Aggiornamento 2 aprile

 
 

What’s the point? Retouched bladelet variability in the Protoaurignacian. Results from Fumane, Isturitz, and Les Cottés, di A. Falcucci, M. Peresani, M. Roussel, C. Normand, M. Soressi, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", April 2018, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 539–554

The Protoaurignacian is considered a cultural proxy for one of the first expansions of anatomically modern humans across Europe. The stabilization of bladelet industries that characterizes this techno-complex is therefore often used as supporting evidence for the break from previous stone knapping traditions and also for the increase of human mobility through wider territories. Despite the cultural importance that bladelets have gained, a careful inter-regional comparison, stressing similarities and differences, has not yet been attempted. Moreover, the use of traditional typologies has blurred the morpho-metrical variability that characterizes lamellar tools. Here, a study has been carried out on retouched bladelets from three pivotal sites: Fumane (northeast Italy), Isturitz (southwest France), and Les Cottés (northern France). By using morphological, dimensional, and retouching attributes, and by evaluating the statistical significance of the main differences, the first detailed analysis of the variability of retouched bladelets within the Protoaurignacian has been documented. The results indicate that the features that best discriminate the bladelet assemblages are the presence and the relative variability of bladelets with convergent retouch, although a reassessment of existing studies and new methodological approaches are required to test the latter hypothesis. Throughout this paper, we demonstrate the merits of using a unified classification of retouched bladelets for comparing behavior in between groups distant in space. We hope that this paper will be a new incentive to develop unified taxonomies for the study of Early Upper Paleolithic lithics in Western Eurasia.

     
 

Identifying handedness at knapping; an analysis of the scatter pattern of lithic remains, di A. Bargalló, M. Mosquera, C. Lorenzo, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", April 2018, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 587–598

Determining hand laterality during human evolution is important in order to identify brain hemispheric lateralization for motor tasks and, indirectly, to gain information on the complex cognitive functions of the human brain. In this paper, we present a new method for inferring handedness from lithic evidence. The study is based on an analysis of the scatter patterns of lithic remains from stone-knapping episodes. An experimental programme was carried out by 14 knappers (eight right-handed and six left-handed), ranging from individuals that had never even struck two pebbles together to individuals who were quite familiar with prehistoric tools and had some degree of practice. The results of the experiment show that the material scatter patterns of right- and left-handed knappers at group level are different, but they do overlap at certain intervals. At the individual level, the probability of falsely ascribing left- and right-handedness has also been estimated. In addition, we have adapted this method to be applied to the archaeological record. In this case, only well-preserved knapping events with no post-depositional alterations can be used to assign left- or right-handed knappers, with the former being more reliably detected than the latter.

     
 

Reassessment of the Lower Paleolithic (Acheulean) presence in the western Tien Shan, di K. A. Kolobova, D. Flas, A. I. Krivoshapkin, K. K. Pavlenok, D. Vandenberghe, M. De Dapper, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", April 2018, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 615–630

Kulbulak (Uzbekistan) is among the most important Paleolithic sites in Central Asia. Based on excavations from the 1960s to the 1980s, a stratigraphic sequence yielding 46 archeological horizons of the Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic has been described. The lowermost 22 layers were at that time defined as Acheulean, both in cultural and chronological aspects. Based on these previous works, Kulbulak has thus often been cited as one of the rarest occurrences of Lower Paleolithic and Acheulean in the region. However, this attribution was debatable. New excavations at Kulbulak in 2007–2010 provided new material and the first reliable dates that permitted us to tackle this issue. Moreover, a reappraisal of the lithic collections and documents from previous excavations was also conducted. These new data clearly indicate the absence of Acheulean or even Lower Paleolithic at Kulbulak. On the contrary, the lithic assemblages from this site only correspond to Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods. The lowermost layers are particularly interesting due to the presence of an early industry with blade and bladelet technology.

     
 

Lithic use-wear analysis of the Early Gravettian of Vale Boi (Cape St. Vicente, southern Portugal): insights into human technology and settlement in southwestern Iberia, di J. Marreiros, J. Gibaja, N. Bicho, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", April 2018, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 631–645

During the Upper Paleolithic, lithic variability is one of the most important keys to recognize hunter-gatherer behavior, technology, ecology, and social dynamics. The origin and expansion of Gravettian populations in Eurasia has been seen as one of the most critical episodes in human evolution, argued to be the first clear evidence of the so-called polymorphism among modern human populations. In the case of southern Iberian Peninsula, recent data have shown a new regional and diachronic organization for the Gravettian occupation in this region. Therefore, the interpretation of such variability is one of the most important questions, and functional analysis is a fundamental proxy to recognize human technological, settlement and ecological adaptations as major factors for this polymorphism. This study focused on lithic use-wear analysis of the Early Gravettian of Vale Boi (southern Portugal), in order to understand lithic technological organization and variability within and between occupations at the site. Results show similar patterns between assemblages, showing that different materials were worked at the site, although showing reduced time of work, low variability and percentage of pieces used. Unlike other Gravettian contexts in southern Iberia, the Early Gravettian from Vale Boi is characterized by some variability of backed points, marked by the predominance of bipointed double-backed bladelets. Functional analysis of the Early Gravettian lithic industries of Vale Boi provide a new insight to interpret human technology and settlement strategy during the onset of Upper Paleolithic industries in western Eurasia.

     
 

Cross-sectional properties of the lower limb long bones in the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos sample (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), di L. Rodríguez, J. M. Carretero, R. García-González, J. L. Arsuaga, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 117, April 2018, Pages 1-12

The recovery to date of three complete and five partial femora, seven complete tibiae, and four complete fibulae from the Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos site provides an opportunity to analyze the biomechanical cross-sectional properties in this Middle Pleistocene population and to compare them with those of other fossil hominins and recent modern humans. We have performed direct comparisons of the cross-sectional geometric parameters and reduced major axis (RMA) regression lines among different samples. We have determined that Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH) fossils have significantly thicker cortices than those of recent modern humans for the three leg bones at all diaphyseal levels, except that of the femur at 35% of biomechanical length. The SH bones are similar to those of Neandertals and Middle Pleistocene humans and different from Homo sapiens in their diaphyseal cross-sectional shape and strength parameters. When standardized by estimated body size, both the SH and Neandertal leg bones have in general greater strength than those of H. sapiens from the early modern (EMH), Upper Paleolithic (UP), and recent populations (RH). The Sima de los Huesos human leg bones have, in general terms, an ancestral pattern similar to that of Pleistocene humans and differing from H. sapiens.

     
 

La Ferrassie 1: New perspectives on a “classic” Neandertal, di A. Gómez-Olivencia et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 117, April 2018, Pages 13-32

The La Ferrassie 1 (LF1) skeleton, discovered over a century ago, is one of the most important Neandertal individuals both for its completeness and due to the role it has played historically in the interpretation of Neandertal anatomy and lifeways. Here we present new skeletal remains from this individual, which include a complete right middle ear ossicular chain (malleus, incus, and stapes), three vertebral fragments, and two costal remains. Additionally, the study of the skeleton has allowed us to identify new pathological lesions, including a congenital variant in the atlas, a greenstick fracture of the left clavicle, and a lesion in a mid-thoracic rib of unknown etiology. In addition, we have quantified the amount of vertebral pathology, which is greater than previously appreciated. We have complemented the paleopathological analysis with a taphonomic analysis to identify any potential perimortem fractures. The taphonomic analysis indicates that no surface alteration is present in the LF1 skeleton and that the breakage pattern is that of bone that has lost collagen, which would be consistent with the intentional burial of this individual proposed by previous researchers. In this study, we used CT and microCT scans in order to discover new skeletal elements to better characterize the pathological lesions and to quantify the fracture orientation of those bones in which the current plaster reconstruction did not allow its direct visualization, which underlines the broad potential of imaging technologies in paleoanthropological research. A century after its discovery, LF1 is still providing new insights into Neandertal anatomy and behavior.

     
  Small mammal taxonomy, taphonomy, and the paleoenvironmental record during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic at Geißenklösterle Cave (Ach Valley, southwestern Germany), di S. E. Rhodes, R. Ziegler, B, M. Starkovich, N, J. Conard, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 185, 1 April 2018, Pages 199-221

Geißenklösterle Cave, located in the Ach Valley of the Swabian Alb and one of six Swabian cave sites recently named as a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a long history of archaeological research resulting in a detailed record of human occupation. Sometime around 45,000 years ago Neanderthals seemingly vanished from the Swabian landscape, and after a period of mostly geogenic deposit at Geißenklösterle Cave we find deposits containing characteristically Aurignacian artifacts dating to as early as 42,500 years ago. These Aurignacian groups brought with them complex symbolic expression and communication including bone and ivory beads, musical instruments, and animal and human figurines. This study examines the climatic context of this depopulation through a taxonomic and taphonomic analysis of the rodent and insectivore remains associated with these periods and provides a relatively unbiased climatic record for the period of ∼45,000–36,000 years ago in this region. Taphonomic analysis indicates that primarily the European eagle owl (Bubo bubo) and the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) were responsible for accumulating the material, and allows us to quantify the potential taxonomic bias resulting from predator behaviour which includes a preference for voles, particularly the water vole (Arvicola terrestris). Additionally, rare taxa (which include species of murids and soricids) may have been present in greater quantities than our sample implies. The assemblage from Geißenklösterle Cave is dominated by the field and common vole (Microtus arvalis/agrestis), the narrow-headed vole (Microtus gregalis), and the root/tundra vole (Microtus oeconomus). Overall, the Middle Paleolithic landscape included significant woodland and forested areas while a high proportion of species restricted to cold tundra environments likely indicate punctuated cold and arid periods. The signal from the nearly geogenic layer overlying the Middle Paleolithic material includes a moderate shift in the proportion of cold tundra adapted species, suggesting that the tundra expanded leading up to the Neanderthal depopulation, but no period of drastic climatic change is recognizable. The Aurignacian was significantly colder and drier than the preceding period, with cold tundra expansion reaching its apex (for the time period studied). Based on these results the Swabian landscape first encountered by Aurignacian groups was significantly less hospitable than that known to the earlier Middle Paleolithic populations. These results correlate well with past paleoenvironmental reconstructions based on sedimentary, botanical, and faunal assemblages. There is no evidence in the small mammal record that climatic pressure drove Neanderthals from the Ach Valley, instead it seems likely they enjoyed a more temperate environment than later Aurignacian groups. Ongoing work focused on greater resolution of these climatic oscillations at similarly well-dated Swabian sites will shed further light on the timing and speed of this climatic shift and the response of the biological communities affected, including early human groups.

     
  The impact of hydraulic processes in Olduvai Beds I and II, Tanzania, through a particle dimension analysis of stone tool assemblages, di I. de la Torre, A. Benito-Calvo, T. Proffitt, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 33, Issue2, March/April 2018

The effect of post-depositional processes on the formation of Plio-Pleistocene sites at Olduvai Gorge is the subject of considerable debate, due mainly to its implications for the behavioral interpretation of the Beds I and II assemblages. In light of this debate, here we contribute to the discussion that investigates the role of water flow in site formation at Olduvai. This is achieved by assessing the artifact size and shape ranges of lithic assemblages excavated by Mary Leakey from both Oldowan (FLK North Levels 3 and 1, FLK Zinj, FLK North Levels 6-1, Sandy Conglomerate and Deinotherium, HWKE Level 1) and early Acheulean (TK Lower and Upper Floor) sites. We apply grain size and shape statistical techniques to these stone tool assemblages in order to classify sites according to patterns in artifact dimensions. These patterns are then compared to those produced during experimental flaking, thus providing a referential framework against which the archaeological assemblages can be interpreted. Artifact size distribution results show pronounced differences between the archaeological and experimental assemblages. Most of the archaeological assemblages are characterized by a bimodal size trend that is opposed to the dominantly unimodal distribution seen in the flaking experiments. The few archaeological assemblages where the distribution is predominantly unimodal (TF Lower Floor, TK Upper Floor and FLK Zinj) also show a significant underrepresentation of smaller artifacts, when compared to the experimental distributions. Overall, the comparison of archaeological materials with experimental results enables a more accurate assessment of the impact of natural processes over the Bed I and II assemblages, and further, it helps to refine our understanding of taphonomic and behavioral contexts for the Oldowan and early Acheulean sites at Olduvai Gorge.

     
 

Reconstructing the genetic history of late Neanderthals, di M. Hajdinjak, Q. Fu, J. Kelso, "Nature", volume 555, pages 652–656 (29 March 2018)

Although it has previously been shown that Neanderthals contributed DNA to modern humans1,2, not much is known about the genetic diversity of Neanderthals or the relationship between late Neanderthal populations at the time at which their last interactions with early modern humans occurred and before they eventually disappeared. Our ability to retrieve DNA from a larger number of Neanderthal individuals has been limited by poor preservation of endogenous DNA3 and contamination of Neanderthal skeletal remains by large amounts of microbial and present-day human DNA3,4,5. Here we use hypochlorite treatment6 of as little as 9 mg of bone or tooth powder to generate between 1- and 2.7-fold genomic coverage of five Neanderthals who lived around 39,000 to 47,000 years ago (that is, late Neanderthals), thereby doubling the number of Neanderthals for which genome sequences are available. Genetic similarity among late Neanderthals is well predicted by their geographical location, and comparison to the genome of an older Neanderthal from the Caucasus2,7 indicates that a population turnover is likely to have occurred, either in the Caucasus or throughout Europe, towards the end of Neanderthal history. We find that the bulk of Neanderthal gene flow into early modern humans originated from one or more source populations that diverged from the Neanderthals that were studied here at least 70,000 years ago, but after they split from a previously sequenced Neanderthal from Siberia2 around 150,000 years ago. Although four of the Neanderthals studied here post-date the putative arrival of early modern humans into Europe, we do not detect any recent gene flow from early modern humans in their ancestry.

· Gli ultimi Neanderthal e noi, "Le Scienze", 23 marzo 2018

     
 

A Middle Palaeolithic wooden digging stick from Aranbaltza III, Spain, di J. Rios-Garaizar et alii, March 28, 2018, doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195044 - open access -

Aranbaltza is an archaeological complex formed by at least three open-air sites. Between 2014 and 2015 a test excavation carried out in Aranbaltza III revealed the presence of a sand and clay sedimentary sequence formed in floodplain environments, within which six sedimentary units have been identified. This sequence was formed between 137–50 ka, and includes several archaeological horizons, attesting to the long-term presence of Neanderthal communities in this area. One of these horizons, corresponding with Unit 4, yielded two wooden tools. One of these tools is a beveled pointed tool that was shaped through a complex operational sequence involving branch shaping, bark peeling, twig removal, shaping, polishing, thermal exposition and chopping. A use-wear analysis of the tool shows it to have traces related with digging soil so it has been interpreted as representing a digging stick. This is the first time such a tool has been identified in a European Late Middle Palaeolithic context; it also represents one of the first well-preserved Middle Palaeolithic wooden tool found in southern Europe. This artefact represents one of the few examples available of wooden tool preservation for the European Palaeolithic, allowing us to further explore the role wooden technologies played in Neanderthal communities. (...)

     
 

Germany was covered by glaciers 450,000 years ago, 23-MAR-2018

The timing of the Middle Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles and the feedback mechanisms between climatic shifts and earth-surface processes are still poorly understood. This is largely due to the fact that chronological data of sediment archives representing periglacial, but also potentially warmer climate periods, are very sparse until now. "The Quaternary sediments in central Germany are perfect archives to understand the climate shifts that occurred in the region during the last 450,000 years", says co-author Tobias Lauer, a geochronologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "This is because all sediments representing the ice advances and retreats of Scandinavian glaciers into Europe are preserved here." The sediments in the region, and especially in the area around the city Leipzig, are extremely well documented due to tens of thousands of drillings over the past few decades and open pits related to brown-coal mining. Especially relevant are the river deposits of local rivers like the Weisse Elster and the Saale, which are preserved between the moraines of the so-called "Elsterian" and "Saalian" ice advances. "Especially the timing of the first major glaciation has been highly debated within the scientific community during the last few decades", says Lauer. "By dating the river deposits systematically we found that the first ice coverage of central Germany during the Elsterian glaciation (named after the river Elster) occurred during marine isotope stage 12, likely about 450,000 years ago, which is 100,000 years earlier than previously thought." To obtain these dates the researchers used luminescence dating, a technology that determines how long ago mineral grains were last exposed to sunlight or heat. (...)

     
 

L'antico incrocio fra umani moderni e di Denisova, 19 marzo 2018

Gli esseri umani moderni hanno convissuto e si sono incrociati, oltre che con i Neanderthal, anche con un'altra specie umana arcaica, quella degli uomini di Denisova, dei quali si sa ancora pochissimo. In particolare, il mescolamento fra umani moderni e denisovani sarebbe avvenuto in due distinte occasioni, entrambe precedenti all'incrocio fra umani moderni e Neanderthal. La scoperta, fatta da un gruppo di ricercatori dell'Università di Washington a Seattle e pubblicata su "Cell", è avvenuta grazie a un nuovo metodo di analisi per il confronto di interi genomi di popolazioni diverse. I dati relativi all'uomo di Denisova derivano da un unico insieme di fossili arcaici trovati nelle montagne dell'Altai, in Siberia, il cui genoma è stato pubblicato nel 2010. In seguito, sono stati rapidamente identificati segmenti di DNA di ascendenza denisovana in diverse popolazioni moderne dell'Oceania, ma anche dall'Asia orientale e meridionale. Le tracce più significative di un'ascendenza dai Denisova sono state riscontrate fra i Papua, che arrivano al 5 per cento del genoma, contro il 2 per cento delle popolazioni eurasiatiche. (...)

     
 

New understanding of Kenyan paleoenvironments opens window on human evolution in the area, March 16, 2018

The sediments of the newly named Oltulelei Formation in the Olorgesailie Basin were deposited after a 180,000 year period of erosion and represent the time interval between ~320,000 and ~36,000 years ago. They preserve important evidence for human evolution, but "this only makes sense when we understand the geology of the enclosing rocks," says lead author Behrensmeyer, "particularly the age of the strata and the nature of the paleoenvironments associated with archeological and fossil sites." For example, if there are two archeological sites with different types of artifacts in different strata some distance apart, it takes geological investigation to say which is older and which is younger. "This is obviously critical to understanding the evolution of technology." Behrensmeyer used traditional section measuring and mapping to document the strata across three different sub-basins, then analyzed and correlated hundreds of section logs with the help of new computer-based methods. This research also involved intensive laboratory work using 40Ar/39Ar absolute dating (by coauthor Alan Deino) of the volcanic tephras to pin down the ages of the strata and the archeological sites. The team, including co-author (and Olorgesailie project leader) Richard Potts, then worked together to integrate the geology, the ages, and the archeological sites. (...)

     
 

Advances in human behaviour came surprisingly early in Stone Age, di J. Tollefson, "Nature news", 15 MARCH 2018, Nature 555, 424-425 (2018), doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-03244-y

Early humans in eastern Africa crafted advanced tools and displayed other complex behaviours tens of thousands of years earlier than previously thought, according to a trio of papers published on 15 March in Science. Those advances coincided with — and may have been driven by — major climate and landscape changes. The latest evidence comes from the Olorgesailie Basin in Southern Kenya, where researchers have previously found traces of ancient relatives of modern human as far back as 1.2 million years ago. Evidence collected at sites in the basin suggests that early humans underwent a series of profound changes at some point before roughly 320,000 years ago. They abandoned simple hand axes in favour of smaller and more advanced blades made from obsidian and other materials obtained from distant sources. That shift suggests the early people living there had developed a trade network — evidence of growing sophistication in behaviour. The researchers also found gouges on black and red rocks and minerals, which indicate that early Olorgesailie residents used those materials to create pigments and possibly communicate ideas. (...)

     
 

Environmental dynamics during the onset of the Middle Stone Age in eastern Africa, di R. Potts et alii, Science 15 Mar 2018, DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2200

Development of the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) before 300 thousand years ago (ka) raises the question of how environmental change influenced the evolution of behaviors characteristic of early Homo sapiens. We use temporally well-constrained sedimentological and paleoenvironmental data to investigate environmental dynamics before and after the appearance of the early MSA in the Olorgesailie Basin, Kenya. In contrast to the Acheulean archeological record in the same basin, MSA sites are associated with a dramatically different faunal community, more pronounced erosion-deposition cycles, tectonic activity, and enhanced wet-dry variability. As early as 615 ka, aspects of Acheulean technology in this region imply that greater stone material selectivity and wider resource procurement coincided with an increased pace of land-lake fluctuation, potentially anticipating the adaptability of MSA hominins.

· Signs of symbolic behavior emerged at the dawn of our species in Africa, di A. Gibbons, "Science News", Mar. 15, 2018

· I comportamenti complessi precedono Homo sapiens, "Le Scienze", 15 marzo 2018

     
 

Dating human occupation and adaptation in the southern European last glacial refuge: The chronostratigraphy of Grotta del Romito (Italy), di S. Blockley et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 184, 15 March 2018, Pages 5-25

Grotta del Romito has been the subject of numerous archaeological, chronological and palaeoenvironmental investigations for more than a decade. During the Upper Palaeolithic period the site contains evidence of human occupation through the Gravettian and Epigravettian periods, multiple human burials, changes in the pattern of human occupation, and faunal, isotopic and sedimentological evidence for local environmental change. In spite of this rich record, the chronological control is insufficient to resolve shifts in subsistence and mobility patterns at sufficiently high resolution to match the abrupt climate fluctuations at this time. To resolve this we present new radiocarbon and tephrostratigraphic dates in combination with existing radiocarbon dates, and develop a Bayesian age model framework for the site. This improved chronology reveals that local environmental conditions reflect abrupt and long-term changes in climate, and that these also directly influence changing patterns of human occupation of the site. In particular, we show that the environmental record for the site, based on small mammal habitat preferences, is chronologically in phase with the main changes in climate and environment seen in key regional archives from Italy and Greenland. We also calculate the timing of the transitions between different cultural phases and their spans. We also show that the intensification in occupation of the site is chronologically coincident with a rapid rise in Mesic Woody taxa seen in key regional pollen records and is associated with the Late Epigravettian occupation of the site. This change in the record of Grotta del Romito is also closely associated stratigraphically with a new tephra (the ROM-D30 tephra), which may act as a critical marker in environmental records of the region.

     
 

The silence of the layers: Archaeological site visibility in the Pleistocene-Holocene transition at the Ebro Basin, di A. Alday et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 184, 15 March 2018, Pages 85-106

The Ebro Basin constitutes one of the most representative territories in SW Europe for the study of prehistoric societies during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. The correlation of palaeoenvironmental and geomorphological proxies obtained from sedimentary records with chronologically well-constrained reference archaeological sites has allowed defining this time frame precisely, such that three main pilot areas haven been broadly depicted: the Alavese region, the Pre-Pyrenees and the Bajo Aragón. Overall, the human imprint in the Ebro Basin was rare during the Upper Palaeolithic, but more visible from the Upper Magdalenian (14500–13500 cal BP) to Neolithic times (up to 5500 cal BP). Local environmental resources were continuously managed by the prehistoric communities in the different areas of study. In fact, the Ebro Basin acted during those millennia as a whole, developing the same cultural trends, industrial techniques and settlement patterns in parallel throughout the territory. However, some gaps exist in the 14C frequency curve (SCDPD curve). This is partially related to prehistoric sites in particular lithologies and geological structures that could have partly been lost by erosional processes, especially during the Early Holocene. In addition, this gap also parallels the reconstructed climate trend for the Pre-Pyrenean and the Bajo Aragón areas, which are defined by high frequencies of xerophilous flora until ca. 9500 cal BP, suggesting that continental climate features could have hampered the presence of well-established human communities in inland regions. The interdisciplinary research (archaeology, geomorphology and palaeoclimatology) discussed in this paper offers clues to understand the existence of fills and gaps in the archaeological record of the Ebro Basin, and can be applied in other territories with similar geographic and climate patterns.

     
  Chemical weathering of palaeosols from the Lower Palaeolithic site of Valle Giumentina, central Italy, di J. P. Degeai et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 183, 1 March 2018, Pages 88-109

The major archaeological site of Valle Giumentina (Abruzzo) contains a well-dated Lower Palaeolithic pedosedimentary sequence that provides an excellent opportunity to study the relationships among soil weathering, volcanism and climate change at the glacial/interglacial and submillennial timescales in central Italy and the Mediterranean area during the Middle Pleistocene, as well as the human-environment interactions of some of the earliest settlements in central southern Europe. High-resolution analyses of geochemistry and magnetic susceptibility revealed the presence of eleven palaeosols, ten of which (S2-S11) were formed between 560 and 450 ka based on 40Ar/39Ar dating of sanidine in tephras, i.e. spanning marine isotope stages (MIS) 14-12. The evolution of the major and trace element composition suggests that the palaeosols were mainly formed by in situ weathering of the parent material. The major phases of soil weathering occurred during the MIS 13 interglacial period (S8 and S6) as well as during episodes of rapid environmental change associated with millennial climatic oscillations during the MIS 14 and 12 glaciations (S11 and S2, respectively). Although global forcing such as orbital variations, solar radiation, and greenhouse gas concentrations may have influenced the pedogenic processes, the volcanism in central Italy, climate change in the central Mediterranean, and tectono-sedimentary evolution of the Valle Giumentina basin also impacted and triggered the formation of most palaeosols, which provided subsistence resources for the Lower Palaeolithic human communities. This study highlights the importance of having high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records with accurate chronology as close as possible to archaeological sites to study human-environment interactions.

     
 

The Sterkfontein Caves after Eighty Years of Paleoanthropological Research: The Journey Continues, di D. J. Stratford, "American Anthropologist", Volume 120, Issue 1, March 2018 - open access -

The Sterkfontein Caves, the richest Australopithecus-bearing site in the world, occupies a crucial position in the history of South African scientific inquiry and has been pivotal to the development of the field of paleoanthropology. The site is physically and culturally embedded in the foundations of Johannesburg and is recognized as being one of the world's most important cultural heritage resources. The year 2016 was the eightieth anniversary of the discovery of the first adult Australopithecus by Robert Broom at Sterkfontein in 1936, a find that inspired three generations of paleoanthropological research throughout South Africa's Cradle of Humankind. Since this discovery, through fortune or dedicated research efforts, Sterkfontein has provided some of the most crucial clues to the complexities of our evolutionary past. In an auspicious year, 150 years since Robert Broom's birth, eighty years since Broom's discovery, and fifty years since Tobias's inauguration of a new Sterkfontein research program, this article presents a brief review of the history of research at Sterkfontein and its role in the development of the field of paleoanthropology. In light of this juncture, this article contributes two consolidated resources: a literature archive and a consolidated record of excavation‐diary entries since 1967. (...)

     
 

Microwear study of quartzite artefacts: preliminary results from the Middle Pleistocene site of Payre (South-eastern France), di A. Pedergnana, A. Ollé, A. Borel, M. H. Moncel, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", March 2018, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 369–388

Preliminary functional results obtained from the quartzite assemblage of the Early Middle Palaeolithic site of Payre (South-eastern France) are presented. In an area rich in flint, hominins at Payre also collected quartzite in their local environment, specifically along the Rhône River banks. Although the Payre lithic assemblage is largely composed of flint, quartzite was introduced in the site mainly as large cutting tools knapped outside. This fact pointed out an apparently highly differential treatment of the raw material types available in the region. A major concern is to understand the reason why. Is there any functional reason for the introduction of those artefacts, perhaps to perform specific activities related to the toughness of quartzite? Or is there any functional differentiation among the various raw materials? Use-wear analysis is a useful tool for better understanding human technological choices and strategies of lithic raw material management. Before attempting to extensively apply use-wear analysis on the quartzite assemblage, we analysed a limited sample to evaluate the general surface preservation. A specific experimental programme with the same local quartzite was carried out in order to provide a reliable comparative reference for interpreting use-wear evidence on archaeological implements. Methodological difficulties related to use-wear analysis applied to quartzite artefacts are also discussed. Both Optical light microscopy (OLM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) were employed in this study; however, interpretations were elaborated considering principally SEM micro-graphs. The analysis of the archaeological material showed a good state of preservation of the surfaces with a low incidence of post-depositional alterations. The documented use-wear allowed us to identify the active edges, the kinematics and, more rarely, the worked material. Chopping activities were documented on two large artefacts suggesting a specific utility of those tools.

     
 

Assemblage variability and bifacial points in the lowermost Sibudan layers at Sibudu, South Africa, di M. Will, N. J. Conard, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", March 2018, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 389–414

Building on the important work of Lyn Wadley at Sibudu, archeologists from the University of Tübingen have excavated the upper stratigraphic units of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) sequence down to the Howiesons Poort (HP). Here, we present the main results from lithic analyses of the lowest part of the Sibudan sequence to assess its overall variability and taxonomic status. Based on the new findings, we also discuss the implications for archeological systematics and the cultural evolution of modern humans in MIS 3 from a more general perspective. The Sibudan deposits encompass over 20 archeological horizons that span a 1.2-m-thick, well-stratified sequence whose base and top have been dated to ∼58 ka (MIS 3). In contrast to the upper stratigraphic units, the lower Sibudan assemblages that we analyzed here show much higher use of local sandstone, quartz, and quartzite. These older units are characterized by frequent use of expedient core reduction methods, bipolar reduction of locally available quartz and quartzite, less retouch of blanks, and lower find densities. Tongati and Ndwedwe tools, which feature abundantly in the upper part of the Sibudan sequence, are entirely absent, as are unifacial points. Instead, notched and denticulated tools are common. Surprisingly, knappers manufactured small bifacial points, mainly made from quartz, by means of alternating shaping in the course of the oldest occupations. The results highlight the great diversity of human technological behavior over even short periods during the MSA, raising important questions about the mechanisms of behavioral change, cultural taxonomy, appropriate scales of lithic analyses, and the relationship between the HP and the Sibudan. Our findings further erode the old idea that bifacial technology in southern Africa is limited to the Still Bay. Research is increasingly showing that bifacial points come and go in different forms and contexts of African Late Pleistocene technology, impeding their use as chrono-cultural markers.

     
 

Beyond art: The internal archaeological context in Paleolithic decorated caves, di M. Á. Medina-Alcaide, D. Garate-Maidagan, A. Ruiz-Redondo, J. L. Sanchidrián-Torti, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 49, March 2018, Pages 114-128  - open access -

The inner zones of caves are those areas unreached by sunlight that remain in complete darkness and require artificial light if humans are to occupy them. They are characterized by a high degree of humidity and scarcely varying annual temperature. In general, such areas are inimical to prolonged and stable human settlement in comparison to areas closer to cave entrances. The latter have been used as places of more prolonged occupation, where many different activities were carried out (permanent and sporadic settlement, hunting refuges, etc.). Despite this, throughout the Upper Paleolithic (UP), and also occasionally in the Middle Paleolithic (Jaubert et al., 2016a), people entered these interior spaces, at least from time to time. Questions remain regarding the reasons for a human presence in inner zones, the dating of this presence, and methods of access. The integrated study of archaeological remains found inside the caves enables these questions to be addressed. (...)

     
 

Inner tooth morphology of Homo erectus from Zhoukoudian. New evidence from an old collection housed at Uppsala University, Sweden, di C. Zanolli et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 116, March 2018, Pages 1-13

Locality 1, in the Lower Cave of the Zhoukoudian cave complex, China, is one of the most important Middle Pleistocene paleoanthropological and archaeological sites worldwide, with the remains of c. 45 Homo erectus individuals, 98 mammalian taxa, and thousands of lithic tools recovered. Most of the material collected before World War II was lost. However, besides two postcranial elements rediscovered in China in 1951, four human permanent teeth from the ‘Dragon Bone Hill,’ collected by O. Zdansky between 1921 and 1923, were at the time brought to the Paleontological Institute of Uppsala University, Sweden, where they are still stored. This small sample consists of an upper canine (PMU 25719), an upper third molar (PMU M3550), a lower third premolar crown (PMU M3549), and a lower fourth premolar (PMU M3887). Some researchers have noted the existence of morpho-dimensional differences between the Zhoukoudian and the H. erectus dental assemblage from Sangiran, Java. However, compared to its chrono-geographical distribution, the Early to Middle Pleistocene dental material currently forming the Chinese-Indonesian H. erectus hypodigm is quantitatively meager and still poorly characterized for the extent of its endostructural variation. We used micro-focus X-ray tomography techniques of virtual imaging coupled with geometric morphometrics for comparatively investigating the endostructural conformation (tissue proportions, enamel thickness distribution, enamel-dentine junction morphology, pulp cavity shape) of the four specimens stored in Uppsala, all previously reported for their outer features. The results suggest the existence of time-related differences between continental and insular Southeast Asian dental assemblages, the Middle Pleistocene Chinese teeth apparently retaining an inner signature closer to the likely primitive condition represented by the Early Pleistocene remains from Java, while the Indonesian stock evolved toward tooth structural simplification.

     
 

Lahar inundated, modified, and preserved 1.88 Ma early hominin (OH24 and OH56) Olduvai DK site, di I. G. Stanistreet et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 116, March 2018, Pages 27-42

Archaeological excavations at the DK site in the eastern Olduvai Basin, Tanzania, age-bracketed between ~1.88 Ma (Bed I Basalt) and ~1.85 Ma (Tuff IB), record the oldest lahar inundation, modification, and preservation of a hominin “occupation” site yet identified. Our landscape approach reconstructs environments and processes at high resolution to explain the distribution and final preservation of archaeological materials at the DK site, where an early hominin (likely Homo habilis) assemblage of stone tools and bones, found close to hominin specimens OH24 and OH56, developed on an uneven heterogeneous surface that was rapidly inundated by a lahar and buried to a depth of 0.4–1.2 m (originally ~1.0–2.4 m pre-compaction). The incoming intermediate to high viscosity mudflow selectively modified the original accumulation of “occupation debris,” so that it is no longer confined to the original surface. A dispersive debris “halo” was identified within the lahar deposit: debris is densest immediately above the site, but tails off until not present >150 m laterally. Voorhies indices and metrics derived from limb bones are used to define this dispersive halo spatially and might indicate a possible second assemblage to the east that is now eroded away. Based upon our new data and prior descriptions, two possibilities for the OH24 skull are suggested: it was either entrained by the mudflow from the DK surface and floated due to lower density toward its top, or it was deposited upon the solid top surface after its consolidation. Matrix adhering to material found in association with the parietals indicates that OH56 at least was relocated by the mudflow.

     
 

Craniomandibular form and body size variation of first generation mouse hybrids: A model for hominin hybridization, di K. A. Warren et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 116, March 2018, Pages 57-74

Hybridization occurs in a number of mammalian lineages, including among primate taxa. Analyses of ancient genomes have shown that hybridization between our lineage and other archaic hominins in Eurasia occurred numerous times in the past. However, we still have limited empirical data on what a hybrid skeleton looks like, or how to spot patterns of hybridization among fossils for which there are no genetic data. Here we use experimental mouse models to supplement previous studies of primates. We characterize size and shape variation in the cranium and mandible of three wild-derived inbred mouse strains and their first generation (F1) hybrids. The three parent taxa in our analysis represent lineages that diverged over approximately the same period as the human/Neanderthal/Denisovan lineages and their hybrids are variably successful in the wild. Comparisons of body size, as quantified by long bone measurements, are also presented to determine whether the identified phenotypic effects of hybridization are localized to the cranium or represent overall body size changes. The results indicate that hybrid cranial and mandibular sizes, as well as limb length, exceed that of the parent taxa in all cases. All three F1 hybrid crosses display similar patterns of size and form variation. These results are generally consistent with earlier studies on primates and other mammals, suggesting that the effects of hybridization may be similar across very different scenarios of hybridization, including different levels of hybrid fitness. This paper serves to supplement previous studies aimed at identifying F1 hybrids in the fossil record and to introduce further research that will explore hybrid morphologies using mice as a proxy for better understanding hybridization in the hominin fossil record.

     
 

Early stage blunting causes rapid reductions in stone tool performance, di A. Key, M. R. Fisch, M. I. Eren, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 91, March 2018, Pages 1-11

Palaeolithic stone technologies have never been investigated in terms of how sharpness influences their ability to cut. In turn, there is little understanding of how quickly stone cutting edges blunt, how past populations responded to any consequent changes in performance, or how these factors influenced the Palaeolithic archaeological record. Presented here is experimental data quantitatively detailing how variation in edge sharpness influences stone tool cutting performance. Significant increases in force (N) and material displacement (mm) requirements occur rapidly within early stages of blunting, with a single abrasive cutting stroke causing, on average, a 38% increase in the force needed to initiate a cut. In energetic terms, this equates to a 70% increase in work (J). Subsequent to early stages of blunting we identify a substantial drop in the impact of additional edge abrasion. We also demonstrate how edge (included) angle significantly influences cutting force and energy requirements and how it co-varies with sharpness. Amongst other conclusions, we suggest that rapid reductions in performance due to blunting may account for the abundance of lithic artefacts at some archaeological sites, the speed that resharpening behaviours altered tool forms, and the lack of microscopic wear traces on many lithic implements.

     
 

Middle and Later Stone Age chronology of Kisese II rockshelter (UNESCO World Heritage Kondoa Rock-Art Sites), Tanzania, di C. A. Tryon et alii, February 28, 2018, doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192029  - open access -

The archaeology of East Africa during the last ~65,000 years plays a central role in debates about the origins and dispersal of modern humans, Homo sapiens. Despite the historical importance of the region to these discussions, reliable chronologies for the nature, tempo, and timing of human behavioral changes seen among Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) archaeological assemblages are sparse. The Kisese II rockshelter in the Kondoa region of Tanzania, originally excavated in 1956, preserves a ≥ 6-m-thick archaeological succession that spans the MSA/LSA transition, with lithic artifacts such as Levallois and bladelet cores and backed microliths, the recurrent use of red ochre, and >5,000 ostrich eggshell beads and bead fragments. Twenty-nine radiocarbon dates on ostrich eggshell carbonate make Kisese II one of the most robust chronological sequences for understanding archaeological change over the last ~47,000 years in East Africa. In particular, ostrich eggshell beads and backed microliths appear by 46–42 ka cal BP and occur throughout overlying Late Pleistocene and Holocene strata. Changes in lithic technology suggest an MSA/LSA transition that began 39–34.3 ka, with typical LSA technologies in place by the Last Glacial Maximum. The timing of these changes demonstrates the time-transgressive nature of behavioral innovations often linked to the origins of modern humans, even within a single region of Africa. (...)

     
 

The complexity of Neanderthal technology, di J. F. Hoffecker, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", February 27, 2018. 115 (9), pp. 1959-1961

A fundamental irony of Paleolithic (or “Old Stone” Age) archaeology is that it concerns a period of human history when most artifacts probably were made from wood. This is suggested by the heavy use of wood as raw material among recent or ethnographic hunter-gatherers and supported by the repeated discovery of microscopic traces of wood-working on the edges of Paleolithic stone tools. The technological significance of wood is further amplified in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic by limited use of bone, antler, and ivory (relative to the Upper Paleolithic and recent hunter-gatherers). Aranguren et al. report a set of wooden artifacts from a 170,000-y-old Middle Paleolithic occupation in central Italy. The artifacts, which were preserved in calcareous mudstone deposited along a lake margin, include roughly 40 pieces of modified boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), interpreted as “digging sticks.” They are associated with some unmodified pieces of wood, about 200 stone artifacts, and the remains of large mammals, primarily an extinct elephant. No human remains were found at the site (Poggetti Vecchi), but it is confidently attributed to the Neanderthals based on the dating (electron spin resonance and U-series minimum dates). Until the 1990s, wooden artifacts recovered from Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites were so rare that they existed more as curiosities than objects of study. The most widely known examples were sharpened pieces of Taxus or yew from Clacton-on-Sea in southeast England and Lehringen in northern Germany, both interpreted as spears, and several objects, including a possible digging stick, from Kalambo Falls in Zambia. In 1992, traces or “pseudomorphs” of wood fragments, including some possible modified pieces, were reported from a late Middle Paleolithic context at Abric Romani near Barcelona.

     
 

Wooden tools and fire technology in the early Neanderthal site of Poggetti Vecchi (Italy), di  B. Aranguren et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", February 27, 2018. 115 (9), pp. 2054-2059

Excavations for the construction of thermal pools at Poggetti Vecchi (Grosseto, Tuscany, central Italy) exposed a series of wooden tools in an open-air stratified site referable to late Middle Pleistocene. The wooden artifacts were uncovered, together with stone tools and fossil bones, largely belonging to the straight-tusked elephant Paleoloxodon antiquus. The site is radiometrically dated to around 171,000 y B.P., and hence correlated with the early marine isotope stage 6 [Benvenuti M, et al. (2017) Quat Res 88:327–344]. The sticks, all fragmentary, are made from boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) and were over 1 m long, rounded at one end and pointed at the other. They have been partially charred, possibly to lessen the labor of scraping boxwood, using a technique so far not documented at the time. The wooden artifacts have the size and features of multipurpose tools known as “digging sticks,” which are quite commonly used by foragers. This discovery from Poggetti Vecchi provides evidence of the processing and use of wood by early Neanderthals, showing their ability to use fire in tool making from very tough wood.

     
 

La Ferrassie 1, le néandertalien parle encore…, "Hominidés", 26/2/2018

LF1, le célèbre squelette fossile découvert en 1909 a été complété et réétudié par une équipe dirigée par Antoine Balzeau (Musée de l’homme, CNRS) et Asier Gómez-Olivencia chercheur Ikerbasque de l’université du pays basque. (...)

     
 

On the sources and uses of obsidian during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Poland, di R. E. Hughes, D. H. Werra, Z. Sulgostowska, "Quaternary International", Volume 468, Part A, 27 February 2018, Pages 84-100

Eighty-six obsidian artifacts from twenty Paleolithic and Mesolithic archaeological sites in Poland were analyzed using non-destructive energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) analysis and assigned to parent geological obsidian source (chemical type). Results of the study— the first country-wide survey of its kind—support the conclusion that the geological source of obsidian remained largely unchanged for thousands of years, that obsidian use appears to have been minimal throughout the Paleolithic and Mesolithic regardless of distance to source, that obsidian artifacts were used to perform the same functions as their non-obsidian (flint and radiolarite) counterparts, and that the distinct visual properties of volcanic glass may have contributed to its recognition as unique and exotic in different social contexts.

     
 

Europe's first artists were Neandertals, di T. Appenzeller, "Science", 23 Feb 2018, Vol. 359, Issue 6378, pp. 852-853

Once seen as brute cavemen, Neandertals have gained stature as examples of sophisticated technology and behavior have turned up in their former territory across Europe. But few researchers imagined these vanished cousins of modern humans engaging in one of the most haunting practices in prehistory: creating paintings—vehicles for symbolic expression—in the darkness of caves. Now, archaeologists may have to accept that Neandertals were the original cave artists. A team of dating experts and archaeologists reports in Science that simple creations—the outline of a hand, an array of lines, and a painted cave formation—from three caves in Spain all date to more than 64,800 years ago, at least 20,000 years before modern humans reached Europe. Shells from a fourth Spanish cave, pigment-stained and pierced as if for use as body ornaments, are even older, a team including some of the same researchers reports in a second paper, in Science Advances.

     
 

U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art, di D. L. Hoffmann et alii, "Science", 23 Feb 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6378, pp. 912-915

The extent and nature of symbolic behavior among Neandertals are obscure. Although evidence for Neandertal body ornamentation has been proposed, all cave painting has been attributed to modern humans. Here we present dating results for three sites in Spain that show that cave art emerged in Iberia substantially earlier than previously thought. Uranium-thorium (U-Th) dates on carbonate crusts overlying paintings provide minimum ages for a red linear motif in La Pasiega (Cantabria), a hand stencil in Maltravieso (Extremadura), and red-painted speleothems in Ardales (Andalucía). Collectively, these results show that cave art in Iberia is older than 64.8 thousand years (ka). This cave art is the earliest dated so far and predates, by at least 20 ka, the arrival of modern humans in Europe, which implies Neandertal authorship.

· Neanderthals were artistic like modern humans, study indicates, "EurekaAlert!", 22 feb 2018

· Neanderthals thought like we do, "EurekaAlert!", 22 feb 2018

· Neanderthals were artistic like modern humans, "ScienceDaily", February 22, 2018

· Néandertal auteur de peintures pariétales il y a 64 000 ans ? "Hominidés", 27/2/2018

· E' opera dei Neandertal l'arte rupestre più antica, "National Geographic", 23 febbraio 2018

     
 

Il primo pensiero simbolico è dei Neanderthal, 23 febbraio 2018

“Oggi scriviamo un nuovo capitolo della preistoria”. Così Diego Angelucci, geoarcheologo dell’Università di Trento, ha commentato il risultato raggiunto con i colleghi di una collaborazione internazionale, dimostrando che l'uomo di Neanderthal, contrariamente a quanto ritenuto finora, era capace di comportamento simbolico. Decorava infatti le pareti delle grotte già 65.000 anni fa, e usava conchiglie a scopo ornamentale almeno 115.000 anni fa, cioè in epoche molto precedenti all'arrivo di Homo sapiens in Europa. Cuore della ricerca, che viene ora descritta in due articoli apparsi su “Science” e “Science Advances”, è una tecnica radiometrica al torio-uranio, utilizzata da Dirk Hoffmann del Max-Planck-Institut per la Biologia evoluzionistica di Lipsia, in Germania, per datare con grande precisione i reperti scoperti negli ultimi anni in varie grotte della Spagna. Il pensiero simbolico è ritenuto una delle caratteristiche più squisitamente umane, e si riteneva che fosse nato con Homo sapiens, l'uomo anatomicamente moderno. Lo raccontano l’utilizzo ornamentale di conchiglie marine perforate e di sostanze coloranti circa 70.000 anni fa, scoperte in Africa, e la produzione di arte mobile e arte rupestre in Europa circa 40.000 anni fa. (...)

· Ma allora i Neanderthal sapevano disegnare?, di C. De Luca, "Galileo", 23 febbraio 2018

     
 

Wooden tools hint at Neanderthal fire use, 23 February 2018

Archaeologists unearthed pieces of several wooden digging sticks from a plain at the foot of a low hill in Tuscany (Italy) where 171,000 years ago the shore of a lake was surrounded by grasslands and marshes - home to large grazing mammals, including the straight-tusked elephants whose bones litter the site. If you're a hunter-gatherer, the digging stick is your foraging multi-tool: about a meter long, one end rounded to offer a handle and the other tapered almost to a point; useful for digging up roots and tubers, hunting burrowing animals, or pounding and grinding herbs. Neanderthals of Middle Pleistocene Italy created and used digging sticks that would be familiar to modern hunter-foragers, like the Bindibu of Australia, Hadza of Tanzania, and San of southern Africa. In most modern hunter-gatherer cultures, digging sticks are women's tools. The finds date to a period when Neanderthals roamed the hills of southern Italy. Archaeologists excavating the site in 2012 found 39 broken pieces of the sticks, along with an assortment of stone tools. Of the 39 fragments, only about four pointed tips and six rounded handles survived, along with 31 pieces of shafts. Four of the handles and all of the tips had been broken during the tools' lifetimes. (...)

     
 

Did humans speak through cave art? Ancient drawings and language's origins, February 21, 2018

More precisely, some specific features of cave art may provide clues about how our symbolic, multifaceted language capabilities evolved, according to a new paper co-authored by MIT linguist Shigeru Miyagawa. A key to this idea is that cave art is often located in acoustic "hot spots," where sound echoes strongly, as some scholars have observed. Those drawings are located in deeper, harder-to-access parts of caves, indicating that acoustics was a principal reason for the placement of drawings within caves. The drawings, in turn, may represent the sounds that early humans generated in those spots. In the new paper, this convergence of sound and drawing is what the authors call a "cross-modality information transfer," a convergence of auditory information and visual art that, the authors write, "allowed early humans to enhance their ability to convey symbolic thinking." The combination of sounds and images is one of the things that characterizes human language today, along with its symbolic aspect and its ability to generate infinite new sentences. "Cave art was part of the package deal in terms of how homo sapiens came to have this very high-level cognitive processing," says Miyagawa, a professor of linguistics and the Kochi-Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture at MIT. "You have this very concrete cognitive process that converts an acoustic signal into some mental representation and externalizes it as a visual." (...)

     
 

Ancient society buried disabled children like kings, 21 February 2018

About 34,000 years ago, a group of hunters and gatherers buried the dead bodies of two boys, roughly 10- and 12-years-old, head to head in a long slender grave filled with riches, including more than 10,000 mammoth ivory beads, more than 20 armbands, about 300 pierced fox teeth, 16 ivory mammoth spears, carved artwork, deer antlers, and two human lower leg bones laid across the boys' chests. In contrast, the remains of a roughly 40-year-old man had far fewer treasures: about 3,000 mammoth ivory beads, 12 pierced fox canines, 25 mammoth ivory arm bands, and a stone pendant. (...)

     
 

Giant handaxes and prehistoric Europeans, 21 February 2018

An exceptionally high density of 'giant' handaxes has been uncovered at the Porto Maior site, in the Miño River basin of northwest Spain - the first such discovery outside Africa. The excavation of river sediments revealed about 3700 stone artefacts, 290 of which were used in the assemblage studied by the researchers, primarily composed of Large Cutting Tools (LCTs) - 'giant' handaxes about 18 centimetres long. Characteristic of so-called Acheulean technology due to their distinctive shape, the handaxes were not made on-site, but brought from elsewhere. Results indicate that the lithic tool-bearing deposits date to between 293,000 and 205,000 years ago, raising questions about the origin and mobility of prehistoric populations in Europe during the Middle Pleistocene, between 773,000 and 125,000 years ago. (...)

     
  Brain size of human ancestors evolved gradually over 3 million years, February 20, 2018

The research, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that the trend was caused primarily by evolution of larger brains within populations of individual species, but the introduction of new, larger-brained species and extinction of smaller-brained ones also played a part. "Brain size is one of the most obvious traits that makes us human. It's related to cultural complexity, language, tool making and all these other things that make us unique," said Andrew Du, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago and first author of the study. "The earliest hominins had brain sizes like chimpanzees, and they have increased dramatically since then. So, it's important to understand how we got here." Du began the work as a graduate student at the George Washington University (GW). His advisor, Bernard Wood, GW's University Professor of Human Origins and senior author of the study, gave his students an open-ended assignment to understand how brain size evolved through time. Du and his fellow students, who are also co-authors on the paper, continued working on this question during his time at George Washington, forming the basis of the new study. (...)

     
 

The faunal remains from Bundu Farm and Pniel 6: Examining the problematic Middle Stone Age archaeological record within the southern African interior, di J. M. Hutson, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part B, 18 February 2018, Pages 178-193

Open-air and interior sites are not prominently featured among models of Middle Stone Age (MSA) subsistence behavior in southern Africa. Thus, the current view of MSA subsistence reflects adaptations interpreted predominantly from coastal rockshelter locations. An attempt to address this gap is presented here with the analysis of the faunal assemblages from Bundu Farm and Pniel 6, two early MSA open-air sites located well within the interior of southern Africa in the Northern Cape, South Africa. Zooarchaeological and taphonomic signatures of the Bundu Farm assemblage suggest some primary access to animal carcasses, while the same measures imply secondary scavenging by early MSA hominins at Pniel 6. A number of other open-air interior sites include similarly ambiguous evidence for the role of hunting and/or scavenging in hominin subsistence during the MSA. Due to the lack of archaeological surveys directed at finding open-air sites and several taphonomic factors that disproportionately obscure indications of hominin behavior in open-air settings, the archaeological records between open-air interior sites and coastal rockshelter sites are fundamentally incomparable. From an ecological perspective, MSA subsistence was a product of behavioral adaptations to environmental factors and resource availability, the influences of which were likely different between interior and coastal ecosystems. Much like historical hunter-gathers of the region, MSA hominins inhabiting the more marginal environments within the southern African interior may have relied more heavily on gathered plant foods rather than hunting for subsistence.

     
 

The scene of a spectacular feast (part II): Animal remains from Dolní Věstonice II, the Czech Republic, di P. Wojtal, J. Wilczyński, K. Wertz, J. A. Svoboda, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part B, 18 February 2018, Pages 194-211

Studies of the archaeological and paleontological materials from Dolní Věstonice II provide insight into the lives of humans nearly 30,000 years ago. Bones of small animals (birds, hares, foxes) and medium animals (wolf, reindeer, wolverine) dominate at the site, but there are also bones of large mammals (bears, cave lion, horse and mammoth), showing that the prey spectrum of the hunters was wide. The large total number of animal remains supports the suggestion that these were accumulated during a relatively long human occupation of the site, perhaps lasting months or even years. In Moravia early Gravettian hunting strategy was less specialized than in later periods (e.g., at Milovice I). Large (mammoth, horse), medium (reindeer), and small animals (birds and hares) were important components of the diet and also used as raw materials. The carnivores – wolf, wolverine, foxes – were certainly important prey, not only for their hides but also for use in tool production and the creation of ornaments. Pavlovians also hunted even the larger carnivores (bears and lion).

     
 

Lessons from Ginsberg: An analysis of elephant butchery tools, di J. A. M. Gingerich, D. J. Stanford, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part B, 18 February 2018, Pages 269-283

Actualistic studies have contributed greatly to our understanding of the past. In this paper, we analyze six stone bifaces used to butcher a 23 year-old African Elephant. Detailed records from this study allow us to illustrate how stone tool reduction is not necessarily a linear process, especially when attempting to use metrics to quantify the amount of reduction over time. Through long-term use of stone tools in butchery, we show that overall reduction was minimal even with successive resharpening events. The utility of these tools raise questions about the role of large bifaces in both Paleoindian and other hunter-gatherer contexts where bifaces may have been used as butchery or long-life tools. Our results suggest that bifaces are superior tools for maintaining an effective cutting edge during prolonged use. These findings may further explain the use of large bifaces among Paleoindian and other foraging populations.

     
 

Sapienza Università di Roma - Scoperte orme di bambino risalenti a 700 mila anni fa in un sito archeologico in Etiopia, 16 febbraio 2018

I siti con impronte umane più antichi di 300.000 anni si contano nel mondo sulle dita di una sola mano e anche per questo la recente scoperta in Etiopia aumenta in modo significativo le nostre conoscenze. Si tratta di un livello improntato, perfettamente datato, perché direttamente coperto da un tufo vulcanico di 700.000 anni fa, di Gombore II-2 sito che è parte di Melka Kunture, una località dell’alto bacino del fiume Awash, a 2.000m slm. Qui da anni si svolgono le campagne di ricerca di uno dei Grandi scavi di ateneo, finanziato da Sapienza e dal Ministero Affari Esteri. La zona scavata corrisponde ad un’area intensamente frequentata, ai margini di una piccola pozza d'acqua in cui probabilmente si abbeveravano, oltre agli ominidi, anche animali prossimi agli attuali gnu e gazzelle, nonché uccellini, equidi e suidi; anche gli ippopotami hanno lasciato tracce dei loro passaggi. Le impronte delle varie specie si intersecano tra di loro, e si sovrappongono a tratti a quelle degli esseri umani, individui in parte adulti e in parte di 1, 2 e 3 anni. In particolare uno di questi bambini in tenera età propriamente non camminava, ma era in piedi e si dondolava: la sua è l'impronta di un piede che calpesta ripetutamente il suolo, rimanendo appoggiato sui talloni. Ha quindi lasciato impressa una serie di piccole dita (più di cinque) in parte sovrapposte dalla ripetizione del movimento. (...)

     
 

Assessing site formation and assemblage integrity through stone tool refitting at Gruta da Oliveira (Almonda karst system, Torres Novas, Portugal): A Middle Paleolithic case study, di M. Deschamps, J. Zilhão, February 16, 2018, doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0192423 - open access -

We use stone tool refitting to assess palimpsest formation and stratigraphic integrity in the basal units of the Gruta da Oliveira archeo-stratigraphic sequence, layers 15–27, which TL and U-series dating places in late Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 or early MIS 4. As in most karst contexts, the formation of this succession involved multiple and complex phenomena, including subsidence, bioturbation, carnivore activity and runoff as agents of potential post-depositional disturbance. During phases of stabilization, such as represented by layers 15, 21 and 22, the excavated area was inhabited and refits corroborate that post-depositional displacement is negligible. Layers 23–25 and 16–19 correspond to subdivisions that slice thick geological units primarily formed of material derived from the cave’s entrance via slope dynamics. Refit links are consistent with rapid fill-up of the interstitial spaces found in the Karren-like bedrock (for layers 23–25), or left between large boulders after major roof-collapse events (for layers 16–19). Layers 26 (the “Mousterian Cone”) and 27 are a “bottom-of-hourglass” deposit underlying the main sedimentary body; the refits show that this deposit consists of material derived from layers 15–25 that gravitated through fissures open in the sedimentary column above. Layer 20, at the interface between two major stratigraphic ensembles, requires additional analysis. Throughout, we found significant vertical dispersion along the contact between sedimentary fill and cave wall. Given these findings, a preliminary analysis of technological change across the studied sequence organized the lithic assemblages into five ensembles: layer 15; layers 16–19; layer 20; layers 21–22; layers 23–25. The lower ensembles show higher percentages of flint and of the Levallois method. Uniquely at the site, the two upper ensembles feature bifaces and cleavers. (...)

     
 

Palaeolithic art at Grotta di Cala dei Genovesi, Sicily: a new chronology for mobiliary and parietal depictions, di G. di Maida, M. García-Diez, A. Pastoors, T. Terberger, "Antiquity", Volume 92, Issue 361 February 2018, pp. 38-55

Unusually for a Palaeolithic cave, the Grotta di Cala dei Genovesi on the island of Levanzo, off the west coast of Sicily, Italy, has yielded evidence of both parietal and mobiliary art. Developments in dating techniques since the excavations of the 1950s now allow the age of the mobiliary art—an engraved aurochs—to be determined. At the same time, stylistic comparison of the parietal art at Grotta di Cala dei Genovesi with other broadly contemporaneous sites that demonstrate well-documented cave art allows a relative chronology to be proposed. The two methods taken together enable a direct chronological comparison to be made between the production of parietal and mobiliary art at this important cave site.

     
 

What lies beneath . . . Late Glacial human occupation of the submerged North Sea landscape, di L. Amkreutz et alii, "Antiquity", Access Volume 92, Issue 361 February 2018 , pp. 22-37 - open access -

Archaeological evidence from the submerged North Sea landscape has established the rich diversity of Pleistocene and Early Holocene ecosystems and their importance to hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies. Comparatively little of this evidence, however, dates to the Late Glacial, the period when Northern Europe was repopulated by colonising foragers. A human parietal bone and a decorated bovid metatarsus recently recovered from the floor of the North Sea have been dated to this crucial transitional period. They are set against the background of significant climatic and environmental changes and a major technological and sociocultural transformation. These discoveries also reaffirm the importance of continental shelves as archaeological archives. (...)

     
 

Kara-Bom: new investigations of a Palaeolithic site in the Gorny Altai, Russia, di  N. E. Belousova et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 92, Issue 361 February 2018 , e1 - open access -

New archaeological investigations at the key Palaeolithic Russian site of Kara-Bom have further characterised its stratigraphy through analysis of the rich lithic complex recovered. This evidence both complements and supplements our understanding of central and northern Asian Initial Upper Palaeolithic populations. (...)

     
 

Frontiers and route-ways from Europe: the Early Middle Palaeolithic of Britain, di N. Ashton, C. R. E. Harris, S. G. Lewis, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 33, Issue 2, February 2018

Britain has a rich and well-documented earlier Palaeolithic record, which provides a unique resource to investigate population dynamics and the cultural and geographical links with north-west Europe during the Middle Pleistocene. This paper examines a newly enhanced dataset for the distribution of finds locations and their geological context. Using artefact types as proxies for different populations it contrasts the Lower Palaeolithic and Early Middle Palaeolithic records. New methods are devised to mitigate for the clear bias towards handaxes in collection history. Taking account of this bias, the results suggest differences in distribution between Lower Palaeolithic and Early Middle Palaeolithic populations, with the latter more heavily concentrated in the lower reaches of large southern and eastern rivers. Drawing on recent studies on the palaeogeography of the Channel and southern North Sea Basin, the paper suggests that this restricted distribution reflects short-lived occupation by small groups of early Neanderthals in late MIS 8, who eventually became locally extinct because of isolation caused by rising sea levels in the first warm sub‐stage of MIS 7.

     
 

A volumetric technique for fossil body mass estimation applied to Australopithecus afarensis, di C. A. Brassey, T. G. O'Mahoney, A. T. Chamberlain, W. I. Sellers, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 115, February 2018, Pages 47-64

Fossil body mass estimation is a well established practice within the field of physical anthropology. Previous studies have relied upon traditional allometric approaches, in which the relationship between one/several skeletal dimensions and body mass in a range of modern taxa is used in a predictive capacity. The lack of relatively complete skeletons has thus far limited the potential application of alternative mass estimation techniques, such as volumetric reconstruction, to fossil hominins. Yet across vertebrate paleontology more broadly, novel volumetric approaches are resulting in predicted values for fossil body mass very different to those estimated by traditional allometry. Here we present a new digital reconstruction of Australopithecus afarensis (A.L. 288-1; ‘Lucy’) and a convex hull-based volumetric estimate of body mass. The technique relies upon identifying a predictable relationship between the ‘shrink-wrapped’ volume of the skeleton and known body mass in a range of modern taxa, and subsequent application to an articulated model of the fossil taxa of interest. Our calibration dataset comprises whole body computed tomography (CT) scans of 15 species of modern primate. The resulting predictive model is characterized by a high correlation coefficient (r2 = 0.988) and a percentage standard error of 20%, and performs well when applied to modern individuals of known body mass. Application of the convex hull technique to A. afarensis results in a relatively low body mass estimate of 20.4 kg (95% prediction interval 13.5–30.9 kg). A sensitivity analysis on the articulation of the chest region highlights the sensitivity of our approach to the reconstruction of the trunk, and the incomplete nature of the preserved ribcage may explain the low values for predicted body mass here. We suggest that the heaviest of previous estimates would require the thorax to be expanded to an unlikely extent, yet this can only be properly tested when more complete fossils are available.

     
 

Evaluating morphometric body mass prediction equations with a juvenile human test sample: accuracy and applicability to small-bodied hominins, di C. S. Walker et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 115, February 2018, Pages 65-77

Body mass is an ecologically and biomechanically important variable in the study of hominin biology. Regression equations derived from recent human samples allow for the reasonable prediction of body mass of later, more human-like, and generally larger hominins from hip joint dimensions, but potential differences in hip biomechanics across hominin taxa render their use questionable with some earlier taxa (i.e., Australopithecus spp.). Morphometric prediction equations using stature and bi-iliac breadth avoid this problem, but their applicability to early hominins, some of which differ in both size and proportions from modern adult humans, has not been demonstrated. Here we use mean stature, bi-iliac breadth, and body mass from a global sample of human juveniles ranging in age from 6 to 12 years (n = 530 age- and sex-specific group annual means from 33 countries/regions) to evaluate the accuracy of several published morphometric prediction equations when applied to small humans. Though the body proportions of modern human juveniles likely differ from those of small-bodied early hominins, human juveniles (like fossil hominins) often differ in size and proportions from adult human reference samples and, accordingly, serve as a useful model for assessing the robustness of morphometric prediction equations. Morphometric equations based on adults systematically underpredict body mass in the youngest age groups and moderately overpredict body mass in the older groups, which fall in the body size range of adult Australopithecus (∼26–46 kg). Differences in body proportions, notably the ratio of lower limb length to stature, influence predictive accuracy. Ontogenetic changes in these body proportions likely influence the shift in prediction error (from under- to overprediction). However, because morphometric equations are reasonably accurate when applied to this juvenile test sample, we argue these equations may be used to predict body mass in small-bodied hominins, despite the potential for some error induced by differing body proportions and/or extrapolation beyond the original reference sample range.

     
 

Lower limb articular scaling and body mass estimation in Pliocene and Pleistocene hominins, di C. B. Ruff, M. Loring Burgess, N. Squyres, J. A. Junno, E. Trinkaus, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 115, February 2018, Pages 85-111

Previous attempts to estimate body mass in pre-Holocene hominins have relied on prediction equations derived from relatively limited extant samples. Here we derive new equations to predict body mass from femoral head breadth and proximal tibial plateau breadth based on a large and diverse sample of modern humans (avoiding the problems associated with using diaphyseal dimensions and/or cadaveric reference samples). In addition, an adjustment for the relatively small femoral heads of non-Homo taxa is developed based on observed differences in hip to knee joint scaling. Body mass is then estimated for 214 terminal Miocene through Pleistocene hominin specimens. Mean body masses for non-Homo taxa range between 39 and 49 kg (39–45 kg if sex-specific means are averaged), with no consistent temporal trend (6–1.85 Ma). Mean body mass increases in early Homo (2.04–1.77 Ma) to 55–59 kg, and then again dramatically in Homo erectus and later archaic middle Pleistocene Homo, to about 70 kg. The same average body mass is maintained in late Pleistocene archaic Homo and early anatomically modern humans through the early/middle Upper Paleolithic (0.024 Ma), only declining in the late Upper Paleolithic, with regional variation. Sexual dimorphism in body mass is greatest in Australopithecus afarensis (log[male/female] = 1.54), declines in Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus (log ratio 1.36), and then again in early Homo and middle and late Pleistocene archaic Homo (log ratio 1.20–1.27), although it remains somewhat elevated above that of living and middle/late Pleistocene anatomically modern humans (log ratio about 1.15).

     
  Less of a bird's song than a hard rock ensemble, di R. Hosfield, J. Cole, J. McNabb, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 27, Issue 1, January/February 2018

Corbey et al. (2016) propose that the Acheulean handaxe was, at least in part, under genetic control. An alternative perspective is offered here, focusing on the nature of the Acheulean handaxe and the archaeological record, and re-emphasizing their status as cultural artefacts. This is based on four main arguments challenging the proposals of Corbey et al. Firstly, handaxes do not have to track environmental variation to be a cultural artefact, given their role as a hand-held butchery knife or multi-purpose tool. Secondly, while handaxe shapes do cluster around a basic bauplan, there is also significant variability in the Acheulean handaxe record, characterized by site-specific modal forms and locally expressed, short-lived, idiosyncratic traits. Critically, this variability occurs in both time and space, is multi-scalar, and does not appear to be under genetic control. Thirdly, handaxes were produced in social contexts, within which their makers grew up exposed to the sights and sounds of artefact manufacture. Finally, the localized absences of handaxes at different times and places in the Lower Paleolithic world is suggestive of active behavioral choices and population dynamics rather than genetic controls.

 

Aggiornamento 11 febbraio

 
 

Developing FTIR Microspectroscopy for the Analysis of Animal-Tissue Residues on Stone Tools, di G. Monnier, E. Frahm, B. Luo, K. Missal, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", March 2018, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1–44

The analysis of microscopic residues on stone tools provides one of the most direct ways to reconstruct the functions of such artifacts. However, new methods are needed to strengthen residue identifications based upon visible-light microscopy. In this work, we establish that reflectance Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIRM) can be used to document IR spectra of animal-tissue residues on experimental stone tools. First, we present a set of reflectance FTIRM standards for the most commonly identified animal-tissue residues on stone tools: skin, meat, fat, hair, blood, feather barbules, fish scales, and bone. We provide spectral peak assignments for each residue and demonstrate that high-quality reflectance FTIRM spectra can be generated under ideal circumstances. Second, we document the spectra for these residues when they are located on a stone substrate such as flint or obsidian. We discuss procedures for correcting spectra that are affected by specular reflection and explain the effects of spectral interference from the stone. Our results show that reflectance FTIRM is sensitive to small intra-sample differences in composition. This means that it will record the effects of decomposition in ancient residues. The methodological developments we present here will help lithic residue analysts incorporate in situ reflectance FTIRM into their analysis protocols to strengthen identifications.

     
 

Sequential Incisions on a Cave Bear Bone from the Middle Paleolithic of Pešturina Cave, Serbia, di A. Majkić, F. d’Errico, S. Milošević, D. Mihailović, V. Dimitrijević, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", March 2018, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 69–116

We present the detailed analysis of a cervical vertebra from a cave bear, found at Pešturina cave, Serbia, in a Mousterian archaeological level dated by radiocarbon at 43.5–44.6 kyr cal BP, and by ESR to between 93.5 and 102.5 kyr BP. Identified as a portion of the cranial articular facet, the fragment displays ten subparallel grooves. The microscopic study of these grooves and other surface modification present on the bone fragment, conducted with multifocus optical and confocal microscopes and complemented by a taphonomic analysis of the associated faunal assemblage, supports the hypothesis that the incisions were made by humans. Results are used to critically examine ambiguities implicit in the analysis and interpretation of early engravings, a category of material culture that has been playing a key role in the identification of early instances of symbolically mediated behavior.

     
 

Building an Experimental Comparative Reference Collection for Lithic Micro-Residue Analysis Based on a Multi-Analytical Approach, di A. Pedergnana, A. Ollé, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", March 2018, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 117–154

Residue analysis applied to stone tools is a useful aid for better understanding their past function and, by extension, reconstructing early human behaviour. However, if the nature of residues found on the lithic tools is misinterpreted, so will be our understanding of their archaeological context. As a consequence, correctly identifying residues in the domain of lithic studies is of paramount importance. With this main goal in mind, we analysed different experimental materials likely to have been involved in daily tasks in the prehistoric context (e.g. bone, wood, meat). Microscopic analyses were then carried out using two (comparable) techniques: Optical Light Microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy. Also, energy dispersive X-rays spectroscopy (EDX or EDS) was applied to the experimental samples to determine their elemental composition. Advantages and disadvantages of both microscopic methods and their implications for correct residue identification are discussed. The distribution of residues on lithic surfaces is also considered. This study resulted in the construction of a data-set including both photographic material and EDX spectra for each residue analysed. The main result is that, compared to OLM scanning, SEM analyses highly improves the accuracy of residue identification.

     
 

Core Use-Life Distributions in Lithic Assemblages as a Means for Reconstructing Behavioral Patterns, di M. J. Douglass, S. C. Lin, D. R. Braun, T. W. Plummer, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", March 2018, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 254–288

Artifacts with varying use-lives have different discard rates and hence are represented unequally among archaeological assemblages. As such, the ability to gauge the use-lives of artifacts is important for understanding the formation of archaeological assemblage variability. In lithic artifacts, use-life can be expressed as the extraction of utility, or work potential, from existing stone volume. Using experimental data and generalized linear modeling, this study develops models of artifact use-life on cores in the form of reduction intensity. We then apply these models to two archaeological case studies to (a) reconstruct the reduction intensities of archaeological cores and (b) investigate the survivorship curves of these archaeological cores across the reduction continuum using the Weibull function. Results indicate variation in core reduction and maintenance with respect to raw material properties and place use history and implicate evolutionary differences between Early Stone Age hominins and Holocene modern humans.

     
  Tephrostratigraphy of Grotta del Cavallo, Southern Italy: Insights on the chronology of Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Mediterranean, di G. Zanchetta, B. Giaccio, M. Bini, L. Sarti, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 182, 15 February 2018, Pages 65-77

The Grotta del Cavallo contains one of the most important stratification of Mousterian, Uluzzian and Final Epigravettian tecnocomplexes; its chronology is of paramount importance for understanding the timing of the transition between Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in the Mediterranean region as well as the demise of the Neanderthal and the dispersal of the first anatomically modern humans through Europe. Within the stratigraphy of the cave three different volcanic ash layers occur (layer G, Fa and C-II). They are located in the middle section of the Mousterian (layer G), in between the Mousterian and Uluzzian layers (layer Fa) and on top of the Uluzzian horizons (layer C-II). The three tephra layers were chemically fingerprinted and correlated to well-known and precisely dated widespread Late Pleistocene tephra markers. Specifically, layer G, Fa and C-II were correlated to the X-6 (108.7 ± 0.9 ka), Y-6 (45.5 ± 1.0 ka) and Campanian Ignimbrite (39.85 ± 0.14 ka), respectively. These findings provide robust chronological points allowing to conclude that: (i) the Mousterian occupation of the cave took place after the fall of the sea level following the MIS 5e high-stand; (ii) the Mousterian-Uluzzian boundary can be dated to 45.5 ± 1.0 ka and climatostratigraphically firmly placed at the transition between the Greenland Interstadial 12 (GI12)-Greenland Stadial 12 (GS12); (iii) the Uluzzian lasted for at least five millennial spanning the GS12-GI9 period and ended at beginning of the Heinrich Event 4.

     
  Neanderthals' lack of drawing ability may relate to hunting techniques, 8-FEB-2018

Neanderthals had large brains and made complex tools but never demonstrated the ability to draw recognizable images, unlike early modern humans who created vivid renderings of animals and other figures on rocks and cave walls. That artistic gap may be due to differences in the way they hunted, suggests a University of California, Davis, expert on predator-prey relations and their impacts on the evolution of behavior. Neanderthals used thrusting spears to bring down tamer prey in Eurasia, while Homo sapiens, or modern humans, spent hundreds of thousands of years spear-hunting wary and dangerous game on the open grasslands of Africa. Richard Coss, a professor emeritus of psychology, says the hand-eye coordination involved in both hunting with throwing spears and drawing representational art could be one factor explaining why modern humans became smarter than Neanderthals. (...)

     
  A neurochemical hypothesis for the origin of hominids, di M. A. Raghanti et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 2018 February, 115 (6) E1108-E1116, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719666115

It has always been difficult to account for the evolution of certain human characters such as language, empathy, and altruism via individual reproductive success. However, the striatum, a subcortical region originally thought to be exclusively motor, is now known to contribute to social behaviors and “personality styles” that may link such complexities with natural selection. We here report that the human striatum exhibits a unique neurochemical profile that differs dramatically from those of other primates. The human signature of elevated striatal dopamine, serotonin, and neuropeptide Y, coupled with lowered acetylcholine, systematically favors externally driven behavior and greatly amplifies sensitivity to social cues that promote social conformity, empathy, and altruism. We propose that selection induced an initial form of this profile in early hominids, which increased their affiliative behavior, and that this shift either preceded or accompanied the adoption of bipedality and elimination of the sectorial canine. We further hypothesize that these changes were critical for increased individual fitness and promoted the adoption of social monogamy, which progressively increased cooperation as well as a dependence on tradition-based cultural transmission. These eventually facilitated the acquisition of language by elevating the reproductive advantage afforded those most sensitive to social cues.

     
  Early hominids may have been weed species, di R. S. Meindl, M. E. Chaney, C. Owen Lovejoy, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 2018 February, 115 (6) 1244-1249, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719669115

Panid, gorillid, and hominid social structures appear to have diverged as dramatically as did their locomotor patterns as they emerged from a late Miocene last common ancestor (LCA). Despite their elimination of the sectorial canine complex and adoption of bipedality with its attendant removal of their ready access to the arboreal canopy, Australopithecus was able to easily invade novel habitats after florescence from its likely ancestral genus, Ardipithecus sp. Other hominoids, unable to sustain sufficient population growth, began an inexorable decline, culminating in their restriction to modern refugia. Success similar to that of earliest hominids also characterizes several species of macaques, often termed “weed species.” We here review their most salient demographic features and find that a key element is irregularly elevated female survival. It is reasonable to conclude that a similar feature characterized early hominids, most likely made possible by the adoption of social monogamy. Reduced female mortality is a more probable key to early hominid success than a reduction in birth space, which would have been physiologically more difficult.

     
  Could these be the oldest Neandertal tools made with fire? di K. Hickok, Feb. 5, 2018

In the spring of 2012, while digging a hole for a thermal pool, construction workers in Grosseto, Italy, hit scientific pay dirt: layers of stratified soil and rock filled with prehistoric bones and artifacts close to 171,000 years old. Excavating the pool would have to wait. With further digging, the researchers found tantalizing evidence of early fire use—nearly 60 partially burned digging sticks made mostly of boxwood. The most likely creators of the sticks were Neandertals, who are known to have lived in Europe at that time. If our extinct cousins did indeed craft the sticks, they represent the earliest use of fire for toolmaking among Neandertals. Neandertals evolved in Europe perhaps as early as 400,000 years ago, but it’s unclear when they began to regularly use fire. Until now, the earliest evidence of Neandertals controlling fire dates to the late Middle Pleistocene, about 130,000 years ago. And because wood decomposes easier and faster than materials like bone and stone, it’s unusual to find prehistoric wooden artifacts. The oldest wooden weapons discovered so far are spears in Schöningen, Germany. They are thought to have been made by Homo heidelbergensis or Neandertals some 300,000 years ago. (...)
     
  Early Middle Palaeolithic culture in India around 385–172 ka reframes Out of Africa models, di K. Akhilesh, S. Pappu, H. M. Rajapara, Y. Gunnell, A. D. Shukla, A. K. Singhvi, "Nature", volume 554, pages 97–101 (01 February 2018), doi:10.1038/nature25444

Luminescence dating at the stratified prehistoric site of Attirampakkam, India, has shown that processes signifying the end of the Acheulian culture and the emergence of a Middle Palaeolithic culture occurred at 385±64 thousand years ago (ka), much earlier than conventionally presumed for South Asia. The Middle Palaeolithic continued at Attirampakkam until 172±41 ka. Chronologies of Middle Palaeolithic technologies in regions distant from Africa and Europe are crucial for testing theories about the origins and early evolution of these cultures, and for understanding their association with modern humans or archaic hominins, their links with preceding Acheulian cultures and the spread of Levallois lithic technologies. The geographic location of India and its rich Middle Palaeolithic record are ideally suited to addressing these issues, but progress has been limited by the paucity of excavated sites and hominin fossils as well as by geochronological constraints1,8. At Attirampakkam, the gradual disuse of bifaces, the predominance of small tools, the appearance of distinctive and diverse Levallois flake and point strategies, and the blade component all highlight a notable shift away from the preceding Acheulian large-flake technologies9. These findings document a process of substantial behavioural change that occurred in India at 385±64 ka and establish its contemporaneity with similar processes recorded in Africa and Europe. This suggests complex interactions between local developments and ongoing global transformations. Together, these observations call for a re-evaluation of models that restrict the origins of Indian Middle Palaeolithic culture to the incidence of modern human dispersals after approximately 125 ka.

· Indizi in India di una cultura "moderna" di 385.000 anni fa, "Le Scienze", 01 febbraio 2018

     
 

Between continuity and discontinuity: An overview of the West African Paleolithic over the last 200,000 years, di B.Chevrier, É. Huysecom, S.Soriano, M. Rasse, L. Lespez, B. Lebrun, C. Tribolo, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part A, 1 February 2018, Pages 3-22

In Paleolithic settlement models for Africa, West Africa has been neglected, if not entirely ignored, due to an obvious lack of research in the region but also of the availability of reliable and precise chronostratigraphic data. However, since 1997 research conducted at Ounjougou (Mali) has significantly updated our view of the West African Middle Stone Age with the establishment of the first archaeological and chronostratigraphic sequence and use of a comprehensive geomorphological approach. This site complex has provided most of the data for MIS 5 to 3, but in order to document MIS 2, one must turn to the Falémé Valley (Senegal), where data is now available from research conducted since 2011. Complemented with other scattered data from West Africa, it is now possible to propose a nearly continuous techno-cultural history for the Upper Pleistocene, supplemented by substantive evidence from the Early Holocene. We can now demonstrate significant diversity in lithic production systems, the probable times of their appearance and disappearance, and their very rapid rate of change. The Middle Stone Age in West Africa thus reflects a unique techno-cultural mosaic and technological history, very different from that observed in the Sahara and North Africa.

     
 

Filling in the gap – The Acheulean site Suhailah 1 from the central region of the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE, di K. Bretzke, E. Yousif, S. Jasim, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part A, 1 February 2018, Pages 23-32

There is abundant evidence for an Acheulean occupation from many parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The archaeological record, however, features a significant gap in SE Arabia. Here we report new evidence for an Acheulean occupation from site Suhailah 1 (SHL 1) located in the interior of the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE. We present the lithic assemblage recovered during systematic field work in 2014. Results of our study include the documentation of the co-existence of bifacial and core technologies as well as a dominance of scrapers and bifaces in the tool assemblage. Based on comparisons with stratified and well dated assemblages from Jebel Faya about 50 km south of Suhailah we argue that the occupation of the site likely dates to the late Middle Pleistocene. One important implication of the discovery of Acheulean artifacts in SE Arabia is related to the question of the origin of the bifacial technology seen in the MIS 5e assemblages at Jebel Faya, which are thought to represent an early expansion of modern humans out of Africa. Our analysis shows that the Acheulean bifacial technologies from SHL 1 and from Jebel Faya cannot easily be linked developmentally, given typological differences and at least one additional occupation phase separating SHL 1 from the early Late Pleistocene occupation at Faya. We also observe typological differences among the SHL 1 tool assemblage and Acheulean assemblages from western and central Saudi Arabia. Given the scattered record of Acheulean sites in Arabia in addition to very little chronometric data, causes for these differences are difficult to assess and chronological as well as socioeconomic and environmental reasons have to be considered. We are still at the beginning of systematic research about the Paleolithic of Arabia. The intensification of research in the region over the past decade, however, provides promising possibilities for future research.

     
 

The central Levantine corridor: The Paleolithic of Lebanon, di S. El Zaatari, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part A, 1 February 2018, Pages 33-47

Throughout history and prehistory, the Levant has played the role of a land-bridge connecting continents and human populations and cultures. This role began with the early expansions of hominins out of Africa during the Lower Pleistocene and continued through the Middle and Upper Pleistocene when the region was occupied alternatingly (and possibly at times simultaneously) by Neandertals and anatomically modern humans dispersing from Europe and Africa respectively. At the end of the Pleistocene, the Levant formed a corridor through which modern humans crossed into Europe. Yet, even though the Levant is an extremely important region for paleoanthropological research, major gaps in such research in this region remain. Unlike its southern part, the Paleolithic record of an important area of its central part, i.e., Lebanon, remains virtually unexplored, with the exception of a handful of surveys and small number of excavated sites. In spite of their relative paucity, these surveys have identified hundreds of potential sites spanning all periods of the Paleolithic. Moreover, the few excavations illustrate the importance of Lebanese sites in enhancing our understanding of later human evolution. The site of Ksar Akil, for example, holds evidence for some of the earliest associations of modern human fossils with early -and possibly also Initial- Upper Paleolithic assemblages. This paper presents a summary of the Lebanese Paleolithic record.

     
 

The Palaeolithic record of Greece: A synthesis of the evidence and a research agenda for the future, di V. Tourloukis, K. Harvati, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part A, 1 February 2018, Pages 48-65

The Palaeolithic record of Greece remains highly fragmented and discontinuous in both space and time. Nevertheless, new surveys and excavations, along with the revisiting of known sites or old collections, and the conduction of lithic and faunal laboratory analyses, have altogether enriched the Greek Palaeolithic dataset with important new evidence and novel interpretations. The goal of this paper is threefold: 1) to critically review the most important aspects of the Greek Pleistocene archaeological record, from the Lower to the Upper Palaeolithic; 2) to provide a synthesis of current knowledge about the Palaeolithic of Greece and in the framework of broader discussions in human evolution research; and 3) to put in prospect the Greek record by addressing a research agenda for the future. The review of the evidence shows that Palaeolithic research in Greece has expanded its focus not only geographically but also temporally: it now includes investigations at previously under-studied areas, such as the insular settings of the Aegean and Ionian Seas, as well as formerly overlooked targets, such as Lower Palaeolithic open-air sites. The synthesis and discussion which follows offers a state-of-the-art perspective on how the primary Palaeolithic data can be assessed within local or regional geomorphic, paleoenvironmental and chronological contexts; here, our focus is on spatio-temporal discontinuities, trends in subsistence strategies and lithic technology, as well as potentially emerging biogeographical patterns. Finally, we highlight the complex topography and mosaic landscapes of the Greek peninsula in order to address two major themes for a future research agenda: the potential role of Greece as a glacial refugium, and how the Greek record could contribute to our knowledge of early hominin mobility patterns.

     
 

Revising the hypodigm of Homo heidelbergensis: A view from the Eastern Mediterranean, di M. Roksandic, P. Radović, J. Lindal, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part A, 1 February 2018, Pages 66-81

The hominin mandible BH-1 from the Middle Pleistocene cave of Mala Balanica suggested the possibility that human populations in this part of the continent were not subject to the process of Neanderthalization observed in the west. We review the paleoanthropological evidence from the Central Balkans in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean geographic entity. The current hominin fossil record of the early Middle Pleistocene in the region suggests that Europe was inhabited by two different populations: a population in the west of the continent with derived Neanderthal morphology; and a more variable population in the east characterized by a combination of plesiomorphous and synapomorphous traits. We suggest that – in order to continue using the nomenclature of Homo heidelbergensis – the current hypodigm needs to be revised to include only the specimens from the latter group.

     
 

How to survive the glacial apocalypse: Hominin mobility strategies in late Pleistocene Central Asia, di M. Glantz, A. Van Arsdale, S. Temirbekov, T. Beeton, "Quaternary International", Volume 466, Part A, 1 February 2018, Pages 82-92

Previous research concerning the biogeography of hominin populations in Central Asia indicates persistence across interglacial/glacial sequences. Hominin groups are present on the landscape during the coldest episodes of the Last Glacial Period. Moreover, the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor (IAMC) likely served as a geographic conduit for human groups that found refuge in the foothill regions of the Altai Mountains as well as those of the southwestern horn of the Tien Shan; this conduit can be construed as the stage upon which hominin admixture occurred. The present study broadens the geographic focus of previous work to include the steppe and steppe/desert zones immediately adjacent to the biologically productive foothills of the IAMC. Using an ecological threshold model, four abiotic variables that best predict hominin site locations are analyzed to examine differences in fundamental niche structure when the IAMC foothills are compared to the adjacent steppic zones. Our null hypothesis is that the foothills and adjacent steppe present similar abiotic profiles. Our results, however, indicate significant differences between these regions, suggesting the foothills would have presented hominins with a more attractive landscape in both glacial and interglacial time periods than the steppe. Counterintuitively, these differences are actually more extreme during interglacial time periods. This preliminary model of hominin-environment interactions serves as a useful example for the ways by which mid-scale hominin dispersal trajectories are mapped and interpreted.

     
 

Siberia and neighboring regions in the Last Glacial Maximum: did people occupy northern Eurasia at that time?, di Y. V. Kuzmin, S. G. Keates, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", February 2018, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 111–124

An updated analysis of Paleolithic sites in Siberia and the Urals 14C-dated to the coldest phase of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), with its timespan currently determined as ca. 23,000–19,000 BP (ca. 27,300–22,900 cal BP), is presented. It is demonstrated that people continuously occupied the southern and central parts of Siberia and the Russian Far East (up to 58° N latitude), and perhaps sporadically settled regions located even further north, up to 70° N, throughout the LGM. This is in accord with our previous data, but is now based on a larger dataset, and also on a paleoecological analysis of the major pre-LGM archaeological sites in Siberia and the Urals north of 58° N. It is clear that Paleolithic people in northern Eurasia were able to cope with the treeless tundra environment well in advance of the LGM, at least at ca. 34,000–26,000 BP (ca. 38,500–30,000 cal BP). Therefore, a high degree of adaptation to cold conditions allowed people to survive in Siberia during the LGM.

     
 

Unraveling a Neanderthal palimpsest from a zooarcheological and taphonomic perspective, di M. J. Gabucio et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", February 2018, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 197–222

Practically all archeological assemblages are palimpsests. In spite of the high temporal resolution of Abric Romaní site, level O, dated to around 55 ka, is not an exception. This paper focuses on a zooarcheological and taphonomic analysis of this level, paying special attention to spatial and temporal approaches. The main goal is to unravel the palimpsest at the finest possible level by using different methods and techniques, such as archeostratigraphy, anatomical and taxonomical identification, taphonomic analysis, faunal refits and tooth wear analysis. The results obtained are compared to ethnoarcheological data so as to interpret site structure. In addition, activities carried out over different time spans (from individual episodes to long-term behaviors) are detected, and their spatial extent is explored, allowing to do inferences on settlement dynamics. This leads us to discuss the temporal and spatial scales over which Neanderthals carried out different activities within the site, and how they can be studied through the archeological record.

     
 

Magdalenian Children: Projectile Points, Portable Art and Playthings, di M. C. Langley, "Oxford Journal of Archaeology", Volume 37, Issue 1, February 2018, Pages 3–24 - open access -

Children, no doubt, were a significant component of Upper Palaeolithic societies. Despite this fact, however, serious identification and consideration of material culture which may have belonged to children – at least at one time during their use-life – have not been undertaken. This situation extends to the best represented and most intensively studied of the European Palaeolithic techno-complexes, the Magdalenian (c.21,000–14,000 cal BP), and consequently, we know very little about the children of this enigmatic people. As play, including object play, is a ‘true cultural universal’, we can be certain that Magdalenian children integrated objects into their games, with these playthings later incorporated into the archaeological record. Through examining ethnographic accounts of recent hunter-gatherer children and reconsidering archaeological assemblages in light of these data, this paper suggests that Magdalenian playthings probably included full-sized adult weapon tips and – more significantly – pieces of what archaeologists term ‘art mobilier’. (...)

     
  Bears and humans, a Neanderthal tale. Reconstructing uncommon behaviors from zooarchaeological evidence in southern Europe, di M. Romandini, G. Terlato, N. Nannini, A. Tagliacozzo, S. Benazzi, M. Peresani, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 90, February 2018, Pages 71–91

Cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), brown bear (Ursus arctos), and Neanderthals were potential competitors for environmental resources (shelters and food) in Europe. In order to reinforce this view and contribute to the ongoing debate on late Neanderthal behavior, we present evidence from zooarchaeological and taphonomic analyses of bear bone remains discovered at Rio Secco Cave and Fumane Cave in northeast Italy, an extended geographic area north of the Adriatic Sea. The remains from both caves come from layers dated to 49-42 ky cal. BP, and suggest close interactions between humans and bears, with data not only limited to the association of Mousterian lithic artifacts with numerous bear remains, but also the detection of clearly preserved traces of human modification such as cut and percussion marks, which enable a reconstruction of the main steps of fur recovery and the butchering process. Examples of Neanderthal bear exploitation are extremely sporadic in Europe, and Grotta Rio Secco and Grotta Fumane can be considered rare cases of remain accumulations generated by the human predation of bears of varied age classes during or near the end of hibernation. All of this evidence suggests that bears had a strategic role in the nomadic economy of Neanderthal hunting groups.

     
  The earliest modern humans outside Africa, di I. Hershkovitz et alii, "Science", 26 Jan 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6374, pp. 456-459, DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8369

To date, the earliest modern human fossils found outside of Africa are dated to around 90,000 to 120,000 years ago at the Levantine sites of Skhul and Qafzeh. A maxilla and associated dentition recently discovered at Misliya Cave, Israel, was dated to 177,000 to 194,000 years ago, suggesting that members of the Homo sapiens clade left Africa earlier than previously thought. This finding changes our view on modern human dispersal and is consistent with recent genetic studies, which have posited the possibility of an earlier dispersal of Homo sapiens around 220,000 years ago. The Misliya maxilla is associated with full-fledged Levallois technology in the Levant, suggesting that the emergence of this technology is linked to the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, as has been documented in Africa.

     
  Terminal Pleistocene subsistence strategies and aquatic resource use in southern Greece, di B. M. Starkovich, N. D.Munro, M. C. Stiner, "Quaternary International", Volume 465, Part B, 26 January 2018, Pages 162-176

In many parts of the Mediterranean Basin, the Late Glacial was a dramatic time in terms of demographic, cultural, and technological change. One region that illustrates this especially well is southern Greece, where Upper Paleolithic lifeways transitioned to the Mesolithic with the onset of the Holocene. Previous archaeological research in this area has documented an intensification of meat resources as foragers widened their diet breadth to include more low-return prey animals, eventually shifting their focus to the Mediterranean Sea. In this paper, we synthesize and expand on these previous analyses by combining new data from Kephalari Cave with two other published sites in the Argolid (Peloponnese), Franchthi Cave and Klissoura Cave 1. These three sites provide an ideal case study for examining changes in meat procurement strategies because they have overlapping Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic chronologies and are located within about 45 km of one another. We consider each of the sites within their local environmental contexts, including the contraction of the coastal plain and moving shorelines after the Last Glacial Maximum. Changes in the composition of ungulate prey track local environmental and ecological conditions. The use of low-return species supports an overall picture of resource intensification in the region over time. At Klissoura, the most inland of the three sites, small terrestrial prey increases over the course of the Upper Paleolithic, particularly in the Late Glacial, and until the site was abandoned in the Mesolithic. At both Franchthi and Kephalari, small game are abundant in all Upper Paleolithic layers, but there is no overall trend. However, fishing appears in the Upper Paleolithic (most likely the Gravettoid phase) of Kephalari and during the Epigravettian at Franchthi. Fishing increases dramatically in later layers at both sites. At Franchthi, this trend culminates in open-water fishing of large-bodied tunny in the Upper Mesolithic. Interestingly, the use of Klissoura declined at about the time that fishing became a critical part of the economy at Franchthi, and possibly Kephalari. These subsistence shifts reflect a combination of factors, including growing human populations on a regional level and local responses that included changes in mobility patterns and site use, and more diverse toolkits, as well as changes in Pleistocene shorelines that brought an additional ecosystem closer to two of the sites. These internal and external factors allowed foragers in southern Greece to successfully move into a new ecological niche at the end of the Pleistocene.

     
  Winter is coming: What happened in western European mountains between 12.9 and 12.6 ka cal. BP (beginning of the GS1), di A. Tomasso, C. Fat Cheung, S. Fornage-Bontemps, M. Langlais, N. Naudinot, "Quaternary International", Volume 465, Part B, 26 January 2018, Pages 210-221

This paper builds on recent research on the abrupt cooling event known as GS1 (Younger Dryas) from ca. 12.9 to 11.7 ka cal. BP. These studies have indicated the diversity of local responses to this period between different regions across Europe. Research has indicated both responses and lack of responses of humans to this event in different regions. In accordance with this research, this paper argues that it is necessary to move away from global models of human responses to the analysis of regional scales. We argue that it is necessary to consider the evolutionary dynamics that predated the GS1 cooling event before identifying its potential impact. This paper focuses on this aspect of the problem by considering evidence from three mountainous areas: the Pyrenees, the northern French Alps and Jura, and lastly southern and Apuan Alps. Recently studied sites are considered with specific attention to lithic industries. Our analysis focuses on (1) the identifiable changes in each industry and (2) the relationship with pre-existing cultural and technological dynamics. The analysis has produced two main results. First, there was a tendency towards a decrease in the standardization of blanks, especially in blades, which was common to the different areas. This change, however, predated GS1 and can therefore not be associated with cooling at the start of GS1. Second, the Northern Alps and Jura, in contrast to the two other areas, seems to reveal a break from the lithic technological traditions that occurred around 12.9 ka cal BP or the early stages of GS1. These results enable a discussion of the different mechanisms that can explain differential regional responses to GS1.

     
  Glacial and post-glacial adaptations of hunter-gatherers: Investigating the late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic subsistence strategies in the southern steppe of Eastern Europe, di K. Kitagawa et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 465, Part B, 26 January 2018, Pages 192-209

Diverse landscapes and ecosystems stretching across Europe led to diverse hunter-gatherer cultural records during the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic. In response to abrupt climatic forcing, starting around the Late Glacial Maximum and followed by climatic events such as the Bølling–Allerød and the Younger Dryas in the Terminal Pleistocene, archaeological data pertaining to cultural and behavioral shifts of hunter-gatherers continue to be explored on a regional and pan-regional scale. Here we present an initial summary, which includes new and published data on faunal analyses from multiple open air sites that span the Late Pleistocene to the Holocene, dated between the Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic (20,000–6000 uncal 14C BP) in the southern steppe of Eastern Europe. For this area, this is the first study to compile the cultural and faunal data with geo-referenced localization and radiometric dates of the archaeological sites. Taken together, faunal assemblages from the Epigravettian are characterized by low diversity and are often dominated by one species of large game, including bison and equids, whereas the Mesolithic diet is characterized by higher inter-site variability subsisting on large ungulate and greater emphasis on freshwater resources. This study contributes to the general knowledge concerning the last phases in the evolution of the Eurasian hunter-gatherers.

     
  Environmental and cultural changes across the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in Cantabrian Spain, di L. Guy Straus, "Quaternary International", Volume 465, Part B, 26 January 2018, Pages 222-233

A review of the cultural evidence from northern coastal Atlantic Spain (a.k.a., Vasco-Cantabria) spanning the late Last Glacial and early Postglacial (from Greenland Interstadial 1 to the mid-Holocene) reveals that some changes may have been related to major climate/environmental changes, while others may be attributed to demographic factors that caused possible resource overexploitation and to historical factors such as the long-term availability of Neolithic domesticates and technology in adjacent regions. The culmination of the warming trend of the Last Glacial Interstadial in the Allerød seems to have been of particular importance in the transition from the classic Upper Magdalenian (with its rupestral and portable art and complex stone and bone technologies) to the Azilian, despite continuity in the main game species and in the process of subsistence intensification. The Younger Dryas, on the other hand, seems to have had little immediate direct repercussion in this region, as the Azilian continued, straddling the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary. On the other hand, the climatically non-dramatic Preboreal-Boreal boundary seems to have seen the abrupt, marked break between the “Epimagdalenian” Azilian and the Asturian coastal shell midden Mesolithic in the western sector of the region. This contrasted with greater technological continuity (albeit with similarities to the Sauveterrian tradition in adjacent SW France) in the Mesolithic of the Basque Country, with no archeological indications that the 8.2 cal kya event had important consequences in this region. Then, some 15 centuries later, came the sudden, but centuries-delayed appearance of Neolithic domesticates and ceramics on the Atlantic side of the Cantabrian Cordillera originating from sources in the Mediterranean environments of the upper Ebro basin and/or southern France. This major lifeway change was possibly finally accepted, within a still mixed economy, in the face of the overexploitation of wild food resources. The “neolithization” of Vasco-Cantabria was finally underway by c. 6.6 cal kya, quickly leading to new human-land relationships characterized by mainly ovicaprine pastoralism, apparently limited cereal agriculture, continued foraging, recolonization of the montane interior and the construction of modest megalithic monuments.

     
  Israeli fossils are the oldest modern humans ever found outside of Africa, di E. Callaway, "Nature", 25 JANUARY 2018, doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-01261-5

The oldest human fossils ever found outside Africa suggest that Homo sapiens might have spread to the Arabian Peninsula around 180,000 years ago — much earlier than previously thought. The upper jaw and teeth, found in an Israeli cave and reported in Science on 25 January1, pre-date other human fossils from the same region by at least 50,000 years. But scientists say that it is unclear whether the fossils represent a brief incursion or a more-lasting expansion of the species. Researchers originally thought that H. sapiens emerged in East Africa 200,000 years ago, then moved out to populate the rest of the world. Until discoveries in the past decade countered that story, scientists thought that a small group left Africa some 60,000 years ago. If so, it would mean that signs of earlier travels, including 80,000–120,000-year-old skulls and other remains from Israel, uncovered in the 1920s and 1930s, were from failed migrations. (...)
     
  Shedding light on the Early Pleistocene of TD6 (Gran Dolina, Atapuerca, Spain): The technological sequence and occupational inferences, di M. Mosquera, A. Ollé, X. P. Rodríguez-Álvarez, E. Carbonell, January 25, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190889 - open access -

This paper aims to update the information available on the lithic assemblage from the entire sequence of TD6 now that the most recent excavations have been completed, and to explore possible changes in both occupational patterns and technological strategies evidenced in the unit. This is the first study to analyse the entire TD6 sequence, including subunits TD6.3 and TD6.1, which have never been studied, along with the better-known TD6.2 Homo antecessor-bearing subunit. We also present an analysis of several lithic refits found in TD6, as well as certain technical features that may help characterise the hominin occupations. The archaeo-palaeontological record from TD6 consists of 9,452 faunal remains, 443 coprolites, 1,046 lithic pieces, 170 hominin remains and 91 Celtis seeds. The characteristics of this record seem to indicate two main stages of occupation. In the oldest subunit, TD6.3, the lithic assemblage points to the light and limited hominin occupation of the cave, which does, however, grow over the course of the level. In contrast, the lithic assemblages from TD6.2 and TD6.1 are rich and varied, which may reflect Gran Dolina cave’s establishment as a landmark in the region. Despite the occupational differences between the lowermost subunit and the rest of the deposit, technologically the TD6 lithic assemblage is extremely homogeneous throughout. In addition, the composition and spatial distribution of the 12 groups of lithic refits found in unit TD6, as well as the in situ nature of the assemblage demonstrate the high degree of preservation at the site. This may help clarify the nature of the Early Pleistocene hominin occupations of TD6, and raise reasonable doubt about the latest interpretations that support the ex situ character of the assemblage as a whole. (...)

     
  Palaeolithic Caucasus: Paleoanthropological Panorama, di S. Vasilyev, H. Amirkhanov, "Quaternary International", Volume 465, Part A, 20 January 2018, Pages 105-116

The article gives an analytical overview of paleoanthropological finds from Palaeolithic Caucasus. Archaeological studies show that in the Early Pleistocene, the region was extensively inhabited. The path of the first settlers ran along the Western Caspian and possibly the Eastern Black Sea regions. This way was probably a transit on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a natural refuge where natural resources allowed people to exist for a relatively long time. Further evolutionary process, according to the paleoanthropological remains, was associated with Western Asia, as well as with Western Europe. However, the emergence of Homo sapiens in the Caucasus was most likely due to the migration of sapiens forms from the African continent around 100 thousand years ago.

     
  Speech, stone tool-making and the evolution of language, di D. M. Cataldo, A. Bamberg Migliano, L. Vinicius, January 19, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191071 - open access -

The ‘technological hypothesis’ proposes that gestural language evolved in early hominins to enable the cultural transmission of stone tool-making skills, with speech appearing later in response to the complex lithic industries of more recent hominins. However, no flintknapping study has assessed the efficiency of speech alone (unassisted by gesture) as a tool-making transmission aid. Here we show that subjects instructed by speech alone underperform in stone tool-making experiments in comparison to subjects instructed through either gesture alone or ‘full language’ (gesture plus speech), and also report lower satisfaction with their received instruction. The results provide evidence that gesture was likely to be selected over speech as a teaching aid in the earliest hominin tool-makers; that speech could not have replaced gesturing as a tool-making teaching aid in later hominins, possibly explaining the functional retention of gesturing in the full language of modern humans; and that speech may have evolved for reasons unrelated to tool-making. We conclude that speech is unlikely to have evolved as tool-making teaching aid superior to gesture, as claimed by the technological hypothesis, and therefore alternative views should be considered. For example, gestural language may have evolved to enable tool-making in earlier hominins, while speech may have later emerged as a response to increased trade and more complex inter- and intra-group interactions in Middle Pleistocene ancestors of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens; or gesture and speech may have evolved in parallel rather than in sequence. (...)

     
  Putting the Palaeolithic into Worcestershire's HER: An evidence base for development management, di O. Russell, N. Daffern, E. Hancox, A. Nash, "Internet Archaeology", 47, 18 January 2018, https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.47.3

Worcestershire, like the majority of the West Midlands, is not considered a focal point for the study of Palaeolithic archaeological remains, with much of the focus occurring in the east and south-east of England. Despite this, discoveries of Palaeolithic artefactual and palaeoenvironmental remains within the county, and the wider West Midlands, have shown that the area has the potential to be productive and assist in national and international research aims for the period. Palaeolithic research is usually carried out by specialists in Quaternary science and the resulting reports are difficult for non-specialists to access. The result is that Palaeolithic archaeology is often poorly represented within Historic Environment Records and unavailable to Local Planning Authority archaeological advisors in an accessible format. It is challenging in the context of National Planning Policy Framework to justify archaeological interventions as proportionate and reasonable when the archaeology is evidenced in the form of a few artefacts from poorly understood geological contexts. This article describes a Historic England-funded project which aimed to address this issue and ensure evidence of this date can be incorporated within Historic Environment Records in a way that can be interpreted and used by non-specialists, and will be of particular use to those involved in development management.

     
  A reassessment of the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible (Haute Garonne, France) in the context of European Pleistocene human evolution, di A. Vialet et alii, January 16, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189714 - open access -

We here present a comparative study of the Montmaurin-LN Middle Pleistocene mandible (Haute-Garonne, France). This mandible, of which its right and left molar series are preserved in situ, was found in La Niche cave (Montmaurin’s karst system) in 1949, and was first attributed to the ‘Mindel-Riss’ interglacial (= MIS 9 to 11) based on its geological context. Later studies based on geological and faunal evidence have attributed the Montmaurin-LN mandible to MIS 7. Following a detailed morphological and metric comparative study of the mandible in the 1970s, it was interpreted in the light of a still limited fossil record and the prevailing paradigm back then. Waiting for geochronological studies in the forthcoming years, here we review the main morphological and metrical features of this mandible and its molars, which have been reassessed in the framework of a remarkably enlarged Pleistocene fossil record since the mandible was first described, and our current, more in-depth understanding of human evolution in Europe. Using a selection of mandibular features with potential taxonomic signal we have found that the Montmaurin-LN mandible shares only a few derived traits with Neandertals. Our analyses reveal that this mandible is more closely related to the ancient specimens from the African and Eurasian Early and Middle Pleistocene, particularly due to the presence of primitive features of the Homo clade. In contrast, the external morphology of the molars is clearly similar to that of Neandertals. The results are assessed in the light of the present competing hypotheses used to explain the European hominin fossil record. (...)

     
  Early hominins in Europe: The Galerian migration hypothesis, di G. Muttoni, G. Scardia, D. V. Kent, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 180, 15 January 2018, Pages 1-29

Our updated review of sites bearing hominin remains and/or tools from Europe, including new findings from the Balkans, still indicates that the only compelling evidence of main hominin presence in these regions was only since ~0.9 million years ago (Ma), bracketed by the end of the Jaramillo geomagnetic polarity subchron (0.99 Ma) and the Brunhes-Matuyama polarity chron boundary (0.78 Ma). This time window straddled the late Early Pleistocene climate transition (EPT) at the onset of enhanced glacial/interglacial activity that reverberated worldwide. Europe may have become initially populated during the EPT when, possibly for the first time in the Pleistocene, vast and exploitable ecosystems were generated along the eustatically emergent Po-Danube terrestrial conduit. These newly formed settings, characterized by stable terrestrial lowlands with open grasslands and reduced woody cover especially during glacial/interglacial transitions, are regarded as optimal ecosystems for several large Galerian immigrant mammals such as African and Asian megaherbivores, possibly linked with hominins in a common food web, to expand into en route to Europe. The question of when hominins first arrived in Europe thus places the issue in the context of changes in climate, paleogeography and faunal associations as potential environmental drivers and controlling agents in a specific time frame, a key feature of the Galerian migration hypothesis.

     
  'Humans and Quaternary Environments in the Levant' in Honour of Professor Mina Weinstein-Evron. Edited by Danny Rosenberg, Reuven Yeshurun, Volume 464, Part A, Pages 1-326 (10 January 2018)

· Danny Rosenberg, Reuven Yeshurun, Humans and quaternary environments in the Levant – A special issue in honour of Professor Mina Weinstein-Evron, Pages 1-2

· Miriam Belmaker, Insights from carnivore community composition on the paleoecology of early Pleistocene Eurasian sites: Implications for the dispersal of hominins out of Africa, Pages 3-17

· Y. Zaidner, N. Porat, E. Zilberman, G. Herzlinger, A. Almogi-Labin, J. Roskin, Geo-chronological context of the open-air Acheulian site at Nahal Hesi, northwestern Negev, Israel, Pages 18-31

· N. Porat, M. Jain, A. Ronen, L.K. Horwitz, A contribution to late Middle Paleolithic chronology of the Levant: New luminescence ages for the Atlit Railway Bridge site, Coastal Plain, Israel, Pages 32-42

· Ehud Galili, Avraham Ronen, Henk K. Mienis, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Beach deposits containing Middle Paleolithic archaeological remains from northern Israel, Pages 43-57

· Alla Yaroshevich, Maayan Shemer, Naomi Porat, Joel Roskin, Flint workshop affiliation: Chronology, technology and site-formation processes at Giv'at Rabbi East, Lower Galilee, Israel, Pages 58-80

· Ron Shimelmitz, Steven L. Kuhn, The toolkit in the core: There is more to Levallois production than predetermination, Pages 81-91

· Omry Barzilai, Natalia Gubenko, Rethinking Emireh Cave: The lithic technology perspectives, Pages 92-105

· Ron Shimelmitz, David E. Friesem, Jamie L. Clark, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, Lior Weissbrod, Naomi Porat, Andrew W. Kandel, The Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic of Sefunim Cave, Israel, Pages 106-125

· Andrew W. Kandel, Knut Bretzke, Nicholas J. Conard, Epipaleolithic shell beads from Damascus Province, Syria, Pages 126-140

· Daniel Kaufman, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, Reuven Yeshurun, Eli Crater-Gershtein, Dani Nadel, Engraved flint nodules from the Levantine middle Epipaleolithic: Neve David revisited, Pages 141-158

· Christophe Delage, Revisiting Rolling stones: The procurement of non-local goods in the Epipaleolithic of the Near East, Pages 159-172

· Reuven Yeshurun, Guy Bar-Oz, Ungulate skeletal element profiles: A possible marker for territorial contraction and sedentism in the Levantine Epipaleolithic, Pages 173-186

· Jacob Vardi, Ofer Marder, Revital Bookman, David E. Friesem, I. Groman-Yeroslavski, Lotan Edeltin, Naomi Porat, Elisabetta Boaretto, Joel Roskin, Middle to Late Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherer encampments at the Ashalim site, on a linear dune-like morphology, along dunefield margin water bodies, Pages 187-205


· Avraham Ronen, Quaternary sedimentology and prehistory on the Mediterranean coastal plain of Israel, Pages 315-326

     
  Further consideration of the curvature of the Neandertal Femur, di T. Chapman, V. Sholukha, P. Semal, S. Louryan, S. Van Sint Jan, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 165, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 94–107 - open access -

Neandertal femora are particularly known for having a marked sagittal femoral curvature. This study examined femoral curvature in Neandertals in comparison to a modern human population from Belgium by the use of three-dimensional (3D) quadric surfaces modeled from the bone surface. 3D models provide detailed information and enabled femoral curvature to be analyzed in conjunction with other morphological parameters.
3D models were created from CT scans of 75 modern human femora and 7 Neandertal femora. Quadric surfaces (QS) were created from the triangulated surface vertices in all areas of interest (neck, head, diaphyseal shaft, condyles) extracted from previously placed anatomical landmarks. The diaphyseal shaft was divided into five QS shapes and curvature was measured by degrees of difference between QS shapes. Each bone was placed in a local coordinate system enabling each bone to be analyzed in the same way.
The use of 3D quadric surface fitting allowed the distribution of curvature with similarly curved femora to be analyzed and the different patterns of curvature between the two groups to be determined. The Neandertals were shown to have a higher degree of femoral curvature and a more distal point of femoral curvature than the modern human population from Belgium.
Morphological aspects of the Neandertal femur are different from this modern human population although mainly seem unrelated to femoral curvature. The relative lack of correlations with other femoral bony morphological factors suggests femoral curvature variations may be related to other aspects. (...)

     
  The evolution of modern human brain shape, di S. Neubauer, J. J. Hublin, P. Gunz, "Science Advances", JANUARY 2018, VOL 4, ISSUE 1 - open access -

Modern humans have large and globular brains that distinguish them from their extinct Homo relatives. The characteristic globularity develops during a prenatal and early postnatal period of rapid brain growth critical for neural wiring and cognitive development. However, it remains unknown when and how brain globularity evolved and how it relates to evolutionary brain size increase. On the basis of computed tomographic scans and geometric morphometric analyses, we analyzed endocranial casts of Homo sapiens fossils (N = 20) from different time periods. Our data show that, 300,000 years ago, brain size in early H. sapiens already fell within the range of present-day humans. Brain shape, however, evolved gradually within the H. sapiens lineage, reaching present-day human variation between about 100,000 and 35,000 years ago. This process started only after other key features of craniofacial morphology appeared modern and paralleled the emergence of behavioral modernity as seen from the archeological record. Our findings are consistent with important genetic changes affecting early brain development within the H. sapiens lineage since the origin of the species and before the transition to the Later Stone Age and the Upper Paleolithic that mark full behavioral modernity. (...)
     
  Bio-cultural interactions and demography during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Iberia: An agent-based modelling approach, di C. Cucart-Mora, S. Lozano, J. Fernández-López de Pablo, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 89, January 2018, Pages 14-24

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition was a process of cultural and biological replacement, considered a turning point in human evolutionary history. Various hypotheses have been used to explain the disappearance of Neanderthals from Eurasia. However, very few studies have explicitly examined the causative role of demography on Neanderthal and anatomically modern humans (AMH) interaction. Here we use an integrative method based on computational modelling and the analysis of archaeological data to construct an agent based model that explores the influence of demographic variables (birth and death rates) and mobility (home range size) on the bio-cultural interaction between AMH and Neanderthals during the transition from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic on the Iberian Peninsula (50 ka to 30 ka BP). Our simulation results are consistent with the current radiocarbon framework for the disappearance of Neanderthals in this region. This suggest that the extinction of Neanderthals could be explained by inter-specific differences in demographic behaviour and mobility patterns compared with AMH.

     
  Arte prehistórico y ciencia ficción: los retos de la divulgación académica, di A. Lombo Montañés, "ArqueoWeb", 18, 2017, pp. 31-61 - open access -

El arte prehistórico ha sido utilizado como una prueba de la visita de extraterrestres durante la prehistoria. La teoría de los Antiguos Astronautas forma parte de una prehistoria esotérica cuyos orígenes se remontan al siglo XIX. El discurso de esta teoría fue popularizado por Von Däniken en los años sesenta del siglo pasado y ha sido recientemente planteada en la película de Ridley Scott Prometheus (2012) en donde aparecen los caballos de Chauvet. ¿Qué hacen los caballos de Chauvet en una película de alienígenas? En el presente estudio investigamos las principales ideas de la prehistoria esotérica en relación con el arte prehistórico para intentar comprender el enorme éxito de esta teoría en la mentalidad colectiva. (...)

     
 

New Neandertal wrist bones from El Sidrón, Spain (1994–2009), di T. L. Kivell et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 114, January 2018, Pages 45-75 - open access -

Twenty-nine carpal bones of Homo neanderthalensis have been recovered from the site of El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) during excavations between 1994 and 2009, alongside ~2500 other Neandertal skeletal elements dated to ~49,000 years ago. All bones of the wrist are represented, including adult scaphoids (n = 6), lunates (n = 2), triquetra (n = 4), pisiforms (n = 2), trapezia (n = 2), trapezoids (n = 5), capitates (n = 5), and hamates (n = 2), as well as one fragmentary and possibly juvenile scaphoid. Several of these carpals appear to belong to the complete right wrist of a single individual. Here we provide qualitative and quantitative morphological descriptions of these carpals, within a comparative context of other European and Near Eastern Neandertals, early and recent Homo sapiens, and other fossil hominins, including Homo antecessor, Homo naledi, and australopiths. Overall, the El Sidrón carpals show characteristics that typically distinguish Neandertals from H. sapiens, such as a relatively flat first metacarpal facet on the trapezium and a more laterally oriented second metacarpal facet on the capitate. However, there are some distinctive features of the El Sidrón carpals compared with most other Neandertals. For example, the tubercle of the trapezium is small with limited projection, while the scaphoid tubercle and hamate hamulus are among the largest seen in other Neandertals. Furthermore, three of the six adult scaphoids show a distinctive os-centrale portion, while another is a bipartite scaphoid with a truncated tubercle. The high frequency of rare carpal morphologies supports other evidence of a close genetic relationship among the Neandertals found at El Sidrón. (...)

     
 

The easternmost Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) from Jinsitai Cave, North China, di Feng Li et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 114, January 2018, Pages 76-84  - open access -

The dispersal of Neanderthals and their genetic and cultural interactions with anatomically modern humans and other hominin populations in Eurasia are critical issues in human evolution research. Neither Neanderthal fossils nor typical Mousterian assemblages have been reported in East Asia to date. Here we report on artifact assemblages comparable to western Eurasian Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) at Jinsitai, a cave site in North China. The lithic industry at Jinsitai appeared at least 47–42 ka and persisted until around 40–37 ka. These findings expand the geographic range of the Mousterian-like industries at least 2000 km further to the east than what has been previously recognized. This discovery supplies a missing part of the picture of Middle Paleolithic distribution in Eurasia and also demonstrates the makers' capacity to adapt to diverse geographic regions and habitats of Eurasia. (...)

     
 

The biomechanical significance of the frontal sinus in Kabwe 1 (Homo heidelbergensis), di R. M. Godinho, P. O'Higgins, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 114, January 2018, Pages 141-153 - open access -

Paranasal sinuses are highly variable among living and fossil hominins and their function(s) are poorly understood. It has been argued they serve no particular function and are biological ‘spandrels’ arising as a structural consequence of changes in associated bones and/or soft tissue structures. In contrast, others have suggested that sinuses have one or more functions, in olfaction, respiration, thermoregulation, nitric oxide production, voice resonance, reduction of skull weight, and craniofacial biomechanics. Here we assess the extent to which the very large frontal sinus of Kabwe 1 impacts on the mechanical performance of the craniofacial skeleton during biting. It may be that the browridge is large and the sinus has large trabecular struts traversing it to compensate for the effect of a large sinus on the ability of the face to resist forces arising from biting. Alternatively, the large sinus may have no impact and be sited where strains that arise from biting would be very low. If the former is true, then infilling of the sinus would be expected to increase the ability of the skeleton to resist biting loads, while removing the struts might have the opposite effect. To these ends, finite element models with hollowed and infilled variants of the original sinus were created and loaded to simulate different bites. The deformations arising due to loading were then compared among different models and bites by contrasting the strain vectors arising during identical biting tasks. It was found that the frontal bone experiences very low strains and that infilling or hollowing of the sinus has little effect on strains over the cranial surface, with small effects over the frontal bone. The material used to infill the sinus experienced very low strains. This is consistent with the idea that frontal sinus morphogenesis is influenced by the strain field experienced by this region such that it comes to lie entirely within a region of the cranium that would otherwise experience low strains. This has implications for understanding why sinuses vary among hominin fossils. (...)

     
 

Using the covariation of extant hominoid upper and lower jaws to predict dental arcades of extinct hominins, di S. Stelzer, P. Gunz, S. Neubauer, F. Spoor, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 114, January 2018, Pages 154-175 - open access -

Upper and lower jaws are well represented in the fossil record of mammals and are frequently used to diagnose species. Some hominin species are only known by either their maxillary or mandibular morphology, and in this study, we explore the possibility of predicting their complementary dental arcade shape to aid the recognition of conspecific specimens in the fossil record. To this end, we apply multiple multivariate regression to analyze 3D landmark coordinates collected on associated upper and lower dental arcades of extant Homo, Pan, Gorilla, Pongo, and Hylobates. We first study the extant patterns of variation in dental arcade shape and quantify how accurate predictions of complementary arcades are. Then we explore applications of this extant framework for interpreting the fossil record based on two fossil hominin specimens with associated upper and lower jaws, KNM-WT 15000 (Homo erectus sensu lato) and Sts 52 (Australopithecus africanus), as well as two non-associated specimens of Paranthropus boisei, the maxilla of OH 5 and the Peninj mandible. We find that the shape differences between the predictions and the original fossil specimens are in the range of variation within genera or species and therefore are consistent with their known affinity. Our approach can provide a reference against which intraspecific variation of extinct species can be assessed. We show that our method predicts arcade shapes reliably even if the target shape is not represented in the reference sample. We find that in extant hominoids, the amount of within-taxon variation in dental arcade shape often overlaps with the amount of between-taxon shape variation. This implies that whereas a large difference in dental arcade shape between two individuals typically suggests that they belong to different species or even genera, a small shape difference does not necessarily imply conspecificity. (...)

     
     

 

 


Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca