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 - open 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 - open 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 - open 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 - open 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 - open 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: - open 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 - open 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 - open 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: - open 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 - open 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 - open 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 - open 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