Aggiornamento 31 marzo

  Settlement Dynamics of the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age, "Quaternary International", Volume 435, Part A, Pages 1-246 (12 April 2017). Edited by M. Gema Chacón, Knut Bretzke, Florent Rivals and Nicholas J. Conard

UISPP Foreword, di L. Oosterbeek

Current research on the settlement dynamics of the Middle Paleolithic and the Middle Stone Age, di M. Gema Chacón, Knut Bretzke, Florent Rivals, Nicholas J. Conard

Neanderthal's microlithic tool production and use, the case of Tata (Hungary), di A. Borel, V. Dobosi, M. H. Moncel

Mousterian in Balzi Rossi (Ventimiglia, Liguria, Italy): New insights and old collections, di E. Rossoni-Notter, O. Notter, P. Simon

GIS analysis of the spatial distribution of Middle Palaeolithic artefacts in Kůlna Cave (Czech Republic), di P. Neruda

Nubian technology in northern Arabia: Impact on interregional variability of Middle Paleolithic industries, di Y. H. Hilbert, R. Crassard, G. Charloux, R. Loreto

The effect of terrain on Neanderthal ecology in the Levant, di D. O. Henry, M. Belmaker, S. M. Bergin

The Middle Paleolithic sequence of Wadi Mushkuna Rockshelter and its implications for hominin settlement dynamics in western Syria, di K. Bretzke, A. W. Kandel, N. J. Conard

San Quirce (Palencia, Spain). A Neanderthal open air campsite with short term-occupation patterns, di M. Terradillos-Bernal et alii

Neanderthal highlanders: Las Callejuelas (Monteagudo del Castillo, Teruel, Spain), a high-altitude site occupied during MIS 5, di R. Domingo, J. L. Peña-Monné, T. de Torres, J. Eugenio Ortiz, P. Utrilla

Did stones speak about people? Flint catchment and Neanderthal behavior from Area 3 (Cañaveral, Madrid-Spain), di I. Ortiz Nieto-Márquez, J. Baena Preysler

Diachronic variation in the Middle Paleolithic settlement of Abrigo de la Quebrada (Chelva, Spain), di V. Villaverde et alii

Reconstructing occupational models: Bone refits in Level I of Abric Romaní, di M. Modolo, J. Rosell

A resilient landscape at Teixoneres Cave (MIS 3; Moià, Barcelona, Spain): The Neanderthals as disrupting agent, di J. Rosell et alii

Neanderthals of Crimea – Creative generalists of the late Middle Paleolithic. Contextualizing the leaf point industry Buran-Kaya III, Level C, di G. Bataille

Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications concerning the study of Neanderthal behavior, di E. Camarós, M. Cueto, L. Teira, Susanne C. Münzel, F. Plassard, P. Arias, F. Rivals


Characterization and supply of raw materials in the Neanderthal groups of Prado Vargas Cave (Cornejo, Burgos, Spain), di  S. Vallejo Rodríguez, K. Urtiaga Greaves, M. Navazo Ruiz, "Quaternary International", Volume 435, Part B, 12 April 2017, Pages 35–48

A systematic archaeological field survey has been undertaken in the area around Prado Vargas Cave (Cornejo, Burgos, Spain), which shows evidence of human occupation in the Middle Paleolithic. The aim of the study is to locate outcrops of raw materials which could have been used for the fabrication of tools by these Neanderthal groups. An archeological field survey of 46.6 km2 in 94 different locations was undertaken, in which flint and other materials of archaeological and ethnographic interest were recovered. Different analytic techniques were employed (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy [FTIR], X-Ray Diffraction [XRD], and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry [ICP-MS]) with the aim of typifying the lithic materials found in ten selected samples of flint on primary position in limestone and ten samples selected from flint on secondary position in clay. We have also undertaken the analysis of nine samples of archaeological flakes derived from the cave excavations. The flint samples were typified and the results of the data from the FTIR, XRD and ICP-MS were interpreted taking into account the similarity between samples of natural and archaeological origin, and the localization of possible areas of gathering of the lithic resources.


Quartzite selection in fluvial deposits: The N12 level of Roca dels Bous (Middle Palaeolithic, southeastern Pyrenees), di M. Roy Sunyer et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 435, Part B, 12 April 2017, Pages 49–60

The exploitation of rocks from secondary deposits is attested widely in the European Middle Palaeolithic. However, few studies have focused on analysing the implications derived from the management of these deposits. The fluvial terraces near the Mousterian site of Roca dels Bous have been sampled to determine their lithological composition and cobble morphology. Comparison with artefacts recovered from level N12 indicate selection patterns in the fluvial deposits of black quartzite, as well as preferential management of blanks with specific morphological and volumetric characteristics. This approach reveals behaviours involved in the acquisition, transport, transformation and discard of stone tools necessary for Neanderthal subsistence, and indicates interest in the study of secondary deposits and local raw materials in Middle Palaeolithic contexts.

  Dead wood gathering among Neanderthal groups: Charcoal evidence from Abric del Pastor and El Salt (Eastern Iberia), di P. Vidal-Matutano, A. Henry, I. Théry-Parisot, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 80, April 2017, Pages 109–121

We present here a new approach combining the microscopic characterization of fungal decay features and the fragmentation degree of the charcoal remains from Middle Palaeolithic combustion structures: features H4 and H11 from Abric del Pastor, unit IV (>75 ka BP) and features H50 and H57 from El Salt, unit Xb (ca. 52 ka BP), Eastern Iberia. The observation of wood degradation patterns that occurred prior to charring followed by their quantitative analysis according to previous experimental studies revealed differences between the alteration degrees of the firewood used in the hearths, highlighting the existence of firewood acquisition criteria based on dead wood gathering and also suggesting smoke-related functions. Coupled with fragmentation analyses, this method highlighted possible post-depositional processes affecting the higher degraded charcoals. These results lead us to propose a quantitative analysis of the fungal decay patterns on Middle Palaeolithic charcoal reinforcing the previous hypotheses about dead wood gathering among Neanderthal groups as an accessible and available resource in the surroundings. These data have significant implications for the interpretation of firewood use and management by Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers which was traditionally defined as an opportunistic activity according to the absence of selection criteria based on specific taxa.


Local and Nonlocal Procurement of Raw Material in Amud Cave, Israel: The Complex Mobility of Late Middle Paleolithic Groups, di R. Ekshtain, S. Ilani, I. Segal, E. Hovers, Geoarchaeology", Volume 32, Issue 2, March/April 2017, Pages 189–214 - open access -

Studying the distribution of lithic raw materials around prehistoric sites, their procurement, transport, and use, are important for understanding organizational decisions of hunter-gatherers. Here we examine lithic technological organization in two stratigraphic subunits B4 and B1 (dated ~ 68 and ~ 55 ka, respectively) at the Neanderthal site of Amud Cave. The lithic assemblages are made exclusively of flint. An ArcGIS model is used to create a predictive model for daily exploitation territories (DETs) around the site. Using a battery of statistical methods (ANOVA, principal component analysis, and cluster analysis), we link flint visual types with geochemical characteristics (obtained through inductively coupled plasma (ICP) mass spectrometry and ICP atomic emission spectrometry) of both geological and archaeological flints. Results indicate that local materials are abundant in both subunits. Nonlocal raw materials (from areas beyond the modeled DET) amount to 30–40% across all technological categories, suggesting long-distance transport. The technological patterns of the nonlocal raw material differ between the two subunits. Pending results of additional work, we suggest that nonlocal flint types were likely obtained from distances >60 km. Mobility patterns inferred from this study suggest that Amud Cave was a focal location within its settlement system during both occupation periods, but the manner of site use and mobility patterns changed through time. (...)


Geochemical Characterization of Four Quaternary Obsidian Sources and Provenance of Obsidian Artifacts from the Middle Stone Age Site of Gademotta, Main Ethiopian Rift, di M. S. Shackley, Y. Sahle, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 32, Issue 2, March/April 2017, Pages 302–310

Twenty-six Middle Stone Age obsidian artifacts from the Gademotta Formation were instrumentally characterized by energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence. Analysis of artifacts from the type locality enabled sampling of a greater time depth while avoiding the uncertainties in previous results on artifacts sampled from a “disturbed” context at Kulkuletti. Moreover, the analysis here of source samples from Alutu, Worja, and the previously unstudied Bora and Ficke sources in the broader region offers a better understanding of prehistoric lithic raw material procurement. The local Worja source, an aphyric obsidian excellent for tool production, substantially dominates the assemblage. Bora, another aphyric obsidian in the wider region, is also present, but not common. The vitrophyric Ficke and Alutu obsidian sources with abundant sanidine phenocrysts were not present in the archaeological assemblage, and likely did not compete with Worja and Bora for tool production. At least one artifact appears to be from an as yet unknown source, thus confirming results of previous studies. A few artifacts share similar geochemical composition with the Worja and Bora sources, thus highlighting the complexity of obsidian source studies in this part of the rift where multiple geographically close sources may share similar crustal material.

  Lithic technological responses to Late Pleistocene glacial cycling at Pinnacle Point Site 5-6, South Africa, di J. Wilkins , K. S. Brown, S. Oestmo, T. Pereira, K. L. Ranhorn, B. J. Schoville, C. W. Marean, March 29, 2017, doi: - open access -

There are multiple hypotheses for human responses to glacial cycling in the Late Pleistocene, including changes in population size, interconnectedness, and mobility. Lithic technological analysis informs us of human responses to environmental change because lithic assemblage characteristics are a reflection of raw material transport, reduction, and discard behaviors that depend on hunter-gatherer social and economic decisions. Pinnacle Point Site 5–6 (PP5-6), Western Cape, South Africa is an ideal locality for examining the influence of glacial cycling on early modern human behaviors because it preserves a long sequence spanning marine isotope stages (MIS) 5, 4, and 3 and is associated with robust records of paleoenvironmental change. The analysis presented here addresses the question, what, if any, lithic assemblage traits at PP5-6 represent changing behavioral responses to the MIS 5-4-3 interglacial-glacial cycle? It statistically evaluates changes in 93 traits with no a priori assumptions about which traits may significantly associate with MIS. In contrast to other studies that claim that there is little relationship between broad-scale patterns of climate change and lithic technology, we identified the following characteristics that are associated with MIS 4: increased use of quartz, increased evidence for outcrop sources of quartzite and silcrete, increased evidence for earlier stages of reduction in silcrete, evidence for increased flaking efficiency in all raw material types, and changes in tool types and function for silcrete. Based on these results, we suggest that foragers responded to MIS 4 glacial environmental conditions at PP5-6 with increased population or group sizes, ‘place provisioning’, longer and/or more intense site occupations, and decreased residential mobility. Several other traits, including silcrete frequency, do not exhibit an association with MIS. Backed pieces, once they appear in the PP5-6 record during MIS 4, persist through MIS 3. Changing paleoenvironments explain some, but not all temporal technological variability at PP5-6. (...)

  A decorated raven bone from the Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) Neanderthal site, Crimea, di A. Majkić, S. Evans, V. Stepanchuk, A. Tsvelykh, F. d’Errico, March 29, 2017, doi:  - open access

We analyze a radius bone fragment of a raven (Corvus corax) from Zaskalnaya VI rock shelter, Crimea. The object bears seven notches and comes from an archaeological level attributed to a Micoquian industry dated to between 38 and 43 cal kyr BP. Our study aims to examine the degree of regularity and intentionality of this set of notches through their technological and morphometric analysis, complemented by comparative experimental work. Microscopic analysis of the notches indicate that they were produced by the to-and-fro movement of a lithic cutting edge and that two notches were added to fill in the gap left between previously cut notches, probably to increase the visual consistency of the pattern. Multivariate analysis of morphometric data recorded on the archaeological notches and sets of notches cut by nine modern experimenters on radii of domestic turkeys shows that the variations recorded on the Zaskalnaya set are comparable to experimental sets made with the aim of producing similar, parallel, equidistant notches. Identification of the Weber Fraction, the constant that accounts for error in human perception, for equidistant notches cut on bone rods and its application to the Zaskalnaya set of notches and thirty-six sets of notches incised on seventeen Upper Palaeolithic bone objects from seven sites indicate that the Zaskalnaya set falls within the range of variation of regularly spaced experimental and Upper Palaeolithic sets of notches. This suggests that even if the production of the notches may have had a utilitarian reason the notches were made with the goal of producing a visually consistent pattern. This object represents the first instance of a bird bone from a Neanderthal site bearing modifications that cannot be explained as the result of butchery activities and for which a symbolic argument can be built on direct rather than circumstantial evidence. (...)

  New Middle Pleistocene hominin cranium from Gruta da Aroeira (Portugal), di J. Daura et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", March 28, 2017, vol. 114 no. 13, pp. 3397–3402 - open access -

The Middle Pleistocene is a crucial time period for studying human evolution in Europe, because it marks the appearance of both fossil hominins ancestral to the later Neandertals and the Acheulean technology. Nevertheless, European sites containing well-dated human remains associated with an Acheulean toolkit remain scarce. The earliest European hominin crania associated with Acheulean handaxes are at the sites of Arago, Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH), and Swanscombe, dating to 400–500 ka (Marine Isotope Stage 11–12). The Atapuerca (SH) fossils and the Swanscombe cranium belong to the Neandertal clade, whereas the Arago hominins have been attributed to an incipient stage of Neandertal evolution, to Homo heidelbergensis, or to a subspecies of Homo erectus. A recently discovered cranium (Aroeira 3) from the Gruta da Aroeira (Almonda karst system, Portugal) dating to 390–436 ka provides important evidence on the earliest European Acheulean-bearing hominins. This cranium is represented by most of the right half of a calvarium (with the exception of the missing occipital bone) and a fragmentary right maxilla preserving part of the nasal floor and two fragmentary molars. The combination of traits in the Aroeira 3 cranium augments the previously documented diversity in the European Middle Pleistocene fossil record. (...)


Origins of house mice in ecological niches created by settled hunter-gatherers in the Levant 15,000 y ago, di L. Weissbrod et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Early Edition", March 27, 2017, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1619137114

Reductions in hunter-gatherer mobility during the Late Pleistocene influenced settlement ecologies, altered human relations with animal communities, and played a pivotal role in domestication. The influence of variability in human mobility on selection dynamics and ecological interactions in human settlements has not been extensively explored, however. This study of mice in modern African villages and changing mice molar shapes in a 200,000-y-long sequence from the Levant demonstrates competitive advantages for commensal mice in long-term settlements. Mice from African pastoral households provide a referential model for habitat partitioning among mice taxa in settlements of varying durations. The data reveal the earliest known commensal niche for house mice in long-term forager settlements 15,000 y ago. Competitive dynamics and the presence and abundance of mice continued to fluctuate with human mobility through the terminal Pleistocene. At the Natufian site of Ain Mallaha, house mice displaced less commensal wild mice during periods of heavy occupational pressure but were outcompeted when mobility increased. Changing food webs and ecological dynamics in long-term settlements allowed house mice to establish durable commensal populations that expanded with human societies. This study demonstrates the changing magnitude of cultural niche construction with varying human mobility and the extent of environmental influence before the advent of farming.

  Cleaning up a Messy Mousterian: How to describe and interpret Late Middle Palaeolithic chrono-cultural variability in Atlantic Europe, "Quaternary International", Volume 433, Part B, Pages 1-156 (17 March 2017). Edited by Jean-Philippe Faivre, Emmanuel Discamps, Brad Gravina, Alain Turq and Laurence Bourguignon

Cleaning up a Messy Mousterian: How to describe and interpret Late Middle Palaeolithic chrono-cultural variability in Atlantic Europe, di J. P. Faivre, E. Discamps, B. Gravina, A. Turq, L. Bourguignon

Neanderthals in the Outermost West: Technological adaptation in the Late Middle Palaeolithic (re)-colonization of Britain, Marine Isotope Stage 4/3, di R. M. Wragg Sykes

Late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages with flake cleavers in the western Pyrenees: The Vasconian reconsidered, di M. Deschamps

A new chronological and technological synthesis for Late Middle Paleolithic of the Eastern Cantabrian Region, di J. Rios-Garaizar

Reconstructing palaeoenvironmental conditions faced by Mousterian hunters during MIS 5 to 3 in southwestern France: A multi-scale approach using data from large and small mammal communities, di E. Discamps, A. Royer

Building models of Neanderthal territories from raw material transports in the Aquitaine Basin (southwestern France), di A. Turq, J. P. Faivre, B. Gravina, L. Bourguignon

The complementarity of luminescence dating methods illustrated on the Mousterian sequence of the Roc de Marsal: A series of reindeer-dominated, Quina Mousterian layers dated to MIS 3, di G. Guérin et alii

Late Middle Palaeolithic lithic technocomplexes (MIS 5–3) in the northeastern Aquitaine Basin: Advances and challenges, di J.-Ph. Faivre, B. Gravina, L. Bourguignon, E. Discamps, A. Turq

Intra-level technological change and its implications for Mousterian assemblage variability. The example of Le Moustier, layer G, di B. Gravina

Neandertal subsistence strategies during the Quina Mousterian at Roc de Marsal (France), di J. C. Castel et alii


Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus, di L. S. Weyrich et alii, Nature (2017), 08 March 2017, doi:10.1038/nature21674

Recent genomic data have revealed multiple interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans1, but there is currently little genetic evidence regarding Neanderthal behaviour, diet, or disease. Here we describe the shotgun-sequencing of ancient DNA from five specimens of Neanderthal calcified dental plaque (calculus) and the characterization of regional differences in Neanderthal ecology. At Spy cave, Belgium, Neanderthal diet was heavily meat based and included woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep (mouflon), characteristic of a steppe environment. In contrast, no meat was detected in the diet of Neanderthals from El Sidrón cave, Spain, and dietary components of mushrooms, pine nuts, and moss reflected forest gathering2, 3. Differences in diet were also linked to an overall shift in the oral bacterial community (microbiota) and suggested that meat consumption contributed to substantial variation within Neanderthal microbiota. Evidence for self-medication was detected in an El Sidrón Neanderthal with a dental abscess4 and a chronic gastrointestinal pathogen (Enterocytozoon bieneusi). Metagenomic data from this individual also contained a nearly complete genome of the archaeal commensal Methanobrevibacter oralis (10.2× depth of coverage)—the oldest draft microbial genome generated to date, at around 48,000 years old. DNA preserved within dental calculus represents a notable source of information about the behaviour and health of ancient hominin specimens, as well as a unique system that is useful for the study of long-term microbial evolution.

· Neanderthal tooth plaque hints at meals — and kisses, di Ewen Callaway, "Nature news", 08 March 2017

· Regione che vai, dieta Neanderthal che trovi, "Le Scienze", 09 marzo 2017

  The Chronology of Palaeolithic Cave art: new data, new debates, "Quaternary International", Volume 432, Part B, Pages 1-100 (8 March 2017). Edited by Roberto Ontañón and Pilar Utrilla

The Chronology of Palaeolithic cave art: New data, new debates. Preface to the volume, di R. Ontañon, P. Utrilla

The chronology of human and animal presence in the decorated and sepulchral cave of Cussac (France), di J. Jaubert et alii

New evidence of Palaeolithic rock art at the Cova del Comte (Pedreguer, Spain): Results of the first surveys, di J. Casabó et alii

Dating Palaeolithic cave art: Why U–Th is the way to go, di A. W.G. Pike, D. L. Hoffmann, P. B. Pettitt, M. García-Diez, J. Zilhão

U-series dating of Palaeolithic rock art at Fuente del Trucho (Aragón, Spain), di D. L. Hoffmann et alii

The role of the cave in the expression of prehistoric societies, di E. Robert

Back to the past: Symbolism and archaeology in Altxerri B (Gipuzkoa, Northern Spain), di A. Ruiz-Redondo, C. González-Sainz, D. Garate-Maidagan

La Viña rock shelter (La Manzaneda, Oviedo, Asturias): Relation between stratigraphy and parietal engravings, di M. González-Pumariega et alii

Uranium–thorium dating method and Palaeolithic rock art, di G. Sauvet et alii

Comment on: “Uranium–thorium dating method and Palaeolithic rock art” by Sauvet et al. (2015, in press), di E. Pons-Branchu et alii

Answer to “Comment on Uranium-thorium dating method and Palaeolithic rock art” by Sauvet et al. (2015, in press) by Pons-Branchu E. et al., di G. Sauvet et alii

Further comment on: “Uranium–thorium dating method and Palaeolithic rock art” by Sauvet et al. (2015, in press), di M. Aubert


L'enigma dell'antenato arcaico ritrovato in Cina, "Le Scienze", 03 marzo 2017

Due crani parziali di Homo rinvenuti in Cina e risalenti a 100.000 anni fa circa mostrano una singolare miscela di tratti. Solo nuove scoperte diranno se si tratta di un nuovo membro del nostro genere, di una variante orientale dei Neanderthal mescolatasi a umani moderni oppure dei resti dello sfuggente uomo di Denisova. (...)


Divergence in the evolution of Paleolithic symbolic and technological systems: The shining bull and engraved tablets of Rocher de l'Impératrice, di N. Naudinot et alii, March 3, 2017,

The development of the Azilian in Western Europe 14,000 years ago is considered a “revolution” in Upper Paleolithic Archaeology. One of the main elements of this rapid social restructuring is the abandonment of naturalistic figurative art on portable pieces or on cave walls in the Magdalenian in favor of abstract expression on small pebbles. Recent work shows that the transformation of human societies between the Magdalenian and the Azilian was more gradual. The discovery of a new Early Azilian site with decorated stones in France supports this hypothesis. While major changes in stone tool technology between the Magdalenian and Azilian clearly mark important adaptive changes, the discovery of 45 engraved schist tablets from archaeological layers at Le Rocher de l’Impératrice attests to iconographic continuity together with special valorization of aurochs as shown by a “shining” bull depiction. This evidence suggests that some cultural features such as iconography may lag far behind technological changes. We also argue that eventual change in symbolic expression, which includes the later disappearance of figurative art, provides new insight into the probable restructuring of the societies. (...)


Pointillist technique on engravings discovered in France, 2 March 2017

Aurignacian artists who decorated several newly rediscovered limestone blocks 38,000 years ago used small dots to create the illusion of a larger image - the same technique employed by Pointillist painters in the late 19th century. Images on the stones include mammoths and horses, adding to previous isolated discoveries from the Grotte Chauvet, such as a rhinoceros formed by the application of dozens of dots first painted on the palm of the hand and then transferred to the cave wall. Earlier this year, excavation team leader and New York University anthropologist Randall White and his colleagues reported finding the image of an aurochs - some of the earliest known graphic imagery found in Western Eurasia. Now they have found a woolly mammoth in the same style in a rock shelter of the same period known as Abri Cellier, near the previous find-site of Abri Blanchard. (...)


Structural organization and tooth development in a Homo aff. erectus juvenile mandible from the Early Pleistocene site of Garba IV at Melka Kunture, Ethiopian highlands, di C. Zanolli et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 162, Issue 3, March 2017, Pages 533–549

The immature partial mandible GAR IVE from the c. 1.7 Ma old Garba IV site at Melka Kunture (Upper Awash Basin, Ethiopia), the earliest human representative from a mountain-like environment, represents one of the oldest early Homo specimens bearing a mixed dentition. Following its first description (Condemi, 2004), we extended the analytical and comparative record of this specimen by providing unreported details about its inner morphology, tooth maturational pattern and age at death, crown size, and tooth tissue proportions.
Compared to the extant human condition and to some fossil representatives of comparable individual age, the GAR IVE mandible reveals absolutely and relatively thick cortical bone. Crown size of the permanent lateral incisor and the canine fit the estimates of H. erectus s.l., while the dm2 and the M1 more closely approach those of H. habilis-rudolfensis. Molar crown pulp volumes are lower than reported in other fossil specimens and in extant humans. The mineralization sequence of the permanent tooth elements is represented four times in our reference sample of extant immature individuals (N = 795).
The tooth developmental pattern displayed by the immature individual from Garba IV falls within the range of variation of extant human populations and is also comparable with that of other very young early fossil hominins. Taken together, the evidence presented here for mandibular morphology and dental development suggest GAR IVE is a robust 2.5- to 3.5-year old early Homo specimen.


Neanderthal use of plants and past vegetation reconstruction at the Middle Paleolithic site of Abrigo de la Quebrada (Chelva, Valencia, Spain), di I. Esteban, R. M. Albert, A. Eixea, J. Zilhão, V. Villaverde, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", March 2017, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 265–278

Despite phytoliths having been used to understand past human use of plants and palaeoenvironment in Middle Paleolithic sites, little is known on this aspect in the well-documented central region of Mediterranean Iberia. This paper presents the first phytolith and mineralogical study conducted at Abrigo de la Quebrada (Chelva, Valencia). Forty-one samples were analyzed through phytoliths and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) from different areas, stratigraphic levels, and archeological contexts (hearth, hearth-related, and non-hearth-related sediments) of the shelter. The results obtained point towards a different pattern of preservation in the site depending firstly on the stratigraphy and secondly on the area where the samples were collected. Postdepositional processes that may have chemically affected phytolith preservation are discussed. Grasses are the main plant component identified in all the samples while woody plants are scarce. The abundance of grasses in the non-hearth-related sediments might be related, at least partially, to the dispersion of ashes from hearths, as indicated by the FTIR results. The results are indicative of an occupation of the site during the spring-autumn season. At this time, the area would be dominated by a semi-open environment with supramediterranean vegetation.


Efficiency of gathering and its archaeological implications for an European Early Palaeolithic population, di O. Prado-Nóvoa et alii, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 45, March 2017, Pages 131–141

We evaluate the efficiency of acorn gathering as a foraging method for a middle Pleistocene human population living in mid-latitude European territory. An innovative experimental approach measures how much energy an average female spends gathering nuts in a natural environment, comparing this value with the caloric return of this vegetable resource. The gathering activities were performed by 9 volunteers and showed that gathering 3 kg of acorns in 1 h represents a moderate activity in energetic terms, consuming not more than 300 kcal. Thus, due to their high energetic content, gathering nuts is a highly efficient foraging method. The energetic return obtained by gathering acorns, one of the more abundant nuts in the Mediterranean landscape, is favourably compared with the return provided by hunting. Acorns were a seasonally abundant resource at these ecosystems 300 kya and were rich in nutrients and relatively easy to store, making them a highly attractive food for the Palaeolithic inhabitants of this landscape.


Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 104, Pages 1-204 (March 2017):

Adaptation to suspensory locomotion in Australopithecus sediba, di Thomas R. Rein et alii

Dietary reconstruction of the El Sidrón Neandertal familial group (Spain) in the context of other Neandertal and modern hunter-gatherer groups. A molar microwear texture analysis, di Almudena Estalrrich et alii

Chimpanzee and human midfoot motion during bipedal walking and the evolution of the longitudinal arch of the foot, di Nicholas B. Holowka et alii

The cervical spine of Australopithecus sediba, di Marc R. Meyer et alii

Skull 5 from Dmanisi: Descriptive anatomy, comparative studies, and evolutionary significance, di G. Philip Rightmire et alii

The role of allometry and posture in the evolution of the hominin subaxial cervical spine, di Mikel Arlegi et alii

The skull of Homo naledi, di Myra F. Laird et alii

Skull diversity in the Homo lineage and the relative position of Homo naledi, di Lauren Schroeder et alii

The vertebrae and ribs of Homo naledi, di Scott A. Williams et alii

The upper limb of Homo naledi, di Elen M. Feuerriegel et alii

The thigh and leg of Homo naledi, di Damiano Marchi et alii


Diet and environment 1.2 million years ago revealed through analysis of dental calculus from Europe’s oldest hominin at Sima del Elefante, Spain, di K. Hardy et alii, "The Science of Nature", February 2017, 104:2 - open access -

Sima del Elefante, Atapuerca, Spain contains one of the earliest hominin fragments yet known in Europe, dating to 1.2 Ma. Dental calculus from a hominin molar was removed, degraded and analysed to recover entrapped remains. Evidence for plant use at this time is very limited and this study has revealed the earliest direct evidence for foods consumed in the genus Homo. This comprises starchy carbohydrates from two plants, including a species of grass from the Triticeae or Bromideae tribe, meat and plant fibres. All food was eaten raw, and there is no evidence for processing of the starch granules which are intact and undamaged. Additional biographical detail includes fragments of non-edible wood found adjacent to an interproximal groove suggesting oral hygiene activities, while plant fibres may be linked to raw material processing. Environmental evidence comprises spores, insect fragments and conifer pollen grains which are consistent with a forested environment. (...)

  Fuel exploitation among Neanderthals based on the anthracological record from Abric Romaní (Capellades, NE Spain), di E. Allué, A. Solé, A. Burguet-Coca, "Quaternary International", Volume 431, Part A, 28 February 2017, Pages 6–15

Fuel is a basic resource enabling energy production, and its exploitation was a major activity in Neanderthal daily life. In this work we present charcoal results obtained from the Abric Romaní site in order to evaluate fuel use among the human groups occupying this rock shelter from 40 to 70 ka BP. The Abric Romaní, a Middle Palaeolithic site, has yielded evidence of a well-preserved sequence of Neanderthal occupations. The results of this taxonomic and taphonomic study have allowed us to characterise the charcoal assemblage as mainly comprising Pinus sylvestris type. This assemblage gives us an understanding of Neanderthal fuel acquisition strategies, mobility and occupation patterns.

  Phytolith and FTIR studies applied to combustion structures: The case of the Middle Paleolithic site of El Salt (Alcoy, Alicante), di Á. Rodríguez-Cintas, D. Cabanes, "Quaternary International", Volume 431, Part A, 28 February 2017, Pages 16–26

The combination of phytolith and FTIR analyses is a powerful tool to investigate the use of fire by past human populations. Here, we apply these methods to study the hearths of the subunit Xb at the Middle Palaeolithic site of El Salt, in Alcoi. El Salt is characterized by recurrent Neanderthal occupations that produced a succession of combustion structures and other anthropogenic remains. Using FTIR analysis we have been able to detect the presence of ashes, thermally altered clay, and phosphatic minerals in the sediments. Phytolith results point to the use of wood as fuel in subunit Xb. However, most of the phytoliths have been deposited in the site by natural agents, probably in the form of bird guano characterized by the presence of distinctive phytoliths of seed coats from Celtis sp. Differentiating between natural and anthropogenic deposited phytoliths is essential to evaluate the impact produced by human activities in the archaeological sediments.


Seaward dispersals to the NE Mediterranean islands in the Pleistocene. The lithic evidence in retrospect, di C. Papoulia, "Quaternary International", Volume 431, Part B, 28 February 2017, Pages 64–87

Paleolithic artifacts collected in the course of archaeological and geological surveys at particular islands of the NE Mediterranean have given birth to arguments for seaward Pleistocene dispersals. The consecutive implications for the seafaring abilities of archaic hominins have inevitably provoked an ongoing debate. The total lack of paleoanthropological evidence and, in most cases, the absence of a secure stratigraphic context leaves us with the only other pertinent tool of analysis, the stone tools. Preliminary reports presenting lithic collections from the islands have been published since at least the middle of the previous century, yet a coherent and critical review of the evidence has hitherto not been attempted. In the light of new paleogeographic reconstructions of the Aegean region, the already published collections are in this paper reviewed and evaluated in terms of their classifications and proposed cultural and chronological attributions and discussed in relation to the arguments for or against Pleistocene sea-crossings. Despite the scarcity of the evidence and the many problems associated with their documentation, context or interpretations, the lithic collections do provide specific information regarding the earliest sea-crossings in the region. Based on the available evidence, the majority of the artifacts collected from sites on islands that were most likely insular during parts of the Pleistocene have Middle Paleolithic technological and typological affinities, therefore an association with the Neanderthals is implied and the possible marine routes are proposed. Yet further research is needed in order to better appreciate the Greek Lower Paleolithic record, thus reevaluate the arguments for Lower Paleolithic sea-crossings in the Aegean.


Investigating Neanderthal dispersal above 55°N in Europe during the Last Interglacial Complex, di T. Kellberg Nielsen et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 431, Part B, 28 February 2017, Pages 88–103

When dealing with the northern boundary of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and the question of whether or not they dispersed into Southern Scandinavia, two contradictory hypotheses can be identified. The first, and also the most widely endorsed, hereafter, hypothesis A, argues primarily that Neanderthals did not occupy regions above 55°N because of 1) climatic constraints and 2) dispersal barriers. The second, hypothesis B, argues that they possibly occasionally dispersed above 55°N, but that factors such as 1) research- and/or 2) taphonomic bias are responsible for their archaeological invisibility. Here, we report an evaluation of these competing hypotheses. To this end, we reconstruct the environment for the time period and region of interest (the Last Interglacial Complex and Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia), based on three lines of evidence: palaeoenvironmental reconstruction combined with a novel habitat modelling approach, a review of relevant archaeological localities, and a discussion of the possible impacts of both research biases and the taphonomic effects on the archaeological data. We focus particularly on the climatic and geological explanatory factors relevant to the two hypotheses. Our results are inconsistent with the claim that climatic constraint and/or a lack of suitable habitats can fully explain the absence of Neanderthals in Southern Scandinavia during the Eemian Interglacial and Early Weichselian Glaciation. We do, however, find evidence that a geographic barrier may have impeded northerly migrations during the Eemian. The evidence reviewed here suggests that both research bias and taphonomy – consistent with hypothesis B – could account for the archaeological invisibility of Neanderthals in Southern Scandinavia, highlighting the need for further strategic survey and/or excavation efforts in the region.


The human settlement of Central Iberia during MIS 2: New technological, chronological and environmental data from the Solutrean workshop of Las Delicias (Manzanares River valley, Spain), di M. Alcaraz-Castaño et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 431, Part B, 28 February 2017, Pages 104–124

The recent excavations (2008–2009) conducted at the open-air site of Las Delicias, located in the Manzanares River valley (Madrid), have revealed new important data for the understanding of the human settlement of Central Iberia during Solutrean times. In this paper, we present a geomorphological and taphonomic study of the Pleistocene deposits of Las Delicias, a technological analysis focused on the bifacial lithic reduction processes documented at the site, new Optically Stimulated Luminescence dates, and new palynological data. Together with the existence of numerous Solutrean lithic assemblages from the early 20th century excavations of the Manzanares terraces, these new data highlight the importance of the Manzanares valley as a focus of Solutrean settlement, not only related to flint procurement but also to foraging activities. Moreover, they require reconsideration of Central Iberia as a virtually unpopulated region during the Late Pleniglacial (MIS 2), and of the associated idea of its cultural dependence on the coastal areas of the Iberian Peninsula. We propose new avenues of research aimed at approaching the central region of Iberia in its own cultural and ecological terms.


Were Neanderthals responsible for their own extinction?, di J. Agustí, X. Rubio-Campillo, "Quaternary International", Volume 431, Part B, 28 February 2017, Pages 232–237

After more than 100,000 years of evolutionary success in Western Eurasia, Neanderthals rapidly went extinct between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago, almost coinciding with the spread of Anatomically Modern Homo sapiens (AMHS) in Europe. Several scenarios relate their extinction to competition with AMHS, climatic changes during the last glacial period or a combination of both. Here we propose a much simpler scenario, in which the cannibalistic behaviour of Neanderthals may have played a major role in their eventual extinction. We show that this trait was selected as a common behaviour at moments of environmental or population stress. However, as soon as Neanderthals had to compete with another species that consumed the same resources (AMHS in this case) cannibalism had a negative impact, leading, in the end, to their extinction. To test this hypothesis, we used an agent-based model computer simulation. The model is simple, with only traits, behaviours and landscape features defined and with no attempt to re-create the exact landscape in which Neanderthals lived or their cultural characteristics. The basic agent of our system is a group of individuals that form a community. The most important state variable of our model is the location of the group, coupled with a defined home range and two additional factors: cannibalism and the chance of fission. The result of the simulation shows that cannibalistic behaviour is always selected when resources are scarce and clustered. However, when a non-cannibalistic species (late Pleistocene AMHS) is introduced into the same environment, the cannibalistic species retreats and the new species grows until it has reached the carrying capacity of the system. The cannibalistic populations that still survive are displaced from the richest areas, and live on the borders with arid zones, a situation which is remarkably similar to what we know about the end of the Neanderthals.


The diet of the first Europeans from Atapuerca, di A. Pérez-Pérez et alii, "Scientific Reports" 7, Article number: 43319 (2017), 27 February 2017, doi:10.1038/srep43319 - open access -

Hominin dietary specialization is crucial to understanding the evolutionary changes of craniofacial biomechanics and the interaction of food processing methods’ effects on teeth. However, the diet-related dental wear processes of the earliest European hominins remain unknown because most of the academic attention has focused on Neandertals. Non-occlusal dental microwear provides direct evidence of the effect of chewed food particles on tooth enamel surfaces and reflects dietary signals over time. Here, we report for the first time the direct effect of dietary abrasiveness as evidenced by the buccal microwear patterns on the teeth of the Sima del Elefante-TE9 and Gran Dolina-TD6 Atapuerca hominins (1.2–0.8 million years ago − Myr) as compared with other Lower and Middle Pleistocene populations. A unique buccal microwear pattern that is found in Homo antecessor (0.96–0.8 Myr), a well-known cannibal species, indicates dietary practices that are consistent with the consumption of hard and brittle foods. Our findings confirm that the oldest European inhabitants ingested more mechanically-demanding diets than later populations because they were confronted with harsh, fluctuating environmental conditions. Furthermore, the influence of grit-laden food suggests that a high-quality meat diet from butchering processes could have fueled evolutionary changes in brain size. (...)


L'effetto dei geni dei Neanderthal sulla nostra salute, "Le Scienze", 23 febbraio 2017

Le sequenze di DNA ereditate dai Neanderthal - che sono presenti, sia pure in numero ridotto, nella maggior parte delle persone - influenzano il livello di attivazione dei nostri geni contribuendo così a diversi tratti: dall'altezza all'efficienza del sistema immunitario, fino alla suscettibilità a varie malattie. (...)


Sharpening our knowledge of prehistory on East Africa’s bone harpoons, 20 Feb 2017

East Africa is the epicentre of human evolution and its archaeological remains offer the potential to fill gaps in our understanding of early modern humans from their earliest origins, around 200,000 years ago, through to the most ‘recent’ prehistory of the last 10,000 years. The In Africa project, directed by Dr Marta Mirazón Lahr, co-founder of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge, is seeking to do exactly that. The group believes that, in East Africa, key ecological and cultural conditions converged, which allowed modern humans to evolve new behaviours and technologies to better exploit the natural resources that they found around them. For the past five years, they has been working on the palaeoshores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, which has offered significant insights into how people there made use of aquatic resources such as fish or shellfish, something which is seen as a marker of human modernity. Dr Alex Wilshaw, in Cambridge's Department of Biological Anthropology and a fellow of St John’s College, is a Research Associate on the project. “Looking at prehistoric tools and technology is a key way of exploring when and how the cultural and behavioural traits associated with modern humans were developed,” he explains. “The area around Lake Turkana is extraordinarily rich not just in fossils, but also in artefacts used to exploit the ecology of the area. In the case of aquatic resources from the lake, these artefacts are often harpoons or points made from bone. While previous archaeological projects have led to pockets of harpoon discovery, the extent of this project has afforded us the opportunity to collect unprecedented numbers of bone harpoons – to date, we have over 500 from 20 different sites.” (...)

  With the back to the art. Context of Pleistocene cave art, "Quaternary International", Volume 430, Part A, Pages 1-162 (12 February 2017).Edited by Andreas Pastoors, Tilman Lenssen-Erz, Roberto Ontañón and Gerd-Christian Weniger

Simulation of tallow lamp light within the 3D model of the Ardales Cave, Spain, di Dirk Hoffmeister

Cussac Cave (Dordogne, France): The role of the rock support in the parietal art distribution, technical choices, and intentional and unintentional marks on the cave walls, di C. Ferrier et alii

The Palaeolithic art of Tito Bustillo cave (Asturias, Spain) in its archaeological context, di R. de Balbín-Behrmann, J.J. Alcolea-González, M. Alcaraz-Castaño

The social dimension of human depiction in Magdalenian rock art (16,500 cal. BP–12,000 cal. BP): The case of the Roc-aux-Sorciers rock-shelter, di O. Fuentes

Methodological contribution to the integrated study of European Palaeolithic rock art: The issue of the audience and the perceptibility of Roc-aux-Sorciers rock art (Angles-sur-l'Anglin, France), di C. Bourdier, O. Fuentes, G. Pinçon, collaboration of F. Baleux

Looking through past records: The use of historical documents in cave art spatial studies and its application to La Pasiega (Puente Viesgo, Cantabria, Spain), di B. Ochoa, D. Garrido-Pimentel, M. García-Diez

Traces of human and animal activity (TrAcs) in Cussac Cave (Le Buisson-de-Cadouin, Dordogne, France): Preliminary results and perspectives, di L. Ledoux et alii

Experience based reading of Pleistocene human footprints in Pech-Merle, di A. Pastoors, T. Lenssen-Erz, B. Breuckmann, T. Ciqae, U. Kxunta, D. Rieke-Zapp, T. Thao


Le site du pléistocène inférieur de Lunery-Rosières, la Terre-des-Sablons (France, région Centre, Cher): unités sédimentaires, datations ESR, études géoarchéologiques, préhistoire, di J. Despriée et alii, "Quaternaire", Volume 28 Numéro 1

Situé près du site paléontologique de Rosières, le site préhistorique de « la Terre-des-Sablons » à Lunery (Cher) a été découvert dans les années 1980 et environ 50 pièces taillées préhistoriques typologiquement attribuables à un Paléolithique très ancien (Mode 1) y avaient alors été récoltées dans une sablière exploitant des formations alluviales fossiles du Cher. A partir de 2003, des études pluridisciplinaires y ont été organisées en vue de mieux comprendre la situation géologique et structurale du site et de préciser le mode de dépôt et la position des formations sédimentaires qui y sont observées afin de les replacer dans le système fluviatile du Cher. Trois formations fluviatiles fossiles superposées ont ainsi été reconnues et leur datation par la méthode ESR sur quartz fluviatile optiquement blanchis a montré qu’elles avaient été toutes trois déposées par le Cher au cours du Pléistocène inférieur entre 1,1 et 0,8 Ma. Lors des prélèvements associés à cette étude géochronologique, des pièces d’industrie préhistorique furent de nouveau récoltées à la base de la formation fluviatile la plus ancienne (1,166 ± 0,140 Ma), à 12 m de profondeur sous la surface topographique initiale. Les fouilles menées entre 2006 et 2012 dans cette formation ont révélé la présence de quatre niveaux archéologiques associés à deux cailloutis stratifiés déposés sur le plancher d’incision et recouverts par cet ensemble fluviatile inférieur. Les techniques de débitage utilisées dans ces assemblages d’artefacts préhistoriques (blocs débités et éclats) rentrent dans la variabilité des techniques de Mode 1 reconnues dans les sites préhistoriques du Pléistocène inférieur européen. Une étude géoarchéologique de cette unité grossière a permis de déterminer les matériaux siliceux, essentiellement des chailles jurassiques et des meulières, récoltés sur place par les homininés et de caractériser la situation des artefacts dans des cellules de cryoturbation ou sur des surfaces d’érosion.

  Le site pléistocène moyen de la Noira à Brinay (Cher, région Centre, France): contexte morphosédimentaire, géochronologie et données archéologique, di J. Despriée et alii, "Quaternaire", Volume 28 Numéro 1

En amont de Vierzon, le système fluviatile fossile du Cher est composé de sept nappes alluviales, quatre formations sableuses étagées sur le versant ouest de la vallée et trois formations emboîtées dans le fossé tectonique dans lequel coule actuellement la rivière. D’après les données géochronologiques (ESR) disponibles, ces formations se sont déposées entre environ 1 Ma et 60 ka. Le site acheuléen de la Noira (Brinay, Cher) est situé à mi-hauteur du versant ouest, à la base de la nappe alluviale de la formation des Fougères. À la Noira, l’unité grossière de base (Unité a), déposée près du versant et recouverte par la Formation des Fougères, correspondrait à une phase de transition interglaciaire-glaciaire. Les hommes y ont exploité les plaques de meulières contenues dans des sédiments grossiers déposés par solifluxion sur le substratum après l’incision du Cher. Les fragments des plaques qu’ils ont brisées ont été façonnés en bifaces et ont servi au débitage d’éclats. Cette Unité a et les ateliers qu’elle renfermait ont ensuite été recouverts par des colluvions, puis partiellement cryoturbés avant le recouvrement par la puissante formation fluviatile sableuse des Fougères. À la Noira, est constituée, sur plus de 6 m d’épaisseur, de trois unités sableuses (Unités b, c et d) recoupés par plusieurs discontinuités, recouvertes par des dépôts pente, des débris cryoclastés, ou soulignées par des fentes de gel. D’après les dates ESR (âge moyen pondéré de 665 ± 55 ka), la formation se serait déposée après l’unité de base a, dans la première partie du MIS 16.


Etude géoarchéologique du site acheuléen ancien de « la Noira », (Brinay, Cher, région Centre, France), di J. Despriée et alii, "Quaternaire", Volume 28 Numéro 1

Dans la vallée du Cher (région Centre-Val de Loire, France), les recherches menées depuis 2003 ont permis d’élaborer un cadre géologique, chronologique et paléoenvironnemental pour les systèmes fluviatiles et les sites préhistoriques associés. A Brinay (Cher), les alluvions sableuses de la nappe des Fougères qui ont recouvert le site acheuléen de la Noira ont été datées par la méthode ESR de 665 ± 55 ka (MIS 16/15). Sur ce site, les études géoarchéologiques et les fouilles montrent que les homininés ont prospecté des amas contenant des matériaux variés issus d’une formation plio-pléistocène plus ancienne et descendus depuis l’interfluve sur le versant (Sous-unité a1/Unité a). Leur stratégie d’approvisionnement semble avoir consisté à récupérer, après tri, des plaques de meulière en éliminant celles qui étaient altérées ou gelées antérieurement. Les plaques ont été brisées et les fragments utilisés comme supports pour le débitage d’éclats et le façonnage de bifaces. Les fouilles ont confirmé la position primaire de ces artefacts dont l’état de fraîcheur est remarquable.La présence des hommes près de la rivière serait donc en partie liée à ces matériaux accessibles. Les meulières recherchées sont des silicifications qui ont été mises au jour lors de la phase d’incision du Cher puis sont descendues dans des coulées sur la pente. Ces phénomènes liés à la cyclicité climatique quaternaire correspondent à une phase de transition en début glaciaire, avant le pléniglaciaire durant lequel les zones non protégées de l’Unité a et du plancher d’incision ont été cryoturbées.


Les alluvions anciennes de la Loire en orléanais (France, Loiret), une relecture à l’aune de travaux d’archéologie préventive et d’un programme de datations ESR, di M. Liard, H. Tissoux, S. Deschamps, "Quaternaire", Volume 28 Numéro 1

Dans le secteur d’Orléans, plusieurs diagnostics archéologiques en contexte d’alluvions anciennes de Loire ont été menés entre 2012 et 2015 dans le cadre de l’activité d’archéologie préventive et de celle du groupe de travail « Le Pléistocène de la région Centre : élaboration d’un cadre chronostratigraphique ». Les séquences alluviales anciennes correspondant aux terrasses cartographiées Fv, Fw et Fx, révélées par les sondages profonds, ont fait l’objet de relevés stratigraphiques incluant une approche macroscopique fine des caractéristiques paléopédologiques et sédimentaires. Les alluvions ont par ailleurs été échantillonnées et datées par Résonance de Spin Electronique (ESR), sept résultats ont été obtenus sur trois sites prélevés dans Fx et Fw. Cette double approche, ainsi que la découverte de matériels lithiques taillés sur le site de Saint-Cyr-en-Val, ont permis de renouveler la connaissance des formations alluviales et de réinterroger leurs attributions chronologiques. Ainsi, les datations ESR permettent de proposer un âge MIS 12 (Elstérien) pour Fw et MIS 7-8 (Saalien) pour Fx. Si les datations ESR sont à l’origine de la définition d’un nouveau cadre géochronologique pour Fw et Fx tout particulièrement, les relevés et observations de terrain réinterrogent également l’apport de la paléopédologie et de l’étude de la morphologie et géométrie des ensembles sédimentaires à la définition de marqueurs chronostratigraphiques régionaux fiables.


Bifacial tools Mid-Palaeolithic W Eurasia, "Quaternary International", Volume 428, Part A, Pages 1-170 (15 January 2017). Edited by Árpád Ringer

Analysis of bifacial elements from Grotte de la Verpillière I and II (Germolles, France), di Jens Axel Frick, Harald Floss

The dynamics of stone industry transformation at the interface of lower and Middle Paleolithic in the Northwestern Caucasus, di L.V. Golovanova, V.B. Doronichev

Bifacial scraper-knives in the Micoquian sites in the North-Western Caucasus: Typology, technology, and reduction, di L.V. Golovanova, E.V. Doronicheva, V.B. Doronichev, I.G. Shirobokov

Bifacial and unifacial technology: A real difference or a problem of typo–technological approach? The example of the Ehringsdorf assemblage, di Małgorzata Kot

Handaxes and leafpoints of eastern France: Spatial patterns and role of the raw materials, di Agnès Lamotte, Jean-Marie Chanson, Georges Willemann, Frédéric Galtier

Technology of Moravian Early Szeletian leaf point shaping: A case study of refittings from Moravský Krumlov IV open-air site (Czech Republic), di Zdeňka Nerudová, Petr Neruda

The Mousterian with bifacial retouch in Europe: The fundamental historical error, di Marcel Otte

Handaxe manufacture and re-sharpening throughout the Lower Paleolithic sequence of Tabun Cave, di Ron Shimelmitz, Michael Bisson, Mina Weinstein-Evron, Steven L. Kuhn

The last Neanderthals of Eastern Europe: Micoquian layers IIIa and III of the site of Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya), anthropological records and context, di Vadim N. Stepanchuk, Sergei V. Vasilyev, Natalia I. Khaldeeva, Natalia V. Kharlamova, Svetlana B. Borutskaya

The function and role of bifaces in the Late Middle Paleolithic of southwestern France: Examples from the Charente and Dordogne to the Basque Country, di Michel Brenet, Jean Pierre Chadelle, Émilie Claud, David Colonge, Anne Delagnes, Marianne Deschamps, Mila Folgado, Brad Gravina, Ewen Ihuel


Dopaminergic systems expansion and the advent of Homo erectus, di A. M. DeLouize, F. L. Coolidge, T. Wynn,"Quaternary International", Volume 427, Part B, 12 January 2017, Pages 245–252

It is well accepted that a grade shift occurred in hominin evolution approximately 1.9 million years ago with the appearance of Homo erectus. With the challenges of complete terrestrial life, new cognitive abilities were selected for that allowed this species to thrive for the next million and a half years. It has also long been recognized that there was a change in diet with the advent of Homo erectus, that is, a greater reliance on meat. However, the relationship between additional meat and the cognitive abilities of Homo erectus has mostly remained unclear. The present paper proposes that an increase in dietary meat protein and fats may have led to an increase in dopamine and dopaminergic systems, a critical chemical neurotransmitter in the brain. This purported change in dopaminergic systems may have played a key role in many of the traits and abilities exhibited by Homo erectus at that time, including increases in body and brain size, dispersion, and a greater aptitude for spatial and social cognitions.


Evaluating the performance of the cutting edge of Neanderthal shell tools: A new experimental approach. Use, mode of operation, and strength of Callista chione from a behavioural, Quina perspective, di F. Romagnoli, J. Baena, A. I. Pardo Naranjo, Lucia Sarti"Quaternary International", Volume 427, Part A, 5 January 2017, Pages 216–228

During Prehistory, shells have been used for subsistence, ornamentation, symbolic behaviour and tools. The investigation of shell tools has been mainly carried out from the viewpoint of functional analysis by investigating use-wear traces to reconstruct the functional value of these artefacts. Little attention has been devoted to investigating the mode of operation of shell tools. The aim of this study was to interpret the “potential of use” of shell tools from a socio-economic perspective. We used an innovative experimental approach to analyse Neanderthal tools made of Callista chione, to this end. Shell technology is well documented along the Mediterranean basin between MIS 5 and MIS 3. We designed and performed functional experiments to analyse the technical performance of the cutting edge of Callista chione tools during use, reproducing the artefacts with comparable procedures and technical gestures identified by previous studies. The experiments have allowed us to create a reference collection for the implementation of use-wear analysis on shell tool assemblages. Our results showed that the mode of operation of shell tools was related to (i) the strength and the microstructure of the shell; (ii) the geometry of the cutting edge; (iii) the ergonomics and the kinetics of the tools; and (iv) the social organisation of tasks. The implications of results for the socio-economic and functional interpretation of Quina scrapers are discussed. This study contributed to the comprehension of the variability of behaviours expressed within Neanderthal techno-complexes. This approach is promising to improve the interpretation of raw material selection and tool design.


Aggiornamento 11 febbraio

  A Neanderthal deciduous human molar with incipient carious infection from the Middle Palaeolithic De Nadale cave, Italy, di J. Arnaud, S. Benazzi, M. Romandini, A. Livraghi, D. Panetta, P. A. Salvadori, L. Volpe, M. Peresani, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 162, Issue 2, February 2017, Pages 370–376

The aim of the study is the assessment of Nadale 1, a Neanderthal deciduous tooth recently discovered in Northeastern Italy in the De Nadale cave (Middle Palaeolithic). Together with the clear archaeological context of the site, this study brings new insight on Neanderthal behavior and dental morphological variability.
We used microCT data to provide a morphological description and morphometric analysis (diameter measurements and dental tissue volumes) of the Nadale 1 human tooth. Microwear analysis, taphonomical investigation and caries identification were performed using a stereomicroscope and Scanning Electron Microscope.
In terms of morphology (i.e., incipient tuberculum molare, marked mesial marginal ridge and well-developed mid-trigonid crest connecting the protoconid and the metaconid, deep anterior fovea) and size, Nadale 1 presents features frequently observed in Neanderthal lower first deciduous molars. Microscope investigations reveal the presence of a small pit which could be correlated to an incipient caries.
Nadale 1 expands the Italian Middle Palaeolithic fossil record and provides further information on Neanderthal dm1s in terms of dimensional and morphological variability. Furthermore, the presence of an incipient caries brings further data on Neanderthal diet.

  New Tools Identify Key Evolutionary Advantages from Ancient Hominid Interbreeding, di J. Caspermeyer, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 34, Issue 2, February 2017

Neanderthals. Denisovans. Homo sapiens. Around 50,000 years ago, these hominids not only interbred, but in some cases, modern humans may have also received a special evolutionary advantage from doing so. As more and more data from archaic genomes are becoming available, scientists have become keenly interested in pinpointing these regions to better understand the potential benefits that may have been bestowed to us. One of the most striking recent examples is the EPAS1 gene, which confers a selective advantage in Tibetans by making them less prone to hypoxia at high altitudes. We now know that the Denisovans introduced it into the human gene pool. Inspired by this example, in a new study published in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, computational biologists Racimo et al. (2016) have developed statistical tools and simulations to successfully identify the signatures of these interbred genomic regions.


The earliest long-distance obsidian transport: Evidence from the ~200 ka Middle Stone Age Sibilo School Road Site, Baringo, Kenya, di N. Blegen, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 103, February 2017, Pages 1–19

This study presents the earliest evidence of long-distance obsidian transport at the ~200 ka Sibilo School Road Site (SSRS), an early Middle Stone Age site in the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya. The later Middle Pleistocene of East Africa (130–400 ka) spans significant and interrelated behavioral and biological changes in human evolution including the first appearance of Homo sapiens. Despite the importance of the later Middle Pleistocene, there are relatively few archaeological sites in well-dated contexts (n < 10) that document hominin behavior from this time period. In particular, geochemically informed evidence of long-distance obsidian transport, important for investigating expansion of intergroup interactions in hominin evolution, is rare from the Middle Pleistocene record of Africa. The SSRS offers a unique contribution to this small but growing dataset. Tephrostratigraphic analysis of tuffs encasing the SSRS provides a minimum age of ∼200 ka for the site. Levallois points and methods of core preparation demonstrate characteristic Middle Stone Age lithic technologies present at the SSRS. A significant portion (43%) of the lithic assemblage is obsidian. The SSRS obsidian comes from three different sources located at distances of 25 km, 140 km and 166 km from the site. The majority of obsidian derives from the farthest source, 166 km to the south of the site. The SSRS thus provides important new evidence that long-distance raw material transport, and the expansion of hominin intergroup interactions that this entails, was a significant feature of hominin behavior ∼200 ka, the time of the first appearance of H. sapiens, and ∼150,000 years before similar behaviors were previously documented in the region.


The morphology of the enamel–dentine junction in Neanderthal molars: Gross morphology, non-metric traits, and temporal trends, di R. M. G. Martin, J. J. Hublin, P. Gunz, M. M. Skinner, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 103, February 2017, Pages 20–44

This study explores the morphological differences between the enamel–dentine junction (EDJ) of maxillary and mandibular molars of Neanderthals (n = 150) and recent modern humans (n = 106), and between an earlier Neanderthal sample (consisting of Pre-Eemian and Eemian Neanderthals dating to before 115 ka) and a later Neanderthal sample (consisting of Post-Eemian Neanderthals dating to after 115 ka). The EDJ was visualised by segmenting microtomographic scans of each molar. A geometric morphometric methodology compared the positioning of the dentine horns, the shape of the marginal ridge between the dentine horns, and the shape of the cervix. We also examined the manifestation of non-metric traits at the EDJ including the crista obliqua, cusp 5, and post-paracone tubercle. Furthermore, we report on additional morphological features including centrally placed dentine horn tips and twinned dentine horns. Our results indicate that EDJ morphology can discriminate with a high degree of reliability between Neanderthals and recent modern humans at every molar position, and discriminate between the earlier and the later Neanderthal samples at every molar position, except for the M3 in shape space. The cervix in isolation can also discriminate between Neanderthals and recent modern humans, except at the M3 in form space, and is effective at discriminating between the earlier and the later Neanderthal samples, except at the M2/M2 in form space. In addition to demonstrating the taxonomic valence of the EDJ, our analysis reveals unique manifestations of dental traits in Neanderthals and expanded levels of trait variation that have implications for trait definitions and scoring.


The Middle Stone Age human fossil record from Klasies River Main Site, di F. E. Grine, S. Wurz, C. W. Marean, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 103, February 2017, Pages 53–78

The paleoanthropological significance of Klasies River Main Site derives from its abundant Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological debris and the hominin fossils that have featured in discussions about modern human emergence. Despite their significance, the human remains have yet to be contextualized within the spatial, stratigraphic and geochronological framework of the site. We provide an updated overview of the stratigraphy and geochronology of the site, and review the human fossil record in this context. We also provide the first anatomical interpretations of many of the cranial vault fragments. Five hominin specimens derive from the Upper Member and six from the lowermost LBS Member. The vast majority – nearly 40 cataloged specimens – come from the SAS Member; many of these are from a single stratigraphic horizon in a relatively small area in Cave 1. There is a strong cranial bias to the sample; just over 70% of skeletal remains are from the skull. The postcranial skeleton is poorly represented. Excluding the three metatarsals, there are only three long bones in the sample – a clavicle, a proximal radius, and a proximal ulna. Remarkably, humeral, femoral and tibial diaphyses, which are the most durable elements in terms of cortical bone thickness and density, are absent. However, the proportional representation of hominin remains is reminiscent of the “Klasies Pattern” shown by the MSA large bovid skeletal parts. To some degree, this may reflect the excavation and recovery methods that were employed. The vast bulk of the human fossils represent adults. Only three undoubted juvenile individuals are represented – each by a deciduous tooth. This contrasts with other MSA sites along the southern coast of South Africa, where human remains are predominantly juvenile, usually in the form of (possibly exfoliated) deciduous teeth. However, this apparent dissimilarity may also reflect different excavation techniques.

  Evidence for chronic omega-3 fatty acids and ascorbic acid deficiency in Palaeolithic hominins in Europe at the emergence of cannibalism, di J.L. Guil-Guerrero, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 157, 1 February 2017, Pages 176–187

At the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic (M/UP) transition in Western Europe, hominins depended mostly on terrestrial mammals for subsistence, being pointed out that reliance on reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) would have promoted declines in human population densities during that period. Food-composition tables have been compiled for hominins at the M/UP transition, listing protein, fat, energy, different omega-3 fatty acids and ascorbic acid concentrations. These data were used to compute the regular relations between fatty and lean tissues of the main hunted food-animals to meet hominin energy needs. Then, with daily protein intake considered critical, the optimal contribution of the different omega-3 fatty acids from different hunted species to hominin diets were computed. Several faunal assemblages from different human sites at different M/UP periods were used to assess the overall daily intake of the various omega-3 fatty acid classes. The results of the calculations made in this work are quite clear; hominins at the M/UP transition had a deficit of both omega-3 fatty acids and ascorbic acid. Data on human organs summarized here are also conclusive: these contain such nutrients in amounts much higher than reached in the corresponding mammal organs consumed, and thus could have been alternative sources of those nutrients for Palaeolithic hominins. Therefore, nutritional cannibalism detected at such times could have had the function of alleviating these deficits. The evolutionary advantages gained by the consumption of the various omega-3 fatty acids of human origin are also discussed.


The Aggradational Successions of the Aniene River Valley in Rome: Age Constraints to Early Neanderthal Presence in Europe, di F. Marra , P. Ceruleo, L. Pandolfi, C. Petronio, M. F. Rolfo, L. Salari, January 26, 2017, DOI: - open access -

We revise the chronostratigraphy of several sedimentary successions cropping out along a 5 km-long tract of the Aniene River Valley in Rome (Italy), which yielded six hominin remains previously attributed to proto- or archaic Neanderthal individuals, as well as a large number of lithic artefacts showing intermediate characteristics somewhere between the local Acheulean and Mousterian cultures. Through a method of correlation of aggradational successions with post-glacial sea-level rises, relying on a large set of published 40Ar/39Ar ages of interbedded volcanic deposits, we demonstrate that deposition of the sediments hosting the human remains spans the interval 295–220 ka. This is consistent with other well constrained ages for lithic industries recovered in England, displaying transitional features from Lower to Middle Paleolithic, suggesting the appearance of Mode 3 during the MIS 9-MIS 8 transition. Moreover, the six human bone fragments recovered in the Aniene Valley should be regarded as the most precisely dated and oldest hominin remains ascribable to Neanderthal-type individuals in Europe, discovered to date. The chronostratigraphic study presented here constitutes the groundwork for addressing re-analysis of these remains and of their associated lithic industries, in the light of their well-constrained chronological picture. (...)


Brain enlargement and dental reduction were not linked in hominin evolution, di A. Gómez-Robles et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", January 17, 2017, vol. 114, no. 3, pp. 468–473

The large brain and small postcanine teeth of modern humans are among our most distinctive features, and trends in their evolution are well studied within the hominin clade. Classic accounts hypothesize that larger brains and smaller teeth coevolved because behavioral changes associated with increased brain size allowed a subsequent dental reduction. However, recent studies have found mismatches between trends in brain enlargement and posterior tooth size reduction in some hominin species. We use a multiple-variance Brownian motion approach in association with evolutionary simulations to measure the tempo and mode of the evolution of endocranial and dental size and shape within the hominin clade. We show that hominin postcanine teeth have evolved at a relatively consistent neutral rate, whereas brain size evolved at comparatively more heterogeneous rates that cannot be explained by a neutral model, with rapid pulses in the branches leading to later Homo species. Brain reorganization shows evidence of elevated rates only much later in hominin evolution, suggesting that fast-evolving traits such as the acquisition of a globular shape may be the result of direct or indirect selection for functional or structural traits typical of modern humans.

  Discovery adds rock collecting to Neanderthal's repertoire, 17-JAN-2017

An international group that includes a University of Kansas researcher has discovered a brownish piece of split limestone in a site in Croatia that suggests Neanderthals 130,000 years ago collected the rock that stands out among all other items in the cave. "If we were walking and picked up this rock, we would have taken it home," said David Frayer, a professor emeritus of anthropology who was part of the study. "It is an interesting rock." The finding is important, he said, because it adds to other recent evidence that Neanderthals were capable -- on their own -- of incorporating symbolic objects into their culture. The rock was collected more than 100 years ago from the Krapina Neanderthal site, which has items preserved in the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb, where in recent years the research team has re-examined them. (...)
  The ecological niche and distribution of Neanderthals during the Last Interglacial, di B. M. Benito et alii, "Journal of Biogeography", Volume 44, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 51–61

In this paper, we investigate the role of climate and topography in shaping the distribution of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) at different spatial scales. To this end, we compiled the most comprehensive data set on the distribution of this species during the Last Interglacial optimum (MIS 5e) available to date. This was used to calibrate a palaeo-species distribution model, and analyse variable importance at continental and local scales. (...)

  Initial micromorphological results from Liang Bua, Flores (Indonesia): Site formation processes and hominin activities at the type locality of Homo floresiensis, di M. W. Morley et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 77, January 2017, Pages 125–142

Liang Bua, a karstic cave located on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia, is best known for yielding the holotype of the diminutive hominin Homo floresiensis from Late Pleistocene sediments. Modern human remains have also been recovered from the Holocene deposits, and abundant archaeological and faunal remains occur throughout the sequence. The cave, the catchment in which it is located and the gross aggradational phases of the sediment sequence have all been subject to a great deal of scientific scrutiny since the discovery of the holotype of H. floresiensis in 2003. A recent program of geoarchaeological research has extended analyses of the site’s deposits to the microstratigraphic (micromorphological) level. The stratigraphic sequence in the cave is well defined but complex, comprising interstratified sediments of diverse lithologies and polygenetic origins, including volcanic tephras, fine-grained colluvium, coarse autogenic limestone gravels, speleothems and anthropogenic sediments, such as combustion features. The sedimentological and chemical heterogeneity suggest that processes of site formation and diagenesis varied markedly through time, both laterally and vertically. We present initial results from samples collected in 2014 from an excavation area near the rear of the cave, which yielded radiocarbon ages from charcoal that fill an important temporal gap in the chrono-stratigraphic sequence of previously excavated areas of the site. The results indicate marked changes in site environment and hominin activity during the Late Pleistocene, relating primarily to the degree to which the cave was connected to the hydrogeological system and to the varying intensities of use of the cave by hominins. Importantly, we identify anthropogenic signs of fire-use at the site between 41 and 24 thousand years ago, most likely related to the presence of modern humans.

  Two Acheuleans, two humankinds: From 1.5 to 0.85 Ma at Melka Kunture (Upper Awash, Ethiopian highlands), di R. Gallotti, M. Mussi, "JASs Reports-Journal of Anthropological Sciences", Vol. 95 (2017), pp. 1-46

The Acheulean is the longest-lasting human cultural record, spanning approximately 1.5 Ma and three continents. The most comprehensive sequences are found in East Africa, where, in largescale syntheses, the Lower Pleistocene Acheulean (LPA) has often been considered a uniform cultural entity. Furthermore, the emergence and development of Acheulean technology are seen as linked to the emergence and evolution of Homo ergaster/erectus. The criterion for grouping together different lithic assemblages scattered over space and time is the presence of large cutting tools (LCTs), more than of any other component. Their degree of refinement has been used, in turn, as a parameter for evaluating Acheulean development and variability. But was the East African LPA really uniform as regards all components involved in lithic productions? The aim of this paper is to evaluate the techno-economic similarities and differences among LPA productions in a specific micro-regional and environmental context, i.e. at Melka Kunture, in the Ethiopian highlands, and in a specific period of time: between ~1.5 Ma, when some of the earliest Acheulean complexes appeared, and 1.0-0.85 Ma, when LCTs productions became intensive and widespread. Our detailed comparative analyses investigate all aspects and phases of the chaînes opératoires. Since hominin fossil remains were discovered at some of the analyzed sites, we also discuss differences among lithic productions in relation to the changing paleoanthropological record. Our studies show that at Melka Kunture the LPA techno-complexes cannot be grouped into a single uniform entity. The assembled evidence points instead to “two Acheuleans” well-defined by a strong discontinuity in various aspects of techno-economic behaviors. This discontinuity is related to a major step in human evolution: the transition from Homo ergaster/erectus to Homo heidelbergensis. (...)


Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca