Aggiornamento 31 dicembre 2020

  Distinguishing Discoid and Centripetal Levallois methods through machine learning, di I. González-Molina, B. Jiménez-García, J. M. Maíllo-Fernández, E. Baquedano, M. Domínguez-Rodrigo, 23 December 2020, doi: - open access -

In this paper, we apply Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to study the differences between Discoid and Centripetal Levallois methods. For this purpose, we have used experimentally knapped flint flakes, measuring several parameters that have been analyzed by seven ML algorithms. From these analyses, it has been possible to demonstrate the existence of statistically significant differences between Discoid products and Centripetal Levallois products, thus contributing with new data and a new method to this traditional debate. The new approach enabled differentiating the blanks created by both knapping methods with an accuracy >80% using only ten typometric variables. The most relevant variables were maximum length, width to the 25%, 50% and 75% of the flake length, external and internal platform angles, maximum width and number of dorsal scars. This study also demonstrates the advantages of the application of multivariate ML methods to lithic studies. (...)
  Stone Age technologies and human behaviors as reflected in decoration of osseous artefacts from the northern part of East-Central Europe, di G. Osipowicz et alii, "Quaternary International", Volumes 569–570, 20 December 2020, Pages 66-83

This article presents the results of traceological studies of ornaments observed on selected prehistoric osseous products from Poland and Lithuania. Included are unique artefacts from this region dated to the Late Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic, or which are connected to Subneolithic communities. The article presents the results of analyses focused on interpreting the applied decorative techniques and tools employed in making the ornaments. (...)

  Results of a functional study on the Middle to early Upper Pleistocene lithic assemblages from the Azokh 1 Cave site (South Caucasus), di L. Asryan, A. Ollé, "Quaternary International", Volumes 569–570, 20 December 2020, Pages 168-180

The study of the lithic artefacts exploited by early hominins and the manner in which they were used is a key aspect of lithic studies. Azokh Cave in the Southern Caucasus comprises a complete stratigraphic sequence of five archaeological units (Units V–I) and has yielded large Middle to early Upper Pleistocene lithic and faunal assemblages in association with hominin remains. The aim of this study was to evaluate the state of preservation of the lithic assemblages recovered from a marginal area at the rear of the cave and to test the feasibility of functionally analysing these artefacts. The study focused on a sample of archaeological pieces that at the macroscopic scale exhibit fresh surfaces and unaltered edges. (...)

  Use-wear analysis of the late Middle Pleistocene quartzite assemblage from the Gran Dolina site, TD10.1 subunit (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain), di A. Pedergnana, A. Ollé, "Quaternary International", Volumes 569–570, 20 December 2020, Pages 181-211

Quartzite has been poorly studied from a functional point of view since the foundation of use-wear analysis, as the method was largely built upon the observation of wear on fine-grained raw materials (e.g., chert). In the case of the Middle Pleistocene Gran Dolina-TD10.1 site in Spain (ca. 300 kya), the sole raw material that can provide functional information for the artifacts used by the human occupants of the site is quartzite. A sample of 51 quartzite artifacts was mainly analyzed with scanning electron microscopy, and functional interpretation was possible for 36 of them. The activities identified were mostly connected to the butchering of animals, but bone and hide scraping as well as woodworking were also present. (...)

  Characterization of the use-wear and residues resulting from limestone working. Experimental approach to the parietal art of La Viña rock shelter (La Manzaneda, Asturias, Spain), di C. López-Tascón, A. Pedergnana, A. Ollé, M. de la Rasilla, C. Mazo, "Quaternary International", Volumes 569–570, 20 December 2020, Pages 212-227

The Palaeolithic rock engravings that are located along the Nalón river basin in Northern Spain (central area of Asturias) have been studied from various perspectives (morphology, depth, style, manual range), but no use-wear studies on the stone tools used to produce such engravings have ever been undertaken. This paper aims to explore a new approach to this type of incisions based on use-wear analysis of experimental lithic tools used to engrave limestone blocks and slabs. Our results show that the use-wear traces generated by engraving limestone are well-developed and can be defined with specific criteria. (...)

  Pluridisciplinary evidence for burial for the La Ferrassie 8 Neandertal child, di A. Balzeau et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 10, article number: 21230 (2020), 09 December 2020 - open access -

The origin of funerary practices has important implications for the emergence of so-called modern cognitive capacities and behaviour. We provide new multidisciplinary information on the archaeological context of the La Ferrassie 8 Neandertal skeleton (grand abri of La Ferrassie, Dordogne, France), including geochronological data -14C and OSL-, ZooMS and ancient DNA data, geological and stratigraphic information from the surrounding context, complete taphonomic study of the skeleton and associated remains, spatial information from the 1968–1973 excavations, and new (2014) fieldwork data. Our results show that a pit was dug in a sterile sediment layer and the corpse of a two-year-old child was laid there. A hominin bone from this context, identified through Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) and associated with Neandertal based on its mitochondrial DNA, yielded a direct 14C age of 41.7–40.8 ka cal BP (95%), younger than the 14C dates of the overlying archaeopaleontological layers and the OSL age of the surrounding sediment. (...)

  Lower Paleolithic bone handaxes and chopsticks: Tools and symbols?, di R. Barkai, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 8 December 2020, vol. 117, no. 49, pp. 30892-30893

Across the Old World, Lower Paleolithic humans manufactured bone facsimiles of the canonical Acheulean stone handaxe, but these enigmatic bone items (mostly elephant) are exceptionally rare. As no functional use evidence was available, bone handaxes, unlike their more prevalent stone counterparts, were thought to reflect early human worldviews or spiritual conceptions. Sano et al. (1) provide unequivocal evidence for the use of a 1.4-million-year-old bone handaxe from Konso in carcass processing. (...)

  In situ observations on the dentition and oral cavity of the Neanderthal skeleton from Altamura (Italy), di A. Riga, M. Boggioni, A. Papini, C. Buzi, A. Profico, F. Di Vincenzo, D. Marchi, J. Moggi-Cecchi, G. Manzi, 2 December 2020, doi: - open access -

The Neanderthal specimen from Lamalunga Cave, near Altamura (Apulia, Italy), was discovered during a speleological survey in 1993. The specimen is one of the most complete fossil hominins in Europe and its state of preservation is exceptional, although it is stuck in calcareous concretions and the bones are mostly covered by calcite depositions. Nevertheless, it is possible to carry out some observations on craniodental features that have not previously been described. In this work, we present an account of the oral cavity, made possible by the use of a videoscope, which allowed us to reach some hidden parts of the mandible and palate. This is the first detailed overview of the teeth and maxillary bones of the Neanderthal skeleton from Altamura. The dentition is almost complete. However, two teeth (upper right P3 and upper left M1) were lost ante mortem and four teeth (lower right I1 and P3 and lower left I1 and I2) were lost most probably post mortem. Dental wear is marked. The erupted M3s and the inversion of the compensating curve of Wilson in the M1s and M2s but not in the M3s suggest that the individual is fully adult, but not old. Although most of the teeth have their roots exposed for several millimeters, the periodontal bone appears to be in good condition overall, except in correspondence of the two ante-mortem tooth losses. X-rays of the anterior teeth show a periapical lesion, probably linked to the advanced dental wear. We also observed a weak expression of taurodontism in the posterior dentition and the presence of a retromolar space, features consistent with an attribution to the Neanderthal hypodigm; this attribution is also supported by aspects of the cranial morphology, the morphometric analysis of the scapula and preliminary mtDNA data. There is also a well-developed palatine torus, to the best of our knowledge a feature not previously described in Neanderthals. (...)

  CU Anschutz researcher offers new theory on `Venus' figurines, 1-DEC-2020

One of world's earliest examples of art, the enigmatic `Venus' figurines carved some 30,000 years ago, have intrigued and puzzled scientists for nearly two centuries. Now a researcher from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus believes he's gathered enough evidence to solve the mystery behind these curious totems. The hand-held depictions of obese or pregnant women, which appear in most art history books, were long seen as symbols of fertility or beauty. But according to Richard Johnson, MD, lead author of the study published today in the journal, Obesity, the key to understanding the statues lays in climate change and diet. "Some of the earliest art in the world are these mysterious figurines of overweight women from the time of hunter gatherers in Ice Age Europe where you would not expect to see obesity at all," said Johnson, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine specializing in renal disease and hypertension. "We show that these figurines correlate to times of extreme nutritional stress." (...)

  Did Neandertals have large brains? Factors affecting endocranial volume comparisons, di C. VanSickle, Z. Cofran, D. Hunt, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 173, Issue 4, December 2020, Pages 768-775

Common wisdom in paleoanthropology is that Neandertals had bigger brains than recent humans. Here we tested the hypothesis that there is no difference in brain size between Neandertals and recent humans while accounting for methodological variation and the makeup of both the Neandertal and recent human samples.
We examined endocranial volume (ECV) derived from virtually reconstructed endocasts of 11 Neandertals, six of which had associated femoral head diameters (FHD). Our recent human comparative dataset consisted of virtually measured ECV and associated FHD from 94 recent humans from the Robert J. Terry Anatomical Collection (63 male, 31 female). ECV of Neandertals and recent humans was compared using bootstrap resampling, repeating the analysis for two groupings of Neandertals (all and classic) and for three groupings of recent humans (all, males, and females). To examine brain size scaling, we completed an ordinary least squares regression of log (ECV) against log (FHD) for Neandertals and recent humans. (...)

  Piecing together a new mosaic: Gravettian lithic resources and economic territories in the Western Pyrenees, di A. Calvo, A. Arrizabalaga, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, issue 12, December 2020 - open access -

To palliate the current scarcity of information about lithic raw materials in the Western Pyrenees during the Gravettian, the study of ten assemblages has explored the flint procurement patterns and economic organisation of the territory. The study was based on the macro- and microscopic analysis of the different lithic remains. A wide range of flint varieties were used, including some excellent rocks for knapping and others of poorer quality. This diversified catchment pattern was defined by the criteria of quality and suitability for reduction. Although procurement took place mostly at the primary outcrops, there is some evidence of limited acquisition in secondary deposits. Within the economic territory of the Western Pyrenees, divergences in the connections between the outcrops on one side of the mountains and the archaeological sites on the other may indicate different territorial or economic roles for each side. In general terms, the northern side may have been more residential with more stable habitation, while the southern side was linked with logistic tasks and more seasonal occupation. The economic connections between this territory and surrounding areas revealed by the lithic resources are the reflection of inter-group contacts and an economic mosaic imbricated with a cultural or symbolic one. (...)

  Turonian flint economy in the easternmost Magdalenian: new data from Stare Baraki, site 1 (eastern Poland), di T. Wiśniewski, M. T. Krajcarz, K. Standzikowski, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, issue 12, December 2020 - open access -

Magdalenian communities exploited mostly local and regional good-quality lithic raw materials. In south-eastern Poland, being the easternmost fringe of the Magdalenian range, Turonian grey flint had a particular importance. Outcrops of this raw material occur both at the west and at the east sides the Vistula River Gorge. The varieties from the eastern area (called here “eastern Turonian flint” or ETF) are common among inventories of the Magdalenian sites situated to west of the Vistula river. This fact points toward the frequent penetration of the ETF outcrop area by those societies. However, no Magdalenian sites were known directly from the ETF deposit area, and this gap in knowledge restricted further understanding of the character and diversity of Magdalenian activity there. Therefore, in this paper, we present the results of searching for Magdalenian sites within the ETF outcrop zone. Applied methodology included study of the archive archaeological materials, followed by detail survey and excavation of the selected site—Stare Baraki 1. This site documents a short stay or multiple stays of Magdalenian people, who were focused on Turonian flint knapping. Lithic inventory records collecting of several local flint varieties at the distance up to around 20 km from the site, followed by almost all stages of flint working. The material from Stare Baraki is the first known and currently the only trace of the Magdalenian people inside the zone of Turonian flint deposits on the right bank of the Vistula river. The study in Stare Baraki delivered new data for the reconstruction of territory exploitation strategies used in the easternmost Magdalenian. (...)

  Aggregates, Formational Emergence, and the Focus on Practice in Stone Artifact Archaeology, di Z. Rezek, S. J. Holdaway, D. I. Olszewski, S. C. Lin, M. Douglass, S. P. McPherron, R. Iovita, D. R. Braun, D. Sandgathe,  "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 27, issue 4, December 2020, pp. 887–928 - open access -

The stone artifact record has been one of the major grounds for investigating our evolution. With the predominant focus on their morphological attributes and technological aspects of manufacture, stone artifacts and their assemblages have been analyzed as explicit measures of past behaviors, adaptations, and population histories. This analytical focus on technological and morphological appearance is one of the characteristics of the conventional approach for constructing inferences from this record. An equally persistent routine involves ascribing the emerged patterns and variability within the archaeological deposits directly to long-term central tendencies in human actions and cultural transmission. Here we re-evaluate this conventional approach. By invoking some of the known concerns and concepts about the formation of archaeological record, we introduce notions of aggregates and formational emergence to expand on the understanding of how artifacts accumulate, what these accumulations represent, and how the patterns and variability among them emerge. To infer behavior that could inform on past lifeways, we further promote a shift in the focus of analysis from the technological and morphological appearance of artifacts and assemblages to the practice of stone use. We argue for a more rigorous and multi-level inferential procedure in modeling behavioral adaptation and evolution. (...)

  La ceinture scapulaire Homo naledi: une adaptation à l’escalade de bloc, di J. L. Voisin, E. M. Feuerriegel, S. E. Churchill, L. R. Berger, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 124, Issue 5, December 2020, 102783

Homo naledi, a recently discovered hominin species from the Rising Star cave complex in Gauteng Province, South Africa, is a surprising species in more ways than one. The conditions of accumulation, as well as the location of these remains in the cave are intriguing, as is their age of approximately 300,000 years. Likewise, the number of remains as well as their state of preservation are exceptional. But the most astonishing discovery of all is represented by the general morphology of this new species, with an upper body adapted to climbing and the lower body presenting important adaptations to bipedalism. (...)

  Hibernation des hominidés d’Atapuerca, en Espagne, il y a un demi-million d’années, di A. Bartsiokas, J. L. Arsuaga, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 124, Issue 5, December 2020, 102797

Both animal hibernation and human renal osteodystrophy are characterized by high levels of serum parathyroid hormone. To test the hypothesis of hibernation in an extinct human species, we examined the hominin skeletal collection from Sima de los Huesos, Cave Mayor, Atapuerca, Spain, for evidence of hyperparathyroidism after a thorough review of the literature. We studied the morphology of the fossilized bones by using macrophotography, microscopy, histology and CT scanning. We found trabecular tunneling and osteitis fibrosa, subperiosteal resorption, ‘rotten fence post’ signs, brown tumours, subperiosteal new bone, chondrocalcinosis, rachitic osteoplaques and empty gaps between them, craniotabes, and beading of ribs mostly in the adolescent population of these hominins. Since many of the above lesions are pathognomonic, these extinct hominins suffered annually from renal rickets, secondary hyperparathyroidism, and renal osteodystrophy associated with Chronic Kidney Disease - Mineral and Bone Disorder (CKD-MBD). (...)

  Establishing a predictive model for rock art surveying: The case of Palaeolithic caves in Northern Spain, di D. Garate, I. Intxaurbe, J. Moreno-García, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 60, December 2020, 101231

Since the discovery of Altamira Cave in 1879, the archaeological record of Palaeolithic parietal art has expanded steadily across Western Europe but with an unequal distribution. Discoveries have often been made by chance, but at other times as the result of painstaking searches by archaeologists and/or speleologists, eventually reaching some 500 sites currently known. The present study proposes a selective surveying system based on the current characterisation of parietal ensembles in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (North Spain) but applicable to any other territory or region in the world. (...)

  Static allometry of a small-bodied omnivore: body size and limb scaling of an island fox and inferences for Homo floresiensis, di C. B. Young, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 149, December 2020, 102899

Island dwarfing is a paraphyletic adaptation across numerous mammalian genera. From mammoths to foxes, extreme body size reduction is shared by diverse organisms that migrate to an island environment. Because it largely occurs owing to ecological variables, not phylogenetic ones, skeletal characters in a dwarfed taxon compared with its ancestor may appear abnormal. As a result, allometric patterns between body size and morphological traits may differ for an island dwarf compared with its ancestor. The diminutive Late Pleistocene hominin, Homo floresiensis, displays a unique character suite that is outside of the normal range of variation for any extinct or extant hominin species. (...)

  Nature and relationships of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, di R. Macchiarelli, A. Bergeret-Medina, D. Marchi, B. Wood, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 149, December 2020, 102898

A partial left femur (TM 266-01-063) was recovered in July 2001 at Toros-Menalla, Chad, at the same fossiliferous location as the late Miocene holotype of Sahelanthropus tchadensis (the cranium TM 266-01-060-1). It was recognized as a probable primate femur in 2004 when one of the authors was undertaking a taphonomic survey of the fossil assemblages from Toros-Menalla. We are confident the TM 266 femoral shaft belongs to a hominid. It could sample a hominid hitherto unrepresented at Toros-Menalla, but a more parsimonious working hypothesis is that it belongs to S. tchadensis. (...)

  Underestimating Kanzi? Exploring Kanzi-Oldowan comparisons in light of recent human stone tool replication, di M. I. Eren, S. J. Lycett, M. Tomonaga, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 29, Issue 6, November/December 2020, Pages 310-316

The knapping experiments with Kanzi, a bonobo, are among the most insightful experiments into Oldowan technology ever undertaken. Comparison of his artifacts against archeological material, however, indicated he did not produce Oldowan lithic attributes precisely, prompting suggestions that this indicated cognitive or biomechanical impediments. The literature describing the learning environment provided to Kanzi, we suggest, indicates alternative factors. (...)

  Reconstructing prehistoric demography: What role for extant hunter-gatherers?, di A. E. Page, J. C. French, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 29, Issue 6, November/December 2020, Pages 332-345 - open access -

Demography is central to biological, behavioral, and cultural evolution. Knowledge of the demography of prehistoric populations of both Homo sapiens and earlier members of the genus Homo is, therefore, key to the study of human evolution. Unfortunately, demographic processes (fertility, mortality, migration) leave little mark on the archeological and paleoanthropological records. One common solution to this issue is the application of demographic data from extant hunter-gatherers to prehistory. With the aim of strengthening this line of enquiry, here we outline some pitfalls and their interpretative implications. In doing so, we provide recommendations about the application of hunter-gatherer data to the study of demographic trends throughout human evolution. We use published demographic data from extant hunter-gatherers to show that it is the diversity seen among extant hunter-gatherers—both intra- and inter-population variability—that is most relevant and useful for understanding past hunter-gatherer demography. (...)

  Lithic raw material procurement at the Chaves cave (Huesca, Spain): A geochemical approach to defining Palaeolithic human mobility, di M. Sánchez de la Torre, P. Utrilla, R. Domingo, L. Jiménez, F. X. Le Bourdonnec, B. Gratuze, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 35, Issue 6, November/December 2020, Pages 856-870

The Chaves cave (Huesca, Spain) is located in the central Pre-Pyrenean range in NE Iberia. It is a huge cave opening to the east, which was systematically excavated between 1975 and 2007. Several human occupations from the Upper Palaeolithic and the Neolithic periods were documented. Archaeological investigations had barely covered a tenth of the total area when they were abruptly interrupted by the destruction in 2007 of most of the archaeological sediments and all the preserved Neolithic levels that had not yet been excavated. While the most intensive prehistoric occupations of the cave were Neolithic, several components from the Upper Palaeolithic were also detected and excavated before 2007. The recovered lithic tools, as well as the radiocarbon dates, revealed that the Chaves cave was frequented by hunter–gatherer groups during the Upper Solutrean and the Upper Magdalenian. (...)

  Petrographic and SEM-EDX characterization of Mousterian white/beige chert tools from the Navalmaíllo rock shelter (Madrid, Spain), di A. Abrunhosa, M. Á. Bustillo, T. Pereira, B. Márquez, A. Pérez-González, J. L. Arsuaga, E. Baquedano, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 35, Issue 6, November/December 2020, Pages 883-896

Studying lithic raw material sourcing, processing and distribution is helpful when trying to reconstruct the territory, ecology, and cultural practices of Neanderthal groups. The use of multiple methods in such analyses allows for more refined characterizations to be made, helping to distinguish between materials better than any single method. Although 85% of the raw materials making up the Mousterian assemblage at the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter (Pinilla del Valle, Madrid Region of Spain) correspond to the available local geological resources, 10% is made of white/beige chert, which is not registered in regional geological cartography. (...)

  Mammal butchery by Homo erectus at the Lower Pleistocene acheulean site of Juma’s korongo 2 (JK2), bed III, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, di J. Yravedra, S. Rubio-Jara, L. A. Courtenay, J. A. Martos, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 249, 1 December 2020, 106612

The Olduvai Gorge is considered one of the most relevant archaeological complexes with regards to the study of our human evolution. This is especially evident when studying the emergence of hunting practices over the past 1.7 Ma. Butchery activities have been documented throughout Bed II, including the exploitation of megafauna in a larger number of sites. Among these, Hippopotamus, giraffe, sivatherium and large bovids have been documented to be consumed by hominins in, BK, TK, FLK-West and SHK between 1.3 and 1.7 Ma. Similar evidence has also been found in sites from Koobi Fora (Kenya), Peninj (Tanzania) and Ain Hanech (Marroco). Contrary to sites of lower Pleistocene earlier than 1.3 Ma, human butchery practices later than this are scarce during the transition between the Lower and Middle Pleistocene. (...)

  The implications of thumb movements for Neanderthal and modern human manipulation, di A. Bardo, M. H. Moncel, C. J. Dunmore, T. L. Kivell, E. Pouydebat, R. Cornette, "Scientific Reports", volume 10, article number: 19323 (2020), 26 November 2020 - open access -

Much research has debated the technological abilities of Neanderthals relative to those of early modern humans, with a particular focus on subtle differences in thumb morphology and how this may reflect differences in manipulative behaviors in these two species. Here, we provide a novel perspective on this debate through a 3D geometric morphometric analysis of shape covariation between the trapezial and proximal first metacarpal articular surfaces of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) in comparison to early and recent humans (Homo sapiens). Results show a distinct pattern of shape covariation in Neanderthals, consistent with more extended and adducted thumb postures that may reflect habitual use of grips commonly used for hafted tools. Both Neanderthals and recent humans demonstrate high intraspecific variation in shape covariation. (...)

  A new complete sequence from Lower to Middle Paleolithic: El Provencio Complex (Cuenca, Spain), di S. D. Domínguez-Solera, D. Moreno, C. Pérez-Garrido, "Quaternary International", Volumes 566–567, 20 November 2020, Pages 39-56

This paper presents the results of the archaeological research project on the Lower and Middle Paleolithic in the municipality of El Provencio (Cuenca, Spain). During the first 6 years of the project, an unknown archaeological complex has been defined with a large concentration of remains of lithic industry of Modes 1, 2 and 3, as well as Pleistocene faunal remains (Mammuthus and Equus), associated with the large-scale sequences of the Záncara River. (...)

  The reinterpretation of the Cova Negra archaeological and stratigraphical sequence and its implications in the understanding of the Middle Palaeolithic Iberian Peninsula, di A. Eixea, I. Oltra, M. Mercè Bergadà, V. Villaverde, "Quaternary International", Volumes 566–567, 20 November 2020, Pages 98-112

This paper presents new data from the reinterpretation of the Cova Negra sequence from a chronological and stratigraphic perspective. The primary aim is to reorder the lithic industry from the excavations of the 1950s in light of the stratigraphic sequence, paying particular attention to raw materials, knapping methods and tools. The reconstruction, carried out from a taphonomic perspective, is specified in sectors B, C and F, and the archaeological levels and the included material are adjusted to the stratigraphic levels. Although the number of remains involved in the proposed chronology is reduced in relation to previous work, it is an arrangement that relies on a more precise chronostratigraphic framework. (...)

  Refitting lithic laminar fragments to assess Palaeolithic sequences: The case of Cova de les Cendres (Teulada-Moraira, Alicante, Spain), di M. Á. Bel, Á. Martínez-Alfaro, V. Villaverde, "Quaternary International", Volumes 566–567, 20 November 2020, Pages 152-162

The integrity of the different levels that form a sequence and the formation processes of the archaeological deposit must be assessed as a previous step to the construction of behavioural, cultural and evolutionary interpretations. This is especially relevant when dealing with long sequences and cultural evolution constructed on them, as is the case in the research on Upper Palaeolithic. Lithic taphonomy provides insight into these issues and refitting is one of its powerful tools. This approach has been applied to the Aurignacian, Gravettian and Solutrean levels of Cova de les Cendres (Teulada-Moraira, Alicante, Spain), where fracture refits of laminar fragments –including blades, bladelets, and laminar flakes– have been systematically searched. (...)

  Hidden images in Atxurra Cave (Northern Spain): A new proposal for visibility analyses of Palaeolithic rock art in subterranean environments, di I. Intxaurbe et alii, "Quaternary International", Volumes 566–567, 20 November 2020, Pages 163-170

Visibility has been the subject of study in Palaeolithic rock art research ever since the discovery of Altamira Cave in 1879. Nevertheless, until now, the different approaches have been based on subjective assessments, due to computational limitations for a more objective methodology. Nowadays, cutting-edge technologies such as GIS allow us to address spatial studies in caves and overcome their geomorphologically complex and closed characteristics. Here we describe an innovative methodology that uses computing tools available to any researcher to study the viewsheds of the graphic units in decorated caves. We have tested its validity on the recently discovered rock art ensemble of Atxurra Cave, in Northern Spain. (...)

  Sexual dimorphism in the vertebral wedging of the human lumbar vertebrae and its importance as a comparative framework for understanding the wedging pattern of Neanderthals, di D. García-Martínez et alii, "Quaternary International", Volumes 566–567, 20 November 2020, Pages 224-232

Lumbar lordosis is a key element of the upright posture, being interpreted as a consequence of bipedal locomotion. There is consensus that the generic modern human pattern of metameric vertebral body wedging is sexually dimorphic in modern humans. However, recently published studies have compared this pattern with other hominins, such as Neanderthals. These tried to establish whether the (male) Neanderthal lumbar vertebrae express a pattern that falls within or outside the range of modern human males. In the present study, data collected by 3D landmarks of the lumbar vertebrae of modern humans from different geographic regions and Neanderthals (Ntotal = 505 individual vertebrae) are used to clarify this problem, observing a similarity of the generic human pattern but with some interspecific differences in the pattern in the upper and lower lumbar vertebrae. (...)

  Lasco, un pseudo en forme de clin doeil à la plus célèbre grotte ornée du Périgord, 19/11/2020

Ce street artist lyonnais a commencé à s’intéresser à l’art pariétal durant ces études en sciences. Ce qu’il a ressenti pendant les visites de grottes ornées l’a motivé à rendre accessible ces dessins ancestraux au grand public, et à sensibiliser à cet art préhistorique. Il a donc décidé d’utiliser les murs (fissurés) des villes pour faire s’interroger sur nos origines, et celle de lart. Une mise en lumière du paradoxe entre un art millénaire que l’on conserve précieusement et des graffitis aujourd’hui proscrits. Lasco contemporanise les chevaux de Przewalski, girafes rupestres namibiennes, bisons des steppes, et autres animaux, en utilisant diverses techniques artistiques : bombes de peinture, tracés à main levée, pochoirs, marqueurs acryliques… et des études bibliographiques pour donner à ses pièces l’authenticité requise. (...)

  Early life of Neanderthals, di A. Nava et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 17 November 2020, vol. 117, no. 46, pp. 28719-28726

The early onset of weaning in modern humans has been linked to the high nutritional demand of brain development that is intimately connected with infant physiology and growth rate. In Neanderthals, ontogenetic patterns in early life are still debated, with some studies suggesting an accelerated development and others indicating only subtle differences vs. modern humans. Here we report the onset of weaning and rates of enamel growth using an unprecedented sample set of three late (~70 to 50 ka) Neanderthals and one Upper Paleolithic modern human from northeastern Italy via spatially resolved chemical/isotopic analyses and histomorphometry of deciduous teeth. Our results reveal that the modern human nursing strategy, with onset of weaning at 5 to 6 mo, was present among these Neanderthals. (...)

  Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the Cradle of Humankind during the Plio-Pleistocene transition, inferred from the analysis of fossil birds from Member 2 of the hominin-bearing site of Kromdraai (Gauteng, South Africa), di M. Pavia, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 248, 15 November 2020, 106532

The results of the analysis of the bird assemblage from Member 2 of the Paranthropus robustus type-locality of Kromdraai are presented here, and the data are used to infer the environmental context of the Plio-Pleistocene transition in the Cradle of Humankind. The study of more than 800 remains revealed the presence of 25 bird taxa, 2 of them described as new to science. For some of the taxa, Kromdraai represents the oldest fossil record so far, if not the first ever. This relatively diverse bird association comprises terrestrial taxa dominated by rock-dwelling birds, such as Geronticus thackerayi and Tyto cf. alba, followed by open grassland birds, such as Francolinus sp. and Turnix sp., freshwater birds, ducks and waders, and forest birds, such as Accipiter melanoleucos and Treron sp. (...)

  Paleogenetic and morphometric analysis of a Mesolithic individual from Grotta d’Oriente: An oldest genetic legacy for the first modern humans in Sicily, di A. Modi et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 248, 15 November 2020, 106603

Grotta d’Oriente, a coastal cave located on the island of Favignana (Sicily, Italy) is a key site for the study of the early human colonization of Sicily. Inside the cave, during different field excavations, three burials attributable to the Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic were found. The Mesolithic Oriente B individual, directly dated at 9,377 ± 25 uncal BP, was previously assigned to HV1 haplogroup using a traditional approach. However, it is well known that PCR based methods are prone to erroneous haplotype or haplogroup determination. In order to redefine the mitochondrial lineage of this Mesolithic hunter-gatherer and explore its phylogenetic position, we target-enriched and sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of Oriente B. Moreover, we conducted a morphometric analysis to assess its phenetic affinities. (...)

  Split-based points from the Swabian Jura highlight Aurignacian regional signatures, di K. Kitagawa, N. J. Conard, 10 November 2020, doi: - open access -

The systematic use of antlers and other osseous materials by modern humans marks a set of cultural and technological innovations in the early Upper Paleolithic, as is seen most clearly in the Aurignacian. Split-based points, which are one of the most common osseous tools, are present throughout most regions where the Aurignacian is documented. Using results from recent and ongoing excavations at Geißenklösterle, Hohle Fels and Vogelherd, we nearly tripled the sample of split-based points from 31 to 87 specimens, and thereby enhance our understanding of the technological economy surrounding the production of osseous tools. Aurignacian people of the Swabian Jura typically left spit-based points at sites that appear to be base camps rich with numerous examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, symbolic imagery, and musical instruments. The artifact assemblages from SW Germany highlight a production sequence that resembles that of SW France and Cantabria, except for the absence of tongued pieces. Our study documents the life histories of osseous tools and demonstrates templates for manufacture, use, recycling, and discard of these archetypal artifacts from the Aurignacian. The study also underlines the diversified repertoire of modern humans in cultural and technological realms highlighting their adaptive capabilities. (...)

  Drimolen cranium DNH 155 documents microevolution in an early hominin species, di J. M. Martin et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 09 November 2020, volume 5, pages 38–45 (2021)

Paranthropus robustus is a small-brained extinct hominin from South Africa characterized by derived, robust craniodental morphology. The most complete known skull of this species is DNH 7 from Drimolen Main Quarry, which differs from P. robustus specimens recovered elsewhere in ways attributed to sexual dimorphism. Here, we describe a new fossil specimen from Drimolen Main Quarry, dated from approximately 2.04–1.95 million years ago, that challenges this view. DNH 155 is a well-preserved adult male cranium that shares with DNH 7 a suite of primitive and derived features unlike those seen in adult P. robustus specimens from other chronologically younger deposits. (...)

  Improved accuracy of U-series and radiocarbon dating of ostrich eggshell using a sample preparation method based on microstructure and geochemistry: A study from the Middle Stone Age of Northwestern Ethiopia, di S. L. Loewy et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 247, 1 November 2020, 106525

The Middle Stone Age (MSA) is important to studies of human evolution because it witnessed the origin of modern Homo sapiens and its dispersal out of Africa and across the rest of the Old World. Obtaining accurate ages for these and other events that occurred during this time interval is of critical importance. Ostrich eggshell (OES) is commonly found in MSA sites, and OES calcite can be dated by radiocarbon and U-series geochronologic techniques. It is important to understand how both techniques are potentially compromised when the eggshell’s pore clusters and intercrystalline microporosity are infilled with younger calcite and/or soil-derived detrital materials. We investigated this question by using high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (HRXCT) to reveal the extent and three-dimensional structure of the pore clusters, and element mapping to evaluate concentrations of detrital elements in modern versus ancient OES within the pore clusters and the crystal (outer) and cone (inner) layers relative to the palisade (central) layer. (...)

  The first human settlements out africa into Europe: A chronological perspective, di C. Falguères, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 247, 1 November 2020, 106551

A reliable chronology for the oldest settlements of Europe from the Early to the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene is an important requirement for understanding human evolution and especially the routes used to reach Western Europe from Africa. The paucity of sites, plus the limited number of available samples for dating, and the many contexts which do not favor the use of particular dating methods, further complicate the picture. (...)

  High-resolution Neanderthal settlements in mediterranean Iberian Peninsula: A matter of altitude?, di C. Sánchez-Hernández et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 247, 1 November 2020, 106523

Neanderthals are widely known to be a resilient human species that successfully faced constant and strong environmental fluctuations modifying the landscapes they inhabited and the availability of their potential resources. It has been traditionally assumed that environmental features could strongly affect human behaviour due to the stretch relationship between their potential prey and the availability of habitats. Environmental changes would produce a high variability in the settlement patterns of the Neanderthal groups. However, the preponderant influence of environmental conditions on these human groups has recently been strongly questioned. This is especially true for the Iberian Peninsula, where latitudinal position and orographic features supported the persistence of environmental conditions that allowed the permanence of a wide range of biotopes and animal and vegetal resources. (...)

  Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 148, November 2020:

- The Fauresmith of South Africa: A new assemblage from Canteen Kopje and significance of the technology in human and cultural evolution, di K. Kuman, M. G. Lotter, G. M. Leader

- Bone tools from Beds II–IV, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and implications for the origins and evolution of bone technology, di M. Pante, I. de la Torre, F. d’Errico, J. Njau, R. Blumenschine

- Hominin diversity in East Asia during the Middle Pleistocene: A premolar endostructural perspective, di L. Pan, J. Dumoncel, A. Mazurier, C. Zanolli

- The cochlea of the Aroeira 3 Middle Pleistocene cranium—a comparative study, di M. Conde-Valverde et alii

- A broader perspective on estimating dental age for the Xujiayao juvenile, a late Middle Pleistocene archaic hominin from East Asia, di S. Xing et alii

- A different interpretation of dental development stages in Xujiayao 1 Middle to Late Pleistocene Homo, di M. Šešelj, L. W. Konigsberg

  It's getting hot in here – Microcontextual study of a potential pit hearth at the Middle Paleolithic site of El Salt, Spain, di L. Leierer et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 123, November 2020, 105237

By studying combustion structures, which conceal information about anthropogenic activity, we might learn about their makers. This is especially important for remote time periods like the Middle Paleolithic, whose archaeological record comprises numerous combustion structures. The majority of these are simple, flat, open hearths, although a small number of features situated in pit-like depressions have been recorded. Given that hearths built on a flat surface can result in pit-like color alteration of the underlying sediment, accurate identification of pit hearths is a crucial step prior to behavioral interpretation. (...)

  Searching for hidden activities: Percussive tools from the Oldowan and Acheulean of West Turkana, Kenya (2.3–1.76 Ma), di A. Arroyo, S. Harmand, H. Roche, N.Taylor, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 123, November 2020, 105238

Over the last thirty years, investigations in the Nachukui Formation (West Turkana, Kenya) have revealed the importance of the region for human evolution studies within an archaeological sequence spanning the period 3.3 million years (Ma) to 0.7 Ma. Despite the numerous sites discovered, little is known about pounding activities during this time period in the region. In this paper, we present an analysis of percussive tools from three West Turkana archaeological sites: Lokalalei 2C, Kokiselei 1 and Kokiselei 4, dated between 2.3 Ma and 1.76 Ma. Their chronological range allows us to conduct a diachronic comparison of the percussive activities during a time span with two hominin genera (Australopithecus boisei, early Homo and Homo erectus). The three assemblages are compared with others from the Early Stone Age and with experimental percussive tools. (...)

  First evidence of Pleistocene ochre production from bacteriogenic iron oxides. A case study of the Upper Palaeolithic site at the San Teodoro Cave (Sicily, Italy), di V. Garilli et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 123, November 2020, 105221

The use of iron pigments is well documented in the archaeological horizons of the different parts of the world since the Middle Pleistocene. The mineralogical and chemical composition of the pigments allowed defining, in most cases, their inorganic origin, which were then used after a limited transformation and manipulation. The use of a biogenic ochraceous pigment and its manipulation has recently been described in a late Holocene archaeological horizon of the American continent. (...)

  Denisovan ancestry and population history of early East Asians, di D. Massilani et alii, "Science", 30 Oct 2020: Vol. 370, Issue 6516, pp. 579-583

We present analyses of the genome of a ~34,000-year-old hominin skull cap discovered in the Salkhit Valley in northeastern Mongolia. We show that this individual was a female member of a modern human population that, following the split between East and West Eurasians, experienced substantial gene flow from West Eurasians. Both she and a 40,000-year-old individual from Tianyuan outside Beijing carried genomic segments of Denisovan ancestry. These segments derive from the same Denisovan admixture event(s) that contributed to present-day mainland Asians but are distinct from the Denisovan DNA segments in present-day Papuans and Aboriginal Australians. (...)

  Denisovan DNA in Late Pleistocene sediments from Baishiya Karst Cave on the Tibetan Plateau, di D. Zhang et alii, "Science", 30 Oct 2020: Vol. 370, Issue 6516, pp. 584-587

A late Middle Pleistocene mandible from Baishiya Karst Cave (BKC) on the Tibetan Plateau has been inferred to be from a Denisovan, an Asian hominin related to Neanderthals, on the basis of an amino acid substitution in its collagen. Here we describe the stratigraphy, chronology, and mitochondrial DNA extracted from the sediments in BKC. We recover Denisovan mitochondrial DNA from sediments deposited ~100 thousand and ~60 thousand years ago (ka) and possibly as recently as ~45 ka. The long-term occupation of BKC by Denisovans suggests that they may have adapted to life at high altitudes and may have contributed such adaptations to modern humans on the Tibetan Plateau. (...)

  "Cultures of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in Western Europe". Edited by Dídac Roman, Célia Fat Cheung, Mathieu Langlais. Volume 564, Pages 1-138 (30 October 2020):

- Cultures of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in Western Europe
, di D. Roman, C. Fat Cheung, M. Langlais

- Lost in transition: Between late pleistocene and Early Holocene around the adriatic, di A. Tomasso, M. Serradimigni, G. Ricci, D. Mihailovic

- Lithic perspectives on the Late Upper Palaeolithic in the French Pyrenees, di C. Fat Cheung

- The pleistocene-holocene transition in Southwestern France: A focus on the laborian, di M. Langlais et alii

- Late Laborian trapezoids: Function and origin of the first transverse projectile tips of Western Europe prehistory, di J. Jacquier, M. Langlais, N. Naudinot

- For a fistful of geometric microliths: Reflections on the Sauveterrian industries from the upper and middle Ebro Basin (Spain), di A. Soto, R. Domingo, L. M. García-Simón, A. Alday, L. Montes

- Exploring the end of the upper magdalenian in northern Valencian region (Mediterranean Iberia), di D. Roman, I. Domingo

- Lithic production in the centre and south of the Iberian Mediterranean region (Spain) throughout the Pleistocene–Holocene transition (14.5–10.5 ky cal BP), di
M. Vadillo Conesa, J. E. Aura Tortosa

- On the shore of Mediterranean sea. The end of the palaeolithic on the coast of Málaga (South of Spain), di M. Cortés-Sánchez et alii

- Beyond the Palaeolithic: Figurative final Palaeolithic art in Mediterranean Iberia, di I. Domingo, D. Roman

- Archaeology of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in Portugal: Synthesis and prospects, di C. Gameiro et alii

  Redefining shared symbolic networks during the Gravettian in Western Europe: New data from the rock art findings in Aitzbitarte caves (Northern Spain), di
D. Garate, O. Rivero, J. Rios-Garaizar, M. Arriolabengoa, I. Intxaurbe, S. Salazar, 28 October 2020, doi: - open access -

The renewal of the archaeological record, mainly through the discovery of unpublished sites, provides information that sometimes qualifies or even reformulates previous approaches. One of the latter cases is represented by the three new decorated caves found in 2015 in Aitzbitarte Hill. Their exhaustive study shows the presence of engraved animals, mainly bison, with formal characteristics unknown so far in the Palaeolithic art of the northern Iberian Peninsula. However, parallels are located in caves in southern France such as Gargas, Cussac, Roucadour or Cosquer. All of them share very specific graphic conventions that correspond to human occupations assigned basically to the Gravettian cultural complex. The new discovery implies the need to reformulate the iconographic exchange networks currently accepted, as well as their correspondence with other elements of the material culture at the same sites. Thus, we have carried out a multiproxy approach based in statistical analysis. The updated data reveals a greater complexity in artistic expression during the Gravettian that had not been considered so far, and also challenges the traditional isolation that had been granted to Cantabrian symbolic expressions during pre-Magdalenian times. (...)

  Increased ecological resource variability during a critical transition in hominin evolution, di R. Potts et alii, "Science Advances", 21 Oct 2020, Vol. 6, no. 43, eabc8975 - open access -

Although climate change is considered to have been a large-scale driver of African human evolution, landscape-scale shifts in ecological resources that may have shaped novel hominin adaptations are rarely investigated. We use well-dated, high-resolution, drill-core datasets to understand ecological dynamics associated with a major adaptive transition in the archeological record ~24 km from the coring site. Outcrops preserve evidence of the replacement of Acheulean by Middle Stone Age (MSA) technological, cognitive, and social innovations between 500 and 300 thousand years (ka) ago, contemporaneous with large-scale taxonomic and adaptive turnover in mammal herbivores. Beginning ~400 ka ago, tectonic, hydrological, and ecological changes combined to disrupt a relatively stable resource base, prompting fluctuations of increasing magnitude in freshwater availability, grassland communities, and woody plant cover. Interaction of these factors offers a resource-oriented hypothesis for the evolutionary success of MSA adaptations, which likely contributed to the ecological flexibility typical of Homo sapiens foragers. (...)

  Nubian Levallois reduction strategies in the Tankwa Karoo, South Africa, di E. Hallinan, M. Shaw, 22 October 2020, doi: - open access -

The Middle Stone Age record in southern Africa is recognising increasing diversity in lithic technologies as research expands beyond the coastal-montane zone. New research in the arid Tankwa Karoo region of the South African interior has revealed a rich surface artefact record including a novel method of point production, recognised as Nubian Levallois technology in Late Pleistocene North Africa, Arabia and the Levant. We analyse 121 Nubian cores and associated points from the surface site Tweefontein against the strict criteria which are used to define Nubian technology elsewhere. The co-occurrence of typically post-Howiesons Poort unifacial points suggests an MIS 3 age. We propose that the occurrence of this distinctive technology at numerous localities in the Tankwa Karoo region reflects an environment-specific adaptation in line with technological regionalisation seen more widely in MIS 3. The arid setting of these assemblages in the Tankwa Karoo compares with the desert context of Nubian technology globally, consistent with convergent evolution in our case. The South African evidence contributes an alternative perspective on Nubian technology removed from the ‘dispersal’ or ‘diffusion’ scenarios of the debate surrounding its origin and spread within and out of Africa. (...)

  "Art préhistorique", "L'Anthropologie", Volume 124, Issue 3, October 2020 - free dowload -

- First Pleistocene rock art found in central Europe, di R. G. Bednarik

- Notes on Tectiforms: Experience of Interpretation, Context, di E. M. Baitenov

- L’art rupestre en abri sous-roche du Paléolithique supérieur, di G. Pinçon, O. Fuentes

- Les entrées préhistoriques à la grotte Chauvet - Pont d’Arc, di G. Jouve

- Chauvet Cave's art remains undated, di G. Jouve, P. Pettitt, P. Bahn

- Nouvelles données concernant les représentations du bubale antique de l’Atlas saharien, Algérie, di F. Z. Khaled

- Les gravures rupestres d’Aïn Charchara (Smar-Tataouine ; Sud-Est tunisien), di J. Ben Nasr, Y. Houla

- Hypothèses et propositions pour envisager l’étude des gravures rupestres du mont Bego comme une écriture, di I. Klock-Fontanille

- Antet Anthropologie des Techniques. De la mémoire aux gestes en Préhistoire, di M. Otte

  "Paleo", 30-2, 2020 - Full text -

- An osseous industry dated from the Last Glacial Maximum: the special case of the “Le Colombier” assemblage in Chézy-sur-Marne (Aisne, France)
, di A. Averbouh, N. Goutas, C. Montoya

- Une industrie en matières osseuses datée du Dernier Maximum Glaciaire : le cas unique de la série du « Colombier » Chézy-sur-Marne (Aisne, France), di B. Boulestin

- The elk/moose (Alces alces) in the Upper Palaeolithic Art of Western Europe, di I. M. Braun

- The Neandertal (Krapina and Regourdou 1), fossil modern human (Chancelade 1) and extant human patella: an insight from inside, di M. Cazenave, D. Radovčić, J. Hoffman, R. Macchiarelli

- Biostratigraphie et datations de la fin des temps glaciaires. Nouvelles visites des faunes de quelques gisements du Grand Sud-ouest de la France, di F. Delpech

- New study and complementary analyses on the Keilmesser with tranchet blow from the site Abri du Musée at Les Eyzies (Dordogne, France), di J. A. Frick

- La grotte Castaigne (Commune de Torsac, Charente, France). Présentation d’un site méconnu riche en vestiges humains (dont des Néandertaliens), di B. Maureille et alii

- La grotte ornée de la Mairie (Teyjat, Dordogne, France) dans les musées. Fragments d’un discours symbolique, di P. Paillet, E. Paillet, C. Noûs

- Bouquetins et tracés: nouvelles lectures de blocs gravés du Colombier II (Ardèche, France), di R. Pigeaud

- Analyses non invasives in situ des œuvres préhistoriques de la grotte de Font-de-Gaume pour une meilleure connaissance du décor pariétal polychrome et de son organisation, di I. Reiche et alii

- L’industrie sur quartzite du site de Bidau à Garlin (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France): Acheuléen versus Moustérien?, di A. Taylor, M. Rué, S. Bernard-Guelle, P. Fernandes, A. Ajas, L. Chesnaux

- Les dépôts de remplissage de l’abri inférieur du Moustier (Dordogne, France) : lithostratigraphie, processus de formation et évolution du système géomorphologique, di J. P. Texier, E. Discamps, B. Gravina, M. Thomas

- The Neanderthal mandible BD 1 from La Chaise-de-Vouthon Abri Bourgeois-Delaunay (Charente, Southwestern France, OIS 5e). Dental tissue proportions, cortical bone distribution and endostructural asymmetry, di C. Zanolli, L. Genochio, J. F. Tournepiche, A. Mazurier, R. Macchiarelli

  La Grotta paleolitica di Roccia San Sebastiano (Mondragone, CE). Una metodologia per l’analisi dei dati in spazi simbolici, di L. Repola, C. Collina, M. Piperno, "Archeologia e Calcolatori" n. XXXI.1 - 2020, pp. 167-187 - free access -

The Prehistory of the Mondragone area, in the province of Caserta, emerged in its importance thanks to the results of systematic surveys carried out since 1994 by the University of Naples “Federico II” and the Museum Biagio Greco together with the Archeological Superintendence of Naples and Caserta. Since 2001, the Museum has accomplished regular excavation campaigns of the very important Upper and Middle Palaeolithic deposit in the large cave opening in the site of Roccia di San Sebastiano, which represents the only evidence of Palaeolithic frequentation systematically and stratigraphically studied in the territory included between the Northern Campania coast and the Southern Latium coast. On the basis of such evidences, the authors illustrate a project aimed to produce a detailed territorial study to understand the dynamics of the frequentation and settlement of the area during Palaeolithic (Musterian, Uluzzian, Aurignazian and Gravettian) and the cultural behaviours of last Neanderthals and first Homo sapiens groups. The latest excavation campaigns allowed to unearth Uluzzian layers in two sectors of the cave and to investigate the Mousterian levels, from which a deciduous molar of a Neanderthal child comes. Moreover they permitted to consolidate the study of symbolic activities in the cave. Digital and tridimensional documentation techniques have been adopted for the description of the excavation surfaces and to understand the symbolic activities consisting in both parietal and mobiliary art evidences. The storage and elaboration of data is realized in a 3D application in order to elaborate detailed intra-site analysis in a predictive pattern of activities. This model allows the management of digital data in a single spatial system of representation, in which the digital copies of places, excavations areas and objects coincide with the relational matrices between the archaeological data and the possible events recorded in the physical layers. (...)

  Issues of theory and method in the analysis of Paleolithic mortuary behavior: A view from Shanidar Cave, di E. Pomeroy et alii, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 29, Issue 5, September/October 2020, Pages 263-279 - open access -

Mortuary behavior (activities concerning dead conspecifics) is one of many traits that were previously widely considered to have been uniquely human, but on which perspectives have changed markedly in recent years. Theoretical approaches to hominin mortuary activity and its evolution have undergone major revision, and advances in diverse archeological and paleoanthropological methods have brought new ways of identifying behaviors such as intentional burial. Despite these advances, debates concerning the nature of hominin mortuary activity, particularly among the Neanderthals, rely heavily on the rereading of old excavations as new finds are relatively rare, limiting the extent to which such debates can benefit from advances in the field. The recent discovery of in situ articulated Neanderthal remains at Shanidar Cave offers a rare opportunity to take full advantage of these methodological and theoretical developments to understand Neanderthal mortuary activity, making a review of these advances relevant and timely. (...)

  Neanderthal Spatial Patterns and Occupation Dynamics: A Focus on the Central Region in Mediterranean Iberia, di A. Eixea, M. G. Chacón, A. Bargalló, A. Sanchis, F. Romagnoli, M. Vaquero, V. Villaverde, "Journal of World Prehistory", volume 33, issue 3, September 2020

This paper focuses on the study of some Middle Palaeolithic assemblages from Mediterranean Iberia to examine Neanderthal occupation patterns and territory management strategies, paying special attention to raw material procurement and technological behaviours, zooarchaeological data and microspatial patterning. The site occupation types are variable, and some of the results may have more importance than is immediately apparent, but there does not seem to be a single cultural, functional, temporal or environmental explanation. (...)

  The Dawn of the Mesolithic on the Plains of Poland, di T. Płonka, D. Bobak, M. Szuta, "Journal of World Prehistory", Volume 33, issue 3, September 2020 - open access -

In this article we take a fresh look at the population dynamics of the Polish Plain in the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene, using Bayesian analysis and modelling of radiocarbon dates, and contrast the results with data from the North German Plain. We argue against simple adaptationalist models and instead see the cultural landscape as a complex patchwork of old forms and the emerging new traits of the early Mesolithic. We argue that the Mesolithic directly follows the Final Palaeolithic on the Polish Plain, without the chronological hiatus of 150–300 years that is often assumed for that region; while, by contrast, the two cultural patterns—Final Palaeolithic and microlith-based Mesolithic—overlapped significantly in time on the adjacent North German Plain. (...)

  "Paleolithique du Caucase", "L'Anthropologie", Volume 124, Issue 2, May–September 2020 - free dowload -

- Lower Paleolithic of Georgia, di N. Tushabramishvili

- Les cultures acheuléennes des différentes régions du Caucase, di M. Nioradzé, G. Nioradzé

- Cores from the site of Ainikab 1 (layer 21) in the general context of the Oldowan in the Caucasus, di H. A. Amirkhanov

- Dynamique du climat et du peuplement du Caucase Nord-Central au tournant du Pléistocène et de l’Holocène, di L. V. Golovanova et alii

- Nouveau site du Paléolithique Moyen dans le Caucase Central (résultats préliminaires des études complexes), di E. Doronicheva et alii

- Nouvelles données sur l’utilisation des matières premières lithiques et la mobilité pendant le Paléolithique moyen du Caucase du Nord, di E. Doronicheva et alii

- Changements des paramètres métriques des éclats et interprétation du développement du débitage laminaire au Paléolithique supérieur du Caucase du Nord-Ouest (selon les matériaux de la grotte Mézmaiskaya), di A. G. Nedomolkin

  "Current Research on Prehistoric Central Asia". Edited by Andrei I. Krivoshapkin, Arina M. Khatsenovich, Evgeny P. Rybin, John W. Olsen, Volume 559, Pages 1-198 (10 September 2020):

- Current research on prehistoric Central Asia, di A. I. Krivoshapkin, A. M. Khatsenovich, E. P. Rybin, J. W. Olsen

- Understanding the overestimated impact of the Toba volcanic super-eruption on global environments and ancient hominins, di Y. Ge, X. Gao

- Dynamics of the Altai Paleolithic industries in the archaeological record of Denisova Cave, di M. V. Shunkov, M. B. Kozlikin, A. P. Derevianko

- Initial Upper Palaeolithic ornaments and formal bone tools from the East Chamber of Denisova Cave in the Russian Altai, di M. V. Shunkov, A. Yu. Fedorchenko, M. B. Kozlikin, A. P. Derevianko

- The Neandertal bone industry at Chagyrskaya cave, Altai Region, Russia, di M. Baumann et alii

- The application of geometric-morphometric shape analysis to Middle Paleolithic bone retouchers from the Altai Mountains, Russia, di K. Kolobova et alii

- Raw material procurement as a crucial factor determining knapping technology in the Katta Sai complex of Middle Palaeolithic sites in the western Tian Shan piedmonts of Uzbekistan, di M. Kot et alii

- In search of a Paleolithic Silk Road in Kazakhstan, di R. Iovita et alii

- A new Upper Paleolithic occupation at the site of Tolbor-21 (Mongolia): Site formation, human behavior and implications for the regional sequence, di E. P. Rybin et alii

- Technological parameters of rock art at the Kalgutinsky Rudnik site on the Ukok Plateau, Russian Altai region, di L. V. Zotkina, C. Cretin, H. Plisson, J. M. Geneste, V. I. Molodin


Aggiornamento 16 ottobre 2020


Body mass estimation in hominins from humeral articular dimensions, di C. B. Ruff, N. Squyres, J. A. Junno, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 173, Issue 3, November 2020, Pages 480-499

While many attempts have been made to estimate body mass in hominins from lower limb bone dimensions, the upper limb has received far less attention in this regard. Here we develop new body mass estimation equations based on humeral articular breadths in a large modern human sample and apply them to 95 Plio‐Pleistocene specimens. Humeral head superoinferior and total distal articular mediolateral breadths were measured in a morphologically diverse sample of 611 modern human skeletons whose body masses were estimated from bi‐iliac breadth and reconstructed stature. Reduced major axis regressions were used to compute body mass estimation equations. Consistency of the resulting estimates with those derived previously using lower limb bone equations was assessed in matched Plio‐Pleistocene individuals or samples. (...)

  Hand grasping and finger flexion during Lower Paleolithic stone tool ergonomic exploration, di A. Fedato, M. Silva-Gago, M. Terradillos-Bernal, R. Alonso-Alcalde, E. Bruner, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 11, November 2020, article number: 254

Lower Paleolithic stone tool features and shape have been studied in detail; traceology and experimental archaeology have provided us with a lot of information about possible tool use and functionality. The way modern humans use these tools has been used as a proxy for the study of early stone tool-makers’ behavior, taking into account that our ancestors could have had similar manipulative capabilities to us. Less importance has been given to stone tool ergonomics, even if comfortable and ergonomic grasping prevent hand damage and improve tool use. (...)


Hominin Stone Flaking and the Emergence of Top-down’Design in Human Evolution, di M. W. Moore, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", volume 30, issue 4, November 2020, pp. 647-664

The philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that complex structures in the natural and cultural worlds emerge from two types of design. Bottom-up design involves the rote action of a simple algorithm in an environment constrained by physical laws. Top-down design involves deliberation and planning, and is unique to modern humans. Identifying the emergence of top-down design in the hominin lineage is an important research challenge, and the archaeological record of stone technology is our best evidence for it. A current view is that artefact types and flaking methods increased in complexity from 3.3 to c. 0.3 million years ago, reflecting improving capacities at spatial cognition and working memory, culminating in top-down design perhaps as early as 1.75 million years ago. (...)


Upper Palaeolithic Installation Art: Topography, Distortion, Animation and Participation in the Production and Experience of Cantabrian Cave Art, di T. Sakamoto, P. Pettitt, R. Ontañon-Peredo, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", volume 30, issue 4, November 2020, pp. 665-688

The physical nature of cave walls and its impact on Upper Palaeolithic image making and viewing has frequently been invoked in explanations about the function of cave art. The morphological features (convexities, concavities, cracks and ridges) are frequently incorporated into the representations of prey animals that dominate the art, and several studies have attempted to document the relationship between the cave wall and the art in a quantitative manner. One of the effects of such incorporation is that undulating walls will distort the appearance of images as viewers change their viewing position. Was this distortion deliberate or accidental? Until now, the phenomenon has not been investigated quantitatively. (...)

  Review of the animal figures in the palaeolithic rock art of the Romito shelter. New discoveries, new data and new perspectives, di D. Sigari, "Oxford Journal of Archaeology", volume 39, issue 4, pages 344-367, November 2020

This paper presents the results of a recent systematic review of the zoomorphic figures of the Romito shelter, a key site for Upper Palaeolithic rock art and one of the best‐preserved in Europe. The research led to the discovery of two new animal figures and re‐examines the chronology of the rock art evidence and the chrono‐stylistic data. The zoomorphic figures are discussed within the wider chrono‐cultural frame of Magdalenian figurative productions, casting new light on the Palaeolithic rock art phenomenon of southern Italy. (...)

  Environmental drivers of megafauna and hominin extinction in Southeast Asia, di J. Louys, P. Roberts, "Nature", volume 586, issue 7829, 15 October 2020, pages 402–406

Southeast Asia has emerged as an important region for understanding hominin and mammalian migrations and extinctions. High-profile discoveries have shown that Southeast Asia has been home to at least five members of the genus Homo. Considerable turnover in Pleistocene megafauna has previously been linked with these hominins or with climate change, although the region is often left out of discussions of megafauna extinctions. In the traditional hominin evolutionary core of Africa, attempts to establish the environmental context of hominin evolution and its association with faunal changes have long been informed by stable isotope methodologies. However, such studies have largely been neglected in Southeast Asia. Here we present a large-scale dataset of stable isotope data for Southeast Asian mammals that spans the Quaternary period. (...)

  Al-Ansab and the Dead Sea: Mid-MIS 3 archaeology and environment of the early Ahmarian population of the Levantine corridor, di J. Richter et alii, 13 October 2020, doi: - open access -

Our field data from the Upper Palaeolithic site of Al-Ansab 1 (Jordan) and from a pollen sequence in the Dead Sea elucidate the role that changing Steppe landscapes played in facilitating anatomically modern human populations to enter a major expansion and consolidation phase, known as the „Early Ahmarian“, several millennia subsequent to their initial Marine Isotope Stage 4/3 migration from Africa, into the Middle East. The Early Ahmarian techno-cultural unit covers a time range between 45 ka–37 ka BP. With so far more than 50 sites found, the Early Ahmarian is the first fully Upper Palaeolithic techno-cultural unit exclusively and undisputedly related to anatomically modern human populations. In order to better understand the potentially attractive features of the Early Ahmarian environmental context that supported its persistence for over 8,000 years, we carried out a decennial research program in Jordan and in the Dead Sea. (...)

  The early Aurignacian dispersal of modern humans into westernmost Eurasia, di J. A. Haws et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 13 October 2020; vol. 117 no. 41, pp. 25414-25422 - free access -

We report the remarkable discovery of an early Aurignacian occupation, ∼5,000 years older than any Upper Paleolithic site in westernmost Eurasia. The archaeological and radiocarbon data provide definitive evidence that modern humans were in western Iberia at a time when, if present at all, Neanderthal populations would have been extremely sparse. This discovery has important ramifications for our understanding of the process of modern human dispersal and replacement of Neanderthal populations. The results support a very rapid, unimpeded dispersal of modern humans across western Eurasia and support the notion that climate and environmental change played a significant role in this process. (...)

  Microbial biomarkers reveal a hydrothermally active landscape at Olduvai Gorge at the dawn of the Acheulean, 1.7 Ma, di A. Sistiaga et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 6 October 2020, vol. 117, no. 40, pp. 24720-24728

Molecular fossil biomarkers illuminate a geothermally active oasis landscape at Olduvai Gorge 1.7 Ma at the emergence of the Acheulean technology. This study on the local paleolandscape reveals a mosaic ecosystem with great biodiversity, rivers, edible resources, and hydrothermal features. Evidence of hydrothermalism was found near sites intensively used by early hominins. The geothermal activity described here may have influenced the use of the space at Olduvai Gorge and may have provided advantages, such as cooking, which has not been previously contemplated in the context of human evolution. (...)


Radiocarbon and U-series age constraints for the Lateglacial rock art of Sicily, di G. Di Maida et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 245, 1 October 2020, 106524

The presence of rock and portable art on Sicily has been recognized since World War II. This record has been unanimously attributed to the Upper Palaeolithic in the published literature, based almost uniquely on stylistic reasoning. Here we present the first absolute dates in direct association with the Sicilian art record. (...)


Early Marine Isotope Stage 5 sea levels, coastal dune palaeoenvironments, and human occupation on the southeast coast of South Africa, di P. Morrissey, J. Knight, D. J. Stratford, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 245, 1 October 2020, 106504

Quaternary-age human and animal footprints have been reported from coastal deposits along the South African coast. These footprints and their sedimentary contexts can inform on Quaternary palaeoenvironments and processes stratigraphically associated with the palaeoanthropological record of past human occupation in the coastal zone, and exploitation of its resources. This study examines the palaeoenvironmental context and sedimentology of Marine Isotope Stage 5 aeolianite at Nahoon Point, southeastern coast of South Africa, where preserved human footprints have been previously recorded. (...)


Abrupt climate change and its influences on hominin evolution during the early Pleistocene in the Turkana Basin, Kenya, di R. L. Lupien, J. M. Russell, M. Grove, C. C. Beck, C. S. Feibel, A. S. Cohen, "Quaternary Science Reviews", volume 245, 1 October 2020, 106531

Rapid climate variability has been hypothesized to play an important role in hominin evolution, yet our knowledge of Plio-Pleistocene climate change on short timescales is poor. Here, we developed centennial-scale reconstructions of precipitation from leaf wax biomarker hydrogen isotope ratios (δDwax) using lacustrine sediment from West Turkana, Kenya. We analyzed two time intervals (∼1.72 and ∼1.60 Ma) with different orbital configurations (0.043 and 0.025 eccentricity, respectively) to examine the influence of seasonal insolation forcing on high-frequency climate variability and the rates of climate transitions. (...)

  Utilizing auxology to understand ontogeny of extinct hominins: A case study on Homo naledi, di D. R. Bolter, N. Cameron, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 173, Issue 2, October 2020, Pages 368-380

The methods used to study human growth and development (auxology) have not previously been applied within the setting of hominin maturation (ontogeny). Ontogeny is defined here as the pattern of biological change into an adult form, both at the individual and species level. The hominin fossil record has a lack of recovered immature materials, due to such factors as taphonomic processes that destroy pre-adults; the fragility of immature compared to adult bone; and the lower mortality rates of juveniles compared to adults. The recent discovery of pre-adult hominin skeletal material from a single, homogeneous Homo naledi species from the Rising Star cave system in South Africa provides the opportunity for a broader application of auxology methods and thus the need to understand their use in a modern context. (...)

  The Early Upper Palaeolithic bone industry of the Central Altai, Russia: new evidence from the Kara-Bom site, di N. E. Belousova et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 94, Issue 377, October 2020, e26 - free access -

The first formal bone tool in the Central Altai of Russia was found in an Early Upper Palaeolithic assemblage at the Kara-Bom open-air site. Here the authors report the results of AMS dating, use-wear analysis, 3D-modelling and zooarchaeological and collagen fingerprinting analysis, which reveal important new insights into the osseous technology of the Kara-Bomian tradition. (...)
  The Early Upper Palaeolithic in the south Judean Desert, Israel: preliminary excavation results from Nahal Rahaf 2 rockshelter, di O. Barzilai et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 94, Issue 377, October 2020, e27 - free access -

The discovery of an Early Upper Palaeolithic rockshelter, Nahal Rahaf 2, in the southern Judean Desert revives the debate about whether the Levantine Aurignacian extended into the arid regions of the Southern Levant. (...)

  A method for the taphonomic assessment of bone tools using 3D surface texture analysis of bone microtopography, di N. L. Martisius, S. P. McPherron, E. Schulz-Kornas, M. Soressi, T. E. Steele, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 10, October 2020, article number: 251

Increasingly researchers have employed confocal microscopy and 3D surface texture analysis to assess bone surface modifications in an effort to understand ancient behavior. However, quantitative comparisons between the surfaces of purported archaeological bone tools and experimentally manufactured and used bones are complicated by taphonomic processes affecting ancient bone. Nonetheless, it may be reasonable to assume that bones within the same deposits are altered similarly and thus these alterations are quantifiable. Here we show how unworked bones can be used to quantify the taphonomic effect on bone surfaces and how this effect can then be controlled for and incorporated into an analysis for evaluating the modified surfaces of purported bone tools. To assess the baseline taphonomy of Middle Paleolithic archaeological deposits associated with typologically identified bone artifacts, specifically lissoirs, we directly compare the surface textures of ancient and modern unworked ribs. (...)

  Khoe-San Genomes Reveal Unique Variation and Confirm the Deepest Population Divergence in Homo sapiens, di C. M. Schlebusch et alii, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", volume 37, issue 10, October 2020, pages 2944–2954

The southern African indigenous Khoe-San populations harbor the most divergent lineages of all living peoples. Exploring their genomes is key to understanding deep human history. We sequenced 25 full genomes from five Khoe-San populations, revealing many novel variants, that 25% of variants are unique to the Khoe-San, and that the Khoe-San group harbors the greatest level of diversity across the globe. In line with previous studies, we found several gene regions with extreme values in genome-wide scans for selection, potentially caused by natural selection in the lineage leading to Homo sapiens and more recent in time. (...)

  The new 14C chronology for the Palaeolithic site of La Ferrassie, France: the disappearance of Neanderthals and the arrival of Homo sapiens in France, di S. Talamo et alii, "Journal of Quaternary Science", volume 35, issue 7, October 2020, pages 961-973 - open access -

The grand abri at La Ferrassie (France) has been a key site for Palaeolithic research since the early part of the 20th century. It became the eponymous site for one variant of Middle Palaeolithic stone tools, and its sequence was used to define stages of the Aurignacian, an early phase of the Upper Palaeolithic. Several Neanderthal remains, including two relatively intact skeletons, make it one of the most important sites for the study of Neanderthal morphology and one of the more important data sets when discussing the Neanderthal treatment of the dead. (...)

  A genotype:phenotype approach to testing taxonomic hypotheses in hominids, di M. F. Brasil, T. A. Monson, C. A. Schmitt, L. J. Hlusko, "The Science of Nature", volume 107, issue 5, October 2020, article number: 33

Paleontology has long relied on assumptions about the genetic and developmental influences on skeletal variation. The last few decades of developmental genetics have elucidated the genetic pathways involved in making teeth and patterning the dentition. Quantitative genetic analyses have refined this genotype:phenotype map even more, especially for primates. We now have the ability to define dental traits with a fair degree of fidelity to the underlying genetic architecture; for example, the molar module component (MMC) and the premolar-molar module (PMM) that have been defined through quantitative genetic analyses. We leverage an extensive dataset of extant and extinct hominoid dental variation to explore how these two genetically patterned phenotypes have evolved through time. (...)

  Early development of the Neanderthal ribcage reveals a different body shape at birth compared to modern humans, di D. García-Martínez et alii, "Science Advances", 07 Oct 2020, vol. 6, no. 41, eabb4377 - free access -

Ontogenetic studies provide clues for understanding important paleobiological aspects of extinct species. When compared to that of modern humans, the adult Neanderthal thorax was shorter, deeper, and wider. This is related to the wide Neanderthal body and is consistent with their hypothetical large requirements for energy and oxygen. Whether these differences were already established at birth or appeared later during development is unknown. To delve into this question, we use virtual reconstruction tools and geometric morphometrics to recover the 3D morphology of the ribcages of four Neanderthal individuals from birth to around 3 years old: Mezmaiskaya 1, Le Moustier 2, Dederiyeh 1, and Roc de Marsal. (...)

  Three-dimensional geometric morphometrics of thorax-pelvis covariation and its potential for predicting the thorax morphology: A case study on Kebara 2 Neandertal, di N. Torres-Tamayo et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 147, October 2020, 102854

The skeletal torso is a complex structure of outstanding importance in understanding human body shape evolution, but reconstruction usually entails an element of subjectivity as researchers apply their own anatomical expertise to the process. Among different fossil reconstruction methods, 3D geometric morphometric techniques have been increasingly used in the last decades. Two-block partial least squares analysis has shown great potential for predicting missing elements by exploiting the covariation between two structures (blocks) in a reference sample: one block can be predicted from the other one based on the strength of covariation between blocks. (...)


A late Neanderthal tooth from northeastern Italy, di M. Romandini et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 147, October 2020, 102867

The site of Riparo Broion (Vicenza, northeastern Italy) preserves a stratigraphic sequence documenting the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition, in particular the final Mousterian and the Uluzzian cultures. In 2018, a human tooth was retrieved from a late Mousterian level, representing the first human remain ever found from this rock shelter (Riparo Broion 1). Here, we provide the morphological description and taxonomic assessment of Riparo Broion 1 with the support of classic and virtual morphology, 2D and 3D analysis of the topography of enamel thickness, and DNA analysis. (...)


A toothless bonobo skull challenges the notion of alternative subsistence strategies in early Homo, di M. Surbeck, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 147, October 2020, 102871



Taxonomic differences in deciduous lower first molar crown outlines of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis, di S. E. Bailey, R. Sorrentino, G. Mancuso, J. J. Hublin, S. Benazzi, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 147, October 2020, 102864

Recent studies have demonstrated that the outline shapes of deciduous upper and lower second molars and the deciduous upper first molar are useful for diagnosing hominin taxa—especially Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. Building on these studies, we use geometric morphometric methods to assess the taxonomic significance of the crown outline of the lower first deciduous molar (dm1). We test whether the crown shape of the dm1 distinguishes H. neanderthalensis from H. sapiens and explore whether dm1 crown shape can be used to accurately assign individuals to taxa. (...)


The evolutionary history of Neanderthal and Denisovan Y chromosomes, di M. Petr et alii, "Science", 25 Sep 2020: vol. 369, issue 6511, pp. 1653-1656

Ancient DNA has provided new insights into many aspects of human history. However, we lack comprehensive studies of the Y chromosomes of Denisovans and Neanderthals because the majority of specimens that have been sequenced to sufficient coverage are female. Sequencing Y chromosomes from two Denisovans and three Neanderthals shows that the Y chromosomes of Denisovans split around 700 thousand years ago from a lineage shared by Neanderthals and modern human Y chromosomes, which diverged from each other around 370 thousand years ago. The phylogenetic relationships of archaic and modern human Y chromosomes differ from the population relationships inferred from the autosomal genomes and mirror mitochondrial DNA phylogenies, indicating replacement of both the mitochondrial and Y chromosomal gene pools in late Neanderthals. This replacement is plausible if the low effective population size of Neanderthals resulted in an increased genetic load in Neanderthals relative to modern humans.

·How Neanderthals lost their Y chromosome, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", Sep. 24, 2020

  The use of ash at Late Lower Paleolithic Qesem Cave, Israel—An integrated study of use-wear and residue analysis, di C. Lemorini, E. Cristiani, S. Cesaro, F. Venditti, A. Zupancich, A. Gopher, 21 September 2020, doi: - open access -

Employing an integrated approach to investigate the use of Late Lower Paleolithic flint tools found at the site of Qesem Cave (Israel), we revealed a particular trace pattern related to the employment of ashes at the site. Using a designated collection of replica items and combining use-wear and residue (morphological analysis, FTIR, SEM-EDX) analyses, we revealed the intentional use of ashes in preserving foods for delayed consumption as well as hide for delayed processing. Our interpretation, we believe is the most plausible one since we were able to delineate the specific use-wear fingerprints of the intentional use of ashes for such purposes, suggesting that our approach might be useful for the recognition of other similar functional-behavioral patterns. Lastly, in support of previous findings at Qesem Cave, our current findings present evidence for the processing of organic matters intentionally mixed with ash, leading us to suggest that the inhabitants of Qesem Cave were proficient not only in the habitual use of fire but also of its main by-product, ash. Hence, we call for a reassessment of the timeline currently assigned to hominins’ utilization of ash for storing and processing vegetal foods and hide. (...)


These 120,000-year-old footprints offer early evidence for humans in Arabia, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", Sep. 17, 2020

One day about 120,000 years ago, a few humans wandered along the shore of an ancient lake in what is now the Nefud Desert in Saudi Arabia. They may have paused for a drink of fresh water or to track herds of elephants, wild asses, and camels that were trampling the mudflats. Within hours of passing through, the humans’ and animals’ footprints dried out and eventually fossilized. Now, these ancient footsteps offer rare evidence of when and where early humans once inhabited the Arabian Peninsula. “These are the first genuine human footprints of Arabia,” says archaeologist and team leader Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. The Arabian Peninsula has long been considered the obvious route that early members of our species took as they trekked out of Africa and migrated to the Middle East and Eurasia. Stone tools have suggested ancient humans explored the Arabian Peninsula at various times in prehistory when the climate was wetter and its harsh deserts were transformed into green grasslands punctuated with freshwater lakes. Yet so far, researchers have only found a single human finger bone dating to 88,000 years to prove modern humans, rather than some other hominin toolmaker, lived there. (...)

  New perspectives on Neanderthal dispersal and turnover from Stajnia Cave (Poland), di A. Picin et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 10, 08 September 2020, article number: 14778 (2020) - open access -

The Micoquian is the broadest and longest enduring cultural facies of the Late Middle Palaeolithic that spread across the periglacial and boreal environments of Europe between Eastern France, Poland, and Northern Caucasus. Here, we present new data from the archaeological record of Stajnia Cave (Poland) and the paleogenetic analysis of a Neanderthal molar S5000, found in a Micoquian context. Our results demonstrate that the mtDNA genome of Stajnia S5000 dates to MIS 5a making the tooth the oldest Neanderthal specimen from Central-Eastern Europe. Furthermore, S5000 mtDNA has the fewest number of differences to mtDNA of Mezmaiskaya 1 Neanderthal from Northern Caucasus, and is more distant from almost contemporaneous Neanderthals of Scladina and Hohlenstein-Stadel. This observation and the technological affinity between Poland and the Northern Caucasus could be the result of increased mobility of Neanderthals that changed their subsistence strategy for coping with the new low biomass environments and the increased foraging radius of gregarious animals. The Prut and Dniester rivers were probably used as the main corridors of dispersal. The persistence of the Micoquian techno-complex in South-Eastern Europe infers that this axis of mobility was also used at the beginning of MIS 3 when a Neanderthal population turnover occurred in the Northern Caucasus. (...)
  Ichnological and archaeological evidence from Gombore II OAM, Melka Kunture, Ethiopia: An integrated approach to reconstruct local environments and biological presences between 1.2 and 0.85 Ma, di F. Altamura et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 244, 15 September 2020, 106506

New ichnological data are available at the prehistoric site of Melka Kunture, Upper Awash Valley in Ethiopia. Excavation of new test pits enabled us to explore the volcanic and fluvio-lacustrine sequence at the Gombore II Open Air Museum archaeological site (ca. 0.85 Ma). This has allowed a detailed reconstruction of the palaeoenvironment and of the fauna present in the time interval between 1.2 and 0.85 Ma. Various-sized mammals, birds, molluscs as well as hominins left tracks throughout the sequence, and document a varied fauna and associated behaviours. (...)

  Extended dilation of the radiocarbon time scale between 40,000 and 48,000 y BP and the overlap between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, di E. Bard et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 01 September 2020, vol. 117, no. 35, pp. 21005-21007 - free access -

The new radiocarbon calibration curve (IntCal20) allows us to calculate the gradient of the relationship between 14C age and calendar age over the past 55 millennia before the present (55 ka BP). The new gradient curve exhibits a prolonged and prominent maximum between 48 and 40 ka BP during which the radiocarbon clock runs almost twice as fast as it should. This radiocarbon time dilation is due to the increase in the atmospheric 14C/12C ratio caused by the 14C production rise linked to the transition into the Laschamp geomagnetic excursion centered around 41 ka BP. The major maximum in the gradient from 48 to 40 ka BP is a new feature of the IntCal20 calibration curve, with far-reaching impacts for scientific communities, such as prehistory and paleoclimatology, relying on accurate ages in this time range. To illustrate, we consider the duration of the overlap between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in Eurasia. (...)


Neanderthal faunal exploitation and settlement dynamics at the Abri du Maras, level 5 (south-eastern France), di J. Marín et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 243, 1 September 2020, 106472

Over the past two decades, taphonomic and zooarchaeological studies have focused on Neanderthal settlement patterns and subsistence strategies. The south-eastern margins of the Massif Central constitute one of the regions with the most abundant archaeological evidence of Neanderthal occupations in France. The faunal record of level 5 of Abri du Maras is a unique source of information for analysing Neanderthal behaviour at the end of the MIS 5. The assemblage is divided into three levels 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3, which correspond to the three main phases of human occupation of the shelter in level 5. (...)


New stratigraphically constrained palaeoenvironmental reconstructions for the first human settlement in Western Europe: The Early Pleistocene herpetofaunal assemblages from Barranco León and Fuente Nueva 3 (Granada, SE Spain), di C. Sánchez-Bandera et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 243, 1 September 2020, 106466

The Early Pleistocene sites of Barranco León and Fuente Nueva 3 (Guadix-Baza Basin, SE Spain) have yielded abundant Oldowan lithic artifacts and one hominin tooth (Homo sp. in level D1 or D2 of Barranco León), today considered to be among the earliest evidence for a hominin presence in Western Europe, at ca. 1.4–1.2 Ma. Here, for the first time, the stratigraphic succession of these two sites are studied more precisely from a palaeoenvironmental point of view, taking into account the different levels of the depositional sequences to analyze the successive fossil assemblages of amphibians and reptiles. (...)


The use of bone retouchers in a Mousterian context of Discoid lithic technology, di E. F. Martellotta, D. Delpiano, M. Govoni, N. Nannini, R. Duches, M. Peresani, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 9, September 2020, article number: 228

Bone retouchers are an important behavioural marker in the definition of several Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic cultural complexes. However, their relationship with the assemblages of knapped stone artefacts is still to be investigated particularly in specific but not uncommon lithic contexts of the Middle Palaeolithic in Europe. This paper offers insights to evaluate the use of bone retouchers in a context of Discoid lithic technology, a significant cultural expression largely spread in many regions during MIS3. The study case is the lithic and osseous assemblage of unit A9 at Fumane Cave, in north-eastern Italy. (...)


Plant taphonomy, flora exploitation and palaeoenvironments at the Middle Stone Age site of Mwulu’s Cave (Limpopo, South Africa): an archaeobotanical and mineralogical approach, di I. Esteban, J. M. Fitchett, P. de la Peña, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 9, September 2020, article number: 226

The interior regions of South Africa have had less attention devoted to archaeological research than coastal regions, and palaeoenvironmental studies are also more limited. As such, little is known about the interaction between human behaviours and past environments in these semi-arid regions. Here, we present an archaeobotanical and mineralogical study from the Middle Stone Age site of Mwulu’s Cave, Limpopo Province. Our study shows the importance of using taphonomical approaches prior to interpreting archaeobotanical assemblages, while provides with novel information on the plants used by ancient inhabitants of Mwulu’s. (...)


Lithic miniaturization as adaptive strategy: a case study from Boomplaas Cave, South Africa, di J. Pargeter, J. T. Faith, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 9, September 2020, article number: 225

Lithic miniaturization is a multivariate and evolutionarily significant technological phenomenon involving backed tools, bladelets, small retouched tools, flakes, and small cores. This paper investigates the proximate causes for variability in lithic miniaturization processes during Marine Isotope Stage 2 (c. 29–12 ka) in southern Africa. We test the hypothesis that lithic miniaturization represents a form of adaptive behavior by examining its relationship to site occupation intensity and rainfall seasonality at Boomplaas Cave in South Africa. These are two widely cited explanations for shifts in the organization of hunter-gatherer technologies and the data required for testing them are also readily available. We combine several lithic variables, macrofauna and microfauna indicators, and other archeological data to test the hypotheses. (...)


A new approach to measure reduction intensity on cores and tools on cobbles: the Volumetric Reconstruction Method, di D. Lombao, A. Cueva-Temprana, M. Mosquera, J. I. Morales, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 9, September 2020, article number: 222

Knowing to what extent lithic cores have been reduced through knapping is an important step toward understanding the technological variability of lithic assemblages and disentangling the formation processes of archaeological sites. In addition, it is a good complement to more developed studies of reduction intensity in retouched tools and provides information on raw material management or site occupation dynamics. This paper presents a new methodology for estimating the intensity of reduction in cores and tools on cobbles, the Volumetric Reconstruction Method (VRM). It is based on a correction of the dimensions (length, width, and thickness) of each core from an assemblage. The median values of thickness and platform thickness of the assemblage’s flakes are used as corrections for the cores’ original dimensions, after its diacritic analysis. (...)


Use and selection of bone fragments in the north of the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Palaeolithic: bone retouchers from level 4 of Prado Vargas (Burgos, Spain), di P. Alonso-García, M. Navazo Ruiz, R. Blasco, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 9, September 2020, article number: 218

Bone specimens showing a large amount of markings that include scratching, cutting, and fracture provide us with a clear idea of the use of animals from an archaeological site for butchery-related work. Nevertheless, there is one type of damage that stands out from the rest—the stigmas associated with retouch work. There is a great deal of evidence concerning the use of bones by Neanderthal groups as retouchers. In particular, we present a sample of 65 retouchers from the level 4 of Prado Vargas (Burgos, Spain). (...)


New perspectives on human subsistence during the Magdalenian in the Swabian Jura, Germany, di G. L. Wong, B. M. Starkovich, D. G. Drucker, N. J. Conard, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 12, issue 9, September 2020, article number: 217 - open access -

The Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany is famous for its Paleolithic sites which have been studied since the 1860s. While there is a rich tradition of research on the Magdalenian, many of the best-known sites were not excavated using modern methods, and recently, few discoveries of new sites have been made. Thus, much of the information on this period comes from sites lacking data collected using modern standards. This has left open questions regarding the recolonization of the Swabian Jura and hunter-gatherer subsistence and settlement during the Magdalenian in the region. Langmahdhalde is a recently discovered rock shelter in the Lone Valley of the Swabian Jura that has intact, well-stratified horizons dating to the Magdalenian with associated lithic artifacts, faunal remains, and combustion features. (...)


The role of foxes in the Palaeolithic economies of the Swabian Jura (Germany), di C. Baumann, G. L. Wong, B. M. Starkovich, S. C. Münzel, N. J. Conard, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", article number: 208 - open access -

In this study, we examine the role of foxes in Palaeolithic economies, focusing on sites of the Middle Palaeolithic, Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian of the Swabian Jura. For this purpose, we used published faunal data from 26 assemblages from the region, including new information from the Magdalenian layers of Langmahdhalde. We explore how the abundance of foxes changes over time, how they were used by humans, and how they were deposited at the sites, with a special focus on fox hunting methods. To evaluate these hunting methods, we use the prey choice model of optimal foraging theory (OFT) and simulate possible hunting scenarios, which we test based on the published faunal assemblages. (...)


Prehistoric Art as a Boundary Object: Technology and Temporality of South African Petroglyphs, di S. Tomášková, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", volume 27, issue 3, September 2020, pages 526–544

Decades ago I argued for the limited analytic purchase of the term “art.” I was then primarily concerned with the relatively recent invention of the present day category; the lack of local and archaeological specificity when “art” was discussed in broad classificatory lumps; and the minimal reflection on the geopolitical ground of archaeological practice. While I continue to find little analytic value in the term “art” when used to describe a broad range of prehistoric materials, I offer a defense of its transactional nature. I embrace the term “art” to show some of the classificatory work the term has done and the potential it may have if decoupled from certainty. (...)


Motion and Gesture: Analysing Artistic Skills in Palaeolithic Art, di O. Rivero, D. Garate, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", volume 27, issue 3, September 2020, pages 561–584

The development of artistic abilities in Upper Palaeolithic societies has been analysed in recent years from the perspective of learning and transmission of artistic know-how, from both technical and formal points of view. Recent analyses, based on the study of the operational chains involved in engraving, have shown different levels of acquisition of technical knowledge among Magdalenian artists in Western Europe. This study presents the results of an experimental programme based on the analysis of the physical actions performed while executing artistic motifs. (...)


Entanglements: the Role of Finger Flutings in the Study of the Lived Lives of Upper Paleolithic Peoples, di A. Nowell, L. Van Gelder, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", volume 27, issue 3, September 2020, pages 585–606

During the Upper Paleolithic, Ice Age peoples in Europe and Australia used their fingers to trace figurative and non-figurative images in soft sediments that lined the walls and ceilings of the limestone caves they encountered. The resulting images, while fragile, are preserved in at least 70 caves with the oldest dating to approximately 36,000 years ago. During the first 100 years of the study of Paleolithic cave imagery, these finger flutings were largely ignored. Though they make up a larger percentage of cave art than any other form, they are enigmatic and not always visually appealing. In 1912, Henri Breuil famously referred to them as “traits parasites”(parasite lines) and deleted them from his re-drawings of cave images, believing they detracted from the figurative art. (...)


Human and Animal Individuals in the Middle Magdalenian, di C. Birouste, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", volume 27, issue 3, September 2020, pages 607–630

The category of “animal species” is at the heart of traditional interpretations of Palaeolithic art. In this context, animal depictions have traditionally been conceptualized in terms of the “animal species” they are supposed to represent. Moreover, the relationships between humans and animals have been discussed in similar terms. In this paper, I examine some innovative ways in which this relationship can be considered. In particular, I explore the possibility of interpreting animal images as representations of individuals, rather than just of species. (...)


The Neandertal Progesterone Receptor, di H. Zeberg, J. Kelso, S. Pääbo, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", volume 37, issue 9, September 2020, Pages 2655–2660

The hormone progesterone is important for preparing the uterine lining for egg implantation and for maintaining the early stages of pregnancy. The gene encoding the progesterone receptor (PGR) carries introgressed Neandertal haplotypes with two missense substitutions and a mobile Alu element. These Neandertal gene variants have reached nearly 20% frequency in non-Africans and have been associated with preterm birth. Here, we show that one of the missense substitutions appears fixed in Neandertals, while the other substitution as well as the Alu insertion were polymorphic among Neandertals. (...)


Carnivores in the everyday life of Gravettian hunters-gatherers in Central Europe, di P. Wojtal, J. Svoboda, M. Roblíčková, J. Wilczyński, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 59, September 2020, 101171

Insights into human life in Central Europe at ~30–20,000 years ago have come from studies of archaeological and paleontological materials in Czechia, Poland, and Slovakia, including assemblages from sites such as Dolní Věstonice I and II, Pavlov I, Kraków Spadzista, Jaksice II, and Moravany–Lopata II. Pavlovian mammal bone assemblages from settlements in South Moravia are dominated by small (birds, hares, foxes) and medium sized animals (wolves, reindeer, wolverines), but bones of large mammals also occur (bears, cave lions, horses, and mammoths, which dominate in the adjacent bone deposits), showing the wide spectrum of the hunters’prey choices. (...)


The chronology of hominin fossils from the Altai Mountains, Siberia: An alternative view, di Y. V. Kuzmin, S. G. Keates, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 146, September 2020, 102834


Human manual distal phalanges from the Middle Stone Age deposits of Klasies River Main Site, Western Cape Province, South Africa, di F. E. Grine, C. S. Mongle, S. L. Smith, W. Black, Anton du Plessis, J. Braga, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 146, September 2020, 102849

Two new distal manual phalanges from the Middle Stone Age deposits of Klasies River Main Site are described. One (SAM-AP 6387) likely derives from ray II or ray III, whereas the other (SAM-AP 6388) is from the thumb. Both derive from a late adolescent or fully adult individual. They were recovered by H. Deacon from the same stratigraphic unit (submember W or possibly submember R) of the Shell and Sand Member of Cave 1, which places them between 100 and 90 ka. Both are comparatively small elements, and the possibility that they came from the same hand cannot be discounted at this time. (...)


Associated Australopithecus afarensis second and third metatarsals (A.L. 333-133) from Hadar, Ethiopia, di J. M. DeSilva, E. McNutt, B. Zipfel, C. V. Ward, W. H. Kimbel, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 146, September 2020, 102848


A Late Pleistocene human humerus from Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya, di O. M. Pearson, E. C. Hill, D. J. Peppe, A. Van Plantinga, N. Blegen, J. Tyler Faith, C. A. Tryon, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 146, September 2020, 102855

In 2010, a hominin right humerus fragment (KNM-RU 58330) was surface collected in a small gully at Nyamita North in the Late Pleistocene Wasiriya Beds of Rusinga Island, Kenya. A combination of stratigraphic and geochronological evidence suggests the specimen is likely between ∼49 and 36 ka in age. The associated fauna is diverse and dominated by semiarid grassland taxa. The small sample of associated Middle Stone Age artifacts includes Levallois flakes, cores, and retouched points. The 139 mm humeral fragment preserves the shaft from distal to the lesser tubercle to 14 mm below the distal end of the weakly projecting deltoid tuberosity. (...)


Technological differences between Kostenki 17/II (Spitsynskaya industry, Central Russia) and the Protoaurignacian: Reply to Dinnis et al. (2019), di G. Bataille, A. Falcucci, Y. Tafelmaier, N. J. Conard, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 146, September 2020, 102685


  Neural networks differentiate between Middle and Later Stone Age lithic assemblages in eastern Africa, di M. Grove, J. Blinkhorn, 26 August 2020, doi: - open access -

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition marks a major change in how Late Pleistocene African populations produced and used stone tool kits, but is manifest in various ways, places and times across the continent. Alongside changing patterns of raw material use and decreasing artefact sizes, changes in artefact types are commonly employed to differentiate Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) assemblages. The current paper employs a quantitative analytical framework based upon the use of neural networks to examine changing constellations of technologies between MSA and LSA assemblages from eastern Africa. Network ensembles were trained to differentiate LSA assemblages from Marine Isotope Stage 3&4 MSA and Marine Isotope Stage 5 MSA assemblages based upon the presence or absence of 16 technologies. Simulations were used to extract significant indicator and contra-indicator technologies for each assemblage class. The trained network ensembles classified over 94% of assemblages correctly, and identified 7 key technologies that significantly distinguish between assemblage classes. These results clarify both temporal changes within the MSA and differences between MSA and LSA assemblages in eastern Africa. (...)

  Artists on the edge of the world: An integrated approach to the study of Magdalenian engraved stone plaquettes from Jersey (Channel Islands), di S. M. Bello et alii, 19 August 2020, doi: - open access -

The Upper Palaeolithic is characterised by the appearance of iconographic expressions most often depicting animals, including anthropomorphic forms, and geometric signs. The Late Upper Palaeolithic Magdalenian saw a flourishing of such depictions, encompassing cave art, engraving of stone, bone and antler blanks and decoration of tools and weapons. Though Magdalenian settlement exists as far northwest as Britain, there is a limited range of art known from this region, possibly associated with only fleeting occupation of Britain during this period. Stone plaquettes, flat fragments of stone engraved on at least one surface, have been found in large quantities at numerous sites spanning the temporal and geographical spread of the Magdalenian, but they have been absent so far from the archaeological record of the British Isles. Between 2015 and 2018, ten fragments of stone plaquettes extensively engraved with abstract designs were uncovered at the Magdalenian site of Les Varines, Jersey, Channel Islands. In this paper, we report detailed analyses of these finds, which provide new evidence for technologies of abstract mark-making, and their significance within the lives of people on the edge of the Magdalenian world. These engraved stone fragments represent important, rare evidence of artistic expression in what is the far northern and western range of the Magdalenian and add new insight to the wider significance of dynamic practices of artistic expression during the Upper Palaeolithic. (...)


Techno-functional and 3D shape analysis applied for investigating the variability of backed tools in the Late Middle Paleolithic of Central Europe, di D. Delpiano, T. Uthmeier, 19 August 2020, doi: - open access -

In the Late Middle Paleolithic of Central Europe, two main cultural complexes have been distinguished: the Micoquian or Keilmessergruppe (KMG), and the Mousterian. Their differences mainly consist in the frequence of some retouched tools and the presence of bifacial technology. When these industries coexist, one element of discussion is the application of different concepts to manufacture tools with the same techno-functionality. This is particularly true for backed artifacts, such as Keilmesser (backed, asymmetrical bifacially-shaped knives) opposed to flake-tools equipped with a natural or knapped back. We conducted a techno-functional analysis of the backed tools from the G-Layer-Complex of Sesselfelsgrotte, one of the main Late Middle Paleolithic sequences in Central Europe, characterized by a combination of KMG and Mousterian aspects. In order to better understand the morpho-metrical data, 3D scans were used for recording technical features and performing semi-automatic geometric morphometrics. Results indicate that the techno-functional schemes of Keilmesser show a moderate variability and often overlap with the schemes of other typological groups. Within bifacial backed knives, a process of imitation of unifacial flake tools’ functionaly was recognized particularly in the cutting edge manufacturing. Keilmesser proved to be the long-life, versatile version of backed flake-tools, also due to the recurrent valence as both tool and core. This is why Keilmesser represent an ideal strategic blank when a mobile and multi-functional tool is needed. Based on these data, it is assumed that the relationship between Mousterian and KMG is deeply rooted and the emergence of KMG aspects could be related to constrained situations characterizing the long cold stages of the Early Weichselian. A higher regional mobility caused by the comparably low predictability of resources characterized the subsistence tactics of Neanderthal groups especially at the borders of their overall distribution. For this reason, Keilmesser could have represented an ecological answer before possibly becoming a marker of cultural identity. (...)

  The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Hohlenstein-Stadel cave (Swabian Jura, Germany): A comparison between ESR, U-series and radiocarbon dating, di M. Richard, C. Falguères, E. Pons-Branchu, D. Richter, T. Beutelspacher, N. J. Conard, C. J. Kind, "Quaternary International", volume 556, 10 August 2020, pages 49-57

The Swabian Jura is a key region for the early Aurignacian. Sites such as Geißenklösterle, Hohle Fels, Vogelherd and Hohlenstein-Stadel have produced the earliest evidence of figurative and musical art, such as ivory figurines and flutes made of bone and ivory, attributed to Homo sapiens. To date, radiocarbon (14C) and thermoluminescence dating have been applied in the region, providing a precise chronology for the Upper Palaeolithic levels, especially the Aurignacian. At Hohlenstein-Stadel, Upper and late Middle Palaeolithic levels were dated using 14C. This study focuses on the chronology of the Middle Palaeolithic levels of this site using electron spin resonance (ESR) on herbivorous tooth enamel, in order to constrain the timing of the earliest human occupation at the cave, attributed to Neanderthals. (...)


ESR and ESR/U-series chronology of the Middle Pleistocene site of Tourville-la-Rivière (Normandy, France) - A multi-laboratory approach, di J. J. Bahain et alii, "Quaternary International", volume 556, 10 August 2020, pages 58-70

Tourville-la-Rivière (Normandy, France) is one of the rare Middle Pleistocene palaeoanthropological localities of Northern France. Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) and combined ESR/U-series dating methods were independently applied by different teams on sediments and teeth from this site. The present work provides an overview of this multi-laboratory dating work by integrating a description and discussion of the methodologies employed and results obtained. (...)


A multi-technique dating study of two Lower Palaeolithic sites from the Cher Valley (Middle Loire Catchment, France): Lunery-la Terre-des-Sablons and Brinay-la Noira, di M. Duval et alii, "Quaternary International", volume 556, 10 August 2020, pages 71-87

We present the results of a new dating study carried out at Lunery-la Terre-des-Sablons (LTS) and Brinay-la Noira (BN), two key Lower Palaeolithic sites located in deposits associated to the Cher River (Middle Loire Catchment, France). These sites preserve abundant Mode 1 and Mode 2 lithic industries, and are considered as among the oldest evidence of hominin presence in Western Europe north of the 45°N latitude. Following a multi-technique approach combining electron spin resonance (ESR), single-grain thermally-transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dating of quartz grains and palaeomagnetism, we obtained new chronological constraints for the sedimentary sequence, and the associated lithic assemblages, at the two sites. (...)


Refining the chronology of Acheulean deposits at Porto Maior in the River Miño basin (Galicia, Spain) using a comparative luminescence and ESR dating approach, di M. Demuro et alii, "Quaternary International", volume 556, 10 August 2020, pages 96-112

Trapped charge dating of optically bleached quartz, which involves techniques such as electron spin resonance (ESR) and thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL), is increasingly being used to establish Middle and Early Pleistocene chronologies for archaeological, palaeontological and palaeoenvironmental sedimentary sequences. Comparative dating studies that make use of several independent or semi-independent radiometric techniques in tandem are an invaluable means of assessing the reliability of optically bleached quartz dating methods and ascertaining empirical relationships between different quartz dating signals. (...)


ESR dating applied to optically bleached quartz - A comparison with 40Ar/39Ar chronologies on Italian Middle Pleistocene sequences, di P. Voinchet, A. Pereira, S. Nomade, C. Falguères, I. Biddittu, M. Piperno, M. H. Moncel, J. J. Bahain, "Quaternary International", volume 556, 10 August 2020, pages 113-123

The geological sequences of numerous Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites of central and southern Italy, found in fluvio-lacustrine contexts and rich both in archaeological and palaeontological remains, have recorded various volcanic events all along the Middle Pleistocene timescale. These sedimentary sequences made of detritic and volcanic materials are suitable to compare independent numerical geochronological methods and thus develop a multi-method approach relying especially ESR method applied to optically bleached fluvial quartz and the 40Ar/39Ar on single grain isotopic method applied to potassium feldspars. (...)


Changes in hafting practices during the Middle Stone Age at Ifri n’Ammar, di S. Tomasso, D. Cnuts, A. Mikdad, V. Rots, "Quaternary International", volume 555, 30 July 2020, pages 21-32

The present use wear and residue analysis aims at identifying hafting practices during the Middle Stone Age at Ifri n’Ammar to improve insight in assemblage variability through time. Particular attention was devoted to the characteristics of the tanged and non-tanged tools to determine whether these morphological varieties were linked with different prehensile modes. (...)


Middle Stone Age technology in Algeria: A techno-economic approach case study of the Oued Bousmane site (Djebel Dyr), di N. Bahra, A. Djerrab, M. Ruault-Djerrab, K. Semiane, R. Zedam, "Quaternary International", volume 555, 30 July 2020, pages 33-46

The rock shelter of Oued Bousmane, located in the eastern Algerian highlands, presents a stratigraphic sequence of the Middle Stone Age. The site, which was discovered in 2006, produced a significant number of lithic artefacts that are primarily made of local flint. The aim of the paper is to present the results of a techno-economic study of the Mode 3 lithic industry. (...)

  The Late Quaternary pollen sequence of Toll Cave, a palaeontological site with evidence of human activities in northeastern Spain, di J. Ochando et alii, "Quaternary International", volume 554, 20 July 2020, pages 1-14

Palynological investigations of Toll Cave, a carnivore and archaeological cave site in northeastern Spain, are presented. The inferred vegetation reveals the long-term permanence of mixed pine-oak forests through a long period of environmental changes within the interval MIS 4 to MIS 1, and probably before. A relatively high diversity of woody taxa is found, including conifers, mesophytic angiosperms, Mediterranean forest, and xerothermic scrub. (...)

  The use of blades and pointed tools during middle palaeolithic, the example of Riparo Tagliente (VR), di G. L. F. Berruti et alii, "Quaternary International", volume 554, 20 July 2020, pages 45-59

The aim of this study is to understand Neanderthals' techno-functional behavior at Riparo Tagliente (VR). To this purpose, the use-wear analysis on the lithic artefacts from the upper levels of the Mousterian sequences was carried out. In particular, two main features of the Mousterian lithic assemblage of Riparo Tagliente are considered: how the laminar component and the pointed tools were differently used. The use of blades in the Mousterian period represents a debated issue: many scholars interpret the Mousterian blades as specific tools used as butchering knives, while others underline their use as undifferentiated tools. (...)

  The Bucobello 322 ka-fossil-bearing volcaniclastic-flow deposit in the eastern Vulsini Volcanic District (central Italy): Mechanism of emplacement and insights on human activity during MIS 9, di G. M. Di Buduo et alii, "Quaternary International", volume 554, 20 July 2020, pages 75-89

We present a multidisciplinary study of a fossiliferous site located in the Vulsini Volcanic District, on the western side of the Tiber River Valley north of Rome, highlighting the peculiar geologic factors that contributed to the origin and preservation of an outstanding archaeological record testifying of the early human frequentation in this region. Mighty explosive eruptions since at least 500 ka affected the investigated area eventually culminating in the formation of the huge Bolsena caldera. (...)

  Reconstructing Magdalenian hunting equipment through experimentation and functional analysis of backed bladelets, di E. Gauvrit Roux, M. I. Cattin, I. Yahemdi, S. Beyries, "Quaternary International", volume 554, 20 July 2020, pages 107-127

The hunting technical sphere has a particularly important socioeconomic role among hunter-gatherers as it provides vital nutritive goods and serves numerous technical spheres. Approaching Upper Palaeolithic hunting techniques therefore offers a valuable insight into past cultural dynamics. Microliths are often the only conserved evidence of Magdalenian hunting equipment, occasionally accompanied by osseous projectile points to which they were exceptionally found hafted. Backed bladelets are the most common Magdalenian microliths. In this paper, we investigate their function as projectile insert, and address the question of projectiles designs through the analysis of impact damages. (...)

  Peopling dynamics in the Mediterranean area between 45 and 39 ky ago: state of art and new data. Edited by S. Benazzi, D. Boric, "Quaternary International", volume 551, pages 1-264 (20 June 2020):

- A focus on the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Mediterranean area, di S. Benazzi et alii

- An overview of Alpine and Mediterranean palaeogeography, terrestrial ecosystems and climate history during MIS 3 with focus on the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition, di F. Badino et alii

- Before the massive modern human dispersal into Eurasia: A 55,000-year-old partial cranium from Manot Cave, Israel, di G. W. Weber et alii

- Noisy beginnings: The Initial Upper Palaeolithic in Southwest Asia, di A. N. Goring-Morris, A. Belfer-Cohen

- Push-and-pull factors of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the Balkans, di D. Mihailović

- The cultural trajectories of Aurignacian osseous projectile points in Southern Europe: Insights from geometric morphometrics, di L. Doyon

- The Middle and Upper Palaeolithic at La Crouzade cave (Gruissan, Aude, France): New excavations and a chronostratigraphic framework, di T. Saos et alii

- New data concerning Neanderthal occupation in the Iberian System: First results from the late Pleistocene (MIS 3) Aguilón P5 cave site (NE Iberia), di C. Mazo, M. Alcolea

- Lithic techno-complexes in Italy from 50 to 39 thousand years BP: An overview of lithic technological changes across the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic boundary, di G. Marciani et alii

- Refining the Uluzzian through a new lithic assemblage from Roccia San Sebastiano (Mondragone, southern Italy), di C. Collina et alii

- Bone tools, ornaments and other unusual objects during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Italy, di S. Arrigh et alii

- Macromammal and bird assemblages across the late Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Italy: an extended zooarchaeological review, di M. Romandini et alii

- Archeozoology and taphonomy of bird remains from Grotta di Castelcivita (Salerno, Italy) and clues for human-bird interactions, di I. Fiore et alii

- Archaeozoological, taphonomic and ZooMS insights into The Protoaurignacian faunal record from Riparo Bombrini, di G. Pothier Bouchard, J. Riel-Salvatore, F. Negrino, M. Buckley

  L'Archeologia Sperimentale di Alberto Carlo Blanc: appunti inediti di un pioniere della Preistoria italiana, di F. Altamura, "Archeologie sperimentali", N. 1 (2020) - free access -

Due documenti inediti dell’archivio Blanc-Aguet a Roma contengono appunti di archeologia sperimentale dello studioso Alberto Carlo Blanc, risalenti ai primi anni ‘50 del secolo scorso. Le annotazioni riguardano la scheggiatura di ciottoli silicei e la percussione di ossa di bue. Queste osservazioni, finalizzate a fornire elementi di confronto per i contesti preistorici indagati da Blanc, anticipano di molti decenni l’ingresso di tali tematiche negli studi archeologici italiani, confermando l’intuito e la lungimiranza scientifica dello studioso. (...)

Aggiornamento 4 agosto 2020


A 1.4-million-year-old bone handaxe from Konso, Ethiopia, shows advanced tool technology in the early Acheulean, di K. Sano et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 04 August 2020; vol. 117 no. 31, pp. 18393-18400

We report a rare example of a 1.4-million-y-old large bone fragment shaped into handaxe-like form. This bone tool derives from the Konso Formation in southern Ethiopia, where abundant early Acheulean stone artifacts show considerable technological progression between ~1.75 and <1.0 Mya. Technological analysis of the bone tool indicates intensive anthropogenic shaping. Edge damage, polish, and striae patterns are consistent with use in longitudinal motions, such as in butchering. The discovery of this bone handaxe shows that advanced flaking technology, practiced at Konso on a variety of lithic materials, was also applied to bone, thus expanding the known technological repertoire of African Early Pleistocene Homo. (...)


Neanderthals in a highly diverse, mediterranean-Eurosiberian forest ecotone: The pleistocene pollen record of Teixoneres Cave, northeastern Spain, di J. Ochando et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 241, 1 August 2020, 106429

A palynological study of the archaeological layers from the Neanderthal site of Teixoneres Cave, located in Northeastern Spain, is presented. Vegetation dynamics for the MIS 7-MIS 2 period are described, revealing the long-term resilience of mixed oak-pine forests throughout cold phases and a high diversity of woody taxa, including conifers, mesophytes, Mediterranean, and xerothermics. Unexpected features of the Teixoneres sequence include the relative abundances of evergreen Quercus, deciduous Quercus + suber and Juniperus, the continuous occurrences of Corylus, Castanea, Betula, Fraxinus, Buxus, Olea, Populus, and Salix, and the presence of Abies, Taxus, Cedrus, Acer, Alnus, Celtis, Juglans, Fagus, Ulmus, Calicotome, Ceratonia, Cistus, Ephedra fragilis, Myrtus, Pistacia, Phillyrea, Rhamnus and Viburnum. (...)


Biocultural diversity in Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene Africa: Olduvai Hominid 1 (Tanzania) biological affinity and intentional body modification, di J. C. Willman, R. Hernando, M. Matu, I. Crevecoeur, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 172, Issue 4, August 2020, Pages 664-681

The dentition of Olduvai Hominid 1 (OH1) exhibits an anomalous pattern of dental wear that was originally attributed to either intentional cultural modification (filing) or plant processing behaviors. A differential diagnosis of the wear and assessment of the biological affinity of OH1 is presented.
Macroscopic and microscopic observations of all labial and buccal tooth surfaces were undertaken to assess wear patterns. A multivariate analysis of mandibular morphology of OH1 compared to other Late Pleistocene, Holocene, and recent modern humans was used to ascertain biological affinity. (...)


Reassessment of the TM 1517 odonto‐postcranial assemblage from Kromdraai B, South Africa, and the maturational pattern of Paranthropus robustus, di M. Cazenave et alii, Volume 172, Issue 4, August 2020, Pages 714-722 - open access -

The Pleistocene taxon Paranthropus robustus was established in 1938 following the discovery at Kromdraai B, South Africa, of the partial cranium TM 1517a and associated mandible TM 1517b. Shortly thereafter, a distal humerus (TM 1517g), a proximal ulna (TM 1517e), and a distal hallucial phalanx (TM 1517k) were collected nearby at the site, and were considered to be associated with the holotype. TM 1517a‐b represents an immature individual; however, no analysis of the potentially associated postcranial elements has investigated the presence of any endostructural remnant of recent epiphyseal closure. This study aims at tentatively detecting such traces in the three postcranial specimens from Kromdraai B.
By using μXCT techniques, we assessed the developmental stage of the TM 1517b's C‐M3 roots and investigated the inner structure of TM 1517g, TM 1517e, and TM 1517k. (...)


First results of a Middle Stone Age survey in the Kerma region, northern Sudan, di N. Bicho, J. Haws, M. Honegger, "Antiquity", Volume 94, Issue 376, August 2020, e19

Sudan is a vitally important region for understanding the migrations of Anatomically Modern Humans from the African continent. Here, the authors present the results of a preliminary survey in the Kerma region, during which, 16 new Middle Stone Age sites were discovered. (...)


Emergence of regional cultural traditions during the Lower Palaeolithic: the case of Frosinone-Ceprano basin (Central Italy) at the MIS 11–10 transition, di M. H. Moncel et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 8, August 2020, Article number: 185

Decades of fieldwork in the Frosinone-Ceprano basin (Latin Valley, Latium, central Italy) have shed light on numerous open-air Lower Palaeolithic localities, delivering a human fossil calvarium, thousands of scattered faunal remains and a large collection of lithic industries, including core-and-flake type lithic series (mode 1) and Acheulean assemblages (mode 2). The continuously growing number of available geochronological data (obtained by 40Ar/39Ar on volcanic minerals, ESR/U-series on large mammal teeth and ESR on bleached fluvial quartz) allow today the construction of a reliable and precise chronological framework for the Lower Palaeolithic sites of this area of the Latin Valley. The archaeological horizons with bifaces all appear to belong to a relatively short Middle Pleistocene time range, between about 410 and 350 ka, coeval to the end of the interglacial MIS 11 and to the beginning of the following glacial MIS 10. The Acheulean tools are often associated with cores and flakes. Bifaces are mainly made on limestone, secondary flint and quartz. The archaeological corpus also yielded tools on fragments of large herbivore bones. (...)


From cave geomorphology to Palaeolithic human behaviour: speleogenesis, palaeoenvironmental changes and archaeological insight in the Atxurra‐Armiña cave (northern Iberian Peninsula), di M. Arriolabengoa et alii, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume35, Issue 6, August 2020, Pages 841-853

A detailed geomorphological study was performed in the Atxurra‐Armiña cave system (northern Iberian Peninsula) to decode landscape evolution, palaeoenvironmental changes and human use of a cave within an Inner Archaeological Context. The results show an average incision rate of the river of <0.083 mm a–1 for at least the last 419 ka, with interruptions due to sedimentary inputs. Moreover, allostratigraphic units comprising fluviokarstic deposits at the base and flowstone formation at the top have been shown to be climatically controlled, formed either during glacial–interglacial cycles or during interstadial cycles. Finally, when the cave was used by humans in the Late Magdalenian, the lower entrance was closed, and they must therefore have entered the cave through the upper entrance. (...)

  Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 145, August 2020:

1) The dawn of the Middle Paleolithic in Atapuerca: the lithic assemblage of TD10.1 from Gran Dolina, di A. de Lombera-Hermida et alii

2) A view of the Lower to Middle Paleolithic boundary from Northern France, far from the Near East?, di D. Hérisson, S. Soriano

3) A virtual assessment of the suprainiac depressions on the Eyasi I (Tanzania) and Aduma ADU-VP-1/3 (Ethiopia) Pleistocene hominin crania, di A. Marinus Bosman, H. Reyes-Centeno, K. Harvati

4) Hominin dental remains from the Pliocene localities at Lomekwi, Kenya (1982–2009), di M. M. Skinner, M. G. Leakey, L. N. Leakey, F. K. Manthi, F. Spoor

5) Inner morphological and metric characterization of the molar remains from the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible: The Neanderthal signal, di M. Martínez de Pinillos et alii

6) Pitted stones in the Acheulean from Olduvai Gorge Beds III and IV (Tanzania): A use-wear and 3D approach, di A. Arroyo, I. de la Torre


Lithic artifact assemblage transport and microwear modification in a fluvial setting: A radio frequency identification tag experiment, di W. Chu, R. Hosfield, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 35, Issue 4, Pages: 431-608, July/August 2020 - open access -

River processes are widely assumed to have impacted the integrity of lithic assemblages when artifacts are found in fluvial sediments, but the specifics of these influences remain largely unknown. We conducted a real‐world experiment to determine how the initial stages of fluvial entrainment affected lithic artifact assemblages. We inserted replica artifacts with radio frequency identification tags into a gravel‐bedded river in Wales (UK) for seven months and related their transport distances to their morphology and the recorded streamflow. In addition, nine artifacts were recovered at the end of the experiment and analyzed for microwear traces. In sum, our results show that in a gravel‐bedded river with a mean discharge of 5.1 m3/s, artifact length and width were the main variables influencing artifact transport distances. The experiment also resulted in characteristic microwear traces developing on the artifacts over distances of 485 m or less. These results emphasize the multifaceted nature of alluvial site formation processes in a repeatable experiment and highlight new ways to identify the transport of replica Paleolithic material. (...)


A Neanderthal Sodium Channel Increases Pain Sensitivity in Present-Day Humans, di H. Zeberg et alii, 23 July 2020, DOI: - open access -

The sodium channel Nav1.7 is crucial for impulse generation and conduction in peripheral pain pathways [1]. In Neanderthals, the Nav1.7 protein carried three amino acid substitutions (M932L, V991L, and D1908G) relative to modern humans. We expressed Nav1.7 proteins carrying all combinations of these substitutions and studied their electrophysiological effects. Whereas the single amino acid substitutions do not affect the function of the ion channel, the full Neanderthal variant carrying all three substitutions, as well as the combination of V991L with D1908G, shows reduced inactivation, suggesting that peripheral nerves were more sensitive to painful stimuli in Neanderthals than in modern humans. We show that, due to gene flow from Neanderthals, the three Neanderthal substitutions are found in ∼0.4% of present-day Britons, where they are associated with heightened pain sensitivity. (...)

·Quel gene Neanderthal che rende più sensibili al dolore, "Le Scienze", 29 luglio 2020


On holes and strings: Earliest displays of human adornment in the Middle Palaeolithic, di D. E. Bar-Yosef Mayer et alii, 8 July 2020, doi: - open access -

Glycymeris shell beads found in Middle Palaeolithic sites are understood to be artifacts collected by modern humans for symbolic use. In Misliya Cave, Israel, dated to 240–160 ka BP, Glycymeris shells were found that were neither perforated nor manipulated; nevertheless, transportation to the cave is regarded as symbolic. In about 120 ka BP at Qafzeh Cave, Israel, modern humans collected naturally perforated Glycymeris shells also for symbolic use. Use-wear analyses backed by experiments demonstrate that the Qafzeh shells were suspended on string, thus suggesting that the collection of perforated shells was intentional. The older Misliya shells join a similar finding from South Africa, while the later-dated perforated shells from Qafzeh resemble other assemblages from North Africa and the Levant, also dated to about 120 ka BP. We conclude that between 160 ka BP and 120 ka BP there was a shift from collecting complete valves to perforated ones, which reflects both the desire and the technological ability to suspend shell beads on string to be displayed on the human body. (...)


Crown tissue proportions and enamel thickness distribution in the Middle Pleistocene hominin molars from Sima de los Huesos (SH) population (Atapuerca, Spain), di L. Martín-Francés et alii, 8 June 2020, doi: - open access -

Dental enamel thickness, topography, growth and development vary among hominins. In Homo, the thickness of dental enamel in most Pleistocene hominins display variations from thick to hyper-thick, while Neanderthals exhibit proportionally thinner enamel. The origin of the thin trait remains unclear. In this context, the Middle Pleistocene human dental assemblage from Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos (SH) provides a unique opportunity to trace the evolution of enamel thickness in European hominins. In this study, we aim to test the hypothesis if the SH molar sample approximates the Neanderthal condition for enamel thickness and/or distribution. This study includes 626 molars, both original and comparative data. We analysed the molar inner structural organization of the original collections (n = 124), belonging to SH(n = 72) and modern humans from Spanish origin (n = 52). We compared the SH estimates to those of extinct and extant populations of the genus Homo from African, Asian and European origin (estimates extracted from literature n = 502). The comparative sample included maxillary and mandibular molars belonging to H. erectus, East and North African Homo, European Middle Pleistocene Homo, Neanderthals, and fossil and extant H. sapiens. We used high-resolution images to investigate the endostructural configuration of SH molars (tissue proportions, enamel thickness and distribution). (...)


Speleothem record attests to stable environmental conditions during Neanderthal–modern human turnover in southern Italy, di A. Columbu, V. Chiarini, C. Spötl, S. Benazzi, J. Hellstrom, H. Cheng, J. De Waele, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 06 July 2020, doi:

The causes of Neanderthal–modern human (MH) turnover are ambiguous. While potential biocultural interactions between the two groups are still little known, it is clear that Neanderthals in southern Europe disappeared about 42 thousand years ago (ka) after cohabitation for ~3,000 years with MH. Among a plethora of hypotheses on Neanderthal extinction, rapid climate changes during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition (MUPT) are regarded as a primary factor. Here we show evidence for stable climatic and environmental conditions during the MUPT in a region (Apulia) where Neanderthals and MH coexisted. We base our findings on a rare glacial stalagmite deposited between ~106 and ~27 ka, providing the first continuous western Mediterranean speleothem palaeoclimate archive for this period. (...)


Neanderthal occupation during the tephra fall-out: Technical and hunting behaviours, sedimentology and settlement patterns in SU 14 of Oscurusciuto rock shelter (Ginosa, southern Italy), di G. Marciani, V. Spagnolo, I. Martini, A. Casagli, R. Sulpizio, D. Aureli, P. Boscato, A. Ronchitelli, F. Boschin, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 7, July 2020, Article number: 152

The Oscurusciuto rock shelter (southern Italy) is crucial for the understanding of Neanderthals’ subsistence and settlement strategies as it contains a ~ 6-m-thick reliable deposit made up of several Middle Palaeolithic levels. This paper focuses on level SU 14, a 60-cm-thick deposit of volcanic tephra containing traces of human occupation only in the few upper centimetres. Geochemical and mineralogical features of SU 14 deposits allowed their correlation to the ‘Mount Epomeo Green Tuff’ eruption, which came from Ischia volcano and dated to ~ 55,000 years BP. The pyroclastic materials injected into the atmosphere caused an ash fall-out over a large part of southern Italy, resulting in the alteration of ecosystems. (...)


Between new and inherited technical behaviours: a case study from the Early Middle Palaeolithic of Southern France, di C. Mathias, L. Bourguignon, M. Brenet, S. Grégoire, M. H. Moncel, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 7, July 2020, Article number: 146

The beginning of the Middle Palaeolithic in Western Europe is traditionally associated with the emergence of new, more complex and standardised debitage technologies, such as Levallois technology. These changes occurred in the archaeological record between MIS 9 and MIS 6. This paper aims to evaluate the processes of technical change at work in Southern France, tracking innovations and persistent behaviours and potential shifts, to describe the process of transition and compare the Southeast and Southwest of France. We revised several major sites from Ardèche and Dordogne through the technological analysis of seven lithic assemblages in areas rich in good-quality raw materials, mostly flint. Technological analysis shows common features in lithic strategies and industries that can all be attributed to the Early Middle Palaeolithic. The features are a diversity of debitage methods and spatiotemporal management of the chaînes opératoires (ramification and artefact mobility). (...)


Tracing Palaeolithic human routes through the geochemical characterisation of chert tools from Caune de Belvis (Aude, France), di M. Sánchez de la Torre, D. Sacchi, F. X. Le Bourdonnec, B. Gratuze, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 12, Issue 7, July 2020, Article number: 135

Caune de Belvis (Aude, France) is located in the northern slopes of the eastern Pyrenees, in south-east France. Excavations at the site during the final decades of the past century identified several human occupations from the Late Mousterian (Maroto et al. 2003) and the Magdalenian periods (Sacchi 1993). The archaeological remains are mostly composed of faunal bones and a rich bone and stone industry. In this paper, we focused on the analysis of stone remains recovered in the Magdalenian levels. The goals of this study are to determine the territorial behaviour of Magdalenian groups settled at Caune de Belvis and to identify their lithic procurement strategies. To do so, we applied a range of techniques for analysing stone remains from the Magdalenian levels and geological samples from the geological formations that may have been used. (...)


Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 144, July 2020:

1) Interpreting the Quina and demi-Quina scrapers from Acheulo-Yabrudian Qesem Cave, Israel: Results of raw materials and functional analyses, di A. Agam, A. Zupancich

2) The Middle Pleistocene hominin mandible from Payre (Ardèche, France), di C. Verna et alii

3) Great apes and humans evolved from a long-backed ancestor, di A. L. Machnicki, P. L. Reno

4) Muscle recruitment and stone tool use ergonomics across three million years of Palaeolithic technological transitions, di A. J. M. Key, I. Farr, R. Hunter, S. L. Winter

5) Sexual dimorphism of the enamel and dentine dimensions of the permanent canines of the Middle Pleistocene hominins from Sima de los Huesos (Burgos, Spain), di C. García-Campos et alii

6) The emergence of the Levallois technology in the Levant: A view from the Early Middle Paleolithic site of Misliya Cave, Israel, di Y. Zaidner, M. Weinstein-Evron

7) Reappraisal of hominin group size in the Lower Paleolithic: An introduction to the special issue, di N. Goren-Inbar, A. Belfer-Cohen

8) Still no archaeological evidence that Neanderthals created Iberian cave art, di R. White et alii

9) Response to White et al.’s reply: ‘Still no archaeological evidence that Neanderthals created Iberian cave art’ [J. Hum. Evol. (2020) 102640], di D. L. Hoffmann et alii


Deglacial landscapes and the Late Upper Palaeolithic of Switzerland, di H. Reade et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 239, 1 July 2020, 106372

The presence of people in Switzerland in recently deglaciated landscapes after the Last Glacial Maximum represents human utilisation of newly available environments. Understanding these landscapes and the resources available to the people who exploited them is key to understanding not only Late Upper Palaeolithic settlement in Switzerland, but more broadly human behavioural ecology in newly inhabited environmental settings. By applying bone collagen stable isotope analysis (δ13C, δ15N and δ34S) to faunal remains from Late Upper Palaeolithic localities in Switzerland, we investigate animal ecology and environmental conditions during periods of human occupation. (...)


CLIOdynamic ARCHaeology: computational approaches to Final Palaeolithic/Early Mesolithic archaeology and climate change, di F. Riede, S. T. Hussain, C, Timmreck, J. C. Svenning, "Antiquity", Volume 94, Issue 375, June 2020 , e13

It is often claimed that changes in material culture signify adaptations to changing environments. Deploying novel conceptual models and computational techniques, research funded by the European Research Council seeks to reconstruct the patterns and processes of cultural transmission and adaptation at the turbulent transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene. (...)


Complex mortuary dynamics in the Upper Paleolithic of the decorated Grotte de Cussac, France, di S. Kacki et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 30 June 2020; vol. 117 no. 26, pp. 14851-14856

Gravettian mortuary practices provide a key perspective on social complexity during the Upper Paleolithic. Such inferences have been drawn mostly from the formal burials relatively abundant for this period. Here we present the bioanthropological study of Grotte de Cussac, a decorated cave with Gravettian human remains deposited on the floor. These bone accumulations correspond to several forms of deposition (a whole body, body parts on the surface, and dry bones in bear nests), plus displacement and removal of elements that indicate diverse and complex mortuary behaviors. The exceptional preservation during millennia of these surficial deposits illustrates steps of a mortuary landscape that are beyond reach in more usual Upper Paleolithic burial sites. (...)


A high-coverage Neandertal genome from Chagyrskaya Cave, di F. Mafessoni et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 30 June 2020; vol. 117 no. 26, pp. 15132-15136  - free  access -

We present the third high-quality genome to be determined from a Neandertal. Patterns of variation in the genome suggest that her ancestors lived in relatively isolated populations of less than 60 individuals. When we analyze this genome together with two previously sequenced Neandertal genomes, we find that genes expressed in the striatum of the brain may have changed especially much, suggesting that the striatum may have evolved unique functions in Neandertals. (...)


Studying the Neanderthal DNA found in modern humans using stem cells and organoids, 18 June 2020

Protocols that allow the transformation of human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines into organoids have changed the way scientists can study developmental processes and enable them to decipher the interplay between genes and tissue formation, particularly for organs where primary tissue is not available. Now, investigators are taking this technology and applying it to study the developmental effects of Neanderthal DNA. (...)

·Human Stem Cell Resources Are an Inroad to Neandertal DNA Functions, di M. Dannemann et alii, "Stem Cell Reports", 18 June 2020


Deposit-centered archaeological survey and the search for the Aegean Palaeolithic: A geoarchaeological perspective, di J. A. Holcomb, C. Runnels, K. W. Wegmann, "Quaternary International", Volume 550, 10 June 2020, Pages 169-183

Recent archaeological discoveries from the Greek islands of Crete and Naxos point to the presence of hominins in the Aegean Basin beginning at least in the Middle Pleistocene (~200 ka), indicating that the region may have been an important dispersal route for hominins (including humans) entering southeastern Europe. Currently, archaeologists lack a clear understanding about where Palaeolithic sites should exist throughout the region. Consequently, archaeologists are hindered in their ability to construct the chronostratigraphic frameworks necessary to place the Aegean Palaeolithic into broader narratives of human biogeography until more buried and scientifically dated sites are found. Addressing this issue, we review one successful survey strategy that has proven effective in increasing the likelihood of discovering archaeological sites of Pleistocene age – namely, systematic geoarchaeologically informed research frameworks centered on targeting Pleistocene geologic deposits (soils and sediments). Such an approach has worked well on mainland Greece (and elsewhere) but has yet to be operationalized for application in the Greek islands. (...)


The nature of Neanderthal introgression revealed by 27,566 Icelandic genomes, di L. Skov et alii, "Nature", Volume 582, Issue 7810, 4 June 2020, pp. 78–83

Human evolutionary history is rich with the interbreeding of divergent populations. Most humans outside of Africa trace about 2% of their genomes to admixture from Neanderthals, which occurred 50–60 thousand years ago1. Here we examine the effect of this event using 14.4 million putative archaic chromosome fragments that were detected in fully phased whole-genome sequences from 27,566 Icelanders, corresponding to a range of 56,388–112,709 unique archaic fragments that cover 38.0–48.2% of the callable genome. On the basis of the similarity with known archaic genomes, we assign 84.5% of fragments to an Altai or Vindija Neanderthal origin and 3.3% to Denisovan origin; 12.2% of fragments are of unknown origin. We find that Icelanders have more Denisovan-like fragments than expected through incomplete lineage sorting. This is best explained by Denisovan gene flow, either into ancestors of the introgressing Neanderthals or directly into humans. (...)


Versatile use of microliths as a technological advantage in the miniaturization of Late Pleistocene toolkits: The case study of Neve David, Israel, di I. Groman-Yaroslavski, H. Chen, C. Liu, R. Shimelmitz, R. Yeshurun, J. Liu, X. Yang, D. Nadel, 3 June 2020, doi: - open access -

The miniaturization of stone tools, as reflected through the systematic production of bladelets and bladelet tools (microliths), characterized many industries of the Late Pleistocene, with the Levantine Epipalaeolithic serving as a well-studied example. It is commonly held that microliths were used as modular inserts in composite projectiles, while their incorporation in other tools for different tasks is generally overlooked, the latter aspect being the main focus of this paper. We present here a more inclusive approach through a case study of the Geometric Kebaran (Middle Epipalaeolithic, ca. 18,500–15,000 cal BP) site of Neve David, Mount Carmel, Israel. Recent excavations at the site exposed a variety of features, and one well-preserved shallow pit provided a large lithic assemblage with ca. 90 microliths. We studied this assemblage using both the low- and high- magnification use-wear protocols, accompanied by a range of experiments. Our results show that a) the fragmentation rate is very high in this assemblage (ca. 90%), b) most of the microliths have identifiable use-wear, c) the microliths were commonly used as inserts in composite projectiles, d) many microliths were used for functions not related to weaponry and hunting, such as wood-working, weed harvesting and meat processing. (...)


The Upper Palaeolithic site Doroshivtsi III: A new chronostratigraphic and environmental record of the Late Pleniglacial in the regional context of the Middle Dniester-Prut loess domain (Western Ukraine), di P. Haesaerts et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 546, 30 April 2020, Pages 196-215

A multidisciplinary study of the Upper Palaeolithic site Doroshivtsi III (Western Ukraine) allows the establishment of a high-resolution chronostratigraphic and environmental record of short climatic oscillations during the Late Pleniglacial (from ca. 23 ka uncal BP to the Late Glacial). Chronostratigraphic records, radiocarbon dating, palynology and anthracology were used in parallel with archaeological studies. Palaeoenvironmental interpretations based on pedostratigraphy and pollen data show a remarkable concordance. The Doroshivtsi III sequence provides a succession of 12 short-time interstadial events. In the lower part of the sequence, they are separated by very cold and wet stadials, represented by tundra gleys. In the middle part of the sequence, interstadial events are separated by episodes of loess accumulation under cold and dry climate, whereas the upper part of the sequence almost completely consists of loesses. The sum of pollen of arcto-alpine and arcto-boreal plants was the largest during the periods of tundra gley formation, whereas few pollen grains of broad-leaved taxa occurred during formation of some soil horizons. (...)


When not everything is as nice as its looks. Social veiled conflicts in Levantine rock art (Spain), di M. Bea, "Quaternary International", Volume 544, 10 April 2020, Pages 12-22

Based on new documentation carried out on some of the most important Levantine sites, it is possible to reinterpret some Levantine scenes and their social contexts. Using new perspectives, it is possible to point out a real social instability that is represented not only in war or fight scenes but also in some other veiled forced activities (i.e., massive movement of human groups, captures, etc.). In these scenes conflict is not just represented by the use of arms (bows, arrows, or boomerangs), but by some other kind of social violence scenes that make us to reconsider the social relationships among creators of Levantine rock art from its earliest phases. These scenes allow complex thematic levels that can be considered. Why did those people depict such veiled violence? (...)


The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition at El Mirón Cave (Cantabria, Spain), di A. B. Marín-Arroyo, "Quaternary International", Volume 544, 10 April 2020, Pages 23-31

The use of caves during the Late Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic in Europe was often characterized by alternation between humans (Neandertals and Anatomically Modern Humans) and carnivores. One of the most important karstic areas in Europe that contains a rich archaeological record during this cultural period is the Cantabrian Region, northern Spain. We explore the archaeological evidence recovered from the lower levels of the stratigraphic sequence in El Mirón Cave dated between 27 and 48ka cal BP – Gravettian and Mousterian in age. Zooarchaeological and taphonomic analyses of the limited number of mammal bones, together with the small lithic artefact assemblages, suggest brief human occupations after which the carcass remains left by humans and, composed mainly of Spanish ibex, red deer and some leporids, were scavenged by carnivores. Carnivores were probably also agents of accumulation, especially in the two lowest layers in which artifacts are most scarce. (...)


Bird procurement by humans during the Middle and early Upper Paleolithic of Europe: New data for the Aurignacian of southwestern France, di V. Laroulandie, E. Morin, M. C. Soulier, J. C. Castel, "Quaternary International", Volume 543, 30 March 2020, Pages 16-24

Recently, the development of taphonomically-oriented studies of avifaunal assemblages have contributed towards renewing our perceptions of the complexity of Neandertal behavioral adaptations in Europe. In contrast, few studies have been conducted on bird samples dated to the Early Upper Paleolithic. Here, we provide new data for three archeological sites (Isturitz, le Piage, Abri Cellier) from southwestern France that have produced Aurignacian material. (...)


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. (...)

  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. (...)

  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. (...)

  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). (...)
  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 -

This 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. The 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. The 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. (...)


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. (...)      


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. (...)


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. (...)


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. (...)


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. (...)


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. (...)


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. (...)


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.  (...)



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