Aggiornamento 2 maggio

  Human behavior and Homo-mammal interactions at the first European peopling: new evidence from the Pirro Nord site (Apricena, Southern Italy), di R. Chelli Cheheb et alii, "The Science of Nature", June 2019, 106:16

Recent functional and zooarchaeological studies conducted on the archeological finds of Pirro Nord (PN13) produced new, reliable data on early European hominid subsistence activities. The age of the site is estimated to be ~ 1.3–1.6 Ma, based on bio-chronological data, and the archeological excavation of the Pirro Nord 13 fissure led to the discovery of more than 300 lithic artifacts associated with thousands of vertebrate fossil remains of the final Villafranchian (Pirro Nord Faunal Unit). The analysis of the fossil faunal remains allowed for the identification of anthropogenic traces linked to the exploitation of different animal carcass (cut marks and intentional bone breakages). Use-wear traces were also observed on some flint artifacts and have been interpreted as the result of the exploitation of animal resources by early hominids and carnivores. (...)

  The Late Pleistocene European badger Meles meles from Grotta Laceduzza (Brindisi, Apulia, Southern Italy): the analysis of the morphological and biometric variability, di B. Mecozzi, D. Coppola, D. A. Iurino, R. Sardella, A. M. De Marinis, "The Science of Nature", June 2019, 106:13

In the last decades, many studies have focused on the description of fossil badger materials from Eurasia and several evolutionary hypotheses have been proposed. Nevertheless, the debate on taxonomy of the Late Villafranchian-Aurelian European badgers is still far from being solved and several species/subspecies were established over time. Herein, we described for the first time the craniodental and postcranial remains of Meles meles from Grotta Laceduzza (Apulia, Southern Italy), representing the largest sample of this taxon in the European Pleistocene record. Morphological and morphometric comparisons with fossils coming from the European Pleistocene sites were carried out; morphometric data were also compared with those of several extant populations of the European badger. (...)

  "PaleoAnthropology" Journal 2019 - open access -

- The rennes se suivant: A Recurrent Image Association from the Magdalenian Culture, di A. Castelli

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Humans' Earliest Personal Ornaments: An Introduction, di D. E. Bar-Yosef Mayer, M. D. Bosch

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - A Review of Shells as Personal Ornamentation during the African Middle Stone Age, di T. E. Steele, E. Álvarez-Fernández, E. Hallett-Desguez

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Location, Location, Location: Investigating Perforation Locations in Tritia gibbosula Shells at Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon) Using Micro-CT Data, di M. D. Bosch, L. Buck, A. Strauss

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Marine and Freshwater Shell Exploitaiton in the Early Upper Paleolithic: Re-Examination of the Assemblages from Fumane Cave (NE Italy), di M. Peresani, M. Forte, E. Quaggiotto, A. Colonese, M. Romandini, C. Cilli, G. Giacobini

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - 40,000 Years of Ochre Utilization in Timor-Leste: Powders, Prehensile Traces, and Body Painting, di M. C. Langley, S. O'Connor

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Upper Paleolithic Explorers: The Geographic Sources of Shell Beads in Early Upper Paleolithic Assemblages in Israel, di D. E. Bar-Yosef Mayer

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Living Among Personal Ornaments During the Magdalenian: Some Reflections About Perforated Marine Shells in Cantabrian Spain, di E. Álvarez-Fernandez, I. Barrera, M. José Fernández-Gómez

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Settlement Dynamic and Beadwork: New Insights on Late Upper Paleolithic Craft Activities, di S. Rigaud, S. Costamagno, J. M. Pétillon, P. Chalard, V. Laroulandie, M. Langlais

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Personal Adornments and Objects of Ornamentation: Two Case Studies From Hunter-Gatherer Burials in France (La Vergne) and Argentine (Arroyo Seco II), di L. Laporte, C. Dupont

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Bead Making in Aboriginal Australia From the Deep Past to European Arrival: Materials, Methods, and Meanings, di J. Balme, S. O'Connor

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Cultural Implications of Uniformity in Ornament Assemblages: Paleolithic and Mesolithic Ornaments from Franchthi Cave, Greece, di C. Perlès

- Special Issue: Early Personal Ornaments - Taking Beads Seriously: Prehistoric Forager Ornamental Traditions in Southeastern Europe, di D. Borić, E. Cristiani


Paleolithic artifact deposits at Wadi Dabsa, Saudi Arabia: A multiscalar geoarchaeological approach to building an interpretative framework, di R. H. Inglis et alii, "Geoachaeology", Volume34, Issue3, May/June 2019, Pages 272-294

Surface artifacts dominate the archaeological record of arid landscapes, particularly the Saharo‐Arabian belt, a pivotal region in dispersals out of Africa. Discarded by hominins, these artifacts are key to understanding past landscape use and dispersals, yet behavioral interpretation of present‐day artifact distributions cannot be carried out without understanding how geomorphological processes have controlled, and continue to control, artifact preservation, exposure and visibility at multiple scales. We employ a geoarchaeological approach to unraveling the formation of a surface assemblage of 2,970 Palaeolithic and later lithic artifacts at Wadi Dabsa, Saudi Arabia, the richest locality recorded to date in the southwestern Red Sea coastal region. Wadi Dabsa basin, within the volcanic Harrat Al Birk, contains extensive tufa deposits formed during wetter conditions. (...)


Isolated teeth from La Ferrassie: Reassessment of the old collections, new remains, and their implications, di Gaël Becam et alii,  "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume169, Issue1, May 2019, Pages 132-142

We provide the description and comparative analysis of six new teeth from the site of La Ferrassie. Our goal is to discuss their taxonomic attribution, and to provide an updated inventory of Neandertal and modern human remains from La Ferrassie in their associated archeological context.
We use external and internal anatomy, classic morphometrics, and geometric morphometrics. The teeth from La Ferrassie are compared to several samples of contemporary Neandertals and upper Paleolithic modern humans and to recent modern humans. (...)


Efficacy of diffeomorphic surface matching and 3D geometric morphometrics for taxonomic discrimination of Early Pleistocene hominin mandibular molars, di J. Braga et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 130, May 2019, Pages 21-35

Morphometric assessments of the dentition have played significant roles in hypotheses relating to taxonomic diversity among extinct hominins. In this regard, emphasis has been placed on the statistical appraisal of intraspecific variation to identify morphological criteria that convey maximum discriminatory power. Three-dimensional geometric morphometric (3D GM) approaches that utilize landmarks and semi-landmarks to quantify shape variation have enjoyed increasingly popular use over the past twenty-five years in assessments of the outer enamel surface (OES) and enamel–dentine junction (EDJ) of fossil molars. Recently developed diffeomorphic surface matching (DSM) methods that model the deformation between shapes have drastically reduced if not altogether eliminated potential methodological inconsistencies associated with the a priori identification of landmarks and delineation of semi-landmarks. As such, DSM has the potential to better capture the geometric details that describe tooth shape by accounting for both homologous and non-homologous (i.e., discrete) features, and permitting the statistical determination of geometric correspondence. (...)


Temporal shifts in the distribution of murine rodent body size classes at Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia) reveal new insights into the paleoecology of Homo floresiensis and associated fauna, di E. G. Veatch et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 130, May 2019, Pages 45-60 - open access -

Liang Bua, the type locality of Homo floresiensis, is a limestone cave located in the western part of the Indonesian island of Flores. The relatively continuous stratigraphic sequence of the site spans the past ~190 kyr and contains ~275,000 taxonomically identifiable vertebrate skeletal elements, ~80% of which belong to murine rodent taxa (i.e., rats). Six described genera are present at Liang Bua (Papagomys, Spelaeomys, Hooijeromys, Komodomys, Paulamys, and Rattus), one of which, Hooijeromys, is newly recorded in the site deposits, being previously known only from Early to Middle Pleistocene sites in central Flores. Measurements of the proximal femur (n = 10,212) and distal humerus (n = 1186) indicate five murine body size classes ranging from small (mouse-sized) to giant (common rabbit-sized) are present. The proportions of these five classes across successive stratigraphic units reveal two major changes in murine body size distribution due to significant shifts in the abundances of more open habitat-adapted medium-sized murines versus more closed habitat-adapted smaller-sized ones. One of these changes suggests a modest increase in available open habitats occurred ~3 ka, likely the result of anthropogenic changes to the landscape related to farming by modern human populations. The other and more significant change occurred ~60 ka suggesting a rapid shift from more open habitats to more closed conditions at this time. The abrupt reduction of medium-sized murines, along with the disappearance of H. floresiensis, Stegodon florensis insularis (an extinct proboscidean), Varanus komodoensis (Komodo dragon), Leptoptilos robustus (giant marabou stork), and Trigonoceps sp. (vulture) at Liang Bua ~60–50 ka, is likely the consequence of these animals preferring and tracking more open habitats to elsewhere on the island. If correct, then the precise timing and nature of the extinction of H. floresiensis and its contemporaries must await new discoveries at Liang Bua or other as yet unexcavated sites on Flores. (...)


Brain size growth in Australopithecus, di Z. Cofran, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 130, May 2019, Pages 72-82

Postnatal growth is one of the proximate means by which humans attain massive adult brain size. Humans are characterized by the maintenance of prenatal brain growth rates into the first postnatal year, as well as an overall extended period of growth. The evolution of this pattern is difficult to assess due to its relatively brief duration and the underrepresentation of well-preserved fossil individuals who died during this short period. In this study, I use Monte Carlo methods to reconstruct postnatal brain growth rates in Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus africanus, based on estimates of neonatal brain size and of likely brain size and age at death of infant specimens (A.L. 333-105, DIK-1-1, and Taung). Neonatal brain size is reconstructed from the empirical scaling relationship among catarrhines which humans follow, and conservative estimates of fossils' chronological ages and brain sizes are drawn from the literature. Simulated distributions of these values are used to calculate average annual rates (ARs) of brain growth and proportional size change from birth (PSC), which are compared to resampled statistics from humans, chimpanzees and gorillas of known age and sex. (...)


Mandibular molar root and pulp cavity morphology in Homo naledi and other Plio-Pleistocene hominins, di K. Kupczik, L. K. Delezene, M. M. Skinner, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 130, May 2019, Pages 83-95

The craniomandibular morphology of Homo naledi shows variable resemblances with species across Homo, which confounds an easy assessment of its phylogenetic position. In terms of skull shape, H. naledi has its closest affinities with Homo erectus, while mandibular shape places it closer to early Homo. From a tooth crown perspective, the smaller molars of H. naledi make it distinct from early Homo and H. erectus. Here, we compare the mandibular molar root morphology of six H. naledi individuals from the Dinaledi Chamber to those of African and Eurasian Plio-Pleistocene fossil hominins (totalling 183 mandibular first, second and third molars). The analysis of five root metric variables (cervical plane area, root length, root cervix volume, root branch volume, and root surface area) derived from microCT reconstructions reveals that the molar roots of H. naledi are smaller than those of Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and H. erectus, but that they resemble those of three Homo sp. specimens from Swartkrans and Koobi Fora in size and overall appearance. (...)


Saharan green corridors and Middle Pleistocene hominin dispersals across the Eastern Desert, Sudan, di M. Masojć et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 130, May 2019, Pages 141-150

The Sahara Desert episodically became a space available for hominins in the Pleistocene. Mostly, desert conditions prevailed during the interpluvial periods, which were only periodically interrupted by enhanced precipitation during pluvial or interglacial periods. Responding to Quaternary climatic changes, hominin dispersal was channeled through vegetated corridors. This manuscript introduces a recently discovered group of Acheulean and Middle Stone Age sites far from the Nile Valley in the Eastern Desert (Sudan), referred to as Eastern Desert Atbara River (EDAR). The ~5 m stratigraphy of the area is divided into three units (Units I–III) bounded by erosion surfaces. Each contains archaeological horizons. The EDAR area has rich surface sites with Acheulean horizons under the surface, singular finds of hand-axes within stratigraphic context in exposures, and large Acheulean sites partly exposed and destroyed by the gold mining activity. (...)


The costal skeleton of the Regourdou 1 Neandertal, di A. Gómez-Olivencia et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 130, May 2019, Pages 151-171

The morphology and size of the Neandertal thorax is a subject of growing interest due to its link to general aspects of body size and shape, including physiological aspects related to bioenergetics and activity budgets. However, the number of well-preserved adult Neandertal costal remains is still low. The recent finding of new additional costal remains from the Regourdou 1 (R1) skeleton has rendered this skeleton as one of the most complete Neandertal costal skeletons with a minimum of 18 ribs represented, five of which are complete or virtually complete. Here we describe for the first time all the rib remains from R1 and compare them to a large modern Euroamerican male sample as well as to other published Neandertal individuals. The costal skeleton of this individual shows significant metric and morphological differences from our modern human male comparative sample. (...)

  Human occupation of northern Europe in MIS 13: Happisburgh Site 1 (Norfolk, UK) and its European context, di S. G. Lewis et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 211, 1 May 2019, Pages 34-58

The timing, environmental setting and archaeological signatures of an early human presence in northern Europe have been longstanding themes of Palaeolithic research. In the space of 20 years, the earliest record of human occupation in Britain has been pushed back from 500 ka (Boxgrove) to 700 ka (Pakefield) and then to >800 ka (Happisburgh Site 3). Other sites also contribute to this record of human occupation; a second locality at Happisburgh, referred to as Site 1, attests to human presence at around 500 ka (MIS 13). This paper provides the first comprehensive account of research undertaken at Happisburgh Site 1 since 2000. The early human landscape and depositional environment was that of a river floodplain, where an active river channel, in which a grey sand was deposited, was abandoned, forming a floodplain lake, with marginal marsh/swamp environments, which was infilled with organic mud. This succession is sealed by Middle Pleistocene glacial deposits. An assemblage of 199 flint flakes, flake tools and cores was recovered from the grey sand and organic mud. (...)

  Biggest Denisovan fossil yet is the first found outside Siberian cave, "Nature news", 01 MAY 2019

Scientists have uncovered the most complete remains yet from the mysterious ancient-hominin group known as the Denisovans. The jawbone, discovered high on the Tibetan Plateau and dated to more than 160,000 years ago, is also the first Denisovan specimen found outside the Siberian cave in which the hominin was found a decade ago — confirming suspicions that Denisovans were more widespread than the fossil record currently suggests. The research marks the first time an ancient human has been identified solely through the analysis of proteins. With no usable DNA, scientists examined proteins in the specimen’s teeth, raising hopes that more fossils could be identified even when DNA is not preserved. “This is fantastic work,” says Katerina Douka, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, who runs a separate project aiming to uncover Denisovan fossils in Asia. “It tells us that we are looking at the right area.” (...)

  The African ape-like foot of Ardipithecus ramidus and its implications for the origin of bipedalism, di T. Cody Prang, Apr 30, 2019 - open access -

The ancestral condition from which humans evolved is critical for understanding the adaptive origin of bipedal locomotion. The 4.4 million-year-old hominin partial skeleton attributed to Ardipithecus ramidus preserves a foot that purportedly shares morphometric affinities with monkeys, but this interpretation remains controversial. Here I show that the foot of Ar. ramidus is most similar to living chimpanzee and gorilla species among a large sample of anthropoid primates. The foot morphology of Ar. ramidus suggests that the evolutionary precursor of hominin bipedalism was African ape-like terrestrial quadrupedalism and climbing. The elongation of the midfoot and phalangeal reduction in Ar. ramidus relative to the African apes is consistent with hypotheses of increased propulsive capabilities associated with an early form of bipedalism. This study provides evidence that the modern human foot was derived from an ancestral form adapted to terrestrial plantigrade quadrupedalism. (...)
  Archaic human remains from Hualongdong, China, and Middle Pleistocene human continuity and variation, di Xiu-Jie Wu et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Early",April 29, 2019, doi:

Human evolution through the Middle to the Late Pleistocene in East Asia has been seen as reflecting diverse groups and discontinuities vs. a continuity of form reflecting an evolving population. New Middle Pleistocene (~300,000 y old) human remains from Hualongdong (HLD), China, provide further evidence for regional variation and the continuity of human biology through East Asian archaic humans. The HLD 6 skull is notable for its low and wide neurocranial vault and pronounced brow ridge, but less projecting face and modest chin. Along with the isolated teeth, the skull provides morphologically simple teeth with reduced or absent third molars. The remains foreshadow changes evident with modern human emergence, but primarily reinforce Old World continuity through Middle to Late Pleistocene humans. (...)

Insights into the timing, intensity and natural setting of Neanderthal occupation from the geoarchaeological study of combustion structures: A micromorphological and biomarker investigation of El Salt, unit Xb, Alcoy, Spain, di L. Leierer, M. Jambrina-Enríquez, A. V. Herrera-Herrera, R. Connolly, C. M. Hernández, B. Galván, C. Mallol, April 24, 2019, doi: - open access -

Middle Paleolithic lithic and faunal assemblages throughout Eurasia reflect short-term Neanderthal occupations, which suggest high group mobility. However, the timing of these short-term occupations, a key factor to assess group mobility and territorial range, remains unresolved. Anthropogenic combustion structures are prominent in the Middle Paleolithic record and conceal information on the timing and intensity and natural setting of their associated human occupations. This paper examines a concentration of eleven combustion structures from unit Xb of El Salt, a Middle Paleolithic site in Spain through a geoarchaeological approach, in search of temporal, human impact and paleoenvironmental indicators to assess the timing, intensity and natural setting of the associated human occupations. The study was conducted using micromorphology, lipid biomarker analysis and compound specific isotope analysis. Results show in situ hearths built on different diachronic topsoils rich in herbivore excrements and angiosperm plant residues with rare anthropogenic remains. These data are suggestive of low impact, short-term human occupations separated by relatively long periods of time, with possible indicators of seasonality. Results also show an absence of conifer biomarkers in the mentioned topsoils and presence of conifer charcoal among the fuel residues (ash), indicating that fire wood was brought to the site from elsewhere. A microscopic and molecular approach in the study of combustion structures allows us to narrow down the timescale of archaeological analysis and contributes valuable information towards an understanding of Neanderthal group mobility and settlement patterns. (...)


Mobility and social identity in the Mid Upper Paleolithic: New personal ornaments from Poiana Cireșului (Piatra Neamț, Romania), di E. C. Nițu, M. Cârciumaru, A. Nicolae, O. Cîrstina, F. Ionuț Lupu, M. Leu, April 24, 2019, doi: - open access -

Most of the Paleolithic art and ornaments discovered in Romania come from the site of Poiana Cireșului. Four Paleolithic layers have been studied at this site—the oldest one belongs to the Early Gravettian period between 30 ka and 31 ka BP. The ornaments discovered in this layer include perforated shells from three species of mollusks: freshwater Lithoglyphus naticoide and Lithoglyphus apertus as well as Homalopoma sanguineum (an exclusively Mediterranean species). Poiana Cireșului is one of the very few Gravettian sites where perforated Homalopoma sanguineum shells were found, and the importance of this discovery is stressed even more by the very long distance between the site and the nearest source located over 900 km away. This find suggests the connection of communities here with the Mediterranean area as well as a possible movement of populations from the south of the continent to the east of the Carpathians with significant implications in understanding human group mobility and the origin of the Early Gravettian in this area. Furthermore, Poiana Cireșului is the only Gravettian settlement where Lithoglyphus naticoides shells were used. The unique association of perforated shells—not found in any other Gravettian settlement—contributes to the identity of the Paleolithic community of Poiana Cireșului through their ornaments. (...)


Le tante famiglie dei Denisova, 15 aprile 2019

Il DNA delle popolazioni attuali di isole del Sudest asiatico e di Papua Nuova Guinea porta le tracce di diversi rami filogenetici dell'uomo di Denisova, la misteriosa specie umana i cui primi resti fossili sono stati scoperti anni fa nella grotta dei Monti Altai, in Siberia. Le simulazioni, inoltre, indicano che uno dei rami denisoviani si sarebbe estinto 30.000 anni fa e si tratterebbe quindi degli ominidi arcaici sopravvissuti più a lungo tra quelli noti finora (...)


Need for social skills helped shape modern human face, 15-APR-2019

The modern human face is distinctively different to that of our near relatives and now researchers believe its evolution may have been partly driven by our need for good social skills. As large-brained, short-faced hominins, our faces are different from other, now extinct hominins (such as the Neanderthals) and our closest living relatives (bonobos and chimpanzees), but how and why did the modern human face evolve this way? A new review published in Nature Ecology and Evolution and authored by a team of international experts, including researchers from the University of York, traces changes in the evolution of the face from the early African hominins to the appearance of modern human anatomy. (...)

· The evolutionary history of the human face, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", volume 3, pages 726–736 (2019)


Multiple Denisovan-related ancestries in Papuans, 11-APR-2019

The findings are based on a new study led by Murray Cox from Massey University in New Zealand and made possible by sampling efforts led by Herawati Sudoyo from the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta, Indonesia. The data were collected and analyzed by an international team of researchers, including Mark Stoneking from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Taken together with previous work - which has pointed to a third Denisovan lineage in the genomes of modern Siberians, Native Americans, and East Asians - the evidence "suggests that modern humans interbred with multiple Denisovan populations, which were geographically isolated from each other over deep evolutionary time," the researchers write. (...)

· Multiple Deeply Divergent Denisovan Ancestries in Papuans, "Cell", April 10, 2019


A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines, di F. Détroit, A. Salvador Mijares, J. Corny, G. Daver, C. Zanolli, E. Dizon, E. Robles, R. Grün, P. J. Piper, "Nature", volume 568, pages 181–186 (2019), 10 April 2019

A hominin third metatarsal discovered in 2007 in Callao Cave (Northern Luzon, the Philippines) and dated to 67 thousand years ago provided the earliest direct evidence of a human presence in the Philippines. Analysis of this foot bone suggested that it belonged to the genus Homo, but to which species was unclear. Here we report the discovery of twelve additional hominin elements that represent at least three individuals that were found in the same stratigraphic layer of Callao Cave as the previously discovered metatarsal. These specimens display a combination of primitive and derived morphological features that is different from the combination of features found in other species in the genus Homo (including Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens) and warrants their attribution to a new species, which we name Homo luzonensis. (...)

· Unknown human relative discovered in Philippine cave, "Nature news", 10 APRIL 2019

· Scoperta una nuova specie umana estinta nelle Filippine, "Le Scienze", 11 aprile 2019

· New species of ancient human unearthed in the Philippines, "Science news", Apr. 10, 2019

· New species of ancient human unearthed, "Science", 12 Apr 2019: Vol. 364, Issue 6436, pp. 108

· Scoperta una nuova specie umana nelle Filippine, 11 aprile 2019


Woolly mammoths and Neanderthals may have shared genetic traits, April 8, 2019

A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that the genetic profiles of two extinct mammals with African ancestry -- woolly mammoths, elephant-like animals that evolved in the arctic peninsula of Eurasia around 600,000 years ago, and Neanderthals, highly skilled early humans who evolved in Europe around 400,000 years ago -- shared molecular characteristics of adaptation to cold environments. (...)


Rocks, teeth, and tools: New insights into early Neanderthal mobility strategies in South-Eastern France from lithic reconstructions and strontium isotope analysis, di M. H. Moncel, P. Fernandes, M. Willmes, H. James, R. Grün, April 3, 2019, doi: - open access -

Neanderthals had complex land use patterns, adapting to diversified landscapes and climates. Over the past decade, considerable progress has been made in reconstructing the chronology, land use and subsistence patterns, and occupation types of sites in the Rhône Valley, southeast France. In this study, Neanderthal mobility at the site of Payre is investigated by combining information from lithic procurement analysis (“chaîne evolutive” and “chaîne opératoire” concepts) and strontium isotope analysis of teeth (childhood foraging area), from two units (F and G). Both units date to the transition from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 8 to MIS 7, and show similar environmental conditions, but represent contrasting occupation durations. Level Gb (unit G) represents a long-term year-round use, in contrast to short-term seasonal use of the cave in level Fb (unit F). For both levels, lithic material and food were generally collected from a local to semi-local region. However, in level Gb, lithic materials were mainly collected from colluviums and food collected in the valley, whereas in level Fb, lithic procurement focused primarily on alluvial deposits and food was collected from higher elevation plateaus. These procurement or exchange patterns might be related to flint availability, knapping advantages of alluvial flint or occupation duration. The site of Payre is located in a flint rich circulation corridor and the movement of groups or exchanges between groups were organized along a north-south axis on the plateaus or towards the east following the river. The ridges were widely used as they are rich in flint, whereas the Rhône Valley is not an important source of lithic raw materials. Compared to other western European Middle Palaeolithic sites, these results indicate that procurement strategies have a moderate link with occupation types and duration, and with lithic technology. The Sr isotope ratios broadly match the proposed foraging areas, with the Rhône Valley being predominantly used in unit G and the ridges and limestone plateaus in unit F. While lithic reconstructions and childhood foraging are not directly related this suggests that the three analysed Neanderthals spend their childhood in the same general area and supports the idea of mobile Neanderthals in the Rhône Valley and neighbouring higher elevation plateaus. The combination of reconstructing lithic raw material sources, provisioning strategies, and strontium isotope analyses provides new details on how Neanderthals at Payre practised land use and mobility in the Early Middle Palaeolithic. (...)


Expanding the horizons of Palaeolithic rock art: the site of Romualdova Pećina, di A. Ruiz-Redondo et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 368, April 2019 , pp. 297-312

Rock art is key for understanding European Palaeolithic societies. Long thought to have been restricted to South-west Europe, recent discoveries on the Balkan Peninsula have expanded significantly the geographic distribution of Upper Palaeolithic figurative rock art, calling into question the idea of its limited distribution. This article presents the first example of figurative cave art discovered in the Balkan region, at Romualdova Pećina (‘Romuald's Cave’) in Croatia, discussing its chronology and relevance in the context of recent research in Pleistocene art.


The shining piece of the puzzle: evidence of plant use in the Late Palaeolithic, di I. Sobkowiak-Tabaka, B. Kufel-Diakowska, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", April 2019, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 1373–1389

The Late Glacial site Lubrza 10 yielded new archaeological and use-wear data for discussing the development of plant-based technologies long before the occupation of the European Lowlands by Neolithic societies. More than 4000 Federmesser and Swiderian lithic artefacts were collected from the site, which is located on sandy kames adjacent to former water bodies. Use-wear analysis showed that abandoned tools were engaged in the activities well recognised as Palaeolithic ones, such as hunting, working hide, bone and other soft and hard materials. Microscopic observations have also produced some of the earliest evidence of processing non-woody plants in the North European Plain. There is a considerable number of artefacts with plant-like polish. (...)


A probable genetic origin for pitting enamel hypoplasia on the molars of Paranthropus robustus, di I. Towle, J. D. Irish, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 129, April 2019, Pages 54-61

We report the frequencies of linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) and, specifically, pitting enamel hypoplasia (PEH) defects in the teeth of Paranthropus robustus, for comparison with four other South African hominin species and three extant nonhuman primate species. Unlike LEH, the lesser known PEH is characterized by multiple circular depression defects across a tooth crown and is often difficult to interpret in terms of developmental timing and etiology. Teeth in all samples were examined macroscopically with type, position and number of defects recorded. Frequencies of teeth with LEH vary among hominin species, but the differences in PEH are considerable. That is, P. robustus has much higher rates of pitting defects, with 47% of deciduous teeth and 14% of permanent teeth affected, relative to 6.7% and 4.3%, respectively, for all other hominin teeth combined; none of the extant primate samples evidences comparable rates. (...)


Brain size and organization in the Middle Pleistocene hominins from Sima de los Huesos. Inferences from endocranial variation, di E. M. Poza-Rey et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 129, April 2019, Pages 67-90

The Sima de los Huesos (SH) endocranial sample includes 16 complete or partial endocasts corresponding to European Middle Pleistocene hominins. Different anatomical and molecular studies have demonstrated that these hominins are phylogenetically related to Neanderthals, thus making them the earliest unquestionable representatives of the Neanderthal lineage. The description of endocranial variation in this population is fundamental to shedding light on the evolution of the Neanderthal brain. In this contribution, we analyze and describe endocranial variation in this sample, including aspects related to brain size (endocranial volume and encephalization) and brain organization (through qualitative descriptions and quantitative analyses). Our results indicate that the SH hominins show a transitional state between a primitive hominin endocranial configuration (which is found in Homo erectus and non-SH Middle Pleistocene Homo) and the derived configurations found in Neanderthals and modern humans, without a clear anticipation of classic Neanderthal endocranial traits. (...)


Ardipithecus ramidus postcrania from the Gona Project area, Afar Regional State, Ethiopia, di S. W. Simpson et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 129, April 2019, Pages 1-45

Functional analyses of the 4.4 Ma hominin Ardipithecus ramidus postcrania revealed a previously unknown and unpredicted locomotor pattern combining arboreal clambering and a form of terrestrial bipedality. To date, all of the fossil evidence of Ar. ramidus locomotion has been collected from the Aramis area of the Middle Awash Research Project in Ethiopia. Here, we present the results of an analysis of additional early Pliocene Ar. ramidus fossils from the Gona Project study area, Ethiopia, that includes a fragmentary but informative partial skeleton (GWM67/P2) and additional isolated manual remains. While we reinforce the original functional interpretations of Ar. ramidus of having a mixed locomotor adaptation of terrestrial bipedality and arboreal clambering, we broaden our understanding of the nature of its locomotor pattern by documenting better the function of the hip, ankle, and foot. (...)


Quantifying lithic surface alterations using confocal microscopy and its relevance for exploring the Châtelperronian at La Roche-à-Pierrot (Saint-Césaire, France), di A. Galland, A. Queffelec, S. Caux, J. G. Bordesa, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 104, April 2019, Pages 45-55

Post-depositional modifications or alterations of the surface of lithics artefacts have been characterised at both macroscopic and microscopic scales by means of qualitative criteria. Here we introduce a new methodology for the study of surface alterations based on roughness measurements using confocal microscopy. This new approach allows for a quantified and reproducible distinction between various states of alteration among geological samples and archaeological material from a level attributed to the Châtelperronian at La Roche-à-Pierrot (Saint-Césaire, France). This site, perhaps best known for discovery of Neanderthal remains in a level attributed to the Châtelperronian, plays a critical role in questions concerning the emergence of the Upper Palaeolithic and its relation to the appearance of anatomically modern humans in Western Europe. (...)


Impact of the last interglacial climate change on ecosystems and Neanderthals behavior at Baume Moula-Guercy, Ardèche, France, di A. R. Defleur, E, Desclaux, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 104, April 2019, Pages 114-124

Earth's climate experienced a major warming during the last interglacial period (Eemian, MIS 5e, LIG 128 to 114 ky). The rapid climate change altered ecosystems causing a geographical redistribution of flora and fauna. Due to the scarcity of archaeological sites representing this period, the effect of these events on the behavior of Neanderthal hunter-gatherers in Western Europe has been poorly understood. New evidence from a wellpreserved archaeological layer (XV) at Baume (cave) Moula-Guercy in Southeastern France, attributed to the optimum Eemian Interglacial, unparalleled on the European continent, allows us to consider the challenges Neanderthals faced as these new ecosystems and ecological communities formed. (...)


Comparative analysis of Middle Stone Age artifacts in Africa (CoMSAfrica), di M. Will et alii, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume28, Issue2, March/April 2019, Pages 57-59

No abstract is available for this article.


Paleomedicine and the use of plant secondary compounds in the Paleolithic and Early Neolithic, di K. Hardy, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume28, Issue2, March/April 2019, Pages 60-71

Reconstructing plant use before domestication is challenging due to a lack of evidence. Yet, on the small number of sites with assemblages, the wide range of different plant species cannot be explained simply in terms of nutrition. Assemblages from the Lower Paleolithic to the Early Neolithic were examined to investigate the relative edible and medicinal properties of the plants. The assemblages contain a mixture of edible species, plants that are both edible and medicinal, and plants with only medicinal properties. The proportion of medicinal plants at all sites is well above the natural average and increases over time. (...)


Going big versus going small: Lithic miniaturization in hominin lithic technology, di J. Pargeter, J. J. Shea, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume28, Issue2, March/April 2019, Pages 72-85

Lithic miniaturization was one of our Pleistocene ancestors' more pervasive stone tool production strategies and it marks a key difference between human and non‐human tool use. Frequently equated with “microlith” production, lithic miniaturization is a more complex, variable, and evolutionarily consequential phenomenon involving small backed tools, bladelets, small retouched tools, flakes, and small cores. In this review, we evaluate lithic miniaturization's various technological and functional elements. We examine archeological assumptions about why prehistoric stoneworkers engaged in processes of lithic miniaturization by making small stone tools, small elongated tools, and small retouched and backed tools. (...)


Color Me Heated? A Comparison of Potential Methods to Quantify Color Change in Thermally-Altered Rocks, di S. Evjenth Bentsen, S. Wurz, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 44, 2019 - Issue 4, 01 Apr 2019

This study investigates and compares methods to quantify color changes in quartzite rocks after repeated heating episodes. We collected quartzite samples from the southern Cape coast, South Africa, and heated them three times in experimental fires. We recorded the colors of the samples before and after heating using visual observation, Munsell color notations, Munsell color notations converted to RGB values, and digital image analysis. The methods are also tested on potentially heated and potentially unheated archaeological samples from Klasies River main site, South Africa. (...)


Radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis on the purported Aurignacian skeletal remains from Fontana Nuova (Ragusa, Italy), di G. Di Maida, M. A. Mannino, B. Krause-Kyora, T. Zetner Trolle Jensen, S. Talamo, March 20, 2019, doi: - open access -

Proving voyaging at sea by Palaeolithic humans is a difficult archaeological task, even for short distances. In the Mediterranean, a commonly accepted sea crossing is that from the Italian Peninsula to Sicily by anatomically modern humans, purportedly of the Aurignacian culture. This claim, however, was only supported by the typological attribution to the Aurignacian of the lithic industries from the insular site of Fontana Nuova. AMS radiocarbon dating undertaken as part of our research shows that the faunal remains, previously considered Aurignacian, actually date to the Holocene. Absolute dating on dentinal collagen also attributes the human teeth from the site to the early Holocene, although we were unable to obtain ancient DNA to evaluate their ancestry. Ten radiocarbon dates on human and other taxa are comprised between 9910–9700 cal. BP and 8600–8480 cal. BP, indicating that Fontana Nuova was occupied by Mesolithic and not Aurignacian hunter-gatherers. Only a new study of the lithic assemblage could establish if the material from Fontana Nuova is a mixed collection that includes both late Upper Palaeolithic (Epigravettian) and Mesolithic artefacts, as can be suggested by taking into account both the results of our study and of the most recent reinterpretation of the lithics. Nevertheless, this research suggests that the notion that Aurignacian groups were present in Sicily should now be revised. Another outcome of our study is that we found that three specimens, attributed on grounds both of morphological and ZooMS identifications to Cervus elaphus, had δ13C values significantly higher than any available for such species in Europe. (...)


The mammoth cycle. Hunting with ivory spear-points in the Gravettian site of Pavlov I (Czech Republic), di V. Borgia, "Quaternary International", Volume 510, 20 March 2019, Pages 52-64

Around 30.000 to 25.000 years ago, the Pavlov hills (Fig. 1:1–2) in Southern Moravia were frequently inhabited, leaving evidence of one of the richest and most diverse Palaeolithic settlements in the world. The Gravettian groups that frequented the sites of Pavlov, Dolní Věstonice, Milovice, and Předmostí left traces not only of their subsistence economy, but also of their symbolic and spiritual lives, as testified to by many artistic objects, renowned ceramic figurines, and human remains (Svoboda, 1994; Oliva, 2007; Svoboda et al., 2013; Svoboda et al., 2015). This phase of the Central/Eastern European Palaeolithic is characterized by an intensive interaction between man and mammoth, as shown by the large number of mammoth remains found in most sites.
Mammoths were exploited as a food supply and for their bones and ivory, in some circumstances also used as a combustible (Gvozdover, 1953; Scheer, 2001; Khlopachev, 2011). In the site of Pavlov I, the manufacturing of animal hard material involved the working of bone, antler, and ivory, with a strict connection between raw material and the typology of tools, as observed in most European Palaeolithic sites (Tejero et al., 2012). While most domestic tools, such as awls and needles, were made with bone, the spear-points in Pavlov I were made exclusively with mammoth ivory (if we exclude a possible point made with antler – Brühl, 2005, p. 276). Yet the opposite is not true, as many other objects – mainly bevelled tools (spatulae) and pestles – were made with ivory (Svoboda, 1994). (...)


Provenance study on prehistoric obsidian objects found in Romania (Eastern Carpathian Basin and its neighbouring regions) using Prompt Gamma Activation Analysis, di Z. Kasztovszky et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 510, 20 March 2019, Pages 76-87

Macroscopic characteristics, such as hardness, relatively easy workability, transparency, translucency, and shiny black colour of the Carpathian 1 (C1) type obsidian, which is one significant variety of the Carpathian obsidians made, it highly valuable in the Prehistoric times. It was transported several hundreds of kilometres away from the geological source, becoming wide-spread in the Eastern part of the Carpathian Basin as well. Seventy-two pieces of Prehistoric (Neolithic to Bronze Age) obsidian artefacts (tools, arrow heads, chips and fragments) found in different parts of Romania (Transylvania, Banat and Muntenia) have been investigated by non-destructive prompt-gamma activation analyses. The aim of the study was to determine the provenance of their raw materials. The geochemical composition of the artefacts showed high similarity with that of the obsidian samples collected at outcrops from the Slovakian side of the Tokaj Mountains. Based on characteristic major and trace element concentrations, most of the studied Romanian obsidian artefacts are characterized as C1 type obsidians. (...)


New chronological framework (MIS 13–9) and depositional context for the lower Palaeolithic sites north-west of Rome: Revisiting the early hominin in central Italy, di P. Ceruleo, M. F. Rolfo, F. Marra, C. Petronio, L. Salari, M. Gatta, "Quaternary International", Volume 510, 20 March 2019, Pages 119-132

The Paleolithic period in central Italy is currently undergoing an extensive revision due to a significant chronological re-examination of many archaeological sites. Recently, several lower Palaeolithic sites 20 km NW of Rome previously dated within MIS 9 (335–300 ka) (i.e. La Polledrara di Cecanibbio, Torre in Pietra, Castel di Guido, Malagrotta and four sites along Via Aurelia) have been geochronologically reassessed between 412 and 325 ka. These sites, in which abundant fauna, artifacts and hominin remains have been found, are remarkably well preserved. A combination of geological factors and the peculiar geodynamic conditions of this region, where tectonics, volcanism and glacio-eustatic forcing worked in concert, allowed for the exceptional conservation of the remains In this paper we provide a review of these sites and analyze their depositional contexts, showing that rapid filling of the fluvial incisions during glacial terminations, combined with sudden emplacement of volcanic deposits, caused the sealing of the archaeological materials accumulated at the bottom of the paleo-valleys. (...)

  A dispersal of Homo sapiens from southern to eastern Africa immediately preceded the out-of-Africa migration, di T. Rito, D. Vieira, M. Silva, E. Conde-Sousa, L. Pereira, P. Mellars, M. B. Richards, P. Soares, "Scientific Reports", volume 9, Article number: 4728 (2019)  - open access -

Africa was the birth-place of Homo sapiens and has the earliest evidence for symbolic behaviour and complex technologies. The best-attested early flowering of these distinctive features was in a glacial refuge zone on the southern coast 100–70 ka, with fewer indications in eastern Africa until after 70 ka. Yet it was eastern Africa, not the south, that witnessed the first major demographic expansion, ~70–60 ka, which led to the peopling of the rest of the world. One possible explanation is that important cultural traits were transmitted from south to east at this time. Here we identify a mitochondrial signal of such a dispersal soon after ~70 ka – the only time in the last 200,000 years that humid climate conditions encompassed southern and tropical Africa. This dispersal immediately preceded the out-of-Africa expansions, potentially providing the trigger for these expansions by transmitting significant cultural elements from the southern African refuge. (...)


Reconnaissance of Prehistoric Sites in the Red Sea Coastal Region of the Sudan, NE Africa, di A. Beyin, P. R. Chauhan, A. Nassr, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 44, 2019 - Issue 3, 14 Mar 2019

This paper reports results of a recent Stone Age-focused archaeological survey in the Red Sea coastal region of the Republic of Sudan, northeast Africa. Bifaces (handaxes) are the most conspicuous artifact class encountered during the survey and are characteristic of the Acheulean technocomplex. Other recorded artifact types include points, scrapers, and prepared core products referable to the Nubian and recurrent Levallois methods. Most of the artifact-bearing localities lie landward—outside of the coastal margin—thus, the evidence does not signify direct coastal adaptation per se. Our preliminary findings suggest that multiple Pleistocene-age hominin settlements tied to a terrestrial niche existed in the region. (...)


Neandertal-like traits visible in the internal structure of non-supranuchal fossae of some recent Homo sapiens: The problem of their identification in hominins and phylogenetic implications, di W. Nowaczewska, M. Binkowski, A. M. Kubicka, J. Piontek, A. Balzeau, March 12, 2019, doi: - open access -

Although recently the internal structure of the non-supranuchal fossa of Homo sapiens has been described and compared to that observed in the Neandertal suprainiac fossa, until now it has not been examined in any modern human children. In this study, the internal structure of this fossa in the occipital bones of three children (two aged 3‒4 years and one aged 5 years ± 16 months) and one adult individual representing recent Homo sapiens from Australia was analysed and compared to that of the Neandertal suprainiac fossa. In order to analyse the internal composition of the fossae of the examined specimens, initially, high-resolution micro-CT datasets were obtained for their occipital bones; next, 3D topographic maps of the variation in thickness of structural layers of the occipital bones were made and 2D virtual sections in the median region of these fossae were prepared. In the fossa of one immature individual, the thinning of the diploic layer characteristic of a Neandertal suprainiac fossa was firmly diagnosed. The other Neandertal-like trait, concerning the lack of substantial thinning of the external table of the bone in the region of the fossa, was established in two individuals (one child and one adult) due to the observation of an irregular pattern of the thickness of this table in the other specimens, suggesting the presence of an inflammatory process. Our study presents, for the first time, Neandertal-like traits (but not the whole set of features that justifies the autapomorphic status of the Neandertal supraniac fossa) in the internal structure of non-supranuchal fossae of some recent Homo sapiens. We discuss the phylogenetic implications of the results of our analysis and stress the reasons that use of the 3D topographic mapping method is important for the correct diagnosis of Neandertal traits of the internal structure of occipital fossae. (...)


Morphology, pathology, and the vertebral posture of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neandertal, di M. Haeusler, E. Trinkaus, C. Fornai, J. Müller, N. Bonneau, T. Boeni, N. Frater, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", March 12, 2019, n. 116 (11), pp. 4923-4927

Fully upright and balanced posture is one of the hallmarks of humanity, and it has long been seen as present among all members of the genus Homo. However, recent considerations of Neandertal vertebrae have concluded that these late archaic humans, who were both behaviorally and phylogenetically close to ourselves, lacked fully developed spinal curvatures and must therefore have had precarious postures. Reassessment and virtual reconstruction of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1 Neandertal skeletal remains provides direct anatomical evidence that he, and by extension other Neandertals, possessed the usual human lower back and neck curvature (lordosis). It is therefore time to move beyond making Neandertals less human and focus on the subtle shifts in Late Pleistocene human biology and behavior.


Exceptionally high δ15N values in collagen single amino acids confirm Neandertals as high-trophic level carnivores, di K. Jaouen et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", March 12, 2019, n. 116 (11), pp. 4928-4933 - open access -

Identifying past hominin diets is a key to understanding adaptation and biological evolution. Bone collagen isotope studies have added much to the discussion of Neandertal subsistence strategies, providing direct measures of diet. Neandertals consistently show very elevated nitrogen isotope values. These values have been seen as the signature of a top-level carnivore diet, but this interpretation was recently challenged by a number of additional theories. We here apply compound-specific isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen in bone collagen single amino acids of two Neandertals. These Neandertals had the highest nitrogen isotope ratios of bulk collagen measured so far, and our study confirms that these values can be most parsimoniously explained by a carnivorous diet. (...)

  The area surrounding the world-famous geoarchaeological site Mal'ta (Baikal Siberia): New data on the chronology, archaeology, and fauna, di F. Khenzykhenova et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 509, 10 March 2019, Pages 17-29

New investigations performed on the area around the famous Palaeolithic site of Mal'ta (Baikal Siberia) shed new light on the complete sequence of the deposits enclosing the site. Changes in the human habitat are traced through MIS 5 to MIS 2; the initial cluster of artefacts and faunistic remains of MIS 3 age is found in situ. Cultural layers of older age have been newly discovered The full faunal biodiversity, including three mollusc species, one fish species, three bird species, two species of Eulipotyphla, three Lagomorpha species, fourteen rodents and four large mammal species, has been established within time intervals corresponding to MIS 5, MIS 3, and MIS 2.


Early Palaeolithic evidence from the Euphrates River basin, Eastern Turkey, di D. V. Ozherelyev, V. G. Trifonov, H. Çelik, Ya. I. Trikhunkov, P. D. Frolov, A. N. Simakova, "Quaternary International", Volume 509, 10 March 2019, Pages 73-86

Early Palaeolithic finds older than Acheulean were unknown in Eastern Anatolia until recently. During exploratory works carried out by a joint Russian-Turkish expedition in the Euphrates River basin (2014–2016), several stratified Early Palaeolithic localities were found. Lithic finds are represented by choppers, picks, retouched tools, and flakes. A similar stone tool industry has been found in the Caucasus (Armenia, Dagestan). In addition to the archaeological typological dating of lithic tools in eastern Turkey, geomorphological, stratigraphic, paleontological, and paleomagnetic records also confirm the Early Pleistocene age of the localities. Some of these sites are dated to before the Olduvai subchron, i.e., ~2 Ma.


Genomic evidence for shared common ancestry of East African hunting-gathering populations and insights into local adaptation, di L. B. Scheinfeldt et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", March 5, 2019, n. 116 (10), pp. 4166-4175

African populations have been underrepresented in human genomics research yet are important for understanding modern human origins and the genetic basis of adaptive traits. Here we analyze a genome-wide dataset in 840 ethnically and geographically diverse Africans. We find that geographically distant hunter-gatherer populations from East Africa share unique common ancestry and we see strong signatures of local adaptation near genes that play a role in immune response, as well as lipid and glucose metabolism.


Arrillor cave (Basque Country, northern Iberian Penisula). Chronological, palaeo-environmental and cultural notes on a long Mousterian sequence, di M. J. Iriarte-Chiapusso, R. Wood, A. Sáenz de Buruaga, "Quaternary International", Volume 508, 1 March 2019, Pages 107-115

The number of research projects focusing on the Middle Palaeolithic in the north of the Iberian Peninsula has increased considerably in recent decades (Montes and Lasheras, 2005). Although the Upper Palaeolithic is still the most studied period within Palaeolithic research, Mousterian sequences are also playing a major role in understanding the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition. The research project carried out in Arrillor Cave is framed within this context and, together with other important archaeological sequences (Sidrón, Esquilleu, Covalejos, El Castillo, Lezetxiki, etc.), it is contributing significant data on the spatial and temporal relationships between Neanderthals and the first modern humans (Higham et al., 2014). Arrillor cave is in the Basque Mountains (Fig. 1), in Gorbea Natural Park (geographic coordinates – X: 521.057; Y: 4.761.540 and Z: 710 m a.s.l.). This mountain range, wich highest peak is Mt. Gorbea is placed in the watershed between the Bay of Biscay to the north and the Ebro Valley to the south. Significantly, the Zigoitia valley, where Arrillor is located, belongs to the river basin draining to the south (Murua, Álava) (...)


The Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition in Northwest Italy: new evidence from Riparo Bombrini (Balzi Rossi, Liguria, Italy), di B. Holt, "Quaternary International", Volume 508, 1 March 2019, Pages 142-152

We report here preliminary results from four seasons of excavation at the rockshelter of Riparo Bombrini (2002–2005). Three markedly separate horizons were uncovered: the deepest, comprising Levels M1-7, yielded abundant Mousterian lithics and faunal remains. A second macro-unit, corresponding to Levels MS1-2, is only a few decimeters thick and is characterized by the presence of large limestone blocks from partial collapse of the shelter's vault. The scarcity of material and presence of carnivore coprolites suggest sporadic human occupation. The third macro-unit, constituted by Levels A1-3 and following immediately above Levels MS1-2, contains a rich Proto-Aurignacian industry, including Dufour bladelets, bone tools, abundant ochre, numerous decorative objects (mainly perforated shells) and widespread use of exotic raw material. New AMS dates and stratigraphic and sedimentological evidence indicate that the appearance of the Proto-Aurignacian at Bombrini dates to around 41 ky cal BP, in a phase of climatic degradation, paralleling the conditions observed for the transition at other northern Italian sites. (...)


Mousterian inside the upper Paleolithic? The last interval of El Esquilleu (Cantabria, Spain) sequence, di J. Baena Preysler, E. Carrión Santafé, C. Torres Navas, M. Vaquero Rodríguez, "Quaternary International", Volume 508, 1 March 2019, Pages 153-163

El Esquilleu cave provides one of the most interesting Mousterian sequences in recent decades. The upper part of its stratigraphic sequence has provided significant lithic materials with preliminary dating that places human occupation during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Both the regional chronological context and the dating question preliminary interpretations are based on the radiocarbon results for the last lithostratigraphic unit in the El Esquilleu sequence. In this paper, we present a techno-typological approach of the last section of the sequence (levels 3, 4, and 5) (...)


Reconsidering prehistoric chert catchment sources: new data from the Central Pyrenees (Western Europe), di M. Sánchez de la Torre, F. Xavier Le Bourdonnec, B. Gratuze, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", March 2019, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 947–957

In the framework of a postdoctoral project to geochemically characterise Pyrenean cherts, a new marine chert outcrop in the Central Pyrenees has been defined. This new discovery, called the Buala outcrop, and its flysch chert type, provide new information about marine chert sources in the Pyrenean chain, leading us to reconsider prehistoric chert procurement in this area. Until now, two geological formations from the Central Pyrenees were considered as potential sources for a type of marine chert usually appearing in the Magdalenian record of several Pyrenean sites: Montgaillard flysch cherts and Montsaunès cherts. With both formations presenting similar characteristics, it was only through the use of geochemical methods that differences were recently established as reported by Sánchez de la Torre et al. This paper presents the new marine flysch chert outcrop of Buala. (...)


Neanderthal selective hunting of reindeer? The case study of Abri du Maras (south-eastern France), di C. Daujeard et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", March 2019, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 985–1011

Monospecific exploitation of reindeer by Neanderthals is a common behaviour in the Upper Pleistocene of Western Europe. However, reindeer-dominated assemblages have largely been reported from regions of northern Germany and south-western France, with few examples noted in south-eastern France, where faunal assemblages yield most of the time a variety of other large ungulates such as red deer, horse and diverse bovids. Here, we present multi-strand (bio- and eco-) archaeological datasets from the site of Abri du Maras (level 4.1), situated at the mouth of the Ardèche and Rhône rivers, a new example of a reindeer-dominated Neanderthal site in south-eastern France. Dated to the beginning of the MIS 3, the zooarchaeological assemblage is dominated by reindeer (88% of the NISP, representing 16 individuals) but also includes horse, bison, giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus), red deer, ibex and lagomorphs. (...)


A Critical Reassessment of Cultural Taxonomies in the Central European Late Palaeolithic, di F. Sauer, F. Riede, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", March 2019, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 155–184 - open access -

In the analysis of archaeological relationships and processes, a uniform classification of the dataset is a fundamental requirement. To achieve this, a standardised taxonomic system, as well as consistent and valid criteria for the grouping of sites and assemblages, must be used. The Central European Late Palaeolithic (ca. 12,000–9700 cal BC) has a long research history and many regionally and temporally specific units—groups and cultures—are recognised. In this paper, we examine the complex taxonomic landscape of this period and critically analyse the use of typological, functional and economic criteria in the definition of selected groups. We subject three different archaeological taxonomic units, the Bromme culture from Denmark, the Fürstein group from Switzerland and the Atzenhof group from Germany, to particularly detailed scrutiny and highlight that the classificatory criteria used in their definition are inconsistent across units and most likely unsuitable for circumscribing past sociocultural units. We suggest a comprehensive re-examination of the overarching taxonomic system for the Late Palaeolithic, as well as a re-evaluation of the methodologies used to delineate sociocultural units in the Palaeolithic. (...)


Tracing Fire in Early European Prehistory: Microcharcoal Quantification in Geological and Archaeological Records from Molise (Southern Italy), di V. Lebreton et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", March 2019, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 247–275

Fire control and conservation is a major innovation of early prehistory. It is evidenced on Early Palaeolithic sites in western Eurasia dating to between 400 and 300 ka. In southern Italy, a large group of open-air Acheulean sites, dated from 680 to 300 ka, attests to the early settlement and long-standing human occupation of the region since the Early-Middle Pleistocene. To date, these sites have yielded no evidence for early fire use. This observation raises the question of charcoal fragmentation and dispersion in the context of open-air sites. In order to diagnose early fire use on Palaeolithic sites, a protocol for the quantification of microcharcoal has been standardised.  (...)


The Mental Template in Handaxe Manufacture: New Insights into Acheulean Lithic Technological Behavior at Boxgrove, Sussex, UK, di P. García-Medrano, A. Ollé, N. Ashton, M. B. Roberts, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", March 2019, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 396–422

The morphological variability of large cutting tools (LCT) during the Middle Pleistocene has been traditionally associated with two main variables: raw material constraints and reduction intensity. Boxgrove — c.500 ka — is one of the most informative sites at which to analyze shaping strategies and handaxe morphological variability in the European Middle Pleistocene, because of the large number of finished handaxes, and the presence of complete operational chains. We focused on the entire handaxe and rough-out sample from Boxgrove-Q1/B with the aim of assessing the role of raw material characteristics — size, form, and homogeneity of nodules — in the shaping process, and to ascertain if they represent real constraints in the production of handaxes. Additionally, given the large number of handaxes and the intensity of the thinning work at Boxgrove, we also aimed to determine if reduction intensity affected the final shape to the degree that some authors have previously postulated. The methodology combines traditional technological descriptions, metrical analysis, and experimental reproduction of shaping processes together with geometric morphometry and PCA. The conclusions we draw are that the Q1/B handaxe knapping strategies were flexible and adapted to the characteristics of the blanks. These characteristics affected the reduction strategy but there is no clear relationship between initial nodule or blank morphology and final handaxe shape. (...)


Midden or Molehill: The Role of Coastal Adaptations in Human Evolution and Dispersal, di M. Will, A. W. Kandel, N. J. Conard, "Journal of World Prehistory", March 2019, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 33–72

Coastal adaptations have become an important topic in discussions about the evolution and dispersal of Homo sapiens. However, the actual distribution and potential relevance of coastal adaptations (broadly, the use of coastal resources and settlement along shorelines) in these processes remains debated, as is the claim that Neanderthals exhibited similar behaviors. To assess both questions, we performed a systematic review comparing coastal adaptations of H. sapiens during the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) with those of contemporaneous Neanderthals during the European Middle Paleolithic. In both species, systematic use of marine resources and coastal landscapes constitutes a consistent behavioral signature over ~ 100,000 years (MIS 6–3) in several regions of Africa and Europe. We found more similarities than differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, with remaining disparities all in degree rather than kind. H. sapiens exploited a wider range of marine resources—particularly shellfish—more intensively. MSA shellfish-bearing sites are also more often associated with intense occupations on coastal landscapes, and more evidence of complex material culture such as shell beads. (...)


New evidence of broader diets for archaic Homo populations in the northwestern Mediterranean, di E. Morin et alii, "Science Advances", march 2019, vol. 5, issue 3 - open access -

Investigating diet breadth is critical for understanding how archaic Homo populations, including Neanderthals, competed for seasonally scarce resources. The current consensus in Western Europe is that ungulates formed the bulk of the human diet during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, while small fast prey taxa were virtually ignored. Here, we present a multisite taphonomic study of leporid assemblages from Southern France that supports frequent exploitation of small fast game during marine isotope stages 11 to 3. Along with recent evidence from Iberia, our results indicate that the consumption of small fast game was more common prior to the Upper Paleolithic than previously thought and that archaic hominins from the northwestern Mediterranean had broader diets than those from adjacent regions. Although likely of secondary importance relative to ungulates, the frequent exploitation of leporids documented here implies that human diet breadths were substantially more variable within Europe than assumed by current evolutionary models. (...)


Seasonal scheduling of shellfish collection in the Middle and Later Stone Ages of southern Africa, di E. Loftus et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 128, March 2019, Pages 1-16

This study assesses the seasonal scheduling of shellfish harvesting among hunter-gatherer populations along the southernmost coast of South Africa, based on a large number of serial oxygen isotope analyses of marine mollusk shells from four archaeological sites. The south coast of South Africa boasts an exceptional record of coastal hunter-gatherer occupation spanning the Holocene, the last glacial cycle and beyond. The significance of coastal adaptations, in this region in particular, for later modern human evolution has been prominently debated. Shellfishing behaviors are an important focus for investigation given the dietary and scheduling implications and the abundant archaeological shell remains in numerous sites. Key to better understanding coastal foraging is whether it was limited to one particular season, or year-round. Yet, this has proven very difficult to establish by conventional archaeological methods. This study reconstructs seasonal harvesting patterns by calculating water temperatures from the final growth increment of shells. Results from two Later Stone Age sites, Nelson Bay Cave (together with the nearby Hoffman's Robberg Cave) and Byneskranskop 1, show a pronounced cool season signal, which is unexpected given previous ethnographic documentation of summer as the optimal season for shellfishing activities and inferences about hunter-gatherer scheduling and mobility in the late Holocene. (...)


Neandertal foot remains from Regourdou 1 (Montignac-sur-Vézère, Dordogne, France), di A. Pablos et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 128, March 2019, Pages 17-44

Regourdou is a well-known Middle Paleolithic site which has yielded the fossil remains of a minimum of two Neandertal individuals. The first individual (Regourdou 1) is represented by a partial skeleton while the second one is represented by a calcaneus. The foot remains of Regourdou 1 have been used in a number of comparative studies, but to date a full description and comparison of all the foot remains from the Regourdou 1 Neandertal, coming from the old excavations and from the recent reanalysis of the faunal remains, does not exist. Here, we describe and comparatively assess the Regourdou 1 tarsals, metatarsals and phalanges. They display traits observed in other Neandertal feet, which are different from some traits of the Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca) hominins and of Middle Paleolithic, Upper Paleolithic and recent modern humans. (...)


Do a few tools necessarily mean a few people? A techno-morphological approach to the question of group size at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel, di G. Herzlinger, N. Goren-Inbar, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 128, March 2019, Pages 45-58

The question of Paleolithic group size has been addressed by scholars in many disciplines applying different methods. In our study we apply a novel analytical approach in an attempt to assess the group size of hominins that occupied the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel (GBY). Within this framework, we subjected the handaxe assemblages from several archaeological horizons at the site to a morpho-technological analysis. The analysis combined high-resolution three-dimensional geometric morphometric analysis with typo-technological attribute analysis to assess the inter- and intra-assemblage morpho-technological variability. The analysis was also applied to an experimental handaxe assemblage produced by an expert knapper. The results of the analysis show high morphological homogeneity coupled with high technological variability in each of the archaeological assemblages. This pattern is highly indicative of the work of expert knappers, as is also suggested by the comparison between the archaeological and experimental assemblages. (...)


Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe, di B. Schulz Paulsson, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", February 26, 2019, n. 116 (9), pp. 3460-3465 - open access -

For thousands of years, prehistoric societies built monumental grave architecture and erected standing stones in the coastal regions of Europe (4500–2500 calibrated years BC). Our understanding of the rise of these megalithic societies is contentious and patchy; the origin for the emergence of megalithic architecture in various regions has been controversial and debated for over 100 y. The result presented here, based on analyses of 2,410 radiocarbon dates and highly precise chronologies for megalithic sites and related contexts, suggests maritime mobility and intercultural exchange. We argue for the transfer of the megalithic concept over sea routes emanating from northwest France, and for advanced maritime technology and seafaring in the megalithic Age. (...)


The ecomorphology of southern African rodent incisors: Potential applications to the hominin fossil record, di O. C. C. Paine, J. N. Leichliter, N. Avenant, D. Codron, A. Lawrence, M. Sponheimer, February 20, 2019, doi: - open access -

The taxonomic identification of mammalian fauna within fossil assemblages is a well-established component of paleoenvironmental reconstructions. However, many fragmentary specimens recovered from fossil sites are often disregarded as they can be difficult to identify with the precision required for taxonomic methods. For this reason, the large numbers of isolated rodent incisors that are often recovered from hominin fossil bearing sites are generally regarded as offering little interpretive value. Ecomorphological analysis, often referred to as a “taxon-free” method, can potentially circumvent this problem by focusing on the adaptive, rather than the taxonomic significance of rodent incisor morphology. Here, we determine if the morphology of the upper incisors of modern southern African rodents reflects dietary behavior using discriminant function analysis. Our model suggests that a strong ecomorphological signal exists in our modern sample and we apply these results to two samples of isolated incisors from the hominin fossil bearing sites, Sterkfontein and Swartkrans. (...)


Specialized rainforest hunting by Homo sapiens ~45,000 years ago, di O. Wedage et alii, "Nature Communications", volume 10, Article number: 739 (2019) - open access -

Defining the distinctive capacities of Homo sapiens relative to other hominins is a major focus for human evolutionary studies. It has been argued that the procurement of small, difficult-to-catch, agile prey is a hallmark of complex behavior unique to our species; however, most research in this regard has been limited to the last 20,000 years in Europe and the Levant. Here, we present detailed faunal assemblage and taphonomic data from Fa-Hien Lena Cave in Sri Lanka that demonstrates specialized, sophisticated hunting of semi-arboreal and arboreal monkey and squirrel populations from ca. 45,000 years ago, in a tropical rainforest environment. Facilitated by complex osseous and microlithic technologies, we argue these data highlight that the early capture of small, elusive mammals was part of the plastic behavior of Homo sapiens that allowed it to rapidly colonize a series of extreme environments that were apparently untouched by its hominin relatives. (...)

  Archaeobiology during Greenland Stadial 2 in northern Spain, ca. 22,000-15,000 cal BP. Edited by Esteban Álvares-Fernández, Miriam Andrés, Rodrigo Portero,  "Quaternary International", Volume 506, Pages 1-80 (20 February 2019):

- Archaeobiology during greenland stadial 2 in northern Spain, ca. 22-15 Kyr CAL BP, di E. Álvarez-Fernández, M. Andrés, R. Portero

- Vegetal landscape and firewood supply strategies in N Spain at the Greenland Stadial 2, di P. Uzquiano

- Palaeoenvironmental dynamics in the Cantabrian Region during Greenland stadial 2 approached through pollen and micromammal records: State of the art, di N. Garcia-Ibaibarriaga, A. Suárez-Bilbao, M. J. Iriarte-Chiapusso, A. Arrizabalaga, X. Murelaga

- Biotic resources in the Lower Magdalenian at Cova Rosa (Sardeu, Asturias, Cantabrian Spain), di E. Álvarez-Fernández et alii

- The persistence of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in the human diet during the Lower Magdalenian in northern Spain: Insights from El Cierro cave (Asturias, Spain), di R. Portero, M. Cueto, J. F. Jordá Pardo, J. Bécares Pérez, E. Álvarez-Fernández

- The exploitation of hunted resources during the Magdalenian in the Cantabrian region. Systematization of butchery processes at Coímbre cave (Asturias, Spain), di P. López-Cisneros, J. Yravedra, D. Álvarez-Alonso, G. Linares-Matás

- Lagomorph exploitation during the Upper Palaeolithic in the Northern Iberian Peninsula. New evidence from Coímbre Cave (Asturias, Spain), di J. Yravedra et alii

- The Cantabrian Lower Magdalenian striated hinds on scapulae: Towards a new definition of a graphic morphotype, di O. Rivero, D. Garate, S. Salazar, I. Intxaurbe


Symbolic Territories Prehistory. Edited by Emmanuelle Honoré, Claire Lucas, Stephane Petrognani, Eric Robert, "Quaternary International", Volume 503, Part B, Pages 189-284 (5 February 2019):

- Discussing the relevance and scope of ‘Symbolic territories’ for Prehistory
, di E. Honoré, C. Lucas, S. Petrognani, E. Robert

- The lifeworld of hunter-gatherers and the concepts of territory, di G. Sauvet

- Signs associated with figurative representations Aurignacian. Examples from Grotte Chauvet and the Swabian Jura, di J. Igarashi, H. Floss

- Symbolic territories in pre-Magdalenian art?, di S. Petrognani, E. Robert

- The symbolism of breast-shaped beads from Dolní Věstonice I (Moravia, Czech Republic), di M. Lázničková-Galetová

- An approach to Palaeolithic networks: The question of symbolic territories and their interpretation through Magdalenian art, di O. Fuentes, C. Lucas, E. Robert

- See how they fly! Some considerations on symbolic transfers and territories at the end of Upper Palaeolithic, di E. Man-Estier, P. Paillet


Homes for Hunters? Exploring the Concept of Home at Hunter-Gatherer Sites in Upper Paleolithic Europe and Epipaleolithic Southwest Asia, di L. A. Maher, M. Conkey, "Current Anthropology", Volume 60, Number 1, February 2019

In both Southwest Asia and Europe, only a handful of known Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic sites attest to aggregation or gatherings of hunter-gatherer groups, sometimes including evidence of hut structures and highly structured use of space. Interpretation of these structures ranges greatly, from mere ephemeral shelters to places “built” into a landscape with meanings beyond refuge from the elements. One might argue that this ambiguity stems from a largely functional interpretation of shelters that is embodied in the very terminology we use to describe them in comparison to the homes of later farming communities: mobile hunter-gatherers build and occupy huts that can form campsites, whereas sedentary farmers occupy houses or homes that form communities. Here we examine some of the evidence for Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic structures in Europe and Southwest Asia, offering insights into their complex “functions” and examining perceptions of space among hunter-gatherer communities. (...)


Lashed by the wind: short-term Middle Palaeolithic occupations within the loess-palaeosoil sequence at Monte Netto (Northern Italy), di D. Delpiano, M. Peresani, S. Bertola, M. Cremaschi, A. Zerboni, "Quaternary International", Volume 502, Part A, 26 January 2019, Pages 137-147

The final Middle Palaeolithic of northern Italy is almost exclusively known based on pluristratified sites in caves or rock shelter, which attest a certain technological variability within the Mousterian through the adoption of different knapping methods focused on the production of flakes or blades. The almost total lack of specialized and/or short-term open-air sites framed at this stage contributes to create a fragmentary and incomplete picture with regard to the last Neanderthal occupation of the area. For this reason, the Monte Netto site, an isolated hill at the northern margin of the Po Plain and at the foot of the Prealps, represents a key deposit to investigate this phase. Along the loess-palaeosoil sequence, investigated from a geochronological and pedological point of view, frequentations by Mousterian Neanderthal groups are attested at two different times, of which the most consistent is: associated to sediments dated to 44,400 ± 5.4 ky BP. (...)


Chronology of the Late Pleistocene archaeological sequence at Vanguard Cave, Gibraltar: Insights from quartz single and multiple grain luminescence dating, di N. Doerschner, "Quaternary International", Volume 501, Part B, 20 January 2019, Pages 289-302

Vanguard Cave is an archaeological site located on the shoreline of the Rock of Gibraltar at the south-western extreme of the Iberian Peninsula. It is part of a limestone cave system facing the adjacent Governor's Beach on the south-eastern coast of Gibraltar and has been filled to the roof with more than 17 m of sedimentary deposits. Due to its long stratified sequence, comprising rich palaeoenvironmental and faunal records as well as multiple Palaeolithic occupation layers, Vanguard Cave provides valuable information for our understanding of human behaviour and dispersal across south-eastern Iberia in general and particularly about the strategic role of the promontory of Gibraltar for past human populations. The development of a reliable absolute chronology for the sedimentary sequence at Vanguard Cave is therefore of great importance in this context. In this study, we applied optically-stimulated luminescence dating to sand-sized quartz grains from the uppermost ∼4 m of the Vanguard Cave deposits, as well as from the Hyaena Cave sediments – a small niche adjacent to the main cave chamber. We use single-grain and multiple-grain dating to clarify the depositional history of the sedimentary sequence, as well as to assess the reliability of the two dating approaches and their potential for future chronological studies at the site. (...)


Lo sviluppo infantile delle forme arcaiche di Homo, 17 gennaio 2019

L'analisi dei resti del giovane di Xujiayao, un fossile scoperto in Cina e attribuito a una specie di Homo arcaica non meglio definita, indica uno sviluppo dentale molto simile a quello dei bambini di oggi. Il risultato indica che già all'epoca, tra 104.000 e 248.000 anni fa, i nostri antenati avevano caratteristiche moderne, come una dipendenza prolungata dei piccoli dagli adulti, una prima riproduzione ritardata e una notevole longevità (...)


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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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 (...)

  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