160,000 year old Acheulean occupation level at Lazaret cave, south-east France: An archaeozoological approach, di di P. Valensi, V. Michel, K. El Guennouni, M. Liouville

- Flake modification in European Early and Early–Middle Pleistocene stone tool assemblages, di D. Barsky, J. Garcia, K. Martínez, R. Sala, Y. Zaidner, E. Carbonell, I. Toro-Moyano

Neanderthal Tool Time, di Z. Zorich, "Archaeology", Nov/Dec 2013

Neanderthals seem to have produced a remarkably consistent set of stone tools for hundreds of thousands of years. Two new studies suggest that this presumed lack of diversity and innovation might not be the whole story. Karen Ruebens, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, analyzed more than 1,300 stone tools from European Neanderthal sites dated to between 115,000 and 35,000 years ago. She found that they belong to at least two distinct tool-making traditions. West of the Rhine River, Neanderthal hand axes are oval or roughly triangular, while to the east, they are rounded on one edge and flat on the other. Near the Rhine, the traditions seem to overlap, as if two cultures were sharing their techniques. A separate study, led by Marie Soressi at Leiden University, shows that Neanderthals also may have taught our Homo sapiens ancestors a thing or two. Soressi’s analysis shows that Neanderthals were using bone tools called lissoirs to process animal hides several thousand years before the first modern humans arrived in Europe and started making the same type of tool. While it has long been thought that H. sapiens were the progenitors of the practice, Neanderthals may actually have been more creative in their tool-making than was previously thought. 

Levallois lessons: the challenge of integrating mathematical models, quantitative experiments and the archaeological record, di S. J. Lycett, M. I. Eren, "World Archaeology", Volume 45, Issue 4, 2013, pages 519-538

Contemporary scientific archaeology has an array of methodological approaches at its disposal. In addition to a multitude of specialist techniques, this endeavour may, more generally, draw upon data from field survey and excavation, experimental approaches and mathematical modelling. However, the extent to which these different strands of enquiry are adopted may vary widely from researcher to researcher. Lip service is often paid to the notion of ‘integrating’ different approaches but whether this is genuinely achieved is debatable, while some may ignore one or more particular approach entirely. The study of Levallois artefacts (e.g. flakes and cores) has been an important topic within Palaeolithic archaeology for more than a century. Studies of these artefacts have been implicated in major debates concerning cognitive and behavioural aspects of evolution in hominins. Here, we discuss something of the history of investigation into Levallois, and consider whether insights that have been gained by applying data from artefactual studies, experiment and mathematical modelling might point toward ways in which such alternative approaches might be integrated more closely. Key to this, we argue, is exploitation of the concepts of ‘internal validity’ versus ‘external validity’, which are possessed by these contrasting data sources to varying degrees. By emphasizing both the strengths, but also the weaknesses of these different avenues of enquiry, these validity concepts may enable a better sense of how the links between them can be strengthened in archaeological enquiry.

Human actions performed on simple combustion structures: An experimental approach to the study of Middle Palaeolithic fire, di C. Mallol et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 315, 27 November 2013, Pages 3–15

We present preliminary results from the first phase of experiments from the Neanderthal Fire Technology Project, aimed at understanding Middle Palaeolithic combustion structures. Our field observations and micromorphological data address the sedimentary expression of various anthropogenic actions (trampling, ash sweeping and dumping, relighting and cooking) performed on simple, flat combustion structures made with Pinus nigra fuel on dry and slightly vegetated calcareous sandy substrates. We observed a characteristic pattern in microstructure and basic composition irrespective of the number and kind of anthropogenic actions performed. Trampling yielded previously documented diagnostic micromorphological features, more pronounced in cases of ash sweeping and dumping. Relighting of fires was only identified in cases with deposits between combustion events. Only rare microscopic calcined bone fragments and fat-derived char were identified in fires involving cooking or tossing of meat in the fire. These data suggest that: anthropogenic actions on simple combustion structures are highly undetectable; sweeping has a stronger effect than trampling on the substrate of the combustion structure; stacked hearths might involve significant amounts of time or deposits between combustion events; and alternative techniques must be sought to identify cooking in fires.

Formation processes at a high resolution Middle Paleolithic site: Cueva Antón (Murcia, Spain), di D. E. Angelucci et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 315, 27 November 2013, Pages 24–41

Cueva Antón is a Middle Paleolithic rockshelter located in the valley of the River Mula (Murcia, Spain). The archeological investigation of the site, which began with salvage work in 1991, resumed in 2006 and is still ongoing, uncovered a succession spanning most of MIS 3 and MIS 4 (ca. 75–36 ka) and featuring a well preserved human occupation record. This paper presents the first information about site stratigraphy and site formation processes. Geoarcheological data collected in the field and through micromorphological observation show that the archeological succession at Cueva Antón is mainly composed of alluvial sediments, with thin intercalations of gravitational and slope material. The sedimentary characteristics of the alluvial succession are well preserved as the result of a rapid accumulation rate and the protective effect of the rockshelter. Several sedimentary facies produced by the shifting of distinct fluvial sub-environments (channel, bar and floodplain) are recognized. With the exception of a few units (II-u, a thin buried alluvial soil, and the archeologically richest units at the base of the succession), post-depositional modification is rare. The site was occupied within a framework of infrequent, short-term visits, resulting in a relatively low overall density of finds and the formation of well-defined archeological lenses that correspond to synchronous paleosurfaces preserving the spatial distribution of finds and features. This pattern explains the limited anthropogenic evidence observed in thin sections, even those from units where archeological excavation uncovered significant remains of human occupation.

Climate and environmental changes recognized by micromorphology in Paleolithic deposits at Arene Candide (Liguria, Italy), di I. Rellini, M. Firpo, G. Martino, J. Riel-Salvatore, R. Maggi, "Quaternary International", Volume 315, 27 November 2013, Pages 42–55

The lowermost part of the stratigraphic sequence of the Arene Candide Cave, a key Upper Palaeolithic site in Italy, attests to significant climate and environmental change at the beginning of the Late Pleniglacial in coastal Liguria (Northwest Italy). These archaeological layers were studied using a suite of mineralogical and chemical technique including a contextual sedimentological analysis (micromorphology). This study shows that the lower layers are dominated by cryoclastic sediments covered by cyclically organized blackish and reddish layers, or lenses. The black layers mainly consist of bird and bat guano deposits, interfingered with thin brownish sandy-silt layers of aeolian origin, that contain large amount of Ca phosphate. In contrast, the bright red layers are rubified sediment due to Fe re-oxidizing in insoluble form. In these layers evidence of syngenetic freeze-thaw cycles, associated with gelifluction processes, indicates a cool episode in a (semi) arid periglacial environment coupled to an increase in humidity between ca. 31 and 27 ka cal BP. Subsequently, the occurrence of features associated with repeated runoff and debris flow processes that caused a significant accumulation of poorly layered and sorted materials in the overlying sediments indicates a further intensification of humid conditions and reflects a longer phase of more humid and temperate climate. This change from arid to semiarid/humid climates resulted in an increase in sediments resulting from the erosion of Pliocene marine terraces and soils located outside the cave. The identification in the studied sequence of guano layers and the scarcity of artefacts, in conjunction with an absence of clear cultural micromorphological evidence, support an interpretation of sporadic human occupation of this part of the cave during Middle Upper Palaeolithic (Gravettian). Therefore, the finding in such a context of the lavish ceremonial burial of the so called "Young Prince" may suggest that the cave was used as a special place for burials at that time.

Microstratigraphy of the Magdalenian sequence at Cendres Cave (Teulada-Moraira, Alicante, Spain): Formation and diagenesis, di M. Mercè Bergadà, V. Villaverde, D. Román, "Quaternary International", Volume 315, 27 November 2013, Pages 56–75

This microstratigraphic study of the Magdalenian sequence in the Cendres Cave (Teulada-Moraira, Alicante, Spain) shows the detailed evolutionary history of the deposit, revealing a wide variety of pedosedimentary (formation and diagenesis), biogenic and anthropic processes. The sequence begins with Cendres XII, culturally attributed to the Early and Middle Magdalenian, with high probability (95%) dating placing it between 19,270 and 16,530 cal BP with some chronological hiatus. It was formed from biogenic sedimentation associated with bat guano mainly of an insectivorous type, and from anthropic sedimentation related to occupation floors made up of highly complex plant beds with traces of combustion. One of the predominant plant tissue residues is woody angiosperm leaves or stalks. Detrital deposition formed by diffuse runoff increases towards the top of the level. It belongs palaeoclimatically to the Greenland Stadial-2b (GS-2b) and to the first temperate pulsations of GS-2a. Between this horizon and the Upper Magdalenian there is an erosive contact. There follow various levels attributed to the Upper Magdalenian, Cendres XI, dated to between 16,690 and 15,640 cal BP. This shows an abrupt change with respect to the previous level and results from the cryoclastic processes of the walls and solifluction processes, it would coincide with the upper part of GS-2a. With Cendres X, the detrital sedimentation is not very representative and organophosphatic crusts of cryptocrystalline apatite appear, corresponding to accumulations of bird guano at a time when there was little presence of anthropic occupation. The Upper Magdalenian sequence ends with Cendres IX, which in some sectors of the site presents an erosive contact with the previous level. Anthropic activity reappears and is dated to the interval between 15,210 and 14,240 cal BP. Its deposition is due to gelifluction processes in a cold medium with an increase in humidity. It can be allocated to final episodes of GS-2a in transition to Greenland Interstadial-1 (GI-1). At the end of this episode there is a phase of stabilization that can be seen from the biological activity connecting with the horizons of the Early Neolithic.

Neanderthal Viruses Found in Modern Humans, Nov. 19, 2013 

Ancient viruses from Neanderthals have been found in modern human DNA by researchers at Oxford University and Plymouth University. (...)

· Neanderthal and Denisovan retroviruses in modern humans, di E. Marchi et alii, "Current Biology", Volume 23, Issue 22, R994-R995, 18 November 2013

How Climate Change and Plate Tectonics Shaped Human Evolution, di M. Maslin, November 14, 2013

A new study links the emergence of new hominin species, expanding brain capacity and early human migration with the appearance of deep freshwater lakes. (...)

· Early Human Speciation, Brain Expansion and Dispersal Influenced by African Climate Pulses, di S. Shultz, M. Maslin, "PLOsONE", Oct 16, 2013, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076750

Fire setting at Stone Age Norwegian quarries, 12 November 2013

Extraction marks in the Melsvik Stone Age chert quarries near Alta in northern Norway are difficult to explain by any other ancient technique than fire setting. University Museum of Tromso experimented with this important method. Small, controlled 'bonfires' are enough to create shear stress and cracking. High temperatures greatly reduce the quality of the chert for tool making. The quarries are the most important discovered in northern Norway so far, and may date to the so-called 'pioneer phase' around 9500 BCE, not long after the last ice sheet retreated. The quarries were particularly in use in the Early-Middle Mesolithic (7000 to 8000 BCE), providing material for knives, arrowheads, scrapers and so on. (...)

Les premiers français, di F. Belnet, 9/11/2013

Outils, restes de gibier, feux, parfois fossiles humains… : les traces du passage et du séjour en France, il y a des centaines de milliers d’années, d’humains archaïques, sont bien plus rares que celles laissées par des populations plus ‘récentes’ comme les Hommes de Néandertal ou de Cro-Magnon. Ces premiers vestiges sont d’autant plus précieux (...)

No known hominin species matches the expected dental morphology of the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans, di A. Gómez-Robles, J. M. Bermúdez de Castro, J.L. Arsuaga, E. Carbonell, P. D. Polly, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", November 5, 2013 vol. 110 no. 45 18196-18201 - open access -

A central problem in paleoanthropology is the identity of the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans ([N-MH]LCA). Recently developed analytical techniques now allow this problem to be addressed using a probabilistic morphological framework. This study provides a quantitative reconstruction of the expected dental morphology of the [N-MH]LCA and an assessment of whether known fossil species are compatible with this ancestral position. We show that no known fossil species is a suitable candidate for being the [N-MH]LCA and that all late Early and Middle Pleistocene taxa from Europe have Neanderthal dental affinities, pointing to the existence of a European clade originated around 1 Ma. These results are incongruent with younger molecular divergence estimates and suggest at least one of the following must be true: (i) European fossils and the [N-MH]LCA selectively retained primitive dental traits; (ii) molecular estimates of the divergence between Neanderthals and modern humans are underestimated; or (iii) phenotypic divergence and speciation between both species were decoupled such that phenotypic differentiation, at least in dental morphology, predated speciation. (...)

· Più antico l'antenato comune di uomo moderno e Neanderthal, "Le Scienze", 22 ottobre 2013

Grotte de Commarque, 1/11/2013

La grotte de Commarque est située à Sireuil sur la commune des Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil (Dordogne) en Périgord. Elle se trouve à la base d’une falaise calcaire érodée formant un porche long de plusieurs mètres. Au dessus de celle-ci, le château-fort éponyme, en ruine, est en cours de restauration par le propriétaire, Hubert de Commarque. De la falaise à la rivière de la Beune du nord (ou Grande Beune) un pré s’étend sur plusieurs dizaines de mètres, accentuant le côté grandiose du promontoire rocheux. Au pied de ce mur de calcaire, l’entrée de la grotte, solidement fermée, cache de véritables trésors de l’art préhistorique pariétal. Pour des questions de conservation et de configuration des lieux la grotte de Commarque n’est pas ouverte à la visite. (...)

Reassessing manual proportions in Australopithecus afarensis, di C. Rolian, A. D. Gordon, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 152, Issue 3, pages 393–406, November 2013

Previous analyses of hand morphology in Australopithecus afarensis have concluded that this taxon had modern human-like manual proportions, with relatively long thumbs and short fingers. These conclusions are based on the A.L.333 composite fossil assemblage from Hadar, Ethiopia, and are premised on the ability to assign phalanges to a single individual, and to the correct side and digit. Neither assignment is secure, however, given the taphonomy and sample composition at A.L.333. We use a resampling approach that includes the entire assemblage of complete hand elements at Hadar, and takes into account uncertainties in identifying phalanges by individual, side and digit number. This approach provides the most conservative estimates of manual proportions in Au. afarensis. We resampled hand long bone lengths in Au. afarensis and extant hominoids, and obtained confidence limits for distributions of manual proportions in the latter. Results confirm that intrinsic manual proportions in Au. afarensis are dissimilar to Pan and Pongo. However, manual proportions in Au. afarensis often fall at the upper end of the distribution in Gorilla, and very lower end in Homo, corresponding to disproportionately short thumbs and long medial digits in Homo. This suggests that manual proportions in Au. afarensis, particularly metacarpal proportions, were not as derived towards Homo as previously described, but rather are intermediate between gorillas and humans. Functionally, these results suggest Au. afarensis could not produce precision grips with the same efficiency as modern humans, which may in part account for the absence of lithic technology in this fossil taxon. Am J Phys Anthropol 152:393–406, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

New fossils of Australopithecus anamensis from Kanapoi, West Turkana, Kenya (2003–2008), di C.V. Ward, F.K. Manthi, J.M. Plavcan, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 501–524

Renewed fieldwork from 2003 through 2008 at the Australopithecus anamensis type-site of Kanapoi, Kenya, yielded nine new fossils attributable to this species. These fossils all date to between 4.195 and 4.108 million years ago. Most were recovered from the lower fluvial sequence at the site, with one from the lacustrine sequence deltaic sands that overlie the lower fluvial deposits but are still below the Kanapoi Tuff. The new specimens include a partial edentulous mandible, partial maxillary dentition, two partial mandibular dentitions, and five isolated teeth. The new Kanapoi hominin fossils increase the sample known from the earliest Australopithecus, and provide new insights into morphology within this taxon. They support the distinctiveness of the early A. anamensis fossils relative to earlier hominins and to the later Australopithecus afarensis. The new fossils do not appreciably extend the range of observed variation in A. anamensis from Kanapoi, with the exception of some slightly larger molars, and a canine tooth root that is the largest in the hominin fossil record. All of the Kanapoi hominins share a distinctive morphology of the canine–premolar complex, typical early hominin low canine crowns but with mesiodistally longer honing teeth than seen in A. afarensis, and large, probably dimorphic, canine tooth roots. The new Kanapoi specimens support the observation that canine crown height, morphology, root size and dimorphism were not altered from a primitive ape-like condition as part of a single event in human evolution, and that there may have been an adaptive difference in canine function between A. anamensis and A. afarensis.

Circulation of whale-bone artifacts in the northern Pyrenees during the late Upper Paleolithic, di J. M. Pétillon, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 525–543

The importance of coastal resources in the late Upper Paleolithic of western Europe has been reevaluated in recent years thanks to a growing body of new archeological evidence, including the identification of more than 50 implements made of whale bone in the Magdalenian level of the Isturitz cave (western Pyrenees). In the present study, the assemblages of osseous industry from 23 Magdalenian sites and site clusters in the northern Pyrenees were investigated, systematically searching for whale-bone implements. The objective of this research was to determine if, and how, tools and weapons of coastal origin were circulated beyond Isturitz into the inland, and if similar implements existed on the eastern, Mediterranean side of the Pyrenees. A total of 109 whale-bone artifacts, mostly projectile heads of large dimensions, were identified in 11 sites. Their geographic distribution shows that whale bone in the Pyrenean Magdalenian is exclusively of Atlantic origin, and that objects made of this material were transported along the Pyrenees up to the central part of the range at travel distances of at least 350 km from the seashore. This phenomenon seems to have taken place during the second half of the Middle Magdalenian and the first half of the Late Magdalenian, ca. 17,500–15,000 cal BP (calibrated years before present). The existence of a durable, extended coastal-inland interaction network including the circulation of regular tools is thus demonstrated. Additionally, differences between the whale-bone projectile heads of the Middle Magdalenian and those of the Late Magdalenian document an evolutionary process in the design of hunting weapons.

Dating the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition in the Levant: A view from Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel, di H. Valladas et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 585–593

The transition from the Lower to the Middle Paleolithic in the Levant is a crucial event in human evolution, since it may involve the arrival of a new human population. In the current study, we present thermoluminescence (TL) dates obtained from 32 burnt flints retrieved from the late Lower Paleolithic (Acheulo-Yabrudian) and Early Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) layers of Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel. Early Middle Paleolithic industries rich in Levallois and laminar products were assigned mean ages ranging from ∼250 to ∼160 ka (thousands of years ago), suggesting a production of this industry during MIS 7 and the early part of MIS 6. The mean ages obtained for the samples associated with the Acheulo-Yabrudian (strengthened by an isochron analysis) indicate a production of this cultural complex ∼250 ka ago, at the end of MIS 8. According to the Misliya TL dates, the transition from the Lower to the Middle Paleolithic in the site took place at the limit MIS 8/7 or during the early part of MIS 7. The dates, together with the pronounced differences in lithic technology strongly suggest the arrival of a new population during this period.

An older origin for the Acheulean at Melka Kunture (Upper Awash, Ethiopia): Techno-economic behaviours at Garba IVD, di R. Gallotti, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 594–620

In the 1970s and 1980s, the emergence of the Acheulean at Melka Kunture (Upper Awash, Ethiopia) was dated to 1 Ma (million years ago), based on the typo-metrical analysis of the lithic assemblage of Garba XIIJ. Older sites such as Gombore I, Karre I, and Garba IV (1.7–1.5 Ma) were classified as Oldowan/Developed Oldowan. Consequently, the Oldowan and the Acheulean at Melka Kunture were interpreted as two distinct technologies separated by a chronological gap of 0.5 Ma. The archaeostratigraphic unit D of Garba IV, dated to ∼1.5 Ma, yielded one of the richest Early Stone Age lithic series in East Africa. In this paper, a review traces methods of technological analysis, based on the concept of chaîne opératoire, to update our knowledge of the techno-economic behaviours at this site. The results show two major elements characteristic of cultural changes in the Melka Kunture sequence: (1) the emergence of a new chaîne opératoire focused on large flake/large cutting tool (LCT) production, and (2) a large variability of small débitage modalities with systematic preparation of the striking platform and the appearance of a certain degree of predetermination. These technological traits are shared by the contemporaneous sites in East Africa and are considered to be typical of the early Acheulean. This suggests an older origin for the Acheulean at Melka Kunture, 0.5 Ma than previously inferred.

The Upper Palaeolithic site of Kalavan 1 (Armenia): An Epigravettian settlement in the Lesser Caucasus, di C. Montoya et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 621–640

The open-air site of Kalavan 1 is located in the Aregunyats mountain chain (at 1640 m above sea level) on the northern bank of Lake Sevan. It is the first Upper Palaeolithic site excavated in Armenia. Led by an Armenian-French team, several excavations (2005–2009) have revealed a well preserved palaeosoil, dated to around 14,000 BP (years before present), containing fauna, lithic artefacts, as well as several hearths and activity areas that structure the settlement. The initial studies enable placement of the site in its environment and justify palaeoethnological analysis of the Epigravettian human groups of the Lesser Caucasus.

The fragmented character of Middle Palaeolithic stone tool technology, di A. Turq, W. Roebroeks, L. Bourguignon, J. P. Faivre, "Journal of Human Evolution",Volume 65, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 641–655

The importance of the transport of stone artefacts in structuring Neandertal lithic assemblages has often been addressed, but the degree to which this led to fragmentation of lithic reduction over Middle Palaeolithic landscapes has not been explicitly studied thus far. Large-scale excavations of Middle Palaeolithic open-air sites and refitting studies of the retrieved assemblages have yielded new, high-resolution data on the mobile aspects of Neandertal stone tool technology. In this paper, we integrate lithic technology and raw material data from recent studies of Middle Palaeolithic open-air and rock shelter sites in Western Europe. We demonstrate that the results of a variety of typological, technological (especially refitting), and lithological studies have important consequences for our knowledge of the acquisition of raw materials and subsequent production, usage and discard of stone artefacts in the Middle Palaeolithic. Neandertal production and use of stone tools was fragmented in three domains: the spatial, the temporal and the social domain. We show that this versatile segmentation of stone artefact handling strategies is a main determinant of the character of the Neandertal archaeological record. Our data testify to ubiquitous and continuous transport of stone artefacts of a wide variety of forms, picked by Neandertals using selection criteria that were sometimes far removed from what archaeologists have traditionally considered, and to some degree still consider, to be desired end products of knapping activities. The data presented here testify to the variability and versatility of Middle Palaeolithic stone tool technology, whose fragmented character created very heterogeneous archaeological assemblages, usually the product of a wide variety of independent import, use, discard and/or subsequent transport events.

Les premieres parures, di F. Belnet, 22/10/2013

Émanations d’une véritable pensée humaine car chargées de symboles, les parures paléolithiques, le plus souvent attribuées à Homo sapiens mais peut-être connues aussi chez l’Homme de Néandertal, intéressent fort les scientifiques. Moins emblématiques que les armes ou les outils de pierre, elles méritent cependant d’être connues (...)

Tooth wear and dentoalveolar remodeling are key factors of morphological variation in the Dmanisi mandibles, di A. Margvelashvili, C. P. E. Zollikofer, D. Lordkipanidze, T. Peltomäki, M. S. Ponce de León, October 22, 2013 vol. 110 no. 43 17278-17283 

The Plio-Pleistocene hominin sample from Dmanisi (Georgia), dated to 1.77 million years ago, is unique in offering detailed insights into patterns of morphological variation within a paleodeme of early Homo. Cranial and dentoalveolar morphologies exhibit a high degree of diversity, but the causes of variation are still relatively unexplored. Here we show that wear-related dentoalveolar remodeling is one of the principal mechanisms causing mandibular shape variation in fossil Homo and in modern human hunter–gatherer populations. We identify a consistent pattern of mandibular morphological alteration, suggesting that dental wear and compensatory remodeling mechanisms remained fairly constant throughout the evolution of the genus Homo. With increasing occlusal and interproximal tooth wear, the teeth continue to erupt, the posterior dentition tends to drift in a mesial direction, and the front teeth become more upright. The resulting changes in dentognathic size and shape are substantial and need to be taken into account in comparative taxonomic analyses of isolated hominin mandibles. Our data further show that excessive tooth wear eventually leads to a breakdown of the normal remodeling mechanisms, resulting in dentognathic pathologies, tooth loss, and loss of masticatory function. Complete breakdown of dentognathic homeostasis, however, is unlikely to have limited the life span of early Homo because this effect was likely mediated by the preparation of soft foods. (...)

Did the Denisovans Cross Wallace's Line?, di A. Cooper, C. B. Stringer, "Science", 18 October 2013, Vol. 342, no. 6156, pp. 321-323 

The recent discovery of Denisovans (1, 2) and genetic evidence of their hybridization with modern human populations now found in Island Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific (3) are intriguing and unexpected. The reference specimen for the Denisovan genome (4), a distal phalanx from a young girl, was recovered from the geographically distant Denisova Cave in the Russian Altai mountains. Three Denisovan mitochondrial genomes have been generated from material in the cave, dated by poorly associated fauna (5) at more than 50,000 years old. The diversity of these genomes indicates that the Denisovan population had a larger long-term average size than that of the Neandertals (6, 7), suggesting that the Denisovans were formerly widespread across mainland East Asia. However, interbreeding with modern humans only appears to have occurred in remote Island Southeast Asia, requiring marine crossings and raising questions about the distribution and fossil record of Denisovans in Island Southeast Asia.

A Complete Skull from Dmanisi, Georgia, and the Evolutionary Biology of Early Homo, D. Lordkipanidze et alii, "Science", 18 October 2013, Vol. 342, no. 6156, pp. 326-331 

The site of Dmanisi, Georgia, has yielded an impressive sample of hominid cranial and postcranial remains, documenting the presence of Homo outside Africa around 1.8 million years ago. Here we report on a new cranium from Dmanisi (D4500) that, together with its mandible (D2600), represents the world's first completely preserved adult hominid skull from the early Pleistocene. D4500/D2600 combines a small braincase (546 cubic centimeters) with a large prognathic face and exhibits close morphological affinities with the earliest known Homo fossils from Africa. The Dmanisi sample, which now comprises five crania, provides direct evidence for wide morphological variation within and among early Homo paleodemes. This implies the existence of a single evolving lineage of early Homo, with phylogeographic continuity across continents.

· Il cranio che (forse) unifica le antiche specie di Homo, "Le Scienze", 17 ottobre 2013

· Unique skull find rebuts theories on species diversity in early humans, "EurekAlert" 17-Oct-2013

· Una sola specie per tutti gli Homo? di S. Iannaccon, "Galileo", 18 Ottobre 2013

· Il cranio che sta rivoluzionando la storia dell'uomo, di M. Cattaneo, "National Geographic Italia", 18 ottobre 2013

Archaeologists rediscover the lost home of the last Neanderthals, 17-Oct-2013

A record of Neanderthal archaeology, thought to be long lost, has been re-discovered by NERC-funded scientists working in the Channel island of Jersey. The study, published yesterday in the Journal of Quaternary Science, reveals that a key archaeological site has preserved geological deposits which were thought to have been lost through excavation 100 years ago. The discovery was made when the team undertook fieldwork to stabilise and investigate a portion of the La Cotte de St Brelade cave, on Jersey's south eastern coastline. A large portion of the site contains sediments dating to the last Ice Age, preserving 250,000 years of climate change and archaeological evidence. The site, which has produced more Neanderthal stone tools than the rest of the British Isles put together, contains the only known late Neanderthal remains from North West Europe. These offer archaeologists one of the most important records of Neanderthal behaviour available. (...)

· Late Neanderthal occupation in North-West Europe: rediscovery, investigation and dating of a last glacial sediment sequence at the site of La Cotte de Saint Brelade, Jersey, di M. Bates et alii, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 28, Issue 7, pages 647–652, October 2013

Toothpicking and Periodontal Disease in a Neanderthal Specimen from Cova Foradà Site (Valencia, Spain), di M. Lozano, M. Eulàlia Subirà, J. Aparicio, C. Lorenzo, G. Gómez-Merino, "PLOsONE", Oct 16, 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076852 - open access -

We present a Neanderthal maxilla (CF-1) from Cova Foradà site (Oliva, Valencia, Spain) with periodontal disease and evidence of attempts to alleviate pain with the use of a toothpick. Two interproximal grooves have been found on the distal surfaces of the upper left Pm3 and M1 of CF-1 maxilla. The location, morphology and size of the grooves coincide with other interproximal grooves found on the teeth of other fossil specimens. Heavy dental wear and periodontal disease would have caused the Cova Foradà Neanderthal specimen pain and discomfort, which the individual attempted to mitigate using some kind of dental probe. (...)

Butchering in Denmark 12,000 years ago, 14 October 2013

Big-game hunts about 12,000 years ago involved feasting on a meaty morsel popular with today's gourmets, followed by chopping, hauling, bone tossing, jewelry making and boasting. All of these activities are suggested by remains found at a prehistoric Danish butchering site, called Lundy Mose. Bone fragments belonging to wild boar, red deer and aurochs were unearthed. But the hunters clearly had a taste for elk meat, since elk remains were prevalent at the site, located in South Zealand, Denmark. (...)

Mains négatives : 75 % seraient celles de femmes, 10/10/13

Une étude américaine publiée dans American Antiquity et relayée par National Geographic suggère que la majorité des mains négatives trouvées dans les grottes ornées seraient celles de femmes. Les compagnes des hommes préhistoriques étaient-elles les véritables artistes du Paléolithique? (...)

Study of organic matter of Acheulean occupation ground from the Lazaret cave archeostratigraphic unit UA 27, di C. Azemard et alii, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 4, September–October 2013, Pages 367–412

Geochemical analyzes of organic matter were conducted by GC/MS and ESI/MS on 30 samples from the unit archeostratigraphic UA 27 of the cave of Lazaret, dated about 160,000 years. These analyzes highlight the relative proportions of animals and plants fats in various areas of the Acheulean surface occupation. The dominants organic components in all samples are C16:0 (palmitic saturated fatty acid), C18:0 (stearic or octadecanoic saturated fatty acid), C18:1 (unsaturated octadecenoic fatty acid or oleic acid), nonanoic acid and dodecanoic acid. Other compounds appear only in some spectra as vanillin, oleamide, cholesterol and behenyl alcohol. The concentration of organic matter is much greater in the hearth level and appears to have a mostly animal origin such as cholesterol and oleamide. Others ground occupation areas essentially contain molecules of plants as behenyl alcohol appears to be the result of the degradation of marine and terrestrial grasses that fed litter origin.

Using stable isotopes to identify charcoal carbon in radiocarbon dating of palaeolithic charcoal, di G. Jouve, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 4, September–October 2013, Pages 413–419

Recent years have brought many results of radiocarbon dating the earliest periods of the Upper Palaeolithic that can bring light on the origins of figurative art by Sapiens or Neanderthals. These dates are often close to the limit of the field of radiocarbon dating; because they require measurements of the lowest amounts of radiocarbon, controls are particularly essential. Here we examine the case of the dating of charcoal, whose identification after decontamination is difficult. We suggest a method that does not require additional manipulation to determine whether carbon comes exclusively from charcoal: using the proportion of stable carbon isotopes 13C/12C which is often regarded as a signature (δ13C).

The anthracological sequence of the Parco cave (Alòs de Balaguer, Spain): Landscapes and firewood management among the last hunter-gatherers, di E. Allué et alii, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 4, September–October 2013, Pages 420–435

The objective of this paper is to present the anthracological data of the Parco cave sequence. This cave, excavated since the last 25 years, shows a stratigraphic sequence from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Bronze age. The anthracological data that we are presenting correspond to the sequence corresponding to the Magdalenian and Epipaleolithic layers. The anthracological data show a dominance of Scots pine at the bottom and of junipers at the top of the deposit, suggesting a landscape transformation though time. From these results we discuss aspects related to the vegetal formations during this period. Moreover, this study has the intention of integration the anthracological record with the archaeological data already published concerning subsistence, technology and paleoecology to a better understanding to human behaviour during this period.

Mauquenchy (Seine-Maritime, France) : mise en évidence de deux niveaux d’occupation paléolithique dans un sol gris forestier daté du SIM 5a (début glaciaire Weichselien), di J. L. Locht, N. Sellier, P. Antoine, H. Koehler, N. Debenham, "Quaternaire", vol. 24/3-2013, Volume 24, Numéro 3, pp. 247-257

La fouille du gisement paléolithique moyen de Mauquenchy (Seine-Maritime) a permis la découverte de niveaux archéologiques bien préservés au sein d’un sol gris-forestier attribué au stade isotopique marin (SIM) 5a. Ce sol contient deux niveaux archéologiques, l’un dans sa partie inférieure (Wa2), le second dans sa partie supérieure (Wa1). Ces deux ensembles archéologiques contenaient chacun un silex taillé chauffé datés par thermoluminescence (83,7 ± 7,6 ka pour Wa2 et 77,6 ± 7,2 ka pour Wa1). Ces datations offrent pour la première fois une possibilité de calage précis de ce sol qui avait été préalablement attribué au SIM 5a sur la base de sa signature interstadiaire.

Altérations des artefacts préhistoriques en silex par les processus périglaciaires : présentation des expériences conduites au Centre de Géomorphologie du CNRS de Caen, di L. Vallin, J. P. Caspar, G. Guillemet, B. Masson, J. C. Ozouf, "Quaternaire", vol. 24/3 - 2013, Volume 24, Numéro 3, pp. 259-266

La confrontation entre les données paléoenvironnementales et les résultats d’analyse tracéologique d’artefacts en silex provenant de sites paléolithiques a amené à soupçonner le rôle de processus liés au gel du sol dans l’altération de la surface des silex ayant été soumis à des ambiances périglaciaires. Afin de vérifier cette hypothèse et d’examiner les modalités des phénomènes post-dépositionnels incriminés, des expériences de laboratoire ont été menées entre 2004 et 2007 au Centre de Géomorphologie du CNRS à Caen, où des modèles contenant des artefacts en silex ont été soumis à des cycles gel/dégel. Les premiers résultats, qui demandent à être confirmés et précisés par une étude tracéologique, montrent des modifications microscopiques de l’état de surface des silex enfouis dans le limon.

Le Téphra de Rocourt dans le site paléolithique moyen de Remicourt (Province de Liège, Belgique), di E. Juvigné, A. Pouclet, P. Haesaerts, D. Bosquet, S. Pirson, "Quaternaire", vol. 24/3 - 2013, Volume 24, Numéro 3, pp. 279-291

Dans le site paléolithique moyen de Remicourt, les minéraux du Téphra de Rocourt se trouvent à l’état dispersé (cryptotéphra) dans le Complexe humifère de Remicourt qui surmonte le Pédocomplexe de Rocourt, et leur distribution stratigraphique présente un maximum de concentration dans la partie médiane du complexe humifère. L’identification du téphra est basée sur l’association minéralogique, la morphologie des verres et la composition chimique des minéraux mafiques : deux types de clinopyroxènes, un orthopyroxène, deux types d’amphiboles et du spinelle chromifère. Les verres volcaniques ont un faciès de hyaloclastes massifs, et les pyroxènes se présentent sous la forme d’éclats de mégacristaux, ce qui permet d’associer leur émission à une éruption phréatomagmatique dont il a été montré antérieurement que le volcan correspondant doit se situer dans l’Eifel occidental. La position stratigraphique du téphra au sein du Complexe humifère de Remicourt permet de restreindre l’incertitude sur la période de l’éruption entre 78 et 80 ka, au cours de la phase climatique terminale du Début Glaciaire weichselien, correspondant à l’interstade de Dansgaard-Oeschger 21 (SIM 5a).

Les occupations paléolithiques en Normandie dans leur contexte chronostratigraphique: «bribes archéologiques», di D.Cliquet, "Quaternaire", vol. 24/3 - 2013, Volume 24, Numéro 3, pp. 315-358

Cette contribution est le fruit de la révision de sites anciennement fouillés et analysés dans le cadre de travaux effectués, depuis les années 1970, en liaison avec les géomorphologues du Centre de Géomorphologie de Caen, puis, dans les années 1980, dans le cadre du « Groupe Seine » et du projet relatif à « l’Homme et la Mer » et enfin, dans le cadre du Projet Collectif de Recherche « Les Premiers Hommes en Normandie » constitué en 2000. Cet article intègre les résultats issus de nombreux gisements dont le bilan sédimentaire est souvent peu dilaté car affecté de hiatus ; pourtant ces « bribes archéologiques » participent à la connaissance des premiers peuplements de la Normandie et permettent d’écrire une « histoire de la préhistoire ancienne » dans son cadre environnemental. Les premiers peuplements attestés sont associés aux formations alluviales et limoneuses de la vallée de la Seine à Saint-Pierre-lès-Elbeuf. Ils se rapportent à l’Acheuléen et datent des stades isotopiques marins (SIM) 11 et 10. En Basse-Normandie, les occupations les plus anciennes mises au jour sont associées à des niveaux de plages anciennes et se rapportent au SIM 9. Comme fréquemment en Europe du Nord-Ouest, les implantations de la fin du Pléistocène moyen s’inscrivent dans le SIM 7 et le début du SIM 6. Les assemblages lithiques se rapportent à l’Acheuléen, mais surtout à la phase ancienne du Paléolithique moyen. L’originalité de la Normandie réside dans l’exceptionnelle conservation de niveaux d’occupation sur deux sites datés par TL et OSL de l’optimum eemien, en contexte littoral et en doline. Comme dans toute la France septentrionale, ce sont les occupations du début du Dernier Glaciaire (entre 112 et 72 ka) qui sont les mieux préservées et les plus nombreuses, cependant quelques implantations prennent place durant le Pléniglaciaire inférieur. L’occupation de la Normandie s’effectue de manière ponctuelle au Pléniglaciaire moyen (55 à 30 ka) avant de reprendre de l’ampleur au Tardiglaciaire (15 ka à 11 ka) avec les cultures de la fin du Paléolithique supérieur.

Le site moustérien de la Hougue à Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue (Manche):implantations et activités humaines, synthèse stratigraphique, di G. Fosse, J. P. Coutard, B. Masson, J. C. Ozouf, "Quaternaire", vol. 24/3 - 2013, Volume 24, Numéro 3, pp. 359-372

La Hougue (commune de Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, Manche) est un îlot rattaché à la terre ferme par un tombolo et constitué de deux buttes granitiques, dont la base et l’espace intermédiaire comportent des dépôts des derniers interglaciaire et glaciaire. Des fouilles programmées y ont été conduites de 1978 à 1985. Les travaux ont principalement porté sur le seul lambeau de terrain naturel situé au sud de la butte qui porte la tour Vauban, à l’extérieur de l’enceinte fortifiée à la fin du xviie siècle. Des industries lithiques moustériennes abondantes, de faciès levalloisien, y ont été mises au jour dans la plage eemienne et dans les horizons du Début Glaciaire weichselien ; ces derniers ont de plus livré des structures, de combustion notamment. L’ensemble de l’îlot a fait l’objet d’observations géomorphologiques et, de manière beaucoup plus limitée, archéologiques, qui ont révélé des occupations moustériennes s’étendant à tout le pourtour des deux buttes.

Da dove vengono le immagini? L’arte visiva dei cacciatori paleolitici, di G. Brusa-Zappellini, "Scienza e Psicoanalisi", 21 settembre 2013

Le più antiche testimonianze figurative ci rimandano a un tempo remoto quando l’uomo di Cro-Magnon, un individuo ormai sostanzialmente identico a noi per potenziali cognitivi, giunge in Europa seguendo gli spostamenti dei grandi erbivori. È in questa fase finale del Pleistocene che il mondo inizia a popolarsi di strane presenze: gli animali che vagano liberi nelle tundre e nelle steppe si sdoppiano nelle cavità sotterranee. Nascono le immagini, create sulle superfici rocciose da un gesto esperto della mano che segue i tracciati della memoria con un grado di approssimazione ai dati della percezione sensibile molto elevato. (...)

Aggiornamento 8 ottobre

Composite projectiles and hafting technologies at Ohalo II (23 ka, Israel): analyses of impact fractures, morphometric characteristics and adhesive remains on microlithic tools, di A. Yaroshevich, D. Nadel, A. Tsatskin, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 40, Issue 11, November 2013, Pages 4009–4023

This study focuses on the correlation between the production of backed microliths in the Levant during the late Upper Palaeolithic and their use as side elements of composite projectile weapons. The investigation is based on assemblage sample of microliths from Ohalo II, a 23,000 years old submerged campsite, and involves analyses of diagnostic impact fractures, location of adhesive remains and morpho-metric characteristics of the tools. Two distinct adhesive materials have been also analyzed, and the preliminary results indicate the use of both calcareous and organic substances. The use of backed microliths as side elements of composite projectiles has been followed for scalene triangles – a microlithic type unknown from the earlier Upper Palaeolithic in the Levant. The reconstruction of their use has been established based upon all the three evidence lines, i.e., patterns of impact fractures, as well as the location of adhesive remains and the morpho-metric characteristics of the microliths. The results of the study show an Upper Palaeolithic – Epipalaeolithic continuity in the approach to the design of hunting weapons and hafting technologies. It is also suggested that the origins of composite projectiles in the Levant may be found in the earlier phases of the Upper Palaeolithic.

What evolved first -- a dexterous hand or an agile foot?, 6-Oct-2013

Resolving a long-standing mystery in human evolution, new research from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute indicates that early hominids developed finger dexterity and tool use ability before the development of bipedal locomotion. Combining monkey and human behavior, brain imaging, and fossil evidence, a research team led by neurobiologist Dr. Atsushi Iriki and including Dr. Gen Suwa, an anthropologist from the University of Tokyo Museum, have overturned the common assumption that manual dexterity evolved after the development of bipedal locomotion freed hominid hands to use fingers for tool manipulation. (...)

Regional behaviour among late Neanderthal groups in Western Europe: A comparative assessment of late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tool variability, di K. Ruebens, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 4, October 2013, Pages 341–362

Population dynamics between and within Pleistocene groups are vital to understanding wider behavioural processes like social transmission and cultural variation. The late Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 5d-3, ca. 115,000–35,000 BP [years before present]) permits a novel, data-driven assessment of these concepts through a unique record: bifacial tools made by classic Neanderthals. Previously, studies of late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tools were hampered by a convoluted plethora of competing terms, types and regional entities. This paper presents a large-scale intercomparison of this tool type, and bridges typo-technological and spatio-temporal data from across Western Europe (Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany). Results indicate a high level of variation among individual bifacial tools and assemblages. Each bifacial tool concept is correlated with various methods of production, resulting in large degrees of morphological variation. Despite such variation, a distinct three-fold, macro-regional pattern was identified: the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA) in the southwest dominated by handaxes, the Keilmessergruppen (KMG) in the northeast typified by backed and leaf-shaped bifacial tools, and, finally a new unit, the Mousterian with Bifacial Tools (MBT), geographically situated between these two major entities, and characterised by a wider variety of bifacial tools. Differing local conditions, such as raw material or function, are not sufficient to explain this observed macro-regional tripartite. Instead, the MTA and KMG can be viewed as two distinct cultural traditions, where the production of a specific bifacial tool concept was passed on over generations. Conversely, the MBT is interpreted as a border zone where highly mobile groups of Neanderthals from both the east (KMG) and west (MTA) interacted. Principally, this study presents an archaeological contribution to behavioural concepts such as regionality, culture, social transmission and population dynamics. It illustrates the interpretive potential of large-scale lithic studies, and more specifically the presence of regionalised cultural behaviour amongst late Neanderthal groups in Western Europe.

Middle Pleistocene ecology and Neanderthal subsistence: Insights from stable isotope analyses in Payre (Ardèche, southeastern France), di M. Ecker, H. Bocherens, M. A. Julien, F. Rivals, J. P. Raynal, M. H. Moncel, "Journal of Human Evolution",Volume 65, Issue 4, October 2013, Pages 363–373

The Middle Palaeolithic site of Payre in southeastern France yields abundant archaeological material associated with fossil hominid remains. With its long sequence of Middle Pleistocene deposits, Payre is a key site to study the Middle Palaeolithic chronology of this region. This study is the first to investigate carbon and oxygen isotope contents of Neanderthal tooth enamel bioapatite, together with a wide range of herbivorous and carnivorous species. The aim is to contribute to the understanding of hunting behaviour, resource partitioning, diet and habitat use of animals and Neanderthals through a palaeoecological reconstruction. Local topography had a visible influence on carbon and oxygen stable isotope values recorded in herbivore tooth enamel. This was used to investigate possible habitats of herbivores. The different herbivorous species do not show large variations of their carbon and oxygen isotope values through time, indicating niche conservatism from OIS 8–7 to OIS 6–5, i.e., independently of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental variations. Based on these new observations, we conclude that Neanderthals employed a stable subsistence strategy over time, using a variety of local resources, with resource partitioning visible between humans and carnivores, especially wolves. A comparison of the results of stable isotopic investigation with the results of tooth wear analyses previously conducted on the same teeth allowed us to demonstrate that grazing and browsing do not bind animals to a specific habitat in a C3 environment as reflected in the isotopic values.

Evaluating developmental shape changes in Homo antecessor subadult facial morphology, di S. E. Freidline, P. Gunz, K. Harvati, J.J. Hublin, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 4, October 2013, Pages 404–423

The fossil ATD6-69 from Atapuerca, Spain, dated to ca. 900 ka (thousands of years ago) has been suggested to mark the earliest appearance of modern human facial features. However, this specimen is a subadult and the interpretation of its morphology remains controversial, because it is unclear how developmental shape changes would affect the features that link ATD6-69 to modern humans. Here we analyze ATD6-69 in an evolutionary and developmental context. Our modern human sample comprises cross-sectional growth series from four populations. The fossil sample covers human specimens from the Pleistocene to the Upper Paleolithic, and includes several subadult Early Pleistocene humans and Neanderthals. We digitized landmarks and semilandmarks on surface and CT scans and analyzed the Procrustes shape coordinates using multivariate statistics. Ontogenetic allometric trajectories and developmental simulations were employed in order to identify growth patterns and to visualize potential adult shapes of ATD6-69. We show that facial differences between modern and archaic humans are not exclusively allometric. We find that while postnatal growth further accentuates the differences in facial features between Neanderthals and modern humans, those features that have been suggested to link ATD6-69's morphology to modern humans would not have been significantly altered in the course of subsequent development. In particular, the infraorbital depression on this specimen would have persisted into adulthood. However, many of the facial features that ATD6-69 shares with modern humans can be considered to be part of a generalized pattern of facial architecture. Our results present a complex picture regarding the polarity of facial features and demonstrate that some modern human-like facial morphology is intermittently present in Middle Pleistocene humans. We suggest that some of the facial features that characterize recent modern humans may have developed multiple times in human evolution.

A new partial temporal bone of a juvenile hominin from the site of Kromdraai B (South Africa), di J. Braga et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 4, October 2013, Pages 447–456

The site of Kromdraai B (KB) (Gauteng, South Africa) has yielded a minimum number of nine hominins including the type specimen of Paranthropus robustus (TM 1517), the only partial skeleton of this species known to date. Four of these individuals are juveniles, one is a subadult and four are young adults. They all occur with a macrofaunal assemblage spread across the succession of at least two time periods that occurred in South Africa approximately two million years ago. Here we report on an additional, newly discovered petrous temporal bone of a juvenile hominin, KB 6067. Following the description of KB 6067, we assess its affinities with Australopithecus africanus, P. robustus and early Homo. We discuss its developmental age and consider its association with other juvenile hominin specimens found at Kromdraai B. KB 6067 probably did not reach five years of age and in bony labyrinth morphology it is close to P. robustus, but also to StW 53, a specimen with uncertain affinities. However, its cochlear and oval window size are closer to some hominin specimens from Sterkfontein Member 4 and if KB 6067 is indeed P. robustus this may represent a condition that is evolutionarily less derived than that shown by TM 1517 and other conspecifics sampled so far. The ongoing fieldwork at KB, as well as the petrography and geochemistry of its deposits, will help to determine when the various KB breccias accumulated, and how time may be an important factor underlying the variation seen among KB 6067 and the rest of the fossil hominin sample from this site.

Not only Chauvet: Dating Aurignacian rock art in Altxerri B Cave (northern Spain), di C. González-Sainz, A. Ruiz-Redondo, D. Garate-Maidagan, E. Iriarte-Avilés, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 4, October 2013, Pages 457–464

The discovery and first dates of the paintings in Grotte Chauvet provoked a new debate on the origin and characteristics of the first figurative Palaeolithic art. Since then, other art ensembles in France and Italy (Aldène, Fumane, Arcy-sur-Cure and Castanet) have enlarged our knowledge of graphic activity in the early Upper Palaeolithic. This paper presents a chronological assessment of the Palaeolithic parietal ensemble in Altxerri B (northern Spain). When the study began in 2011, one of our main objectives was to determine the age of this pictorial phase in the cave. Archaeological, geological and stylistic evidence, together with radiometric dates, suggest an Aurignacian chronology for this art. The ensemble in Altxerri B can therefore be added to the small but growing number of sites dated in this period, corroborating the hypothesis of more complex and varied figurative art than had been supposed in the early Upper Palaeolithic.

Caccia, una pratica vecchia di oltre 400.000 anni, di E. Degano, 25 Settembre 2013 

Già migliaia di anni prima della comparsa dell'uomo di Neanderthal i nostri antenati cacciavano in gruppo, così ben organizzati da riuscire ad abbattere animali grandi come l’elefante preistorico. A scoprirlo, gli archeologi dell'Università di Southampton, grazie a uno studio portato avanti dal 2003 a oggi nel sito di Ebbsfleet, nel Kent (UK). Il ritrovamento più affascinante nelle profonde stratificazioni di depositi, datati 420.000 anni fa, è stato lo scheletro di un elefante dalle zanne dritte (Paleoloxodon antiquus), una specie ormai estinta e grande il doppio dei suoi parenti africani. (...)

· Giant prehistoric elephant slaughtered by early humans, News release University of Southampton, 20 September 2013

Chronology of Ksar Akil (Lebanon) and Implications for the Colonization of Europe by Anatomically Modern Humans, di K. Douka, C. A. Bergman, R. E. M. Hedges, F. P. Wesselingh, T. F. G. Higham, September 11, 2013  - open access -

The Out-of-Africa model holds that anatomically modern humans (AMH) evolved and dispersed from Africa into Asia, and later Europe. Palaeoanthropological evidence from the Near East assumes great importance, but AMH remains from the region are extremely scarce. ‘Egbert’, a now-lost AMH fossil from the key site of Ksar Akil (Lebanon) and ‘Ethelruda’, a recently re-discovered fragmentary maxilla from the same site, are two rare examples where human fossils are directly linked with early Upper Palaeolithic archaeological assemblages. Here we radiocarbon date the contexts from which Egbert and Ethelruda were recovered, as well as the levels above and below the findspots. In the absence of well-preserved organic materials, we primarily used marine shell beads, often regarded as indicative of behavioural modernity. Bayesian modelling allows for the construction of a chronostratigraphic framework for Ksar Akil, which supports several conclusions. The model-generated age estimates place Egbert between 40.8–39.2 ka cal BP (68.2% prob.) and Ethelruda between 42.4–41.7 ka cal BP (68.2% prob.). This indicates that Egbert is of an age comparable to that of the oldest directly-dated European AMH (Peştera cu Oase). Ethelruda is older, but on current estimates not older than the modern human teeth from Cavallo in Italy. The dating of the so-called “transitional” or Initial Upper Palaeolithic layers of the site may indicate that the passage from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic at Ksar Akil, and possibly in the wider northern Levant, occurred later than previously estimated, casting some doubts on the assumed singular role of the region as a locus for human dispersals into Europe. Finally, tentative interpretations of the fossil's taxonomy, combined with the chronometric dating of Ethelruda's context, provides evidence that the transitional/IUP industries of Europe and the Levant, or at least some of them, may be the result of early modern human migration(s). (...)

As Fashion Week Ends, Pondering the Origins of Clothes, di B. Switek, September 11, 2013

As straightforward as it sounds, it isn't easy to answer. We may be used to artistic depictions of prehistoric Homo sapiens and Neanderthals wrapped in furry hides, but, in truth, the story of how clothing became such a prominent mark of humanity is only just starting to be unraveled. Clothing doesn't readily fossilize. Much like the soft tissues that wrap our bones, fabrics and other body coverings decay rapidly. Yet, despite this, archaeologists and anthropologists are starting to figure out the elements of prehistoric style through an array of indirect evidence that includes everything from dyed plant fibers to lice. (...)

Were Rivers Flowing across the Sahara During the Last Interglacial? Implications for Human Migration through Africa, di T. J. Coulthard, J. A. Ramirez, N. Barton, M. Rogerson, T. Brücher, September 11, 2013 - open access - 

Human migration north through Africa is contentious. This paper uses a novel palaeohydrological and hydraulic modelling approach to test the hypothesis that under wetter climates c.100,000 years ago major river systems ran north across the Sahara to the Mediterranean, creating viable migration routes. We confirm that three of these now buried palaeo river systems could have been active at the key time of human migration across the Sahara. Unexpectedly, it is the most western of these three rivers, the Irharhar river, that represents the most likely route for human migration. The Irharhar river flows directly south to north, uniquely linking the mountain areas experiencing monsoon climates at these times to temperate Mediterranean environments where food and resources would have been abundant. The findings have major implications for our understanding of how humans migrated north through Africa, for the first time providing a quantitative perspective on the probabilities that these routes were viable for human habitation at these times. (...)

Dental wear and cultural behavior in Middle Paleolithic humans from the Near East, di L. Fiorenza, O. Kullmer, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 152, Issue 1, pages 107–117, September 2013

Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans (AMHs) may have lived in close proximity in the Near East region during Middle Paleolithic times. Although functional morphological analyses suggest a marked behavioral contrast between these two human groups, new dental micro- and macro-wear studies, together with new archaeological data, have revealed some similarities in ecology and dietary habits. In this study, we analyze the tooth wear patterns of Neanderthals and AMH from Middle Paleolithic sites of Israel and Northern Iraq, using the Occlusal Fingerprint Analysis (OFA) method to virtually reconstruct the jaw movements responsible for the creation of the occlusal wear areas. We particularly focus on para-facets, a distinctive type of wear which has been previously described in the dentition of historic and modern hunter-gatherers. The analysis reveals a similarity in para-facet frequency between early Near Eastern Neanderthals and AMH, and a significant difference with other Pleistocene human groups. The absence of antagonist occlusal contacts in the lower teeth and the occlusal compass analysis suggest that para-facet formation is not related to normal mastication but to nonmasticatory activities. Thus, the identification of these nonmasticatory wear areas on the molars of early Near Eastern Neanderthals and AMH may indicate analogous tooth-tool uses for daily task activities. These may have emerged independently or could be interpreted as indirect evidence of cultural interactions between these two groups. Am J Phys Anthropol 152:107–117, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

The Upper Palaeolithic of Manot Cave, Western Galilee, Israel: the 2011–12 excavations, di O. Marder et alii,"Antiquity - Project Gallery", Issue 337, September 2013

The Upper Palaeolithic of the Levant (45 000–22 000 BP) represents the full establishment of modern human behavior in this region following the existence of both modern humans and Neanderthals during the Middle Palaeolithic. The Levantine Upper Palaeolithic shares some similarities to its European counterpart but otherwise is quite different. (...)

Hominids and palaeoenvironments in the Moravian Karst during Marine Isotope Stage 3: new excavations in Pod Hradem Cave, Czech Republic, di L. Nejman et alii,"Antiquity - Project Gallery", Issue 337, September 2013

Frequent, high-amplitude changes in temperature are well-documented in marine sediment and glacier cores during Marine Isotope Stage 3, however there is little information about their potentially substantial effects on environments in Central Europe. These rapid climatic and corresponding environmental changes may have had an impact on human populations in the region. This short article introduces palaeoenvironmental and archaeological results from a recent excavation at Pod Hradem Cave in Czech Republic. (...)

Homo erectus and Middle Pleistocene hominins: Brain size, skull form, and species recognition, di G. P. Rightmire, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 3, September 2013, Pages 223–252

Hominins that differ from Homo erectus, the Neanderthals, and recent humans are known from Middle Pleistocene localities across the Old World. The taxonomic status of these populations has been clouded by controversy. Perhaps the most critical problem has been an incomplete understanding of variation in skull form. Here, both H. erectus and later mid-Pleistocene hominins are the focus of an investigation aimed at clarifying the relationships among brain volume, basicranial dimensions, neurocranial shape, and certain facial characters. Brain size in H. erectus averages about 950 cm3, while in a series of Middle Pleistocene crania from Africa and Europe, volume is about 1230 cm3. If encephalization is the primary mechanism operating in the mid-Pleistocene, then diverse aspects of cranial form cannot all be treated as independent variables. Correlation is utilized to examine the associations among measurements for more than 30 H. erectus crania that are reasonably well preserved. A similar approach is used with the Middle Pleistocene sample. Patterns of covariation are compared in order to assess integration. Next, factor analysis is applied to the H. erectus specimens in an attempt to identify modules, tightly integrated traits that can evolve independently. Studies of the variation within H. erectus are followed by direct comparisons with the Middle Pleistocene population. Discriminant functions facilitate the description of intergroup differences. Traits that vary independently from brain volume include anterior frontal broadening, lateral expansion of the parietal vault, elevation of the lambda–inion chord, and rounding of the sagittal contour of the occipital. This finding helps to resolve the problem of species recognition. Neurocranial proportions as well as characters from the cranial base and face can be incorporated into a differential diagnosis for the mid-Pleistocene sample. Evidence presented here supports arguments for speciation in the Middle Pleistocene.

Origins of the Iberomaurusian in NW Africa: New AMS radiocarbon dating of the Middle and Later Stone Age deposits at Taforalt Cave, Morocco, di R.N.E. Barton, A. Bouzouggar, J.T. Hogue, S. Lee, S.N. Collcutt, P. Ditchfield, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 3, September 2013, Pages 266–281

Recent genetic studies based on the distribution of mtDNA of haplogroup U6 have led to subtly different theories regarding the arrival of modern human populations in North Africa. One proposes that groups of the proto-U6 lineage spread from the Near East to North Africa around 40–45 ka (thousands of years ago), followed by some degree of regional continuity. Another envisages a westward human migration from the Near East, followed by further demographic expansion at ∼22 ka centred on the Maghreb and associated with a microlithic bladelet culture known as the Iberomaurusian. In evaluating these theories, we report on the results of new work on the Middle (MSA) and Later Stone (LSA) Age deposits at Taforalt Cave in Morocco. We present 54 AMS radiocarbon dates on bone and charcoals from a sequence of late MSA and LSA occupation levels of the cave. Using Bayesian modelling we show that an MSA non-Levallois flake industry was present until ∼24.5 ka Cal BP (calibrated years before present), followed by a gap in occupation and the subsequent appearance of an LSA Iberomaurusian industry from at least 21,160 Cal BP. The new dating offers fresh light on theories of continuity versus replacement of populations as presented by the genetic evidence. We examine the implications of these data for interpreting the first appearance of the LSA in the Maghreb and providing comparisons with other dated early blade and bladelet industries in North Africa.

The Gravettian calvaria from Mollet III cave (Serinyà, Northeastern Iberian Peninsula), di J. Soler, N. Soler, B. Agustí, M. Bolus, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 3, September 2013, Pages 322–329

The Mollet III cave is situated in the vicinity of Serinyà and is very close to the important Palaeolithic caves of Reclau Viver, Mollet, Pau and Arbreda. All of these sites are concentrated along a travertine cliff, only a few metres apart from each other. Mollet III cave should not be confused with the adjacent site of Mollet (sometimes also referred to as Mollet I), in which an archaic human molar dated to MIS 7 was found (...)

Population changes across the Neanderthal-to-modern-human transition in western France: A reply to Dogandžić and McPherron (2013), di P. Mellars, J. C. French, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 3, September 2013, Pages 330–333

We welcome Dogandzic and McPherron’s (2013) thoughtful evaluation of our recent Science paper (Mellars and French, 2011) on the nature and extent of demographic changes across the Neanderthal-to-modern human transition in western France. We regard exchanges of this kind as essential to the health of any discipline, and respond to the various issues raised in their paper, as follows (...)

Striking Patterns: Skill for Forming Tools and Words Evolved Together, di M. Balter, "Science NOW", 30 August 2013

When did humans start talking? There are nearly as many answers to this perplexing question as there are researchers studying it. A new brain imaging study claims to support the hypothesis that language emerged long before Homo sapiens and coevolved with the invention of the first finely made stone tools nearly 2 million years ago. However, some experts think it’s premature to draw sweeping conclusions. (...)

African genes tracked back, di E. Check Hayden, "Nature - News", 27 August 2013

The first humans left Africa some 200,000 years ago, dispersing to populate the rest of the world. But this was not a one-way trip: some people came back. Scientists say that they have traced a reverse migration that, in two steps, carried genes from the rest of the world back to southern Africa, long before European colonizers arrived. The findings are part of a flurry of research enabled by better tools to survey African genomes. For the first time, population geneticists can examine the complex history of human migration in Africa effectively, a field long dominated by the analysis of bones, artefacts and languages. “Up until now this was mostly done based on linguistics and archaeology, and now we can use genetics to test ideas,” says Carina Schlebusch, a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden. “It’s a really exciting time for African genetics.” (...)

Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe, di  M. Soressi et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences",  August 27, 2013 vol. 110 no. 35, pp. 14186-14190

Modern humans replaced Neandertals ~40,000 y ago. Close to the time of replacement, Neandertals show behaviors similar to those of the modern humans arriving into Europe, including the use of specialized bone tools, body ornaments, and small blades. It is highly debated whether these modern behaviors developed before or as a result of contact with modern humans. Here we report the identification of a type of specialized bone tool, lissoir, previously only associated with modern humans. The microwear preserved on one of these lissoir is consistent with the use of lissoir in modern times to obtain supple, lustrous, and more impermeable hides. These tools are from a Neandertal context proceeding the replacement period and are the oldest specialized bone tools in Europe. As such, they are either a demonstration of independent invention by Neandertals or an indication that modern humans started influencing European Neandertals much earlier than previously believed. Because these finds clearly predate the oldest known age for the use of similar objects in Europe by anatomically modern humans, they could also be evidence for cultural diffusion from Neandertals to modern humans.

The Sibiryachikha Facies of the Altai Middle Paleolithic, "Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia",Volume 41, Issue 1, Pages 1-148 (March 2013) 

· Chagyrskaya Cave: A Middle Paleolithic Site In The Altai
· Large Mammal Fauna from the Pleistocene Deposits of Chagyrskaya Cave Northwestern Altai (based on 2007–2011 Excavations)
· Environmental Conditions During the Early Human Settlement of Chagyrskaya Cave (Altai) 
· Dental Remains from the Middle Paleolithic Layers of Altai Cave Sites
· An Archaic Human Ulna from Chagyrskaya Cave Altai: Morphology and Taxonomy
· The Neanderthals of Okladnikov Cave Altai: Environment and Diet Based on Isotopic Analysis
· The Sibiryachikha Facies of the Middle Paleolithic of the Altai

Aggiornamento 18 agosto

Taphonomic resolution and hominin subsistence behaviour in the Lower Palaeolithic: differing data scales and interpretive frameworks at Boxgrove and Swanscombe (UK), di G. M. Smith, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 40, Issue 10, October 2013, Pages 3754–3767

The identification of human butchery-signatures on fauna from Lower Palaeolithic sites is well documented and readily identifiable. Such bone surface modifications have the potential to provide not only information about past hominin meat-procurement behaviour but address the wider issue of competition for resources with other carnivore species. To understand and discuss these broader issues both hominin and natural bone surface modifications must be understood and contextualised within a site-specific spatial and temporal framework. This paper presents new results from faunal analysis at two key British Lower Palaeolithic localities: Boxgrove and Swanscombe. It illustrates that different depositional environments and excavation histories have resulted in different scales and resolutions of available data and hence in varying interpretive potentials. At Swanscombe the archaeological record has been disturbed by both fluvial activity and excavation history providing a coarser-grained record of anthropogenic behaviour than previously acknowledged. Conversely, at Boxgrove, a finer-grained, higher resolution record of human behaviours has been preserved; this, combined with both an extensive and intensive excavation strategy, has allowed for a broader discussion of hominin landscape use, resource competition and meat-procurement behaviour. This paper highlights that assessing the specific depositional environment at each site is crucial to understanding Palaeolithic faunal assemblage formation and, consequently, the available data-resolution and behavioural interpretation.

A multi-analytical methodology of lithic residue analysis applied to Paleolithic tools from Hummal, Syria, di G. F. Monnier et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 40, Issue 10, October 2013, Pages 3722–3739

Lithic residue analysis is traditionally based upon the morphological identification of microresidues preserved on the surfaces of stone tools. In order to improve the reliability of these identifications, we apply multiple techniques beyond morphological description to characterize the residues on stone tools from Hummal, Syria. We first document the residues using visible light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, and then characterize them using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared microscopy, and confocal Raman microscopy. Our analyses confirm that some of the residues are bitumen. X-ray diffraction analysis of associated sediments is used to identify the other residues.

Special Issue: The Middle Stone Age at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Western Cape, South Africa, Volume 40, Issue 9, Pages 3369-3552 (September 2013) 

Paleolithic Art: A Cultural History, di O. Moro Abadía, M. R. González Morales, "Journal of Archaeological Research", September 2013, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 269-306

In this article we review the history of the terms and ideas that have been used to conceptualize Paleolithic art since the end of the 19th century. Between 1900 and 1970, prehistoric representations were typically divided into two main groups: parietal art (including rock and cave art) and portable (or mobiliary) art. This classification gave rise to asymmetrical attitudes about Paleolithic images. In particular, many portable and nonfigurative representations were overlooked while a small number of cave paintings were praised for their realism. Although the portable/parietal division has remained a popular divide among archaeologists, in the last 30 years increasing numbers of specialists have crossed the boundaries established by these categories. They have developed new frameworks within which more kinds of images are meaningfully approached and incorporated into the analysis of Paleolithic art and symbolism. The emergence of new approaches to Pleistocene imagery is the result of a number of interrelated processes, including the globalization of Paleolithic art studies, the impact of new discoveries, and the development of new approaches to art, images, and symbolism.

Preliminary archaeometric study of the Neolithic pottery from the “Le Grottelline” site (Spinazzola, Italy), di B. Fabbri, S. Gualtieri, R. Lorenzi, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", September 2013, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 235-243

The archaeological site of “Le Grottelline”, in the territory of Spinazzola, province of Bari (southern Italy), which dates back to the Early Neolithic Age, is located in the Bradanic Trough. Abundant ceramic material was recovered, which mainly belongs to the Culture of “Archaic-Impressed Pottery” and appears similar to that found in other Neolithic sites of the Murge area. The archaeologists recognized four ceramic classes: coarse, semi-depurated, depurated, and figulina. Fine ceramics can be red paint decorated. Aim of this work was a preliminary archaeometric characterization of the ceramic material from “Le Grottelline” in order to have information about the use of local raw materials and to address subsequent studies aimed to verify the relationships among the Neolithic cultures of the Murge area. The present study evidenced two typologies of ceramic body, characterized by calcium-rich and calcium-poor pastes, respectively, and two single samples. For the two groups of ceramics, a manufacture with local raw materials is assumed by using two types of clay: carbonate clays from “Subapennine Clays” formation and residual carbonate-free clays such as the well-known “red earths”. These two ceramic typologies are very similar to those reported for the near Neolithic site of Ciccotto, and it also located in the Bradanic Trough. For the two single samples, on the contrary, a manufacturing with “Alluvial Clays” and a provenance from the site of Pulo di Molfetta are supposed. The red painted decorations are aluminum- and iron-rich, while the content of calcium can be very different.

Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe, di M. Soressi et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Early Edition", August 12, 2013

Modern humans replaced Neandertals ~40,000 y ago. Close to the time of replacement, Neandertals show behaviors similar to those of the modern humans arriving into Europe, including the use of specialized bone tools, body ornaments, and small blades. It is highly debated whether these modern behaviors developed before or as a result of contact with modern humans. Here we report the identification of a type of specialized bone tool, lissoir, previously only associated with modern humans. The microwear preserved on one of these lissoir is consistent with the use of lissoir in modern times to obtain supple, lustrous, and more impermeable hides. These tools are from a Neandertal context proceeding the replacement period and are the oldest specialized bone tools in Europe. As such, they are either a demonstration of independent invention by Neandertals or an indication that modern humans started influencing European Neandertals much earlier than previously believed. Because these finds clearly predate the oldest known age for the use of similar objects in Europe by anatomically modern humans, they could also be evidence for cultural diffusion from Neandertals to modern humans.

· Neanderthals made leather-working tools like those in use today, di E. Callaway, "Nature - News", 12 August 2013

· Neandertals Were No Copycats, di M. Balter, "Science - NOW", 2013-08-12

Low-Pass DNA Sequencing of 1200 Sardinians Reconstructs European Y-Chromosome Phylogeny, di P. Francalacci et alii, "Science", 2 August 2013: Vol. 341 no. 6145 pp. 565-569

Genetic variation within the male-specific portion of the Y chromosome (MSY) can clarify the origins of contemporary populations, but previous studies were hampered by partial genetic information. Population sequencing of 1204 Sardinian males identified 11,763 MSY single-nucleotide polymorphisms, 6751 of which have not previously been observed. We constructed a MSY phylogenetic tree containing all main haplogroups found in Europe, along with many Sardinian-specific lineage clusters within each haplogroup. The tree was calibrated with archaeological data from the initial expansion of the Sardinian population ~7700 years ago. The ages of nodes highlight different genetic strata in Sardinia and reveal the presumptive timing of coalescence with other human populations. We calculate a putative age for coalescence of ~180,000 to 200,000 years ago, which is consistent with previous mitochondrial DNA–based estimates.

· Genetic Adam and Eve did not live too far apart in time, di E. Callaway, "Nature - News", 06 August 2013

· Le origini dell'uomo nel DNA dei sardi, di V. Tudisca, "National Geographic Italia", 2 agosto 2013

Postnatal temporal bone ontogeny in Pan, Gorilla, and Homo, and the implications for temporal bone ontogeny in Australopithecus afarensis, di C. E. Terhune, W. H. Kimbel, C. A. Lockwood, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 151, Issue 4, pages 630–642, August 2013

Assessments of temporal bone morphology have played an important role in taxonomic and phylogenetic evaluations of fossil taxa, and recent three-dimensional analyses of this region have supported the utility of the temporal bone for testing taxonomic and phylogenetic hypotheses. But while clinical analyses have examined aspects of temporal bone ontogeny in humans, the ontogeny of the temporal bone in non-human taxa is less well documented. This study examines ontogenetic allometry of the temporal bone in order to address several research questions related to the pattern and trajectory of temporal bone shape change during ontogeny in the African apes and humans. We further apply these data to a preliminary analysis of temporal bone ontogeny in Australopithecus afarensis. Three-dimensional landmarks were digitized on an ontogenetic series of specimens of Homo sapiens, Pan troglodytes, Pan paniscus, and Gorilla gorilla. Data were analyzed using geometric morphometric methods, and shape changes throughout ontogeny in relation to size were compared. Results of these analyses indicate that, despite broadly similar patterns, African apes and humans show marked differences in development of the mandibular fossa and tympanic portions of the temporal bone. These findings indicate divergent, rather than parallel, postnatal ontogenetic allometric trajectories for temporal bone shape in these taxa. The pattern of temporal bone shape change with size exhibited by A. afarensis showed some affinities to that of humans, but was most similar to extant African apes, particularly Gorilla. Am J Phys Anthropol 151:630–642, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Combined ESR/U-series chronology of Acheulian hominid-bearing layers at Trinchera Galería site, Atapuerca, Spain, di C. Falguères, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 65, Issue 2, August 2013, Pages 168–184

The Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Spain, is known from many prehistoric and palaeontological sites documenting human prehistory in Europe. Three major sites, Gran Dolina, Galería and Sima del Elefante, range in age from the oldest hominin of Western Europe dated to 1.1 to 1.3 Ma (millions of years ago) at Sima del Elefante to c.a. 0.2 Ma on the top of the Galería archaeological sequence. Recently, a chronology based on luminescence methods (Thermoluminescence [TL] and Infrared Stimulated Luminescence [IRSL]) applied to cave sediments was published for the Gran Dolina and Galería sites. The authors proposed for Galería an age of 450 ka (thousands of years ago) for the units lower GIII and GII, suggesting that the human occupation there is younger than the hominid remains of Sima de los Huesos (>530 ka) around 1 km away. In this paper, we present new results obtained by combined Electron Spin Resonance/Uranium-series (ESR/U-series) dating on 20 herbivorous teeth from different levels at the Galería site. They are in agreement with the TL results for the upper part of the stratigraphic sequence (GIV and GIIIb), in the range of between 200 and 250 ka. But for the GIIIa to GIIb levels, the TL ages become abruptly older by 200 ka while ESR ages remain relatively constant. Finally, the TL and ESR data agree in the lowest part of the section (GIIa); both fall in the range of around 350–450 ka. Our results suggest a different interpretation for the GII, GIII and GIV units of Galería and the upper part of Gran Dolina (TD10 and TD11) than obtained by TL. The ESR/U-series results are supported by a Bayesian analysis, which allows a better integration between stratigraphic information and radiometric data.

The Neandertals from the Caverna delle Fate (Finale Ligure, Italy). I - Chronostratigraphy, skeletal remains, di M. A. de Lumleya, G. Giacobini, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 3, June–August 2013, Pages 273–304

The new excavations derived by the French-Italian team in the Caverna delle Fate, Finale Ligure (Italy) between 1983 and 1987 have permitted the digging up neandertalian remains in a chronostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental accurate context. They increased the bones identified in the old collection of the Father Amerano's excavations. Actually 16 humain remains including frontal elements, zygomatique, occipital fragment, hemimandible, mandible and 10 isolated teeth can be attributed to one adult and one child 8–10 years old. This assemblage shows two interesting topics: these human remains have affinities with other neandertalian elements discovered in the occidental European Mediterranean area, so that we propose the existence of a gracile neandertalian population in this region; their chronological attribution to the MIS 5.1 suggests that at this stage the neandertalian apomorphies are not wholly integrated.

The Neandertals from the Caverna delle Fate (Finale Ligure, Italy). II – Teeth, di M. A. de Lumleya, G. Giacobini,  "L'Anthropologie", Volume 117, Issue 3, June–August 2013, Pages 305–344

The neandertalian remains discovered in the Caverna delle Fate, Finale Ligure (Italy) gave up a majority of dental material: 10 isolated teeth and six teeth upon arcade or included in the adult mandible Fate 3 and in the child mandible 8–10 years old, Fate 2. Until now, this assemblage is the most numerous of neandertalian teeth excavated in Italy, with archeostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental accurate context. No decidual tooth, lost naturally, has been recognized. The dental material is well preserved, not much altered by wear. The morphometric data confirm the possibility of presence of a gracile neandertalian population living along the mediterranean septentrional European shore. These populations were present since the MIS 5.1, between 80,000 and 70,000 years. This gracility can be explained by the geographic impact and not by the evolutive stage.

Les squelettes de l'abri Cro-Magnon. Datation et pathologie. Evolution des idées par Brigitte Delluc et Dr Gilles Delluc

Deux questions sont souvent posées à propos des squelettes exhumés dans l’abri de Cro-Magnon : 1 - De quand date cette sépulture ? 2 - De quelles maladies avaient souffert les humains découverts en ces lieux? Le but des pages que voici est d’abord épistémologique : essayer de reconstituer les principales étapes ayant permis, non sans mal, de résoudre peu à peu ces problèmes en un siècle et demi. Le lecteur trouvera, en outre, deux petites actualisations concernant la datation et la pathologie. (...)

Neanderthal teeth from moula-guercy, Ardèche, France, di L. J. Hlusko, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 151, Issue 3, pages 477–491, July 2013

Here we describe dental remains from a Neanderthal fossil assemblage from Moula-Guercy, France. Our report demonstrates that the Moula-Guercy hominid remains contribute important morphological, developmental, and behavioral data to understanding Neanderthal evolutionary history. We include gross comparative morphological descriptions and enamel surface microstructure and microwear data. These teeth reveal numerous characteristics that are diagnostic of Neanderthals and provide no evidence for the presence of any other hominid taxa. Enamel growth increment data from the Moula-Guercy specimens yield evidence of a Neanderthal pattern of development, although at the lower end of the range of variation. The presence of a significant number of linear enamel hypoplasias indicates that these individuals were stressed during childhood. Molar microwear data suggest that these Neanderthals did not differ significantly from modern humans in terms of the fracture properties of the food they were consuming. The incisor microwear and macro striations provide evidence that these individuals may have been using their anterior teeth as tools, similar to the practices of several modern human populations such as the Inuit, Ipiutak, and Australian Aboriginals, and reminiscent of evidence from other Neanderthals from Krapina, Croatia, as well as the 600,000 year old hominids from Sima de los Huesos, Spain. Am J Phys Anthropol 151:477–491, 2013.© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Mitogenomes from Two Uncommon Haplogroups Mark Late Glacial/Postglacial Expansions from the Near East and Neolithic Dispersals within Europe, di A. Olivieri et alii, "PLOsONE", July 31, 2013 - open access - 

The current human mitochondrial (mtDNA) phylogeny does not equally represent all human populations but is biased in favour of representatives originally from north and central Europe. This especially affects the phylogeny of some uncommon West Eurasian haplogroups, including I and W, whose southern European and Near Eastern components are very poorly represented, suggesting that extensive hidden phylogenetic substructure remains to be uncovered. This study expanded and re-analysed the available datasets of I and W complete mtDNA genomes, reaching a comprehensive 419 mitogenomes, and searched for precise correlations between the ages and geographical distributions of their numerous newly identified subclades with events of human dispersal which contributed to the genetic formation of modern Europeans. Our results showed that haplogroups I (within N1a1b) and W originated in the Near East during the Last Glacial Maximum or pre-warming period (the period of gradual warming between the end of the LGM, ~19 ky ago, and the beginning of the first main warming phase, ~15 ky ago) and, like the much more common haplogroups J and T, may have been involved in Late Glacial expansions starting from the Near East. Thus our data contribute to a better definition of the Late and postglacial re-peopling of Europe, providing further evidence for the scenario that major population expansions started after the Last Glacial Maximum but before Neolithic times, but also evidencing traces of diffusion events in several I and W subclades dating to the European Neolithic and restricted to Europe. (...)

Deep-seated gravitational slope deformations as possible suitable locations for prehistoric human settlements: An example from the Italian Western Alps, di M. G. Forno, M. Gattiglio, F. Gianotti, A. Guerreschi, L. Raiteri, "Quaternary International", Volume 303, 25 July 2013, Pages 180–190

The Plan di Modzon is a mountain area (2300 m) located in the Verrogne Valley, NW of Aosta (Western Alps). It occurs along the contact between the Middle Penninic (micaschist and gneiss from the Gran San Bernardo Nappe) and the overlying upper units of the Piedmont Zone (carbonate calcschist alternating with marble). This area, largely shaped by Pleistocene glaciers, was involved in a wide deep-seated gravitational slope deformation (Pointe Leysser DSGSD) on the western extension of the Becca France doubled ridges. Several ridges that were affected by glacial erosion, discontinuously covered by glacial sediments, are present throughout the area. Extremely fractured rocks and various gravitational forms (minor scarps and trenches) mark the DSGSD. Several archaeological sites (MF1–MF9) have recently been found between 2242 and 2292 m asl. They have revealed artifacts of rock crystal (hyaline quartz) referred to the Sauveterrian stage of the Mesolithic. An ensemble of other archaeological evidence is referred to the Copper Age. The investigation in progress specifically concerns the systematic excavation of sites MF1 and MF3. Some concomitant morphological factors have created very favorable conditions for prehistoric settlements in the Plan di Modzon area, including the exceptionally wide valley floor directly perched on the main Dora Baltea Valley, in consequence of the Verrogne Glacier diversion promoted by the P. Leysser DSGSD. Easy and direct accessibility to this area is provided by the gently-dipping slope of the Dora Baltea Valley affected by the DSGSD. The ridged and grooved morphology as the result of the glacial and gravitational interaction, offered wide surfaces free from geological hazards (debris flow and avalanche processes). The DSGSD is, therefore, one of the primary causes of the archaeological settlement of this area, contributing to create a morphology adapted to prehistoric settlements.

Earliest floral grave lining from 13,700–11,700-y-old Natufian burials at Raqefet Cave, Mt. Carmel, Israel, di D. Nadel et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", July 16, 2013, vol. 110 no. 29, pp. 11774–11778

Flowering plants possess mechanisms that stimulate positive emotional and social responses in humans. It is difficult to establish when people started to use flowers in public and ceremonial events because of the scarcity of relevant evidence in the archaeological record. We report on uniquely preserved 13,700–11,700-y-old grave linings made of flowers, suggesting that such use began much earlier than previously thought. The only potentially older instance is the questionable use of flowers in the Shanidar IV Neanderthal grave. The earliest cemeteries (ca. 15,000–11,500 y ago) in the Levant are known from Natufian sites in northern Israel, where dozens of burials reflect a wide range of inhumation practices. The newly discovered flower linings were found in four Natufian graves at the burial site of Raqefet Cave, Mt. Carmel, Israel. Large identified plant impressions in the graves include stems of sage and other Lamiaceae (Labiatae; mint family) or Scrophulariaceae (figwort family) species; accompanied by a plethora of phytoliths, they provide the earliest direct evidence now known for such preparation and decoration of graves. Some of the plant species attest to spring burials with a strong emphasis on colorful and aromatic flowers. Cave floor chiseling to accommodate the desired grave location and depth is also evident at the site. Thus, grave preparation was a sophisticated planned process, embedded with social and spiritual meanings reflecting a complex preagricultural society undergoing profound changes at the end of the Pleistocene.

Homo floresiensis Contextualized: A Geometric Morphometric Comparative Analysis of Fossil and Pathological Human Samples, di K. L. Baab, K. P. McNulty, K. Harvati, "PLoS ONE", July 10, 2013 - open access -

The origin of hominins found on the remote Indonesian island of Flores remains highly contentious. These specimens may represent a new hominin species, Homo floresiensis, descended from a local population of Homo erectus or from an earlier (pre-H. erectus) migration of a small-bodied and small-brained hominin out of Africa. Alternatively, some workers suggest that some or all of the specimens recovered from Liang Bua are pathological members of a small-bodied modern human population. Pathological conditions proposed to explain their documented anatomical features include microcephaly, myxoedematous endemic hypothyroidism (“cretinism”) and Laron syndrome (primary growth hormone insensitivity). This study evaluates evolutionary and pathological hypotheses through comparative analysis of cranial morphology. Geometric morphometric analyses of landmark data show that the sole Flores cranium (LB1) is clearly distinct from healthy modern humans and from those exhibiting hypothyroidism and Laron syndrome. Modern human microcephalic specimens converge, to some extent, on crania of extinct species of Homo. However in the features that distinguish these two groups, LB1 consistently groups with fossil hominins and is most similar to H. erectus. Our study provides further support for recognizing the Flores hominins as a distinct species, H. floresiensis, whose affinities lie with archaic Homo. (...)

Neandertals Shared Speech and Language With Modern Humans, Study Suggests, July 9, 2013

Fast-accumulating data seem to indicate that our close cousins, the Neandertals, were much more similar to us than imagined even a decade ago. But did they have anything like modern speech and language? And if so, what are the implications for understanding present-day linguistic diversity? The MPI for Psycholinguistics researchers Dan Dediu and Stephen C. Levinson argue in their paper in Frontiers in Language Sciences that modern language and speech can be traced back to the last common ancestor we shared with the Neandertals roughly half a million years ago. (...)

· On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences, di D. Dediu, S. C. Levinson, "Frontiers in Psychology", 2013, 4, 05 July 2013

Archaeological shellfish size and later human evolution in Africa, di R. G. Kleina, T. E. Steele, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", July 2, 2013,vol. 110 no. 27, pp. 10910–10915 

Approximately 50 ka, one or more subgroups of modern humans expanded from Africa to populate the rest of the world. Significant behavioral change accompanied this expansion, and archaeologists commonly seek its roots in the African Middle Stone Age (MSA; ~200 to ~50 ka). Easily recognizable art objects and “jewelry” become common only in sites that postdate the MSA in Africa and Eurasia, but some MSA sites contain possible precursors, especially including abstractly incised fragments of ocher and perforated shells interpreted as beads. These proposed art objects have convinced most specialists that MSA people were behaviorally (cognitively) modern, and many argue that population growth explains the appearance of art in the MSA and its post-MSA florescence. The average size of rocky intertidal gastropod species in MSA and later coastal middens allows a test of this idea, because smaller size implies more intense collection, and more intense collection is most readily attributed to growth in the number of human collectors. Here we demonstrate that economically important Cape turban shells and limpets from MSA layers along the south and west coasts of South Africa are consistently and significantly larger than turban shells and limpets in succeeding Later Stone Age (LSA) layers that formed under equivalent environmental conditions. We conclude that whatever cognitive capacity precocious MSA artifacts imply, it was not associated with human population growth. MSA populations remained consistently small by LSA standards, and a substantial increase in population size is obvious only near the MSA/LSA transition, when it is dramatically reflected in the Out-of-Africa expansion. 

Livre: Expressions Esthetiques Et Comportements Techniques Au Paleolithique, di Marc Groenen. 

Actes des sessions thématiques 36 et 37 du 16e Congrès mondial de l'UISPP. (Florianópolis, Brazil, 4-10 September 2011), edited by Marc Groenen.

Ce volume est le résultat de deux colloques consacrés l'un à L'image dans l'art mobilier et pariétal du Paléolithique européen et l'autre à L'analyse des comportements humains en relation avec le feu en préhistoire. On pourrait s'étonner qu'il rassemble des communications appartenant à deux thèmes aussi différents. Cette disparité n'est qu'apparente si l'on est conscient du fait qu'un fil conducteur les relie : essayer de dégager des intentions, en amont des comportements perceptibles dans les faits esthétiques et archéologiques. 

Stable carbon isotopes and human evolution, di R. G. Klein, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 25, 2013, vol. 110 no. 26, pp. 10470–10472 - open access -

Paleoanthropologists have long relied on skull and tooth morphology to infer fossil hominin diets, but from the early 1980s, they have also looked to microscopic wear traces in dental enamel, and since the early 1990s, they have looked increasingly to the stable isotope composition of skeletal tissues. The most commonly used stable isotopes are varieties of the light elements nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen isotope ratios can provide information about the degree of carnivory vs. herbivory (1), but nitrogen can be extracted only from fossil bones that retain protein, which means specimens mostly younger than 100,000 y in temperate latitudes and usually much younger than 25,000 y closer to the Equator. In contrast, antemortem carbon isotope ratios persist indefinitely in dental enamel (2), and the main limitation is that they reflect ancient diets mostly in tropical or subtropical settings where the plants divide subequally between ones that follow a C4 photosynthetic pathway and others that follow a C3 pathway. This is not a problem for paleoanthropology, because early hominins (humans broadly understood) evolved in tropical and subtropical Africa, and their teeth are preserved in numerous African sites. Four articles in PNAS show how stable carbon isotopes have illuminated the diets of hominins that lived in Africa between roughly 4.1 and 1.3 Ma. (...)

Diet of Australopithecus afarensis from the Pliocene Hadar Formation, Ethiopia, di J. G. Wynn et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 25, 2013, vol. 110 no. 26, pp. 10495–10500 - open access -

The enhanced dietary flexibility of early hominins to include consumption of C4/crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) foods (i.e., foods derived from grasses, sedges, and succulents common in tropical savannas and deserts) likely represents a significant ecological and behavioral distinction from both extant great apes and the last common ancestor that we shared with great apes. Here, we use stable carbon isotopic data from 20 samples of Australopithecus afarensis from Hadar and Dikika, Ethiopia (>3.4–2.9 Ma) to show that this species consumed a diet with significant C4/CAM foods, differing from its putative ancestor Au. anamensis. Furthermore, there is no temporal trend in the amount of C4/CAM food consumption over the age of the samples analyzed, and the amount of C4/CAM food intake was highly variable, even within a single narrow stratigraphic interval. As such, Au. afarensis was a key participant in the C4/CAM dietary expansion by early australopiths of the middle Pliocene. The middle Pliocene expansion of the eastern African australopith diet to include savanna-based foods represents a shift to use of plant food resources that were already abundant in hominin environments for at least 1 million y and sets the stage for dietary differentiation and niche specialization by subsequent hominin taxa. (...)

Stable isotope-based diet reconstructions of Turkana Basin hominins, di T. E. Cerling et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 25, 2013, vol. 110 no. 26, pp. 10501–10506 - open access -

Hominin fossil evidence in the Turkana Basin in Kenya from ca. 4.1 to 1.4 Ma samples two archaic early hominin genera and records some of the early evolutionary history of Paranthropus and Homo. Stable carbon isotopes in fossil tooth enamel are used to estimate the fraction of diet derived from C3 or C4 resources in these hominin taxa. The earliest hominin species in the Turkana Basin, Australopithecus anamensis, derived nearly all of its diet from C3 resources. Subsequently, by ca. 3.3 Ma, the later Kenyanthropus platyops had a very wide dietary range—from virtually a purely C3 resource-based diet to one dominated by C4 resources. By ca. 2 Ma, hominins in the Turkana Basin had split into two distinct groups: specimens attributable to the genus Homo provide evidence for a diet with a ca. 65/35 ratio of C3- to C4-based resources, whereas P. boisei had a higher fraction of C4-based diet (ca. 25/75 ratio). Homo sp. increased the fraction of C4-based resources in the diet through ca. 1.5 Ma, whereas P. boisei maintained its high dependency on C4-derived resources. (...)

Isotopic evidence of early hominin diets, di M. Sponheimer et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 25, 2013, vol. 110 no. 26, pp. 10513–10518 - open access -

Carbon isotope studies of early hominins from southern Africa showed that their diets differed markedly from the diets of extant apes. Only recently, however, has a major influx of isotopic data from eastern Africa allowed for broad taxonomic, temporal, and regional comparisons among hominins. Before 4 Ma, hominins had diets that were dominated by C3 resources and were, in that sense, similar to extant chimpanzees. By about 3.5 Ma, multiple hominin taxa began incorporating 13C-enriched [C4 or crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM)] foods in their diets and had highly variable carbon isotope compositions which are atypical for African mammals. By about 2.5 Ma, Paranthropus in eastern Africa diverged toward C4/CAM specialization and occupied an isotopic niche unknown in catarrhine primates, except in the fossil relations of grass-eating geladas (Theropithecus gelada). At the same time, other taxa (e.g., Australopithecus africanus) continued to have highly mixed and varied C3/C4 diets. Overall, there is a trend toward greater consumption of 13C-enriched foods in early hominins over time, although this trend varies by region. Hominin carbon isotope ratios also increase with postcanine tooth area and mandibular cross-sectional area, which could indicate that these foods played a role in the evolution of australopith masticatory robusticity. The 13C-enriched resources that hominins ate remain unknown and must await additional integration of existing paleodietary proxy data and new research on the distribution, abundance, nutrition, and mechanical properties of C4 (and CAM) plants.

Irish Cepaea nemoralis Land Snails Have a Cryptic Franco-Iberian Origin That Is Most Easily Explained by the Movements of Mesolithic Humans, "PLoS ONE", di A. J. Grindon, A. Davison, June 19, 2013 - open access -

The origins of flora and fauna that are only found in Ireland and Iberia, but which are absent from intervening countries, is one of the enduring questions of biogeography. As Southern French, Iberian and Irish populations of the land snail Cepaea nemoralis sometimes have a similar shell character, we used mitochondrial phylogenies to begin to understand if there is a shared “Lusitanian” history. Although much of Europe contains snails with A and D lineages, by far the majority of Irish individuals have a lineage, C, that in mainland Europe was only found in a restricted region of the Eastern Pyrenees. A past extinction of lineage C in the rest of Europe cannot be ruled out, but as there is a more than 8000 year continuous record of Cepaea fossils in Ireland, the species has long been a food source in the Pyrenees, and the Garonne river that flanks the Pyrenees is an ancient human route to the Atlantic, then we suggest that the unusual distribution of the C lineage is most easily explained by the movements of Mesolithic humans. If other Irish species have a similarly cryptic Lusitanian element, then this raises the possibility of a more widespread and significant pattern. (...)

Algunas consideraciones sobre la cronología de la cueva de Tito Bustillo (Ribadesella, Asturias), di J. F. Pascua Turrión, “ArqueoWeb", 14, 2012-2013. Páginas: 3-27 - open access - 

In this paper we developed a revision of the líthics and bony materials, and movable art of Tito Bustillo cave. The aim of the above mentioned work is based on approaching certain controversial information from the chronological point of view in his cultural adscription. For that purpose it will be evaluated the sedimentological and stratigraphic information as well as the radiocarbon datings in relation to the materials. It is revalued the importance of the middle Magdalenian in the occupations of the cave, confirming the records of this cavity with the information contributed by other enclaves of the regional environment during this period. It appears equally an occupation continued along the period in the site. (...)

Prácticas funerarias en la Península Ibérica durante el Paleolítico y Epipaleolítico, di J. M. Pérez Iglesias, “ArqueoWeb", 14, 2012-2013. Páginas: 227-267 - open access - 

A view about mortuary practices during the Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic in Iberia through human fossils, assembled in two groups: bones or fragments isolated which apparently do not have relationship with complete bodies, and skeletons. Most of the first belong to the skull and there are pieces of evidence that show a deliberate deposition of them. The Upper Paleolithic skeletons, with the exception of Lagar Velho, show problems to be accepted as intentionally buried, whereas most of the Epipaleolithic ones could be considered as so. (...)

 

gennaio-luglio 2013

Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca