Aggiornamento 31 dicembre


Ancient human species made ‘last stand’ 100,000 years ago on Indonesian island, di M. Price, "Science news", Dec. 18, 2019

When seafaring modern humans ventured onto the island of Java some 40,000 years ago, they found a rainforest-covered land teeming with life—but they weren’t the first humans to call the island home. Their distant ancestor, Homo erectus, had traveled to Java when it was connected to the mainland via land bridges and lived there for approximately 1.5 million years. These people made their last stand on the island about 100,000 years ago, long after they had gone extinct elsewhere in the world, according a new study assigning reliable dates to previously found H. erectus fossils. The finding suggests a trace of H. erectus DNA could live on in modern Southeast Asian populations, thanks to complex intermingling among the diverse humans who have lived in the region. The newly dated fossils also bookend the existence of a remarkably long-lived human species, says Patrick Roberts, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, who wasn’t involved with the study. “With this date, the duration of Homo erectus occupation in Southeast Asia is nearly three times as long as our [own] species has been on the planet,” he says. “There is no doubt it was successful.” H. erectus arose in Africa about 1.9 million years ago. These toolmakers with relatively large brains migrated out of Africa and across Asia, crossing into Java by land bridges about 1.6 million years ago, when savannalike open woodland covered much of the land. Later, sea levels rose, isolating these ancient Javans on an island. Meanwhile, in Africa and mainland Asia, H. erectus disappeared by about 500,000 years ago. (...)


Oxygen isotope analysis of Equus teeth evidences early Eemian and early Weichselian palaeotemperatures at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Neumark-Nord 2, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, di K. Britton et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 226, 15 December 2019, 106029

Here we present phosphate oxygen isotope (δ 18OPO4) data from horse (Equus sp.) tooth enamel (bioapatite) from early Eemian and early Weichselian find levels at the archaeological site of Neumark-Nord 2, Germany. Based on the relationship between δ18OPO4 of bioapatite, body water, local precipitation and air temperature, these data are used to reconstruct palaeoclimatic conditions contemporary to the different phases of Neanderthal activity at the site. (...)


Is this cave painting humanity’s oldest story?, di E. Callaway, "Nature news", 11 DECEMBER 2019

A cave-wall depiction of a pig and buffalo hunt is the world’s oldest recorded story, claim archaeologists who discovered the work on the Indonesian island Sulawesi. The scientists say the scene is more than 44,000 years old. The 4.5-metre-long panel features reddish-brown forms that seem to depict human-like figures hunting local animal species. Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks. The scientists working on the latest find say that the Indonesian art pre-dates these. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I mean, we’ve seen hundreds of rock art sites in this region, but we’ve never seen anything like a hunting scene,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, whose team describes the finding in Nature on 11 December1. Other researchers say the discovery is important because the animal paintings are also the oldest figurative artworks — those that clearly depict objects or figures in the natural world — on record. But some aren’t yet convinced by the claim the panel represents a single ‘scene’, or story. They suggest it might be a series of images painted over the course of perhaps thousands of years. “Whether it’s a scene is questionable,” says Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist and rock-art specialist at Durham University, UK. (...)

· World’s oldest hunting scene shows half-human, half-animal figures—and a sophisticated imagination, di M. Price, "Scince news", Dec. 11, 2019


Territoriality and the organization of technology during the Last Glacial Maximum in southwestern Europe, di J. Cascalheira, December 11, 2019 doi: - free  access -

Climate changes that occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) had significant consequences in human eco-dynamics across Europe. Among the most striking impacts are the demographic contraction of modern humans into southern refugia and the potential formation of a population bottleneck. In Iberia and southern France transformations also included the occurrence of significant technological changes, mostly marked by the emergence of a diverse set of bifacially-shaped stone projectiles. The rapid dissemination of bifacial technologies and the geographical circumscription of specific projectile morphologies within these regions have been regarded as evidence for: (1) the existence of a system of long-distance exchange and social alliance networks; (2) the organization of human groups into cultural facies with well-defined stylistic territorial boundaries. However, the degree and modes in which cultural transmission have occurred within these territories, and how it may have influenced other domains of the adaptive systems, remains largely unknown. Using southern Iberia as a case-study, this paper presents the first quantitative approach to the organization of lithic technology and its relationship to hunter-gatherers’ territorial organization during the LGM. Similarities and dissimilarities in the presence of morphological and metric data describing lithic technologies are used as a proxy to explore modes and degrees of cultural transmission. Statistical results show that similarities in technological options are dependent on the chronology and geographical distance between sites and corroborate previous arguments for the organization of LGM settlement in Southern Iberia into discrete eco-cultural facies. (...)


Identification of African-Specific Admixture between Modern and Archaic Humans, di  J. D. Wall, A. Ratan, E. Stawiski, "The American Journal of Human Genetics", vol 105, issue 6, pp. 1254-1261, 05 december 2019

Recent work has demonstrated that two archaic human groups (Neanderthals and Denisovans) interbred with modern humans and contributed to the contemporary human gene pool. These findings relied on the availability of high-coverage genomes from both Neanderthals and Denisovans. Here we search for evidence of archaic admixture from a worldwide panel of 1,667 individuals using an approach that does not require the presence of an archaic human reference genome. (...)


Early humans domesticated themselves, new genetic evidence suggests, di M. Price, "Science news", Dec. 4, 2019

When humans started to tame dogs, cats, sheep, and cattle, they may have continued a tradition that started with a completely different animal: us. A new study—citing genetic evidence from a disorder that in some ways mirrors elements of domestication—suggests modern humans domesticated themselves after they split from their extinct relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans, approximately 600,000 years ago. “The study is incredibly impressive,” says Richard Wrangham, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the new work. It’s “a really beautiful test,” he adds, of the long-standing idea that humans look so different from our primate ancestors precisely because we have become domesticated. Domestication encompasses a whole suite of genetic changes that arise as a species is bred to be friendlier and less aggressive. In dogs and domesticated foxes, for example, many changes are physical: smaller teeth and skulls, floppy ears, and shorter, curlier tails. Those physical changes have all been linked to the fact that domesticated animals have fewer of a certain type of stem cell, called neural crest stem cells. (...)


The Face of the Earliest Human Ancestor, Revealed, di K. Wong, 1 December 2019

Nearly 25 years after scientists described the first fossil traces of Australopithecus anamensis, this unsung human ancestor is finally having its moment. Researchers working in Ethiopia have found a nearly complete cranium of this long-vanished member of the hominin group, which includes Homo sapiens and its close extinct relatives. The fossil, dated to 3.8 million years ago, reveals the never before seen face of A. anamensis, a species previously known mainly from jaws, teeth and a smattering of bones from below the head. Traits evident in the specimen hint that our family tree may need revising. By some accounts, A. anamensis is the oldest unequivocal hominin, with some fossils dating from as far back as 4.2 million years ago. For years it has occupied a key position in the family tree as the lineal ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis, which is widely viewed as the ancestor of our own genus, Homo. (...)


Neanderthal logistic mobility during MIS3: Zooarchaeological perspective of Abric Romaní level P (Spain), di J. Marín et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 225, 1 December 2019, 106033

Mobility strategies of Neanderthal groups are studied through the characterization and analysis of archaeological sites and traditionally compared to the types of settlements present-day hunter-gatherer groups, based on their mobility strategies. The faunal record of level P of Abric Romaní is a unique source of information for analysing the foraging behaviour developed by Neanderthals during MIS3. The assemblage is divided into two separate and well-defined sublevels: Pa and Pb. Through the taphonomic study of the remains and their spatial distribution, it was possible to define the characteristics of these human occupations. (...)


A multiproxy record of palaeoenvironmental conditions at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Abric del Pastor (Eastern Iberia), di R. Connolly et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 225, 1 December 2019, 106023

This paper presents a multiproxy palaeoenvironmental study from Abric del Pastor (Alcoy, Spain), a rock shelter which has yielded evidence for Middle Palaeolithic human occupation. The sedimentary sequence has been analysed for lipid biomarker n-alkane abundances (ACL, CPI), compound specific leaf wax δ2H and δ13C, and bulk organic geochemistry (TOC, %N, %S), providing a record of past climate and local vegetation dynamics. Site formation processes have been reconstructed through the application of soil micromorphology. Analyses of anthracological, microvertebrate and macrofaunal assemblages from selected subunits are also presented here. (...)


Landscapes, environments and societies: The development of culture in Lower Palaeolithic Europe, di R. Davis, N. Ashton, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 56, December 2019, 101107

Identification of cultural groups is rare in the early Palaeolithic due to site formation processes including taphonomy and the effect of raw material and site function. This paper reviews a critical period in Europe at about 400 ka (MIS 11) when we may be able to identify such groups. This period, sees more sustained occupation and evidence of new technologies, including bone and wooden tools, hunting and fire-use. Importantly, brain size had begun to approach modern capacity. The fine-tuned record from Britain enables correlation of sites and new models of human behaviour to be developed. Millennial-scale changes in material culture can now be recognised, which can be interpreted as brief incursions by different cultural groups into Britain from mainland Europe. (...)


Rock art, performance and Palaeolithic cognitive systems. The example of the Grand Panel palimpsest of Cussac Cave, Dordogne, France, di V. Feruglio et alii, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 56, December 2019, 101104

This paper investigates the cognitive role of the palimpsest in cave art through the case of the Cussac Cave Grand Panel, the main engraved assemblage from this sepulchral and decorated site dated from the Middle Gravettian period (31,200–28,700 cal BP). The technical, thematic and formal unity of this monumental panel yields evidence of a short time-span for its creation. The accurate study of the superimpositions in situ and on a high resolution 3D model leads to the conception of a Harris matrix like model. It attests to a global structuring based on privileged themes interactions (taxa associations, animation and scale of depictions, relative chronology). Considering Cussac Cave Grand Panel palimpsest as a dynamic composition, the paper discusses agency and practice of accumulation in one place in Palaeolithic cave art. In the perspective of “art as action” the dynamic composition could be considered as a performance which raises the question of the audience. (...)


Social evolution in Plio-Pleistocene hominins: Insights from hamadryas baboons and paleoecology, di L. Swedell, T. Plummer, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 137, December 2019, 102667

Reconstructions of hominin evolution have long benefited from comparisons with nonhuman primates, especially baboons and chimpanzees. The hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas) is arguably one of the best such models, as it exhibits both the male kin bonding and the cross-sex pair bonding thought to have been important in hominin evolution. Here we link processes of behavioral evolution in hamadryas baboons with those in a Plio-Pleistocene hominin, provisionally identified as Homo erectus (sensu lato) – a pivotal species in that its larger body and brain size and wider ranging patterns increased female costs of reproduction, increasing the importance of sociality. The combination of these higher costs of reproduction and shifts in diet and food acquisition have previously been argued to have been alleviated either via strengthening of male-female bonds (involving male provisioning and the evolution of monogamy) or via the assistance of older, post-reproductive females (leading to post-reproductive longevity in females, i.e., the grandmother hypothesis). (...)


A new experimental methodology for assessing adhesive properties shows that Neandertals used the most suitable material available, di P. R. B. Kozowyk, J. A. Poulis, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 137, December 2019, 102664

The use of adhesives for hafting stone tools at least 191 ka was a major technological development. Stone tools could be more securely attached to handles, thus improving their efficiency and practicality. To produce functional adhesives required forethought and planning, as well as expertise and knowledge of the resources available in the landscape. This makes adhesives important in discussions about Neandertal and early modern human technological and mental capabilities. However, we currently know very little about how these early adhesive materials behaved under different circumstances, or why certain materials were used and others were not. Here we present the results of controlled laboratory bulk property tests (hardness, rheology and thermogravimetric analysis) on replica Paleolithic adhesives. (...)


Potential adaptations for bipedalism in the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae of Homo sapiens: A 3D comparative analysis, di K. Plomp et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 137, December 2019, 102693

A number of putative adaptations for bipedalism have been identified in the hominin spine. However, it is possible that some have been overlooked because only a few studies have used 3D and these studies have focused on cervical vertebrae. With this in mind, we used geometric morphometric techniques to compare the 3D shapes of three thoracic and two lumbar vertebrae of Homo sapiens, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, and Pongo pygmaeus. The study had two goals. One was to confirm the existence of traits previously reported to distinguish the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae of H. sapiens from those of the great apes. The other was to, if possible, identify hitherto undescribed traits that differentiate H. sapiens thoracic and lumbar vertebrae from those of the great apes. (...)


Subsistence strategies of Gravettian hunter–gatherers in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula: the case of level E of Arbreda Cave (Serinyà), di I. Rufí, L. Lloveras, J. Soler, N. Soler, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 11, issue 12, december 2019, pp. 6663–6688

The Gravettian covers a long period characterised by widely fluctuating climatic conditions that led to a diversity of subsistence strategies, which extended from the Iberian Atlantic coast to Siberia. Within this vast area, the northeast of Iberia acted as a transitional territory, between steppe–tundra in the northern regions and Iberian wooded steppe to the south. Owing to the small number of studies, subsistence during the Gravettian period in this region is not as yet well known. The Arbreda Cave site (Serinyà) preserves the largest and most detailed Palaeolithic stratigraphy of the Reclau Cave complex, providing the most accurate information about the changes that occurred from the Early Upper Pleistocene to the Holocene in the northeast Iberian Peninsula. Presented here is a detailed archaeozoological and taphonomic study of Iberian Middle Gravettian level E (c. 26–25 kyr 14C BP). Allowing for the possibility that density-mediated biases and post-burial bone attrition may have influenced the study, it appears to confirm that the rich faunal assemblage recovered at this level was primarily due to anthropogenic activities. On the contrary, the slight evidence of carnivore activity mainly consists of small prey. (...)


Onshore and offshore evidences for four abrupt “warming” episodes during MIS 6  at the westernmost tip of continental Europe: did they control the migrations of Neanderthals? di J. P. Lefort, G. A. Danukalova, F. Eynaud, J. L. Monniera, "Quaternary International", Volume 534, December 2019, Pages 103-115

The total shell production typical of the Pupilla association in the onshore site of Nantois (Brittany, France) evidenced for the first time four brief, abrupt, warm and humid episodes during the Upper Saalian (MIS 6) loess deposition. These “warming” events were also found in the marine deposits of the Celtic Sea (MD03-2692 core). Comparison with the variations of the sea-level, show that the “warming” episodes were not only of regional interest but corresponded to global events ruled by precession and insolation cycles. (...)


Upper Paleolithic site Tuyana – a multi-proxy record of sedimentation and environmental history during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene in the Tunka rift valley, Baikal region, di A. A. Shchetnikov et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 534, December 2019, Pages 138-157

The complex study of the 3.5-m thick section of the multi-genetic sediments of the Late Paleolithic Tuyana site (Tunka rift valley, Baikal region) resulted in a first detailed record of the change in environment and climate of the ancient humans’ habitation in the Tunka rift valley in Late Pleistocene and Holocene in the interval of >36 ka cal BP until Late Holocene. Sedimentation processes in the section are characterized by multiple remobilizations. Redeposition traces are most strongly expressed in МIS 3 sediments. Apparently, an intensive transient removal of slope sediments took place here at МIS 2. The common tendency of the natural environment and habitation conditions of the ancient humans in the Tunka valley show domination of the open and relatively dry tundra-steppe with areas of forests vegetation in the end of MIS 3, mostly dry steppes with limited forest-tundra and tundra associations in MIS 2 with the spread of boreal taiga in Holocene. (...)


The possible role of predator–prey dynamics as an influence on early hominin use of burned landscapes, di S. Hoare, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 28, Issue 6, November/December 2019, Pages 295-302

Foraging in burned areas has been suggested to represent the earliest stage in the use and control of fire by early hominins. Recently burned areas offer immediate foraging benefits including increased search efficiency for high-ranked food items and decreased hunting opportunities for ambush predators. As such, they provide a triple‐bonus (reduced risk from ambush, ease of terrestrial travel and higher foraging returns) for some primates. However, previous studies have not yet accounted for other types of predators e.g., coursing (endurance predators that can pursue prey over long distances) which were sympatric with hominins and may also have exploited these environments. (...)

  Oldowayen et Acheuléen, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 123, Issues 4–5, Pages 669-786 (November–December 2019):

- Stratégie d’acquisition de la matière première dans le site Oldowayen d’Ain Hanech (Étude Expérimentale comparative), di T. Merzouk, M. Rabhi

- An alternative scenario for the first human dispersal out of Africa, di J. Agustí, D. Lordkipanidze

- Sur quelques résultats d’études du Paléolithique inférieur au bord de la mer d'Azov (Russie), di V. E. Shchelinsky

- Le gisement acheuléen en contexte de doline de Revelles (Somme, France) et ses caractéristiques communes à l’Acheuléen méridional, di A. Lamotte et alii

- Why did the Acheulean happen? Experimental studies into the manufacture and function of Acheulean artifacts, di N. Toth, K. Schick

- Lithic Technology, typology and cross-regional comparison of Pleistocene lithic industries: Comment on the earliest evidence of Levallois in East Asia, di Y. Li, E. Boëda, H. Forestier, Y. Zhou

- Comptes rendus d’ouvrages, di C. Roubet


Inbreeding, Allee effects and stochasticity might be sufficient to account for Neanderthal extinction, di K. Vaesen, F. Scherjon, L. Hemerik, A. Verpoorte, November 27, 2019 doi: - free  access -

The replacement of Neanderthals by Anatomically Modern Humans has typically been attributed to environmental pressure or a superiority of modern humans with respect to competition for resources. Here we present two independent models that suggest that no such heatedly debated factors might be needed to account for the demise of Neanderthals. Starting from the observation that Neanderthal populations already were small before the arrival of modern humans, the models implement three factors that conservation biology identifies as critical for a small population’s persistence, namely inbreeding, Allee effects and stochasticity. Our results indicate that the disappearance of Neanderthals might have resided in the smallness of their population(s) alone: even if they had been identical to modern humans in their cognitive, social and cultural traits, and even in the absence of inter-specific competition, Neanderthals faced a considerable risk of extinction. Furthermore, we suggest that if modern humans contributed to the demise of Neanderthals, that contribution might have had nothing to do with resource competition, but rather with how the incoming populations geographically restructured the resident populations, in a way that reinforced Allee effects, and the effects of inbreeding and stochasticity. (...)


Anterior tooth-use behaviors among early modern humans and Neandertals, di K. L. Krueger, J. C. Willman, G. J. Matthews, J. J. Hublin, A. Pérez-Pérez, November 27, 2019 doi: - free  access -

Early modern humans (EMH) are often touted as behaviorally advanced to Neandertals, with more sophisticated technologies, expanded resource exploitation, and more complex clothing production. However, recent analyses have indicated that Neandertals were more nuanced in their behavioral adaptations, with the production of the Châtelperronian technocomplex, the processing and cooking of plant foods, and differences in behavioral adaptations according to habitat. This study adds to this debate by addressing the behavioral strategies of EMH (n = 30) within the context of non-dietary anterior tooth-use behaviors to glean possible differences between them and their Neandertal (n = 45) counterparts. High-resolution casts of permanent anterior teeth were used to collect microwear textures of fossil and comparative bioarchaeological samples using a Sensofar white-light confocal profiler with a 100x objective lens. Labial surfaces were scanned, totaling a work envelope of 204 x 276 μm for each individual. The microwear textures were examined for post-mortem damage and uploaded to SSFA software packages for surface characterization. Statistical analyses were performed to examine differences in central tendencies and distributions of anisotropy and textural fill volume variables among the EMH sample itself by habitat, location, and time interval, and between the EMH and Neandertal samples by habitat and location. Descriptive statistics for the EMH sample were compared to seven bioarchaeological samples (n = 156) that utilized different tooth-use behaviors to better elucidate specific activities that may have been performed by EMH. Results show no significant differences between the means within the EMH sample by habitat, location, or time interval. Furthermore, there are no significant differences found here between EMH and Neandertals. Comparisons to the bioarchaeological samples suggest both fossil groups participated in clamping and grasping activities. These results indicate that EMH and Neandertals were similar in their non-dietary anterior tooth-use behaviors and provide additional evidence for overlapping behavioral strategies employed by these two hominins. (...)


The exploitation of rabbits for food and pelts by last interglacial Neandertals, di M. Pelletier et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 224, 15 November 2019, 105972

The exploitation of small game, especially rabbits, by Neandertals as sources of food or for utilitarian purposes is no longer a subject of debate given increasing evidence for such practices in Europe from the Middle Paleolithic onwards. Instead, focus is now on whether rabbits were an occasional prey or were fully integrated into the socio-economic system of these human groups. Here we address this issue based on a detailed analysis of rabbit remains from the Mousterian deposits of Pié Lombard (Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Alpes-Maritimes, France). Dated to the last interglacial period (Marine Isotope Stage 5), rabbit remains (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are the most abundant species throughout the site's Mousterian sequence. Our multi-aspect taphonomical analysis combining mortality profiles, skeletal-part representation, breakage patterns, and bone surface modifications revealed a high incidence of human involvement, demonstrating the rabbit assemblage from Pié Lombard to have been primarily accumulated by Neandertals. (...)


Human origins in a southern African palaeo-wetland and first migrations, di E. K. F. Chan et alii, "Nature", volume 575, issue 7781, 7 november 2019, pages 185–189

Anatomically modern humans originated in Africa around 200 thousand years ago (ka). Although some of the oldest skeletal remains suggest an eastern African origin2, southern Africa is home to contemporary populations that represent the earliest branch of human genetic phylogeny. Here we generate, to our knowledge, the largest resource for the poorly represented and deepest-rooting maternal L0 mitochondrial DNA branch (198 new mitogenomes for a total of 1,217 mitogenomes) from contemporary southern Africans and show the geographical isolation of L0d1’2, L0k and L0g KhoeSan descendants south of the Zambezi river in Africa. By establishing mitogenomic timelines, frequencies and dispersals, we show that the L0 lineage emerged within the residual Makgadikgadi–Okavango palaeo-wetland of southern Africa7, approximately 200 ka (95% confidence interval, 240–165 ka). (...)


Disease transmission and introgression can explain the long-lasting contact zone of modern humans and Neanderthals, di G. Greenbaum, W. M. Getz, N. A. Rosenberg, M. W. Feldman, E. Hovers, O. Kolodny, "Nature Communications", volume 10, Article number: 5003 (2019), 01 November 2019 - free  access -

Neanderthals and modern humans both occupied the Levant for tens of thousands of years prior to the spread of modern humans into the rest of Eurasia and their replacement of the Neanderthals. That the inter-species boundary remained geographically localized for so long is a puzzle, particularly in light of the rapidity of its subsequent movement. Here, we propose that infectious-disease dynamics can explain the localization and persistence of the inter-species boundary. We further propose, and support with dynamical-systems models, that introgression-based transmission of alleles related to the immune system would have gradually diminished this barrier to pervasive inter-species interaction, leading to the eventual release of the inter-species boundary from its geographic localization. Asymmetries between the species in the characteristics of their associated ‘pathogen packages’ could have generated feedback that allowed modern humans to overcome disease burden earlier than Neanderthals, giving them an advantage in their subsequent spread into Eurasia. (...)


The Châtelperronian Neanderthals of Cova Foradada (Calafell, Spain) used imperial eagle phalanges for symbolic purposes, di A. Rodríguez-Hidalgo et alii, "Science Advances", 01 Nov 2019: Vol. 5, no. 11, eaax1984 - free  access -

Evidence for the symbolic behavior of Neanderthals in the use of personal ornaments is relatively scarce. Among the few ornaments documented, eagle talons, which were presumably used as pendants, are the most frequently recorded. This phenomenon appears concentrated in a specific area of southern Europe during a span of 80 thousand years. Here, we present the analysis of one eagle pedal phalange recovered from the Châtelperronian layer of Foradada Cave (Spain). Our research broadens the known geographical and temporal range of this symbolic behavior, providing the first documentation of its use among the Iberian populations, as well as of its oldest use in the peninsula. The recurrent appearance of large raptor talons throughout the Middle Paleolithic time frame, including their presence among the last Neanderthal populations, raises the question of the survival of some cultural elements of the Middle Paleolithic into the transitional Middle to Upper Paleolithic assemblages and beyond. (...)


Experimental lithic tool displacement due to long-term animal disturbance, di B. J. Schoville, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 11, issue 11, november 2019, pages 5879–5891

Controlled experiments in lithic technology tend to focus on controlling the human component of lithic tool manufacturing and use; however, animal disturbance can move and alter artifacts in non-random ways, thus altering the behavioral meaning assigned to artifacts and their contexts. The patterning visible in archeological debris on a horizontal plane can provide evidence for activity zones, pathways, and site formation processes. While the effects of trampling actors on the vertical displacement of artifacts have shown that artifacts can be dramatically displaced, the horizontal movement due to trampling is relatively less studied, particularly the effect over extended time periods. (...)


Understanding Neanderthal technological adaptation at Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter (Spain) by measuring lithic raw materials performance variability, di A. Abrunhosa et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 11, issue 11, november 2019, pages 5949–5962

Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter is an Upper Pleistocene archaeological site in the Lozoya River Valley (Madrid, Spain) with a quartz-based Mousterian lithic assemblage. To understand the reasons behind an intense use of quartz over flint and quartzite, a mechanical experiment was carried out. Flakes from flint, quartzite, and local quartz were tested under controlled conditions and quantifiable variables. The mechanical action consisted in a standardised linear repetitive cutting protocol over antler and pine wood. Results allowed to differentiate flake resistance between raw materials through mass and edge angle material loss statistics. Results also showed that the edges produced on flint are sharper allowing to create deeper cuts, but the thin working edges break more easily meaning that they would need a higher maintenance by retouch. (...)

  Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 136, November 2019


- Feathers and food: Human-bird interactions at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave, Israel, di R. Blasco, J. Rosell, A. Sánchez-Marco, A. Gopher, R. Barkai

- Femoral neck cortical bone distribution of dryopithecin apes and the evolution of hominid locomotion, di M. Pina, D. M. Alba, S. Moyà-Solà, S. Almécija

- The deciduous dentition of Homo naledi: A comparative study, di S. E. Bailey, J. K. Brophy, J. Moggi-Cecchi, L. K. Delezene

- The cochlea of the Sima de los Huesos hominins (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain): New insights into cochlear evolution in the genus Homo, di M. Conde-Valverde et alii

- Structural analysis of premolar roots in Middle Pleistocene hominins from China, di L. Pan, J. Dumoncel, A. Mazurier, C. Zanolli

- A late Miocene hominid partial pelvis from Hungary, di C. V. Ward, A. S. Hammond, J. M. Plavcan, D. R. Begun


How Australopithecus provided insight into human evolution, di D. Falk, "Nature news", 29 OCTOBER 2019

Australian-born Raymond Dart had barely started his job as chair of the anatomy department of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, when he made a momentous discovery. Using his wife’s knitting needles, he painstakingly extracted a fossil (Fig. 1) from a chunk of rock found in Taungs (now known as Taung), South Africa. As he recalled1, “the rock parted … What emerged was a baby’s face, an infant with a full set of milk teeth … I doubt if there was any parent prouder of his offspring than I was of my ‘Taungs baby’ on that Christmas of 1924.” Better yet, the fossil fitted neatly with another type of fossil, called an endocast, formed from sediments accumulated inside the skull. The endocast reflects brain-surface details stamped on the braincase’s inner walls. These fossils revealed a combination of ape-like and human-like features never previously reported together. Convinced that the specimen, called the Taung Child, represented an extinct link between humans and our ape ancestors, Dart dispatched a report2 to Nature by mail boat. He probably felt some trepidation because several fellows of the Royal Society in London, who had mentored and taught with him, considered the human forerunner to be the British specimen known as Piltdown Man (which was later exposed as a hoax). Piltdown Man’s human-sized brain and ape-like jaw contrasted with the Taung Child’s ape-sized brain and human-like jaw and teeth. In Dart’s view, the Taung Child looked more primitive and older than the main existing candidates for the earliest ancestral human relative — Piltdown Man and Java Man (Homo erectus) from Indonesia. Dart therefore described the Taung Child as a ‘man-ape’ rather than an ‘ape-man’, like Java Man, and named the species Australopithecus africanus, which means southern ape from Africa. (...)


Evidence for independent brain and neurocranial reorganization during hominin evolution, di J. L. Alatorre Warren et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 29 October 2019, vol. 116, n. 44

Human brains differ substantially from those of great apes, and equally important differences exist between their braincases. However, it remains unclear to which extent evolutionary changes in brain structure are related to changes in braincase structure. To study this question, we use combined computed tomography (CT) and MRI head data of humans and chimpanzees and quantify the spatial correlations between brain sulci and cranial sutures. We show that the human brain–braincase relationships are unique compared to chimpanzees and other great apes and that structural rearrangements in the brain and in the braincase emerged independently during human evolution. These data serve as an important frame of reference to identify and quantify evolutionary changes in brain and braincase structures in fossil hominin endocasts. (...)


Middle Paleolithic complex technology and a Neandertal tar-backed tool from the Dutch North Sea, di M. J. L. Th. Niekus et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 29 October 2019, vol. 116, n. 44

We report the discovery of a 50,000-y-old Neandertal tar-hafted flint tool found off the present-day Dutch coastline. The production of birch tar adhesives was a major technological development, demonstrating complex Neandertal technology and advanced cognitive ability. The rarity of Middle Paleolithic adhesive finds makes each new discovery crucial for improving our understanding of Neandertal lifeways. We demonstrate that birch tar was a routine part of the Neandertal technological repertoire. In addition, the complex know-how required for adhesive production in northwestern Europe during Marine Isotope Stage 4 and 3 was maintained in small groups leading highly mobile lives. This suggests a degree of task specialization and supports the hypothesis that ecological risk drives the development of complex technology. (...)


Tar adhesives, Neandertals, and the tyranny of the discontinuous mind, di J. Zilhão, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 29 October 2019, vol. 116, n. 44

Were the builders of Stonehenge and the painters of Altamira (Fig. 1) cognitively and behaviorally like present-day humans? Did those prehistoric people have language? In the absence of writing, these never-asked questions cannot be answered with direct evidence. However, we take it for granted that, yes, they were, and they did. We do so because we instinctively know that such works require the capacity for abstract thought, deep foresight, and sophisticated communication. In current scientific discourse, this “complex” cognition is set against the simpler modes that can be observed in other species and are assumed to also have characterized our nonhuman ancestors. (...)


Experts question study claiming to pinpoint birthplace of all humans, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", Oct. 28, 2019

A new genetic study suggests all modern humans trace our ancestry to a single spot in southern Africa 200,000 years ago. But experts say the study, which analyzes the DNA of living people, is not nearly comprehensive enough to pinpoint where our species arose. “I’m persuaded that southern Africa was an important area for human evolution,” says population geneticist Aylwyn Scally of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom who was not involved with the work. But, he says, studies of living people’s DNA can’t reveal the precise location of our ancestors. “It would be astonishing if all our genetic ancestry at this time arose in one small homeland.”. Modern humans arose in Africa at least 250,000 to 300,000 years ago, fossils and DNA reveal. But scientists have been unable to pinpoint a more specific homeland because the earliest Homo sapiens fossils are found across Africa, and ancient DNA from African fossils is scarce and not old enough. (...)


Early hominins evolved within non-analog ecosystems, di J. Tyler Faith, J. Rowan, A. Du, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 22 October 2019, vol. 116, n. 43

Testing ecological hypotheses of human evolution requires an understanding of the ancient plant and animal communities within which our ancestors lived. Though present-day ecosystems provide the baseline for reconstructing the ecological context of human evolution, the extent to which modern ecosystems are representative of past ones is unknown. Through analyses of a fossil dataset spanning the last 7 Myr, we show that eastern African communities of large-bodied mammalian herbivores differed markedly from those today until ~700,000 y ago. Because large herbivores are ecosystem engineers and shape biotic communities in ways that impact a wide variety of species, this implies that the vast majority of early human evolution transpired in the context of ecosystems that functioned unlike any known today. (...)


Genetic contributions to variation in human stature in prehistoric Europe, di S. L. Cox, C. B. Ruff,  R. M. Maier, I. Mathieson, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 22 October 2019, vol. 116, n. 43

Measurements of prehistoric human skeletal remains provide a record of changes in height and other anthropometric traits over time. Often, these changes are interpreted in terms of plastic developmental response to shifts in diet, climate, or other environmental factors. These changes can also be genetic in origin, but, until recently, it has been impossible to separate the effects of genetics and environment. Here, we use ancient DNA to directly estimate genetic changes in phenotypes and to identify changes driven not by genetics, but by environment. We show that changes over the past 35,000 y are largely predicted by genetics but also identify specific shifts that are more likely to be environmentally driven. (...)


Aggiornamento 21 ottobre

  Pleistocene landslides and mammoth bone deposits: The case of Dolní Věstonice II, Czech Republic, di J. Svoboda, O. Krejčí, V. Krejčí, A. Dohnalová, S. Sázelová, J. Wilczyński, P. Wojtal, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 34, Issue 6, November/December 2019, Pages 745-758

The formation of extensive mammoth bone deposits is a characteristic feature of the large Upper Paleolithic settlements of the Moravian Gravettian (approximately 30 ky cal BP). Some of these were preferentially deposited in moist locations, possibly for reasons of hygiene and conservation. Here, we present a case of a mammoth bone deposit located in a side gully below the Dolní Věstonice II settlement, where an earlier a Pleistocene landslide temporarily created a shallow water basin. (...)

  Human occupation of northern Europe in MIS 13: Happisburgh Site 1 (Norfolk, UK) and its European context: A response to Lewis et al. (2019), di P. L. Gibbard, P. D. Hughes, R. G. West, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 223, 1 November 2019, 105844

This comment concerns the article by Lewis et al. (2019). We do not question the detail of the Happisburgh site sequence, but the stratigraphical significance, the regional correlations and the age of certain localities with which the Happisburgh 1 sequence is equated by these authors. In particular we question the correlation with sequences at Warren Hill (Three Hills) and High Lodge in Suffolk since detailed research has demonstrated that they are neither the same age nor of the origin stated in the original article. We also question the correlation of disparate geological sequences on the basis of their artefactual contents; an approach long considered to be inappropriate. (...)

  Human occupation of Northern Europe in MIS 13: a response to comments by Gibbard et al. (2019), di S. G. Lewis, N. Ashton, P. G. Hoare, S. Parfitt, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 223, 1 November 2019, 105851

In a recent paper (Lewis et al., 2019) we reported the results of geological and archaeological investigations at Happisburgh Site 1. We also considered the significance of the site for understanding the human occupation of northern Europe during the early Middle Pleistocene. In a comment on the paper, Gibbard et al. (2019) raise a number of issues concerning lithostratigraphic terminology, the age of the deposits at Site 1, and the wider regional context of the Site 1 archaeological assemblage. (...)

  Evidence of ritual breakage of a ground stone tool at the Late Natufian site of Hilazon Tachtit cave (12,000 years ago), di L. Dubreuil, A. Ovadia, R. Shahack-Gross, L. Grosman, October 16, 2019, doi: - free  access -

Destruction of valuables is a common behavior in human history. Ethnographic data show the polysemic, but fundamentally symbolic, nature of this act. Yet, research aimed at exploring symbolic destruction in prehistoric societies has underlined the difficulties in establishing unambiguous evidence for such behaviour. We present here the analysis of a basalt tool fragment which provides evidence for intentional breakage associated with ritual activity 12,000 years ago. The tool fragment was part of a unique assemblage of grave goods deposited in a burial pit of a woman suggested to have been a shaman (Hilazon Tachtit cave, Southern Levant). The reconstruction of the artefact’s life history through morphological, 3D, use wear, residue and contextual analyses suggest that: 1) the fragment was initially part of a shallow bowl used for mixing ash or lime with water; 2) the bowl was subsequently intentionally broken through flaking along multiple axes; 3) The bowl was not used after its breakage but placed in a cache before the interment of the deceased, accompanied with other special items. The broken bowl fragment underlines the ritualistic nature of the act of breakage in the Natufian society. The research presented in this paper provides an important window into Natufian ritual behaviour during the critical period of transformation to agricultural communities. In addition, our results offer new insight into practices related to intentional destruction of valuables associated with death-related ceremonies at the end of the Palaeolithic. (...)

  Evidence for independent brain and neurocranial reorganization during hominin evolution, di J. L. Alatorre Warren, M. S. Ponce de León, W. D. Hopkins, C. P. E. Zollikofer, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Early edition", October 14, 2019, - free  access -

Throughout hominin evolution, the brain of our ancestors underwent a 3-fold increase in size and substantial structural reorganization. However, inferring brain reorganization from fossil hominin neurocrania (=braincases) remains a challenge, above all because comparative data relating brain to neurocranial structures in living humans and great apes are still scarce. Here we use MRI and same-subject spatially aligned computed tomography (CT) and MRI data of humans and chimpanzees to quantify the spatial relationships between these structures, both within and across species. Results indicate that evolutionary changes in brain and neurocranial structures are largely independent of each other. The brains of humans compared to chimpanzees exhibit a characteristic posterior shift of the inferior pre- and postcentral gyri, indicative of reorganization of the frontal opercular region. Changes in human neurocranial structure do not reflect cortical reorganization. Rather, they reflect constraints related to increased encephalization and obligate bipedalism, resulting in relative enlargement of the parietal bones and anterior displacement of the cerebellar fossa. This implies that the relative position and size of neurocranial bones, as well as overall endocranial shape (e.g., globularity), should not be used to make inferences about evolutionary changes in the relative size or reorganization of adjacent cortical regions of fossil hominins. (...)

  More data needed for claims about the earliest Oldowan artifacts, di Y. Sahle, T. Gossa, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", October 8, 2019, n. 116 (41), pp. 20259-20260

Recent claims about early tool making and use have proved controversial (1–4). In PNAS, Braun et al. (5) report Oldowan artifacts from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia. The claimed minimum age of 2.581 Ma for these artifacts would, even if accurate, imply a marginally older beginning for the Oldowan than the ~2.58 Ma previously established ~35 km to the west at Gona (6). While the Ledi-Geraru assemblage is a welcome addition to the limited number of early Oldowan occurrences, its bearing on our current understanding of the earliest tools and their makers (6, 7) is contingent on the accuracy of the inferred chronological placement and technological interpretations. (...)

  Reply to Sahle and Gossa: Technology and geochronology at the earliest known Oldowan site at Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, di D. R. Braun et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", October 8, 2019, n. 116 (41), pp. 20261-20262

Sahle and Gossa (1) identify 2 components of our paper with which they disagree. Their concerns are based on misunderstandings of our paleomagnetic data and the published details of the Bokol Dora 1 (BD 1) artifact assemblage. The normal paleomagnetic sequence at BD 1 cannot represent the Reunion subchron [2.128 to 2.148 Ma (2)]. This would require one or more of the following scenarios: 1) The age of the Ali Toyta Tuff (ATT) is ~0.5 My too old. There is no evidence to support this in the 40Ar/39Ar data; the 95% confidence interval places a minimum age of 2.55 Ma on the juvenile feldspar population. 2) The ATT feldspars were reworked from older eruptions and are unassociated with the vitric component. Geochemical analyses of ~150 glass shards demonstrate that the ATT has a single, homogenous population (3) indicating no incorporation of additional tephra. (...)

  Early hominins evolved within non-analog ecosystems, di J. T. Faith, J. Rowan, A. Du, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Early edition", October 7, 2019 - free  access -

Present-day African ecosystems serve as referential models for conceptualizing the environmental context of early hominin evolution, but the degree to which modern ecosystems are representative of those in the past is unclear. A growing body of evidence from eastern Africa’s rich and well-dated late Cenozoic fossil record documents communities of large-bodied mammalian herbivores with ecological structures differing dramatically from those of the present day, implying that modern communities may not be suitable analogs for the ancient ecosystems of hominin evolution. To determine when and why the ecological structure of eastern Africa’s herbivore faunas came to resemble those of the present, here we analyze functional trait changes in a comprehensive dataset of 305 modern and fossil herbivore communities spanning the last ∼7 Myr. We show that nearly all communities prior to ~700 ka were functionally non-analog, largely due to a greater richness of non-ruminants and megaherbivores (species >1,000 kg). The emergence of functionally modern communities precedes that of taxonomically modern communities by 100,000s of years, and can be attributed to the combined influence of Plio-Pleistocene C4 grassland expansion and pulses of aridity after ~1 Ma. Given the disproportionate ecological impacts of large-bodied herbivores on factors such as vegetation structure, hydrology, and fire regimes, it follows that the vast majority of early hominin evolution transpired in the context of ecosystems that functioned unlike any today. Identifying how past ecosystems differed compositionally and functionally from those today is key to conceptualizing ancient African environments and testing ecological hypotheses of hominin evolution. (...)

  Correction: Hafting of Middle Paleolithic tools in Latium (central Italy): New data from Fossellone and Sant’Agostino caves, The PLOS ONE Staff, October 3, 2019, doi:

An incorrect version of Fig 1 was published in error. Additionally, a Supporting Information file was incorrectly included in the originally published article. The publisher apologizes for these errors. This article was republished on September 27, 2019 to correct for these errors. Please download this article again to view the correct version.


A Neanderthal from the Central Western Zagros, Iran. Structural reassessment of the Wezmeh 1 maxillary premolar, di C. Zanolli et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 135, October 2019, 102643

Wezmeh Cave, in the Kermanshah region of Central Western Zagros, Iran, produced a Late Pleistocene faunal assemblage rich in carnivorans along with a human right maxillary premolar, Wezmeh 1, an unerupted tooth from an 8 ± 2 year-old individual. Uranium-series analyses of the fauna by alpha spectrometry provided age estimates between 70 and 11 ka. Crown dimensions place the tooth specimen at the upper limits of Late Pleistocene human ranges of variation. Wezmeh 1 metameric position (most likely a P3) remains uncertain and only its surficial morphology has been described so far. Accordingly, we used microfocus X-ray tomography (12.5 μm isotropic voxel size) to reassess the metameric position and taxonomic attribution of this specimen. We investigated its endostructural features and quantified crown tissue proportions. (...)


Lithic technology, chronology, and marine shells from Wadi Aghar, southern Jordan, and Initial Upper Paleolithic behaviors in the southern inland Levant, di S. Kadowaki et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 135, October 2019, 102646

The Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) temporally overlaps with the range expansion of Homo sapiens populations in various parts of Eurasia and is often considered a key archaeological phase for investigating behavioral changes from the Middle Paleolithic. This paper reports upon new data from IUP occupations at Wadi Aghar, a rock shelter site in the southern Levant. In combining the results of radiometric dates and lithic analyses, we clarify the chronological and cultural position of Wadi Aghar assemblages in the Levantine IUP. As for the records about mobility, on-site activities, and resource procurement behaviors, we present analyses of lithic use-wear, tool-type composition, soil micromorphology, and marine shells. The lithic analyses and the optically stimulated luminescence (and subsidiary radiocarbon) dating of the Wadi Aghar materials suggest their chronocultural position in the IUP (45–40 ka for Layers C–D1; 39–36 ka for Layer B; possibly 50 ka for Layer D2), providing the southernmost location for the IUP in Eurasia. (...)


The shift from typical Western European Late Acheulian to microproduction in unit ‘D’ of the late Middle Pleistocene deposits of the Caune de l’Arago (Pyrénées-Orientales, France), di D. Barsky, A. M. Moigne, V. Poi, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 135, October 2019, 102650

Stratigraphic Unit D levels of the Caune de l’Arago (Pyrénées-Orientales, France), situated in the upper part of the depositional sequence of Ensemble Stratigraphique III (ES III), has yielded a rich Acheulian archeopaleontological record dated to the Middle Pleistocene. The site's infill, dated from 690 to 90 ka, encloses a thick cultural sequence comprising some of the oldest evidence of Acheulian documented so far in Western Europe (Unit P levels). The deposits contain successive occupation layers with abundant faunal remains, stone artifacts, and sometimes hominin remains attributed to Homo erectus tautavelensis. The Unit D levels are chronostratigraphically positioned at the top of the ES III sequence, accumulated at the end of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 12. The Unit D lithic assemblage shows no evidence of Levallois knapping strategies. (...)


A revision of the conductive hearing loss in Cranium 4 from the Middle Pleistocene site of Sima de los Huesos (Burgos, Spain), di M. Conde-Valverde et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 135, October 2019, 102663

Pathological conditions have been previously documented in the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos hominins from northern Spain, and several of these have clear behavioral implications. Within this fossil assemblage, Cranium 4 shows bilateral external auditory exostoses which have been preliminarily interpreted as causing a significant hearing loss in this individual. If confirmed, this would be the oldest recorded case of deafness in human history and could have important implications for the antiquity of this condition, as well as social interactions. To further investigate this case, the current study presents 3D reconstructions of the entire outer and middle ear, based on computed tomography scans of both temporal bones in Cranium 4. We established the degree of stenosis in both external auditory canals, showing that in both cases the degree of stenosis is less than 52% of the original cross-sectional area of each canal. (...)

  Innovative Neanderthals: Results from an integrated analytical approach applied to backed stone tools, di D. Delpiano, A. Zupancich, M. Peresani, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 110, October 2019, 105011

The production of prepared backed artifacts during the Paleolithic is recognized as an important step in the design of stone tools for manual activities and the development of human tool ergonomics. Backed artifacts are generally identified as proxies of so-called “modern” behavior, partly because they tend to be associated with systematic hafting, but mostly because they are widespread within Middle Stone Age (MSA) or Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) assemblages attributed to anatomically modern humans. However, in Europe these tools were first manufactured by Neanderthal groups associated with the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MAT) techno-complex and Discoid and Levallois technologies, using a range of flake blanks. Investigating the reasons for this behavioral leap forward can help to unravel the development and diffusion of various aspects defining the behavioral complexity of Paleolithic humans. In this paper we present a detailed analysis of one of the oldest and richest collections of prepared backed items preserved in Europe. (...)

  Root caries on a Paranthropus robustus third molar from Drimolen, di I. Towle, A. Riga, J. D. Irish, I. Dori, C. Menter, J. Moggi-Cecchi, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume170, Issue2, October 2019, Pages 319-323

Dental caries is often perceived as a modern human disease. However, their presence is documented in many early human groups, various nonhuman primates and, increasingly, our hominin ancestors and relatives. In this study, we describe an antemortem lesion on the root of a Paranthropus robustus third molar from Drimolen, South Africa, which likely represents another example of caries in fossil hominins.
The molar, DNH 40, is dated to 2.0–1.5 Ma and displays a lesion on the mesial root surface, extending from the cementoenamel junction 3 mm down toward the apex. The position and severity of the lesion was macroscopically recorded and micro-CT scanned to determine the extent of dentine involvement. (...)

  The Gravettian child mandible from El Castillo Cave (Puente Viesgo, Cantabria, Spain), di M. D. Garralda, J. M. Maíllo‐Fernández, T. Higham, A. Neira, F. Bernaldo de Quirós, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 170, Issue 3, November 2019, Pages 331-350

This article documents an incomplete child's mandible found in H. Obermaier's excavation campaign (in 1912) in El Castillo Cave, Spain. This fossil was assigned to what was then considered a phase of the “Aurignacian-delta”.
We exhaustively analyzed the original Obermaier documents, with particular attention to those corresponding to the year of the discovery. We extracted a bone sample to radiocarbon date the fossil directly. We also followed established methods to measure, describe and compare the mandible with other human remains.

  European Upper Palaeolithic cultural taxa: better off without them?, di J. J. Shea, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 371, October 2019, pp. 1359-1361
  House of cards: cultural taxonomy and the study of the European Upper Palaeolithic, di N. Reynolds, F. Riede, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 371, October 2019, pp. 1350-1358

A fundamental element of Upper Palaeolithic archaeological practice is cultural taxonomy—the definition and description of taxonomic units that group assemblages according to their material culture and geographic and chronological distributions. The derived taxonomies, such as Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian, are used as units of analysis in many research questions and interpretations. (...)

  Cultural taxonomy for the European Upper Palaeolithic: a wide-ranging problem, di E. M. L. Scerri, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 371, October 2019 , pp. 1362-1364
  Galisonian logic devices and data availability: revitalising Upper Palaeolithic cultural taxonomies, di B. Marwick, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 371, October 2019, pp. 1365-1367
  Reject or revive? The crisis of cultural taxonomy in the European Upper Palaeolithic and beyond, di N. Reynolds, F. Riede, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 371, October 2019, pp. 1368-1370

Investigating the use of Paleolithic perforated batons: new evidence from Gough’s Cave (Somerset, UK), di C. Lucas, J. Galway-Witham, C. B. Stringer, S. M. Bello, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", October 2019, Volume 11, Issue 10, pp 5231–5255

Perforated batons, usually made from a segment of antler and formed of a sub-cylindrical shaft and at least one perforation, have been documented across Europe from sites throughout the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic. The function of perforated batons is still debated. We present here three Magdalenian perforated batons from the site of Gough’s Cave (Somerset, UK); these are unique to Britain and represent an important northern example of this artifact type. Our technological analysis revealed that the Gough’s Cave perforated batons did not have a purely symbolic purpose, but were clearly used as tools as demonstrated by extensive use-wear on the perforations’ edges and ancient fractures across both the distal parts and the shafts. The reconstruction of the chaîne opératoire suggests that the engraving of the deep curved lines within the perforation of each baton was a functional re-adjustment following the significant distortion of the perforation by use. (...)

  A Mousterian Engraved Bone: Principles of Perception in Middle Paleolithic Art, di D. Shaham, A. Belfer-Cohen, R. Rabinovich, N. Goren-Inbar, "Current Anthropology", Volume 60, Number 5, October 2019, pp. 708–716

The appearance of art as a constant component of human culture is attributed to several Upper Paleolithic traditions. The record of earlier artistic manifestations is rather scanty and chronogeographically varied, although crucial for studies of human behavioral evolution. Here we describe an engraved bone from the Middle Paleolithic site of Quneitra, depicting an image similar to that of another artwork found in the same layer. (...)

  Bone marrow storage and delayed consumption at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave, Israel (420 to 200 ka), R. Blasco et alii, "Science Advances", 09 Oct 2019: Vol. 5, no. 10, eaav9822 - free  access -

Bone marrow and grease constitute an important source of nutrition and have attracted the attention of human groups since prehistoric times. Marrow consumption has been linked to immediate consumption following the procurement and removal of soft tissues. Here, we present the earliest evidence for storage and delayed consumption of bone marrow at Qesem Cave, Israel (~420 to 200 ka). By using experimental series controlling exposure time and environmental parameters, combined with chemical analyses, we evaluated bone marrow preservation. The combination of archaeological and experimental results allowed us to isolate specific marks linked to dry skin removal and determine a low rate of marrow fat degradation of up to 9 weeks of exposure. This is the earliest evidence of such previously unidentified behavior, and it offers insights into the socio-economy of the human groups who lived at Qesem and may mark a threshold to new modes of Palaeolithic human adaptation. (...)

  Earliest occupation of the Central Aegean (Naxos), Greece: Implications for hominin and Homo sapiens’ behavior and dispersals, di T. Carter et alii, "Science Advances", 16 Oct 2019: Vol. 5, no. 10, eaax0997 - free  access -

We present evidence of Middle Pleistocene activity in the central Aegean Basin at the chert extraction and reduction complex of Stelida (Naxos, Greece). Luminescence dating places ~9000 artifacts in a stratigraphic sequence from ~13 to 200 thousand years ago (ka ago). These artifacts include Mousterian products, which arguably provide first evidence for Neanderthals in the region. This dated material attests to a much earlier history of regional exploration than previously believed, opening the possibility of alternative routes into Southeast Europe from Anatolia (and Africa) for (i) hominins, potentially during sea level lowstands (e.g., Marine Isotope Stage 8) permitting terrestrial crossings across the Aegean, and (ii) Homo sapiens of the Early Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian), conceivably by sea. (...)


Utilization of mammoth resources and occupation of the Dniester-Prut basin territory: The Upper Palaeolithic site of Valea Morilor (Republic of Moldova), di L. Demay, T. Obadă, S. Péan, A. Prepeliţă, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 222, 15 October 2019, 105898

Within the East European Plain, the Podolian Upland have been heavily settled by palaeolithic human populations. We focus here about the extra-Carpathian area, particularly the Prut-Dniester basin during Upper Pleniglacial, to better understand Upper Palaeolithic cultures. Moreover there are few sites related to the Last Glacial Maximum. That is why the faunal material from Valea Morilor could provide further information. We study the use of natural resources, in particular of animal origin, to inform the strategies of occupation of the territories, placed in their palaeoecological framework. We use zooarchaeological methods to determine the faunal spectrum, mortality profiles of animals, their anatomical representation in relation with taphonomic processes and palaeoethnography to restore the involvement of humanactivities. (...)


Drivers of Late Pleistocene human survival and dispersal: an agent-based modeling and machine learning approach, di A. R. Vahdati et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 221, 1 October 2019, 105867

Understanding Late Pleistocene human dispersals from Africa requires understanding a multifaceted problem with factors varying in space and time, such as climate, ecology, human behavior, and population dynamics. To understand how these factors interact to affect human survival and dispersal, we have developed a realistic agent-based model that includes geographic features, climate change, and time-varying vegetation and food resources. To enhance computational efficiency, we further apply machine learning algorithms. Our approach is new in that it is designed to systematically evaluate a large-scale agent-based model, and identify its key parameters and sensitivities. (...)


Neanderthals at the frontier? Geological potential of southwestern South Scandinavia as archive of Pleistocene human occupation, di T. Kellberg Nielsen, S. Munch, K. Felix Riede, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 221, 1 October 2019, 105870

Preservation and exposure of sediments is a prerequisite for finding archaeological traces. Regional geological history plays a significant and potentially biasing role in the reconstruction of the biogeographical distribution of Pleistocene hominins, particularly in previously glaciated regions. Here we present a digital geoarchaeological approach to a qualitative assessment of this archaeological bias in southwestern South Scandinavia. First, we identify time periods where the region was accessible and suitable for past humans. Our results show that only the longer Pleistocene interstadials offered terrestrial access in combination with potentially suitable habitats. Second, we present an extended digital geoarchaeological prospection of lacustrine, fluvial and palaeosol deposits and relict landscape features. (...)


Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site – A mammoth skeleton at a rare and controversial Plio-Pleistocene site along the mammal migration route out of Africa, di R. Rabinovich et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 221, 1 October 2019, 105885

Early sites along the Dead Sea Transform (southern Levant), among them the Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site, are key points in understanding hominin and mammal migration out of Africa and into Eurasia. The late Prof. Tchernov had begun an intensive campaign to expose the faunal remains at the site, but unfortunately was unable to conclude his study. Based on interim reports and geomorphological descriptions, we were aware of numerous elephant remains found and left in situ. The Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site is a controversial site. There are those who see it as the earliest Pleistocene hominin site in the area, while others consider it a paleontological site without any hominin involvement. We returned to the site to try to resolve this controversy. In a systematic excavation, we succeeded in exposing the previously uncovered elements, exposed more material and currently better understand the deposition sequence. (...)

  The Middle/Later Stone Age transition and cultural dynamics of late Pleistocene East Africa, di C. A. Tryon, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 28, Issue 5, September/October 2019, Pages 267-282

The Middle to Later Stone Age (MSA/LSA) transition is a prominent feature of the African archeological record that began in some places ~30,000–60,000 years ago, historically associated with the origin and/or dispersal of “modern” humans. Unlike the analogous Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in Eurasia and associated Neanderthal extinction, the African MSA/LSA record remains poorly documented, with its potential role in explaining changes in the behavioral diversity and geographic range of Homo sapiens largely unexplored. (...)

  An Early Upper Palaeolithic Stone Tool Assemblage from Mughr El-Hamamah, Jordan: An Interim Report, di J. J. Shea, A. J. Stutz, L. Nilsson-Stutz, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 44, 2019 - Issue 7, Pages 420-439

Mughr el-Hamamah (Jordan) Layer B contains an Early Upper Palaeolithic stone tool assemblage dating to around 39–45 kya cal b.p. This assemblage is unusual in that it samples human forager activities around the ecotone between the Transjordanian Plateau and the palaeo-lake (Lake Lisan) that filled much of the Jordan Valley during Late Pleistocene times. This paper describes that assemblage, comparing it to other Levantine Upper Palaeolithic assemblages of equivalent antiquity. (...)

  A caccia con arco e frecce in Europa già 40.000 anni fa, di F. Claudi, "Le Scienze", 27 settembre 2019

Gli esseri umani vissuti in Europa tra 45.000 e 40.000 anni fa circa cacciavano già con archi e frecce. Lo rivela uno studio effettuati sui reperti della Grotta del Cavallo, un importante sito archeologico sulla costa del Salento, da una collaborazione italo-giapponese, di cui fanno parte l'Università di Siena e l'Università di Bologna. Si tratta di un’importante scoperta sulla tecnologia avanzata della cultura Uluzziana, probabilmente la più antica di Homo sapiens in Europa, che completa il quadro delle ipotesi sulla colonizzazione del continente da parte dei nostri antenati e sull'estinzione dell'uomo di Neanderthal. La ricerca si è concentrata su reperti già noti, 146 piccole lame in pietra scheggiata a forma di mezzaluna, di cui era ancora sconosciuto l'utilizzo. "In questo studio abbiamo associato alla solita analisi tipologica di queste semilune un’analisi tecnico-funzionale dell’usura e delle fratture che ricorrono frequentemente in questa particolare tipologia di strumento litico”, ha spiegato a “Le Scienze” Stefano Benazzi, paleoantropologo dell’Università di Bologna e coautore dell’articolo pubblicato su “Nature Ecology & Evolution”. “I nostri colleghi giapponesi hanno effettuato prove sperimentali, riproducendo le semilune con lo stesso materiale e montandole su frecce o sui cosiddetti propulsori, aste che servivano sostanzialmente a prolungare il braccio e a lanciare così i proiettili con più forza”, ha sottolineato il ricercatore. (...)

  Hominin and animal activities in the microstratigraphic record from Denisova Cave (Altai Mountains, Russia), di M. W. Morley et alii, "Scientific Reports", 26 September 2019, volume 9, Article number: 13785 (2019) - free  access -

Denisova Cave in southern Siberia uniquely contains evidence of occupation by a recently discovered group of archaic hominins, the Denisovans, starting from the middle of the Middle Pleistocene. Artefacts, ancient DNA and a range of animal and plant remains have been recovered from the sedimentary deposits, along with a few fragmentary fossils of Denisovans, Neanderthals and a first-generation Neanderthal–Denisovan offspring. The deposits also contain microscopic traces of hominin and animal activities that can provide insights into the use of the cave over the last 300,000 years. Here we report the results of a micromorphological study of intact sediment blocks collected from the Pleistocene deposits in the Main and East Chambers of Denisova Cave. The presence of charcoal attests to the use of fire by hominins, but other evidence of their activities preserved in the microstratigraphic record are few. The ubiquitous occurrence of coprolites, which we attribute primarily to hyenas, indicates that the site was visited for much of its depositional history by cave-dwelling carnivores. Microscopic traces of post-depositional diagenesis, bioturbation and incipient cryoturbation are observed in only a few regions of the deposit examined here. Micromorphology can help identify areas of sedimentary deposit that are most conducive to ancient DNA preservation and could be usefully integrated with DNA analyses of sediments at archaeological sites to illuminate features of their human and environmental history that are invisible to the naked eye. (...)

  A biface production older than 600 ka ago at Notarchirico (Southern Italy) contribution to understanding early Acheulean cognition and skills in Europe, di M. H. Moncel, C. Santagata, A. Pereira, S. Nomade, J. J. Bahain, P. Voinchet, M. Piperno, September 26, 2019, doi: - free  access -

For the past decade, debates on the earliest evidence of bifacial shaping in Western Europe have focused on several key issues, such as its origin (i.e., local or introduced), or on what should define the Acheulean culture. Whatever hypotheses are proposed for its origin, the onset and technological strategies for making Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), including biface production, are key issues and are often associated with other behavioural changes, such as increased core technology complexity. Current archaeological patterns do not support the existence of transitional industries. Rather, the scant evidence suggests that biface production associated with the management of bifacial volume was widespread around 700 ka. Among the earliest sites, the site of Notarchirico in Southern Italy stands out as one of the most significant examples. 40Ar/39Ar ages and ESR dates recently provided a revised chronology for the whole sedimentary sequence and constrained the archaeological levels between ca. 610 and 670 ka. Five archaeosurfaces (A, A1, B, D and F) yielded LCTs, including bifaces, during Marcello Piperno’s excavations from 1980 to 1995. In light of this new chronological framework, which is much shorter than previously thought, we propose in this contribution a revision of the bifaces by applying the “chaine opératoire” method for the first time (analysis of reduction processes). Our goals are to assess biface production in this early Western European locality and to characterize the strategies applied at the site throughout the sequence. A corpus of 32 tools was selected from the A-A1, B, D and F archaeosurfaces. The technological analysis shows that hominins had the capacity to manage bifacial volumes, when raw material quality was adequate. Clear differences do not emerge between the different levels in terms of shaping modes or final forms. However, we demonstrate that the oldest level (level F), with the richest corpus, lacks flint and displays a higher diversity of bifaces. This ability to manage bifacial and bilateral equilibrium, as well as the diversity of the morphological results, is observed in a few penecontemporaneous sites (700–600 ka), both in the north-western and southern parts of Western Europe. These patterns suggest that hominins mastered well-controlled and diversified biface production, combining intense shaping and minimal shaping, and shared a common technological background regardless of the geographical area, and applied this technology regardless of the available raw materials. The degree of skill complexity of hominins in Western Europe between 700 and 600 ka, the current lack of evidence suggesting “gradual industries” between core-and-flake series and Acheulean techno-complexes, raise numerous questions on the origin of new behaviours in Western Europe, their mode of diffusion, and their association with Homo heidelbergensis or other Middle Pleistocene populations. (...)

  One species, many origins, 23 september 2019

In a paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, a group of researchers argue that our evolutionary past must be understood as the outcome of dynamic changes in connectivity, or gene flow, between early humans scattered across Africa. Viewing past human populations as a succession of discrete branches on an evolutionary tree may be misleading, they said, because it reduces the human story to a series of "splitting times" which may be illusory. According to archaeologist Dr. Eleanor Scerri and geneticists Dr. Lounès Chikhi and Professor Mark Thomas, the quest for a single original location for modern humans is a wild goose chase. "People like us began to appear sometime between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago," says Dr. Scerri, group leader of the Pan-African Evolution Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and lead author of the study. "That is something in the order of 8000 generations, a long time for early people to move around and explore a big space. Their movements, patterns of mixing and genetic exchanges are what gave rise to us." (...)


First portrait of mysterious Denisovans drawn from DNA, "Nature news", 19 september 2019

For the first time, scientists analysing the DNA of Denisovans — an extinct group of hominins that was discovered around a decade ago — have offered a glimpse of what they might have looked like. Ever since archaeologists uncovered the first fragmented Denisovan remains in a Siberian cave, researchers have scoured the globe for clues to how the mysterious hominins looked. Denisova Cave has yielded a few more small fossils, mostly teeth. A jawbone from the Tibetan Plateau added detail this year, as did information on a missing finger bone that moved between labs in Russia, California and Paris. But none of these fossils is large or complete enough to reconstruct many anatomical details. Now, computational biologists have produced a rough sketch of Denisovan anatomy based on epigenetic changes — chemical modifications to DNA that can alter gene activity. Their approach reveals that Denisovans were similar in appearance to Neanderthals but had some subtle differences, such as a wider jaw and skull. “It does help to paint a clearer picture of how they might have looked. Just the idea that it’s possible to use the DNA to predict morphology so well is very impressive,” says Bence Viola, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of Toronto in Canada who has analysed Denisovan remains, but was not involved in this research. (...)

· Reconstructing Denisovan Anatomy Using DNA Methylation Maps, di D. Gokhman et alii, "Cell", volume 179, issue 1, pp. 180-192, 19 september 2019

  Did a common childhood illness take down the Neanderthals?, 19 september 2019

It is one of the great unsolved mysteries of anthropology. What killed off the Neanderthals, and why did Homo sapiens thrive even as Neanderthals withered to extinction? Was it some sort of plague specific only to Neanderthals? Was there some sort of cataclysmic event in their homelands of Eurasia that lead to their disappearance? A new study from a team of physical anthropologists and head & neck anatomists suggests a less dramatic but equally deadly cause. Published online by the journal, The Anatomical Record, the study, "Reconstructing the Neanderthal Eustachian Tube: New Insights on Disease Susceptibility, Fitness Cost, and Extinction"1 suggests that the real culprit in the demise of the Neanderthals was not some exotic pathogen. Instead, the authors believe the path to extinction may well have been the most common and innocuous of childhood illnesses - and the bane of every parent of young children - chronic ear infections. (...)



  Reconstructing birth in Australopithecus sediba, di N. M. Laudicina, F. Rodriguez, J. M. DeSilva, September 18, 2019, doi: - free  access -

Hominin birth mechanics have been examined and debated from limited and often fragmentary fossil pelvic material. Some have proposed that birth in the early hominin genus Australopithecus was relatively easy and ape-like, while others have argued for a more complex, human-like birth mechanism in australopiths. Still others have hypothesized a unique birth mechanism, with no known modern equivalent. Preliminary work on the pelvis of the recently discovered 1.98 million-year-old hominin Australopithecus sediba found it to possess a unique combination of Homo and Australopithecus-like features. Here, we create a composite pelvis of Australopithecus sediba to reconstruct the birth process in this early hominin. Consistent with other hominin species, including modern humans, the fetus would enter the pelvic inlet in a transverse direction. However, unlike in modern humans, the fetus would not need additional rotations to traverse the birth canal. Further fetal rotation is unnecessary even with a Homo-like pelvic midplane expansion, not seen in earlier hominin species. With a birth canal shape more closely associated with specimens from the genus Homo and a lack of cephalopelvic or shoulder constraints, we therefore find evidence to support the hypothesis that the pelvic morphology of Australopithecus sediba is a result of locomotor, rather than strictly obstetric constraints. (...)

  An application of hierarchical Bayesian modeling to better constrain the chronologies of Upper Paleolithic archaeological cultures in France between ca. 32,000–21,000 calibrated years before present, di W. E. Banks et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 220, 15 September 2019, Pages 188-214

Investigations of chronology play a key role in the majority of archaeological research endeavors and are particularly pertinent to examinations of culture-environment relationships, especially during periods characterized by rapid and marked climatic variability and environmental reorganization. Rigorous evaluations of available data and robust methods are required if one wishes to reconstruct reliable chronologies, and this is especially the case when examining periods that are associated with a relatively few radiometric measurements. Such is the case for the Upper Paleolithic archaeological record documented in present-day France from 32,000 to 21,000 calibrated years BP. (...)

  A 3.8-million-year-old hominin cranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia, di Y. Haile-Selassie, S. M. Melillo, A. Vazzana, S. Benazz, T. M. Ryan, "Nature", Volume 573 Issue 7773, 12 September 2019, pages 214–219

The cranial morphology of the earliest known hominins in the genus Australopithecus remains unclear. The oldest species in this genus (Australopithecus anamensis, specimens of which have been dated to 4.2–3.9 million years ago) is known primarily from jaws and teeth, whereas younger species (dated to 3.5–2.0 million years ago) are typically represented by multiple skulls. Here we describe a nearly complete hominin cranium from Woranso-Mille (Ethiopia) that we date to 3.8 million years ago. We assign this cranium to A. anamensis on the basis of the taxonomically and phylogenetically informative morphology of the canine, maxilla and temporal bone. (...)

  Age and context of mid-Pliocene hominin cranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia, di B. Z. Saylor et alii, "Nature", Volume 573 Issue 7773, 12 September 2019, pages 220–224

A fossil hominin cranium was discovered in mid-Pliocene deltaic strata in the Godaya Valley of the northwestern Woranso-Mille study area in Ethiopia. Here we show that analyses of chemically correlated volcanic layers and the palaeomagnetic stratigraphy, combined with Bayesian modelling of dated tuffs, yield an age range of 3.804 ± 0.013 to 3.777 ± 0.014 million years old (mean ± 1σ) for the deltaic strata and the fossils that they contain. We also document deposits of a perennial lake beneath the deltaic sequence. (...)

  The earliest evidence of Acheulian occupation in Northwest Europe and the rediscovery of the Moulin Quignon site, Somme valley, France, di P. Antoine et alii, "Scientific Reports", 11 September 2019, volume 9, Article number: 13091 (2019) - free  access -

The dispersal of hominin groups with an Acheulian technology and associated bifacial tools into northern latitudes is central to the debate over the timing of the oldest human occupation of Europe. New evidence resulting from the rediscovery and the dating of the historic site of Moulin Quignon demonstrates that the first Acheulian occupation north of 50°N occurred around 670–650 ka ago. The new archaeological assemblage was discovered in a sequence of fluvial sands and gravels overlying the chalk bedrock at a relative height of 40 m above the present-day maximal incision of the Somme River and dated by ESR on quartz to early MIS 16. More than 260 flint artefacts were recovered, including large flakes, cores and five bifaces. This discovery pushes back the age of the oldest Acheulian occupation of north-western Europe by more than 100 ka and bridges the gap between the archaeological records of northern France and England. It also challenges hominin dispersal models in Europe showing that hominins using bifacial technology, such as Homo heidelbergensis, were probably able to overcome cold climate conditions as early as 670–650 ka ago and reasserts the importance of the Somme valley, where Prehistory was born at the end of the 19th century. (...)

  Animal residues found on tiny Lower Paleolithic tools reveal their use in butchery, di F. Venditti, E. Cristiani, S. Nunziante-Cesaro, A. Agam, C. Lemorini, R. Barkai, "Scientific Reports", 10 September 2019, volume 9, Article number: 13031 (2019) - free  access -

Stone tools provide a unique window into the mode of adaptation and cognitive abilities of Lower Paleolithic early humans. The persistently produced large cutting tools (bifaces/handaxes) have long been an appealing focus of research in the reconstruction of Lower Paleolithic survival strategies, at the expenses of the small flake tools considered by-products of the stone production process rather than desired end products. Here, we use use-wear, residues and technological analyses to show direct and very early evidence of the deliberate production and use of small flakes for targeted stages of the prey butchery process at the late Lower Paleolithic Acheulian site of Revadim, Israel. We highlight the significant role of small flakes in Lower Paleolithic adaptation alongside the canonical large handaxes. Our results demonstrate the technological and cognitive flexibility of early human groups in the Levant and beyond at the threshold of the departure from Lower Paleolithic lifeways. (...)

  Birch tar production does not prove Neanderthal behavioral complexity, di P. Schmidt et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", September 3, 2019, n. 116 (36), pp. 17707-17711

Birch tar production by Neanderthals—used for hafting tools—has been interpreted as one of the earliest manifestations of modern cultural behavior. This is because birch tar production per se was assumed to require a cognitively demanding setup, in which birch bark is heated in anaerobic conditions, a setup whose inherent complexity was thought to require modern levels of cognition and cultural transmission. Here we demonstrate that recognizable amounts of birch tar were likely a relatively frequent byproduct of burning birch bark (a natural tinder) under common, i.e., aerobic, conditions. We show that when birch bark burns close to a vertical to subvertical hard surface, such as an adjacent stone, birch tar is naturally deposited and can be easily scraped off the surface. The burning of birch bark near suitable surfaces provides useable quantities of birch tar in a single work session (3 h; including birch bark procurement). (...)

  Population structure of modern-day Italians reveals patterns of ancient and archaic ancestries in Southern Europe, di A. Raveane et alii, "Science Advances", 04 Sep 2019: Vol. 5, no. 9, eaaw3492 - free  access -

European populations display low genetic differentiation as the result of long-term blending of their ancient founding ancestries. However, it is unclear how the combination of ancient ancestries related to early foragers, Neolithic farmers, and Bronze Age nomadic pastoralists can explain the distribution of genetic variation across Europe. Populations in natural crossroads like the Italian peninsula are expected to recapitulate the continental diversity, but have been systematically understudied. Here, we characterize the ancestry profiles of Italian populations using a genome-wide dataset representative of modern and ancient samples from across Italy, Europe, and the rest of the world. Italian genomes capture several ancient signatures, including a non–steppe contribution derived ultimately from the Caucasus. Differences in ancestry composition, as the result of migration and admixture, have generated in Italy the largest degree of population structure detected so far in the continent, as well as shaping the amount of Neanderthal DNA in modern-day populations. (...)

  Morphology of the Denisovan phalanx closer to modern humans than to Neanderthals, di E. Andrew Bennett et alii, "Science Advances", 04 Sep 2019: Vol. 5, no. 9, eaaw3950 - free  access -

A fully sequenced high-quality genome has revealed in 2010 the existence of a human population in Asia, the Denisovans, related to and contemporaneous with Neanderthals. Only five skeletal remains are known from Denisovans, mostly molars; the proximal fragment of a fifth finger phalanx used to generate the genome, however, was too incomplete to yield useful morphological information. Here, we demonstrate through ancient DNA analysis that a distal fragment of a fifth finger phalanx from the Denisova Cave is the larger, missing part of this phalanx. Our morphometric analysis shows that its dimensions and shape are within the variability of Homo sapiens and distinct from the Neanderthal fifth finger phalanges. Thus, unlike Denisovan molars, which display archaic characteristics not found in modern humans, the only morphologically informative Denisovan postcranial bone identified to date is suggested here to be plesiomorphic and shared between Denisovans and modern humans. (...)

  La funzione degli “small tools” nell’ambito delle industrie litiche scheggiate acheuleane della penisola italiana: il caso studio del sito laziale di Fontana Ranuccio (FR), di F. Marinelli, C. Lemorini, D. Zampetti, V. 11, N. 1 (2019) - free  access -

Studi recenti di contesti del Paleolitico Inferiore Finale nel Vicino Oriente e in Europa hanno dimostrato che le schegge di piccole dimensioni (small tools) sono elementi tecnologici rilevanti di questo periodo. È stato dunque necessario rivisitare l’idea del bifacciale come unico marcatore tecno-culturale della fase cronologica e culturale denominata Acheuleano. In questo articolo vogliamo discutere il ruolo funzionale svolto dagli small tools attraverso i risultati dell’analisi delle tracce d’uso effettuata su questa categoria di strumenti provenienti dal sito acheuleano di Fontana Ranuccio (Frosinone) (...)
  L’arte rupestre dei Monti Lepini: “vecchi dati” e “nuove prospettive” di ricerca, di V. Mironti, M. Vilmercati, D. A. Puddu, S. Ruzza, F. S. Pianelli, R. Modesto, V. 11, N. 1 (2019) - free  access -

Il presente lavoro vuole riassumere le evidenze artistiche preistoriche già note nei Monti Lepini, per poi fare accenno a una possibile evidenza ancora inedita. Si cercheranno similarità e differenze tra tali contesti, sia dal punto di vista tipologico e morfologico, sia per quanto riguarda le modalità di realizzazione delle pitture. Ultimo passo sarà quello di inserire tali evidenze in un più ampio ambito nazionale ed internazionale, per tentare di comprenderne una cronologia generale. Obiettivo principale è riportare l’attenzione sulle manifestazioni simboliche nei Monti Lepini e più in generale nell’Italia Centrale, così da dare un nuovo impulso alle ricerche archeologiche in tal senso. (...)
  La scoperta dell’Arnalo dei Bufali (Sezze, LT): documenti fotografici inediti dall’archivio Blanc-Aguet, di F. Altamura, A. Bertolini Blanc, G. Bertolini Blanc, I. Lungo, M. Mussi, V. 11, N. 1 (2019) - free  access -

Si presentano in questo contributo immagini inedite del riparo Arnalo dei Bufali (Sezze, LT) e delle pitture individuate sulle pareti interne. Le fotografie, scattate da Carlo Alberto Blanc nel 1936, quando il complesso archeologico venne scoperto e studiato per la prima volta, sono attualmente conservate presso l'archivio Blanc-Aguet, a Roma. (...)

  Préhistoire de la Russie, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 123, Issue 2, Pages 191-484 (April–August 2019):

- Le Paléolithique de la Russie: l’apport des préhistoriens de Saint-Petersbourg, di S. Vasil’ev

- Site du Paléolithique inférieur de Bogatyri/Sinyaya Balka dans la péninsule de Taman, Kraï de Krasnodar, Russie, di S. A. Kulakov

- The Oldowan site of Muhkai II, layer 80 (northeastern Caucasus): Spatial structure and cultural and chronological attribution of the lithic assemblage, di D. V. Ozherelyev

- Baïraki – un site du Paléolithique inférieur sur le territoire de la Plaine d’Europe orientale, di N. K. Anissutkine, А. L. Tchepalyga, S. I. Kolavenko

- Découverte des sites du Paléolithique inférieur au Nord de l’Arménie, di E. V. Belyaeva, V. P. Lyubin, V. G. Trifonov

- Signification des technologies bifaciales au Paléolithique moyen des montagnes de l’Altaï, di K. A. Kolobova, A. V. Shalagina, V. P. Chabai, S. V. Markin, A. I. Krivoshapkin

- Signification des plus anciennes industries microlithiques du Kazakhstan, et ligne de Movius, di M. Otte

- Études géoarchéologiques pluridisciplinaires des sites du Paléolithique moyen de la Plaine Russe, di A. K. Otcherednoy et alii

- Le site paléolithique de Sémizbougou XI au Kazakhstan : nouvelle approche de l’étude techno-typologique, di E. A. Osipova, O. A. Artyukhova

- Les percuteurs en pierre du site du Paléolithique moyen de Ketrosy, couche 3, di A. V. Larionova, K. N. Stepanova

- L’exploitation de la faune par les groupes humains du Pléniglaciaire supérieur à Eliseevichi 1 (Russie), di L. Demay et alii

- Le site Paléolithique supérieur de Yudinovo : résultats des recherches archéologiques des années 2004–2016, di G. A. Khlopachev

- Le site du Gravettien récent, Kostenki 21 (Gmélinskaia) : les résultats préliminaires des travaux archéologiques de sauvetage des années 2013–2016, di A. A. Bessudnov

- Nouveau site Paléolithique supérieur ancien au nord de l’Asie Centrale, di M. V. Shunkov et alii

- Denisova et les traditions paléolithiques en Asie Centrale, di M. Otte

- La découverte d’un galet gravé du Paléolithique final dans la région du Haut Iénisséï (Sibérie du Sud), di A. V. Polïakov, S. A. Vasil’ev, E. Y. Girïa

  Du nouveau à Menchecourt (Abbeville) - nouvelles données stratigraphiques, archéologiques, paléoenvironnementales et géochronologiques pour un site paléolithique « historique » de la vallée de la Somme (France), di J. J. Bahai et alii, vol. 30/2 | 2019 : Volume 30 Numéro 2

Connu depuis le xviiie siècle et exploré notamment par Jacques Boucher de Perthes et Joseph Preswitch dans les années 1840‑1860, le site de Menchecourt à Abbeville a joué au xixe siècle un rôle essentiel dans la reconnaissance de la coexistence de l’Homme et d’espèces animales disparues, fondement de la Préhistoire en tant que science. Restée par la suite longtemps inaccessible en raison de l’urbanisation de la ville à la fin du xixe siècle et au cours du xxe siècle, la localité a fait l’objet en 2014 d’une opération d’archéologie préventive menée par l’INRAP sur un terrain situé à proximité immédiate du site historique. La séquence stratigraphique mise au jour repose sur le substrat crayeux à une altitude de + 2‑3 m NGF, soit + 14/15 m d’altitude relative par rapport à l’incision maximale sous le fond de vallée actuel. Elle comprend une succession de niveaux fluviatiles et (ou) fluvio-marins recouverts par une séquence de couverture lœssique (loess et paléosols), très proche de celle observée au xixe siècle. (...)

  Contexte paléoenvironnemental et chronologique des occupations néandertaliennes de la grotte des Ramandils (Port-La-Nouvelle, Aude, France): apport des restes de grands mammifères, di L. Rusch et alii, vol. 30/2 | 2019 : Volume 30 Numéro 2

La grotte des Ramandils (Port-La-Nouvelle, Aude, France) a livré de nombreuses pièces d’industries lithiques moustériennes, des dents humaines ainsi que des restes fauniques (ongulés, carnivores, lagomorphes, microvertébrés et malacofaune) reflétant une grande diversité spécifique en milieu côtier. L’étude des grands mammifères, couplée aux récentes analyses palynologiques de coprolithes, permet d’attribuer l’ensemble du remplissage au Pléistocène supérieur et plus précisément au stade isotopique marin (SIM) 5, en accord avec les datations radiométriques disponibles. L’analyse de ces assemblages, en particulier pour les ensembles stratigraphiques III et II, les plus riches, a permis de reconstituer le cadre paléoenvironnemental et paléoclimatique de ces niveaux et de mettre en évidence une certaine variété de paysages continentaux, liés à un climat tempéré, influencé par une situation côtière méditerranéenne. (...)

  Le site préhistorique de la Roche‑Cotard IV (Indre-et-Loire, France): une séquence du pléistocene moyen et supérieur, référence pour le val de Loire tourangeau, di J. C. Marquet et alii, vol. 30/2 | 2019 : Volume 30 Numéro 2

Le site préhistorique de La Roche-Cotard (LRC) se trouve sur le versant de rive droite de la vallée de la Loire, un peu en amont de Langeais, en Indre-et-Loire. Le site a été rendu accessible grâce à un important prélèvement de matériaux en 1846. La grotte principale (LRC I) a été fouillée en 1912 : elle contenait une industrie du Paléolithique moyen et des tracés digitaux y ont été découverts en 1975 et validés en 2008. La reprise des fouilles sur le site à partir de 2008 (locus LRC IV très proche de LRC I) a permis de mettre en évidence une coupe puissante de 11 mètres comprenant 22 couches distinctes dont la partie inférieure comble un abri. La stratigraphie combine, de bas en haut, des apports karstiques de milieu souterrain, des sables fluviatiles et éoliens issus de la vallée de la Loire et gravitaires du versant. Des indices d’occupation anthropique (industrie lithique, os brûlés) attestent une occupation de cet espace. (...)

  Aspects of human physical and behavioural evolution during the last 1 million years, di J. Galway-Witham, J. Cole, C. Stringer, Volume 34, Issue 6, August 2019, Pages 355-378

This paper reviews some of the main advances in our understanding of human evolution over the last 1 million years, presenting a holistic overview of a field defined by interdisciplinary approaches to studying the origins of our species. We begin by briefly summarizing the climatic context across the Old World for the last 1 million years before directly addressing the fossil and archaeological records. The main themes in this work explore (i) recent discoveries in the fossil record over the last 15 years, such as Homo naledi and Homo floresiensis; (ii) the implications of palaeogenetics for understanding the evolutionary history of, and relationships between, Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo sapiens; (...)


Aggiornamento 31 agosto


Intrastrata geochemical variability of a Paleolithic bone assemblage: The case of single-phase Gravettian site Jaksice II, southern Poland, di M. T. Krajcarz, J. Wilczyński, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 34, Issue 5, September/October 2019, Pages 581-591

Bone remains constitute the portion of an archaeological assemblage that may record a geochemical signature of the depositional environment and may be used as an indicator of the homogeneity of the assemblage. However, the range of the inner chemical variability inside a single depositional bone assemblage has not been sufficiently studied. In this study, the chemical composition of 60 fossil bones excavated from a single component Paleolithic site was measured and the statistical variability of the set established via multivariate analysis. (...)

  "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 11, Issue 9, September 2019:

- The challenges of applying refitting analysis in the Palaeolithic archaeology of the twenty-first century: an actualised overview and future perspectives, di F. Romagnoli, M. Vaquero

- Explaining links from the past: material distribution in Charco Hondo 2 Acheulian archeological site (Madrid, Spain), di J.r Baena Preysler et alii

- Reconstructing technology, mobility and land use via intra- and inter-site refits from the Gravettian of the Swabian Jura,
di A. Taller et alii

- An autumn at Pincevent (Seine-et-Marne, France): refitting for an ethnographic approach of a Magdalenian settlement, di C. Karlin, M. Julien

- Potentialities of the virtual analysis of lithic refitting: case studies from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, di D. Delpiano, A. Cocilova, F. Zangrossi, M. Peresani

- Lithic refitting and intrasite artifact transport: a view from the Middle Paleolithic, di M. Vaquero et alii

- Technology of Early Szeletian leaf point shaping: a refitting approach, di P. Neruda, Z. Nerudová

- Lithic refitting and the analysis of Middle Palaeolithic settlement dynamics: a high-temporal resolution example from El Pastor rock shelter (Eastern Iberia), di
J. Machado et alii

- Lithic refits as a tool to reinforce postdepositional analysis, di E. López-Ortega

- Spatial and orientation patterns of experimental stone tool refits, di I. de la Torre et alii

- A bunch of refits: 497D blade knapping assemblage of the Early Upper Paleolithic in Cova Gran (Northeast Iberia), di J. Martínez-Moreno et alii

- Refitting bones to reconstruct the diversity in Middle Palaeolithic human occupations: the case of the Abric Romaní site (Capellades, Barcelona, Spain)
, di J. Rosell et alii

- Conditioning of the raw materials on discoid exploitation strategies during the Early Middle Palaeolithic: the example of Payre level D (South-East France), di S. Daffara et alii

- Old stones’ song—second verse: use-wear analysis of rhyolite and fenetized andesite artifacts from the Oldowan lithic industry of Kanjera South, Kenya
, di
C. Lemorini et alii

  The skull of StW 573, a 3.67 Ma Australopithecus prometheus skeleton from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa, di R. J. Clarke, K. Kuman, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 134, September 2019, 102634

Here we present the first full anatomical description of the 3.67 million-year-old Australopithecus skull StW 573 that was recovered with its skeleton from the Sterkfontein Member 2 breccia in the Silberberg Grotto. Analysis demonstrates that it is most similar in multiple key morphological characters to a group of fossils from Sterkfontein Member 4 and Makapansgat that are here distinguished taxonomically as Australopithecus prometheus. This taxon contrasts with another group of fossils from those sites assigned to Australopithecus africanus. The anatomical reasons for why these groupings should not be lumped together (as is frequently done for the South African fossils) are discussed in detail. In support of this taxonomy, we also present for the first time a newly reconstructed palate of A. africanus (StW 576 from Sterkfontein Member 4), which has a uniquely complete permanent dentition. (...)


Morphology of the Homo naledi femora from Lesedi, di C. S. Walker et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 170, Issue 1, September 2019, Pages 5-23

The femoral remains recovered from the Lesedi Chamber are among the most complete South African fossil hominin femora discovered to date and offer new and valuable insights into the anatomy and variation of the bone in Homo naledi. While the femur is one of the best represented postcranial elements in the H. naledi assemblage from the Dinaledi Chamber, the fragmentary and commingled nature of the Dinaledi femoral remains has impeded the assessment of this element in its complete state. Here we analyze and provide descriptions of three new relatively well‐preserved femoral specimens of H. naledi from the Lesedi Chamber: U.W. 102a-001, U.W. 102a-003, and U.W. 102a-004. These femora are quantitatively and qualitatively compared to multiple extinct hominin femoral specimens, extant hominid taxa, and, where possible, each other. (...)


Reevaluation of the body mass estimate for the KNM-ER 5428 Homo erectus talus, di D. L. Cunningham, M. V. Rogers, D. J. Wescott, R. C. McCarthy, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 170, Issue 1, September 2019, Pages 148-155

In this study, we reexamined the body mass estimate for the Homo erectus specimen KNM-ER 5428 based on talus dimensions. Previous estimates of >90 kg for this fossil are large in comparison to body mass estimates for other H. erectus specimens. The study sample consisted of tali and femora of 132 modern cadaver males from a documented body mass skeletal collection. We recorded the talus trochlear mediolateral (TTML) breadth and femoral head diameter (FHD) for each modern human specimen, and obtained KNM-ER 5428's TTML values from the literature. We developed regression formulae based on TTML using the body mass estimated from FHD for the entire human sample and for known body masses from a normal‐BMI subsample, and then used these formulae to calculate body mass for KNM-ER 5428. In addition, we examined the range of body masses for individuals with TTML measurements comparable to KNM-ER 5428. (...)


Chronologic constraints on hominin dispersal outside Africa since 2.48 Ma from the Zarqa Valley, Jordan, di G. Scardia et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 219, 1 September 2019, Pages 1-19

Recent discoveries constrain the presence of hominins in North Africa since ca. 2.4 Ma and in China since ca. 2.1 Ma, providing a new temporal framework for the earliest migration out of Africa. No Paleolithic sites of such age exist in the Levant, the natural corridor between Africa and Asia. The Dawqara Formation in the Zarqa Valley, Jordan, has been known since the early 1980s because of the presence of artifacts at different stratigraphic levels within its fluvial sediments, consisting of choppers, cores, and flakes. Although most of the artifacts display signs of transport, they bear unambiguous evidence of manufacture, and document hominin presence in the Zarqa Valley during the deposition of Dawqara Formation. (...)


New clues about the late Early Pleistocene peopling of western Europe: Small vertebrates from The Bois-de-Riquet archeo-paleontological site (Lézignan-La-Cèbe, southern France), di I. Lozano-Fernández et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 219, 1 September 2019, Pages 187-203

The different archeostratigraphic units of the Bois-de-Riquet site (Lézignan-la-Cèbe, southern France) have yielded a range of stone tools in association with rich large-mammal assemblages. The oldest stone tools are from archeostratigraphic unit US2, which was initially dated to <1.57 Ma and with later, more detailed dating assigned to the interval between 1.4 and 1.1 Ma. This paper presents results from all small vertebrate fossil remains recovered from US2. The faunal list now comprises the arvicolines Allophaiomys nutiensis, Mimomys savini, Stenocranius gregaloides, Iberomys huescarensis and Terricola arvalidens, the murids Apodemus sylvaticus and Castillomys rivas, the hamster Allocricetus bursae, the toad Epidalea calamita, the snake Vipera sp. and an indeterminanble lizard (Lacertidae indet.). (...)


A 3.8-million-year-old hominin cranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia, di Y. Haile-Selassie, S. M. Melillo, A. Vazzana, S. Benazzi, T. M. Ryan, "Nature", 28 august 2019 - free  access -

The cranial morphology of the earliest known hominins in the genus Australopithecus remains unclear. The oldest species in this genus (Australopithecus anamensis, specimens of which have been dated to 4.2–3.9 million years ago) is known primarily from jaws and teeth, whereas younger species (dated to 3.5–2.0 million years ago) are typically represented by multiple skulls. Here we describe a nearly complete hominin cranium from Woranso-Mille (Ethiopia) that we date to 3.8 million years ago. We assign this cranium to A. anamensis on the basis of the taxonomically and phylogenetically informative morphology of the canine, maxilla and temporal bone. This specimen thus provides the first glimpse of the entire craniofacial morphology of the earliest known members of the genus Australopithecus. We further demonstrate that A. anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis differ more than previously recognized and that these two species overlapped for at least 100,000 years—contradicting the widely accepted hypothesis of anagenesis. (...)

· Age and context of mid-Pliocene hominin cranium from Woranso-Mille, EthiopiaBeverly Z. Saylor et alii, "Nature", 28 august 2019

· Rare 3.8-million-year-old skull recasts origins of iconic ‘Lucy’ fossil, "Nature News", 28 august 2019

· Stunning ancient skull shakes up human family tree, di M. Price, "Science News", Aug. 28, 2019

· A face for Lucy's ancestor, "Science News", August 28, 2019

· Scoperto in Etiopia il più antico cranio di Australopiteco, l'antenato di Lucy, "National Geographic Italia", 29 agosto 2019

· Il cranio dell'antenato di Lucy riscrive la storia dei primi ominini, "Le Scienze", 29 agosto 2019


Evidence of violence behind human skull remains from the Palaeolithic, 19 August 2019

Analysis of the fossilized skull of an Upper Palaeolithic man suggests that he died a violent death, according to a study by an international team from Greece, Romania and Germany led by the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany The skull, known as the Cioclovina calvaria, was originally uncovered in a cave in South Transylvania (Romania) and is thought to be around 33,000 years old. Since its discovery, this fossil has been extensively studied. Here, the authors reassessed trauma on the skull - specifically a large fracture on the right aspect of the cranium which has been disputed in the past - in order to evaluate whether this specific fracture occurred at the time of death or as a postmortem event. The authors conducted experimental trauma simulations and inspected the fossil both visually and virtually using computed tomography technology. They found there were actually two injuries at or near the time of death: a linear fracture at the base of the skull, followed by a depressed fracture on the right side of the cranial vault. (...)


External auditory exostoses among western Eurasian late Middle and Late Pleistocene humans, di E. Trinkaus, M. Samsel, S. Villotte, August 14, 2019, doi: - free  access -

External auditory exostoses (EAE) have been noted among the Neandertals and a few other Pleistocene humans, but until recently they have been discussed primary as minor pathological lesions with possible auditory consequences. An assessment of available western Eurasian late Middle and Late Pleistocene human temporal bones with sufficiently preserved auditory canals (n = 77) provides modest levels of EAE among late Middle Pleistocene archaic humans (≈20%) and early modern humans (Middle Paleolithic: ≈25%; Early/Mid Upper Paleolithic: 20.8%; Late Upper Paleolithic: 9.5%). The Neandertals, however, exhibit an exceptionally high level of EAE (56.5%; 47.8% if two anomalous cases are considered normal). The levels of EAE for the early modern humans are well within recent human ranges of variation, frequencies which are low for equatorial inland and high latitude samples but occasionally higher elsewhere. The Early/Mid Upper Paleolithic frequency is nonetheless high for a high latitude sample under interpleniglacial conditions. Given the strong etiological and environmental associations of EAE development with exposure to cold water and/or damp wind chill, the high frequency of EAE among the Neandertals implies frequent aquatic resource exploitation, more frequent than the archeological and stable isotopic evidence for Middle Paleolithic/Neandertal littoral and freshwater resource foraging implies. As such, the Neandertal data parallel a similar pattern evident in eastern Eurasian archaic humans. Yet, factors in addition to cold water/wind exposure may well have contributed to their high EAE frequencies. (...)


Middle Stone Age foragers resided in high elevations of the glaciated Bale Mountains, Ethiopia, di G. Ossendorf et alii, "Science", 09 Aug 2019: Vol. 365, Issue 6453, pp. 583-587

Studies of early human settlement in alpine environments provide insights into human physiological, genetic, and cultural adaptation potentials. Although Late and even Middle Pleistocene human presence has been recently documented on the Tibetan Plateau, little is known regarding the nature and context of early persistent human settlement in high elevations. Here, we report the earliest evidence of a prehistoric high-altitude residential site. Located in Africa’s largest alpine ecosystem, the repeated occupation of Fincha Habera rock shelter is dated to 47 to 31 thousand years ago. The available resources in cold and glaciated environments included the exploitation of an endemic rodent as a key food source, and this played a pivotal role in facilitating the occupation of this site by Late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers.


Elemental signatures of Australopithecus africanus teeth reveal seasonal dietary stress, di R. Joannes-Boyau et alii, Volume 572 Issue 7767, 1 August 2019, pp. 112–115

Reconstructing the detailed dietary behaviour of extinct hominins is challenging1—particularly for a species such as Australopithecus africanus, which has a highly variable dental morphology that suggests a broad diet2,3. The dietary responses of extinct hominins to seasonal fluctuations in food availability are poorly understood, and nursing behaviours even less so; most of the direct information currently available has been obtained from high-resolution trace-element geochemical analysis of Homo sapiens (both modern and fossil), Homo neanderthalensis4 and living apes5. Here we apply high-resolution trace-element analysis to two A. africanus specimens from Sterkfontein Member 4 (South Africa), dated to 2.6–2.1 million years ago. Elemental signals indicate that A. africanus infants predominantly consumed breast milk for the first year after birth. A cyclical elemental pattern observed following the nursing sequence—comparable to the seasonal dietary signal that is seen in contemporary wild primates and other mammals—indicates irregular food availability. (...)


The older, the better? On the radiocarbon dating of Upper Palaeolithic burials in Northern Eurasia and beyond, di Y. V. Kuzmin, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 370, August 2019 , pp. 1061-1071 - free  access -

The reliability of radiocarbon dates for Palaeolithic human burials is of utmost importance for prehistoric archaeologists. Recently obtained dates for several such burials in central Russia raise important interrelated issues concerning site taphonomy and the precise radiocarbon-dating technique employed, with implications for the ‘true’ age of the burials. A critical review of the dating of the Sungir and Kostenki burials calls into question the reliability of employing ultrafiltration or single amino acids for the radiocarbon dating of Upper Palaeolithic bones. (...)


Exploring karst landscapes: new prehistoric sites in south-central Ethiopia, di Y. Sahle et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 370, August 2019, e21 - free  access -

Archaeological reconnaissance and test excavation conducted in south-central Ethiopia reveal the region's rich Stone Age and Holocene archaeology. Ongoing lithic, faunal and dating analyses aim to understand chronological and behavioural contexts of prioritised rockshelters as part of a newly launched project. Speleothems in some of the caves promise high-resolution palaeoclimatic reconstruction. (...)


Lost in transition: the dietary shifts from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages in the North Eastern Iberian Peninsula, di X. Jordana, A. Malgosa, B. Casté, C. Tornero, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", August 2019, Volume 11, Issue 8, pp 3751–3763

The Late Antiquity to the Early Middle age transition in the North Eastern Iberian Peninsula was a historical period of cultural, social and political changes. Both Germanics and North African peoples settled in this region in successive migratory waves. The impact of these population movements on the cultural habits of the local population has been barely explored. This paper explores the dietary changes of the population who were buried in the necropolis of the Churches of Sant Pere de Terrassa (Barcelona, Spain) during the Visigoth (fifth to eighth centuries ad) and Carolingian periods (ninth to tenth centuries ad). This study investigates the δ13C and δ15N stable isotopic values in bone collagen from 68 human samples and 36 faunal remains in order to improve the understanding of dietary changes that occurred during this transition. The results indicate a human diet based on C3-plants and livestock sources. (...)


Neanderthal plant use and pyrotechnology: phytolith analysis from Roc de Marsal, France, di K. Wroth, D. Cabanes, J. M. Marston, V. Aldeias, D. Sandgathe, A. Turq, P. Goldberg, H. L. Dibble, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", August 2019, Volume 11, Issue 8, pp 4325–4346

The plant component of Neanderthal subsistence and technology is not well documented, partially due to the preservation constraints of macrobotanical components. Phytoliths, however, are preserved even when other plant remains have decayed and so provide evidence for Neanderthal plant use and the environmental context of archaeological sites. Phytolith assemblages from Roc de Marsal, a Middle Paleolithic cave site in SW France, provide new insight into the relationship between Neanderthals and plant resources. Ninety-seven samples from all archaeological units and 18 control samples are analyzed. Phytoliths from the wood and bark of dicotyledonous plants are the most prevalent, but there is also a significant proportion of grass phytoliths in many samples. (...)


Calcium isotopic patterns in enamel reflect different nursing behaviors among South African early hominins, di T. Tacail et alii, "Science Advances", August 2019, Vol 5, Issue 8

Nursing is pivotal in the social and biological evolution of hominins, but to date, early-life behavior among hominin lineages is a matter of debate. The calcium isotopic compositions (δ44/42Ca) of tooth enamel can provide dietary information on this period. Here, we measure the δ44/42Ca values in spatially located microsized regions in tooth enamel of 37 South African hominins to reconstruct early-life dietary-specific variability in Australopithecus africanus, Paranthropus robustus, and early Homo. Very low δ44/42Ca values (<−1.4‰), indicative of milk consumption, are measured in early Homo but not in A. africanus and P. robustus. (...)


Poggetti Vecchi (Tuscany, Italy): A late Middle Pleistocene case of human–elephant interaction, di B. Aranguren et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 32-60

A paleosurface with a concentration of wooden-, bone-, and stone-tools interspersed among an accumulation of fossil bones, largely belonging to the straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus, was found at the bottom of a pool, fed by hot springs, that was excavated at Poggetti Vecchi, near Grosseto (Tuscany, Italy). The site is radiometrically dated to the late Middle Pleistocene, around 171,000 years BP. Notable is the association of the artifacts with the elephant bones, and in particular the presence of digging sticks made from boxwood (Buxus sp.). Although stone tools show evidence of use mainly on animal tissues, indicating some form of interaction between hominins and animals, the precise use of the sticks is unclear. (...)


Femoral neck and shaft structure in Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber (Rising Star System, South Africa), di L. Friedl et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 61-77

The abundant femoral assemblage of Homo naledi found in the Dinaledi Chamber provides a unique opportunity to test hypotheses regarding the taxonomy, locomotion, and loading patterns of this species. Here we describe neck and shaft cross-sectional structure of all the femoral fossils recovered in the Dinaledi Chamber and compare them to a broad sample of fossil hominins, recent humans, and extant apes. Cross-sectional geometric (CSG) properties from the femoral neck (base of neck and midneck) and diaphysis (subtrochanteric region and midshaft) were obtained through CT scans for H. naledi and through CT scans or from the literature for the comparative sample. The comparison of CSG properties of H. naledi and the comparative samples shows that H. naledi femoral neck is quite derived with low superoinferior cortical thickness ratio and high relative cortical area. (...)


A multiscale stratigraphic investigation of the context of StW 573 ‘Little Foot’ and Member 2, Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa, di L. Bruxelles et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 78-98

The Sterkfontein Caves is currently the world's richest Australopithecus-bearing site. Included in Sterkfontein's hominin assemblage is StW 573 (‘Little Foot’), a near-complete Australopithecus skeleton discovered in Member 2 in the Silberberg Grotto. Because of its importance to the fossil hominin record, the geological age of StW 573 has been the subject of significant debate. Three main hypotheses have been proposed regarding the formation and age of Member 2 and by association StW 573. The first proposes that Member 2 (as originally defined in the type section in the Silberberg Grotto) started to accumulate at around 2.58 Ma and that the unit is contained within the Silberberg Grotto. The second proposes that Member 2 started forming before 3.67 ± 0.16 Ma and that the deposit extends into the Milner Hall and close to the base of the cave system. The third proposes a ‘two-stage burial scenario’, in which some sediments and StW 573 represent a secondary and mixed-age accumulation reworked from a higher cave. (...)


Seasonal and habitat effects on the nutritional properties of savanna vegetation: Potential implications for early hominin dietary ecology, di O. C. C. Paine et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 99-107

The African savannas that many early hominins occupied likely experienced stark seasonality and contained mosaic habitats (i.e., combinations of woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, etc.). Most would agree that the bulk of dietary calories obtained by taxa such as Australopithecus and Paranthropus came from the consumption of vegetation growing across these landscapes. It is also likely that many early hominins were selective feeders that consumed particular plants/plant parts (e.g., leaves, fruit, storage organs) depending on the habitat and season within which they were foraging. Thus, improving our understanding of how the nutritional properties of potential hominin plant foods growing in modern African savanna ecosystems respond to season and vary by habitat will improve our ability to model early hominin dietary behavior. Here, we present nutritional analyses (crude protein and acid detergent fiber) of plants growing in eastern and southern African savanna habitats across both wet and dry seasons. (...)


New electron spin resonance (ESR) ages from Geißenklösterle Cave: A chronological study of the Middle and early Upper Paleolithic layers, di M. Richard et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 133-145

Geißenklösterle Cave (Germany) is one of the most important Paleolithic sites in Europe, as it is characterized by human occupation during the Middle and early Upper Paleolithic. Aurignacian layers prior to 37–38 ka cal BP feature both musical and figurative art objects that are linked to the early arrival in Europe of Homo sapiens. Middle Paleolithic layers yielded lithic artifacts attributed to Homo neanderthalensis. Since human occupation at the site is attributed to both Neanderthals and modern humans, chronology is essential to clarify the issues of Neanderthal disappearance, modern human expansion in Europe, and the origin of the Aurignacian in Western Europe. Electron spin resonance (ESR) dating was performed on fossil tooth enamel collected from the Middle Paleolithic layers, which are beyond the radiocarbon dating range, and from the nearly sterile ‘transitional’ geological horizon (GH) 17 and the lower Aurignacian deposits, to cross-check ESR ages with previous radiocarbon, thermoluminescence and ESR age results. (...)


Understanding stone tool-making skill acquisition: Experimental methods and evolutionary implications, di J. Pargeter, N. Khreisheh, D. Stout, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 146-166

Despite its theoretical importance, the process of stone tool-making skill acquisition remains understudied and poorly understood. The challenges and costs of skill learning constitute an oft-neglected factor in the evaluation of alternative adaptive strategies and a potential source of bias in cultural transmission. Similarly, theory and data indicate that the most salient neural and cognitive demands of stone tool-making should occur during learning rather than expert performance. Unfortunately, the behavioral complexity and extensive learning requirements that make stone knapping skill acquisition an interesting object of study are the very features that make it so challenging to investigate experimentally. Here we present results from a multidisciplinary study of Late Acheulean handaxe-making skill acquisition involving twenty-six naïve participants and up to 90 hours training over several months, accompanied by a battery of psychometric, behavioral, and neuroimaging assessments. (...)


The long limb bones of the StW 573 Australopithecus skeleton from Sterkfontein Member 2: Descriptions and proportions, di J. L. Heaton et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 167-197

Due to its completeness, the A.L. 288-1 (‘Lucy’) skeleton has long served as the archetypal bipedal Australopithecus. However, there remains considerable debate about its limb proportions. There are three competing, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, explanations for the high humerofemoral index of A.L. 288-1: (1) a retention of proportions from an Ardipithecus-like chimp/human last common ancestor (CLCA); (2) indication of some degree of climbing ability; (3) allometry. Recent discoveries of other partial skeletons of Australopithecus, such as those of Australopithecus sediba (MH1 and MH2) and Australopithecus afarensis (KSD-VP-1/1 and DIK-1/1), have provided new opportunities to test hypotheses of early hominin body size and limb proportions. Yet, no early hominin is as complete (>90%), as is the ∼3.67 Ma ‘Little Foot’ (StW 573) skeleton from Sterkfontein Member 2. Here, we provide the first descriptions of its upper and lower long limb bones, as well as a comparative context of its limb proportions. We found that StW 573 possesses absolutely longer limb lengths than A.L. 288-1, but both skeletons show similar limb proportions. (...)


Hominin fire use in the Okote member at Koobi Fora, Kenya: New evidence for the old debate, di S. Hlubik et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 133, August 2019, Pages 214-229

Hominin fire use in the early Pleistocene has been debated since the early 1970s when consolidated reddened sediment patches were identified at FxJj20 East and Main, Koobi Fora, Kenya. Since then, researchers have argued for evidence of early Pleistocene fire use at a handful of archaeological sites with evidence of combustion. Some argue that morphological evidence of early Homo erectus fossils indicates a dietary shift to higher quality food sources, which could be achieved by cooking. Others contend that fire use does not become a regular behavior until later, in the middle Pleistocene, when archaeological sites begin to show regular evidence for fire use. An early date for hominin control of fire would help to explain the grade changes seen with the appearance of H. erectus, while a later date would mean that fire would have had little influence on the early development of the lineage. Early hominins would have encountered fire regularly on the landscape, increasing the possibility of hominins interacting with and habituating to natural landscape fire. (...)


Gombore II (Melka Kunture, Ethiopia): A new approach to formation processes and spatial patterns of an Early Pleistocene Acheulean site, di E. Mendez-Quintas et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 108, August 2019, 104975

To assess the integrity of Pleistocene archaeological sites is crucial in the analysis of human behaviour. Most of the Early Palaeolithic sites are in active fluvial environments where it is necessary to understand the degree of sedimentary disturbance. The analysis of the formation processes through geoarchaeological and geostatistical techniques offers new tools to evaluate if the archaeological assemblage is in autochthonous or allochthonous position. Gombore II, ≈850 Ka, within the archaeological and paleontological complex of Melka Kunture (Ethiopia), extends over estimated 1000 m2 and yielded a large number of Acheulean artefacts, fossil mammal bones and two fossil hominin remains. The geomorphological setting and deposition patterns of high-energy sedimentation in a fluvial channelized environment are similar to those of many other Early Palaeolithic African sites. This is traditionally described as producing a disturbed record, with the fortuitous association of faunal remains and lithic industry driven by fluvial processes. To assess this hypothesis, we analyse here the formation processes and the spatial patterning of the remains. (...)

  Neanderthals: Ecology and Evolution, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Edited by José S. Carrión, Carles Lalueza-Fox, John Stewart, Volume 217, Pages 1-340 (1 August 2019):

- Neanderthals: Ecology and evolution, di J. S. Carrión, C. Lalueza-Fox, J. Stewart

- Background to Neanderthal presence in Western Mediterranean Europe, di J. S. Carrión, M. J. Walker

- Metric and morphological comparison between the Arago (France) and Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos (Spain) dental samples, and the origin of Neanderthals, di J. M. Bermúdez de Castro et alii

- Tempo and mode in the Neandertal evolutionary lineage: A structuralist approach to mandible variation, di A. Rosas, M. Bastir, J. A. Alarcón

- Distinct among Neanderthals: The scapula of the skeleton from Altamura, Italy, di F. Di Vincenzo et alii

- Virtual reconstruction and re-evaluation of the Neanderthal frontal bone from Carigüela Cave (Granada, Spain), di J. M. Jiménez-Arenas et alii

- Living to fight another day: The ecological and evolutionary significance of Neanderthal healthcare, di P. Spikins et alii

- Spy cave (Belgium) Neanderthals (36,000y BP). Taphonomy and peri-mortem traumas of Spy I and Spy II: Murder or accident, di Y. Fernández-Jalvo, P. Andrews

- Late Neandertals in central Italy. High-resolution chronicles from Grotta dei Santi (Monte Argentario - Tuscany), di A. Moroni et alii

- Climate, environment and human behaviour in the Middle Palaeolithic of Abrigo de la Quebrada (Valencia, Spain): The evidence from charred plant and micromammal remains, di Y. Carrión Marcoe et alii

- Neanderthal activity and resting areas from stratigraphic unit 13 at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Oscurusciuto (Ginosa - Taranto, Southern Italy), di V. Spagnolo et alii

- The sequence at Carihuela Cave and its potential for research into Neanderthal ecology and the Mousterian in southern Spain, di J. S. Carrión et alii

- Neanderthals and the cult of the Sun Bird, di S. Finlayson, G. Finlayson, F. Giles Guzman, C. Finlayson

- The consumption of tortoise among Last Interglacial Iberian Neanderthals, di M. Nabais, J. Zilhão

- Silvicolous Neanderthals in the far West: the mid-Pleistocene palaeoecological sequence of Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain), di J. Ochando et alii

- The early use of fire among Neanderthals from a zooarchaeological perspective, di J. Rosell, R. Blasco

- Shellfish collection on the westernmost Mediterranean, Bajondillo cave (~160-35 cal kyr BP): A case of behavioral convergence?, di M. Cortés-Sánchez et alii

- Following the last Neanderthals: Mammal tracks in Late Pleistocene coastal dunes of Gibraltar (S Iberian Peninsula), di F. Muñiz et alii

- Palaeoecological and genetic evidence for Neanderthal power locomotion as an adaptation to a woodland environment, di J. R. Stewart et alii

- Was inter-population connectivity of Neanderthals and modern humans the driver of the Upper Paleolithic transition rather than its product?, di G.  Greenbaum, D. E. Friesem, E. Hovers, M. W. Feldman, O. Kolodny

- For a cultural anthropology of the last Neanderthals, di L. Slimak


Population structure and the evolution of Homo sapiens in Africa, di R. G. Klein, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 28, Issue 4, July/August 2019, Pages 179-188

It has been proposed that a multiregional model could describe how Homo sapiens evolved in Africa beginning 300,000 years ago. Multiregionalism would require enduring morphological or behavioral differences among African regions and morphological or behavioral continuity within each. African fossils, archeology, and genetics do not comply with either requirement and are unlikely to, because climatic change periodically disrupted continuity and reshuffled populations. As an alternative to multiregionalism, I suggest that reshuffling produced novel gene constellations, including one in which the additive or cumulative effect of newly associated genes enhanced cognitive or communicative potential. (...)


Hybridization in human evolution: Insights from other organisms, di R. R. Ackermann et alii, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 28, Issue 4, July/August 2019, Pages 189-209

During the late Pleistocene, isolated lineages of hominins exchanged genes thus influencing genomic variation in humans in both the past and present. However, the dynamics of this genetic exchange and associated phenotypic consequences through time remain poorly understood. Gene exchange across divergent lineages can result in myriad outcomes arising from these dynamics and the environmental conditions under which it occurs. Here we draw from our collective research across various organisms, illustrating some of the ways in which gene exchange can structure genomic/phenotypic diversity within/among species. (...)


Apidima Cave fossils provide earliest evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia, di K. Harvati et alii, "Nature", Volume 571 Issue 7766, 25 July 2019, pp. 500–504

Two fossilized human crania (Apidima 1 and Apidima 2) from Apidima Cave, southern Greece, were discovered in the late 1970s but have remained enigmatic owing to their incomplete nature, taphonomic distortion and lack of archaeological context and chronology. Here we virtually reconstruct both crania, provide detailed comparative descriptions and analyses, and date them using U-series radiometric methods. Apidima 2 dates to more than 170 thousand years ago and has a Neanderthal-like morphological pattern. By contrast, Apidima 1 dates to more than 210 thousand years ago and presents a mixture of modern human and primitive features. (...)

· Homo sapiens in Europa già 210.000 anni fa, "Le Scienze", 11 luglio 2019

· Skull fragment from Greek cave suggests modern humans were in Europe more than 200,000 years ago, di L. Wade, "Science News", Jul. 10, 2019

· Cranio scoperto in Grecia forse il più antico fossile di Sapiens fuori dall’Africa, "National Geographic Italia", 12 luglio 2019


Rare dental trait provides morphological evidence of archaic introgression in Asian fossil record, di S. E. Bailey, J. J. Hublin, S. C. Antón, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", July 23, 2019, n. 116 (30), pp. 14806-14807

The recently described Denisovan hemimandible from Xiahe, China [F. Chen et al., (2019) Nature 569, 409–412], possesses an unusual dental feature: a 3-rooted lower second molar. A survey of the clinical and bioarchaeological literature demonstrates that the 3-rooted lower molar is rare (less than 3.5% occurrence) in non-Asian Homo sapiens. In contrast, its presence in Asian-derived populations can exceed 40% in China and the New World. It has long been thought that the prevalence of 3-rooted lower molars in Asia is a relatively late acquisition occurring well after the origin and dispersal of H. sapiens. However, the presence of a 3-rooted lower second molar in this 160,000-y-old fossil hominin suggests greater antiquity for the trait. Importantly, it also provides morphological evidence of a strong link between archaic and recent Asian H. sapiens populations. This link provides compelling evidence that modern Asian lineages acquired the 3-rooted lower molar via introgression from Denisovans. (...)


Provenance, modification and use of manganese-rich rocks at Le Moustier (Dordogne, France), di A. Pitarch Martí, F. d’Errico, A. Turq, E. Lebraud, E. Discamps, B. Gravina, July 17, 2019, doi: - free  access -

The use of colouring materials by Neanderthals has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. Here we present a taphonomic, technological, chemical-mineralogical and functional analysis of fifty-four manganese rich lumps recovered during past and on-going excavations at the lower rockshelter of Le Moustier (Dordogne, France). We compare compositional data for archaeological specimens with the same information for twelve potential geological sources. Morphometric analysis shows that material from Peyrony’s excavations before the First World War provides a highly biased picture of the importance of these materials for Mousterian groups. These early excavations almost exclusively recovered large modified pieces, while Mn-rich lumps from the on-going excavations predominantly consist of small pieces, only half of which bear traces of modification. We estimate that at least 168 pieces were not recovered during early work at the site. Neanderthals developed a dedicated technology for processing Mn-rich fragments, which involved a variety of tools and motions. Processing techniques were adapted to the size and density of the raw material, and evidence exists for the successive or alternating use of different techniques. Morphological, textural and chemical differences between geological and archaeological samples suggest that Neanderthals did not collect Mn-rich lumps at the outcrops we sampled. The association and variability in Mn, Ni, As, Ba content, compared to that observed at the sampled outcrops, suggests that either the Le Moustier lumps come from a unique source with a broad variation in composition, associating Mn, Ni, As, Ba, or that they were collected at different sources, characterized either by Mn-Ni-As or Mn-Ba. In the latter case, changes in raw material composition across the stratigraphy support the idea that Neanderthal populations bearing different stone tool technologies collected Mn fragments from different outcrops. Our results favour a use of these materials for multiple utilitarian and symbolic purposes. (...)


Environmental and climatic context of the hominin occurrence in northeastern Italy from the late Middle to Late Pleistocene inferred from small-mammal assemblages, di J. M. López-García, C. Berto, M. Peresani, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 216, 15 July 2019, Pages 18-33

The environmental and climatic evolution of the late Middle Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene of the northeastern Italy is determined for Marine Isotope Stage 7 (MIS 7) to MIS 3 on the basis of a study of the small-mammal (insectivore, bat and rodent) assemblages. This paper provides a synthesis of three previously published and one unpublished sets of environmental and climatic data from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic sites of Grotta Maggiore di San Bernardino, Grotta minore di San Bernardino, De Nadale cave and Fumane cave, all of which are located in northeastern Italy. Using the habitat weighting method and the bioclimatic model to reconstruct the environment, temperature and rainfall, the results show great variability in the landscape and climate of the area. (...)


The bulb retouchers in the Levant: New insights into Middle Palaeolithic retouching techniques and mobile tool-kit composition, di L. Centi, I. Groman-Yaroslavski, N. Friedman, M. Oron, M. Prévost, Y. Zaidner, July 5, 2019, doi: - free  access -

In this paper we describe two assemblages of flint retouchers or “bulb retouchers” retrieved from Nesher Ramla and Quneitra, two Middle Palaeolithic, open-air sites in the Levant. The site of Nesher Ramla yielded the largest assemblage of bulb retouchers (n = 159) currently known, allowing a detailed investigation of this poorly known phenomenon. An extensive experimental program and use-wear analysis enabled us to characterize the different sets of traces related to the retouching activity and to identify different motions applied by the knappers in the course of this action. In both sites, blanks used as bulb retouchers were almost exclusively retouched items, with a special emphasis on convergent morphotypes in Nesher Ramla. The use of retouched items as bulb retouchers is a common trait over different time spans and geographical areas. Our data suggests that bulb retouchers were versatile, multi-purpose tools with a long use-life, transported over long distances as components of the hunter-gatherer mobile tool kit. The high frequencies of bulb retouchers within some archaeological units of Nesher Ramla appear to be connected to the highly curated nature of the lithic assemblages, in turn reflecting a high mobility of the human groups that produced them. (...)


Persistent Neanderthal occupation of the open-air site of ‘Ein Qashish, Israel, di R. Ekshtain et alii, June 26, 2019, doi: - free  access -

Over the last two decades, much of the recent efforts dedicated to the Levantine Middle Paleolithic has concentrated on the role of open-air sites in the settlement system in the region. Here focus on the site of ‘Ein Qashish as a cases study. Located in present-day northern Israel, the area of this site is estimated to have been >1300 m2, of which ca. 670 were excavated. The site is located at the confluence of the Qishon stream with a small tributary running off the eastern flanks of the Mt. Carmel. At the area of this confluence, water channels and alluvial deposits created a dynamic depositional environment. Four Archaeological Units were identified in a 4.5-m thick stratigraphic sequence were dated by Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to between—71 and 54 ka, and probably shorter time span–~70-~60 ka. Here we present the diverse material culture remains from the site (lithics, including refitted sequences; modified limestone pieces; molluscs; faunal remains) against their changing paleogeographic backdrop. Skeletal evidence suggests that these remains were associated with Neanderthals. The large-scale repeated accumulation of late Middle Paleolithic remains in the same place on the landscape provides a unique opportunity to address questions of occupation duration and intensity in open-air sites. We find that each occupation was of ephemeral nature, yet presents a range of activities, suggesting that the locale has been used as a generalized residential site rather than specialized task-specific ones. This role of ‘Ein Qashish did not change through time, suggesting that during the late Middle Paleolithic settlement system in this part of the southern Levant were stable. (...)


Hafting of Middle Paleolithic tools in Latium (central Italy): New data from Fossellone and Sant’Agostino caves, di I. Degano, S. Soriano, P. Villa, L. Pollarolo, J. J. Lucejko, Z. Jacobs, K. Douka, S. Vitagliano, C. Tozzi, June 20, 2019, doi: - free  access -

Hafting of stone tools was an important advance in the technology of the Paleolithic. Evidence of hafting in the Middle Paleolithic is growing and is not limited to points hafted on spears for thrusting or throwing. This article describes the identification of adhesive used for hafting on a variety of stone tools from two Middle Paleolithic caves in Latium, Fossellone Cave and Sant’Agostino Cave. Analysis of the organic residue by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry shows that a conifer resin adhesive was used, in one case mixed with beeswax. Contrary to previous suggestions that the small Middle Paleolithic tools of Latium could be used by hand and that hafting was not needed since it did not improve their functionality, our evidence shows that hafting was used by Neandertals in central Italy. Ethnographic evidence indicates that resin, which dries when exposed to air, is generally warmed by exposure to a small fire thus softened to be molded and pushed in position in the haft. The use of resin at both sites suggests regular fire use, as confirmed by moderate frequencies of burnt lithics in both assemblages. Lithic analysis shows that hafting was applied to a variety of artifacts, irrespective of type, size and technology. Prior to our study evidence of hafting in the Middle Paleolithic of Italy was limited to one case only. (...)


Mosaic evolution in hominin phylogeny: meanings, implications, and explanations, di A. Parravicini, T. Pievani, "Journal of Anthropological Sciences", Vol. 97 (2019), pp. 1-24 - free  access -

In paleoanthropological literature, the use of the term “mosaic” (mosaic evolution, mosaic trait, mosaic species, and so on) is becoming more and more frequent. In order to promote a clarification of the use of the concept in literature, we propose here a classification in three different meanings of the notion of mosaic in human evolution: 1) morphological (inter-specific and intra-specific) instability in a certain phase of a branched phylogeny; 2) multiple trajectories and versions of the same adaptive trait in a branched phylogeny; 3) the trait itself as a complex mosaic of sub-traits with different phylogenetic stories (as is the case in language). We argue that the relevance of such mosaic patterns needs a macro-evolutionary interpretation, which takes into consideration the interaction between general selective pressures (promoting different versions of the same adaptation) and a cladogenetic approach in which speciation played a crucial role, due to ecological instability, habitat fragmentation, and geographical dispersals in human evolution (...).


Lithics of the North African Middle Stone Age: assumptions, evidence and future directions, di E. M. L. Scerri, E. E. Spinapolice, "Journal of Anthropological Sciences", Vol. 97 (2019), pp. 1-36 - free  access -

North Africa features some of the earliest manifestations of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) and fossils of our species, Homo sapiens, as well as early examples of complex culture and the long distance transfer of exotic raw materials. As they are elsewhere, lithics (i.e., stone tools) present by far the most abundant source of information on this cultural period. Given the importance of North Africa in human origins, understanding the character and distribution of MSA lithics is therefore crucial, as they shed light on early human behaviour and culture. However, the lithics of the North African MSA are poorly understood, and their technological variability is frequently obfuscated by regionally specific nomenclatures, often repeated without criticism, and diverse methods of analysis that are often incompatible. Characterising dynamic technological innovations as well as apparent technological stasis remains challenging, and many narratives have not been tested quantitatively. This significantly problematizes hypotheses of human evolution and dispersals invoking these data that extend beyond North Africa. This paper therefore presents a description of the lithics of the North African MSA, including their technological characteristics, chronology, spatial distribution and associated research traditions. A range of interpretations concerning early H. sapiens demography in North Africa are then re-evaluated in the light of this review, and the role and power of lithic data to contribute to such debates is critically assessed (...).


Approaching raw material functionality in the Upper Magdalenian of Coímbre cave (Asturias, Spain) through geometric morphometrics, di J. Yravedra et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 517, 20 May 2019, Pages 97-106

Coímbre cave (Peñamellera Alta, Asturias) is an Upper Palaeolithic site in Northern Spain, spanning an occupation sequence from the Gravettian to the Magdalenian periods. The upper layers -layer I and II-, corresponding to the Upper Magdalenian, register the highest intensity of human activity. In this paper, we analyse raw material functionality at the site through the study of cut-marks found on bone remains. At Coímbre, we have documented mainly quartzite, followed by flint; other raw materials are found in very low frequencies. There are several types of local quartzite that appear mainly as flaking debitage and stone tools such as burins and scrappers. (...)


Who ate OH80 (Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania)? A geometric-morphometric analysis of surface bone modifications of a Paranthropus boisei skeleton, di J. Aramendi et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 517, 20 May 2019, Pages 118-130

Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) is one of the key areas for the study of human origins, given the sheer abundance of archaeological and paleontological sites discovered. Several of these archaeological sites have yielded numerous hominin fossils and traces of their activities, thus offering invaluable insights into the nature and origins of human behavior. Nevertheless, certain taphonomic discussions that have been of great importance for the study of the South African cave sites have remained unnoticed in East Africa. One of these issues revolves around the interpretation of Paranthropus as a common prey of predators. In this paper, we analyze the postcranial remains of OH80, a partial skeleton of a Paranthropus boisei discovered at the BK site (Bell Korongo, Bed II of Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania) in 2010. Some of the specimens of this skeleton have been reported to show surface modifications tentatively associated to the action of carnivores. Here, several pits observed on OH80-12, the Paranthropus boisei femur, were digitally reconstructed and analyzed through geometric morphometrics to determine the nature of the marks. (...)


Aggiornamento 20 giugno


Preliminary characterization of flint raw material used on prehistoric sites in NW Belgium, di G. Fiers et alii, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 34, Issue 4, July/August 2019, Pages 400-412 - free  access -

This study aims at analyzing the mineralogical, chemical, and structural characteristics of flint raw material used for the production of prehistoric stone tools in NW Belgium. Understanding these characteristics is important to recognize their value for tool making and even tool use during prehistory. Due to its formation process, flint is defined by a wide variety of internal structures, chemical variations, and impurities. Moreover, alteration processes cause additional chemical and structural changes complicating the study of this material. Archaeological artifacts often display alteration features, mostly expressed as patination or burning, leading them to be regularly discarded from the functional analysis of lithic tools. By not incorporating these artifacts, our understanding of the investigated assemblage is biased. It is therefore important to investigate the influence of flint characteristics on its weathering behavior, and the impact of preservation of prehistoric use-wear traces on flint artifacts. The characteristics of flint raw material and natural patination were studied using a combination of different techniques, such as macroscopic analysis, optical microscopy, X-ray fluorescence, and high-resolution X-ray computed tomography. This resulted in a detailed description and distinction of the different flint variants used on prehistoric sites in NW Belgium and a good understanding of patination. (...)


New insights on the Monte Fenera Palaeolithic, Italy: Geoarchaeology of the Ciota Ciara cave, di D. E. Angelucci et alii, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 34, Issue 4, July/August 2019, Pages 413-429 - free  access -

Monte Fenera is a mostly carbonate hill at the southern border of the Western Alps. It hosts several archaeological sites, among them karstic caves bearing evidence of Palaeolithic occupation. These sites have a long history within Alpine archaeology—having been explored since the 19th century—but information on their stratigraphy, chronology, and formation remains incomplete. They are among the few cave-sites occupied before the Alpine Last Glacial Maximum in the area, and their study is crucial for understanding human occupation and regional environmental evolution during the Pleistocene. Here we focus on Ciota Ciara, a cave formed in Triassic dolostone, and in particular on the Middle-to-Upper Pleistocene succession unearthed at its south-western entrance since 2009. This succession was analyzed by means of several geoarchaeological methods including stratigraphy, routine sediment analyses, and archaeological micromorphology. Our study shows that sediment accumulation was due to the repeated occurrence of concentrated flow and runoff events from the karstic system alternating with episodes of wall disintegration and short phases of surface stabilization. Post-depositional processes include frost action, hydromorphism, and diagenesis that have selectively affected the archaeological remains. The results of the study shed light on site formation and have relevance for Pleistocene cave archaeology more widely in the southern Western Alps. (...)


Blind test evaluation of consistency in macroscopic lithic raw material sorting, di A. Agam, L. Wilson, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 34, Issue 4, July/August 2019, Pages 467-477 - free  access -

Most archaeological lithic raw material studies depend upon a macroscopic classification. However, since the human eye is a limited tool, some inconsistencies in classification may arise. Thus, a process for evaluating and increasing the reliability of macroscopic classification is needed. We present the results of a blind test designed to evaluate consistency in macroscopic lithic materials analysis, based on archaeological material taken from the Acheulo‐Yabrudian site Qesem Cave (Israel), focusing on interobserver error, aimed at identifying consistencies and weaknesses within our own study scheme. Twelve students, with various degrees of experience and familiarity with the Qesem material, sorted 100 randomly selected flint pieces into flint types, based on a previously established database, after a brief tutorial process. In addition, the authors, LW and AA, performed the same test. We then compared the results, using LW's results as an anchor. Our results show that experience affects the consistency in classification, demonstrating that it is an acquired skill. Furthermore, the blind test allowed us to identify weaknesses within the classification scheme. We suggest that blind tests should be regularly used to check accuracy and reproducibility of results and to assess the definitions set by the analyst, allowing fine-tuning and calibration of the classification process. (...)


Isotopic equifinality and rethinking the diet of Australopithecus anamensis, di R. L. Quinn, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 169, Issue 3, July 2019, Pages 403-421

Australopithecus anamensis has comparable δ13Cenamel values to Ardipithecus ramidus, and both have been characterized as C3 feeders in open woodland habitats similar to “savanna” chimps. Unlike Ar. ramidus and “savanna” chimps, A. anamensis shows a derived dentognathic morphology for tough foods and a dental microwear pattern similar to the C3–C4-mixed-feeding A. afarensis. Here I test the hypothesis that changing the variables (ε*enamel-diet, δ13CC3, δ13CC4 values) used to calculate the percentage of dietary C4 foods (%C4 diet) by 1–2‰ does not make a substantial difference for hominin diet reconstructions [van der Merwe, Masao, & Bamford, 2008, South African Journal of Science 104:153–155].
I estimate vegetation structures for A. anamensis with pedogenic carbonate and faunal enamel δ13C values from the Pliocene Omo-Turkana Basin (4.2–3.9 Ma). I recalculate A. anamensis' %C4 diet based on new body size-dependent estimates of the ε*enamel‐diet value and alternative δ13CC3 and δ13CC4 values. (...)


Middle Palaeolithic occupations in central Saudi Arabia during MIS 5 and MIS 7: new insights on the origins of the peopling of Arabia, di R. Crassard, Y. H. Hilbert, F. Preusser, G. Wulf, J. Schiettecatte, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", July 2019, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp. 3101–3120

Although Middle Palaeolithic stratified and dated sites are still rare in Arabia, recent archaeological, palaeoenvironmental, population genetic, geomatic and geochronological studies have noticeably contributed to a re-evaluation of the prehistory of the region. Here, we report the discovery of a stratified open-air Middle Palaeolithic site in central Saudi Arabia, a novelty given the paucity of dated Pleistocene lithic assemblages in the region. The site of Umm al-Sha’al is located in the Rufa Graben where a substantial number of Middle Palaeolithic surface occurrences have been reported. It contains artefacts produced using Levallois technology, indicative of Middle Palaeolithic human exploitation of locally abundant quartzite raw material. The site comprises two horizons with archaeological finds dating to Marine Isotope Stages 5 and likely 7 or even older. (...)


Evaluating prepared core assemblages with three-dimensional methods: a case study from the Middle Paleolithic at Skhūl (Israel), di K. L. Ranhorn et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", July 2019, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp. 3225–3238

Levallois technology is a hallmark of many Middle and Late Pleistocene stone artifact assemblages, but its definition has been much debated. Here we use three-dimensional photogrammetry to investigate the geometric variation among Levallois and discoidal core technologies. We created models of experimental and archaeological stone artifact assemblages to quantitatively investigate the morphologies of Levallois and discoidal core technologies. Our results demonstrate that technological characteristics of Levallois technology can be distinguished from discoidal variants by analyzing the relative volumes and angles of the two flaking surfaces. We apply these methods to a random subset of Middle Paleolithic cores from Skhūl (Israel) and show that, overall, the Skhūl archaeological sample falls in range with the experimental Levallois sample. (...)


Revisiting Mwulu’s Cave: new insights into the Middle Stone Age in the southern African savanna biome, di P. de la Peña et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", July 2019, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp. 3239–3266

In this paper, we present a revised stratigraphy and results of preliminary analyses of the archaeological material from Mwulu’s Cave. This arises from two excavation campaigns conducted in 2017, 71 years after the site was initially investigated by P.V. Tobias. This cave, located in Limpopo Province (South Africa), preserves one of the few known Middle Stone Age sequences in the northeastern part of the country. Here, we revisit the stratigraphic sequence of the site and provide new analyses of sediments, palynomorphs, phytoliths, ochre and lithics. (...)


An ABC Method for Whole-Genome Sequence Data: Inferring Paleolithic and Neolithic Human Expansions, di F. Jay, S. Boitard, F. Austerlitz, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 36, Issue 7, July 2019, Pages 1565–1579

Species generally undergo a complex demographic history consisting, in particular, of multiple changes in population size. Genome-wide sequencing data are potentially highly informative for reconstructing this demographic history. A crucial point is to extract the relevant information from these very large data sets. Here, we design an approach for inferring past demographic events from a moderate number of fully sequenced genomes. Our new approach uses Approximate Bayesian Computation, a simulation-based statistical framework that allows 1) identifying the best demographic scenario among several competing scenarios and 2) estimating the best-fitting parameters under the chosen scenario. Approximate Bayesian Computation relies on the computation of summary statistics. (...)


Environmental and climatic context of the hominin occurrence in northeastern Italy from the late Middle to Late Pleistocene inferred from small-mammal assemblages, di J. Manuel López-García, C. Berto, M. Peresani, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 216, 15 July 2019, Pages 18-33

The environmental and climatic evolution of the late Middle Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene of the northeastern Italy is determined for Marine Isotope Stage 7 (MIS 7) to MIS 3 on the basis of a study of the small-mammal (insectivore, bat and rodent) assemblages. This paper provides a synthesis of three previously published and one unpublished sets of environmental and climatic data from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic sites of Grotta Maggiore di San Bernardino, Grotta minore di San Bernardino, De Nadale cave and Fumane cave, all of which are located in northeastern Italy. Using the habitat weighting method and the bioclimatic model to reconstruct the environment, temperature and rainfall, the results show great variability in the landscape and climate of the area. However, the various layers from the studied sites in which the human presence is more intense coincide with landscapes dominated by woodland formations in mild climatic conditions. (...)


Are there marrow cavities in Pleistocene elephant limb bones, and was marrow available to early humans? New CT scan results from the site of Castel di Guido (Italy), di G. Boschian, D. Caramella, D. Saccà, R. Barkai, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 215, 1 July 2019, Pages 86-97

CT-scan analyses were carried out on limb bones of straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) from the Middle Pleistocene site of Castel di Guido (Italy), where bifaces made of elephant bone were found in association with lithics and a large number of intentionally modified bone remains of elephants and other taxa. CT-scans show that marrow cavities are present within the limb bones of this taxon. (...)

  Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 132, July 2019:

- Homo naledi cranial remains from the Lesedi chamber of the rising star cave system, South Africa, di D. J. de Ruiter, M. F. Laird, M. Elliott, P. Schmid, J. Brophy, J. Hawks, L. R. Berger,

- Dental microwear texture analysis of Pliocene Suidae from Hadar and Kanapoi in the context of early hominin dietary breadth expansion
, di I. A. Lazagabaster,

- Three-dimensional geometric morphometric analysis of the first metacarpal distal articular surface in humans, great apes and fossil hominins
, di L. Galletta, N. B. Stephens, A. Bardo, T. L. Kivell, D. Marchi,

- Comparative description and taxonomy of new hominin juvenile mandibles from the Pliocene of Woranso-Mille (Central Afar, Ethiopia)
, di Y. Haile-Selassie, T. M. Ryan,

- Upper Paleolithic cultural diversity in the Iranian Zagros Mountains and the expansion of modern humans into Eurasia
, di E. Ghasidian, S. Heydari-Guran, M. Mirazón Lahr,

- Dental macrowear and cortical bone distribution of the Neanderthal mandible from Regourdou (Dordogne, Southwestern France)
, di L. Fiorenza, S. Benazzi, O. Kullmer, G. Zampirolo, A. Mazurier, C. Zanolli, R. Macchiarelli,

- Earliest axial fossils from the genus Australopithecus
, di M. R. Meyer, S. A. Williams,


Large ungulate mortality profiles and ambush hunting by Acheulean-age hominins at Elandsfontein, Western Cape Province, South Africa, di H. T. Bunn, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 107, July 2019, Pages 40-49

At Elandsfontein, a Middle Pleistocene marsh deposit preserves an abundance of mammalian fossils, along with a partial cranium of Homo heidelbergensis and a significant number of Acheulean stone tools. Most of this material was collected from the surface of eroding deposits in the 20th century, and it seemed to derive from a combination of hominin foraging activities and other, natural processes. Prior archaeological research on the fossil collection has emphasized natural, carnivore-related mortality and accumulation of large ungulates and downplayed the potential role of hominin hunting or scavenging at the marsh and more broadly at this time period in human evolution (Klein et al., 2007). (...)


Archaeomagnetism of burnt cherts and hearths from Middle Palaeolithic Amud Cave, Israel: Tools for reconstructing site formation processes and occupation history, di C. Zeigen, R. Shaar, Y. Ebert, E. Hovers, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 107, July 2019, Pages 71-86

Apart from magnetostratigraphy, archaeomagnetism is rarely used in Middle and Late Pleistocene sites. Here we present detailed palaeomagnetic analyses of cemented hearths and burnt chert items from Amud Cave, Israel (68–55 ka) - two types of materials common in Levantine Middle Palaeolithic cave sites. Both materials are shown to be recorders of the geomagnetic field and were used to reconstruct either the ancient field direction (for cemented hearths) or intensity (palaeointensity) (for chert) at the time of the last burning or shortly after. We test the utility of palaeomagnetic data to further our understanding of temporal aspects of occupations in the cave by comparing the dispersion of the palaeomagnetic data to the known characteristics of geomagnetic secular variation in the Holocene. We show that divergent palaeointensities can help identify diachronic burning events, suggesting different activity patterns in two areas of the cave. Additionally, we used palaeomagnetic directional vectors to distinguish between a well-preserved hearth and one that had been mixed prior to cementation. (...)


Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity, di D. R. Braun et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 11, 2019, vol. 116, no. 24, pp. 11712-11717

The manufacture of flaked stone artifacts represents a major milestone in the technology of the human lineage. Although the earliest production of primitive stone tools, predating the genus Homo and emphasizing percussive activities, has been reported at 3.3 million years ago (Ma) from Lomekwi, Kenya, the systematic production of sharp-edged stone tools is unknown before the 2.58–2.55 Ma Oldowan assemblages from Gona, Ethiopia. The organized production of Oldowan stone artifacts is part of a suite of characteristics that is often associated with the adaptive grade shift linked to the genus Homo. Recent discoveries from Ledi-Geraru (LG), Ethiopia, place the first occurrence of Homo ∼250 thousand years earlier than the Oldowan at Gona. Here, we describe a substantial assemblage of systematically flaked stone tools excavated in situ from a stratigraphically constrained context [Bokol Dora 1, (BD 1) hereafter] at LG bracketed between 2.61 and 2.58 Ma. (...)

· I primi ominidi e la nascita dell'industria litica, "Le Scienze", 04 giugno 2019


The lineages of the first humans to reach northeastern Siberia and the Americas, "Nature news", 05 JUNE 2019

The far northeast of Siberia was the gateway to the Americas for ancient humans, and today is home to diverse cultures whose members speak many languages. During the Late Pleistocene period (the ice age that lasted from about 126,000 to 11,700 years ago), this area of Siberia was connected to North America; the land bridge and adjacent areas formed a region known as Beringia. Hunter-gatherer populations seem to have ranged widely across Siberia and into Beringia, sustained by megafauna such as woolly mammoths, and other animals. Writing in Nature, Sikora et al. and Flegontov et al. examine the genetic footprints of past peoples in northeastern Siberia and northern North America, to work out their relationships to modern communities. Sikora and colleagues also examine how these peoples were affected by climate change over the past 40,000 years. Sikora et al. analysed genomic data from 34 people from ancient northeastern Siberia. Two individuals were buried at Yana RHS in Russia — a 31,600-year-old archaeological site that contains the earliest human remains found in the far northeast of Siberia — and the others date from 9,800 to 600 years ago. The Yana individuals provide the only genomic data gathered so far from northeastern Siberia before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, about 26,500 to 19,000 years ago), although there is evidence of human occupation in central Siberia as early as 45,000 years ago (...)


The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene, di M. Sikora, V. V. Pitulko, E. Willerslev, "Nature", Volume 570, Issue 7760, 13 June 2019, pp. 182–188 (2019)

Northeastern Siberia has been inhabited by humans for more than 40,000 years but its deep population history remains poorly understood. Here we investigate the late Pleistocene population history of northeastern Siberia through analyses of 34 newly recovered ancient genomes that date to between 31,000 and 600 years ago. We document complex population dynamics during this period, including at least three major migration events: an initial peopling by a previously unknown Palaeolithic population of ‘Ancient North Siberians’ who are distantly related to early West Eurasian hunter-gatherers; the arrival of East Asian-related peoples, which gave rise to ‘Ancient Palaeo-Siberians’ who are closely related to contemporary communities from far-northeastern Siberia (such as the Koryaks), as well as Native Americans; and a Holocene migration of other East Asian-related peoples, who we name ‘Neo-Siberians’, and from whom many contemporary Siberians are descended. Each of these population expansions largely replaced the earlier inhabitants, and ultimately generated the mosaic genetic make-up of contemporary peoples who inhabit a vast area across northern Eurasia and the Americas (...)


Dental microwear texture analysis of Homo sapiens sapiens: Foragers, farmers, and pastoralists, di C. W. Schmidt et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 169, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 207-226

The current study seeks to determine if a sample of foragers, farmers, and pastoralists are distinguishable based on their dental microwear texture signatures.
The study included a sample of 719 individuals from 51 archeological sites (450 farmers, 192 foragers, 77 pastoralists). All were over age 12 and sexes were pooled. Using a Sensofar® white-light confocal profiler we collected dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) data from a single first or second molar from each individual. We leveled and cleaned data clouds following standard procedures and analyzed the data with Sfrax® and Toothfrax® software. The DMTA variables were complexity and anisotropy. Statistics included ANOVA with partial eta squared and Hedges's g. We also performed a follow-up K-means cluster analysis. (...)


Analyses of Neanderthal introgression suggest that Levantine and southern Arabian populations have a shared population history, di D. N. Vyas, C. J. Mulligan, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 169, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 227-239

Modern humans are thought to have interbred with Neanderthals in the Near East soon after modern humans dispersed out of Africa. This introgression event likely took place in either the Levant or southern Arabia depending on the dispersal route out of Africa that was followed. In this study, we compare Neanderthal introgression in contemporary Levantine and southern Arabian populations to investigate Neanderthal introgression and to study Near Eastern population history.
We analyzed genotyping data on >400,000 autosomal SNPs from seven Levantine and five southern Arabian populations and compared these data to those from populations from around the world including Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes. We used f4 and D statistics to estimate and compare levels of Neanderthal introgression between Levantine, southern Arabian, and comparative global populations. We also identified 1,581 putative Neanderthal-introgressed SNPs within our dataset and analyzed their allele frequencies as a means to compare introgression patterns in Levantine and southern Arabian genomes. (...)


Discoveries of quartzite artefacts on the highest terrace: Early or Middle Pleistocene occupation of the Rhône Valley?, di M. H. Moncel et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 93, Issue 369, June 2019, e14

Artefacts in quartzite have been found in a unique topographical location on the highest terrace of the Rhône Valley in France. These discoveries offer new opportunities for dating early European occupations.


Micro-PIXE studies on prehistoric chert tools: elemental mapping to determine Palaeolithic lithic procurement, di M. Sánchez de la Torre et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", June 2019, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp. 2375–2383

This paper contributes to an understanding of the distances and choices involved in raw material procurement strategies by Upper Palaeolithic communities through a Pyrenean geo-archaeological case study. Methodologically, it involved using Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) with a focused proton beam to determine the concentration and distribution of elements in geological samples from three natural primary outcrops belonging to two geological formations outcropping in the French side of the Pyrenees. While it was not possible to distinguish the formation through reference to major and minor elements, some variations were revealed at the trace elemental level. With the aim to determine if these elements were associated with the Si matrix or to a specific inclusion, elemental maps were acquired, and the elemental composition of the identified inclusions were also determined. (...)


The Middle Pleistocene site of Torralba (Soria, Spain): a taphonomic view of the Marquis of Cerralbo and Howell faunal collections, di A. Pineda, P. Saladié, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", June 2019, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp. 2539–2556

Since the first excavation work carried out by Cerralbo (1909–1913) at Torralba, the site has become a reference point for the study of the earliest settlers of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as for the evaluation of the hunting and cognitive abilities of Lower Paleolithic hominins. At Torralba, the abundance of elephant has directed the debate toward the link between these carcasses and human groups. However, the faunal record of Torralba is broader and includes greater species diversity. This work describes a taphonomic review of the macrofaunal materials from the classic excavations (Cerralbo, 1909–1913; Howell, 1961–1963) housed in the Museo Numantino de Soria, the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales of Madrid, and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional of Madrid. Our results show that other taxa, such as horse and bovid, are also represented. Evidence of anthropic activity on the bones is scarce. Carnivore activity is documented mainly in the form of tooth marks. (...)


First Geochemical ‘Fingerprinting’ of Balkan and Prut Flint from Palaeolithic Romania: Potentials, Limitations and Future Directions, di L. Moreau et alii, "Archaeometry", Volume 61, Issue 3, June 2019, Pages 521-538 

Long-distance raw material transfers across Romania prior to the Last Glacial Maximum have previously been inferred from either visual and/or petrographic observations of East Carpathian sites. We investigated the potential to ‘fingerprint’ flint from archaeological sites at Mitoc‐Malu Galben and Bistricioara–Lutărie III in Eastern Romania, using in situ high‐precision analyses of 28 major, minor and trace elements determined by laser ablation – inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS) in combination with multivariate statistical analysis. (...)


Archaeology and the Origins of Human Cumulative Culture: A Case Study from the Earliest Oldowan at Gona, Ethiopia, di D. Stout, M. J. Rogers, A. V. Jaeggi, S. Semaw, "Current Anthropology", Volume 60, Number 3, June 2019

The capacity of Homo sapiens for the intergenerational accumulation of complex technologies, practices, and beliefs is central to contemporary accounts of human distinctiveness. However, the actual antiquity and evolutionary origins of cumulative culture are not known. Here we propose and exemplify a research program for studying the origins of cumulative culture using archaeological evidence. Our stepwise approach disentangles assessment of the observed fidelity of behavior reproduction from inferences regarding required learning mechanisms (e.g., teaching, imitation) and the explanation of larger-scale patterns of change. It is empirically grounded in technological analysis of artifact assemblages using well-validated experimental models. We demonstrate with a case study using a toolmaking replication experiment to assess evidence of behavior copying across three 2.6 Ma Oldowan sites from Gona, Ethiopia. (...)

  "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 131, June 2019:

- The first Neanderthal specimen from Serbia: Maxillary first molar from the Late Pleistocene of Pešturina Cave, di P. Radović, J. Lindal, D. Mihailović, M. Roksandic,

- Complete permanent mandibular dentition of early Homo from the upper Burgi Member of the Koobi Fora Formation, Ileret, Kenya
, di  F. E. Grine et alii,

- Bovid mortality patterns from Kanjera South, Homa Peninsula, Kenya and FLK-Zinj, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania: Evidence for habitat mediated variability in Oldowan hominin hunting and scavenging behavior
, di James S. Oliver, Thomas W. Plummer, Fritz Hertel, Laura C. Bishop,

- First metatarsal trabecular bone structure in extant hominoids and Swartkrans hominins
, di K. Komza, M. M. Skinner,

- Wild chimpanzees deprived a leopard of its kill: Implications for the origin of hominin confrontational scavenging
, di M. Nakamura et alii,

- Cooked starchy food in hearths ca. 120 kya and 65 kya (MIS 5e and MIS 4) from Klasies River Cave, South Africa
, di C. Larbey, S. M. Mentzer, B. Ligouis, S. Wurz, M. K. Jones,

- Recycling for a purpose in the late Lower Paleolithic Levant: Use-wear and residue analyses of small sharp flint items indicate a planned and integrated subsistence behavior at Qesem Cave (Israel)
, di F. Venditti, S. Nunziante-Cesaro, Y. Parush, A. Gopher, R. Barkai,

- New bracketing luminescence ages constrain the Sima de los Huesos hominin fossils (Atapuerca, Spain) to MIS 12
, di M. Demuro, L. J. Arnold, A. Aranburu, N. Sala, J. L. Arsuaga,

- Relevance of the eastern African coastal forest for early hominin biogeography
, di J. C. A. Joordens, C. S. Feibel, H. B. Vonhof, A. S. Schulp, D. Kroon,

- Genetic data and radiocarbon dating question Plovers Lake as a Middle Stone Age hominin-bearing site
, di M. Lombard et alii,

- Corrigendum to “Dental topography and the diet of Homo naledi” [Journal of Human Evolution 118 (2018) 14–26]
, di M. A. Berthaume, L. K. Delezene, K Kupczik,

- Does optimal foraging theory explain the behavior of the oldest human cannibals?
, di J. Rodríguez, Z. R. Guillermo, M. Ana,

- Expanded character sampling underscores phylogenetic stability of Ardipithecus ramidus as a basal hominin
, di C. S. Mongle, D. S. Strait, F. E. Grine,

- Relative fibular strength and locomotor behavior in KNM-WT 15000 and OH 35
, di D. Marchi, C. M. Harper, H. Chirchir, C. B. Ruff,


Teilhard de Chardin, human evolution and “Piltdown Man”, di J. Francis Thackeray, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 28, Issue 3, May/June 2019, Pages 126-132

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit paleontologist, priest, and philosopher. In the figures published in articles in 1943 and 1951, he attempted to draw a “plausible schematic reconstruction of the natural connections between fossil men” and a “phyletic composition of the human group”. I draw attention to Teilhard's reference to Eoanthropus (“Piltdown Man”) in small print in his figure that was first printed in 1943. Most suspiciously, there is no reference to this (supposedly important) genus in the associated text, nor is there any reference whatsoever to “Piltdown Man” in the article published in 1951. (...)


Living on the edge: Was demographic weakness the cause of Neanderthal demise?, di A. Degioanni, C. Bonenfant, S. Cabut, S. Condemi, May 29, 2019, doi: - free  access -

The causes of disappearance of the Neanderthals, the only human population living in Europe before the arrival of Homo sapiens, have been debated for decades by the scientific community. Different hypotheses have been advanced to explain this demise, such as cognitive, adaptive and cultural inferiority of Neanderthals. Here, we investigate the disappearance of Neanderthals by examining the extent of demographic changes needed over a period of 10,000 years (yrs) to lead to their extinction. In regard to such fossil populations, we inferred demographic parameters from present day and past hunter-gatherer populations, and from bio-anthropological rules. We used demographic modeling and simulations to identify the set of plausible demographic parameters of the Neanderthal population compatible with the observed dynamics, and to explore the circumstances under which they might have led to the disappearance of Neanderthals. A slight (<4%) but continuous decrease in the fertility rate of younger Neanderthal women could have had a significant impact on these dynamics, and could have precipitated their demise. Our results open the way to non-catastrophic events as plausible explanations for Neanderthal extinction. (...)


The Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition occupations from Cova Foradada (Calafell, NE Iberia), di J. I. Morales et alii, May 16, 2019, doi:  - free  access -

The Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition in Europe covers the last millennia of Neanderthal life together with the appearance and expansion of Modern Human populations. Culturally, it is defined by the Late Middle Paleolithic succession, and by Early Upper Paleolithic complexes like the Châtelperronian (southwestern Europe), the Protoaurignacian, and the Early Aurignacian. Up to now, the southern boundary for the transition has been established as being situated between France and Iberia, in the Cantabrian façade and Pyrenees. According to this, the central and southern territories of Iberia are claimed to have been the refuge of the last Neanderthals for some additional millennia after they were replaced by anatomically Modern Humans on the rest of the continent. In this paper, we present the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition sequence from Cova Foradada (Tarragona), a cave on the Catalan Mediterranean coastline. Archaeological research has documented a stratigraphic sequence containing a succession of very short-term occupations pertaining to the Châtelperronian, Early Aurignacian, and Gravettian. Cova Foradada therefore represents the southernmost Châtelperronian–Early Aurignacian sequence ever documented in Europe, significantly enlarging the territorial distribution of both cultures and providing an important geographical and chronological reference for understanding Neanderthal disappearance and the complete expansion of anatomically Modern Humans. (...)


Chimpanzee extractive foraging with excavating tools: Experimental modeling of the origins of human technology, di A. Motes-Rodrigo et alii, May 15, 2019, doi: - free  access -

It is hypothesized that tool-assisted excavation of plant underground storage organs (USOs) played an adaptive role in hominin evolution and was also once considered a uniquely human behavior. Recent data indicate that savanna chimpanzees also use tools to excavate edible USOs. However, those chimpanzees remain largely unhabituated and we lack direct observations of this behavior in the wild. To fill this gap in our knowledge of hominoid USO extractive foraging, we conducted tool-mediated excavation experiments with captive chimpanzees naïve to this behavior. We presented the chimpanzees with the opportunity to use tools in order to excavate artificially-placed underground foods in their naturally forested outdoor enclosure. No guidance or demonstration was given to the chimpanzees at any time. The chimpanzees used tools spontaneously in order to excavate the underground foods. They exhibited six different tool use behaviors in the context of excavation: probe, perforate, dig, pound, enlarge and shovel. However, they still excavated manually more often than they did with tools. Chimpanzees were selective in their choice of tools that we provided, preferring longer tools for excavation. They also obtained their own tools mainly from naturally occurring vegetation and transported them to the excavation site. They reused some tools throughout the study. Our new data provide a direction for the study of variables relevant to modeling USO extractive foraging by early hominins. (...)


Archaic human remains from Hualongdong, China, and Middle Pleistocene human continuity and variation, di X. J. Wu et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", May 14, 2019, vol. 116, no. 20, pp. 9820-9824

Middle to Late Pleistocene human evolution in East Asia has remained controversial regarding the extent of morphological continuity through archaic humans and to modern humans. Newly found ~300,000-y-old human remains from Hualongdong (HLD), China, including a largely complete skull (HLD 6), share East Asian Middle Pleistocene (MPl) human traits of a low vault with a frontal keel (but no parietal sagittal keel or angular torus), a low and wide nasal aperture, a pronounced supraorbital torus (especially medially), a nonlevel nasal floor, and small or absent third molars. It lacks a malar incisure but has a large superior medial pterygoid tubercle. (...)


A multidisciplinary approach to a unique palaeolithic human ichnological record from Italy (Bàsura Cave), di M. Romano et alii, May 14, 2019, doi: 10.7554/eLife.45204 - free  access -

Based on the integration of laser scans, sedimentology, geochemistry, archeobotany, geometric morphometrics and photogrammetry, here we present evidence testifying that a Palaeolithic group of people explored a deep cave in northern Italy about 14 ky cal. BP. Ichnological data enable us to shed light on individual and group level behavior, social relationship, and mode of exploration of the uneven terrain. Five individuals, two adults, an adolescent and two children, entered the cave barefoot and illuminated the way with a bunch of wooden sticks. Traces of crawling locomotion are documented for the first time in the global human ichnological record. Anatomical details recognizable in the crawling traces show that no clothing was present between limbs and the trampled sediments. Our study demonstrates that very young children (the youngest about 3 years old) were active members of the Upper Palaeolithic populations, even in apparently dangerous and social activities. (...)


Assessment of complex projectiles in the early Late Pleistocene at Aduma, Ethiopia, di Y. Sahle, A. S. Brooks, May 9, 2019, doi: - free  access -

Complex projectiles—propulsion via mechanical aid—are considered an important technological innovation, with possible relevance for the successful Out-of-Africa dispersal of our species. Conclusive evidence for the beginning of this technology, however, is lacking from the early Late Pleistocene (ca. 130 to 70 thousand years ago; ka). Given the extremely limited applicability of relatively robust methods for validating stone-tipped projectile use, such as through fracture propagation velocity, converging lines of circumstantial evidence remain the best way to examine early complex projectiles. We assess here suggestions for an early Late Pleistocene origin of complex projectiles in Africa. Results from both previous and present independent approaches suggest a trajectory in which complex projectiles were likely adopted during the early Late Pleistocene in eastern Africa. At Aduma (Middle Awash, Ethiopia), morphometric, hafting, and impact damage patterns in several lithic point assemblages suggest a shift from simple spear technologies (thrusting and/or hand-cast) to complex projectiles. Broadly dated to 80–100 ka, lithic points from later phases of the Aduma succession represent a particularly strong candidate for projectile armatures most comparable to ethnographically known spearthrower darts, lending support for previous suggestions and warranting further investigations. (...)


Similarities and differences in the lifestyles of populations using mode 3 technology in North Africa and the south of the Iberian Peninsula, di J. Ramos-Muñoz et alii, "Quaternary, International", Volume 515, 10 May 2019, Pages 66-79

In the geohistorical region of the Strait of Gibraltar, which includes the south of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, important research has been carried out in recent years. This research has allowed us to document the presence of human groups as early as the Middle Pleistocene. Classical anthropology refers to these groups using various terms Homo Neanderthalensis in the south of Europe and Homo sapiens sapiens in North Africa). The current records exhibit important similarities concerning lithic technology (the so-called ‘Mode 3’, ‘Mousterian’ or ‘Middle Stone Age’), and the exploitation of marine resources. (...)


The early Upper Palaeolithic of Cova de les Cendres (Alicante, Spain), di V. Villaverde et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 515, 10 May 2019, Pages 92-124

This paper presents a synthesis of the Early Upper Palaeolithic of Cova de les Cendres. Points of special attention are the sedimentary and micromorphological characterisation of level XVI, the analysis of the vegetal and animal resources and their incidence on the economy of the Gravettian human groups, and the characterisation of the landscape during this period. Furthermore, the paper offers important information of the lithic and bone assemblages, economic behaviour and radiocarbon dates of sub-levels XVIA and XVIB, related to the Gravettian, and XVIC and XVID, corresponding to the Aurignacian. (...)


Hypercementosis of the Magdalenian human mandibular teeth from El Mirón cave, Cantabria (Spain), di R. García-González et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 515, 10 May 2019, Pages 150-158

Here we present a detailed study of the aetiologic factors causing hypercementosis in the mandibular teeth of the Magdalenian human skeleton recovered from the site of El Mirón cave in northern Spain. This skeleton belongs to an adult female and is referred as the “Red Lady” because the bones were stained with red ochre. The analysis of the cementum formation in the teeth of this individual is compatible with a generalized hypercementosis. We evaluate the aetiological factors traditionally considered in archaeological studies (attritional wear, periodontal disease, idiopathic and systemic disorders) and, for the first time, the abrasiveness of the diet and the cultural wear. (...)


Landscapes, climate change & forager mobility in the Upper Paleolithic of northern Spain, di G. A. Clark, C. M. Barton, L. G. Straus, "Quaternary International", Volume 515, 10 May 2019, Pages 176-187

Numerous studies have shown that the relative frequency of retouched pieces can help to distinguish forager mobility strategies amongst individual layers at a single site and, potentially, at multiple sites across regions (Riel-Salvatore & Barton, 2004; Riel-Salvatore et al., 2008; Barton & Riel-Salvatore, 2014). We use this proxy measure and other lines of evidence to evaluate Late Pleistocene human land-use practices from 47 Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic sites in northern coastal Spain. To monitor mobility strategies we examine the proportion of retouched pieces to total lithics, focusing on backed pieces which probably served mostly as replaceable inserts in organic armatures for hunting weapons. Kuhn (1995) argued that foragers at some distance from a residential base would have had to rely on replaceable elements for the tools and weapons they carried with them. (...)


Time and space in the Western Paleolithic age, di M. Otte, "Quaternary International", Volume 515, 10 May 2019, Pages 188-196

Articulating cultural constructs in time and space and associating them with molecular biology data yield a consistent picture of European history in the late Western prehistory (24–18,000 years). A number of different African migrations resulted in deep-seated acculturation of the local ethnic populations, and these changes led to the Magdalenian civilisation (Lascaux). (...)


Ancient jaw gives elusive Denisovans a face, di A. Gibbons, "Science", 03 May 2019, Vol. 364, Issue 6439, pp. 418-419

Thirty-nine years ago, a Buddhist monk meditating in a cave on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau found something strange: a human jawbone with giant molars. Now, almost 4 decades later, a groundbreaking new way to identify human fossils based on ancient proteins shows the jaw belonged to a Denisovan, a mysterious extinct cousin of Neanderthals. The jawbone is the first known fossil of a Denisovan outside of Siberia's Denisova Cave in Russia and gives paleoanthropologists their first real look at the face of this lost member of the human family. Together, the jaw's anatomy and the new method of analyzing ancient proteins could help researchers learn whether other mysterious fossils in Asia are Denisovans.


Neanderthal communities in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula: taphonomic and zooarchaeological study of the Mousterian site of Jarama VI (Guadalajara, Spain), di A. J. Romero, J. C. Díez, D. Arceredillo, J. García-Solano, J. F. Jordá-Pardo, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", May 2019, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp. 1713–1725

The Mousterian site of Jarama VI (Guadalajara, Spain) has three archaeological levels corresponding to the final Middle Palaeolithic. Taphonomic and zooarchaeological analyses have determined important changes in the functionality of the site in relation to the species consumed and the nutrients that were sought. The first occupations consisted of a long-term residential camp with consumption and meat and skin treatment actions at different seasons in a cold environment. Level 2 represents an occupation focused on the casual exploitation of plant resources with minimal hunting of animals in summer and autumn. (...)


Archeological bone injuries by lithic backed projectiles: new evidence on bear hunting from the Late Epigravettian site of Cornafessa rock shelter (Italy), di R. Duches et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", May 2019, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp. 2249–2270

Despite the widespread application of high-resolution quantitative methods in bone taphonomy, very few studies have focused on projectile impact marks. Therefore, in a previous work, we explored the potential of 3D microscopy in distinguishing bone hunting injuries from other taphonomic marks, developing a widely applicable diagnostic framework based on experimental data and focused on Late Epigravettian projectiles. This paper aims to continue that research by applying 3D morphometrical analysis to zooarcheological bone surfaces, in order to verify the validity and feasibility of this method and evaluate the reliability of the experimental record. Here, we present the detailed analysis of a projectile impact mark, found on a rib of Ursus arctos from the Late Epigravettian site of Cornafessa rock shelter. The injury, located on the rib’s external surface, consists of a drag with several flint fragments embedded. (...)


Temporal evidence shows Australopithecus sediba is unlikely to be the ancestor of Homo, di A. Du, Z. Alemseged, "Science Advances", May 2019: Vol. 5, no. 5, eaav9038 - free  access -

Understanding the emergence of the genus Homo is a pressing problem in the study of human origins. Australopithecus sediba has recently been proposed as the ancestral species of Homo, although it postdates earliest Homo by 800,000 years. Here, we use probability models to demonstrate that observing an ancestor’s fossil horizon that is at least 800,000 years younger than the descendant’s fossil horizon is unlikely (about 0.09% on average). We corroborate these results by searching the literature and finding that within pairs of purported hominin ancestor–descendant species, in only one case did the first-discovered fossil in the ancestor postdate that from the descendant, and the age difference between these fossils was much less than the difference observed between A. sediba and earliest Homo. Together, these results suggest it is highly unlikely that A. sediba is ancestral to Homo, and the most viable candidate ancestral species remains Australopithecus afarensis. (...)


Dental evolutionary rates and its implications for the Neanderthal–modern human divergence, di A. Gómez-Robles, "Science Advances", May 2019: Vol. 5, no. 5, eaaw1268 - free  access -

The origin of Neanderthal and modern human lineages is a matter of intense debate. DNA analyses have generally indicated that both lineages diverged during the middle period of the Middle Pleistocene, an inferred time that has strongly influenced interpretations of the hominin fossil record. This divergence time, however, is not compatible with the anatomical and genetic Neanderthal affinities observed in Middle Pleistocene hominins from Sima de los Huesos (Spain), which are dated to 430 thousand years (ka) ago. Drawing on quantitative analyses of dental evolutionary rates and Bayesian analyses of hominin phylogenetic relationships, I show that any divergence time between Neanderthals and modern humans younger than 800 ka ago would have entailed unexpectedly rapid dental evolution in early Neanderthals from Sima de los Huesos. These results support a pre–800 ka last common ancestor for Neanderthals and modern humans unless hitherto unexplained mechanisms sped up dental evolution in early Neanderthals. (...)

· Ci siamo separati prima del previsto dai Neanderthal?, "Le Scienze", 16 maggio 2019


Introduction of Late Pleistocene cultural material of an intermediate region: Paleolithic sites of Pion and Izeh plain between Central and Southern Zagros, Southwest Iran, di M. Jayez, K. Molla Mirzai, K. Aldin Niknami, "Quaternary International", Volume 512, 10 April 2019, Pages 52-66

The final phase of Late Pleistocene of Zagros Mountains has been introduced as Upper Paleolithic cultural material of Baradostian/Zagros Aurignacian, but differences between UP lithic industry in central and Southern Zagros has led to definition of another techno-complex in Southern Zagros named Rostamian. Another Late Paleolithic industry is Zarzian Epipaleolithic which is defined based on few absolute dating and excavated sites in the region. The nature of relationships and the territories of Late Paleolithic hunter-gatherers in the region is obscure. In this article an intermediate region between central and Southern Zagros with Late Paleolithic evidence is introduced based on surface survey of Izeh and Pion Plains in Southwestern Iran. Pion Plain in northwest of Izeh was surveyed in 2008 aiming at identifying the whole range of extant sites. 19 sites were dated to Late Paleolithic based on their surface lithic assemblages, and divided to minor and major sites regarding their surface material density and cultural deposits. (...)


The oldest osseous mining tools in Europe? New discoveries from the chocolate flint mine in Orońsko, site 2 (southern Poland), di G. Osipowicz et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 512, 10 April 2019, Pages 82-98

This article presents the results of the traceological, experimental, physico-chemical and archaeozoological analyses undertaken on bone artefacts from one of the oldest known flint mines, i.e. the chocolate flint mine in Orońsko, Site 2, Poland. Based on typological and 11 radiocarbon measurements, the mine dates to the end of the Alleröd period and the early Younger Dryas. The results of the traceological and chemical analyses demonstrate that the bone artefacts were used as chisels/picks for removing limestone and extracting lumps of flint, which makes them some of the oldest known osseous mining tools in Europe. (...)


Late Glacial environment and human settlement of the Central Western Carpathians: A case study of the Nowa Biała 1 open-air site (Podhale Region, southern Poland), di M. Łanczont et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 512, 10 April 2019, Pages 113-132

Nowa Biała 1 is a unique site of the Federmesser culture in the area of Carpathian Mountains, and also one of the few Final Palaeolithic sites known from this territory. From taxonomic point of view the artefacts represent the Federmesser culture as an element of Arch-backed points technocomplex (APT) – well known from the European Plain and practically quite unknown from the mountains till now. Hunters’ camp, with the dwelling structure and workshop, was situated on a terrace of the Białka River close to its gorge, and in the proximity of a rocky hill (the Obłazowa Rock) – which itself was a great observation spot. The cultural layer found in the site was connected with an initial soil, the presence of which was observed within the aeolian loess-like deposits. Thie age of pedogenic processes (based on OSL dating) was undoubtedly younger than 14.7 ka and older than 11 ka. Radiocarbon dating suggests the Late Allerød age of the site. (...)


Humanizing European Paleolithic art: A new visual evidence of human/bird interactions at L’Hort de la Boquera site (Margalef de Montsant, Tarragona, Spain), di I. Domingo et alii, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 123, Issue 1, January–March 2019, Pages 1-18 - free  access -

This paper reports the discovery of a new example of portable art in North-eastern Iberia dating to the Late Upper Palaeolithic (12.250 ± 60 BP). The piece is analysed in relation to the European Palaeolithic art assemblage to determine its significance and how it contributes to our understandings of Palaeolithic artistic practices. Both the motifs depicted (birds and humans) and the patterns of composition (a narrative scene) are unusual in Palaeolithic assemblages. In addition, this new find contributes to filling a geographic gap in the artistic record as evidence of Palaeolithic art is rare in Catalonia. The anatomical features of one of the birds suggest that it is a crane, a species that has been depicted in a limited number of sites, as summarized in this paper. Moreover, there are only three known example of birds and humans interacting in a narrative scene in Palaeolithic art. Exhibiting innovations in media, subject matter and compositional norms, this new find has the potential to change the classic definition of European Upper Palaeolithic art and integrate the region in the artistic trends circulating along Mediterranean Iberia during the Upper Magdalenian. (...)


Coliboaia is not Chauvet, di Marin Cârciumaru, Elena-Cristina Nițu, Paul Bahn, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 123, Issue 1, January–March 2019, Pages 19-38 - free  access -

The decorated cave of Coliboaia in Romania has been claimed to date to the Aurignacian period, and to supply support for the Aurignacian attribution of France's Chauvet cave. In this paper, we examine the evidence and show that neither the radiocarbon dates obtained at Coliboaia nor the style and content of its cave art correspond to the Aurignacian period, and that comparisons with Chauvet cave – itself badly dated and erroneously attributed – are equally ill-founded. We also show that both caves are in regions which are bereft of Aurignacian occupation, and neither cave contains any artefacts from the period. (...)


L'attribution culturelle des sculptures du Jura souabe selon les documents des découvreurs, di  G. Jouve, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 123, Issue 1, January–March 2019, Pages 39-65 - free  access -

The portable art discovered in the caves of the Swabian Jura has been dated to the Aurignacian for almost half a century, following work by J. Hahn, but that was not the opinion of the discoverers at the sites of Vogelherd and Hohlenstein Stadel. The dating of these figurines poses questions about the first development of figurative art. This paper examines the validity of the arguments presented about radiometric ages of the finds comparing to their stratigraphic locations. A varied chronology for these artworks becomes clear: in our view, some pieces from Vogelherd and Hohle Fels date to the Gravettian, while others from Vogelherd and Hohlenstein Stadel date to the Magdalenian. The arguments in favour of the Aurignacian do not hold up to critical examination. (...)


Aggiornamento 2 maggio

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

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

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

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

  "PaleoAnthropology" Journal 2019 - free  access -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Le tante famiglie dei Denisova, 15 aprile 2019

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

No abstract is available for this article.


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Aggiornamento 18 febbraio

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

Information about plant gathering by Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in Europe is scarce because of the problems of preservation of plant remains in archaeological sites and due to the lack of application of archaebotanical analysis in many of them. Botanical macroremains –wood charcoal, seeds, fruits, leaves, etc. - provide information not only about palaeoeconomy of hunter-gatherers, but also about climate, landscape and vegetation dynamics. In Gravettian and Solutrean levels of Cova de les Cendres (Alicante, Spain), Corema album pyrenes (Empetraceae or crowberries family) have been identified. On the contrary, wood charcoal of this species has not been documented among the remains of firewood (...)

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

We employed taphonomic methods to describe postmortem damage observed on the fossils. We used osteometric tools and measurements to generate quantitative descriptions, which were added to qualitative descriptions of the fossils. These observations were then interpreted using published data on the same skeletal elements from extant and extinct hominoid taxa (...)

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

There is continuing controversy over the number of taxa documented by the Dmanisi hominins. Variation may reflect age and sex differences within a single population. Alternatively, two (or more) distinct species may be present. Our null hypothesis states that just one population is represented at the site.
We assess the likely sources of variation in endocranial capacity, craniofacial and mandibular morphology, and the expression of characters related to aging and sex dimorphism. We use the coefficient of variation and a modified version of Levene's test for equal variances to compare trait variation at Dmanisi with that in fossil hominins and modern Homo sapiens from Africa (...)

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

A prevailing hypothesis in paleoanthropology is that early Pleistocene hominin bones were accumulated in South African caves by carnivores, which used those shelters, and the trees surrounding them, as refuge and feeding sites. We tested this hypothesis at the site of Drimolen, by comparing its hominin age-at-death distribution to that of the nearby and roughly contemporaneous site of Swartkrans (...)

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

Current evidence suggests domestications of the dog were incipient developments in many areas of the world. In southwest Asia this process took place in the Late Epipalaeolithic Natufian (~14,500–11,600 cal BP) with the earliest evidence originating from the Mediterranean zone of the southern Levant. This paper presents new data for the importance of early domestic dogs to human groups in the region beyond this ‘core’ area where the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene environment is usually thought of as less favourable for human occupation (...)

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

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

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

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

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

Acheulean bifaces dominate the archaeological record for 1.5 million years. The meaning behind the often symmetrical forms of these tools is the topic of considerable debate, with explanations ranging from effectiveness as a cutting tool to sexual display. Some, however, question whether the symmetry seen in many Acheulean bifaces is intentional at all, with suggestions that it is merely the result of a bias in hominin perception or an inevitable consequence of bifacial flaking. In this paper we address the issue of intention in biface symmetry. First, we use transmission chain experiments designed to track symmetry trends in the replication of biface outlines (...)

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

The African Middle Pleistocene (781–126 ka) is a key period for human evolution, witnessing both the origin of the modern human lineage and the lithic turnover from Earlier Stone Age (ESA) Acheulean bifacial tools to Middle Stone Age (MSA) prepared core and point technologies. This ESA/MSA transition is interpreted as representing changing landscape use with greater foraging distances and more active hunting strategies. So far, these behavioral inferences are mainly based on the extensive stone tool record, with only a minor role for site-based and regional faunal studies. To provide additional insights into these behavioral changes, this paper details a pan-African metastudy of 63 Middle Pleistocene faunal assemblages from 40 sites (...)

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

Several questions remain regarding the timing and nature of the Neanderthal-anatomically modern human (AMH) transition in Europe. The situation in Eastern Europe is generally less clear due to the relatively few sites and a dearth of reliable radiocarbon dates. Claims have been made for both notably early AMH and notably late Neanderthal presence, as well as for early AMH (Aurignacian) dispersal into the region from Central/Western Europe. The Kostenki-Borshchevo complex (European Russia) of Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) sites offers high-quality data to address these questions. Here we revise the chronology and cultural status of the key sites of Kostenki 17 and Kostenki 14. The Kostenki 17/II lithic assemblage shares important features with Proto-Aurignacian material, strengthening an association with AMHs (...)

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

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

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

Humans are the only primates that maintain regular inter-group relationships and meta-group social networks that enable the inter-group flow of individuals. This is the basis of the band/tribe concept in the anthropology of modern foragers. The present work is a theoretical approach to the development of analytical tools to understand group size and the temporal scale of site occupation in the archaeological record. We selected FLK Zinj as one of the oldest examples of a taphonomically-supported anthropogenic site in which both variables (group size and time) could be modelled using a combination of modern forager regression estimates from their camp sizes and estimates derived from the combined use of modern African foragers' meat consumption rates per day per capita during the dry season and minimum estimates of flesh yields provided by the carcass parts preserved at FLK Zinj. This approach provides the basis for a testable hypothesis which should be further tested in other Oldowan sites (...)

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

Because of its exceptional degree of preservation and its geological age of ~3.67 Ma, StW 573 makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of early hominin evolution and paleobiology. The morphology of the bony labyrinth has the potential to provide information about extinct primate taxonomic diversity, phylogenetic relationships and locomotor behaviour. In this context, we virtually reconstruct and comparatively assess the bony labyrinth morphology in StW 573. As comparative material, we investigate 17 southern African hominin specimens from Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Makapansgat (plus published data from two specimens from Kromdraai B), attributed to Australopithecus, early Homo or Paranthropus, as well as 10 extant human and 10 extant chimpanzee specimens (...)

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

Here we analyze the unpublished hominin dental remains recovered from the late Early Pleistocene Gran Dolina-TD6.2 level of the Sierra de Atapuerca (northern Spain), as well as provide a reassessment of the whole TD6.2 hominin dental sample. Comparative descriptions of the outer enamel surface (OES) and the enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) are provided. Overall, the data presented here support the taxonomic validity of Homo antecessor, since this species presents a unique mosaic of traits. Homo antecessor displays several primitive features for the genus Homo as well as some traits exclusively shared with Early and Middle Pleistocene Eurasian hominins (...)

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

The role of demography is often suggested to be a key factor in both biological and cultural evolution. Recent research has shown that the linkage between population size and cultural evolution is not straightforward and emerges from the interplay of many demographic, economic, social and ecological variables. Formal modelling has yielded interesting insights into the complex relationship between population structure, intergroup connectedness, and magnitude and extent of population extinctions. Such studies have highlighted the importance of effective (as opposed to census) population size in transmission processes. At the same time, it remained unclear how such insights can be applied to material culture phenomena in the prehistoric record, especially for deeper prehistory. In this paper we approach the issue of population sizes during the time of the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition through the proxy of regional trajectories of lithic technological change, identified in the archaeological records from Africa, the Levant, Southwestern and Northwestern Europe (...)

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

The site of Skhul in Israel has featured prominently in discussions about the early presence of Homo sapiens outside of Africa since its excavation in the 1930s. Until now, attention has been primarily focused on the site's fossil hominins and evidence for symbolic behavior in the form of burials and rare artifacts such as pierced shells and pigment objects. We present here the results of renewed analysis of the lithic artifacts from Skhul drawn from archival collections in the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel (...)

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

The manufacture of composite projectile technology requires the production and assemblage of tightly fitted parts designed to fulfill a number of distinct functions. Each part combines a number of techno-functional units, and various processes may be responsible for the shape variability of these units. In order to investigate the relative contribution of each process to the overall variability of a projectile implement, one must identify the point of demarcation between its techno-functional units. In the present paper, the concept of shape modularity is introduced to precisely identify this locus. The application of geometric morphometrics and shape modularity to the study of two Aurignacian osseous projectile point types, i.e., split- and massive-based points, reveals interesting patterns (...)

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

The study of morphological variation in the hominin fossil record has been transformed in recent years by the advent of high resolution 3D imaging combined with improved geometric morphometric (GM) toolkits. In parallel, increasing numbers of studies have applied finite elements analysis (FEA) to the study of skeletal mechanics in fossil and extant hominoid material. While FEA studies of fossils are becoming ever more popular they are constrained by the difficulties of reconstruction and by the uncertainty that inevitably attaches to the estimation of forces and material properties. Adding to these modelling difficulties it is still unclear how FEA analyses should best deal with species variation (...)

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

KNM-ER 47000 is a fossil hominin upper limb skeleton from the Koobi Fora Formation, Kenya (FwJj14E, Area 1A) that includes portions of the scapula, humerus, ulna, and hand. Dated to ~1.52 Ma, the skeleton could potentially belong to one of multiple hominin species that have been documented in the Turkana Basin during this time, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Paranthropus boisei. Although the skeleton lacks associated craniodental material, the partial humerus (described here) preserves anatomical regions (i.e., distal diaphysis, elbow joint) that are informative for taxonomic identification among early Pleistocene hominins. In this study, we analyze distal diaphyseal morphology and the shape of the elbow region to determine whether KNM-ER 47000 can be confidently attributed to a particular species (...)

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

A ~1.52 Ma adult upper limb skeleton of Paranthropus boisei (KNM-ER 47000) recovered from the Koobi Fora Formation, Kenya (FwJj14E, Area 1A) includes most of the distal half of a right humerus (designated KNM-ER 47000B). Natural transverse fractures through the diaphysis of KNM-ER 470000B provide unobstructed views of cortical bone at two sections typically used for analyzing cross-sectional properties of hominids (i.e., 35% and 50% of humerus length from the distal end). Here we assess cross-sectional properties of KNM-ER 47000B and two other P. boisei humeri (OH 80-10, KNM-ER 739). Cross-sectional properties for P. boisei associated with bending/torsional strength (section moduli) and relative cortical thickness (%CA; percent cortical area) are compared to those reported for nonhuman hominids, AL 288-1 (Australopithecus afarensis), and multiple species of fossil and modern Homo (...)

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

The newly described partial skeleton of Paranthropus boisei KNM-ER 47000 as well as the FwJj14E Ileret footprints provide new evidence on the paleobiology and diversity of hominins from the Okote Member of the Koobi Fora Formation at East Turkana about 1.5 Ma. To better understand the ecological context of the Okote hominins, it is necessary to broaden the geographical focus of the analysis to include the entire Omo-Turkana ecosystem, and the temporal focus to encompass the early Pleistocene. Previous work has shown that important changes in the regional vegetation occurred after 2 Ma, and that there was a peak in mammalian turnover and diversity close to 1.8 Ma. This peak in diversity included the Hominini, with the species P. boisei, Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo erectus co-occurring at around 1.8 Ma (...)

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

One of the most crucial debates in human paleoneurology concerns the timing and mode of the emergence of the derived cerebral features in the hominin fossil record. Given its exceptional degree of preservation and geological age (i.e., 3.67 Ma), StW 573 (‘Little Foot’) has the potential to shed new light on hominin brain evolution. Here we present the first detailed comparative description of the external neuroanatomy of StW 573. The endocast was virtually reconstructed and compared to ten southern African hominin specimens from Makapansgat, Malapa, Sterkfontein and Swartkrans attributed to Australopithecus and Paranthropus. We apply an automatic method for the detection of sulcal and vascular imprints. The endocranial surface of StW 573 is crushed and plastically deformed in a number of locations (...)

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

Since at least the 1980s, it has been known that archaeological dental calculus contains preserved cellular structures of oral bacteria, but it was only recently discovered that it is also a robust and long-term reservoir of well-preserved DNA (Adler et al., 2013). Advances in ancient DNA now enable direct comparisons between ancient and modern oral microbial communities. Recently, Weyrich et al. (2017) suggested that preserved dental calculus could be a useful source of information for the reconstruction of Neanderthal behavior, diet, or disease. The authors succeeded in deeply sequencing five Neanderthal individual dental calculus samples, retrieving in three of them (one individual did not provide any genetic data, another was omitted because of possible contamination with modern humans) 93.76% of bacterial sequences, 5.91% archaeal sequences, 0.27% eukaryotic sequences, and 0.06% viral sequences. Shotgun-sequencing of ancient DNA from these specimens brought to light regional differences in Neanderthal ecology: For instance, at Spy Cave, Belgium, a heavily meat-based diet (including woolly rhinoceros and mouflon) was evident, which is characteristic of a steppe environment, whereas at El Sidrón Cave, Spain, no meat eating was detected, but mushrooms, pine nuts, and moss were eaten, reflecting forest gathering. Weyrich et al. (2017) suggested that differences in diet were linked to an overall shift in the oral microbiota, and proposed that meat consumption may have contributed to substantial variation within Neanderthal microbiota (...)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We describe 14 unpublished and nine published teeth from the Mousterian level of Portel-Ouest (Ariège, France), dated to 44 ka. In a comparative context, we explore the taxonomical affinities of those teeth with Neandertals and modern humans which are both known to exist at that time. We further make some paleobiological inferences about this human group.
The comparative analysis of Neandertals and modern humans is based on nonmetric traits at the outer enamel surface and the enamel–dentine junction, crown diameters and three‐dimensional (3D) enamel thickness measurements of lower permanent teeth. The crown and roots are explored in detail based on the μCT-scan data to identify the multiple criteria involved in the paleobiological approach (...)

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

Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins, often summarized as Homo heidelbergensis sensu lato, are difficult to interpret due to a fragmentary fossil record and ambiguous combinations of primitive and derived characters. Here, we focus on one aspect of facial shape and analyze shape variation of the dental arcades of these fossils together with other Homo individuals.
Three-dimensional landmark data were collected on computed tomographic scans and surface scans of Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins (n = 8), Homo erectus s.l. (n = 4), Homo antecessor (n = 1), Homo neanderthalensis (n = 13), recent (n = 52) and fossil (n = 19) Homo sapiens. To increase sample size, we used multiple multivariate regression to reconstruct complementary arches for isolated mandibles, and explored size and shape differences among maxillary arcades (...)

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

The mandible can provide valuable information on both the life history and genetic makeup of Archaic human populations. The following analysis tests two hypotheses: (a) that there are significant differences in morphology in mandibular shape between the genders amongst Archaic North American Homo sapiens and (b) that there is a significant difference in variance in mandibular shape between Archaic Windover and Point Hope.
A sample made from mandible specimens taken from both populations is subjected to Principal Component Analyses (PCA). The component scores from the PCAs are subjected to both a Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (mancova) and a general Multivariate Analysis of Variance (manova) to determine whether significant differences in variance exist between the sexes and the populations (...)

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

The Galería de las Estatuas site (GE), a new Mousterian site at the Sierra de Atapuerca site complex (Spain), has revealed a Late Pleistocene detrital sequence with at least five lithostratigraphic units. These units have yielded evidence of Mousterian occupations with sporadic carnivore activity, and have provided datings of 80–112 ka BP using single-grain optically stimulated luminescence. This places the sequence at the end of MIS5 and beginning of the MIS4. We described here a complete adult human distal foot phalanx (GE-1573) recovered during the 2017 field season in the interface between lithostratigraphic units 3 and 4 (107–112 ka BP) in the GE-I test pit (...)

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

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



Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca