Aggiornamento 18 febbraio

  Corema album archaeobotanical remains in western Mediterranean basin. Assessing fruit consumption during Upper Palaeolithic in Cova de les Cendres (Alicante, Spain), di C. M. Martínez-Varea et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 207, 1 March 2019, Pages 1-12

Information about plant gathering by Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in Europe is scarce because of the problems of preservation of plant remains in archaeological sites and due to the lack of application of archaebotanical analysis in many of them. Botanical macroremains –wood charcoal, seeds, fruits, leaves, etc. - provide information not only about palaeoeconomy of hunter-gatherers, but also about climate, landscape and vegetation dynamics. In Gravettian and Solutrean levels of Cova de les Cendres (Alicante, Spain), Corema album pyrenes (Empetraceae or crowberries family) have been identified. On the contrary, wood charcoal of this species has not been documented among the remains of firewood. This differential presence of plant organs, together with the nutritional value of its fruits, which is presented here, make us hypothesize the systematic gathering of C. album fruits for human consumption. They have a high content in vitamin C, as well as potassium, magnesium and copper. Corema album (camariña) is a unique species, nowadays in danger of extinction. Its main population is located on the Atlantic coast of Iberian Peninsula, but in 1996 a small population was discovered on the Mediterranean Iberian coast (Benidorm, Spain). Archaeobotanical data from Cova de les Cendres (Teulada-Moraira, Spain) presented here point to a larger population of camariña during Upper Palaeolithic on the coast of Alicante. The harsh climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum during Solutrean period, with colder temperatures and aridity increase, could explain the reduction of the presence of C. album remains until its absence in Magdalenian. The climatic amelioration during Upper Magdalenian did not mean the recovery of camariña population in the Moraira headland area. Probably, the rising of the sea level would affect them destroying its dune habitat.

  Hominin vertebrae and upper limb bone fossils from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa (1998–2003 excavations), di T. Rayne Pickering, J. L. Heaton, R. J. Clarke, D. Stratford, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue 3, March 2019, Pages 459-480

We employed taphonomic methods to describe postmortem damage observed on the fossils. We used osteometric tools and measurements to generate quantitative descriptions, which were added to qualitative descriptions of the fossils. These observations were then interpreted using published data on the same skeletal elements from extant and extinct hominoid taxa.
Six of the fossils carry carnivore tooth marks. Two vertebrae show morphologies that are consistent with fully developed lordosis of the lumbar spine, but which are not completely consistent with bipedal loading of the same intensity and/or frequency as reflected in the lumbars of modern humans. A clavicle shows a combination of humanlike and apelike features, the latter of which would have endowed its hominin with good climbing abilities. When combined, analyses of fragmentary radius and ulna fossils yield more ambiguous results.
The new fossil collection presents a mix of bipedal and climbing features. It is unclear whether this mix indicates that all Sterkfontein hominins of >2.0 Ma were terrestrial bipeds who retained adaptations for climbing or whether the collection samples two differently adapted, coeval hominins, Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus prometheus, both of which are represented at Sterkfontein by skull remains. Regardless, the significant frequency of tooth‐marked fossils in the sample might indicate that predation was a selection pressure that maintained climbing adaptations in at least some Sterkfontein hominins of this period.

  Variation among the Dmanisi hominins: Multiple taxa or one species?, di G. P. Rightmire, A. Margvelashvili, D. Lordkipanidze, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue 3, March 2019, Pages 481-495

There is continuing controversy over the number of taxa documented by the Dmanisi hominins. Variation may reflect age and sex differences within a single population. Alternatively, two (or more) distinct species may be present. Our null hypothesis states that just one population is represented at the site.
We assess the likely sources of variation in endocranial capacity, craniofacial and mandibular morphology, and the expression of characters related to aging and sex dimorphism. We use the coefficient of variation and a modified version of Levene's test for equal variances to compare trait variation at Dmanisi with that in fossil hominins and modern Homo sapiens from Africa.
Skull 5 presents a low, massive vault, and a muzzle-like lower face. Other individuals have larger brains and more globular vaults. Despite such variation, the five crania share numerous features. All of the mandibles possess marginal tubercles, mandibular tori, and a distinctive patterning of mental foramina. Relative variation at Dmanisi is comparable to that in selected reference groups. Further growth anticipated in Skull 3, age-related remodeling affecting the D2600 mandible, pathology, and sex dimorphism can account for much of the interindividual variation observed. The preponderance of evidence supports our null hypothesis.
Sources of the variation within ancient Homo assemblages remain poorly understood. Skull 5 is a very robust male, with a brain smaller than that of both a juvenile (Skull 3) and a probable female (Skull 2). Skull 1 has the largest brain, but cranial superstructures do not clearly mark this individual as male or female. It is likely that the Dmanisi hominins represent a single paleospecies of Homo displaying a pattern of sex dimorphism not seen in living hominids.

  Ages-at-death distribution of the early Pleistocene hominin fossil assemblage from Drimolen (South Africa), di A. Riga, T. Mori, T. Rayne Pickering, J. Moggi-Cecchi, C. G. Menter, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue 3, March 2019, Pages 632-636

A prevailing hypothesis in paleoanthropology is that early Pleistocene hominin bones were accumulated in South African caves by carnivores, which used those shelters, and the trees surrounding them, as refuge and feeding sites. We tested this hypothesis at the site of Drimolen, by comparing its hominin age-at-death distribution to that of the nearby and roughly contemporaneous site of Swartkrans.
We employed standard dental aging systems in order to categorize the Drimolen hominin teeth into age classes of 5 years each. We then compared the age-at-death distribution for Drimolen with the published data available for the Swartkrans hominins.
Age-at-death distributions indicate that the age category “young adults” is the best represented age category at Swartkrans and the most poorly represented one at Drimolen. Moreover, Drimolen has a preponderance of infant specimens. Both sites have a low frequency of old adult specimens.
Differences observed in frequencies of the age-at-death categories suggest different mechanisms of hominin skeletal accumulation at Drimolen and Swartkrans. Swartkrans' frequency curve reflects mortality in a population subjected to predation and is thus consistent with the carnivore-accumulating hypothesis. In contrast, the Drimolen curve is similar to that of wild populations of living apes. Living primates have been observed exploiting caves as sleeping shelters, for nutritional, security, drinking, and thermoregulatory purposes. We suggest that similar cave use by Pleistocene hominins can explain, in large part, the accumulation of hominin bones at Drimolen. Such a conclusion is another illustration of the growing awareness that a “one-size-fits-all” taphonomic model for South African early Pleistocene hominin sites is probably insufficient.

  Close companions: Early evidence for dogs in northeast Jordan and the potential impact of new hunting methods, di L. Yeomans, L. Martin, T. Richter, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 53, March 2019, Pages 161-173

Current evidence suggests domestications of the dog were incipient developments in many areas of the world. In southwest Asia this process took place in the Late Epipalaeolithic Natufian (~14,500–11,600 cal BP) with the earliest evidence originating from the Mediterranean zone of the southern Levant. This paper presents new data for the importance of early domestic dogs to human groups in the region beyond this ‘core’ area where the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene environment is usually thought of as less favourable for human occupation. By the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A it is demonstrated that dogs were living alongside humans in significant numbers. Most discussions of early domestic dogs assume that these animals would have facilitated the hunting of larger prey following the innate behavioural traits of their wolf ancestors. This paper suggests that the benefits of hunting with dogs could also extend to the capture of smaller prey. An increase in the hunting of such animals, as part of the broad-spectrum revolution, was not necessarily a response limited to resource reduction in the Late Pleistocene and factors such as new hunting methods need consideration.

  Population dynamics and socio-spatial organization of the Aurignacian: Scalable quantitative demographic data for western and central Europe, di I. Schmidt, A. Zimmermann, February 13, 2019, doi: - open access -

Demographic estimates are presented for the Aurignacian techno-complex (~42,000 to 33,000 y calBP) and discussed in the context of socio-spatial organization of hunter-gatherer populations. Results of the analytical approach applied estimate a mean of 1,500 persons (upper limit: 3,300; lower limit: 800) for western and central Europe. The temporal and spatial analysis indicates an increase of the population during the Aurignacian as well as marked regional differences in population size and density. Demographic increase and patterns of socio-spatial organization continue during the subsequent early Gravettian period. We introduce the concept of Core Areas and Extended Areas as informed analytical spatial scales, which are evaluated against additional chronological and archaeological data. Lithic raw material transport and personal ornaments serve as correlates for human mobility and connectedness in the interpretative framework of this study. Observed regional differences are set in relation with the new demographic data. Our large-scale approach on Aurignacian population dynamics in Europe suggests that past socio-spatial organization followed socially inherent rules to establish and maintain a functioning social network of extremely low population densities. The data suggest that the network was fully established across Europe during the early phase of the Gravettian, when demographic as well as cultural developments peaked. (...)

  Defining and Characterizing Archaeological Quartzite: Sedimentary and Metamorphic Processes in the Lithic Assemblages of El Habario and El Arteu (Cantabrian Mountains, Northern Spain), di A. Prieto, I. Yusta, A. Arrizabalaga, "Archaeometry", Volume 61, Issue 1, February 2019, Pages 14-30 - open access -

Quartzite was the second most-often used lithic raw material in Europe in the Palaeolithic. However, this rock has not been characterized fully from the geo-archaeological point of view. This study characterizes, defines and determines types of quartzite in northern Spain through a methodology that integrates petrography, digital image processing and X-ray fluorescence. As a methodological foundation for the characterization of the material, it aims to open the possibility of discovering mechanisms of mobility, selection and management of quartzite by prehistoric societies. The types determined, based on the petrogenesis of the material, enable a better understanding of the archaeological sites of El Arteu and El Habario in the context of northern Spain in the Middle Palaeolithic. (...)

  Were Acheulean Bifaces Deliberately Made Symmetrical? Archaeological and Experimental Evidence, di C. Shipton, C. Clarkson, R. Cobden, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 29, Issue 1, February 2019, pp. 65-79

Acheulean bifaces dominate the archaeological record for 1.5 million years. The meaning behind the often symmetrical forms of these tools is the topic of considerable debate, with explanations ranging from effectiveness as a cutting tool to sexual display. Some, however, question whether the symmetry seen in many Acheulean bifaces is intentional at all, with suggestions that it is merely the result of a bias in hominin perception or an inevitable consequence of bifacial flaking. In this paper we address the issue of intention in biface symmetry. First, we use transmission chain experiments designed to track symmetry trends in the replication of biface outlines. Secondly, we use archaeological data to assess the symmetry of Acheulean bifaces from British, East African and Indian assemblages in relation to reduction intensity; the degree of bifaciality; and the symmetry of four Middle Palaeolithic bifacial core assemblages. Thirdly, we look at specific examples of the reduction sequences that produced symmetrical Acheulean cleavers at the sites of Olorgesailie CL1-1, Isinya, Chirki, Morgaon and Bhimbetka. All three lines of evidence support the notion that symmetry was a deliberately imposed property of Acheulean bifaces and not an epiphenomenon of hominin visual perception or bifacial technology.

  Subsistence strategies throughout the African Middle Pleistocene: Faunal evidence for behavioral change and continuity across the Earlier to Middle Stone Age transition, di G. M. Smith, K. Ruebens, S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, T. E. Steele, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 1-20

The African Middle Pleistocene (781–126 ka) is a key period for human evolution, witnessing both the origin of the modern human lineage and the lithic turnover from Earlier Stone Age (ESA) Acheulean bifacial tools to Middle Stone Age (MSA) prepared core and point technologies. This ESA/MSA transition is interpreted as representing changing landscape use with greater foraging distances and more active hunting strategies. So far, these behavioral inferences are mainly based on the extensive stone tool record, with only a minor role for site-based and regional faunal studies. To provide additional insights into these behavioral changes, this paper details a pan-African metastudy of 63 Middle Pleistocene faunal assemblages from 40 sites. A hierarchical classification system identified 26 well-contextualized assemblages with quantitative paleontological and/or zooarcheological data available for detailed comparative analyses and generalized linear mixed modeling. Modeling of ungulate body size classes structured around three dimensions (context, antiquity and technology) illustrates no one-to-one correlation between changes in lithic technology (Acheulean vs. MSA) and changes in prey representation. All assessed faunal assemblages are dominated by medium-sized bovids, and variations between smaller and larger body size classes are linked to site context (cave vs. open-air), with an increase in cave sites during the Middle Pleistocene. Current data do not signal a broadening of the hominin dietary niche during the Middle Pleistocene; no meaningful variation was visible in the exploitation of smaller-sized bovids or dangerous game, with coastal resources exploited when available. Proportions of anthropogenic bone surface modifications, and hence carcass processing intensity, do increase over time although more zooarcheological data is crucial before making behavioral inferences. Overall, this paper illustrates the potential of broad scale comparative faunal analyses to provide additional insights into processes of human behavioral evolution and the mechanisms underlying patterns of technological, chronological and contextual change.

  New data for the Early Upper Paleolithic of Kostenki (Russia), di R. Dinnis et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 21-40

Several questions remain regarding the timing and nature of the Neanderthal-anatomically modern human (AMH) transition in Europe. The situation in Eastern Europe is generally less clear due to the relatively few sites and a dearth of reliable radiocarbon dates. Claims have been made for both notably early AMH and notably late Neanderthal presence, as well as for early AMH (Aurignacian) dispersal into the region from Central/Western Europe. The Kostenki-Borshchevo complex (European Russia) of Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) sites offers high-quality data to address these questions. Here we revise the chronology and cultural status of the key sites of Kostenki 17 and Kostenki 14. The Kostenki 17/II lithic assemblage shares important features with Proto-Aurignacian material, strengthening an association with AMHs. New radiocarbon dates for Kostenki 17/II of ∼41–40 ka cal BP agree with new dates for the recently excavated Kostenki 14/IVw, which shows some similarities to Kostenki 17/II. Dates of ≥41 ka cal BP from other Kostenki sites cannot be linked to diagnostic archaeological material, and therefore cannot be argued to date AMH occupation. Kostenki 14's Layer in Volcanic Ash assemblage, on the other hand, compares to Early Aurignacian material. New radiocarbon dates targeting diagnostic lithics date to 39–37 ka cal BP. Overall, Kostenki's early EUP is in good agreement with the archaeological record further west. Our results are therefore consistent with models predicting interregional penecontemporaneity of diagnostic EUP assemblages. Most importantly, our work highlights ongoing challenges for reliably radiocarbon dating the period. Dates for Kostenki 14 agreed with the samples' chronostratigraphic positions, but standard pre-treatment methods consistently produced incorrect ages for Kostenki 17/II. Extraction of hydroxyproline from bone collagen using preparative high-performance liquid chromatography, however, yielded results consistent with the samples' chronostratigraphic position and with the layer's archaeological contents. This suggests that for some sites compound-specific techniques are required to build reliable radiocarbon chronologies.

  Excavation, reconstruction and taphonomy of the StW 573 Australopithecus prometheus skeleton from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa, di R. J. Clarke, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 41-53

The first known fossil of an adult Australopithecus was the crushed cranium TM 1511 found by Robert Broom at Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa, on the 17th of August, 1936 (Broom, 1936). It had been blasted out of the concrete-like cave infill by lime miners. The deposit proved so rich in fossil faunal remains that Broom continued to investigate that quarry location, and in ensuing years he recovered many more Australopithecus fossils (Broom and Schepers, 1946). At that time, Broom (1936) considered that the Sterkfontein fossils were of Upper Pleistocene age. It was not until January 1945 that a fossil from a lower cavern would suggest to him that Sterkfontein dated to the Pliocene. This happened when the French prehistorian Abbe Breuil took to Broom the anterior portion of an occluding upper and lower dentition of a hyaena which had been given to Breuil by Dr Helmut Kurt Silberberg, owner of a Johannesburg art gallery. Silberberg had collected the fossil around 1942 from a lower cave at Sterkfontein, now named after him as the Silberberg Grotto (Tobias, 1979). (...)

  The meta-group social network of early humans: A temporal–spatial assessment of group size at FLK Zinj (Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania), di M. Domínguez-Rodrigo, L. Cobo-Sánchez, J. Aramendi, A. Gidna, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 54-66

Humans are the only primates that maintain regular inter-group relationships and meta-group social networks that enable the inter-group flow of individuals. This is the basis of the band/tribe concept in the anthropology of modern foragers. The present work is a theoretical approach to the development of analytical tools to understand group size and the temporal scale of site occupation in the archaeological record. We selected FLK Zinj as one of the oldest examples of a taphonomically-supported anthropogenic site in which both variables (group size and time) could be modelled using a combination of modern forager regression estimates from their camp sizes and estimates derived from the combined use of modern African foragers' meat consumption rates per day per capita during the dry season and minimum estimates of flesh yields provided by the carcass parts preserved at FLK Zinj. This approach provides the basis for a testable hypothesis which should be further tested in other Oldowan sites. An estimate of 18–28 individuals occupying FLK Zinj was made, which is similar to the estimated 16 individuals of one of the 1.5 Ma Ileret Homo erectus footprint trails. It also shows a similar proportional distribution to Dunbar's equations (group size to neocortex ratio) as documented in modern foragers, which suggest that most of the social network of H. erectus was in the meta-group level as is the case of modern foragers. Irrespective of the range of variation discussed for both variables (group size and length of time represented), it is argued that neither small estimates of time nor small group sizes can account for the formation of FLK Zinj.

  The bony labyrinth of StW 573 (“Little Foot”): Implications for early hominin evolution and paleobiology, di A. Beaudet et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 67-80

Because of its exceptional degree of preservation and its geological age of ~3.67 Ma, StW 573 makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of early hominin evolution and paleobiology. The morphology of the bony labyrinth has the potential to provide information about extinct primate taxonomic diversity, phylogenetic relationships and locomotor behaviour. In this context, we virtually reconstruct and comparatively assess the bony labyrinth morphology in StW 573. As comparative material, we investigate 17 southern African hominin specimens from Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Makapansgat (plus published data from two specimens from Kromdraai B), attributed to Australopithecus, early Homo or Paranthropus, as well as 10 extant human and 10 extant chimpanzee specimens. We apply a landmark-based geometric morphometric method for quantitatively assessing labyrinthine morphology. Morphology of the inner ear in StW 573 most closely resembles that of another Australopithecus individual from Sterkfontein, StW 578, recovered from the Jacovec Cavern. Within the limits of our sample, we observe a certain degree of morphological variation in the Australopithecus assemblage of Sterkfontein Member 4. Cochlear morphology in StW 573 is similar to that of other Australopithecus as well as to Paranthropus specimens included in this study, but it is substantially different from early Homo. Interestingly, the configuration of semicircular canals in Paranthropus specimens from Swartkrans differs from other fossil hominins, including StW 573. Given the role of the cochlea in the sensory-driven interactions with the surrounding environment, our results offer new perspectives for interpreting early hominin behaviour and ecology. Finally, our study provides additional evidence for discussing the phylogenetic polarity of labyrinthine traits in southern African hominins.

  New permanent teeth from Gran Dolina-TD6 (Sierra de Atapuerca). The bearing of Homo antecessor on the evolutionary scenario of Early and Middle Pleistocene Europe, di M. Martinón-Torres et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 93-117

Here we analyze the unpublished hominin dental remains recovered from the late Early Pleistocene Gran Dolina-TD6.2 level of the Sierra de Atapuerca (northern Spain), as well as provide a reassessment of the whole TD6.2 hominin dental sample. Comparative descriptions of the outer enamel surface (OES) and the enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) are provided. Overall, the data presented here support the taxonomic validity of Homo antecessor, since this species presents a unique mosaic of traits. Homo antecessor displays several primitive features for the genus Homo as well as some traits exclusively shared with Early and Middle Pleistocene Eurasian hominins. Some of these Eurasian traits were retained by the Middle Pleistocene hominins of Europe, and subsequently became the typical condition of the Neanderthal lineage. Although other skeletal parts present resemblances with Homo sapiens, TD6.2 teeth do not show any synapomorphy with modern humans. In addition, TD6.2 teeth can be well differentiated from those of Asian Homo erectus. The dental evidence is compatible with previous hypothesis about H. antecessor belonging to the basal population from which H. sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and Denisovans emerged. Future findings and additional research may help to elucidate the precise phylogenetic link among them.

  One size does not fit all: Group size and the late middle Pleistocene prehistoric archive, di A. Malinsky-Buller, E. Hovers, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 118-132

The role of demography is often suggested to be a key factor in both biological and cultural evolution. Recent research has shown that the linkage between population size and cultural evolution is not straightforward and emerges from the interplay of many demographic, economic, social and ecological variables. Formal modelling has yielded interesting insights into the complex relationship between population structure, intergroup connectedness, and magnitude and extent of population extinctions. Such studies have highlighted the importance of effective (as opposed to census) population size in transmission processes. At the same time, it remained unclear how such insights can be applied to material culture phenomena in the prehistoric record, especially for deeper prehistory. In this paper we approach the issue of population sizes during the time of the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition through the proxy of regional trajectories of lithic technological change, identified in the archaeological records from Africa, the Levant, Southwestern and Northwestern Europe. Our discussion of the results takes into consideration the constraints inherent to the archaeological record of deep time – e.g., preservation bias, time-averaging and the incomplete nature of the archaeological record – and of extrapolation from discrete archaeological case studies to an evolutionary time scale. We suggest that technological trajectories of change over this transitional period reflect the robustness of transmission networks. Our results show differences in the pattern and rate of cultural transmission in these regions, from which we infer that information networks, and their underlying effective population sizes, also differed.

  Lithic raw material acquisition and use by early Homo sapiens at Skhul, Israel, di R. Ekshtain, C. A. Tryon, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 127, February 2019, Pages 149-170

The site of Skhul in Israel has featured prominently in discussions about the early presence of Homo sapiens outside of Africa since its excavation in the 1930s. Until now, attention has been primarily focused on the site's fossil hominins and evidence for symbolic behavior in the form of burials and rare artifacts such as pierced shells and pigment objects. We present here the results of renewed analysis of the lithic artifacts from Skhul drawn from archival collections in the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel. Although lithic artifacts form the majority of the archaeological record from the site, they have rarely been the subject of comprehensive study. Our analyses of raw material selection, use and transport combined with technological analyses of artifact production methods (1) indicate selective transport to the site of large flakes, retouched pieces, and particularly Levallois points from non-local sources, and (2) demonstrate substantial variability in raw material procurement that fails to indicate clear differences in landscape use between H. sapiens and Neanderthals.

  On the shape of things: A geometric morphometrics approach to investigate Aurignacian group membership, di L. Doyon, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 101, January 2019, Pages 99-114

The manufacture of composite projectile technology requires the production and assemblage of tightly fitted parts designed to fulfill a number of distinct functions. Each part combines a number of techno-functional units, and various processes may be responsible for the shape variability of these units. In order to investigate the relative contribution of each process to the overall variability of a projectile implement, one must identify the point of demarcation between its techno-functional units. In the present paper, the concept of shape modularity is introduced to precisely identify this locus. The application of geometric morphometrics and shape modularity to the study of two Aurignacian osseous projectile point types, i.e., split- and massive-based points, reveals interesting patterns. On both types, the maximum width delimits the distal and proximal techno-functional units of these objects. When focusing on the morphometric variability and the geographic distribution of the implements' proximal unit, the eight shapes identified for split-based points are found over vast regions of Europe. On the other hand, the two proximal shapes defined for massive-based points show a pattern of local, or regional, aggregation. These proximal shapes were likely considered fit for hafting and hunting by the prehistoric populations who reproduced them, and they are interpreted as a proxy for the socially shared rules of production that guided the manufacture of these tool types. They could therefore be used in future studies that aim to identify group membership amongst the Aurignacian metapopulation and the extent of their interactions.

  Geometric morphometrics and finite elements analysis: Assessing the functional implications of differences in craniofacial form in the hominin fossil record, di P. O'Higgins, L. C. Fitton, R. M. Godinho, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 101, January 2019, Pages 159-168

The study of morphological variation in the hominin fossil record has been transformed in recent years by the advent of high resolution 3D imaging combined with improved geometric morphometric (GM) toolkits. In parallel, increasing numbers of studies have applied finite elements analysis (FEA) to the study of skeletal mechanics in fossil and extant hominoid material. While FEA studies of fossils are becoming ever more popular they are constrained by the difficulties of reconstruction and by the uncertainty that inevitably attaches to the estimation of forces and material properties. Adding to these modelling difficulties it is still unclear how FEA analyses should best deal with species variation. Comparative studies of skeletal form and function can be further advanced by applying tools from the GM toolkit to the inputs and outputs of FEA studies. First they facilitate virtual reconstruction of damaged material and can be used to rapidly create 3D models of skeletal structures. Second, GM methods allow variation to be accounted for in FEA by warping models to represent mean and extreme forms of interest. Third, GM methods can be applied to compare FEA outputs – the ways in which skeletal elements deform when loaded. Model comparisons are hampered by differences in material properties, forces and size among models but how deformations from FEA are impacted by these parameters is increasingly well understood, allowing them to be taken into account in comparing FEA outputs. In this paper we review recent advances in the application of GM in relation to FEA studies of craniofacial form in hominins, providing examples from our recent work and a critical appraisal of the state of the art.

  Humeral anatomy of the KNM-ER 47000 upper limb skeleton from Ileret, Kenya: Implications for taxonomic identification, di M. R. Lague et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 126, January 2019, Pages 24-38

KNM-ER 47000 is a fossil hominin upper limb skeleton from the Koobi Fora Formation, Kenya (FwJj14E, Area 1A) that includes portions of the scapula, humerus, ulna, and hand. Dated to ~1.52 Ma, the skeleton could potentially belong to one of multiple hominin species that have been documented in the Turkana Basin during this time, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Paranthropus boisei. Although the skeleton lacks associated craniodental material, the partial humerus (described here) preserves anatomical regions (i.e., distal diaphysis, elbow joint) that are informative for taxonomic identification among early Pleistocene hominins. In this study, we analyze distal diaphyseal morphology and the shape of the elbow region to determine whether KNM-ER 47000 can be confidently attributed to a particular species. The morphology of the KNM-ER 47000 humerus (designated KNM-ER 47000B) is compared to that of other early Pleistocene hominin fossil humeri via the application of multivariate ordination techniques to both two-dimensional landmark data (diaphysis) and scale-free linear shape data (elbow). Distance metrics reflecting shape dissimilarity between KNM-ER 47000B and other fossils (and species average shapes) are assessed in the context of intraspecific variation within modern hominid species (Homo sapiens, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, Pongo pygmaeus). Our comparative analyses strongly support attribution of KNM-ER 47000 to P. boisei. Compared to four other partial skeletons that have (justifiably or not) been attributed to P. boisei, KNM-ER 47000 provides the most complete picture of upper limb anatomy in a single individual. The taxonomic identification of KNM-ER 47000 makes the skeleton an important resource for testing future hypotheses related to P. boisei upper limb function and the taxonomy of isolated early Pleistocene hominin remains.

  Cross-sectional properties of the humeral diaphysis of Paranthropus boisei: Implications for upper limb function, di M. R. Lague et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 126, January 2019, Pages 51-70

A ~1.52 Ma adult upper limb skeleton of Paranthropus boisei (KNM-ER 47000) recovered from the Koobi Fora Formation, Kenya (FwJj14E, Area 1A) includes most of the distal half of a right humerus (designated KNM-ER 47000B). Natural transverse fractures through the diaphysis of KNM-ER 470000B provide unobstructed views of cortical bone at two sections typically used for analyzing cross-sectional properties of hominids (i.e., 35% and 50% of humerus length from the distal end). Here we assess cross-sectional properties of KNM-ER 47000B and two other P. boisei humeri (OH 80-10, KNM-ER 739). Cross-sectional properties for P. boisei associated with bending/torsional strength (section moduli) and relative cortical thickness (%CA; percent cortical area) are compared to those reported for nonhuman hominids, AL 288-1 (Australopithecus afarensis), and multiple species of fossil and modern Homo. Polar section moduli (Zp) are assessed relative to a mechanically relevant measure of body size (i.e., the product of mass [M] and humerus length [HL]). At both diaphyseal sections, P. boisei exhibits %CA that is high among extant hominids (both human and nonhuman) and similar to that observed among specimens of Pleistocene Homo. High values for Zp relative to size (M × HL) indicate that P. boisei had humeral bending strength greater than that of modern humans and Neanderthals and similar to that of great apes, A. afarensis, and Homo habilis. Such high humeral strength is consistent with other skeletal features of P. boisei (reviewed here) that suggest routine use of powerful upper limbs for arboreal climbing.

  Hominin diversity and high environmental variability in the Okote Member, Koobi Fora Formation, Kenya, di R. Bobe, S. Carvalho, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 126, January 2019, Pages 91-105

The newly described partial skeleton of Paranthropus boisei KNM-ER 47000 as well as the FwJj14E Ileret footprints provide new evidence on the paleobiology and diversity of hominins from the Okote Member of the Koobi Fora Formation at East Turkana about 1.5 Ma. To better understand the ecological context of the Okote hominins, it is necessary to broaden the geographical focus of the analysis to include the entire Omo-Turkana ecosystem, and the temporal focus to encompass the early Pleistocene. Previous work has shown that important changes in the regional vegetation occurred after 2 Ma, and that there was a peak in mammalian turnover and diversity close to 1.8 Ma. This peak in diversity included the Hominini, with the species P. boisei, Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo erectus co-occurring at around 1.8 Ma. There is considerable debate about whether H. habilis and H. rudolfensis indeed constitute separate species, but even if we consider them both as H. habilis sensu lato, the co-occurrence of three hominin species at any one time and place is rather unusually high diversity for hominin standards (even if not so for other mammalian groups such as suids, bovids, or cercopithecids). Here we use mammalian faunal abundance data to place confidence intervals on first and last appearances of hominin species in the early Pleistocene of the Omo-Turkana Basin, and use these estimates to discuss hominin diversity in the Okote Member. We suggest that in the early Pleistocene a wide range of depositional environments and vegetation types, along with a high frequency of volcanism, likely maintained high levels of environmental variability both in time and space across the Omo-Turkana region, and provided ecological opportunities for the coexistence of at least three hominin species alongside a diverse mammalian fauna.

  The endocast of StW 573 (“Little Foot”) and hominin brain evolution, di A. Beaudet et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 126, January 2019, Pages 112-123

One of the most crucial debates in human paleoneurology concerns the timing and mode of the emergence of the derived cerebral features in the hominin fossil record. Given its exceptional degree of preservation and geological age (i.e., 3.67 Ma), StW 573 (‘Little Foot’) has the potential to shed new light on hominin brain evolution. Here we present the first detailed comparative description of the external neuroanatomy of StW 573. The endocast was virtually reconstructed and compared to ten southern African hominin specimens from Makapansgat, Malapa, Sterkfontein and Swartkrans attributed to Australopithecus and Paranthropus. We apply an automatic method for the detection of sulcal and vascular imprints. The endocranial surface of StW 573 is crushed and plastically deformed in a number of locations. The uncorrected and therefore minimum cranial capacity estimate is 408 cm3 and plots at the lower end of Australopithecus variation. The endocast of StW 573 approximates the rostrocaudally elongated and dorsoventrally flattened endocranial shape seen in Australopithecus and displays a distinct left occipital petalia. StW 573 and the comparative early hominin specimens share a similar sulcal pattern in the inferior region of the frontal lobes that also resembles the pattern observed in extant chimpanzees. The presumed lunate sulcus in StW 573 is located above the sigmoid sinus, as in extant chimpanzees, while it is more caudally positioned in SK 1585 and StW 505. The middle branch of the middle meningeal vessels derives from the anterior branch, as in MH 1, MLD 37/38, StW 578. Overall, the cortical anatomy of StW 573 displays a less derived condition compared to the late Pliocene/early Pleistocene southern African hominins (e.g., StW 505, SK 1585).

  Interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans: Remarks and methodological dangers of a dental calculus microbiome analysis, di P. Charlier, F. Gaultier, G. Héry-Arnaud, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 126, January 2019, Pages 124-126

Since at least the 1980s, it has been known that archaeological dental calculus contains preserved cellular structures of oral bacteria, but it was only recently discovered that it is also a robust and long-term reservoir of well-preserved DNA (Adler et al., 2013). Advances in ancient DNA now enable direct comparisons between ancient and modern oral microbial communities. Recently, Weyrich et al. (2017) suggested that preserved dental calculus could be a useful source of information for the reconstruction of Neanderthal behavior, diet, or disease. The authors succeeded in deeply sequencing five Neanderthal individual dental calculus samples, retrieving in three of them (one individual did not provide any genetic data, another was omitted because of possible contamination with modern humans) 93.76% of bacterial sequences, 5.91% archaeal sequences, 0.27% eukaryotic sequences, and 0.06% viral sequences. Shotgun-sequencing of ancient DNA from these specimens brought to light regional differences in Neanderthal ecology: For instance, at Spy Cave, Belgium, a heavily meat-based diet (including woolly rhinoceros and mouflon) was evident, which is characteristic of a steppe environment, whereas at El Sidrón Cave, Spain, no meat eating was detected, but mushrooms, pine nuts, and moss were eaten, reflecting forest gathering. Weyrich et al. (2017) suggested that differences in diet were linked to an overall shift in the oral microbiota, and proposed that meat consumption may have contributed to substantial variation within Neanderthal microbiota. From these dental microbiome data, and notably from phylogenetic analyses of an Archaea species named Methanobrevibacter oralis (10.2 × depth of coverage, the oldest draft microbial genome generated to date, at ~48 ka), the authors inferred interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals. Based on the molecular clock and a comparison between M. oralis subsp. neandertalis, isolated from a Neanderthal genome, and M. oralis, isolated from modern humans, they concluded that the divergence of these microbial subspecies occurred 143–112 ka, i.e., much later than the divergence between Homo sapiens and H. neanderthalensis (450–700 ka; Stringer, 2016). Based on these dates, Weyrich et al. (2017) concluded that these microorganisms could have been transferred between these hominins during interactions subsequent to their divergence, leading to the inference that modern humans and Neanderthals interbred. (...)

  Timing of archaic hominin occupation of Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, di Z. Jacobs et alii, "Nature", Volume 565, Issue 7741, 31 January 2019, pp. 594–599

The Altai region of Siberia was inhabited for parts of the Pleistocene by at least two groups of archaic hominins—Denisovans and Neanderthals. Denisova Cave, uniquely, contains stratified deposits that preserve skeletal and genetic evidence of both hominins, artefacts made from stone and other materials, and a range of animal and plant remains. The previous site chronology is based largely on radiocarbon ages for fragments of bone and charcoal that are up to 50,000 years old; older ages of equivocal reliability have been estimated from thermoluminescence and palaeomagnetic analyses of sediments, and genetic analyses of hominin DNA. Here we describe the stratigraphic sequences in Denisova Cave, establish a chronology for the Pleistocene deposits and associated remains from optical dating of the cave sediments, and reconstruct the environmental context of hominin occupation of the site from around 300,000 to 20,000 years ago.

· Le tante occupazioni della grotta di Denisova, "Le Scienze", 31 gennaio 2019

  Age estimates for hominin fossils and the onset of the Upper Palaeolithic at Denisova Cave, di K. Douka et alii, "Nature", Volume 565, Issue 7741, 31 January 2019, pp. 640–644

Denisova Cave in the Siberian Altai (Russia) is a key site for understanding the complex relationships between hominin groups that inhabited Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene epoch. DNA sequenced from human remains found at this site has revealed the presence of a hitherto unknown hominin group, the Denisovans1,2, and high-coverage genomes from both Neanderthal and Denisovan fossils provide evidence for admixture between these two populations3. Determining the age of these fossils is important if we are to understand the nature of hominin interaction, and aspects of their cultural and subsistence adaptations. Here we present 50 radiocarbon determinations from the late Middle and Upper Palaeolithic layers of the site. We also report three direct dates for hominin fragments and obtain a mitochondrial DNA sequence for one of them. We apply a Bayesian age modelling approach that combines chronometric (radiocarbon, uranium series and optical ages), stratigraphic and genetic data to calculate probabilistically the age of the human fossils at the site. Our modelled estimate for the age of the oldest Denisovan fossil suggests that this group was present at the site as early as 195,000 years ago (at 95.4% probability). All Neanderthal fossils—as well as Denisova 11, the daughter of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan4—date to between 80,000 and 140,000 years ago. The youngest Denisovan dates to 52,000–76,000 years ago. Direct radiocarbon dating of Upper Palaeolithic tooth pendants and bone points yielded the earliest evidence for the production of these artefacts in northern Eurasia, between 43,000 and 49,000 calibrated years before present (taken as AD 1950). On the basis of current archaeological evidence, it may be assumed that these artefacts are associated with the Denisovan population. It is not currently possible to determine whether anatomically modern humans were involved in their production, as modern-human fossil and genetic evidence of such antiquity has not yet been identified in the Altai region.

  Modern humans replaced Neanderthals in southern Spain 44,000 years ago, 30-JAN-2019

A study carried out in Bajondillo Cave (in the town of Torremolinos, in the province of Malaga) by an international team made up of researchers from Spain, Japan and the U.K. revealed that modern humans replaced Neanderthals 44,000 years ago. This study, published today in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution and in which University of Cordoba and University of Granada scientists participated, demonstrates that replacing Neanderthals for modern humans in southern Iberia is an early, not late, occurrence, in the context of Western Europe. That is to say it happened 5,000 years before previously thought up until now. Western Europe is a key area for dating when modern humans replaced Neanderthals. The first ones are associated with Mousterian industries (named after a Neanderthal archaeological site in Le Moustier, France), and the second ones with Aurignacians (named after another French archaeological site in Aurignac) that followed. To date, radiocarbon dating available in Western Europe dated the end of this replacement around 39,000 years ago, even though in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula Mousterian industries (and for that matter, Neanderthal ones) continued to exist and would until 32,000 years ago. In this area there is no evidence of the early Aurignacians that is documented in Europe. (...)

  Archaic humans moved into Siberian cave 100,000 years earlier than thought, 30 January 2019

Over the course of five years, multi-disciplinary teams of scientists from the UK, Russia, Australia, Canada and Germany worked on a detailed investigation to date the archaeological site of Denisova cave. Situated in the foothills of Siberia's Altai Mountains, it is the only site in the world known to have been occupied by both archaic human groups (hominins) at various times. Two new studies published in Nature now put a timeline on when Neanderthals and their enigmatic cousins, the Denisovans, were present at the site and the environmental conditions they faced before going extinct. Denisova cave first came to worldwide attention in 2010, with the publication of the genome obtained from the fingerbone of a girl belonging to a group of humans not previously identified in the palaeoanthropological record; the Denisovans. Further revelations followed on the genetic history of Denisovans and Altai Neanderthals, based on analysis of the few and fragmentary hominin remains. Last year, a bone fragment yielded the genome of the daughter of Neanderthal and Denisovan parents - the first direct evidence of interbreeding between two archaic hominin groups. (...)

  Nessun ultimo rifugio per i Neanderthal in Europa, 28 gennaio 2019

I primi esseri umani moderni sarebbero giunti nella penisola iberica fra 45.000 e 43.000 anni fa, ovvero prima – non dopo – l’arrivo nel resto d’Europa. Questa nuova datazione potrebbe implicare che quella parte del continente europeo non sia stata per i Neanderthal il rifugio che, come invece finora ritenuto, avrebbe permesso loro di sopravvivere molto più a lungo rispetto agli altri neanderthaliani europei. È lo scenario ricostruito da Francisco J. Jiménez-Espejo dell’Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra e colleghi, sulla base di una nuova datazione dei reperti scoperti nella grotta di Bajondillo, vicino a Malaga. Lo studio è pubblicato su “Nature Ecology and Evolution”. La scomparsa dei Neanderthal in quasi tutta l’Europa occidentale è di solito fatta risalire a circa 39.000 anni fa, con l’eccezione delle regioni meridionali della penisola iberica, dove sembrava che la transizione dalla cosiddetta cultura musteriana (caratterizzata da tecniche di scheggiatura della pietra tipicamente associate ai Neanderthal) a quella aurignaziana (con tecniche di scheggiatura più sofisticate, tipiche degli esseri umani moderni), fosse avvenuta circa 32.000 anni fa. (...)

  External ballistics of Pleistocene hand-thrown spears: experimental performance data and implications for human evolution, di A. Milks, D. Parker, M. Pope, "Scientific Reports", volume 9, Article number: 820 (2019), 25 January 2019 - open access -

The appearance of weaponry - technology designed to kill - is a critical but poorly established threshold in human evolution. It is an important behavioural marker representing evolutionary changes in ecology, cognition, language and social behaviours. While the earliest weapons are often considered to be hand-held and consequently short-ranged, the subsequent appearance of distance weapons is a crucial development. Projectiles are seen as an improvement over contact weapons, and are considered by some to have originated only with our own species in the Middle Stone Age and Upper Palaeolithic. Despite the importance of distance weapons in the emergence of full behavioral modernity, systematic experimentation using trained throwers to evaluate the ballistics of thrown spears during flight and at impact is lacking. This paper addresses this by presenting results from a trial of trained javelin athletes, providing new estimates for key performance parameters. Overlaps in distances and impact energies between hand-thrown spears and spearthrowers are evidenced, and skill emerges as a significant factor in successful use. The results show that distance hunting was likely within the repertoire of hunting strategies of Neanderthals, and the resulting behavioural flexibility closely mirrors that of our own species. (...)
  New remains discovered at site of famous Neanderthal ‘flower burial’, di E. Culotta, "Science News", 22 Jan. 2019

For tens of thousands of years, the high ceilings, flat earthen floor, and river view of Shanidar Cave have beckoned to ancient humans. The cave, in the Zagros Mountains of northern Iraq, once sheltered at least 10 Neanderthals, who were unearthed starting in the 1950s. One skeleton had so many injuries that he likely needed help to survive, and another had been dusted with pollen, suggesting someone had laid flowers at the burial. The rare discovery ushered in a new way of thinking about Neanderthals, who until then had often been considered brutes. “Although the body was archaic, the spirit was modern,” excavator Ralph Solecki wrote of Neanderthals, in Science, in 1975. But some scientists doubted the pollen was part of a flower offering, and others questioned whether Neanderthals even buried their dead. In 2014, researchers headed back to Shanidar to re-excavate, and found additional Neanderthal bones. Then, last fall, they unearthed another Neanderthal with a crushed but complete skull and upper thorax, plus both forearms and hands. From 25 to 28 January, scientists will gather at a workshop at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom to discuss what the new finds suggest about Neanderthal views of death. Science caught up with archaeologist and team co-leader Christopher Hunt of Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom to learn more.

  Livre: Sur les pas Lucy. Expéditions en Ethiopie, di Raymonde Bonnefille-Editions Odile Jacob

Voici le récit de Raymonde Bonnefille, une des rares femmes à avoir participé aux expéditions archéologiques et paléontologiques en Éthiopie dans les années 1970. Ses recherches ont été capitales pour la connaissance du milieu dans lequel vivaient les hommes préhistoriques. Son témoignage unique nous fait vivre de l’intérieur cette aventure scientifique qui aboutit à la découverte de la plus célèbre australopithèque, Lucy. Vie quotidienne sur un chantier de prospection, travail de terrain avec les équipes scientifiques française et américaine… cette plongée passionnante nous emmène au cœur des grandes expéditions internationales dans les paysages du Rift est-africain, qui contribuèrent de façon si remarquable à la connaissance des origines de l’Homme. (...)
  A surprisingly early replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in southern Spain, 21-JAN-2019

A new study of Bajondillo Cave (Málaga) by a team of researchers based in Spain, Japan and the UK, coordinated from the Universidad de Sevilla, reveals that modern humans replaced Neanderthals at this site approximately 44,000 years ago. The research, to be published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, shows that the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in southern Iberia began early, rather than late, in comparison to the rest of Western Europe. Western Europe is a key area for understanding the timing of the replacement of Neanderthals by early modern humans (AMH). Typically in Western Europe, late Neanderthals are associated with stone tools belonging to Mousterian industries (named after the Neanderthal site of Le Moustier in France), while the earliest modern humans are associated with succeeding Aurignacian industries (named after the French site of Aurignac). The final replacement of Neanderthals by AMH in western Europe is usually dated to around 39,000 years ago. However, it's claimed that the southern Iberian region documents the late survival of the Mousterian, and therefore Neanderthals, to about 32,000 years ago, with no evidence for the early Aurignacian found elsewhere in Europe. (...)

  First evidence that ancient Europeans were hunting mammoths, 19 January 2019

About 25,000 years ago, ice age hunters in what is now Poland threw a light spear known as a javelin at a mammoth. Now, the discovery in Kraków (Poland) of that javelin, still embedded in the mammoth's rib, has revealed a major surprise: the first evidence that ice age people in Europe used weapons to hunt the giant beasts. The find comes from one of the largest clusters of mammoth bones in Europe. As a result of many years of excavations, archaeologists have discovered the remains of at least 110 mammoths from approx. 25,000 years ago. "Among tens of thousands of bones I came across a damaged mammoth rib. It turned out that a fragment of a flint arrowhead was stuck in it. This is the first such find from the Ice Age in Europe!" - said Dr. Piotr Wojtal from the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals PAS in Kraków. The analyses are conducted jointly with Dr. Jarosław Wilczyński. Wojtal reminds that the scientific community has been discussing for years how our ancestors killed mammoths. According to some researchers, these animals were killed by trickery - chasing them to the pits or towards bluffs, from which they would fall. Others say that people focused on weaker or sick animals. Some think that mammoths were hunted. "We finally have a 'smoking gun', the first direct evidence of how these animals were hunted" - notes the archaeozoologist. So far, similar finds are known only from two Siberian sites. (...)

  Approximate Bayesian computation with deep learning supports a third archaic introgression in Asia and Oceania, di M. Mondal, J. Bertranpetit, O. Lao, "Nature Communications", volume 10, Article number: 246 (2019), 16 January 2019 - open access -

Since anatomically modern humans dispersed Out of Africa, the evolutionary history of Eurasian populations has been marked by introgressions from presently extinct hominins. Some of these introgressions have been identified using sequenced ancient genomes (Neanderthal and Denisova). Other introgressions have been proposed for still unidentified groups using the genetic diversity present in current human populations. We built a demographic model based on deep learning in an Approximate Bayesian Computation framework to infer the evolutionary history of Eurasian populations including past introgression events in Out of Africa populations fitting the current genetic evidence. In addition to the reported Neanderthal and Denisovan introgressions, our results support a third introgression in all Asian and Oceanian populations from an archaic population. This population is either related to the Neanderthal-Denisova clade or diverged early from the Denisova lineage. We propose the use of deep learning methods for clarifying situations with high complexity in evolutionary genomics.

· Antichi fantasmi umani nel DNA moderno, "Le Scienze", 11 febbraio 2019

  Neandertal features of the deciduous and permanent teeth from Portel-Ouest Cave (Ariège, France), di G. Becam, T. Chevalier, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 45-69

We describe 14 unpublished and nine published teeth from the Mousterian level of Portel-Ouest (Ariège, France), dated to 44 ka. In a comparative context, we explore the taxonomical affinities of those teeth with Neandertals and modern humans which are both known to exist at that time. We further make some paleobiological inferences about this human group.
The comparative analysis of Neandertals and modern humans is based on nonmetric traits at the outer enamel surface and the enamel–dentine junction, crown diameters and three‐dimensional (3D) enamel thickness measurements of lower permanent teeth. The crown and roots are explored in detail based on the μCT-scan data to identify the multiple criteria involved in the paleobiological approach.
Nonmetric traits and 3D enamel thickness tend to be more similar to Neandertals than modern humans, notably for C1, P4, and M2 (included in all analyses) as well as volume of the pulp cavity in roots of the anterior permanent teeth. The Portel-Ouest sample corresponds to a minimum of seven juveniles, one or two adolescents and one adult, which exhibit recurrent linear enamel hypoplasia (up to five events for one individual), the torsiversion of one anterior tooth and irregular oblique wear in some anterior deciduous teeth.
This morphological study confirms that the remains from Portel-Ouest are Neandertals, associated with a Mousterian complex. Furthermore, we found the expected pattern of mortality and stress for a Neandertal group, that is, various age categories and developmental defects (nonexclusive to Neandertals), while adults are underrepresented and juveniles are overrepresented. Further excavations would contribute finding new remains and maybe complete this demographic profile.

  Morphological trends in arcade shape and size in Middle Pleistocene Homo, di S, Stelzer, S. Neubauer, J. J. Hublin, F. Spoor, P. Gunz, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 70-91

Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins, often summarized as Homo heidelbergensis sensu lato, are difficult to interpret due to a fragmentary fossil record and ambiguous combinations of primitive and derived characters. Here, we focus on one aspect of facial shape and analyze shape variation of the dental arcades of these fossils together with other Homo individuals.
Three-dimensional landmark data were collected on computed tomographic scans and surface scans of Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins (n = 8), Homo erectus s.l. (n = 4), Homo antecessor (n = 1), Homo neanderthalensis (n = 13), recent (n = 52) and fossil (n = 19) Homo sapiens. To increase sample size, we used multiple multivariate regression to reconstruct complementary arches for isolated mandibles, and explored size and shape differences among maxillary arcades.
The shape of the dental arcade in H. erectus s.l. and H. antecessor differs markedly from both Neanderthals and H. sapiens. The latter two show subtle but consistent differences in arcade length and width. Shape variation among Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins does not exceed the amount of variation of other species, but includes individuals with more primitive and more derived morphology, all more similar to Neanderthals and H. sapiens than to H. erectus s.l.
Although our results cannot reject the hypothesis that the Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins belong to a single species, their shape variation comprises a more primitive morph that represents a likely candidate for the shape of the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and H. sapiens, and a more derived morph resembling Neanderthals. The arcade shape difference between Neanderthals and H. sapiens might be related to different ways to withstand mechanical stress.

  Morphometric analysis of shape differences in Windover and Point Hope archaic human mandibles, di S. Boren, D. Slice, G. Thomas, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 119-130

The mandible can provide valuable information on both the life history and genetic makeup of Archaic human populations. The following analysis tests two hypotheses: (a) that there are significant differences in morphology in mandibular shape between the genders amongst Archaic North American Homo sapiens and (b) that there is a significant difference in variance in mandibular shape between Archaic Windover and Point Hope.
A sample made from mandible specimens taken from both populations is subjected to Principal Component Analyses (PCA). The component scores from the PCAs are subjected to both a Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (mancova) and a general Multivariate Analysis of Variance (manova) to determine whether significant differences in variance exist between the sexes and the populations.
The mancova found that there are no significant interactions between the PC scores in population, sex, or size. Significant differences in variance were found between males and females and between the Windover and Point Hope populations.
Differences in variance observed between the populations are suspected to be due to differences in subsistence strategies and possibly non‐masticatory utilizations of teeth. Differences in variance between the genders are suspected to be genetic in origin.

  A Neandertal foot phalanx from the Galería de las Estatuas site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), di A. Pablos, A. Gómez-Olivencia, J. L. Arsuaga, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 222-228

The Galería de las Estatuas site (GE), a new Mousterian site at the Sierra de Atapuerca site complex (Spain), has revealed a Late Pleistocene detrital sequence with at least five lithostratigraphic units. These units have yielded evidence of Mousterian occupations with sporadic carnivore activity, and have provided datings of 80–112 ka BP using single-grain optically stimulated luminescence. This places the sequence at the end of MIS5 and beginning of the MIS4. We described here a complete adult human distal foot phalanx (GE-1573) recovered during the 2017 field season in the interface between lithostratigraphic units 3 and 4 (107–112 ka BP) in the GE-I test pit.
This phalanx (GE-1573) probably corresponds to the fifth toe from the right side due to the medial deviation of the distal tuberosity. We compared the metric variables of this phalanx to several fossil and recent Homo samples.
Neandertals display foot phalanges that are broader and more robust than those of recent humans. Despite the scarcity of well-identified distal phalanges in the Homo fossil record, the GE-1573 phalanx is broad, long and robust when compared with recent and Upper Paleolithic modern humans.
These traits, which align the GE-1573 foot phalanx with the Neandertal morphology, are consistent with the stratigraphic context, likely corresponding to one of the oldest Late Neandertals found inland on the Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, it provides the first evidence of a Neandertal human fossil in a stratigraphic context in the Sierra de Atapuerca.

  One small step: A review of Plio-Pleistocene hominin foot evolution, di J. DeSilva, E. McNutt, J. Benoit, B. Zipfel, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 168, Issue S67, Supplement: Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, January 2019, Pages 63-140 - open access -

Bipedalism is a hallmark of being human and the human foot is modified to reflect this unique form of locomotion. Leonardo da Vinci is credited with calling the human foot “a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” However, a scientific approach to human origins has revealed that our feet are products of a long, evolutionary history in which a mobile, grasping organ has been converted into a propulsive structure adapted for the rigors of bipedal locomotion. Reconstructing the evolutionary history of foot anatomy benefits from a fossil record; yet, prior to 1960, the only hominin foot bones recovered were from Neandertals. Even into the 1990s, the human foot fossil record consisted mostly of fragmentary remains. However, in the last two decades, the human foot fossil record has quadrupled, and these new discoveries have fostered fresh new perspectives on how our feet evolved. In this review, we document anatomical differences between extant ape and human foot bones, and comprehensively examine the hominin foot fossil record. Additionally, we take a novel approach and conduct a cladistics analysis on foot fossils (n = 19 taxa; n = 80 characters), and find strong evidence for mosaic evolution of the foot, and a variety of anatomically and functionally distinct foot forms as bipedal locomotion evolved. (...)



Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca