Aggiornamento 5 giugno 2020


Quantifying the potential causes of Neanderthal extinction: Abrupt climate change versus competition and interbreeding, di A. Timmermann, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 238, 15 June 2020, 106331

Anatomically Modern Humans are the sole survivor of a group of hominins that inhabited our planet during the last ice age and that included, among others, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo denisova, and Homo erectus. Whether previous hominin extinctions were triggered by external factors, such as abrupt climate change, volcanic eruptions or whether competition and interbreeding played major roles in their demise still remains unresolved. Here I present a spatially resolved numerical hominin dispersal model (HDM) with empirically constrained key parameters that simulates the migration and interaction of Anatomically Modern Humans and Neanderthals in the rapidly varying climatic environment of the last ice age. (...)


The palaeoecology of Klasies River, South Africa: An analysis of the large mammal remains from the 1984–1995 excavations of Cave 1 and 1A, di J. P. Reynard, S. Wurz, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 237, 1 June 2020, 106301

Given the large number of hominin and archaeological remains the site has yielded, Klasies River has contributed significantly to our understanding of how humans developed and behaved during the Middle Stone Age. Its extensive occupational sequence and the abundance of faunal remains recovered from the deposits also make it an important site in exploring palaeoenvironmental change during the Late Pleistocene. The mammalian fauna from the over 70 000 year long sequence at Klasies River possibly extending from MIS 6 to 3 are useful in positioning the evolution of complex human behaviour within an environmental context. Here, we use the large mammal fauna excavated in the 1980s and 1990s from Klasies River Cave 1 and 1A to test links between ungulate diversity and palaeoclimatic change in the south-eastern Cape of South Africa. Fauna from extended Pleistocene sequences in the south-eastern Cape are relatively rare and collections such as these are important proxies for assessing environmental change in this particular region. (...)


The Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the southern Levant: New insights from the late Middle Paleolithic site of Far’ah II, Israel, di M. Goder-Goldberger et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 237, 1 June 2020, 106304

Far’ah II is an open-air site in the north western Negev desert (Israel). Previous excavations in the 1970’s revealed a rich, in situ Middle Paleolithic (MP) assemblage composed of flint and limestone artifacts, animal bones and charcoal. Renewed excavation at the site were undertaken in 2017, to re-date it and provide a more accurate constrain to the sites’ age, as well as collect samples for paleoclimatic proxies. Our new Optically Stimulated Luminescence and 14C ages together with the stable oxygen isotope signature of the loess sediments, constrain the age of the upper archaeological horizon to <49 ka. This age agrees with the younger limit of 60–50 ka, obtained by Electron Spin Resonance ages, measured in the 1990’s. The heavy δ18O values in carbonates point to cooler climatic conditions than those that prevailed during the preceding short, warm episode between 58 and 49 ka. The fauna, pollen and charcoal collected during the excavation portray a savanna-like environment with a mix of Irano-Turanian and Saharo-Arabian elements and a minor Mediterranean component. (...)


Neanderthal lithic procurement and mobility patterns through a multi-level study in the Abric Romaní site (Capellades, Spain), di B. Gómez de Soler et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 237, 1 June 2020, 106315

This study represents the first integrated approach to the lithic raw materials exploited by the Neanderthals that occupied the Abric Romaní site (NE Iberia). Focusing on chert as the most abundant raw material (>80% of the assemblages), we determine the potential procurement areas and the mobility patterns. Geo-archaeological surveys within a radius of 30 km from the site documented 32 primary locations with silicifications. The chert abundance ratio, a quantitative approach to the raw material availability, together with macroscopic and petrographic analyses, confirm the underexploitation of the local raw materials (<10 km). (...)


Settlement dynamic of open-air sites in the Late Lower and Early Middle Paleolithic: surface survey from the left bank of Jordan Valley, di D. Wojtczak, R, Jagher, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 6, June 2020

Between 2015 and 2018, a joint venture of the Universities of Basel (Switzerland), Jordan, and Yarmouk (Jordan) conducted a survey project along the eastern margins of the Jordan Valley between Sulaykhat and Adassiyyah. The three field seasons, which aimed to document archeological sites, saw a number of important Paleolithic artifacts discovered. Study of the stone artifacts focused on the identification of cultural clusters based on techno-typological characteristics of particular well-known cultural units from highly stratified sites in the Levant. Alongside this, conservation conditions of lithics from open-air sites were a focus. Using such benchmarks, 140 Lower and Middle Paleolithic open-air sites were identified. In this paper, we focus only on the finds from Late Lower and Early Middle Paleolithic. (...)


Toothpicking in early Homo OH 62 from Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania): An indirect evidence of intensive meat consumption?, di A. Estalrrich, J. A. Alarcón, A. Rosas, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 143, June 2020, 102769



Spatial patterning of the archaeological and paleontological assemblage at Dmanisi, Georgia: An analysis of site formation and carnivore-hominin interaction in Block 2, di R. Coil, M. Tappen, R. Ferring, M. Bukhsianidze, M. Nioradze, D. Lordkipanidze, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 143, June 2020, 102773

This study addresses the roles of biotic agents in site formation in the B1 strata of Block 2 at Dmanisi, Georgia, using theoretical and analogous frameworks for the interpretation of spatial behaviors of carnivores and hominins. For this study, stone material, faunal remains, and coprolites are analyzed to determine if any spatially distinct behaviors can be identified, located, and attributed to either hominins or carnivores. Faunal, stone, and coprolite assemblages are compared with each other, and lithic, taxonomic, and taphonomic subassemblages are compared with the overall distribution of their parent material. (...)


The evolution of raw material procurement strategies: A view from the deep sequence of Tabun Cave, Israel, di R. Shimelmitz, S. L. Kuhn, M. Weinstein-Evron, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 143, June 2020, 102787

Changes in the ways Paleolithic foragers exploited raw material sources are linked to mobility, the demands of production, and investment in quarrying. Here, we analyze the use of raw materials in a long series of superimposed layers from Tabun Cave dating to the Middle Pleistocene, attributed to the Lower and Middle Paleolithic periods. Using the cortex preserved on the surfaces of artifacts, including blanks, tools and cores, we distinguished between flints obtained from primary and secondary geological contexts. The results from Tabun Cave indicate that the exploitation of secondary sources was fairly common during the earlier part of the Lower Paleolithic sequence. It decreased during the later part of the Acheulo-Yabrudian complex of the Lower Paleolithic, coinciding with growing use of predetermined technological strategies, which demand high-quality raw materials. By the Middle Paleolithic, primary and secondary raw materials are generally designated for different reduction trajectories, suggesting a growing distinction and formalization of technological strategies. (...)


Site occupation dynamics of early modern humans at Misliya Cave (Mount Carmel, Israel): Evidence from the spatial taphonomy of faunal remains, di R. Yeshurun, D. Malkinson, K. M. Crater Gershtein, Y. Zaidner, M. Weinstein-Evron, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 143, June 2020, 102797

Space use in Middle Paleolithic (MP) camps has been suggested as a source of information on the intensity and repetition of occupations and, by extension, of demographics. In the Levant, clear evidence for differential intrasite use and maintenance was important in viewing the late MP Neanderthal sites as base camps inhabited for a significant duration, relative to the Early MP (EMP). We test this model with the rich faunal assemblage from the EMP (>140 ka) site of Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel. Excavations in Misliya yielded a large and diverse lithic assemblage, combustion features, and a modern human maxilla, together with a large archaeofaunal assemblage that we use as a spatial marker. We analyzed the distribution of bone items with variable taphonomic properties (anthropogenic, biogenic, and abiotic bone-surface modifications) in a hearth-related context, both by comparing grid squares and point patterns. Both analyses are largely congruent. (...)


Ear infections discovered in remains of humans living in levant 15,000 years ago, 26-MAY-2020

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered evidence of ear infections in the skull remains of humans living in the Levant some 15,000 years ago. "Our research seeks to determine the impact of our environment on illnesses in different periods," says lead author Dr. Hila May of the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research at the Faculty of Medicine, located at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History. "Using advanced technologies and unique methods developed in our lab, we have been able to detect signs of prolonged inflammation in the middle ear." Dr. Katrina Floranova of the Dan David Center and Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Ilan Koren of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine also contributed to the study, which was published on March 25 in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. The researchers found a decline in morbidity as a result of ear infections following the transition from hunting and gathering to farming because of changes in living conditions. But a peak in morbidity was observed in a sedentary population living about 6,000 years ago, in the Chalcolithic period. (...)


Initial Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria, di J. J. Hublin et alii, "Nature", volume 581, issue 7808, 21 May 2020, pages 299–302

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe witnessed the replacement and partial absorption of local Neanderthal populations by Homo sapiens populations of African origin1. However, this process probably varied across regions and its details remain largely unknown. In particular, the duration of chronological overlap between the two groups is much debated, as are the implications of this overlap for the nature of the biological and cultural interactions between Neanderthals and H. sapiens. Here we report the discovery and direct dating of human remains found in association with Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefacts2, from excavations at Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria). (...)


Oldest Homo sapiens bones found in Europe, di A. Gibbons, "Science", 15 May 2020, Vol. 368, Issue 6492, pp. 697

Europe has long been home to Neanderthals, who lived here from 400,000 to 40,000 years ago. But about 47,000 years ago, a new group of people took shelter in a cave in Bulgaria. There, they butchered bison, wild horses, and cave bears, leaving the cave floor littered with bones and a wealth of artifacts—ivory beads, pendants made with cave bear teeth, and stone blades stained with red ochre. Researchers used a cutting-edge toolkit of their own to identify a molar and five bone fragments as belonging to Homo sapiens, our own species. (...)

· Oldest Homo sapiens in Europe—and a cave bear pendant—suggest cultural link to Neanderthals, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", 11 May 2020


Exploring the landscape and climatic conditions of Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans in the Middle East: the rodent assemblage from the late Pleistocene of Kaldar Cave (Khorramabad Valley, Iran), di I. Rey-Rodríguez et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 236, 15 May 2020, 106278

The Middle East, specially the Zagros region, lies in a strategic position as a crossroads between Africa, Europe and eastern Asia. The landscape of this region that prevailed around the Neanderthal and anatomically modern human occupations is not well known. Only a few sites have been studied in detail in this area, often providing only a faunal list. These reveal that Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans lived in a landscape mainly composed of dry steppes. Here we extend the data obtained from Kaldar Cave through a systematic study of the rodent assemblage. The site provided evidence of a Pleistocene occupation attested by lithic tools associated with the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, but it was also occupied during the Holocene, as evidenced by Neolithic artefacts. First excavations have revealed small vertebrates in Layer 4 (sub-layer 5 and 5II), belonging to the Upper Palaeolithic, and Layer 5 (sub-layers 7 and 7II), belonging to the Middle Palaeolithic. (...)


Barozh 12: Formation processes of a late Middle Paleolithic open-air site in western Armenia, di P. Glauberman et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 236, 15 May 2020, 106276

Barozh 12 is a Middle Paleolithic (MP) open-air site located near the Mt Arteni volcanic complex at the margins of the Ararat Depression, an intermontane basin that contains the Araxes River. Sedimentology, micromorphology, geochronology, biomarker evidence, together with an assessment of artifact taphonomy permits the modelling of site formation processes and paleoenvironment at a level of detail not previously achieved in this area. Obsidian MP artifacts were recovered in high densities at Barozh 12 from four stratigraphic units deposited during marine oxygen isotope stage 3 (MIS 3) (60.2 ± 5.7–31.3 ± 3 ka). The MIS 3 sequence commences with low energy alluvial deposits that have been altered by incipient soil formation, while artifact assemblages in these strata were only minimally reworked. (...)


Researchers trace evolution of self-control, 13-MAY-2020

Human self-control evolved in our early ancestors, becoming particularly evident around 500,000 years ago when they developed the skills to make sophisticated tools, a new study suggests. While early hominins such as Homo erectus could craft basic handaxes as early as 1.8 million years ago, our hominin ancestors began to create more elaborate and carefully designed versions of these tools sometime before 500,000 years ago. The authors of the study, from the University of York, say these advances in craftsmanship suggest individuals at this time possessed characteristics which demonstrate significant self-control, such as concentration and frustration tolerance. The study highlights a collection of 500,000 year-old flint axes unearthed from a gravel quarry in the village of Boxgrove in West Sussex. The axes are highly symmetrical suggesting careful workmanship and the forgoing of immediate needs for longer term aims. Senior author of the study, Dr Penny Spikins, from the Department of Archaeology said: "More sophisticated tools like the Boxgrove handaxes start to appear around the same time as our hominin ancestors were developing much bigger brains. "The axes demonstrate characteristics that can be related to self-control such as the investment of time and energy in something that does not produce an immediate reward, forward planning and a level of frustration tolerance for completing a painstaking task. (...)


Study suggests remnants of human migration paths exist underwater at 'choke points', 12-MAY-2020

Today, sea-level rise is a great concern of humanity as climate change warms the planet and melts ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Indeed, great coastal cities around the world like Miami and New Orleans could be underwater later in this century. But oceans have been rising for thousands of years, and this isn't the first time they have claimed land once settled by people. A new paper published in Geographical Review shows evidence vital to understanding human prehistory beneath the seas in places that were dry during the Last Glacial Maximum. Indeed, this paper informs one of the "hottest mysteries" in science: the debate over when the first Asians peopled North America. The researchers behind the paper studied "choke points" -- narrow land corridors, called isthmuses but often better known for the canals that cross them, or constricted ocean passages, called straits. Typically isthmuses would have been wider 20,000 years ago due to lower sea levels, and some straits did not even exist back then.  (...)


Non-destructive ZooMS identification reveals strategic bone tool raw material selection by Neandertals, di N. L. Martisius et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 10, article number: 7746 (2020), 08 May 2020 - free  access -

Five nearly identical fragments of specialized bone tools, interpreted as lissoirs (French for “smoothers”), have been found at two Middle Paleolithic sites in southwest France. The finds span three separate archaeological deposits, suggesting continuity in the behavior of late Neandertals. Using standard morphological assessments, we determined that the lissoirs were produced on ribs of medium-sized ungulates. However, since these bones are highly fragmented and anthropogenically modified, species determinations were challenging. Also, conservative curation policy recommends minimizing destructive sampling of rare, fragile, or small artifacts for molecular identification methods. To better understand raw material selection for these five lissoirs, we reassess their taxonomy using a non-destructive ZooMS methodology based on triboelectric capture of collagen. We sampled four storage containers and obtained identifiable MALDI-TOF MS collagen fingerprints, all indicative of the same taxonomic clade, which includes aurochs and bison (Bos sp. and Bison sp.). The fifth specimen, which was stored in a plastic bag, provided no useful MALDI-TOF MS spectra. We show that the choice of large bovid ribs in an archaeological layer dominated by reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) demonstrates strategic selection by these Neandertals. Furthermore, our results highlight the value of a promising technique for the non-destructive analysis of bone artifacts. (...)


The chronological, sedimentary and environmental context for the archaeological deposits at Blombos Cave, South Africa, di Z. Jacobs, B. G. Jones, H. C. Cawthra, C. S. Henshilwood, R. G. Roberts, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 235, 1 May 2020, 105850

The site of Blombos Cave (BBC) is well known for archaeological remains that have advanced our understanding of the development of modern human behaviour during the Middle Stone Age (MSA). Occupation of the cave occurred against a backdrop of landscape-scale environmental and sedimentary processes that provide the broader context for finer-scale interpretations of the site-formation history and archaeological patterns detected in the cave deposits. Aeolian and palaeosol sequences are abundant in the vicinity of BBC and these provide a partial view of the past landscapes available to the inhabitants of the cave. An important extension to the palaeo-landscape around BBC currently lies submerged on the Agulhas Bank, as sea levels were lower than at present for the entire period of human occupation of BBC. (...)


Migration of Pleistocene shorelines across the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain: Evidence from dated sub-bottom profiles and archaeological shellfish assemblages, di H. C. Cawthra, R. J. Anderson, J. C. De Vynck, Z. Jacobs, A. Jerardino, K. Kyriacou, C. W. Marean, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 235, 1 May 2020, 106107

Intertidal zones on shorelines are geologically complex features of the coastal plain, shaped by heterogeneous substrate lithologies. Palaeocoastlines have been heavily modified by sea-level change, ocean currents, wind, waves and swell. Rocks and sediments along intertidal zones create rich habitats for biogenic forms including shellfish, which are highly sensitive to subtle variations in underlying lithology. Here, we assess Pleistocene shoreline migrations on the south coast of South Africa in relation to fluctuating sea-levels and changes in sediment supply. The study area extends from Still Bay to Mossel Bay, South Africa, with a particular focus on Pinnacle Point. Our goal is to better understand the changes to the intertidal zone along these palaeocoastlines and how this may have affected marine resources available to early humans. We interpret marine geological records at select time slices along sub-bottom profiled transects that run perpendicular to the coast. We describe the character of specific shorelines to establish expectations of coastline character which we then compare to archaeological records at Pinnacle Point. (...)


Applying Brantingham's neutral model of stone raw material procurement to the Pinnacle Point Middle Stone Age record, Western Cape, South Africa, di S. Oestmo, M. A. Janssen, H. C. Cawthra, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 235, 1 May 2020, 105901

The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP), when exposed, presented Middle Stone Age (MSA) foragers at Pinnacle Point (PP) on the South Coast of South Africa with new sources of raw materials to make stone tools. Sea-level fluctuations and the changing size of the Paleo-Agulhas Plain throughout the Pleistocene PP record ~165 ka to 50 ka would have altered the availability of different resources, thus potentially forcing new raw material procurement strategies. The relative frequencies of raw material throughout the PP sequence shows that frequencies of raw material types did change, especially after 90 ka. What caused these changing frequencies is debated and centers on whether targeted procurement of specific raw materials was the cause, or if simple raw material availability and abundance due to the changing environmental context in conjunction with opportunistic procurement drove such shifts. (...)


Archaic hominin introgression into modern human genomes, di O. Gokcumen, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 171, Issue S70, Supplement: Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, May 2020, Pages 60-73 - free access -

Ancient genomes from multiple Neanderthal and the Denisovan individuals, along with DNA sequence data from diverse contemporary human populations strongly support the prevalence of gene flow among different hominins. Recent studies now provide evidence for multiple gene flow events that leave genetic signatures in extant and ancient human populations. These events include older gene flow from an unknown hominin in Africa predating out‐of‐Africa migrations, and in the last 50,000–100,000 years, multiple gene flow events from Neanderthals into ancestral Eurasian human populations, and at least three distinct introgression events from a lineage close to Denisovans into ancestors of extant Southeast Asian and Oceanic populations. Some of these introgression events may have happened as late as 20,000 years before present and reshaped the way in which we think about human evolution. In this review, I aim to answer anthropologically relevant questions with regard to recent research on ancient hominin introgression in the human lineage. How have genomic data from archaic hominins changed our view of human evolution? Is there any doubt about whether introgression from ancient hominins to the ancestors of present‐day humans occurred? What is the current view of human evolutionary history from the genomics perspective? What is the impact of introgression on human phenotypes? (...)


U-series dating at Nerja cave reveal open system. Questioning the Neanderthal origin of Spanish rock art, di E. Pons-Branchu et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 117, May 2020, 105120

U/Th data obtained on CaCO3 layers covering rock art at Nerja Cave (Spain) evidence erroneous ages and an inverse relation between uranium concentration and apparent ages. This open system behavior could be due to a mechanism causing uranium mobility, resulting in apparent ages being too old with respect to their real age. (...)


Postcranial hominin remains from the Late Pleistocene of Pešturina Cave (Serbia), di J. A.Lindal, P. Radović, D. Mihailović, M. Roksandic, "Quaternary International", Volume 542, 20 March 2020, Pages 9-14

The Central Balkans represents a significant geographical gap in the human fossil record of Eurasia. Here we present two new human fossils from Pešturina Cave, Serbia: a partial atlas vertebra (C1) and a fragment of radial diaphysis. The atlas (Pes-1) derives from the lower portion of Layer 2 and conforms to modern human morphology. This layer is characterized by Gravettian industry despite uncertainties caused by bioturbation and difficulties in separating Layers 2 and 3. The radial fragment (Pes-2) was recovered from the contact zone between Layers 3 and 4, both of which represent Mousterian industries, and is tentatively assessed as Neanderthal based on morphology. (...)

  Subsistence Strategies in the Stone Age: Direct and Indirect Evidence of Fishing and Gathering, "Quaternary International". Edited by Marian Berihuete-Azorín, Olga Lozovskaya. Volume 541, Pages 1-204 (10 March 2020)



Apidima, Péloponnèse, Grèce, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 124, Issue 1, January–April 2020:

1) Apidima 1 and Apidima 2: Two anteneandertal skulls in the Peloponnese, Greece, di M. A. de Lumley, G. Guipert, H. de Lumley, N. Protopapa, T. Pitsios

2) An assessment of the late Middle Pleistocene occipital from Apidima 1 skull (Greece), di A. Rosas, M. Bastir

3) Apidima : expressions rituelles portées sur le traitement des crânes humains, di M. Otte


Aggiornamento 18 aprile

  Two burials in a unique freshwater shell midden: insights into transformations of Stone Age hunter-fisher daily life in Latvia, di U. Brinker et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 5, May 2020, Article number: 97 (2020)

The Stone Age site Riņņukalns, Latvia, is the only well-stratified shell midden in the Eastern Baltic. In this paper, we present new interdisciplinary results concerning its dating, stratigraphy, features, and finds to shed light on the daily life of a fisher population prior to the introduction of domesticated animals. The undisturbed part of the midden consists of alternating layers of unburnt mussel shell, burnt mussel shell and fish bone, containing artefacts, some mammal and bird bones, and human burials. Two of them, an adult man and a baby, are discovered recently and date to the calibration plateau between 3350 and 3100 cal BC, and to the later 4th millennium, respectively. (...)


Maxillary molar enamel thickness of Plio-Pleistocene hominins, di A. L. Lockey, Z. Alemseged, J. J. Hublin, M. M. Skinner, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 142, May 2020, 102731

Enamel thickness remains an important morphological character in hominin systematics and is regularly incorporated into dietary reconstructions in hominin species. We expand upon a previous study of enamel thickness in mandibular molars by examining a large maxillary molar sample of Plio-Pleistocene hominins (n = 62) and a comparative sample of extant nonhuman apes (n = 48) and modern humans (n = 29). 2D mesial planes of section were generated through microtomography, and standard dental tissue variables were measured to calculate average enamel thickness (AET) and relative enamel thickness (RET). AET was also examined across the lingual, occlusal, and buccal regions of the crown. This study confirms previous findings of increasing enamel thickness throughout the Plio-Pleistocene, being thinnest in Australopithecus anamensis and peaking in Australopithecus boisei, with early Homo specimens, exhibiting intermediate enamel thickness. (...)


A morphometric comparison of the parietal lobe in modern humans and Neanderthals, di A. S. Pereira-Pedro, E. Bruner, P. Gunz, S. Neubauer, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 142, May 2020, 102770

The modern human brain and braincase have a characteristic globular shape including parietal and cerebellar bulging. In contrast, Neanderthals, although having similar endocranial volume, displayed more elongated endocrania with flatter parietal and cerebellar regions. Based on endocranial imprints, we compare the parietal lobe morphology of modern humans and Neanderthals, as this brain region is central to several cognitive functions including tool use and visual imaging. In paleoneurology, shape analyses of endocasts are based either on anatomical landmarks that represent endocranial surface features homologous to cortical convolutions (impressions of brain gyri and sulci) or on dense meshes of semilandmarks that capture overall endocranial shape. Previous analyses using the former suggested that modern humans have relatively longer and taller parietal lobes than extinct human species, while the latter emphasized parietal bulging without a significant size difference of parietal regions. In the present study, we combine both anatomical landmarks and surface semilandmarks to investigate the morphological differences of the parietal lobes between modern humans and Neanderthals. (...)


Morphometric analysis of the hominin talus: Evolutionary and functional implications, di R. Sorrentino et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 142, May 2020, 102747

The adoption of bipedalism is a key benchmark in human evolution that has impacted talar morphology. Here, we investigate talar morphological variability in extinct and extant hominins using a 3D geometric morphometric approach. The evolutionary timing and appearance of modern human–like features and their contributions to bipedal locomotion were evaluated on the talus as a whole, each articular facet separately, and multiple combinations of facets. Distinctive suites of features are consistently present in all fossil hominins, despite the presence of substantial interspecific variation, suggesting a potential connection of these suites to bipedal gait. A modern human–like condition evolved in navicular and lateral malleolar facets early in the hominin lineage compared with other facets, which demonstrate more complex morphological variation within Homininae. Interestingly, navicular facet morphology of Australopithecus afarensis is derived in the direction of Homo, whereas more recent hominin species such as Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus sediba retain more primitive states in this facet. (...)

  Dating the skull from Broken Hill, Zambia, and its position in human evolution, di R. Grün et alii, "Nature", volume 580, issue 7803, 16 April 2020

The cranium from Broken Hill (Kabwe) was recovered from cave deposits in 1921, during metal ore mining in what is now Zambia. It is one of the best-preserved skulls of a fossil hominin, and was initially designated as the type specimen of Homo rhodesiensis, but recently it has often been included in the taxon Homo heidelbergensis. However, the original site has since been completely quarried away, and—although the cranium is often estimated to be around 500 thousand years old—its unsystematic recovery impedes its accurate dating and placement in human evolution. Here we carried out analyses directly on the skull and found a best age estimate of 299 ± 25 thousand years (mean ± 2σ). (...)

  Evidence for habitual climbing in a Pleistocene hominin in South Africa, L. Georgiou et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 14 April 2020, vol. 117, no. 15 - free  access -

Bipedalism is a defining trait of the hominin lineage, associated with a transition from a more arboreal to a more terrestrial environment. While there is debate about when modern human-like bipedalism first appeared in hominins, all known South African hominins show morphological adaptations to bipedalism, suggesting that this was their predominant mode of locomotion. Here we present evidence that hominins preserved in the Sterkfontein Caves practiced two different locomotor repertoires. The trabecular structure of a proximal femur (StW 522) attributed to Australopithecus africanus exhibits a modern human-like bipedal locomotor pattern, while that of a geologically younger specimen (StW 311) attributed to either Homo sp. or Paranthropus robustus exhibits a pattern more similar to nonhuman apes, potentially suggesting regular bouts of both climbing and terrestrial bipedalism. Our results demonstrate distinct morphological differences, linked to behavioral differences between Australopithecus and later hominins in South Africa and contribute to the increasing evidence of locomotor diversity within the hominin clade. (...)

  The dental proteome of Homo antecessor, di F. Welker et alii, "Nature", volume 580, issue 7802, 9 April 2020

The phylogenetic relationships between hominins of the Early Pleistocene epoch in Eurasia, such as Homo antecessor, and hominins that appear later in the fossil record during the Middle Pleistocene epoch, such as Homo sapiens, are highly debated. For the oldest remains, the molecular study of these relationships is hindered by the degradation of ancient DNA. However, recent research has demonstrated that the analysis of ancient proteins can address this challenge. Here we present the dental enamel proteomes of H. antecessor from Atapuerca (Spain) and Homo erectus from Dmanisi (Georgia), two key fossil assemblages that have a central role in models of Pleistocene hominin morphology, dispersal and divergence. We provide evidence that H. antecessor is a close sister lineage to subsequent Middle and Late Pleistocene hominins, including modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans. This placement implies that the modern-like face of H. antecessor—that is, similar to that of modern humans—may have a considerably deep ancestry in the genus Homo, and that the cranial morphology of Neanderthals represents a derived form. (...)

  Shaped stone balls were used for bone marrow extraction at Lower Paleolithic Qesem Cave, Israel, di E. Assaf et alii, 9 April 2020, doi: - free  access -

The presence of shaped stone balls at early Paleolithic sites has attracted scholarly attention since the pioneering work of the Leakeys in Olduvai, Tanzania. Despite the persistent presence of these items in the archaeological record over a period of two million years, their function is still debated. We present new results from Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave on the use of these implements as percussion tools. Use-wear and abundant bone and fat residues found on ten shaped stone balls indicate crushing of fresh bones by thrusting percussion and provide direct evidence for the use of these items to access bone marrow of animal prey at this site. Two experiments conducted to investigate and verify functional aspects proved Qesem Cave shaped stone balls are efficient for bone processing and provide a comfortable grip and useful active areas for repeated use. Notably, the patina observed on the analyzed items precedes their use at the cave, indicating that they were collected by Qesem inhabitants, most probably from older Lower Paleolithic Acheulian sites. Thus, our results refer only to the final phases of the life of the items, and we cannot attest to their original function. As bone marrow played a central role in human nutrition in the Lower Paleolithic, and our experimental results show that the morphology and characteristics of shaped stone ball replicas are well-suited for the extraction of bone marrow, we suggest that these features might have been the reason for their collection and use at Qesem Cave. These results shed light on the function of shaped stone balls and are consistent with the significance of animal fat in the caloric intake of Middle Pleistocene humans as shown by the archeozoological evidence at Qesem Cave and possibly beyond. (...)

  Direct evidence of Neanderthal fibre technology and its cognitive and behavioral implications, di B. L. Hardy, M. H. Moncel, C. Kerfant, M. Lebon, L. Bellot-Gurlet, N. Mélard, "Scientific Reports", 09 April 2020, volume 10, article number: 4889 (2020) - free  access -

Neanderthals are often considered as less technologically advanced than modern humans. However, we typically only find faunal remains or stone tools at Paleolithic sites. Perishable materials, comprising the vast majority of material culture items, are typically missing. Individual twisted fibres on stone tools from the Abri du Maras led to the hypothesis of Neanderthal string production in the past, but conclusive evidence was lacking. Here we show direct evidence of fibre technology in the form of a 3-ply cord fragment made from inner bark fibres on a stone tool recovered in situ from the same site. Twisted fibres provide the basis for clothing, rope, bags, nets, mats, boats, etc. which, once discovered, would have become an indispensable part of daily life. Understanding and use of twisted fibres implies the use of complex multi-component technology as well as a mathematical understanding of pairs, sets, and numbers. Added to recent evidence of birch bark tar, art, and shell beads, the idea that Neanderthals were cognitively inferior to modern humans is becoming increasingly untenable. (...)

  Contemporaneity of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo erectus in South Africa, di A. I. R. Herries et alii, "Science", 03 Apr 2020: vol. 368, issue 6486, eaaw7293

Understanding the extinction of Australopithecus and origins of Paranthropus and Homo in South Africa has been hampered by the perceived complex geological context of hominin fossils, poor chronological resolution, and a lack of well-preserved early Homo specimens. We describe, date, and contextualize the discovery of two hominin crania from Drimolen Main Quarry in South Africa. At ~2.04 million to 1.95 million years old, DNH 152 represents the earliest definitive occurrence of Paranthropus robustus, and DNH 134 represents the earliest occurrence of a cranium with clear affinities to Homo erectus. These crania also show that Homo, Paranthropus, and Australopithecus were contemporaneous at ~2 million years ago. This high taxonomic diversity is also reflected in non-hominin species and provides evidence of endemic evolution and dispersal during a period of climatic variability. (...)

  New insights into early MIS 5 lithic technological behavior in the Levant: Nesher Ramla, Israel as a case study, di M. Prévost, Y. Zaidner, 3 April 2020, doi: - free  access -

Interpreting human behavioral patterns during the Middle Paleolithic in the Levant is crucial for better understanding the dispersals and evolution of Homo sapiens and their possible interactions with other hominin groups. Here, we reconstruct the technological behavior, focusing on the centripetal Levallois method at Nesher Ramla karst sinkhole, Israel. Nesher Ramla karst sinkhole is dated to the Marine Isotope stages (MIS) 6 and 5 and represents one of the oldest occurrences of the centripetal Levallois reduction strategy in the Near East. The Levallois centripetal technology is often seen as a marker of human dispersals and adaptations in the Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age of Africa and the Near East. This technology is documented in East African sites as early as 300 kya and in the Levant as early as 130 kya. However, the degree of similarity between African and Levantine centripetal technology and whether it originates from the same source remain under debate. In this paper, we focus on describing the lithic organization at Unit III of Nesher Ramla (dated to MIS 5), which is dominated by the centripetal Levallois method in association with other reduction sequences. Both preferential and recurrent centripetal Levallois modes were used at the site to produce oval and rectangular flakes. Other minor reduction sequences include unidirectional convergent method for Levallois points production and a specific method for the manufacture of naturally backed knives. The lithic data from Unit III of Nesher Ramla is further used in inter-site comparisons suggesting that the mid-Middle Paleolithic sites in the Near East possess common technological characteristics, especially the use of the centripetal Levallois method as predominant reduction strategy. This trend differs from what is usually observed in Africa and Europe, where the centripetal Levallois method is modestly represented during MIS 5 and is accompanied by other, more dominant, reduction strategies. (...)

  Mysterious human ancestor finds its place in our family tree, di M. Price, "Science", Apr. 1, 2020

When it comes to deciphering our ancient family tree, DNA from fossils is the new gold standard. But after about half a million years, even the best-preserved DNA degrades into illegibility, leaving the story of our early evolution shrouded in mystery. A new study of proteins taken from the tooth of an enigmatic human ancestor reveals their rough place in the family tree—and shows how ancient proteins can push beyond the limits of DNA. The new study is “a landmark paper,” says Mark Collard, an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University who wasn’t involved with the work. “Ancient protein analysis promises to be as exciting as ancient DNA analysis for shedding light on human evolution.” DNA, made of chains of nucleic acids, can remain embedded inside fossilized bones (and prehistoric “chewing gum”) for up to about 500,000 years, explains Enrico Cappellini, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum of Denmark. That time frame covers the rise of our species, Homo sapiens, in Africa sometime about 300,000 years ago. But before then, many other kinds of humans roamed Earth, including our close cousins the Neanderthals, and their Siberian kin, the Denisovans. Another early relative is H. antecessor, known chiefly from northern Spain’s Gran Dolina cave. (...)

  Immature remains and the first partial skeleton of a juvenile Homo naledi, a late Middle Pleistocene hominin from South Africa, di D. R. Bolter, M. C. Elliott, J. Hawks, L. R. Berger, 1 April 2020, doi: - free  access -

Immature remains are critical for understanding maturational processes in hominin species as well as for interpreting changes in ontogenetic development in hominin evolution. The study of these subjects is hindered by the fact that associated juvenile remains are extremely rare in the hominin fossil record. Here we describe an assemblage of immature remains of Homo naledi recovered from the 2013–2014 excavation season. From this assemblage, we attribute 16 postcranial elements and a partial mandible with some dentition to a single juvenile Homo naledi individual. The find includes postcranial elements never before discovered as immature elements in the sub-equatorial early hominin fossil record, and contributes new data to the field of hominin ontogeny. (...)

  Modern humans, Neanderthals share a tangled genetic history, study affirms, 1-APR-2020

In recent years, scientists have uncovered evidence that modern humans and Neanderthals share a tangled past. In the course of human history, these two species of hominins interbred not just once, but at multiple times, the thinking goes. A new study supports this notion, finding that people in Eurasia today have genetic material linked to Neanderthals from the Altai mountains in modern-day Siberia. This is noteworthy because past research has shown that Neanderthals connected to a different, distant location -- the Vindija Cave in modern-day Croatia -- have also contributed DNA to modern-day Eurasian populations. The results reinforce the concept that Neanderthal DNA has been woven into the modern human genome on multiple occasions as our ancestors met Neanderthals time and again in different parts of the world. The study was published on March 31 in the journal Genetics. "It's not a single introgression of genetic material from Neanderthals," says lead researcher Omer Gokcumen, a University at Buffalo biologist. "It's just this spider web of interactions that happen over and over again, where different ancient hominins are interacting with each other, and our paper is adding to this picture. This project will now add to an emerging chorus -- we've been looking into this phenomenon for a couple of years, and there are a couple of papers that came out recently that deal with similar concepts." (...)

  Australopithecus afarensis endocasts suggest ape-like brain organization and prolonged brain growth, di P. Gunz et alii, "Science Advances", 01 Apr 2020: vol. 6, no. 14, eaaz4729 - free  access -

Human brains are three times larger, are organized differently, and mature for a longer period of time than those of our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees. Together, these characteristics are important for human cognition and social behavior, but their evolutionary origins remain unclear. To study brain growth and organization in the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis more than 3 million years ago, we scanned eight fossil crania using conventional and synchrotron computed tomography. We inferred key features of brain organization from endocranial imprints and explored the pattern of brain growth by combining new endocranial volume estimates with narrow age at death estimates for two infants. Contrary to previous claims, sulcal imprints reveal an ape-like brain organization and no features derived toward humans. A comparison of infant to adult endocranial volumes indicates protracted brain growth in A. afarensis, likely critical for the evolution of a long period of childhood learning in hominins. (...)

  Ectopic maxillary third molar in Early Pleistocene Homo antecessor from Atapuerca-Gran Dolina site (Burgos, Spain), di L. Martín-Francés et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 171, Issue 4, April 2020, Pages 733-741

Here we describe the case of an ectopic maxillary third molar (M3), preventing the eruption of the M2, in the individual H3 of the hominin hypodigm of level TD6.2 of the Early Pleistocene site of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain).
The fossil remains from the TD6.2 level of the Gran Dolina site (about 170 specimens) are assigned to Homo antecessor. Different geochronological methods place these hominins in the oxygen isotopic stage 21, between 0.8 and 0.85 million years ago (Ma). The immature individual H3 is represented by an almost complete midface (ATD6-69), preserving various teeth in situ. We used high-resolution microtomograhy (mCT) to investigate the abnormal position of the left M3, virtually reconstruct M2, and M3 as well as assessing the development stage of these. Finally, we compare this case with extinct and extant populations. (...)

  The chronology and function of a new circular mammoth-bone structure at Kostenki 11, di A. J. E. Pryor et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 94, Issue 374, April 2020, pp. 323-341

Circular features made from mammoth bone are known from across Upper Palaeolithic Eastern Europe, and are widely identified as dwellings. The first systematic flotation programme of samples from a recently discovered feature at Kostenki 11 in Russia has yielded assemblages of charcoal, burnt bone and microlithic debitage. New radiocarbon dates provide the first coherent chronology for the site, revealing it to be one of the oldest such features on the Russian Plain. The authors discuss the implications for understanding the function of circular mammoth-bone features during the onset of the Last Glacial. (...)
  Short and close in time: overlapped occupation from the layer 56 of the Molare Rock shelter (Southern Italy), di V. Spagnolo et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 4, April 2020, Article number: 92 (2020)

The Molare Rock shelter (S. Giovanni a Piro, Salerno, Italy) is a key site to carry out high-resolution chronological studies in the broader context of Italian Mousterian peopling dynamics. The stratigraphic sequence is to be referred to MIS 5 and is characterized by the presence of a number of thin anthropic levels (often consisting of largely undisturbed living floors) alternated with sterile layers of various thickness. Even if the excavated area covers only a part of the original site, macro-evidence of the spatial organization of the settlement (e.g. position of hearths, structures, etc.) is quite variable through the sequence. However, broader analyses are needed to better understand the archaeological record and to detect continuities or discontinuities related to survival or change of settlement dynamics and economic strategies through time. (...)

  On identifying Palaeolithic single occupation episodes: archaeostratigraphic and technological approaches to the Neanderthal lithic record of stratigraphic unit Xa of El Salt (Alcoi, eastern Iberia), di A. Mayor et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 4, April 2020, Article number: 84 (2020)

Within the framework of archaeological palimpsest dissection, stratigraphic association of lithic remains with hearths and other archaeological materials in undisturbed Neanderthal contexts allows us to seek patterns in lithic and faunal assemblage composition, assess the degree of time averaging within assemblages and investigate the spatial distribution of archaeological remains. So far, the European Neanderthal record shows variability in such spatial parameters, not only among different geographic regions but also across time. This approach has been employed to draw conclusions about the main features of Neanderthal occupations from in situ archaeological contexts within individual site sequences. As contribution to this topic, we present new results from our ongoing archaeostratigraphic investigation of stratigraphic unit Xa from El Salt (Alcoi, Alacant, eastern Iberia). Our previous study, based on stratigraphic analysis of the lithic record consisting of raw material units, yielded several micropalimpsests within unit Xa. Here, we carry out further technological and spatial analysis of the micropalimpsest units. (...)

  Quantifying how much raw material is needed: A case study based on the weight of the lithic artefacts from the Brno-Štýřice III Epigravettian site (Moravia, Czech Republic), di Z. Nerudová, "Archaeometry", Volume 62, Issue 2, Pages: 1-438, April 2020

This paper compares the quantification of different raw materials in a chipped stone assemblage by weight and by number at the site of Brno-Štýřice III in Moravia, Czech Republic. The use of the same reduction technology for all raw materials means that the Brno-Štýřice III assemblage is a good case study. The result demonstrates that semi-local raw material tends to dominate numerically, but in terms of weight, there is a significant change in the predominant raw material. The paper contextualizes the results in relation to other assemblages and discusses the possible reasons for this phenomenon.

  "Journal of Human Evolution", volume 141, april 2020:

1) The upper limb of Paranthropus boisei from Ileret, Kenya, di B. G. Richmond et alii

2) A refined chronology for the Gravettian sequence of Abri Pataud, di K. Douka, L. Chiotti, R. Nespoulet, T. Higham

3) Analyses of the neandertal patellae from El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) with implications for the evolution of body form in Homo, di A. Rosas

4) The study of the lower limb entheses in the Neanderthal sample from El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain): How much musculoskeletal variability did Neanderthals accumulate? di M. G. Belcastro et alii

5) Trajectories of cultural innovation from the Middle to Later Stone Age in Eastern Africa: Personal ornaments, bone artifacts, and ocher from Panga ya Saidi, Kenya, di F. d’Errico et alii


Cultural taxonomies in the Paleolithic—Old questions, novel perspectives, di F. Riede et alii, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 29, Issue 2, March 2020, Pages 49-52

Time and time again, the systematics of Paleolithic archeology have been discussed, albeit most often in relation to specific periods or phenomena,1, 2 or in difficult-to-access publications.3-5 Despite these recurring debates, however, the practice of classification and of building cultural taxonomies has changed little over the last many decades. Today, the cultural taxonomies of the Paleolithic are in crisis.6 Still, a robust definition of the analytical taxonomic units—cultures, industries, facies, groups—used for charting cultural and behavioral change in space and time is critical. (...)

  Palaeoenvironmental setting of Mojokerto Homo erectus, the palynological expressions of Pleistocene marine deltas, open grasslands and volcanic mountains in East Java, di R. J. Morley et alii, "Journale of Biogeography", Volume 47, Issue 3, March 2020, Pages 566-583

The vertical stratigraphic series of facies in the Perning and adjacent Jetis sections indicates a landscape with four potential Homo habitats: muddy deltas with widespread Nypa swamps; a poorly vegetated sandy delta; extensive open savanna grasslands in the lowlands up river of the delta; and volcanoes in the upper reaches of the catchment with perhumid montane podocarp and broad-leaf forests and probable open fire‐climax Casuarina junghuhniana forest. Palynological data support an Early Pleistocene geological age for Mojokerto H. erectus at about 1.43 Myr. (...)


New fossils of Australopithecus anamensis from Kanapoi, West Turkana, Kenya (2012–2015), di C. V. Ward, J. M. Plavcan, F. K. Manthi, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 140, March 2020, 102368

Kanapoi, Kenya, has yielded the earliest evidence of the genus Australopithecus, Australopithecus anamensis. Renewed fieldwork from 2012 through 2015 yielded 18 new fossils attributable to this species. The new specimens include the second maxillary fragment known from a Kanapoi hominin and the first from a relatively young adult. The new maxilla has the distinctive rounded nasal aperture margin characteristic of A. anamensis. A second partial proximal tibia from the site is the first postcranial element from a small A. anamensis individual. (...)


Preliminary paleoecological insights from the Pliocene avifauna of Kanapoi, Kenya: Implications for the ecology of Australopithecus anamensis, di D. J. Field, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 140, March 2020, 102384

Fossil bird remains from the Pliocene hominin-bearing locality of Kanapoi comprise >100 elements representing at least 10 avian families, including previously undescribed elements referred to the ‘giant’ Pliocene marabou stork Leptoptilos cf. falconeri. The taxonomic composition of the Kanapoi fossil avifauna reveals an assemblage with a substantial aquatic component, corroborating geological evidence of this locality's close proximity to a large, slow-moving body of water. Both the taxonomic composition and relative abundance of avian higher-level clades at Kanapoi stand in stark contrast to the avifauna from the slightly older (~4.4 Ma vs. 4.2 Ma) hominin-bearing Lower Aramis Member of Ethiopia, which has been interpreted as representing a mesic woodland paleoenvironment far from water. (...)


The ecology of Australopithecus anamensis in the early Pliocene of Kanapoi, Kenya, di R. Bobe et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 140, March 2020, 102717

Australopithecus anamensis is a pivotal species in human evolution. It is likely to be the direct ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis and the species that may have given rise to the Homo and Paranthropus lineages. It had a suite of adaptations for habitual bipedalism and a diet that differed from that of earlier hominin species. Under what environmental and ecological conditions did this suite of adaptations arise? The early Pliocene site of Kanapoi in the Lake Turkana Basin of Kenya has the largest sample of A. anamensis in eastern Africa and a rich record of fossil vertebrates. Most Kanapoi fossils are chronologically well constrained by radiometrically dated tephras between the ages of 4.2 and 4.1 million years ago. Sedimentological, isotopic, and faunal data indicate that the environments of Kanapoi during the early Pliocene had a complex range of vegetation types that included closed woodlands, shrubs, and grasslands near a river (for most of the sequence) or lake. (...)

  Bone retouchers and technological continuity in the Middle Stone Age of North Africa, di E. Turner, L. Humphrey, A. Bouzouggar, N. Barton, 30 March 2020, doi: - free  access -

Evidence for specialised bone tools has recently been reported for the Middle Stone Age of North Africa [one], which complements similar finds of slightly younger age in South Africa [two, three]. However, until now scant reference has been made to lesser known tools also made of bone (‘bone retouchers’) that were employed specifically as intermediaries for working or refining stone artefacts, that are sometimes present in these assemblages. In this paper we describe 20 bone retouchers from the cave of Grotte des Pigeons at Taforalt in north-east Morocco. This is the largest stratified assemblage of bone retouchers from a North African MSA site, and the biggest single collection so far from the African Continent. A total of 18 bone retouchers was recovered in securely dated archaeological levels spanning a period from ~ 84.5 ka to 24 ka cal BP. A further two bone retouchers were found in a layer at the base of the deposits in association with Aterian artefacts dating to around 85,000 BP and so far represent the earliest evidence of this type of tool at Taforalt. In this paper we present a first, detailed description of the finds and trace the stages of their production, use and discard (chaîne opératoire). At the same time, we assess if there were diachronic changes in their form and function and, finally, explore their presence in relation to stone tools from the same occupation layers of the cave (...)
  Neanderthal surf and turf, di M. Will, "Science", 27 Mar 2020, vol. 367, issue 6485, pp. 1422-1423

Humans share a deep bond with coasts and oceans. More than 500 million people live in coastal communities, and beaches and seafood attract tourists from around the world. Archaeological research in southern Africa revealed early human coastal adaptations that occurred at least as far back as ~160,000 years ago in the Middle Stone Age (MSA)—the cultural period of the earliest Homo sapiens. Paleolithic sites across Africa and elsewhere support the hypothesis that coastal adaptations have a long and lasting history. Yet, scientists still debate the importance of coastal adaptations for the evolution and dispersal of H. sapiens during the Pleistocene (Ice Age) (...)


Last Interglacial Iberian Neandertals as fisher-hunter-gatherers, di J. Zilhão et alii, "Science", 27 Mar 2020: Vol. 367, issue 6485, eaaz7943

Marine food–reliant subsistence systems such as those in the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) were not thought to exist in Europe until the much later Mesolithic. Whether this apparent lag reflects taphonomic biases or behavioral distinctions between archaic and modern humans remains much debated. Figueira Brava cave, in the Arrábida range (Portugal), provides an exceptionally well preserved record of Neandertal coastal resource exploitation on a comparable scale to the MSA and dated to ~86 to 106 thousand years ago. The breadth of the subsistence base—pine nuts, marine invertebrates, fish, marine birds and mammals, tortoises, waterfowl, and hoofed game—exceeds that of regional early Holocene sites. Fisher-hunter-gatherer economies are not the preserve of anatomically modern people; by the Last Interglacial, they were in place across the Old World in the appropriate settings. (...)

  Insights into human genetic variation and population history from 929 diverse genomes, di A. Bergström et alii, "Science", 20 Mar 2020: vol. 367, issue 6484, eaay5012

Genome sequences from diverse human groups are needed to understand the structure of genetic variation in our species and the history of, and relationships between, different populations. We present 929 high-coverage genome sequences from 54 diverse human populations, 26 of which are physically phased using linked-read sequencing. Analyses of these genomes reveal an excess of previously undocumented common genetic variation private to southern Africa, central Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, but an absence of such variants fixed between major geographical regions. We also find deep and gradual population separations within Africa, contrasting population size histories between hunter-gatherer and agriculturalist groups in the past 10,000 years, and a contrast between single Neanderthal but multiple Denisovan source populations contributing to present-day human populations. (...)

  'Little Foot' skull reveals how this more than 3 million year old human ancestor lived, 17-MAR-2020

High-resolution micro-CT scanning of the skull of the fossil specimen known as "Little Foot" has revealed some aspects of how this Australopithecus species used to live more than 3 million years ago. The meticulous excavation, cleaning and scanning of the skull of the ~3.67 million-year-old fossil specimen has revealed the most complete Australopithecus adult first cervical vertebra yet found. A description of the vertebra by Wits University researchers Dr Amélie Beaudet and the Sterkfontein team was published in the Scientific Reports. This research program is supported by the the Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, Scientific Palaeontological Trust, National Research Foundation, University of the Witwatersrand and the French National Centre for Scientific Research through the French Institute of South Africa. The first cervical vertebra (or atlas) plays a crucial role in vertebrate biology. Besides acting as the connection between the head and the neck, the atlas also plays a role in how blood is supplied to the brain via the vertebral arteries. (...)

  The Upper Palaeolithic at Trenčianske Bohuslavice, Western Carpathians, Slovakia, di J. Wilczyński et alii, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 45, 2020 - Issue 4, 09 Mar 2020

Trenčianske Bohuslavice Gravettian site has been known since the early 1980s, with possibly the longest sequence of Upper Palaeolithic human occupation in the region, including a peculiar assemblage of lithic tools composed of bifacial leaf points. This paper presents the results of the 2017 excavation season that produced new data on the absolute chronology, stratigraphy, paleobotany, archaeology, and archaeozoology of the site. We found that the earliest occupation most probably belongs to the Aurignacian. This is followed by two Late Gravettian layers and the layer that yielded the bifacial leaf points. An Early Epigravettian layer dated to 26 kya seals the sequence. The succession of biological remains and geological evidence enabled the reconstruction of a cooling climate and disappearing boreal forest, which corresponded well with the development of the Last Glacial Maximum. (...)

  Stiffness of the human foot and evolution of the transverse arch, di M. Venkadesan et alii, "Nature", volume 579, issue 7797, 5 March 2020

The stiff human foot enables an efficient push-off when walking or running, and was critical for the evolution of bipedalism. The uniquely arched morphology of the human midfoot is thought to stiffen it, whereas other primates have flat feet that bend severely in the midfoot. However, the relationship between midfoot geometry and stiffness remains debated in foot biomechanics, podiatry and palaeontology. These debates centre on the medial longitudinal arch and have not considered whether stiffness is affected by the second, transverse tarsal arch of the human foot16. Here we show that the transverse tarsal arch, acting through the inter-metatarsal tissues, is responsible for more than 40% of the longitudinal stiffness of the foot. The underlying principle resembles a floppy currency note that stiffens considerably when it curls transversally. We derive a dimensionless curvature parameter that governs the stiffness contribution of the transverse tarsal arch, demonstrate its predictive power using mechanical models of the foot and find its skeletal correlate in hominin feet. (...)

  Co-occurrence of Acheulian and Oldowan artifacts with Homo erectus cranial fossils from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia, di S. Semaw et alii, "Science Advances", 04 Mar 2020: Vol. 6, no. 10, eaaw4694 - free  access -

Although stone tools generally co-occur with early members of the genus Homo, they are rarely found in direct association with hominins. We report that both Acheulian and Oldowan artifacts and Homo erectus crania were found in close association at 1.26 million years (Ma) ago at Busidima North (BSN12), and ca. 1.6 to 1.5 Ma ago at Dana Aoule North (DAN5) archaeological sites at Gona, Afar, Ethiopia. The BSN12 partial cranium is robust and large, while the DAN5 cranium is smaller and more gracile, suggesting that H. erectus was probably a sexually dimorphic species. The evidence from Gona shows behavioral diversity and flexibility with a lengthy and concurrent use of both stone technologies by H. erectus, confounding a simple “single species/single technology” view of early Homo. (...)

  The evolution of early symbolic behavior in Homo sapiens, di K. Tylén et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 3 March 2020, 117 (9), pp. 4578-4584

How did human symbolic behavior evolve? Dating up to about 100,000 y ago, the engraved ochre and ostrich eggshell fragments from the South African Blombos Cave and Diepkloof Rock Shelter provide a unique window into presumed early symbolic traditions of Homo sapiens and how they evolved over a period of more than 30,000 y. Using the engravings as stimuli, we report five experiments which suggest that the engravings evolved adaptively, becoming better-suited for human perception and cognition. More specifically, they became more salient, memorable, reproducible, and expressive of style and human intent. However, they did not become more discriminable over time between or within the two archeological sites. Our observations provide support for an account of the Blombos and Diepkloof engravings as decorations and as socially transmitted cultural traditions. By contrast, there was no clear indication that they served as denotational symbolic signs. Our findings have broad implications for our understanding of early symbolic communication and cognition in H. sapiens.

  The evolution of the vestibular apparatus in apes and humans, di A. Urciuoli et alii, 3 March  2020, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.51261 - free  access -

Phylogenetic relationships among extinct hominoids (apes and humans) are controversial due to pervasive homoplasy and the incompleteness of the fossil record. The bony labyrinth might contribute to this debate, as it displays strong phylogenetic signal among other mammals. However, the potential of the vestibular apparatus for phylogenetic reconstruction among fossil apes remains understudied. Here we test and quantify the phylogenetic signal embedded in the vestibular morphology of extant anthropoids (monkeys, apes and humans) and two extinct apes (Oreopithecus and Australopithecus) as captured by a deformation-based 3D geometric morphometric analysis. We also reconstruct the ancestral morphology of various hominoid clades based on phylogenetically-informed maximum likelihood methods. Besides revealing strong phylogenetic signal in the vestibule and enabling the proposal of potential synapomorphies for various hominoid clades, our results confirm the relevance of vestibular morphology for addressing the controversial phylogenetic relationships of fossil apes. (...)

  Late Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in the Central Mediterranean: New archaeological and genetic data from the Late Epigravettian burial Oriente C (Favignana, Sicily), di G. Catalano et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 537, 30 January 2020, Pages 24-32

Grotta d’Oriente, a small coastal cave located on the island of Favignana (Sicily, Italy) is a key site for the study of the early human colonization of Sicily. The individual known as Oriente C was found in the lower portion of an anthropogenic deposit containing typical local Late Upper Palaeolithic (Late Epigravettian) stone assemblages. Two radiocarbon dates on charcoal from the deposit containing the burial are consistent with the archaeological context and refer Oriente C to a period spanning about 14,200–13,800 cal. BP. (...)

  Kebara V - A Contribution for the Study of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic Transition in the Levant, di I. Abadi, O. Bar-Yosef, A. Belfer-Cohen, "PaleoAnthropology", 2020, pages 1-28 - free  access -

The excavations at Kebara Cave (Mt. Carmel, Israel) revealed an important archaeological sequence of late Middle Paleolithic units superimposed by Early Upper Paleolithic ones. This sequence provides important insights concerning our knowledge of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition in the Levant. Here we present a detailed description of the lithic assemblage from Unit V, considered as the last Middle Paleolithic occupation on site. This assemblage is dated to 48/49 ky cal BP, thus representing the final stages of the Middle Paleolithic in the region. Although in previous publications the material of Unit V was considered as a Middle/Upper Paleolithic admixture, the results of the current study indicate (at least concerning the assemblage presented here) that the number of Upper Paleolithic items is negligible. We discuss the role of this assemblage for understanding some of the late Middle Paleolithic lithic variability, as well as the appearance of the Upper Paleolithic blade technology in the Levant. After a detailed synthesis of the archaeological evidence (lithics, stratigraphy and radiometric dating) from Kebara and other sites, we demonstrate that the lithic technology at the end of the local Middle Paleolithic is focused on flake production by using centripetal and bi-directional prepared Levallois cores, while the retouched component of the assemblage is dominated by typical Middle Paleolithic forms. Accordingly, one cannot observe a direct continuity between the Middle Paleolithic and the Upper Paleolithic techno-typologies. (...)

  Comments on the Zambian Kabwe Cranium (BH1) in the Context of Pleistocene Specimens of Homo and the Need for Species Definitions, di F. Thackeray, L. Albessard-Ball, A. Balzeau, "PaleoAnthropology", 2020, pages 29-33 - free  access -

This study is an extension of that which was undertaken by Balzeau et al. and published in this journal (2017), to re-examine the BH1 cranium which was initially described as Homo rhodesiensis in 1921, but more recently regarded as H. heidelbergensis. It is compared to other Pleistocene specimens of Homo. Balzeau et al. (2017) examined various cranial and intracranial characters, including the conformation of the mid-sagittal plane. They discussed the results of a geometric morphometrics analysis of the cranial vault’s profile based on two Principal Components (PC1 and PC2). This note includes the third component (PC3)Taken together, the results can be assessed in the context of potential relationships in temporal and geographical dimensions. Recognizing that boundaries between species are not necessarily clear, we appeal for the adoption of a probabilistic definition of a paleontological species (sigma taxonomy, as opposed to conventional alpha taxonomy). (...)

  A snapshot on some everyday actions of a Middle Pleistocene hominin: the Trackway B at the Devil’s Trails palaeontological site (Tora e Piccilli, Caserta, Central Italy), di A. Panarello, "JASs Reports", Vol. 98 (2020), pp. 1-22 - free  access -

is report aims to give notice of and provide a more detailed dataset and detailed remarks on what can be considered a one-of-a-kind hominin fossil walking pattern: Trackway B of the Foresta ichnological site (Tora e Piccilli, Caserta, Central Italy). Although the site is known since 2003, only recently has the study
been performed by means of the newest photogrammetric and experimental techniques of collection, analysis and interpretation of ichnological data. e results obtained enable us to depict an astonishing movie printed in rock, describing some body features and common moments of the everyday movements of a hominin who lived about 350 ka. In particular, some up-to-now absolutely unique fossil prints of body parts of a Pleistocene hominin (calf, ankle, and gluteus), which have simply been mentioned in the ichnological fossil record, are here quantitatively described for the rst time. e data coming from this research will provide scientists with new valuable elements thus far undetected anywhere else in the world. (...)

  "Journal of Human Evolution", volume 139, february 2020:

1) Jaw kinematics and mandibular morphology in humans, di M. F. Laird, C. F. Ross, P. O'Higgins

2) A descriptive and comparative study of two Early Pleistocene immature scapulae from the TD6.2 level of the Gran Dolina cave site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), di J. M. Bermúdez de Castro et alii

3) Early Levallois core technology between Marine Isotope Stage 12 and 9 in Western Europe, di M. H. Moncel et alii

4) Acheulo-Yabrudian and Early Middle Paleolithic at Hayonim Cave (Western Galilee, Israel): Continuity or break?, di L. Meignen, O. Bar-Yosef

5) Climate variability in early expansions of Homo sapiens in light of the new record of micromammals in Misliya Cave, Israel, di L. Weissbrod, M. Weinstein-Evron


A microwear study regarding the function of lithic tools in Moravian Epigravettian, di K. Pyżewicz, Z. Nerudová, "Quaternary International", Volume 536, 20 January 2020, Pages 60-74

Use-wear analyses on lithic pieces from Brno-Štýřice III presented in this article are the first studies of this type conducted on Epigravettian Late Upper Paleolithic (LUP) assemblages from the Czech Republic and the broader region. A total of 187 artefacts classified as formal tools as well as pieces with macroscopic traces of marginal – discontinuous – retouch (edge damage) have been microscopically analyzed. Different types of use-wear traces were noticed on 57 of these artefacts. The traces are mainly associated with animal carcass treatment (the tools were usually used for cutting or scraping), including hide processing, butchering activities, or, to a lesser extent, bone/antler processing. (...)

  Santa Maria D’Agnano site (Puglia, Italy) micromorphology and lithic study of the (SU4) Epigravettian SMA-Extern layer, di A. Chakroun, H. Baills, D. Coppola, "Quaternary International", Volume 536, 20 January 2020, Pages 114-126

The Epigravettian of Santa Maria d’Agnano site is represented by a SMA-Extern layer (SU4). The present study resorts to a micromorphological analysis to clarify the depositional and the post-depositional process of the open air site in front of the Santa Maria d’Agnano cave. Epigravettian samples from the open air level (SU4), spanning from 18013-17587 CalBC to 9752-9298 CalBC are analysed. Results show a complex microstructure due to the combination of the pedological deposition mode and the anthropogenic input. Variable amounts of centimetric sub-angular limestone confirm the deposition from the roof fall. Bone,charcoal fragments and micro-artefacts are present throughout the micromorphological column and are considered as indicators of human activity. The groundmass contains ferruginous pedofeatures such as nodules, mottles and coatings. (...)

  Recent Progress of the Paleolithic Research in Asia: Cultural diversities and Paleoenvironmental changes, Edited by M. Izuho, K. Morisaki, H. Sato,
"Quaternary International", Volume 535, Pages 1-154 (10 January 2020)

Aggiornamento 21 febbraio


From the apron into the pit: the deposition of the complete debris from the manufacture of a bifacial preform at the Middle Paleolithic site of Kabazi V, level III/4-2, di T. Uthmeier, V. P. Chabai, A. P. Veselsky, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 3, March 2020 - free  access -

At Kabazi V, level III/4-2, the entire debris from the manufacture of a bifacial preform was found deposited in a small anthropogenic pit. The bifacial preform itself was missing. The fact that it was possible to refit all larger blanks, as well as several chips, from the pit, whereas refits with artifacts discarded on the surface of the corresponding archeological level were not found, underlines the character of the pit’s contents as a closed find sensu stricto. The only explanation for the presence of chips of very small size from the same nodule, alongside the larger ones, in the pit fill is the use of an apron to collect all detached items during the process of flaking. Among the numerous anthropogenic pits from the Crimean Middle Paleolithic, the one found at Kabazi V, level III/4-2, and two other examples from Zaskalanya V and Zaskalnaya VI stand out for the intentional deposition of carefully selected artifacts in them. The sizes of the pits match the volumes of the artifacts deposited, which emphasizes the close relationship between the construction of the pits and the artifacts’ deposition. This article explores the significance of the three cases of artifact deposition referred to above to our understanding of segmented production processes and of why these depositions occurred. The most evident interpretation is that they were caches of equipment stored as insurance for unforeseen circumstances, which is indicative of substantial planning depth and a recurrent use of logistical territories. (...)


Grotta Reali, the first multilayered mousterian evidences in the Upper Volturno Basin (Rocchetta a Volturno, Molise, Italy), di C. Peretto et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 3, March 2020

The Mousterian site of Grotta Reali (Rocchetta a Volturno, Molise, southern Italy), dated from between 50,940 and 40,370 cal BP, provides detailed information on the depositional dynamic and human occupation in southern Italy, and contributes to the international debate on technical behaviour at the end of the Mousterian. The site was discovered in 2001 and it was located in a small cave/shelter now partially quarried, on the backside of a tufa waterfall, at the edge of a large alluvial terrace, in correspondence of the major spring of the Volturno River. Pollen and faunal assemblages record the persistence of wooded environments with large open areas as indicated by the presence of horse, aurochs and spotted hyena. Humans settled occasionally for hunting, processing game and performing related activities. Anthropic occupation was followed by carnivores, particularly in the upper part of the stratigraphy where the evidences of their activities prevail decisively rather than those left by humans. (...)


The impact of major warming at 14.7 ka on environmental changes and activity of Final Palaeolithic hunters at a local scale (Orawa-Nowy Targ Basin, Western Carpathians, Poland, di A. Lemanik et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 3, March 2020 - free  access -

There is a widespread belief that the abrupt warming at 14.7 ka had a profound impact on the environment. However, the direct correlation between the global climatic event and changes in local environments is not obvious. We examined faunal succession in an intra-mountain basin of the Western Carpathians to assess the potential influence of the climatic change between Greenland Stadial-2a and Greenland Interstadial-1e on the local environment. We investigated three vertebrate assemblages (total number of identified specimens = 18,745; minimum number of individuals = 7515; 138 taxa) from Obłazowa Cave (western entrance) and a Rock overhang in Cisowa Rock, radiocarbon dated to the period before and after the global warming, between ca. 17.0 and 14.0 ka. Our data revealed that the major abrupt warming that occurred 14.7 ka had little impact on the local environment, which could suggest that ecosystems in Central Europe were resilient to the abrupt global climate changes. The increase in fauna population sizes and species diversities in local biotopes was gradual and began long before the temperature increase. This was supported by the analysis of ancient DNA of Microtus arvalis, which showed a gradual increase in effective population size after 19.0 ka. The results of palaeoclimatic reconstruction pointed out that the compared sites were characterized by similar climatic conditions. According to our calculations, the differences in the annual mean temperatures did not exceed 0.5 °C and mean annual thermal amplitude changed from 22.9 to 22.4 °C. The environmental changes before 14.7 ka had no impact on the activity of Final Palaeolithic hunters in the studied area. (...)      


Dental microwear as a behavioral proxy for distinguishing between canids at the Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) site of Předmostí, Czech Republic, di K. A. Prassacka, J. DuBois, M. Lázničková-Galetová, M. Germonpré, P. S. Ungar, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 115, March 2020, 105092

Morphological and genetic evidence put dog domestication during the Paleolithic, sometime between 40,000 and 15,000 years ago, with identification of the earliest dogs debated. We predict that these earliest dogs (referred to herein as protodogs), while potentially difficult to distinguish morphologically from wolves, experienced behavioral shifts, including changes in diet. Specifically, protodogs may have consumed more bone and other less desirable scraps within human settlement areas. Here we apply Dental Microwear Texture Analysis (DMTA) to canids from the Gravettian site of Předmostí (approx. 28,500 BP), which were previously assigned to the Paleolithic dog or Pleistocene wolf morphotypes. We test whether these groups separate out significantly by diet-related variation in microwear patterning. Results are consistent with differences in dietary breadth, with the Paleolithic dog morphotype showing evidence of greater durophagy than those assigned to the wolf morphotype. (...)


Strange bedfellows for human ancestors, di A. Gibbons, "Science", 21 Feb 2020: Vol. 367, Issue 6480, pp. 838-839

The story of human evolution is full of ancient trysts. Genes from fossils have shown that the ancestors of many living people mated with Neanderthals and with Denisovans, a mysterious group of extinct humans who lived in Asia. Now, a flurry of papers suggests the ancestors of all three groups mixed at least twice with even older "ghost" lineages of unknown extinct hominins. (...)


Neanderthal-Denisovan ancestors interbred with a distantly related hominin, di A. R. Rogers, N. S. Harris, A. A. Achenbach, "Science Advances", 20 Feb 2020: Vol. 6, no. 8, eaay5483 - free  access -

Previous research has shown that modern Eurasians interbred with their Neanderthal and Denisovan predecessors. We show here that hundreds of thousands of years earlier, the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans interbred with their own Eurasian predecessors—members of a “superarchaic” population that separated from other humans about 2 million years ago. The superarchaic population was large, with an effective size between 20 and 50 thousand individuals. We confirm previous findings that Denisovans also interbred with superarchaics, Neanderthals and Denisovans separated early in the middle Pleistocene, their ancestors endured a bottleneck of population size, and the Neanderthal population was large at first but then declined in size. We provide qualified support for the view that Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of modern humans. (...)


The evolution of early symbolic behavior in Homo sapiens, di K. Tylén et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Early edition", 18 February 2020, doi:

How did human symbolic behavior evolve? Dating up to about 100,000 y ago, the engraved ochre and ostrich eggshell fragments from the South African Blombos Cave and Diepkloof Rock Shelter provide a unique window into presumed early symbolic traditions of Homo sapiens and how they evolved over a period of more than 30,000 y. Using the engravings as stimuli, we report five experiments which suggest that the engravings evolved adaptively, becoming better-suited for human perception and cognition. More specifically, they became more salient, memorable, reproducible, and expressive of style and human intent. However, they did not become more discriminable over time between or within the two archeological sites. (...)


Shanidar Z: what did Neanderthals do with their dead?, 18 February 2020

Archaeologists have unearthed a Neanderthal skeleton in a famous cave in Iraqi Kurdistan. They say the new discovery provides a unique opportunity to use modern (...)


The real ‘paleo diet’ may have been full of toxic metals, di I. Randall, "Science news", 14 Feb. 2020

You’ll be healthier if you ate as your ancestors did. At least that’s the promise of some modern fads such as the “caveman” or paleo diet—characterized by avoiding processed food and grains and only eating things like meat, fish, and seeds. But a new study suggests the food some early humans in Norway ate may have not only been unhealthy, but downright toxic. In some cases, these people may have consumed more than 20 times the levels of dangerous metals recommended for humans today. “This study raises interesting ideas,” says Katheryn Twiss, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University who was not involved in the work. But, she notes, the findings are limited to a small number of animal remains from just a few sites, and therefore may not fully represent the diets of Norwegians from thousands of years ago. Pollutants have been entering our food chain for millennia. In 2015, for example, researchers reported that cod caught off the North American coast around 6500 years ago by Stone Age hunter-gatherers contained high levels of mercury. This metal occurs naturally in Earth’s crust and is thought to have leached into the oceans in greater concentrations after sea level rise covered more land. Once in the water, fish absorb mercury through their gills and their food. (...)


Evolution of brain lateralization: A shared hominid pattern of endocranial asymmetry is much more variable in humans than in great apes, di S. Neubauer et alii, "Science Advances", 14 Feb 2020: Vol. 6, no. 7, eaax9935 - free  access -

Brain lateralization is commonly interpreted as crucial for human brain function and cognition. However, as comparative studies among primates are rare, it is not known which aspects of lateralization are really uniquely human. Here, we quantify both pattern and magnitude of brain shape asymmetry based on endocranial imprints of the braincase in humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Like previous studies, we found that humans were more asymmetric than chimpanzees, however so were gorillas and orangutans, highlighting the need to broaden the comparative framework for interpretation. We found that the average spatial asymmetry pattern, previously considered to be uniquely human, was shared among humans and apes. In humans, however, it was less directed, and different local asymmetries were less correlated. We, thus, found human asymmetry to be much more variable compared with that of apes. These findings likely reflect increased functional and developmental modularization of the human brain. (...)


Une nouvelle grotte ornée de gravures en Espagne, 12/02/20

Des archéologues dirigés par Josep María Vergès de l'Université Rovira i Virgili et l'Institut catalan de paléoécologie humaine et d'évolution sociale (IPHES) ont identifié des gravures dans une grotte déjà connue sous le nom de grotte de la Font Major. Cette cavité fait partie d'un système karstique situé à proximité du village de L'Espluga de Francolí, en Catalogne, une région située dans le nord-est de l'Espagne. Le système karstique est très étendu et connu depuis 1853. Le 22 octobre 2020, les équipes de chercheurs sont venus évaluer le potentiel archéologique de ces cavités. Il ne cherchaient pas spécialement de l'art pariétal. La ministre de la Culture de Catalogne Mariangela Vilallonga-Vives a expliqué "A L'Espluga de Francoli, une équipe sous la direction de Josep Maria Vergès, a décidé d'explorer des zones inconnues de la cavité. C'est à cette occasion qu'a été révélé ce sanctuaire" (...)


Archaeological evidence for two separate dispersals of Neanderthals into southern Siberia, di K. A. Kolobova et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 11 February 2020, vol. 117, no. 6, pp. 2879-2885 - free  access -

Neanderthals were once widespread across Europe and western Asia. They also penetrated into the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, but the geographical origin of these populations and the timing of their dispersal have remained elusive. Here we describe an archaeological assemblage from Chagyrskaya Cave, situated in the Altai foothills, where around 90,000 Middle Paleolithic artifacts and 74 Neanderthal remains have been recovered from deposits dating to between 59 and 49 thousand years ago (age range at 95.4% probability). Environmental reconstructions suggest that the Chagyrskaya hominins were adapted to the dry steppe and hunted bison. Their distinctive toolkit closely resembles Micoquian assemblages from central and eastern Europe, including the northern Caucasus, more than 3,000 kilometers to the west of Chagyrskaya Cave. At other Altai sites, evidence of earlier Neanderthal populations lacking associated Micoquian-like artifacts implies two or more Neanderthal incursions into this region. We identify eastern Europe as the most probable ancestral source region for the Chagyrskaya toolmakers, supported by DNA results linking the Neanderthal remains with populations in northern Croatia and the northern Caucasus, and providing a rare example of a long-distance, intercontinental population movement associated with a distinctive Paleolithic toolkit. (...)


African climate response to orbital and glacial forcing in 140,000-y simulation with implications for early modern human environments, di J. E. Kutzbach, J. Guan, F. He, A. S. Cohen, I. J. Orland, G. Chen, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 04 February 2020, vol. 117, no. 5, pp. 2255-2264

A climate/vegetation model simulates episodic wetter and drier periods at the 21,000-y precession period in eastern North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant over the past 140,000 y. Large orbitally forced wet/dry extremes occur during interglacial time, ~130 to 80 ka, and conditions between these two extremes prevail during glacial time, ~70 to 15 ka. Orbital precession causes high seasonality in Northern Hemisphere (NH) insolation at ~125, 105, and 83 ka, with stronger and northward extended summer monsoon rains in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and increased winter rains in the Mediterranean Basin. The combined effects of these two seasonally distinct rainfall regimes increase vegetation and narrow the width of the Saharan–Arabian desert and semidesert zones. During the opposite phase of the precession cycle (~115, 95, and 73 ka), NH seasonality is low, and decreased summer insolation and increased winter insolation cause monsoon and storm track rains to decrease and the width of the desert zone to increase. (...)


Trabecular variation in the first metacarpal and manipulation in hominids, di C. J. Dunmore, A. Bardo, M. M. Skinner, T. L. Kivell, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", volume 171, issue 2, february 2020, pages 219-241

The dexterity of fossil hominins is often inferred by assessing the comparative manual anatomy and behaviors of extant hominids, with a focus on the thumb. The aim of this study is to test whether trabecular structure is consistent with what is currently known about habitually loaded thumb postures across extant hominids.
We analyze first metacarpal (Mc1) subarticular trabecular architecture in humans (Homo sapiens, n = 10), bonobos (Pan paniscus, n = 10), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes, n = 11), as well as for the first time, gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla, n = 10) and orangutans (Pongo sp., n = 1, Pongo abelii, n = 3 and Pongo pygmaeus, n = 5). Using a combination of subarticular and whole-epiphysis approaches, we test for significant differences in relative trabecular bone volume (RBV/TV) and degree of anisotropy (DA) between species. (...)


A case of marked bilateral asymmetry in the sacral alae of the Neandertal specimen Regourdou 1 (Périgord, France), di R. Rmoutilová et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", volume 171, issue2, february 2020, pages 242-259

A marked asymmetry was previously reported in the sacral alae and S1-L5 facets orientation of the Neandertal individual Regourdou 1. Here, we provide a detailed description and quantification of the morphology and degree of asymmetry of this sacrum.
Regourdou 1 was compared to a modern human sample composed of 24 females and 17 males, and to other Neandertal individuals. Both traditional and geometric morphometric analyses were used in order to quantify the degree of sacral asymmetry of Regourdou 1. (...)


Africans carry surprising amount of Neanderthal DNA, di M. Price, "Science news", 30 Jan. 2020

For 10 years, geneticists have told the story of how Neanderthals—or at least their DNA sequences—live on in today’s Europeans, Asians, and their descendants. Not so in Africans, the story goes, because modern humans and our extinct cousins interbred only outside of Africa. A new study overturns that notion, revealing an unexpectedly large amount of Neanderthal ancestry in modern populations across Africa. It suggests much of that DNA came from Europeans migrating back into Africa over the past 20,000 years. “That gene flow with Neanderthals exists in all modern humans, inside and outside of Africa, is a novel and elegant finding,” says anthropologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. The work, reported in this week’s issue of Cell, could also help clear up a mysterious disparity: why East Asians appear to have more Neanderthal ancestry than Europeans. As members of Homo sapiens spread from Africa into Eurasia some 70,000 years ago, they met and mingled with Neanderthals. Researchers knew that later back-migrations of Europeans had introduced a bit of Neanderthal DNA into African populations, but previous work suggested it was a just a smidgen. In contrast, modern Europeans and East Asians apparently inherited about 2% of their DNA from Neanderthals.(...)

· Identifying and Interpreting Apparent Neanderthal Ancestry in African Individuals, di L. Chen, A. B. Wolf, W. Fu, L. Li, J. M. Akey, "Cell", 30 January 2020


Subspheroids in the lithic assemblage of Barranco León (Spain): Recognizing the late Oldowan in Europe, di S. Titton et alii, 30 January 2020, doi: - free  access -

The lithic assemblage of Barranco León (BL), attributed to the Oldowan techno-complex, contributes valuable information to reconstruct behavioral patterning of the first hominins to disperse into Western Europe. This archaic stone tool assemblage comprises two, very different groups of tools, made from distinct raw materials. On the one hand, a small-sized toolkit knapped from Jurassic flint, comprising intensively exploited cores and small-sized flakes and fragments and, on the other hand, a large-sized limestone toolkit that is mainly linked to percussive activities. In recent years, the limestone macro-tools have been the center of particular attention, leading to a re-evaluation of their role in the assemblage. Main results bring to light strict hominin selective processes, mainly concerning the quality of the limestone and the morphology of the cobbles, in relation to their use-patterning. In addition to the variety of traces of percussion identified on the limestone tools, recurrences have recently been documented in their positioning and in the morphology of the active surfaces. Coupled with experimental work, this data has contributed to formulating hypothesis about the range of uses for these tools, beyond stone knapping and butchery, for activities such as: wood-working or tendon and meat tenderizing. The abundance of hammerstones, as well as the presence of heavy-duty scrapers, are special features recognized for the limestone component of the Barranco León assemblage. This paper presents, for the first time, another characteristic of the assemblage: the presence of polyhedral and, especially, subspheroid morphologies, virtually unknown in the European context for this timeframe. We present an analysis of these tools, combining qualitative evaluation of the raw materials, diacritical study, 3D geometric morphometric analysis of facet angles and an evaluation of the type and position of percussive traces; opening up the discussion of the late Oldowan beyond the African context. (...)


New Neanderthal remains associated with the ‘flower burial’ at Shanidar Cave, di E. Pomeroy et alii, "Antiquity", volume 94, issue 373, february 2020, pp. 11-26

Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan became an iconic Palaeolithic site following Ralph Solecki's mid twentieth-century discovery of Neanderthal remains. Solecki argued that some of these individuals had died in rockfalls and—controversially—that others were interred with formal burial rites, including one with flowers. Recent excavations have revealed the articulated upper body of an adult Neanderthal located close to the ‘flower burial’ location—the first articulated Neanderthal discovered in over 25 years. Stratigraphic evidence suggests that the individual was intentionally buried. This new find offers the rare opportunity to investigate Neanderthal mortuary practices utilising modern archaeological techniques.


Filling the void: a new Palaeolithic cave art site at Danbolinzulo in the Basque Country, di B. Ochoa et alii, "Antiquity", volume 94, issue 373, february 2020, pp. 27-43

Northern Spain has a high density of Upper Palaeolithic cave art sites. Until recently, however, few such sites have been reported from the Basque Country, which has been considered to be a ‘void’ in the distribution of parietal art. Now, new discoveries at Danbolinzulo Cave reveal a different situation. The graphic homogeneity of the motifs, which comprise five ibex, two horses and a possible anthropomorph, along with several unidentified figures, strongly suggests a pre-Magdalenian (>20 000 cal BP) date for the art. Here, Danbolinzulo is interpreted in its wider context as occupying a pivotal position between Cantabrian-Iberian and French/continental art traditions.


Backdating systematic shell ornament making in Europe to 45,000 years ago, di S. Arrighi et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 2, February 2020

Personal ornaments are commonly linked to the emergence of symbolic behavior. Although their presence in Africa dates back to the Middle Stone Age, evidence of ornament manufacturing in Eurasia are sporadically observed in Middle Palaeolithic contexts, and until now, large-scale diffusion has been well documented only since the Upper Palaeolithic. Nevertheless, little is known during the period between ca. 50,000 and 40,000 years ago (ka), when modern humans colonized Eurasia replacing existing hominin populations such as the Neandertals, and a variety of “transitional” and/or early Upper Palaeolithic cultures emerged. Here, we present shell ornaments from the Uluzzian site of Grotta del Cavallo in Italy, southern Europe. (...)


Testing meat-eating by Middle Stone Age hominins at Loiyangalani open-air site in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, di F. Masele, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 2, February 2020

New results from detailed zooarchaeological and taphonomic analyses of faunal remains from Loiyangalani are presented. The assemblage is well preserved but highly fragmented mainly as a result of anthropogenic processing. Results show that hominins exploited high-quality nutritional resources from small and large-sized ungulates. Overall, the assemblage is dominated by large-sized ungulates, which suggest were preferentially targeted. The fact that the site was strategically positioned along a wildlife migration corridor made their encounters always high and predictable. Feeding traces of both hominins and carnivores are also recorded. (...)


Climbing the time to see Neanderthal behaviour’s continuity and discontinuity: SU 11 of the Oscurusciuto Rockshelter (Ginosa, Southern Italy), di V. Spagnolo, G. Marciani, D. Aureli, I. Martini, P. Boscato, F. Boschin, A. Ronchitelli, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 2, February 2020

The Oscurusciuto Rockshelter (Ginosa, Southern Italy) is a perfect sample-site for the reconstruction of multiple aspects of the last Neanderthals life. Different settlement strategies are attested in the excavated portion of the stratigraphic sequence, dated between ~ 55 and 43 ka BP. As a first goal, the reconstruction of the site spatial organization across the palimpsest SU 11 was achieved by a high-temporal-resolution approach (assisted by sedimentological analysis), integrating lithic technology, zooarchaeology and spatial analysis (by means of the GIS technology). As a second goal, a diachronic perspective was adopted by comparing results from SU 11 with the previously studied evidence from the underlying SU 13. Results were processed at a diachronic scale, highlighting similarities and differences related both to the type of activities carried out at the site and to their spatial management. (...)


Last Neanderthal occupations at Central Iberia: the lithic industry of Jarama VI rock shelter (Valdesotos, Guadalajara, Spain), di M. Navazo Ruiz et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 2, February 2020

The work undertaken at the Jarama VI site (Valdesotos, Guadalajara, Spain) in the 1990s resulted in the recovery of thousands of archeological remains from the three Pleistocene sedimentary units of this cavity. Prior to the systematic analysis of the lithic material and the reception of new geochronological data, it had been suggested that the upper unit of Jarama VI could correspond to the Early Upper Paleolithic, while the other two units could be related to Neanderthal occupations. (...)


Human teeth pendants from the Mid-Upper Paleolithic sites Pavlov I and Dolní Věstonice I, Czech Republic, di S. Sázelová, B. Hromadová, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 2, February 2020

This paper focuses on a special case of mortuary habit in the treatment of human bodies during the Upper Paleolithic. Human teeth present a good available raw material source; however, until now, 12 Czech and French sites have been identified with human teeth pendants dated from the Aurignacian to the Magdalenian. Our study investigates four human teeth (Pav 15, Pav 25, Pav 39, and DV 8) from Pavlov I and Dolní Věstonice I that display perforations in the root area. This paper aims at distinguishing traces of human manipulation and perforation activities from traces caused by non-human depositional and post-depositional processes. (...)


Discovery of cryptotephra at Middle–Upper Paleolithic sites Arma Veirana and Riparo Bombrini, Italy: a new link for broader geographic correlations, di J. N. Hirniak et alii, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 35, Issue 1-2, Special Issue: Tephrochronology as a global geoscientific research tool, January-February 2020, Pages 199-212 - free  access -

Chemical characterization of cryptotephra is critical for temporally linking archaeological sites. Here, we describe cryptotephra investigations of two Middle–Upper Paleolithic sites from north-west Italy, Arma Veirana and Riparo Bombrini. Cryptotephra are present as small (<100 µm) rhyolitic glass shards at both sites, with geochemical signatures rare for volcanoes in the Mediterranean region. Two chemically distinct shard populations are present at Arma Veirana (P1 and P2). P1 is a high silica rhyolite (>75 wt.%) with low FeO (<1 wt.%) and a K2O/Na2O > 1 and P2 is also a high silica rhyolite (>75 wt.%) but with higher FeO (2.33–2.65 wt.%). Shards at Riparo Bombrini (P3) are of the same composition as P1 shards at Arma Veirana, providing a distinct link between deposits at both sites. Geochemical characteristics suggest three possible sources for P1 and P3: eruptions from Lipari Island (56–37.7 ka) in Italy, the Acigöl volcanic field (200–20 ka) in Turkey and the Miocene Kirka‐Phrigian caldera (18 Ma) in Turkey. Eruptions from Lipari Island are the most likely source for P1,3 cryptotephra. This study highlights how cryptotephra can benefit archaeology, by providing a direct link between Arma Veirana and Riparo Bombrini as well as other deposits throughout the Mediterranean. (...)


Ancient African genomes offer glimpse into early human history, di E. Callaway, "Nature news", 23 january 2020

The ancient-genomics revolution is finally reaching the cradle of humanity: Africa. Researchers have sequenced the genomes of four children who lived in what is now Cameroon several thousand years ago. Their genomes — the first to be collected from any ancient human in West Africa — raise questions about the origins of a migration that carried languages and agriculture across the continent, and hint at older events in human history, such as the emergence of Homo sapiens and its spread out of Africa. But the findings underscore the yawning gap in scientists’ understanding of African population history, relative to that of Eurasia, the Americas and even Oceania. Researchers have sequenced more than 1,000 ancient human genomes from these regions, versus fewer than 80 from Africa, few of which are older than 10,000 years. “We don’t have a clear picture right now,” says David Reich, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who co-led the study. “Africa is the most diverse place on Earth. It’s where our particular sub-lineage of humans originated.” It’s no surprise, he adds, that even the relatively recent history of its populations is hard to decipher today. (...)


17,000-year-old Venus statue in Romania stirs controversy, 21 January 2020

The alleged discovery of a 17,000-year-old Venus figurine in site near Piatra Neamt, in North-Eastern Romania, has stirred controversy after journalists reported that the figurine was found by two amateurs, not professional archeologists, raising questions about its authenticity. The team of archeologists who was in charge of the Paleolithic settlement (called Piatra Neamț 1) staged the discovery and made photos suggesting that they were on site when the figurine was found, thus aiming to make the discovery more credible. The circumstances in which the statue was found, the impossibility to date the material from which the statue is made, its nearly perfect state, and the style that doesn't match the period when it was supposedly created point rather to a fake than to an authentic discovery, according to specialists. The discovery of the Venus figurine took place on June 21, 2019, and was announced officially on December 11, 2019. The discovery was announced by the Museum of Human Evolution and Technology in the Paleolithic in Targoviste, whose team of archeologists, coordinated by professors Marin Carciumaru and Elena Nitu, was in charge of the Piatra Neamt site. (...)


Hard plant tissues do not contribute meaningfully to dental microwear: evolutionary implications, di A. van Casteren et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 10, article number: 582 (2020), 17 January 2020 - free  access -

Reconstructing diet is critical to understanding hominin adaptations. Isotopic and functional morphological analyses of early hominins are compatible with consumption of hard foods, such as mechanically-protected seeds, but dental microwear analyses are not. The protective shells surrounding seeds are thought to induce complex enamel surface textures characterized by heavy pitting, but these are absent on the teeth of most early hominins. Here we report nanowear experiments showing that the hardest woody shells – the hardest tissues made by dicotyledonous plants – cause very minor damage to enamel but are themselves heavily abraded (worn) in the process. Thus, hard plant tissues do not regularly create pits on enamel surfaces despite high forces clearly being associated with their oral processing. We conclude that hard plant tissues barely influence microwear textures and the exploitation of seeds from graminoid plants such as grasses and sedges could have formed a critical element in the dietary ecology of hominins. (...)


Last appearance of Homo erectus at Ngandong, Java, 117,000–108,000 years ago, di Y. Rizal et alii, "Nature", volume 577, issue 7790, pp. 381–385, 16 January 2020

Homo erectus is the founding early hominin species of Island Southeast Asia, and reached Java (Indonesia) more than 1.5 million years ago. Twelve H. erectus calvaria (skull caps) and two tibiae (lower leg bones) were discovered from a bone bed located about 20 m above the Solo River at Ngandong (Central Java) between 1931 and 1933, and are of the youngest, most-advanced form of H. erectus. Despite the importance of the Ngandong fossils, the relationship between the fossils, terrace fill and ages have been heavily debated. Here, to resolve the age of the Ngandong evidence, we use Bayesian modelling of 52 radiometric age estimates to establish—to our knowledge—the first robust chronology at regional, valley and local scales. We used uranium-series dating of speleothems to constrain regional landscape evolution; luminescence, 40argon/39argon (40Ar/39Ar) and uranium-series dating to constrain the sequence of terrace evolution; and applied uranium-series and uranium series–electron-spin resonance (US–ESR) dating to non-human fossils to directly date our re-excavation of Ngandong (...)


Neandertals on the beach: Use of marine resources at Grotta dei Moscerini (Latium, Italy), di P. Villa et alii, 15 January 2020, doi: - free  access -

Excavated in 1949, Grotta dei Moscerini, dated MIS 5 to early MIS 4, is one of two Italian Neandertal sites with a large assemblage of retouched shells (n = 171) from 21 layers. The other occurrence is from the broadly contemporaneous layer L of Grotta del Cavallo in southern Italy (n = 126). Eight other Mousterian sites in Italy and one in Greece also have shell tools but in a very small number. The shell tools are made on valves of the smooth clam Callista chione. The general idea that the valves of Callista chione were collected by Neandertals on the beach after the death of the mollusk is incomplete. At Moscerini 23.9% of the specimens were gathered directly from the sea floor as live animals by skin diving Neandertals. Archaeological data from sites in Italy, France and Spain confirm that shell fishing and fresh water fishing was a common activity of Neandertals, as indicated by anatomical studies recently published by E. Trinkaus. Lithic analysis provides data to show the relation between stone tools and shell tools. Several layers contain pumices derived from volcanic eruptions in the Ischia Island or the Campi Flegrei (prior to the Campanian Ignimbrite mega-eruption). Their rounded edges indicate that they were transported by sea currents to the beach at the base of the Moscerini sequence. Their presence in the occupation layers above the beach is discussed. The most plausible hypothesis is that they were collected by Neandertals. Incontrovertible evidence that Neandertals collected pumices is provided by a cave in Liguria. Use of pumices as abraders is well documented in the Upper Paleolithic. We prove that the exploitation of submerged aquatic resources and the collection of pumices common in the Upper Paleolithic were part of Neandertal behavior well before the arrival of modern humans in Western Europe. (...)


Combined palaeoecological methods using small-mammal assemblages to decipher environmental context of a long-term Neanderthal settlement in northeastern Iberia, di M. Fernández-García et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 228, 15 January 2020, 106072

Recurrent long- and short-term Neanderthal occupations occurred in the Abric Romaní rock shelter (Capellades, Barcelona, Spain) for more than 20,000 years. This provides an opportunity to enhance our understanding of the evolution of behavioral strategies of these human groups. The site has a long and high-resolution sequence with 17 levels completely excavated, 13 of which are presented in this work, from D to Q; ca. 40–60 ka. These levels have generated extensive research concerning Neanderthal hunting strategies, lithic production, and fire technology. Here is presented the evolution of palaeoenvironment under which these populations lived applying different methods of palaeoecological reconstruction based on small-mammal remains along the entire sequence. The study is completed with taphonomic analyses that locate the primary origin of their accumulation under the action of owls and describe a past humid fossiliferous microenvironment where intense human occupation occurred. Oxygen isotope analyses were performed on rodent incisors from the richest levels (D, E, N and O), in order to reconstruct the past air temperatures. (...)


A younger “earliest human migration” to Southeast Asia, di B. Brasseur, "Science", 10 Jan 2020, Vol. 367, Issue 6474, pp. 147-148

The fossiliferous Sangiran dome in Central Java contains the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia and is thus considered to be one of the most important sites in human paleoanthropology. Researchers have discovered more than 100 hominid remains from at least three different early to middle Pleistocene hominid species. Although numerous dating studies have been conducted at this site, the accepted date of earliest hominin migration is controversial. On page 210 of this issue, Matsu'ura et al. describe their combined use of uranium/lead (U/Pb) dating (crystallization age) and fission-track dating (volcano eruption age) on zircons from three key strata in the hominid-bearing layers of Sangiran.


Age control of the first appearance datum for Javanese Homo erectus in the Sangiran area, di S. Matsu’ura et alii, "Science", 10 Jan 2020, Vol. 367, Issue 6474, pp. 210-214

The chronology of the World Heritage Site of Sangiran in Indonesia is crucial for the understanding of human dispersals and settlement in Asia in the Early Pleistocene (before 780,000 years ago). It has been controversial, however, especially regarding the timing of the earliest hominin migration into the Sangiran region. We use a method of combining fission-track and uranium-lead dating and present key ages to calibrate the lower (older) Sangiran hominin-bearing horizons. We conclude that the first appearance datum for the Sangiran hominins is most likely ~1.3 million years ago and less than 1.5 million years ago, which is markedly later than the dates that have been widely accepted for the past two decades.


Dietary niche partitioning among Magdalenian canids in southwestern Germany and Switzerland, di C. Baumann et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 227, 1 January 2020, 106032

Fox (Vulpes vulpes and Vulpes lagopus), wolf (Canis lupus) and dog (Canis lupus familiaris) remains are commonly found in the faunal assemblages of Magdalenian sites in Central Europe. However, little is known about their ecology in terms of food preference and niche partitioning. We hypothesize that domestication leads to a new trophic niche for dogs and even for commensal animals, such as foxes, compared to their wild counterparts (i.e. wolves and wild non-commensal foxes). To test our hypothesis, we used stable isotope analysis (δ13C, δ15N) of bone collagen extracted from canid bones from several Magdalenian sites in southwestern Germany and Switzerland (between 17,000 and 13,000 years ago). We then ran Bayesian statistic systems (SIBER, mixSIAR) to reconstruct the trophic niches and diets of Magdalenian canids. We conclude that a significant niche partitioning of canids is reflected in their carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition. (...)


Predictive Middle Palaeolithic climatic conditions from Eastern Iberia: a methodological approach based on charcoal analysis and modelling, di P. Vidal-Matutano, S. Pardo-Gordó, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 1, january 2020

Ecological and climate modelling is increasingly common in archaeological science as it is a useful tool to analyse human behaviour and ecological variables that influenced the conformation of landscapes. Predictive vegetation models, mainly based on palynological data, provide meaningful information about the theoretical distribution of plant formations in the past by creating different hypothetical scenarios. However, factors linked to variability in pollen productivity according to taxa and to the regional scale offered by this proxy in palaeoenvironmental reconstructions have led some authors to propose the use of macrobotanical data in order to detect a higher number of ecological nuances on a local scale. In this paper, we present the results of a study aimed at characterising the theoretical distribution of simulated Middle Palaeolithic biogeographic and climatic values in the local area of the Upper Serpis Valley, Eastern Iberia. (...)


Use-wear analysis of a specific mobile toolkit from the Middle Paleolithic site of Abric Romaní (Barcelona, Spain): a case study from level M, di J. I. Martín-Vivero et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 1, january 2020

A use-wear analysis was carried out on a specific mobile toolkit belonging to level M of the Middle Paleolithic site of Abric Romaní (Barcelona, Spain), which is dated to MIS 3, between 51 and 55 Ka BP. In an environment rich in local and regional chert sources and in a technological context marked by expedient behavior, a set of flakes, which also included debordant elements with asymmetric transversal sections, were introduced into the site having already been knapped. A combination of technological, refitting, and raw material unit analyses (RMU) have distinguished them from the rest of the chert artifacts knapped in situ. Given that the aim of the reduction sequences in level M, as in most of the stratigraphic sequence, is the production of small flakes of poor quality chert, the introduction of these finished tools indicates the existence of planned behavior in relation to raw material constraints and, to a major extent, with specific needs. (...)


Dehydration and persistence hunting in Homo erectus, di M. Hora et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 138, January 2020, 102682 - free  access -

Persistence hunting has been suggested to be a key strategy for meat acquisition in Homo erectus. However, prolonged locomotion in hot conditions is associated with considerable water losses due to sweating. Consequently, dehydration has been proposed to be a critical limiting factor, effectively curtailing the usefulness of persistence hunting prior to the invention of water containers. In this study, we aimed to determine the extent to which dehydration limited persistence hunting in H. erectus. We simulated ambient conditions and spatiotemporal characteristics of nine previously reported persistence hunts in the Kalahari. We used a newly developed and validated heat exchange model to estimate the water loss in H. erectus and a recent Kalahari hunter. Water loss equivalent to 10% of the hunter's body mass was considered the physiological limit of a hunt with no drinking. Our criterion for ruling dehydration out of being a limit for persistence hunting was the ability to hunt without drinking for at least 5 h, as this was the longest duration reported for a successful persistence hunt of large prey. Our results showed that H. erectus would reach the dehydration limit in 5.5–5.7 h of persistence hunting at the reported Kalahari conditions, which we argue represent a conservative model also for Early Pleistocene East Africa. Maximum hunt duration without drinking was negatively related to the relative body surface area of the hunter. Moreover, H. erectus would be able to persistence hunt over 5 h without drinking despite possible deviations from modern-like heat dissipation capacity, aerobic capacity, and locomotor economy. We conclude that H. erectus could persistence hunt large prey without the need to carry water. (...)


Statistical estimates of hominin origination and extinction dates: A case study examining the Australopithecus anamensis–afarensis lineage, di A. Du et alii, Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 138, January 2020, 102688 - free  access -

Reliable estimates of when hominin taxa originated and went extinct are central to addressing many paleoanthropological questions, including those relating to macroevolutionary patterns. The timing of hominin temporal ranges can be used to test chronological predictions generated from phylogenetic hypotheses. For example, hypotheses of phyletic ancestor–descendant relationships, based on morphological data, predict no temporal range overlap between the two taxa. However, a fossil taxon's observed temporal range is almost certainly underestimated due to the incompleteness of both the fossil record itself and its sampling, and this decreases the likelihood of observing temporal overlap. Here, we focus on a well-known and widely accepted early hominin lineage, Australopithecus anamensis–afarensis, and place 95% confidence intervals (CIs) on its origination and extinction dates. We do so to assess whether its temporal range is consistent with it being a phyletic descendant of Ardipithecus ramidus and/or a direct ancestor to the earliest claimed representative of Homo (i.e., Ledi-Geraru). We find that the last appearance of Ar. ramidus falls within the origination CI of Au. anamensis–afarensis, whereas the claimed first appearance of Homo postdates the extinction CI. These results are consistent with Homo evolving from Au. anamensis–afarensis, but temporal overlap between Ar. ramidus and Au. anamensis–afarensis cannot be rejected at this time. Though additional samples are needed, future research should extend our initial analyses to incorporate the uncertainties surrounding the range endpoints of Ar. ramidus and earliest Homo. Overall, our findings demonstrate the need for quantifying the uncertainty surrounding the appearances and disappearances of hominin taxa in order to better understand the timing of evolutionary events in our clade's history. (...)


The Neanderthal teeth from Marillac (Charente, Southwestern France): Morphology, comparisons and paleobiology, di M. D. Garralda et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 138, January 2020, 102683 - free  access -

Few European sites have yielded human dental remains safely dated to the end of MIS 4/beginning of MIS 3. One of those sites is Marillac (Southwestern France), a collapsed karstic cave where archeological excavations (1967–1980) conducted by B. Vandermeersch unearthed numerous faunal and human remains, as well as a few Mousterian Quina tools. The Marillac sinkhole was occasionally used by humans to process the carcasses of different prey, but there is no evidence for a residential use of the site, nor have any hearths been found. Rare carnivore bones were also discovered, demonstrating that the sinkhole was seasonally used, not only by Neanderthals, but also by predators across several millennia. The lithostratigraphic units containing the human remains were dated to ∼60 kyr. The fossils consisted of numerous fragments of skulls and jaws, isolated teeth and several post-cranial bones, many of them with traces of perimortem manipulations. For those already published, their morphological characteristics and chronostratigraphic context allowed their attribution to Neanderthals.This paper analyzes sixteen unpublished human teeth (fourteen permanent and two deciduous) by investigating the external morphology and metrical variation with respect to other Neanderthal remains and a sample from modern populations. We also investigate their enamel thickness distribution in 2D and 3D, the enamel-dentine junction morphology (using geometric morphometrics) of one molar and two premolars, the roots and the possible expression of taurodontism, as well as pathologies and developmental defects. The anterior tooth use and paramasticatory activities are also discussed. Morphological and structural alterations were found on several teeth, and interpreted in light of human behavior (tooth-pick) and carnivores' actions (partial digestion). The data are interpreted in the context of the available information for the Eurasian Neanderthals. (...)



Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca