Aggiornamento 31/12/2021

  Paleo, 31, 2021:

- Nouveaux sites et perspectives pour l’Aurignacien et le Gravettien du piémont Nord-Pyrénéen, di H. Baills

- Un nouveau site magdalénien de plein air dans la vallée de l’Isle (Le Ponteix, Boulazac, Dordogne, France). Un exemple de co-production lamino-lamellaire à la fin du dernier maximum glaciaire, di M. Bocquel, M. Brenet, C. Fourloubey, M. Langlais

- Le site gravettien de plein air de Feldberg « Steinacker », Müllheim/Baden (Allemagne), di I. M. Braun

- Approche pluridisciplinaire du site moustérien récent de la Route de Jaunour à Boulazac (Dordogne, France): premiers résultats et questionnements, di É. Cormarèche et alii

- Identification génétique et datation radiocarbone de restes osseux de cerf, de renne et de bison des steppes d’une sépulture moustérienne (La Ferrassie 8, Dordogne, France), di J. M. Elalouf, J. Utge, M. Lebon, O. Tombret, A. Zazzo, A. Balzeau

- El Sotillo (Malagόn, Ciudad real, Espagne), un site archéologique pléistocène de plein-air de la transition Paléolithique inférieur-moyen, di A. José Gómez Laguna, P. Martín Blanco, D. Uribelarrea del Val

- Les dents humaines magdaléniennes de la grotte de La Marche (Lussac-Les-Châteaux, Vienne, France), di M. Le Luyer, J. Airvaux, D. Henry-Gambier

- La grotte Castaigne (Torsac, Charente, France) : une nécessaire révision de la provenance de certains vestiges archéologiques fauniques, di B. Maureille et alii

- Approche expérimentale et fonctionnelle de la production du feu avec un sulfure de fer au Paléolithique supérieur ancien: exploration tracéologique de l’industrie lithique de l’archéoséquence du Flageolet I (Bézenac, Dordogne, France). Perspectives diachroniques, di T. Morala

- « Colore le monde ». Le rôle de la couleur dans le dispositif pariétal de la grotte de Combarelles I (Les Eyzies, Dordogne), di E. Paillet, E. Deneuve, P. Paillet, C. Cretin

- Figurations inédites de la galerie A de la grotte de Rouffignac (Dordogne, France), di F. Plassard, M. Dachary, J. Plassard


Paleo, Hors-série. Décembre 2021:

- Foragers or « Feasters ? » Inequalities in the Upper Palaeolithic, di B. Hayden

- Différences de richesse et inégalités sociales au Paléolithique: éléments pour une discussion, di E. Honoré

- Des tombes d’aristocrates paléolithiques ? Ce que nous dit (et ne nous dit pas) le traitement des morts, di D. Henry-Gambier, B. Boulestin

- Ressources alimentaires et inégalités sociales au Paléolithique: la question du stockage à large échelle, di S. Costamagno, C. Nôus

- Économie des ressources animales et mobilité des groupes humains au Pléniglaciaire supérieur et au Tardiglaciaire (30 000-14 000cal BP) en France: un système Renne au service d’une aristocratie paléolithique? di L. Fontana

- Économies littorales au Paléolithique récent dans le Sud-Ouest européen: un état de la question, di J. M. Pétillon

- Le site à Vénus de Brassempouy (Landes, France): l’hypothèse de la semi-sédentarité au Gravettien, di A. Simonet

- Sur la motivation des tailleurs experts du Paléolithique supérieur, di J. Pelegrin

- Creating Wealth in the Ice Age: Ivory Beads of the French Aurignacian, di C. Heckel

- L’apprentissage artistique au Magdalénien et ses implications dans l’analyse des complexités sociales de la fin du Paléolithique supérieur, di O. Rivero

- Les images du Magdalénien, un naturalisme sans l’idée de Nature?, di C. Birouste


Knapping tools in Magdalenian contexts: New evidence from Gough’s Cave (Somerset, UK), di S. M. Bello, L. Crété, J. Galway-Witham, S. A. Parfitt, 23 December 2021, doi: - open access -

Our knowledge of the recolonization of north-west Europe at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum depends to a large extent on finds from Gough’s Cave (Somerset, UK). Ultra-high resolution radiocarbon determinations suggest that the cave was occupied seasonally by Magdalenian hunters for perhaps no more than two or three human generations, centred on 12,600 BP (~14,950–14,750 cal BP). They left behind a rich and diverse assemblage of Magdalenian lithic and osseous artefacts, butchered animal bones, and cannibalised human remains. The faunal assemblage from Gough’s Cave is one of the most comprehensively studied from any Magdalenian site, yet new and unexpected discoveries continue to be made. Here, we record previously unrecognized flint-knapping tools that were identified during a survey of the Gough’s Cave faunal collection at the Natural History Museum (London). We identified bones used as hammers and teeth manipulated as pressure-flakers to manufacture flint tools. (...)


El Niño Cave (Aýna, Albacete, Spain): Late Middle Palaeolithic, Rock Art, and Neolithic Occupations from Inland Iberia, di A. García-Moreno, "Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society", Volume 87, December 2021

El Niño cave, located on the south-eastern border of the Spanish Meseta, hosts a discontinuous sequence including Middle Palaeolithic and Neolithic levels, along with Upper Palaeolithic and Levantine style paintings. It is a key site for understanding human occupations of inland Iberia during the Palaeolithic and early prehistory. This paper summarises the main results of a multidisciplinary project aimed at defining the prehistoric human occupations at the site. (...)


We Are Not Alone: William King and the Naming of the Neanderthals, di J. Walker, D. Clinnick, M. White, "American Anthropologist", Volume 123, Issue 4, December 2021, Pages 805-818 - open access -

The story of human history was changed forever in 1863 with William King's proposal that we had not always been the sole members of the Homo genus. Yet, more than 150 years after Homo neanderthalensis was first named and then summarized in the pages of The Anthropological Review, the man responsible for this revolutionary announcement is poorly known in the field of palaeoanthropology today. Following the sesquicentennial anniversary of this seminal event in 2013, a timely reappraisal is given of King's reputation, legacy, and work within the intellectual vortex of his time. (...)


Birds and bovids: new parietal engravings at the Romanelli Cave, Apulia, di D. Sigari et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 95, Issue 384, December 2021, pp. 1387-1404 - open access -

The Romanelli Cave in south-east Italy is an important reference point for the so-called ‘Mediterranean province’ of European Upper Palaeolithic art. Yet, the site has only recently been subject to a systematic investigation of its parietal and portable art. Starting in 2016, a project has recorded the cave's interior, discovering new parietal art. Here, the authors report on a selection of panels, featuring animal figures, geometric motifs and other marks, identifying the use of different types of tools and techniques, along with several activity phases. These panels are discussed with reference to radiocarbon dating of nearby deposits, posing questions about chronology, technology and wider connections between Upper Palaeolithic cave sites across western Eurasia. (...)


Brutish Neanderthals: History of a merciless characterization, di P. Madison, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 30, Issue 6, November/December 2021, Pages 366-374

The idea that Neanderthals were brutish and unintelligent is often traced back to Marcellin Boule, a French paleontologist who examined the specimen known as the Old Man in the first decades of the 20th century. This article examines the work of Boule's predecessors and aggregate a variety of literature to underline an argument that this idea has much earlier origins and is rooted in the first recognized specimen discovered in the Neander Valley in 1856. (...)


Mothering the Orphaned Pup: The Beginning of a Domestication Process in the Upper Palaeolithic, di M. Germonpré, M. Van den Broeck, M. Lázničková-Galetová, M. V. Sablin, H. Bocherens, "Human Ecology", Volume 49, issue 6, December 2021, pages 677–689

Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the initial steps in the domestication process of the wolf. We discuss the human-initiated model in which wolf pups were brought to camp sites by male hunters and cared for by nursing women. A good relation between the more sociable and playful pups and the women and their children likely formed affiliative bonds and led to the survival of such pups into maturity. (...)


A Window into the Early–Middle Stone Age Transition in Northeastern Africa—A Marine Isotope Stage 7a/6 Late Acheulean Horizon from the EDAR 135 Site, Eastern Sahara (Sudan), di G. Michalec et alii, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 46, 2021, Issue 8, Pages 513-533 - open access -

This paper presents the results of the analysis of a late Acheulean horizon from the EDAR 135 site, which was discovered in the Eastern Desert, Sudan, in an area heavily transformed by modern mining activity. A lithic assemblage was discovered there, within a layer of gravel sediments formed by a paleostream in a humid period of the Middle Pleistocene. This layer is OSL dated between 220 ± 12 and 145 ± 20 ka (MIS 7a/6). These dates indicate that the assemblage could be the youngest trace of the Acheulean in northeastern Africa. Technological analysis of the lithics reveals different core reduction strategies, including not only ad hoc ones based on multiplatform cores, but also discoidal and prepared cores. The use of prepared core reduction methods has already been confirmed at other Late Acheulean sites in Africa and the Middle East. Microwear traces observed on lithic artifacts could relate to on-site butchering activities. (...)


Population collapse or human resilience in response to the 9.3 and 8.2 ka cooling events: A multi-proxy analysis of Mesolithic occupation in the Scheldt basin (Belgium), di E. Van Maldegem et alii, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 64, December 2021, 101348 - open access -

This paper explores the impact of environmental, e.g. sea level rise, and climatic events, e.g. abrupt cooling events, on Mesolithic populations (ca. 11,350 to 6600 cal BP) living in the western Scheldt basin of Belgium and Northern France. The Mesolithic in this study-area has been extensively studied during the last few decades, leading to an extensive database of radiocarbon dates (n = 418), sites (n = 157) and excavated loci (n = 145). A multi-proxy analysis of this database reveals important changes both chronologically and geographically, which are interpreted in terms of population dynamics and changing mobility and land-use. The results suggest a population peak and high residential mobility in the Early Mesolithic, followed by a population shift and increased intra-basin mobility in the Middle Mesolithic, possibly triggered by the rapid inundation of the North Sea basin. (...)


A taste for the unusual. Green, flat pebbles used by late Neanderthals, di M. Peresani et alii, " Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 64, December 2021, 101368 - open access -

Neanderthals collected unusual, sometimes colorful mineral materials from different sources. Several green serpentinite smooth pebbles with a flat shape and use modifications were unearthed at Fumane Cave in northern Italy. This study explores cognitive and functional criteria that influenced the selection and use of unique pebbles based on their regional geology, morphology, petrology, use wear, and residues. Besides the attraction for green materials, there is no evidence for the use of soft green and flat pebbles, like those from Fumane Cave, during the Middle Palaeolithic. Moreover, these materials were collected by Neanderthals only from ca. 44 ka cal BP, despite the large availability of green serpentine pebbles in the alluvial beds near the cave. Ultimately, we provide new data to understand the role of aesthetic and technological factors in shaping the human behavioral range in the Middle Paleolithic. (...)

  "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 161, December 2021:

- Morphological description and evolutionary significance of 300 ka hominin facial bones from Hualongdong, China, di X. Wu et alii

- Unexpected variation of human molar size patterns, di J. C. Boughner, D. F. Marchiori, G. V. Packota

- Subsistence behavior during the Initial Upper Paleolithic in Europe: Site use, dietary practice, and carnivore exploitation at Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria), di G. M. Smith et alii

- Variation in Middle Stone Age mandibular molar enamel-dentine junction topography at Klasies River Main Site assessed by diffeomorphic surface matching, di F. E. Grine et alii

- Comparative dental study between Homo antecessor and Chinese Homo erectus: Nonmetric features and geometric morphometrics, di J. M. Bermúdez de Castro et alii

- Unique foot posture in Neanderthals reflects their body mass and high mechanical stress, di R. Sorrentino et alii

- Zhoukoudian Upper Cave personal ornaments and ochre: Rediscovery and reevaluation, di F. d’Errico et alii


Des mammouths et des néandertaliens en Angleterre il y a 210 000 ans? 23/12/21

C’est dans le sud-ouest de l’Angleterre près d’une carrière de Swindon que des fouilles ont permis de mettre à jour des restes fossiles de mammouths. Le site est connu depuis 2017 lorsque des archéologues amateurs (Sally et Neville Hollingworth) ont découvert une hache de pierre attribuée à Néandertal. A l’origine les chercheurs pensaient trouver des restes de fossiles différents Mme Hollingworth, véritable chasseuse de fossile (!) déclare «Nous avions initialement espéré trouver des fossiles marins, et trouver quelque chose de très important à la place était une véritable excitation ». (...)


Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 50,000-year-old social network in Africa, di J. M. Miller, Y. V. Wang, "Nature", 20 December 2021 - open access -

Humans evolved in a patchwork of semi-connected populations across Africa; understanding when and how these groups connected is critical to interpreting our present-day biological and cultural diversity. Genetic analyses reveal that eastern and southern African lineages diverged sometime in the Pleistocene epoch, approximately 350–70 thousand years ago (ka); however, little is known about the exact timing of these interactions, the cultural context of these exchanges or the mechanisms that drove their separation. Here we compare ostrich eggshell bead variations between eastern and southern Africa to explore population dynamics over the past 50,000 years. We found that ostrich eggshell bead technology probably originated in eastern Africa and spread southward approximately 50–33 ka via a regional network. (...)


Landscape modification by Last Interglacial Neanderthals, di W. Roebroeks et alii, "Science Advances", 17 Dec 2021, Vol 7, Issue 51, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abj5567 - open access -

Little is known about the antiquity, nature, and scale of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer impact on their ecosystems, despite the importance for studies of conservation and human evolution. Such impact is likely to be limited, mainly because of low population densities, and challenging to detect and interpret in terms of cause-effect dynamics. We present high-resolution paleoenvironmental and archaeological data from the Last Interglacial locality of Neumark-Nord (Germany). Among the factors that shaped vegetation structure and succession in this lake landscape, we identify a distinct ecological footprint of hominin activities, including fire use. We compare these data with evidence from archaeological and baseline sites from the same region. At Neumark-Nord, notably open vegetation coincides with a virtually continuous c. 2000-year-long hominin presence, and the comparative data strongly suggest that hominins were a contributing factor. With an age of c. 125,000 years, Neumark-Nord provides an early example of a hominin role in vegetation transformation. (...)


Footprint evidence of early hominin locomotor diversity at Laetoli, Tanzania, di E. J. McNutt et alii, "Nature", Volume 600, Issue 7889, 16 December 2021, pp. 468–471 - open access -

Bipedal trackways discovered in 1978 at Laetoli site G, Tanzania and dated to 3.66 million years ago are widely accepted as the oldest unequivocal evidence of obligate bipedalism in the human lineage. Another trackway discovered two years earlier at nearby site A was partially excavated and attributed to a hominin, but curious affinities with bears (ursids) marginalized its importance to the paleoanthropological community, and the location of these footprints fell into obscurity. In 2019, we located, excavated and cleaned the site A trackway, producing a digital archive using 3D photogrammetry and laser scanning. Here we compare the footprints at this site with those of American black bears, chimpanzees and humans, and we show that they resemble those of hominins more than ursids. In fact, the narrow step width corroborates the original interpretation of a small, cross-stepping bipedal hominin. However, the inferred foot proportions, gait parameters and 3D morphologies of footprints at site A are readily distinguished from those at site G, indicating that a minimum of two hominin taxa with different feet and gaits coexisted at Laetoli. (...)


High-resolution study of Middle Palaeolithic deposits and formation processes at Tabun Cave, Israel: Guano-rich cave deposits and detailed stratigraphic appreciation of Layer C, di D. E. Friesem et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 274, 15 December 2021, 107203

The hominin-bearing Middle Palaeolithic [MP] Layer C of Tabun Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel, has been extensively studied for over 90 years, but many questions about its chronology, the identity of its hominin remains and the nature of its formation remain open. Tabun Layer C, part of the 13-m thick MP deposits at the cave, presents a complex sedimentary sequence composed of multiple beds and thinner laminae within them (<5 cm thick), varying in colour, texture, and the amount of associated remains from human activity. In this study, we re-sampled, in higher resolution than any previous study, the sediments exposed along the full stratigraphic sequence of Layer C (⁓2.5 m thick), including the deposits immediately below and above it. The studied sequence largely conforms to the three Major Sedimentological Units (MSU I-III, themselves analogous to Garrod's layers B-D) previously defined by Jelinek et al. (1973). (...)


The early Aurignacian at Lapa do Picareiro really is that old: A comment on ‘The late persistence of the Middle Palaeolithic and Neandertals in Iberia: A review of the evidence for and against the “Ebro Frontier” model’, di J. A. Haws et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 274, 15 December 2021, 107261

In his review of the MP-UP transition in Iberia, Zilhao (2021 ~ : 25) mistakenly altered the data presented in two of our recent publications (Benedetti et al., 2019; Haws et al., 2020) using an imprecise (rounded) datum elevation in Benedetti et al. (2019) to reconfigure the associations of artifact, bones, and radiocarbon dates at Lapa do Picareiro. He apparently read the statement, “Elevations in and around the cave are tied to a vertical datum (571 m above sea level) …“(Benedetti et al., 2019: 6) to mean the datum elevation is precisely 571.000 m asl. In fact, the datum elevation used throughout the excavation is 571.483 m asl. (...)


Integrative geochronology calibrates the Middle and Late Stone Ages of Ethiopia’s Afar Rift, di El. M. Niespolo et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 14 December 2021, vol. 118, no. 50, e2116329118 - open access -

Understanding the evolution, dispersals, behaviors, and ecologies of early African Homo sapiens requires accurate geochronological placement of fossils and artifacts. We introduce open-air occurrences of such remains in sediments of the Middle Awash study area in Ethiopia. We describe the stratigraphic and depositional contexts of our discoveries and demonstrate the effectiveness of recently developed uranium-series dating of ostrich eggshell at validating and bridging across more traditional radioisotopic methods (14C and 40Ar/39Ar). (...)


An infant burial from Arma Veirana in northwestern Italy provides insights into funerary practices and female personhood in early Mesolithic Europe, di J. Hodgkins et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 11, Article number: 23735, 14 dicembre 2021 - open access -

The evolution and development of human mortuary behaviors is of enormous cultural significance. Here we report a richly-decorated young infant burial (AVH-1) from Arma Veirana (Liguria, northwestern Italy) that is directly dated to 10,211–9910 cal BP (95.4% probability), placing it within the early Holocene and therefore attributable to the early Mesolithic, a cultural period from which well-documented burials are exceedingly rare. Virtual dental histology, proteomics, and aDNA indicate that the infant was a 40–50 days old female. Associated artifacts indicate significant material and emotional investment in the child’s interment. (...)


Canine sexual dimorphism in Ardipithecus ramidus was nearly human-like, di G. Suwa et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 07 December 2021, vol. 118, no. 49, e2116630118

Body and canine size dimorphism in fossils inform sociobehavioral hypotheses on human evolution and have been of interest since Darwin’s famous reflections on the subject. Here, we assemble a large dataset of fossil canines of the human clade, including all available Ardipithecus ramidus fossils recovered from the Middle Awash and Gona research areas in Ethiopia, and systematically examine canine dimorphism through evolutionary time. In particular, we apply a Bayesian probabilistic method that reduces bias when estimating weak and moderate levels of dimorphism. Our results show that Ar. ramidus canine dimorphism was significantly weaker than in the bonobo, the least dimorphic and behaviorally least aggressive among extant great apes. Average male-to-female size ratios of the canine in Ar. ramidus are estimated as 1.06 and 1.13 in the upper and lower canines, respectively, within modern human population ranges of variation. (...)


Denisovans or Homo sapiens: Who were the first to settle (permanently) on the Tibetan Plateau? 7 December 2021

A new paper by archaeologists at the University of California, Davis, highlights that our extinct cousins, the Denisovans, reached the "roof of the world" about 160,000 years ago -- 120,000 years earlier than previous estimates for our species -- and even contributed to our adaptation to high altitude. (...)


Why did modern humans take so long to settle in Europe? 6 december 2021

From three sites in Romania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic respectively, research have identified, and re-dated early human remains to between 40,000 - 50,000 years ago. However, these bones have produced a genetic profile that is not a match to any modern Europeans. "These early settlements appear to have been created by groups of early modern humans who did not survive to pass on their genes," said Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London. "They are our species' lost lineages. The crucial point is that the demise of these early modern human settlers meant Neanderthals still occupied Europe for a further few thousand years before Homo sapiens eventually took over the continent." (...)

  Timing of Neanderthal occupations in the southeastern margins of the Massif Central (France): A multi-method approach, di M. Richard et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 273, 1 December 2021, 107241

The middle Rhône valley, located at the southeastern margins of the Massif Central in France, produced a large number of Middle Palaeolithic sites, most of which dated to the Middle and Late Pleistocene. Due to its position, connecting northern Europe and the Mediterranean basin, this corridor and the surrounding plateaus are of particular interest in the study of human cultural evolution, including the emergence of Middle Palaeolithic technology around 300,000 years ago and its variability over time, as well as the subsistence and mobility strategies of Neanderthals. (...)


The hunted or the scavenged? Australopith accumulation by brown hyenas at Sterkfontein (South Africa), di M. C. Arriaza, J. Aramendi, M. Á. Maté-González, J. Yravedra, D. Stratford, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 273, 1 December 2021, 107252

In the present study, we report brown hyena tooth marks on australopiths from Sterkfontein's Plio-Pleistocene-age Member 4 (South Africa). Classic taphonomic analyses and the implementation of new techniques, including Geometric Morphometrics and Machine Learning, are combined to identify the modifying agent and provide the first direct evidence of hyenid scavenging on australopiths. (...)


Morphometric analysis of Middle Stone Age tanged tools from South-Western Libya, central Sahara. A regional perspective, di E. Cancellieri, "Archeologia e Calcolatori", 32.1, 2021 - open access -

Morphometric characters of Middle Stone Age stone artefacts from SW Fezzan (Libya, Central Sahara) are investigated. The raw data set is composed of illustrations of tanged pieces from surface scatters and from one stratified and dated site. Both metric and shape analyses are used. The first is carried out on the basis of maximum artefact width and tang width from the whole data set; the second adopts Elliptical Fourier descriptors obtained from 2D contours of tanged points. The geospatial analysis of morphometric variability in a regional perspective shows some meaningful variations between artefacts coming from ‘highland’ and ‘lowland’ physiographic contexts. While the latter encompass most of the regional variability, the former seem to show a narrower range of variation, which could depend on a number of reasons including diverse chronology of occupation, different technological traditions or ecological constraints. (...)


Antiche e moderne tecnologie: l’applicazione delle tecniche di rilevamento tridimensionale per la rappresentazione e l’analisi dei manufatti litici, di D. Delpiano, "Archeologia e Calcolatori", 32.1, 2021 - open access -

In the past few years, the application of digital techniques to archaeology has strongly increased, including 3D recording of lithic artefacts for purposes of documentation and analysis. In this paper, the main acquisition techniques are reviewed focusing on their application to lithics, and on the cost-benefit analysis which largely depends on the research objectives. The introduction of the main functions of the virtual approaches to lithics comes from the new possibilities offered in the area of graphic documentation. In fact, 3D models could gradually replace the archaeological drawing thanks to the data objectivity and to the ability to undergo remote analysis. Indeed, in virtual models complex metric data and technological information are easily recorded. Furthermore, 3D models allow the application of quantitative and statistical analysis for different aims, such as reduction intensity estimation and geometric morphometrics, especially thanks to the landmark-based approach. (...)


The earliest Denisovans and their cultural adaptation, di S. Brown et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 25 November 2021

Since the initial identification of the Denisovans a decade ago, only a handful of their physical remains have been discovered. Here we analysed ~3,800 non-diagnostic bone fragments using collagen peptide mass fingerprinting to locate new hominin remains from Denisova Cave (Siberia, Russia). We identified five new hominin bones, four of which contained sufficient DNA for mitochondrial analysis. Three carry mitochondrial DNA of the Denisovan type and one was found to carry mtDNA of the Neanderthal type. The former come from the same archaeological layer near the base of the cave’s sequence and are the oldest securely dated evidence of Denisovans at 200 ka (thousand years ago) (205–192 ka at 68.2% or 217–187 ka at 95% probability). (...)


A 41,500 year-old decorated ivory pendant from Stajnia Cave (Poland), di S. Talamo et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 11, Article number: 22078, 25 November 2021 - open access -

Evidence of mobiliary art and body augmentation are associated with the cultural innovations introduced by Homo sapiens at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic. Here, we report the discovery of the oldest known human-modified punctate ornament, a decorated ivory pendant from the Paleolithic layers at Stajnia Cave in Poland. We describe the features of this unique piece, as well as the stratigraphic context and the details of its chronometric dating. The Stajnia Cave plate is a personal 'jewellery' object that was created 41,500 calendar years ago (directly radiocarbon dated). It is the oldest known of its kind in Eurasia and it establishes a new starting date for a tradition directly connected to the spread of modern Homo sapiens in Europe. (...)


New fossils of Australopithecus sediba reveal a nearly complete lower back, di S. A. Williams et alii, "eLife", 23 Nov 2021, doi: 10.7554/eLife.70447 - open access -

Adaptations of the lower back to bipedalism are frequently discussed but infrequently demonstrated in early fossil hominins. Newly discovered lumbar vertebrae contribute to a near-complete lower back of Malapa Hominin 2 (MH2), offering additional insights into posture and locomotion in Australopithecus sediba. We show that MH2 possessed a lower back consistent with lumbar lordosis and other adaptations to bipedalism, including an increase in the width of intervertebral articular facets from the upper to lower lumbar column (‘pyramidal configuration’). These results contrast with some recent work on lordosis in fossil hominins, where MH2 was argued to demonstrate no appreciable lordosis (‘hypolordosis’) similar to Neandertals. (...)


Aggiornamento 12/11/2021


Use of meat resources in the Early Pleistocene assemblages from Fuente Nueva 3 (Orce, Granada, Spain), di J. Yravedra et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 12, December 2021 - open access -

Over the last few decades, several types of evidence such as presence of hominin remains, lithic assemblages, and bones with anthropogenic surface modifications have demonstrated that early human communities inhabited the European subcontinent prior to the Jaramillo Subchron (1.07–0.98 Ma). While most studies have focused primarily on early European lithic technologies and raw material management, relatively little is known about food procurement strategies. While there is some evidence showing access to meat and other animal-based food resources, their mode of acquisition and associated butchery processes are still poorly understood. This paper presents a taphonomic and zooarchaeological analysis of the Fuente Nueva-3 (FN3) (Guadix-Baza, Spain) faunal assemblage, providing a more in-depth understanding of early hominin subsistence strategies in Europe. (...)

  Late Acheulian multiplicity in manufactured stone culture at the end of the Middle Pleistocene in Western Europe, di D. Barsky et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 601, 10 November 2021, Pages 66-81

In Prehistory, Paleolithic stone toolkits are allotted to distinct cultural phases, explained through a periodization that has been adopted as a strategic reference by specialists in lithic studies, based on: 1) the categorization of morpho-types observed in the assemblages; 2) the dominant manufacture technologies and 3) temporal categorizations based on geo-archeological data. Significant changes in toolkits are observed through time, signaling variations in extinct hominin behavioral configurations. They characterize the denominative classifications of the techno-complexes, presently defined under consensus. (...)


The Epigravettian chronology and the human population of eastern Central Europe during MIS2, di G. Lengyel et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 271, 1 November 2021, 107187 - open access -

The goal of this paper is to refine the relative and absolute chronology of Epigravettian culture (26.5–15.0 ka) in eastern Central Europe (ECE) and clarify its relation to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and subsequent climatic changes. Epigravettian sites were sorted into three chronological clusters: initial LGM (ILGM) (26.5–24.0 ka), local LGM (LLGM) (24.0–20.0 ka), and post-LGM (PLGM) (20.0–14.7 ka). We obtained new radiocarbon dates from previously dated and undated sites, then analysed the lithic tool typology and faunal data to seek correlations between age and archaeological features. (...)


The Plio-Pleistocene sequence of Oued Boucherit (Algeria): A unique chronologically-constrained archaeological and palaeontological record in North Africa, di M. Duval et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 271, 1 November 2021, 107116 - open access -

Located within the Beni Fouda intramontane basin, the Oued Boucherit area (Guelta Zerga, North East Algeria) hosts a unique succession of archaeological and palaeontological deposits spanning from the late Pliocene to the Early Pleistocene. While the recent work by Sahnouni et al., (2018) mostly focused on the two Oldowan archaeological levels AB-Lw and AB-Up, we present here an updated overview of the entire Oued Boucherit sequence, resulting from a long-term multidisciplinary investigation that started in 1992. In particular, we report for the first time a description of the oldest palaeontological levels dated to >3 Ma, and of the uppermost archaeological level hosting Acheulean artefacts. (...)


Seasonality, duration of the hominin occupations and hunting grounds at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave (Israel), di F. Rivals, R. Blasco, J. Rosell, B. Efrati, A. Gopher, R. Barkai, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 11, November 2021 - open access -

The behaviour and mobility of hominins are dependent on the availability of biotic and abiotic resources, which, in temperate ecosystems, are strongly related to seasonality. The objective of this study is to establish evidence of seasonality and duration of occupation(s) of specific archaeological contexts at late Lower Palaeolithic Qesem Cave based on the study of ungulate teeth. Combining individual ageing using dental eruption and replacement with variability measurement of tooth microwear, we estimated the seasonality of occupations at different levels of the site and their relative duration. Information about the diet of the ungulates and the habitats where they were hunted was also derived from tooth mesowear and microwear analyses. In the different tooth assemblages analysed, where the fallow deer was the most abundant herbivorous species, animals were selectively hunted in specific habitats. For example, the fallow deer individuals brought back to the Hearth area had a different diet than those found in other parts of the cave. (...)


The Magdalenian human remains from Santa Catalina (Lekeitio, Biscay, Northern Iberian Peninsula), di D. López-Onaindia et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 11, November 2021


Is Acheulean Handaxe Shape the Result of Imposed ‘Mental Templates’ or Emergent in Manufacture? Dissolving the Dichotomy through Exploring ‘Communities of Practice’ at Boxgrove, UK, di L. Hutchence, C. Scott, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 31 - Issue 4 - November 2021

This paper examines the debate over whether Acheulean handaxe shape results from the intentional imposition of a priorly held mental template upon the lithic material substrate or, alternatively, whether a knapper's intentions related to shape ‘emerge’ through the engagement (in action) of human agency and material affordances. We suggest that imposition of form and emergence of form are not mutually exclusive, and use Lave and Wenger's concept of ‘communities of practice’ to knit these opposed views together to explain the consolidation of homogenous handaxe shape at Boxgrove, c. 500,000 years ago. (...)


An Extended Admixture Pulse Model Reveals the Limitations to Human–Neandertal Introgression Dating, di L. N. M. Iasi, H. Ringbauer, B. M. Peter, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 38, Issue 11, November 2021, Pages 5156–5174 - open access -

Neandertal DNA makes up 2–3% of the genomes of all non-African individuals. The patterns of Neandertal ancestry in modern humans have been used to estimate that this is the result of gene flow that occurred during the expansion of modern humans into Eurasia, but the precise dates of this event remain largely unknown. Here, we introduce an extended admixture pulse model that allows joint estimation of the timing and duration of gene flow. This model leads to simple expressions for both the admixture segment distribution and the decay curve of ancestry linkage disequilibrium, and we show that these two statistics are closely related. (...)


Lost in the quest for flint: a gravettian hunting camp (Usategi, Basque Country), di A. Calvo, A. Arrizabalaga, "Oxford Journal of Archaeology", Volume 40, Issue 4, November 2021, Pages 325-341 - open access -

Five decades ago, Usategi Cave (Basque Country) yielded a small Gravettian series that included an Isturitz-type bone point. This paper presents the first 14C dates for the assemblage and new data obtained by the study of the lithic raw materials, a high proportion of which came from north of the Pyrenees. The discussion of this new information leads to the hypothesis that the occupants of the cave were a group that travelled from the continental Basque Country across the Pyrenean mountain passes and the Ebro basin to procure flint from the nearest outcrop at Urbasa. (...)


Dance scenes in Levantine rock art (Spain): a critical review, di N. Santos Da Rosa, L. Fernández-Macías, T. Mattioli, M. Díaz-Andreu, "Oxford Journal of Archaeology", Volume 40, Issue 4, November 2021, Pages 342-366 - open access -

We argue here that it is possible to study dance in prehistoric societies by analysing how it was depicted in rock art. For this research to be effective, subjectivity must be minimised by analysing the images systematically. We adapt a series of criteria first established in Garfinkel’s ‘archaeology of dance’ and apply them to our case study of dance representations in Spanish Levantine rock art. We conclude that only twelve scenes fit the typical parameters of dance representations. By studying this set of images, we are able to identify dances with a single individual, couples and groups. We suggest that dances took place in more than one context and followed specific cultural patterns, among which we highlight gender identity. (...)

  "Journal of Quaternary Science", Special Issue: Pleistocene geoarchaeology and palaeoenvironments in European loess, Volume 36, Issue 8, November 2021. Edited by Wei Chu, Janina J. Nett:

- The last 750 ka in loess–palaeosol sequences from northern France: environmental background and dating of the western European Palaeolithic, di P. Antoine, S. Coutard, J. J. Bahain, J. L. Locht, D. Hérisson, E. Goval

- Impact of katabatic winds on the environment of Neanderthals during the Middle Palaeolithic in westernmost Europe, di J. P. Lefort, J. L. Monnier, J. Renouf, G. Danukalova

- Intra-interstadial environmental changes in Last Glacial loess revealed by molluscan assemblages from the Upper Palaeolithic site of Amiens-Renancourt 1 (Somme, France), di O. Moine, P. Antoine, S. Coutard, G. Guérin, C. Hatté, C. Paris, S. Saulnier-Copard

- State-of-the-art overview of the Loess Palaeolithic of Poland, di P. Valde-Nowak, M. Anczont

- Palaeoecological background of the Upper Palaeolithic site of Ságvár, Hungary: radiocarbon-dated malacological and sedimentological studies on the Late Pleistocene environment, di D. Molnár et alii

- Using archaeological data and sediment parameters to review the formation of the Gravettian layers at Krems-Wachtberg, di M. Händel et alii


Introduction to Special Issue: In search for modern humans and the Early Upper Paleolithic at Manot Cave, Western Galilee, Israel. Edited by Ofer Marder, Israel Hershkovitz, Francesco Berna, Isaac Gilead, Omry Barzilai, Volume 160, November 2021


New insights into the Upper Palaeolithic of the Caucasus through the study of personal ornaments. Teeth and bones pendants from Satsurblia and Dzudzuana caves (Imereti, Georgia), di J. M. Tejero et alii, 8 November 2021, doi: - open access -

The region of western Georgia (Imereti) in the Southern Caucasus has been a major geographic corridor for human migrations during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. Data of recent research and excavations in this region display its importance as a possible route for the dispersal of anatomically modern humans (AMH) into northern Eurasia. Nevertheless, within the local research context, bone-working and personal ornaments have yet contributed but little to the Upper Palaeolithic (UP) regional sequence’s characterization. Here we present an archaeozoological, technological and use-wear study of pendants from two local UP assemblages, originating in the Dzudzuana Cave and Satsurblia Cave. The ornaments were made mostly of perforated teeth, though some specimens were made on bone. (...)

  Resolving the “muddle in the middle”: The case for Homo bodoensis sp. nov., di M. Roksandic, P. Radović, X. J. Wu, C. J. Bae, "Evolutionary Anthropology" Early View, 28 October 2021, doi: - open access -

Recent developments in the field of palaeoanthropology necessitate the suppression of two hominin taxa and the introduction of a new species of hominins to help resolve the current nebulous state of Middle Pleistocene (Chibanian) hominin taxonomy. In particular, the poorly defined and variably understood hominin taxa Homo heidelbergensis (both sensu stricto and sensu lato) and Homo rhodesiensis need to be abandoned as they fail to reflect the full range of hominin variability in the Middle Pleistocene. Instead, we propose: (1) introduction of a new taxon, Homo bodoensis sp. nov., as an early Middle Pleistocene ancestor of the Homo sapiens lineage, with a pan-African distribution that extends into the eastern Mediterranean (Southeast Europe and the Levant); (2) that many of the fossils from Western Europe (e.g. Sima de los Huesos) currently assigned to H. heidelbergensis s.s. be reassigned to Homo neanderthalensis to reflect the early appearance of Neanderthal derived traits in the Middle Pleistocene in the region; and (3) that the Middle Pleistocene Asian fossils, particularly from China, likely represent a different lineage altogether. (...)

Homo bodoensis, nouveau nom pour plusieurs homininés?, "Hominidés", 01 novembre /2021

New species of human ancestor named: Homo bodoensis, "ScienceDaily", 28 ottobre 2021

  Revisiting the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic archaeology of Gruta do Caldeirão (Tomar, Portugal), di J. Zilhão et alii, 27 October 2021, doi: - open access -

Gruta do Caldeirão features a c. 6 m-thick archaeological stratification capped by Holocene layers ABC-D and Ea, which overlie layer Eb, a deposit of Magdalenian age that underwent significant disturbance, intrusion, and component mixing caused by funerary use of the cave during the Early Neolithic. Here, we provide an updated overview of the stratigraphy and archaeological content of the underlying Pleistocene succession, whose chronology we refine using radiocarbon and single-grain optically stimulated luminescence dating. We find a high degree of stratigraphic integrity. Dating anomalies exist in association with the succession’s two major discontinuities: between layer Eb and Upper Solutrean layer Fa, and between Early Upper Palaeolithic layer K and Middle Palaeolithic layer L. Mostly, the anomalies consist of older-than-expected radiocarbon ages and can be explained by bioturbation and palimpsest-forming sedimentation hiatuses. Combined with palaeoenvironmental inferences derived from magnetic susceptibility analyses, the dating shows that sedimentation rates varied in tandem with the oscillations in global climate revealed by the Greenland oxygen isotope record. (...)


The late persistence of the Middle Palaeolithic and Neandertals in Iberia: A review of the evidence for and against the “Ebro Frontier” model, di J. Zilhão, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 270, 15 October 2021, 107098 - open access -

In the Franco-Cantabrian region and Catalonia, the Upper Palaeolithic begins with three assemblage-types found in stratigraphic order through the interval between 45,000 and 37,000 years ago: the Châtelperronian, the Protoaurignacian, and the Early Aurignacian. A stone tool, the Châtelperron point, and a bone tool, the split-based point, are index fossils of the first and the last, respectively, but neither was ever found elsewhere in Iberia. This observation triggered the proposition that, in regions situated to the south of the River Ebro drainage, the Middle Palaeolithic persisted until the time when the Early Aurignacian gave way to the Evolved Aurignacian, which is documented across all of Iberia by assemblages containing its index fossil, the Roc-de-Combe bladelet. Put forth thirty years ago, this Ebro Frontier model found support in the little radiometric evidence then available. (...)


Climate and environmental reconstruction of the Epipaleolithic Mediterranean Levant (22.0–11.9 ka cal. BP), di D. Langgut, R. Cheddadi, G. Sharon, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 270, 15 October 2021, 107170

This study presents, for the first time, an environmental reconstruction of a sequence spanning nearly the entire Mediterranean Epipaleolithic (∼22.0–11.9 ka cal. BP). The study is based on a well-dated, high-resolution pollen record recovered from the waterlogged archaeological site Jordan River Dureijat (JRD), located on the banks of Paleolake Hula. JRD's continuous sequence enabled us to build a pollen-based paleoclimate model providing a solid background for the dramatic cultural changes that occurred in the region during this period. Taxonomic identification of the waterlogged wood assemblage collected from JRD was used to fine-tune the paleoenvironmental reconstruction. The chronological framework is based on radiocarbon dating and the typology of archaeological findings. (...)


A new chronological framework and site formation history for Cova del Gegant (Barcelona): Implications for Neanderthal and Anatomically Modern Human occupation of NE Iberian Peninsula, di J. Daura et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 270, 15 October 2021, 107141

The chronological framework for Neanderthal occupation and demise across Europe continues to be debated. In particular, there is still uncertainty regarding the nature, timing and regional expressions of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition associated with the disappearance of Neanderthals and the broader expansion of modern human populations in Europe around 42–40 thousand years ago (ka). The geographical and chronological distribution of Neanderthal populations also remains difficult to evaluate owing to the practical challenges of directly dating human fossils at many sites, and the fact that a large proportion of Neanderthals sites lie close to, or well-beyond, the limits of radiocarbon dating. (...)


Before the Acheulean: The emergence of bifacial shaping at Kokiselei 6 (1.8 Ma), West Turkana, Kenya, di H. Duke, C. Feibel, S. Harmand, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 159, October 2021, 103061

We present new evidence for the emergence of biface shaping from Kokiselei 6 in the Kokiselei Site Complex (KS) in West Turkana, Kenya. This rich and well-preserved new site presents an opportunity to investigate the earliest development of biface shaping. The emergence of biface shaping in lithic technology is often used as evidence for increased and/or novel cognitive abilities that contrast prior hominins’ flaking capacities. Yet, recent research reveals a story of gradual change over time in a variety of different flaking and shaping strategies. Here, we present preliminary excavation and lithic data from Kokiselei 6 that will be critical for future investigations of biface shaping emergence at KS. Kokiselei preserves the oldest known Acheulean lithic assemblage, Kokiselei 4 (1.76 Ma), as well as several older sites. (...)


Birth of Australopithecus, di P. Madison, B. Wood, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 30, Issue 5, September/October 2021, Pages 298-306

The announcement of a fossilized child's skull discovered in a quarry in 1924 sub-Saharan Africa might not have seemed destined to be a classic paper. This contribution focuses on anatomist Raymond Dart's 1925 paper in which he designated the Taungs skull the type specimen of Australopithecus africanus. We combine an account of Dart's training and experience, with a telling of the fossil's discovery, analysis, the initial response of a mostly skeptical community, and a review of subsequent discoveries that consolidated the case Dart made for a hitherto unknown human close relative. (...)


Homo sapiens origins and evolution in the Kalahari Basin, southern Africa, di J. Wilkins, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 30, Issue 5, September/October 2021, Pages 327-344 - open access -

The Kalahari Basin, southern Africa preserves a rich archeological record of human origins and evolution spanning the Early, Middle and Late Pleistocene. Since the 1930s, several stratified and dated archeological sites have been identified and investigated, together with numerous open-air localities that provide landscape-scale perspectives. However, next to recent discoveries from nearby coastal regions, the Kalahari Basin has remained peripheral to debates about the origins of Homo sapiens. Though the interior region of southern Africa is generally considered to be less suitable for hunter-gatherer occupation than coastal and near-coastal regions, especially during glacial periods, the archeological record documents human presence in the Kalahari Basin from the Early Pleistocene onwards, and the region is not abandoned during glacial phases. (...)

  Session XVII-3 de la commission Paléolithique supérieur d'Eurasie - XVIIIème congrès mondial de l'UISPP: les structures d'habitat du Paléolithique et du Mésolithique. Europe Centrale et Orientale. "L'Anthropologie", volume 125, issue 4, September–October 2021:

- The Lower Palaeolithic assemblages in Central Europe in stratigraphic and palaeogeographic background, di J. M. Burdukiewicz

- Le Paléolithique de la République Tchèque, di M. Oliva

- Neumark-Nord 2 – A multiphase Middle Palaeolithic open-air site in the Geisel Valley (Central Germany), di T. Laurat, E. Brühl

- Les traditions culturelles du Paléolithique moyen en Europe centrale et orientale, di M. Otte

- Buran Kaya, Gravettien et Aurignacien de Crimée, di M. Otte

- 40 Years of Excavations at Mitoc–Malu Galben (Romania): Changing fieldwork methodologies and implications for the comparability of archaeological assemblages, di P. Noiret et alii

- L’outillage lithique taillé dans le grand gisement paléolithique de Mitoc-Malu Galben, di V. Chirica, V. C. Chirica, C. Cordoș

- Nouveaux assemblages du Paléolithique supérieur ancien en Hongrie du nord dans le contexte de l’hypothèse du Couloir danubien, di Z. Mester

- Origine des différentes traditions culturelles au Paléolithique supérieur ancien en Europe Centrale, di J. K. Kozłowski

- Zooarchaeological analysis of the Raşcov 8 Upper Palaeolithic site (Republic of Moldova), di L. Demay, S. Covalenco, R. Croitor, T. Obadă

- Notes on the Unique Ocher Drawing Discovered at the Mezhyrich Paleolithic Site in Ukraine, di E. M. Baitenov

- Habitations et structures d’habitat au Paléolithique et au Mésolithique, di L. Iakovleva, S. Lev

- The surface-dwelling from layer I of Mira site: Main features and interpretations, di V. N. Stepanchuk

- Assessing the Gravettian occupation floor at Krems-Wachtberg, di M. Händel

- Mammoth bone structures: A Comparison of Dolní Věstonice and Spadzista Street Site in Kraków, di M. Oliva

- La cabane no 5 du site paléolithique de Gontsy (Ukraine), di L. Iakovleva, F. Djindjian, A. M. Moigne

- La cabane no 1 de Mezine : une référence pour l’architecture des cabanes en os de mammouths, di L. Iakovleva

- Les cabanes de type « Anosovka-Mézine » du site de Yudinovo : éléments de construction, architecture, classification, di G. A. Khlopachev

- The social origin of open-hearth structures in Mesolithic. A case study of the habitation “A” at site Paliwodzizna 29 (central Poland), di G. Osipowicz


Skeletal remains of a Pleistocene modern human (Homo sapiens) from Sulawesi, di A. Brumm et alii, 29 September 2021, doi: - open access -

Major gaps remain in our knowledge of the early history of Homo sapiens in Wallacea. By 70–60 thousand years ago (ka), modern humans appear to have entered this distinct biogeographical zone between continental Asia and Australia. Despite this, there are relatively few Late Pleistocene sites attributed to our species in Wallacea. H. sapiens fossil remains are also rare. Previously, only one island in Wallacea (Alor in the southeastern part of the archipelago) had yielded skeletal evidence for pre-Holocene modern humans. Here we report on the first Pleistocene human skeletal remains from the largest Wallacean island, Sulawesi. The recovered elements consist of a nearly complete palate and frontal process of a modern human right maxilla excavated from Leang Bulu Bettue in the southwestern peninsula of the island. Dated by several different methods to between 25 and 16 ka, the maxilla belongs to an elderly individual of unknown age and sex, with small teeth (only M1 to M3 are extant) that exhibit severe occlusal wear and related dental pathologies. The dental wear pattern is unusual. This fragmentary specimen, though largely undiagnostic with regards to morphological affinity, provides the only direct insight we currently have from the fossil record into the identity of the Late Pleistocene people of Sulawesi. (...)


Subarctic climate for the earliest Homo sapiens in Europe, di S. Pederzani et alii,  "Science Advances", 22 Sep 2021, Vol 7, Issue 39 - open access -

The expansion of Homo sapiens across Eurasia marked a major milestone in human evolution that would eventually lead to our species being found across every continent. Current models propose that these expansions occurred only during episodes of warm climate, based on age correlations between archaeological and climatic records. Here, we obtain direct evidence for the temperatures faced by some of these humans through the oxygen isotope analysis of faunal remains from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria, the earliest clear record of H. sapiens in Europe. The results indicate that humans ∼45,000 years ago experienced subarctic climates with far colder climatic conditions than previously suggested. This demonstrates that the early presence of H. sapiens in Europe was not contingent on warm climates. Our results necessitate the revision of key models of human expansion and highlight the need for a less deterministic role of climate in the study of our evolutionary history. (...)


Early Middle Stone Age personal ornaments from Bizmoune Cave, Essaouira, Morocco, di E. Mehdi Sehasseh et alii, "Science Advances", 22 Sep 2021, Vol 7, Issue 39 - open access -

Ornaments such as beads are among the earliest signs of symbolic behavior among human ancestors. Their appearance signals important developments in both cognition and social relations. This paper describes and presents contextual information for 33 shell beads from Bizmoune Cave (southwest Morocco). Many of the beads come as deposits dating to ≥142 thousand years, making them the oldest shell beads yet recovered. They extend the dates for the first appearance of this behavior into the late Middle Pleistocene. The ages and ubiquity of beads in Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites in North Africa provide further evidence of the potential importance of these artifacts as signals of identity. The early and continued use of Tritia gibbosula and other material culture traits also suggest a remarkable degree of cultural continuity among early MSA Homo sapiens groups across North Africa. (...)


Quantitative use-wear analysis of stone tools: Measuring how the intensity of use affects the identification of the worked material, di J. J. Ibáñez, N. Mazzucco, 20 September 2021, doi: - open access -

The identification of the use of stone tools through use-wear analysis was one the major methodological advances in Prehistoric Archaeology during the second half of the 20th century. Studies of use-wear analysis have decisively contributed to a better understanding of the cognitive capacities and the socio-economic organization of Prehistoric societies. Among use-wear traces, microwear polish is the most relevant evidence, as it allows the identification of the worked materials (i.e. wood, antler, hide, bone, stone…). This identification is currently carried out through the qualitative and visual comparison of experimental and archaeological tools. During the last decade, confocal microscopy is allowing the quantitative identification of the worked material through the texture analysis of microwear polish. Previous tests have accounted for the variability of use-wear traces as caused by different types of worked material. However, how the intensity of use, which is widely recognized as an important factor conditioning microwear polish characteristics, affects our capacity to identify the worked materials is poorly understood. This research addresses the dynamic nature of microwear polish through confocal microscopy and texture analysis. (...)


The Western Periphery of the Red Sea as a Hominin Habitat and Dispersal Corridor: Marginal or Central?, di A. Beyin, "Journal of World Prehistory", volume 34, issue 3, September 2021, pages 279–316

The Western Periphery of the Red Sea (WPRS) is an important region for paleoanthropological discussions about the history of hominin dispersal out of Africa. This paper examines the existing Paleolithic evidence in the region and some key aspects of its environmental setting, with the goal of assessing its role in hominin survival and dispersals. The paper’s chronological focus is the span 1.8–0.05 million years ago (Ma). Although the majority of the Paleolithic (Stone Age) sites so far documented in the region lack precise chronological control, the available evidence comprises Acheulean, Middle and Later Stone Age technocomplexes that can be broadly linked to distinct hominin settlement episodes. (...)


"PaleoAnthropology",  2021-11-05 - open access -

- Immature Hominin Craniodental Remains From a New Locality in the Rising Star Cave System, South Africa, di J. K. Brophy et alii

- Expanded Explorations of the Dinaledi Subsystem, Rising Star Cave System, South Africa, di M. C. Elliott et alii

- Correction to: Expanded Explorations of the Dinaledi Subsystem, Rising Star Cave System, South Africa, di M. Elliott et alii

- Reevaluation of the Classification Scheme of the Acheulian in the Levant - 50 Years Later: A Morpho-Technological Analysis of Handaxe Variability, di G. Herzlinger, A. Varanda, M. Deschamps, M. Brenet, C. Lopez-Tascon, N. Goren-Inbar

- A New Analysis of An Old Box of Bones: Debunking a Peking Man Deception, di E. M. DeVisser, M. F. Roberts, J. P. Marrant

- Treacherous Evidence: Archival Documents and the Search for Peking Man, di M. F. Roberts, E. M. DeVisser, J. P. Marrant

- Mobility of Paleolithic Populations: Biomechanical Considerations and Spatiotemporal Modelling, di E. Vaissié


Aggiornamento 19/09/2021

  A neanderthal hunting camp in the central system of the Iberian Peninsula: A zooarchaeological and taphonomic analysis of the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter (Pinilla del Valle, Spain), di A. Moclán et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 269, 1 October 2021, 107142

The interior of the Iberian Peninsula has few Middle Palaeolithic sites, especially when compared to other areas of the Mediterranean Basin and the northern Spanish region. Few in number too are the zooarchaeological and taphonomic studies that throw light on the relationships between Neanderthal groups, their environment, and the use they made of it. The present work examines, both zooarchaeologically and taphonomically, the faunal remains of levels F and D of the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter (Pinilla del Valle, Madrid, Spain) - the largest collection of such remains ever studied from the Iberian interior. (...)

  Relative tooth size, Bayesian inference, and Homo naledi, di J. D. Irish, M. Grabowski, "Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 176, Issue 2, October 2021, Pages 262-282 - open access -

Size-corrected tooth crown measurements were used to estimate phenetic affinities among Homo naledi (~335–236 ka) and 11 other Plio-Pleistocene and recent species. To assess further their efficacy, and identify dental evolutionary trends, the data were then quantitatively coded for phylogenetic analyses. Results from both methods contribute additional characterization of H. naledi relative to other hominins.
After division by their geometric mean, scaled mesiodistal and buccolingual dimensions were used in tooth size apportionment analysis to compare H. naledi with Australopithecus africanus, A. afarensis, Paranthropus robustus, P. boisei, H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis, H. sapiens, and Pan troglodytes. These data produce equivalently scaled samples unaffected by interspecific size differences. The data were then gap-weighted for Bayesian inference. (...)

  Why invent the handle? Electromyography (EMG) and efficiency of use data investigating the prehistoric origin and selection of hafted stone knives, di A. Key, I. Farr, R. Hunter, A. Mika, M. I. Eren, S. L. Winter, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 10, October 2021 - open access -

For over 3 million years hominins held stone-cutting tools in the hand, gripping the portion of tool displaying a sharp cutting edge directly. During the late Middle Pleistocene human populations started to produce hafted composite knives, where the stone element displaying a sharp cutting edge was secured in a handle. Prevailing archaeological literature suggests that handles convey benefits to tool users by increasing cutting performance and reducing musculoskeletal stresses, yet to date these hypotheses remain largely untested. Here, we compare the cutting performance of hafted knives, ‘basic’ flake tools, and large bifacial tools during two standardized cutting tasks. Going further, we examine the comparative ergonomics of each tool type through electromyographic (EMG) analysis of nine upper limb muscles. (...)

  A new archaeobotanical proxy for plant food processing: Archaeological starch spherulites at the submerged 23,000-year-old site of Ohalo II, di M. N. Ramsey, D. Nadel, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 134, October 2021, 105465

Archaeological starch spherulites discovered at the submerged 23,000-year-old site of Ohalo II, Sea of Galilee, Israel, provide a new line of archaeobotanical evidence for plant food processing. Six-hundred and thirty-two (632) starch spherulites were recovered from four stone implements. The analysis of starch spherulites from reliable archaeological contexts is a breakthrough that will potentially allow the identification of a range of plant processing and wet cooking activities. Our work provides a baseline for starch spherulite extraction and identification protocols. (...)

  Multiple hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia over the past 400,000 years, di H. S. Groucutt et alii, "Nature", volume 597, issue 7876, 16 September 2021, pp. 376–380 - open access -

Pleistocene hominin dispersals out of, and back into, Africa necessarily involved traversing the diverse and often challenging environments of Southwest Asia. Archaeological and palaeontological records from the Levantine woodland zone document major biological and cultural shifts, such as alternating occupations by Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. However, Late Quaternary cultural, biological and environmental records from the vast arid zone that constitutes most of Southwest Asia remain scarce, limiting regional-scale insights into changes in hominin demography and behaviour. Here we report a series of dated palaeolake sequences, associated with stone tool assemblages and vertebrate fossils, from the Khall Amayshan 4 and Jubbah basins in the Nefud Desert. These findings, including the oldest dated hominin occupations in Arabia, reveal at least five hominin expansions into the Arabian interior, coinciding with brief ‘green’ windows of reduced aridity approximately 400, 300, 200, 130–75 and 55 thousand years ago. Each occupation phase is characterized by a distinct form of material culture, indicating colonization by diverse hominin groups, and a lack of long-term Southwest Asian population continuity. Within a general pattern of African and Eurasian hominin groups being separated by Pleistocene Saharo-Arabian aridity, our findings reveal the tempo and character of climatically modulated windows for dispersal and admixture. (...)

  Ancient bone tools found in Moroccan cave were used to work leather, 16 September 2021

When researchers first started to look at animal bones from Contrebandiers Cave, Morocco, they wanted to learn about the diet and environment of early human ancestors who lived there between 120,000 and 90,000 years ago. But they soon realized that the bones they had found weren't just meal scraps. As reported in the journal iScience on September 16, they'd been shaped into tools, apparently for use in working leather and fur. (...)

  Chrono-sequences of alluvial terraces and fossilized water bodies as a predictive model for detecting Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites in the Negev desert, Israel, di Y. Avni, M. Oron, E. Cohen-Sasson, N. Porat, O. Barzilai, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 268, 15 September 2021, 107114

The Negev desert is a part of the northern Saharo-Arabian desert belt, a major physical barrier between Africa and southwest Asia. Its location at the crossroads of the two continents makes it a perfect region to trace the presence of early hominins on the route from Africa to the Levant in major dispersal events. Geomorphological mapping in the central Negev region allows a reconstruction of the Plio-Pleistocene landscape, and the processes that shaped the Negev desert. Features that characterize this arid to hyper-arid region are the sequences of alluvial surfaces and wetland deposits, covering the last 2 Ma, now evident in the present-day landscape as a series of abandoned alluvial terraces standing 100-5 m above the active stream channels, containing conglomerates, fine silty sediments and travertines. (...)

  New human remains from the Late Epigravettian necropolis of Arene Candide (Liguria, northwestern Italy): Direct radiocarbon evidence and inferences on the funerary use of the cave during the Younger Dryas, di V. S. Sparacello et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 268, 15 September 2021, 107131

The Arene Candide Cave is a renowned site on the northwestern Italian coast that has yielded numerous burials dating back to the terminal phases of the Pleistocene (Epigravettian culture). Thanks to the exceptional preservation of the remains, and to the information collected during the excavations that begun in the 1940s, researchers were able to reconstruct a complex pattern of manipulation of older burials that consistently occurred when interring new individuals. Therefore, the Epigravettian necropolis provides a rare glimpse into the modalities, and possibly the motives, of funerary behavior in the Late Upper Paleolithic, a period during which formal burial was highly selective. The reasons for this selection are still unclear, but it has been proposed that they may be related to “exceptional events” (violence and trauma) and “exceptional people” (disease and deformities due to congenital conditions). (...)

  Pliocene to Middle Pleistocene climate history in the Guadix-Baza Basin, and the environmental conditions of early Homo dispersal in Europe, di J. Saarinen et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 268, 15 September 2021, 107132

The Guadix-Baza Basin (GBB) in Andalucía, Spain, comprises palaeontological and archaeological sites dating from the Early Pliocene to the Middle Pleistocene, including some of the earliest sites with evidence for the presence of early humans (Homo sp.) in Europe. Thus, the history of climate and environments in this basin contributes significantly to our understanding of the conditions under which early humans spread into Europe during the Early Pleistocene. Here we present estimates of precipitation and primary productivity in the GBB from the Pliocene to the Middle Pleistocene based on dental ecometrics in fossil communities of large herbivorous mammals, and perform an ecometrics-based distribution modelling to analyse the environmental conditions of Early and Middle Pleistocene human sites in Europe. Our results show that Early Pleistocene humans generally occupied on average relatively diverse habitats with ecotones, such as woodlands and savannas, but avoided very open and harsh (cool or dry) environments. (...)

  Hand and footprint art dates to mid-Ice Age, 14 september 2021

An international collaboration has identified what may be the oldest work of art, a sequence of hand and footprints discovered on the Tibetan Plateau. The prints date back to the middle of the Pleistocene era, between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago -- three to four times older than the famed cave paintings in Indonesia, France and Spain. (...)

  Adaptive capacity and flexibility of the Neanderthals at Heidenschmiede (Swabian Jura) with regard to core reduction strategies, di B. Çep, B. Schürch, S. C. Münzel, J. A. Frick, 07 September 2021, doi: - open access -

The branched reduction system at the Heidenschmiede described here is hitherto exceptional for the Middle Paleolithic of the Swabian Jura. By means of refits and supporting objects, we are able to describe a superordinate reduction system that combines several individual reduction concepts, such as Levallois and blade production, within one volume. In the Middle Paleolithic of the Swabian Jura, blade technology has thus far played a rather minor role. On the one hand, it is possible to split a selected volume (nodule) into three parts, which are reduced separately according to individual concepts. On the other hand, it is also possible to reduce parts of a volume with one concept first and then with another. The hypothetical reduction system can be branched or linear, thus emphasizing the technological flexibility in core reduction, which requires a high degree of cognitive skills of three-dimensional. (...)

  Is a spatial investigation possible without long-distance refit/conjoin? Application to the MIS 11 lithic assemblage of levels E and J from La Cansaladeta site (Tarragona, Spain), di G. Cenk Yeşilova, A. Ollé, J. Maria Vergès, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 9, September 2021 - open access -

In this manuscript, we present the first systematic refitting results of the small-scale Middle Pleistocene (MIS11) rock shelter site of La Cansaladeta. The lithic materials that have been recovered from the archaeological levels E and J were the main study materials. These levels were investigated regarding spatial pattern analysis and analyzed with auxiliary methods such as quantitative density mapping demonstration and technological analysis of the lithic clusters. Thus, the spatial patterns of the two levels were compared and discussed, in terms of connections, clusters, and movement of the lithic elements. Undoubtedly, the well preservation of the archaeological levels offered a great opportunity for the interpretation of the spatial patterns in a high-resolution perspective. (...)


The bony labyrinth of Qafzeh 25 Homo sapiens from Israel, di D. Coutinho-Nogueira, H. Coqueugniot, F. Santos, A. M. Tillier, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 9, September 2021 - open access -

The bony labyrinth has received growing attention in the field of human evolution as it is a useful phylogenetic indicator in hominins and is particularly useful for distinguishing anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals. The partial adult skeleton of Qafzeh 25 dated to 92 ± 5 ka B.P. suffers from serious post-mortem taphonomic damage that has limited its anatomical description and metrical analysis. However, the two petrosal bones are preserved and the bony labyrinths are not affected by post-mortem deformations. In this study, the methodology developed by Spoor (1993) is used to analyze and compare the morphometric data from Qafzeh 25 semi-circular canals and cochlea to that of other fossils from the site and more generally to the published hominin sample (Middle and Late Pleistocene hominins). While this analysis reveals that the Qafzeh 25 bony labyrinth resembles that of other Qafzeh individuals, it extends the range of variation within the sample for some variables. (...)

  Visual attention reveals affordances during Lower Palaeolithic stone tool exploration, di M. Silva-Gago et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 9, September 2021

Tools, which have a cognitive background rooted in our phylogenetic history, are essential for humans to interact with their environment. One of the characteristics of human beings is the coordination between the eyes and hands, which is associated with a skilled visuospatial system. Vision is the first input of an action that influences interaction with tools, and tools have affordances, known as behavioural possibilities, which indicate their possible uses and potentialities. The aim of the present study is to investigate body–tool interaction from a cognitive perspective, focusing on visual affordances during interaction with the early stone tools. We analyse visual attention, applying eye tracking technology, during a free visual exploration and during haptic manipulation of the Lower Palaeolithic stone tools. (...)

  "Journal of Human Evolution", volume 158, september 2021:

- Paranthropus robustus tooth chipping patterns do not support regular hard food mastication, di I. Towle, J. D. Irish, C. Loch

- Ecological perspectives on technological diversity at Kanjera South, di J. S. Reeves, D. R. Braun, E. M. Finestone, T. W. Plummer

- Homo naledi pollical metacarpal shaft morphology is distinctive and intermediate between that of australopiths and other members of the genus Homo, di L. A. Bowland et alii

- Evidence of habitual behavior from non-alimentary dental wear on deciduous teeth from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic Cantabrian region, Northern Spain, di A. Estalrrich, A. B. Marín-Arroyo

- Introduction to special issue: A 3.67 Ma Australopithecus prometheus skeleton from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa, di D. Stratford, R. Crompton

- The pectoral girdle of StW 573 (‘Little Foot’) and its implications for shoulder evolution in the Hominina, di K. J. Carlson et alii

  Genome of a middle Holocene hunter-gatherer from Wallacea, di S. Carlhoff et alii, "Nature", volume 596, issue 7873, 26 August 2021, pp. 543–547 - open access -

Much remains unknown about the population history of early modern humans in southeast Asia, where the archaeological record is sparse and the tropical climate is inimical to the preservation of ancient human DNA1. So far, only two low-coverage pre-Neolithic human genomes have been sequenced from this region. Both are from mainland Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherer sites: Pha Faen in Laos, dated to 7939–7751 calibrated years before present (yr cal BP; present taken as AD 1950), and Gua Cha in Malaysia (4.4–4.2 kyr cal BP). Here we report, to our knowledge, the first ancient human genome from Wallacea, the oceanic island zone between the Sunda Shelf (comprising mainland southeast Asia and the continental islands of western Indonesia) and Pleistocene Sahul (Australia–New Guinea). We extracted DNA from the petrous bone of a young female hunter-gatherer buried 7.3–7.2 kyr cal BP at the limestone cave of Leang Panninge in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Genetic analyses show that this pre-Neolithic forager, who is associated with the ‘Toalean’ technocomplex, shares most genetic drift and morphological similarities with present-day Papuan and Indigenous Australian groups, yet represents a previously unknown divergent human lineage that branched off around the time of the split between these populations approximately 37,000 years ago. We also describe Denisovan and deep Asian-related ancestries in the Leang Panninge genome, and infer their large-scale displacement from the region today. (...)

  The discovery of an in situ Neanderthal remain in the Bawa Yawan Rockshelter, West-Central Zagros Mountains, Kermanshah, di S. Heydari-Guran et alii, 26 August 2021, doi: - open access -

Neanderthal extinction has been a matter of debate for many years. New discoveries, better chronologies and genomic evidence have done much to clarify some of the issues. This evidence suggests that Neanderthals became extinct around 40,000–37,000 years before present (BP), after a period of coexistence with Homo sapiens of several millennia, involving biological and cultural interactions between the two groups. However, the bulk of this evidence relates to Western Eurasia, and recent work in Central Asia and Siberia has shown that there is considerable local variation. Southwestern Asia, despite having a number of significant Neanderthal remains, has not played a major part in the debate over extinction. Here we report a Neanderthal deciduous canine from the site of Bawa Yawan in the West-Central Zagros Mountains of Iran. The tooth is associated with Zagros Mousterian lithics, and its context is preliminary dated to between ~43,600 and ~41,500 years ago. (...)

  Strontium isotope evidence for Neanderthal and modern human mobility at the upper and middle palaeolithic site of Fumane Cave (Italy), di M. P. Richards, M. A. Mannino, K. Jaouen, A. Dozio, J. J. Hublin, M. Peresani, 24 August 2021, doi: - open access -

To investigate the mobility patterns of Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe during the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition period, we applied strontium isotope analysis to Neanderthal (n = 3) and modern human (n = 2) teeth recovered from the site of Fumane Cave in the Monti Lessini region of Northern Italy. We also measured a large number of environmental samples from the region, to establish a strontium ‘baseline’, and also micromammals (vole teeth) from the levels associated with the hominin teeth. We found that the modern humans and Neanderthals had similar strontium isotope values, and these values match the local baseline values we obtained for the site and the surrounding region. We conclude that both groups were utilizing the local mountainous region where Fumane Cave is situated, and likely the nearby Lessini highlands and Adige plains, and therefore the strontium evidence does not show differening mobility patterns between Neanderthals and modern humans at the Fumane site. (...)

  The symbolic role of the underground world among Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals, di P. Martí et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 17 August 2021, 118 (33), e2021495118

The emergence of symbolic behavior in our genus is a controversial issue. The dating of paintings in three caves from the Iberian Peninsula supports the view that Neanderthals developed a form of cave art more than 20,000 years before the emergence of anatomical modernity in Europe. In this study, we confirm that the paintings on a large speleothem from one of these sites, Cueva de Ardales, were human made, and we show that the pigments do not come from the outcrops of colorant material known inside the cave. Variations in the composition of the paint correspond to differences in the age of the paintings, supporting the hypothesis that Neanderthals used the speleothems symbolically over an extended time span. (...)

  Philippine Ayta possess the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world, di M. Larena et alii, 12 August 2021, DOI: - open access -

Multiple lines of evidence show that modern humans interbred with archaic Denisovans. Here, we report an account of shared demographic history between Australasians and Denisovans distinctively in Island Southeast Asia. Our analyses are based on ~2.3 million genotypes from 118 ethnic groups of the Philippines, including 25 diverse self-identified Negrito populations, along with high-coverage genomes of Australopapuans and Ayta Magbukon Negritos. We show that Ayta Magbukon possess the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world—~30%–40% greater than that of Australians and Papuans—consistent with an independent admixture event into Negritos from Denisovans. Together with the recently described Homo luzonensis, we suggest that there were multiple archaic species that inhabited the Philippines prior to the arrival of modern humans and that these archaic groups may have been genetically related. Altogether, our findings unveil a complex intertwined history of modern and archaic humans in the Asia-Pacific region, where distinct Islander Denisovan populations differentially admixed with incoming Australasians across multiple locations and at various points in time. (...)

  Rare crested rat subfossils unveil Afro–Eurasian ecological corridors synchronous with early human dispersals, di I. A. Lazagabaster et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 3 August 2021, 118 (31), e2105719118

The extent and timing of paleoenvironmental connections between Africa and Eurasia during the last glacial and interglacial periods are key issues in relation to early dispersals of Homo sapiens out of Africa. However, direct evidence of synchronous faunal dispersals is sparse. We report the discovery near the Dead Sea of subfossils belonging to an ancient relative of the eastern African crested rat dated to between ~42,000 and at least 103,000 y ago. Morphological comparisons, ancient DNA, and ecological modeling suggest that the Judean Desert was greener in the past and that continuous habitat corridors connected eastern Africa with the Levant. This finding strengthens the hypothesis that early human dispersals were prompted by climatic changes and Late Pleistocene intercontinental connectivity. (...)

  Conceptual issues in hominin taxonomy: Homo heidelbergensis and an ethnobiological reframing of species, di S. Athreya, "Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 175, Issue S72, August 2021, Pages 4-26 - open access -

Efforts to name and classify Middle Pleistocene Homo, often referred to as “Homo heidelbergensis” are hampered by confusing patterns of morphology but also by conflicting paleoanthropological ideologies that are embedded in approaches to hominin taxonomy, nomenclature, and the species concept. We deconstruct these issues to show how the field's search for a “real” species relies on strict adherence to pre-Darwinian essentialist naming rules in a post-typological world. We then examine Middle Pleistocene Homo through the framework of ethnobiology, which examines on how Indigenous societies perceive, classify, and name biological organisms. This research reminds us that across human societies, taxonomies function to (1) identify and classify organisms based on consensus pattern recognition and (2) construct a stable nomenclature for effective storage, retrieval and communication of information. (...)

  The evolution of the human trophic level during the Pleistocene, di M. Ben-Dor, R. Sirtoli, R. Barkai, Volume 175, Issue S72, August 2021, Pages 27-56 - open access -

The human trophic level (HTL) during the Pleistocene and its degree of variability serve, explicitly or tacitly, as the basis of many explanations for human evolution, behavior, and culture. Previous attempts to reconstruct the HTL have relied heavily on an analogy with recent hunter-gatherer groups' diets. In addition to technological differences, recent findings of substantial ecological differences between the Pleistocene and the Anthropocene cast doubt regarding that analogy's validity. Surprisingly little systematic evolution-guided evidence served to reconstruct HTL. Here, we reconstruct the HTL during the Pleistocene by reviewing evidence for the impact of the HTL on the biological, ecological, and behavioral systems derived from various existing studies. We adapt a paleobiological and paleoecological approach, including evidence from human physiology and genetics, archaeology, paleontology, and zoology, and identified 25 sources of evidence in total. (...)

  Obsidian in the Upper Palaeolithic of Iberia, di J. Zilhão et alii, "Antiquity", Issue 382, August 2021 - open access -

Sourced from the Tyrrhenian Islands and exchanged over long distances, obsidian was used widely across prehistoric Western Europe. An obsidian core and bladelets from a newly discovered rockshelter site in south-eastern Spain, however, raised the possibility of an unrecognised mainland source of obsidian. EDXRF analysis of the Early Magdalenian finds from La Boja links them to a source 125km to the south-west. The artefacts were discarded during two brief activity phases at the site, indicating that obsidian procurement was integral to the technological choices of the site's users. The specificities of the technocomplex may explain the unique nature of this occurrence. (...)

  ABO Genetic Variation in Neanderthals and Denisovans, di F. A Villanea, E. Huerta-Sanchez, K. Fox, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 38, Issue 8, August 2021, Pages 3373–3382 - open access -

Variation at the ABO locus was one of the earliest sources of data in the study of human population identity and history, and to this day remains widely genotyped due to its importance in blood and tissue transfusions. Here, we look at ABO blood type variants in our archaic relatives: Neanderthals and Denisovans. Our goal is to understand the genetic landscape of the ABO gene in archaic humans, and how it relates to modern human ABO variation. We found two Neanderthal variants of the O allele in the Siberian Neanderthals (O1 and O2), one of these variants is shared with an European Neanderthal, who is a heterozygote for this O1 variant and a rare cis-AB variant. (...)

  Visiting palaeolithic art – explorations and archaeological implications in Cueva de las Monedas, Spain, di M. García-Diez, P. Smith, E. Muñoz, D. Garrido, Á. Ibero, P. López-Calle, B. Ochoa, Volume 40, Issue 3, August 2021, Pages 309-322 - open access -

Numerical chronology is one of the main sources of information by which one may contextualize prehistoric human activity more precisely. It is able to discriminate between different times of visits to caves and determine the period with which each form of evidence should be associated and the relationships between them. The application of conventional 14C and 14C-AMS has dated visits to the Palaeolithic cave art site of Las Monedas during historical times. The results underscore the caution that is needed when dating a cave art ensemble based on an undated archaeological context or attributing all the graphic activity to a single time. (...)

  Reassessment of the ‘Abbevillien’ in the perspective of new discoveries from the Lower Palaeolithic and Quaternary sites of Abbeville (Somme, northern France), di M. H. Moncel, P. Antoine, A. Hurel, J. J. Bahain, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 36, Issue 6, August 2021, Pages 1122-1136

North-West Europe yields few traces of early human occupation, in particular for the Acheulean. In this context, the Somme Valley in northern France offers a route to Britain during various Pleistocene low sea levels, and has provided numerous evidence of Lower Palaeolithic human occupation through fieldwork initiated during the 19th century. These localities are associated with the original definition in the 1930s by the French prehistorian Abbé Henri Breuil of the ‘Abbevillien’ (Abbevillian facies), based on lithic pieces including crudely made bifaces recovered in particular in some famous key localities of Abbeville, Carpentier, Léon and Moulin Quignon quarries. The history of the term and its definition subsequently gave rise to debates concerning the chronocultural framework of Palaeolithic assemblages among the scientific community of prehistorians over time, from Jacques Boucher de Perthes, Gabriel de Mortillet, Geoffroy d'Ault du Mesnil, Victor Commont, Henri Breuil and François Bordes. (...)

  How did modern morphology evolve in the human mandible? The relationship between static adult allometry and mandibular variability in Homo sapiens, di I. Bergmann, J. J. Hublin, P. Gunz, S. E. Freidline, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 157, August 2021, 103026

Key to understanding human origins are early Homo sapiens fossils from Jebel Irhoud, as well as from the early Late Pleistocene sites Tabun, Border Cave, Klasies River Mouth, Skhul, and Qafzeh. While their upper facial shape falls within the recent human range of variation, their mandibles display a mosaic morphology. Here we quantify how mandibular shape covaries with mandible size and how static allometry differs between Neanderthals, early H. sapiens, and modern humans from the Upper Paleolithic/Later Stone Age and Holocene (= later H. sapiens). We use 3D (semi)landmark geometric morphometric methods to visualize allometric trends and to explore how gracilization affects the expression of diagnostic shape features. Early H. sapiens were highly variable in mandible size, exhibiting a unique allometric trajectory that explains aspects of their ‘archaic’ appearance. (...)

  Eastern African environmental variation and its role in the evolution and cultural change of Homo over the last 1 million years, di R. L. Lupien et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 157, August 2021, 103028

Characterizing eastern African environmental variability on orbital timescales is crucial to evaluating the hominin evolutionary response to past climate changes. However, there is a dearth of high-resolution, well-dated records of ecosystem dynamics from eastern Africa that cover long time intervals. In the last 1 Myr, there were significant anatomical and cultural developments in Homo, including the origin of Homo sapiens. There were also major changes in global climatic boundary conditions that may have affected eastern African environments, yet potential linkages remain poorly understood. We developed carbon isotopic records from plant waxes (δ13Cwax) and bulk organic matter (δ13COM) from a well-dated sediment core spanning the last ∼1 Myr extracted from the Koora Basin, located south of the Olorgesailie Basin, in the southern Kenya rift. (...)

  Energetic and endurance constraints on great ape quadrupedalism and the benefits of hominin bipedalism, di D. A. Raichlen, H. Pontzer, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 30, Issue 4, July/August 2021, Pages 253-261

Bipedal walking was one of the first key behavioral traits that defined the evolution of early hominins. While it is not possible to identify specific selection pressures underlying bipedal evolution, we can better understand how the adoption of bipedalism may have benefited our hominin ancestors. Here, we focus on how bipedalism relaxes constraints on nonhuman primate quadrupedal limb mechanics, providing key advantages during hominin evolution. Nonhuman primate quadrupedal kinematics, especially in our closest living relatives, the great apes, are dominated by highly flexed limb joints, often associated with high energy costs, and are constrained by the need to reduce loads on mobile, but less stable forelimb joints. (...)


Between a rock and a cold place: Neanderthal biocultural cold adaptations, di C. Ocobock, S. Lacy, A. Niclou, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 30, Issue 4, July/August 2021, Pages 262-279

A large body of work focuses on the unique aspects of Neanderthal anatomy, inferred physiology, and behavior to test the assumption that Neanderthals were hyper-adapted to living in cold environments. This research has expanded over the years to include previously unexplored and potentially adaptive features such as brown adipose tissue and fire-usage. Here we review the current state of knowledge of Neanderthal cold adaptations along morphological, physiological, and behavioral lines. While highlighting foundational as well as recent work, we also emphasize key areas for future research. (...)

  Vallée de la Somme- Site Acheuléen de Moulin Quignon, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 125, Issue 3, July–August 2021:

- État des connaissances sur la préhistoire et l’histoire des recherches en vallée de la Somme (XIXe–XXIe siècles), di N. Coye, J. P. Fagnart, A. Hurel

- Les terrasses fluviatiles quaternaires de la Somme à Abbeville : 150 ans de recherches mêlant géologie et archéologie, de Boucher de Perthes à aujourd’hui, di J. J. Bahain, P. Antoine

- Les nappes alluviales de la Basse Somme revisitées, di P. Haesaerts, J. Hus, C. Dupuis

- Hommes et climats au Paléolithique supérieur dans le bassin de la Somme (France), di J. P. Fagnart, C. Paris, P. Coudret

- Les industries lithiques d’âge éemien du site de Caours (Somme), di J. L. Locht

- La redécouverte du site de Moulin Quignon (Somme) et les premiers Acheuléens du Nord-Ouest de l’Europe (650 ka), di M. H. Moncel et alii

- Moulin-Quignon et Homo heidelbergensis. Contextes épistémologiques et enjeux taxinomiques, di A. Vialet, A. Hurel

- Boucher de Perthes (1788–1868). Des rêves métaphysiques à l’invention de la préhistoire, di M. F. Aufrère

  Blood groups of Neandertals and Denisova decrypted, di S. Condemi, S. Mazières, P. Faux, C. Costedoat, A. Ruiz-Linares, P. Bailly, J. Chiaroni, 28 July 2021, doi: - open access -

Blood group systems were the first phenotypic markers used in anthropology to decipher the origin of populations, their migratory movements, and their admixture. The recent emergence of new technologies based on the decoding of nucleic acids from an individual’s entire genome has relegated them to their primary application, blood transfusion. Thus, despite the finer mapping of the modern human genome in relation to Neanderthal and Denisova populations, little is known about red cell blood groups in these archaic populations. Here we analyze the available high-quality sequences of three Neanderthals and one Denisovan individuals for 7 blood group systems that are used today in transfusion (ABO including H/Se, Rh (Rhesus), Kell, Duffy, Kidd, MNS, Diego). We show that Neanderthal and Denisova were polymorphic for ABO and shared blood group alleles recurrent in modern Sub-Saharan populations. Furthermore, we found ABO-related alleles currently preventing from viral gut infection and Neanderthal RHD and RHCE alleles nowadays associated with a high risk of hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. Such a common blood group pattern across time and space is coherent with a Neanderthal population of low genetic diversity exposed to low reproductive success and with their inevitable demise. Lastly, we connect a Neanderthal RHD allele to two present-day Aboriginal Australian and Papuan, suggesting that a segment of archaic genome was introgressed in this gene in non-Eurasian populations. While contributing to both the origin and late evolutionary history of Neanderthal and Denisova, our results further illustrate that blood group systems are a relevant piece of the puzzle helping to decipher it. (...)


Pleistocene sediment DNA reveals hominin and faunal turnovers at Denisova Cave, di E. I. Zavala et alii, "Nature", volume 595, issue 7867, 15 July 2021, pp. 399–403 - open access -

Denisova Cave in southern Siberia is the type locality of the Denisovans, an archaic hominin group who were related to Neanderthals. The dozen hominin remains recovered from the deposits also include Neanderthals and the child of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan, which suggests that Denisova Cave was a contact zone between these archaic hominins. However, uncertainties persist about the order in which these groups appeared at the site, the timing and environmental context of hominin occupation, and the association of particular hominin groups with archaeological assemblages. Here we report the analysis of DNA from 728 sediment samples that were collected in a grid-like manner from layers dating to the Pleistocene epoch. We retrieved ancient faunal and hominin mitochondrial (mt)DNA from 685 and 175 samples, respectively. The earliest evidence for hominin mtDNA is of Denisovans, and is associated with early Middle Palaeolithic stone tools that were deposited approximately 250,000 to 170,000 years ago; Neanderthal mtDNA first appears towards the end of this period. We detect a turnover in the mtDNA of Denisovans that coincides with changes in the composition of faunal mtDNA, and evidence that Denisovans and Neanderthals occupied the site repeatedly—possibly until, or after, the onset of the Initial Upper Palaeolithic at least 45,000 years ago, when modern human mtDNA is first recorded in the sediments. (...)

  Publisher Correction: A 51,000-year-old engraved bone reveals Neanderthals’ capacity for symbolic behaviour, di D. Leder et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution" volume 5, page 1320, 20 July 2021

In Fig. 2 of this Article originally published, in square 97/297 a yellow rectangle was mistakenly placed beneath bone 6. This error has now been corrected.

  A 51,000-year-old engraved bone reveals Neanderthals’ capacity for symbolic behaviour, di D. Leder et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution" volume 5, pages 1273–1282, 05 July 2021

While there is substantial evidence for art and symbolic behaviour in early Homo sapiens across Africa and Eurasia, similar evidence connected to Neanderthals is sparse and often contested in scientific debates. Each new discovery is thus crucial for our understanding of Neanderthals’ cognitive capacity. Here we report on the discovery of an at least 51,000-year-old engraved giant deer phalanx found at the former cave entrance of Einhornhöhle, northern Germany. The find comes from an apparent Middle Palaeolithic context that is linked to Neanderthals. (...)

  Tracing the spatial imprint of Oldowan technological behaviors: A view from DS (Bed I, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania), di F. Diez-Martín et alii, 12 July 2021, doi: - open access -

DS (David’s site) is one of the new archaeological sites documented in the same paleolandscape in which FLK 22 was deposited at about 1.85 Ma in Olduvai Gorge. Fieldwork in DS has unearthed the largest vertically-discrete archaeological horizon in the African Pleistocene, where a multi-cluster anthropogenic accumulation of fossil bones and stone tools has been identified. In this work we present the results of the techno-economic study of the lithic assemblage recovered from DS. We also explore the spatial magnitude of the technological behaviors documented at this spot using powerful spatial statistical tools to unravel correlations between the spatial distributional patterns of lithic categories. At DS, lavas and quartzite were involved in different technological processes. Volcanic materials, probably transported to this spot from a close source, were introduced in large numbers, including unmodified materials, and used in percussion activities and in a wide variety of reduction strategies. A number of volcanic products were subject to outward fluxes to other parts of the paleolandscape. In contrast, quartzite rocks were introduced in smaller numbers and might have been subject to a significantly more intense exploitation. The intra-site spatial analysis has shown that specialized areas cannot be identified, unmodified materials are not randomly distributed, percussion and knapping categories do not spatially overlap, while bipolar specimens show some sort of spatial correlation with percussion activities. (...)

  Genome-scale sequencing and analysis of human, wolf, and bison DNA from 25,000-year-old sediment, di P. Gelabert et alii, "Current Biology", volume 31, issue 16, pp. 3564-3574.E9, 23 august 2021 - open access -

Cave sediments have been shown to preserve ancient DNA but so far have not yielded the genome-scale information of skeletal remains. We retrieved and analyzed human and mammalian nuclear and mitochondrial environmental “shotgun” genomes from a single 25,000-year-old Upper Paleolithic sediment sample from Satsurblia cave, western Georgia:first, a human environmental genome with substantial basal Eurasian ancestry, which was an ancestral component of the majority of post-Ice Age people in the Near East, North Africa, and parts of Europe; second, a wolf environmental genome that is basal to extant Eurasian wolves and dogs and represents a previously unknown, likely extinct, Caucasian lineage; and third, a European bison environmental genome that is basal to present-day populations, suggesting that population structure has been substantially reshaped since the Last Glacial Maximum. Our results provide new insights into the Late Pleistocene genetic histories of these three species and demonstrate that direct shotgun sequencing of sediment DNA, without target enrichment methods, can yield genome-wide data informative of ancestry and phylogenetic relationships. (...)


Aggiornamento 11/07/2021

  Variability in Lithic Production Technology during the Range Expansion of Paleolithic Modern Humans: Asian Perspectives. Edited by Yoshihiro Nishiaki, Seiji Kadowaki, Volume 596, Pages 1-184 (20 September 2021):

- Variability in Lithic Production Technology during the Range Expansion of Paleolithic Modern Humans: Asian Perspectives, di Y. Nishiaki, S. Kadowaki

- Frequency and production technology of bladelets in Late Middle Paleolithic, Initial Upper Paleolithic, and Early Upper Paleolithic (Ahmarian) assemblages in Jebel Qalkha, Southern Jordan, di S. Kadowaki, E. Suga, D. O. Henry

- A new look at the Middle Paleolithic lithic industry of the Teshik-Tash Cave, Uzbekistan, West Central Asia, di Y. Nishiaki, O. Aripdjanov

- Bladelet industries of the Early Upper Palaeolithic in southern Kazakhstan: A detailed analysis of carinated bladelet cores excavated from the newly discovered Buiryokbastau-Bulak-1 site in the Karatau mountains, di S. Kunitake, Z. K. Taimagambetov

- The gateway to the oriental zone: Environmental change and palaeolithic behaviour in the Thar Desert, di J. Blinkhorn

- Environments during the spread of anatomically modern humans across Northern Asia 50–10 cal kyr BP: What do we know and what would we like to know?, di P. E. Tarasov, C. Leipe, M. Wagner

- Application of the ecocultural range expansion model to modern human dispersals in Asia, di J. Yuichiro Wakano, S. Kadowaki


The oldest phases of the Levallois method and the beginnings of the Middle Palaeolithic at the northern foreland of the Carpathians, di K. Cyrek, "Quaternary International", Volume 595, 10 September 2021, Pages 12-29

The aim of the article is to analyse the problem of the beginnings of the Levallois method at the northern foreland of the Carpathians, referring to the oldest cultural levels (layers 19bcd, 19a and 19) at the Biśnik Cave and several other sites. A proto-Levallois method has been distinguished, which evolved into the method of recurrent type with centripetal preparation and parallel, bidirectional and unidirectional core reduction. (...)


Late Pleistocene environmental dynamics and human occupation in Southwestern Europe, di S. Pérez-Díaz, J. A. López-Sáez, "Quaternary International", Volume 595, 10 September 2021, Pages 39-53

This paper focuses on palaeoenvironmental conditions and climate variability during the Upper Late Pleistocene (c. 28,000–11,700 cal BP) in SW Europe (Iberian Peninsula) and their influence on human settlement patterns. All the palaeoenvironmental and archaeological sequences available for this period are analysed, together with a new palaeoenvironmental study related to a key deposit: Verdeospesoa mire (northern Iberian Peninsula). (...)


Evaluating sampling methods in charcoal-rich layers and high diversity environment: A case study from the Later Stone Age of Bushman Rock Shelter, South Africa, di E. Puech, M. Bamford, G. Porraz, A. Val, I. Théry-Parisot, "Quaternary International", Volumes 593–594, 20 August 2021, Pages 36-49

In southern Africa, archaeobotanical studies are intrinsically linked to prehistoric investigation and the discipline of anthracology has already proved its potential for palaeoenvironmental and palaeoecological reconstructions. While the region benefits from particularly good preservation of macro charcoal remains in its sites, anthracological studies remain underexplored and the methodological framework still needs to be developed and adapted to the diverse southern African ecological contexts. Here we provide a review of sampling methods and sample representativeness and we compare it with wood charcoal analyses performed in southern Africa. (...)


New climatic approaches to the analysis of the middle Paleolithic sequences: Combined taxonomic and isotopic charcoal analyses on a Neanderthal settlement, Les Canalettes (Aveyron, France), di  B. Audiard, L. Meignen, T. Blasco, G. Battipaglia, I. Théry-Parisot, "Quaternary International", Volumes 593–594, 20 August 2021, Pages 85-94

Over the last decade, several studies have indicated the potential for the δ13C isotope signal of charcoals to act as a new local paleoclimatic/paleoenvironmental proxy, complementary to taxonomic analyses. These studies mainly focused on archeological charcoal from the Holocene series, but the potential of the method to be applied Pleistocene sequences is still under debate. Understanding climate-driven variability in stable carbon isotope ratios of modern samples is fundamental for the accurate characterization of past climate information based on the δ13C of charred material. (...)


Variation in hunting weaponry for more than 300,000 years: A tip cross-sectional area study of Middle Stone Age points from southern Africa, di M. Lombard, "Quaternary Science Reviews",  Volume 264, 15 July 2021, 107021

Much has been written about Middle Stone Age hunting in southern Africa, yet there is no comprehensive overview for the development and use of stone-tipped hunting weapons. With this contribution, I use the tip cross-sectional area (TCSA) method to hypothesise about variation in weapon-assisted hunting strategies for the last 300,000 years or more. I assess and build onto previous hypotheses generated from similar approaches, introducing a larger sample from across the region. By also bolstering the standard TCSA ranges for javelin tips and stabbing/thrusting spear tips with more experimental and ethno-historical material, the method's interpretative robusticity is increased. (...)


A 51,000-year-old engraved bone reveals Neanderthals’ capacity for symbolic behaviour, di D. Leder et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 05 July 2021

While there is substantial evidence for art and symbolic behaviour in early Homo sapiens across Africa and Eurasia, similar evidence connected to Neanderthals is sparse and often contested in scientific debates. Each new discovery is thus crucial for our understanding of Neanderthals’ cognitive capacity. Here we report on the discovery of an at least 51,000-year-old engraved giant deer phalanx found at the former cave entrance of Einhornhöhle, northern Germany. (...)


Mysterious skull fossils expand human family tree — but questions remain, di N. Jones, "Nature", Volume 595 Issue 7865, 1 July 2021

Fossils found in China and Israel dating from around 140,000 years ago are adding to the ranks of hominins that mixed and mingled with early modern humans. The fossils from Israel hint that a previously unknown group of hominins, proposed to be the direct ancestors of Neanderthals, might have dominated life in the Levant and lived alongside Homo sapiens1,2. Meanwhile, researchers studying an extremely well-preserved ancient human skull found in China in the 1930s have controversially classified it as a new species — dubbed Dragon Man — which might be an even closer relative to modern humans than are Neanderthals. But both findings have sparked debate among scientists. The studies are based on analyses of the size, shape and structure of fossilized bones — methods that are subject to individual judgement and interpretation. As is often the case for fossil finds, there is no DNA evidence. Separating early hominin specimens into unique species, working out if and how they interacted with others, and tracing their evolution are all difficult and contentious: “It’s very messy,” says Jeffrey Schwartz, an anthropologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. (...)


The first comprehensive micro use-wear analysis of an early Acheulean assemblage (Thiongo Korongo, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania), di P. Bello-Alonso et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 263, 1 July 2021, 106980

Probably, one of the biggest questions about the Acheulean is focused on the functional aspects of its lithic industry and, more specifically, its link to subsistence activities developed by hominins during the Early Stone Age. Historically, tecno-functional research on ESA techno-complex has focused on the role played by flakes and LCT in the processing of animal carcasses, but less attention has been payed to other possible activities related with subsistence and tool making. Previous traceological studies on African Lower Paleolithic lithic industries have shown the complexity of activities made with the earliest lithic tools, including not only the processing of animal carcasses, but also activities dedicated to processing wood, non-woody plants and underground storage organs (USOs). In this paper we present the use-wear results obtained from the analysis of the Early Acheulean lithic tools with potentially functional edges which are part of the lithic assemblage from the Thiongo Korongo archaeological site (...)


Human-existence probability of the Aurignacian techno-complex under extreme climate conditions, di Y. Shao et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 263, 1 July 2021, 106995

The Aurignacian occurred in the middle of the Last Glacial Period, in which climate underwent major changes on millennial time scales, highlighted by the Greenland interstadial and stadial periods. Here we investigate how climate change influenced the Aurignacian human dispersal in Europe and search for answers to several highly-debated questions in the Archaeology and Paleoanthropology. We use a global climate model to simulate the prototypical stadial and interstadial climate conditions and develop a human-existence potential (HEP) model to compute the probability of human existence by combining the climate data with archaeological site data. (...)


Shorter distal forelimbs benefit bipedal walking and running mechanics: Implications for hominin forelimb evolution, di A. K. Yegian, Y. Tucker, S. Gillinov, D. E. Liebermanm, "Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 175, Issue 3, July 2021, Pages 589-598

Brachial index is a skeletal ratio that describes the relative length of the distal forelimb. Over the course of hominin evolution, a shift toward smaller brachial indices occurred. First, Pleistocene australopiths yield values between extant chimpanzees and humans, with further evolution in Pliocene Homo to the modern human range. We hypothesized that shorter distal forelimbs benefit walking and running performance, notably elbow and shoulder joint torques, and predicted that the benefit would be greater in running compared to walking.
We tested our hypothesis in a modern human sample walking and running while carrying hand weights, which increase the inertia (mass and effective length) of the distal forelimb, simulating a larger brachial index. (...)


The evolution of Still Bay points at Sibudu, di A. Mosig Way, P. Hiscock, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 7, July 2021, Article number: 122

The Still Bay is a key technocomplex within the Middle Stone Age (MSA), and Sibudu, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, provides one of the longest and richest pre-Still Bay to Still Bay sequences. It has been hypothesised that the Still Bay industry emerged through technological revolution or alternatively through gradual change. In this paper we conduct a geometric morphometric (GM) assessment of the shape differences between the pre-Still Bay and Still Bay points at Sibudu to assess their implication for technological evolution. Pre-Still Bay points are often thought of as unifacial and single-pointed, and Still Bay points as bifacial and double-pointed. (...)


Lithic technology at the Early Dabban in Hagfet ed Dabba (Cyrenaica, Libya), di J. M. Maíllo-Fernández, B. Jiménez-García, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 7, July 2021, Article number: 119

The Early Dabban industry was discovered in the Cyrenaica region (Northeast of Libya), considered to be representative of the early stages of the Later Stone Age in this region. This industry was defined based on the lithic assemblages recovered from Hagfet ed Dabba and the nearby Haua Fteah site. We studied the lithic material from Level VI of the Hagfet ed Dabba site, which was excavated by Prof. McBurney in 1949. The aim of the lithic production was to obtain blade/bladelets through bidirectional and unidirectional prismatic methods. Blanks are of two types: wide, non-curved and straight blade/bladelets and narrow and pointed blades/bladelets. (...)


The place beyond the trees: renewed excavations of the Middle Stone Age deposits at Olieboomspoort in the Waterberg Mountains of the South African Savanna Biome, di A. Val et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 7, July 2021, Article number: 116 - open access -

Olieboomspoort is one of the few rock shelters in the vast interior of southern Africa documenting pulses of occupation from the Acheulean until the end of the Later Stone Age. Revil Mason excavated the site in 1954 and attributed the large Middle Stone Age (MSA) lithic assemblage to his middle phase of the so-called Pietersburg Industry. Recent work at the site has focused on the Holocene layers, but little is known about the earlier phases of shelter use. Here, we provide some background to the shelter, give a history of past research and present initial results following renewed fieldwork at the site. The MSA deposits contain abundant lithic artefacts and ochre, and we present an initial description of these cultural remains. (...)


Black chert and radiolarite: knappable lithic raw materials in the prehistory of the Cantabrian Mountains (North Spain), di D. Herrero-Alonso et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 7, July 2021, Article number: 113

The Cantabrian Zone (N of Spain) is characterized by an occurrence of Palaeozoic age materials, mainly belonging to the Devonian and Carboniferous. Among the different lithologies, certain facies contain black chert and radiolarite in a total of 13 geological formations. Textural (de visu, stereomicroscope and thin sections), mineralogical (X-ray diffraction) and geochemical (X-ray fluorescence and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry) analyses have been carried out to describe the silicifications. All these data have made it possible to differentiate several varieties of chert and radiolarite that crop out in the Cantabrian Zone. (...)


Back to base: re-thinking variations in settlement and mobility behaviors in the Levantine Late Middle Paleolithic as seen from Shovakh Cave, di A. Malinsky-Buller, R. Ekshtain, N. Munro, E. Hovers, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 7, July 2021, Article number: 112

Shovakh cave is a late Middle Paleolithic cave site in Northern Israel, situated ca. 8 km from the Sea of Galilee. The Cave was originally was excavated by Sally Binford in 1962, and results of the analyses of its lithic assemblages played a major role in the then-raging Bordes-Binford debate, as well as in the initiation of the field of inquires known as “technological organization.” A renewed excavation in 2016 led to a better understanding of site formation at the cave and to a refined chrono-stratigraphic framework of the Middle Paleolithic occupations at the site. Here we present the results of the analyses of lithic and faunal assemblages combining material from both the original and renewed excavations at the site. (...)


Oldowan stone knapping and percussive activities on a raw material reservoir deposit 1.4 million years ago at Barranco León (Orce, Spain), di S. Titton et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 7, July 2021, Article number: 108

Barranco León (Orce, Andalusia, Spain) provides the oldest case of knapping and percussive activities on an ancient raw material reservoir deposit. This site has already proven to be one of the oldest and most significant Oldowan open-air sites in Europe (1.4 Ma), with an exceptionally rich flint and limestone lithic assemblage, in association with large and small faunal remains, including a tooth fragment attributed to Homo sp. All of these finds have been discovered after years of excavations from a clear stratigraphic succession, complimented by multidisciplinary analyses of environmental proxies. The analysis of the entire lithic collection presented here describes a tool kit composed of cores flakes and debris, hammerstones, and other macro-tools like heavy-duty scrapers and sub-spheroidal morphologies. (...)


"Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 156, July 2021:

- Dating the last Middle Palaeolithic of the Crimean Peninsula: New hydroxyproline AMS dates from the site of Kabazi II, di L. Spindler et alii

- Body mass estimation from footprint size in hominins, di C. B. Ruff et alii

- Dietary evidence from Central Asian Neanderthals: A combined isotope and plant microremains approach at Chagyrskaya Cave (Altai, Russia), di D. C. Salazar-García et alii

- A new absolute date from Swartkrans Cave for the oldest occurrences of Paranthropus robustus and Oldowan stone tools in South Africa, di K. Kuman et alii

- An assessment of the postcranial skeleton of the Paracolobus mutiwa (Primates: Colobinae) specimen KNM-WT 16827 from Lomekwi, West Turkana, Kenya, di
M. Anderson

- A comparative study of the endocasts of OH 5 and SK 1585: Implications for the paleoneurology of eastern and southern African Paranthropus, di A. Beaudet, R. Holloway, S. Benazzi

- Tracking behavioral persistence and innovations during the Middle Pleistocene in Western Europe. Shift in occupations between 700 and 450 ka at la Noira site (Centre, France), di M. H. Moncel et alii

- Could woodworking have driven lithic tool selection?, di R. Biermann Gürbüz, S. J. Lycett

- Foot anatomy, walking energetics, and the evolution of human bipedalism, di J. P. Charles, B. Grant, K. D’Août, K. T. Bates

- Dental chipping supports lack of hard-object feeding in Paranthropus boisei, di P. J. Constantino, K. A. Konow

- Cultural mosaics, social structure, and identity: The Acheulean threshold in Europe, di N. Ashton, R. Davis


Can calcined bones be used to date Final Palaeolithic and Mesolithic open-air sites? A case-study from the Scheldt basin (NW Belgium), di P. Crombé, M. Boudin, M. Van Strydonck, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 131, July 2021, 105411 - open access -

This paper presents the results of an inter-comparative study in view of assessing the reliability of radiocarbon dates obtained on calcined bones from open-air Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites. The results demonstrate that the success rate is largely dependent on site-taphonomy, in particular the speed of covering of the site. Sites quickly covered by aeolian, alluvial or marine sediments yield on average good dating results. At worst they can be affected by an wood-age offset, generally <100 years, caused by the uptake of carbon from the firewood. Sites which are uncovered or have been covered rather late suffer from contamination problems resulting in radiocarbon dates much younger than the reference dates. For these sites, which unfortunately represent the vast majority of open-air Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites, calcined bones are not a valuable dating material for developing robust, decadal-to-centennial chronologies. (...)


The stratigraphic context of Spy Cave and the timing of Neanderthal disappearance in Northwest Europe, di P. Van Peer, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 29, 2021; vol. 118, no. 26, e2106335118

Devièse et al. argue that Neanderthals disappeared from Northwest Europe between 44,200 and 40,600 cal B.P. The stratigraphy at Spy, however, qualifies this conclusion as premature. Except for Spy 572a, the dates are on skeletal parts found on the slope in front of the cave long after the fossil discoveries of 1885 and 1886, most probably in waste of earlier excavations. Some, however, can be morphologically associated with the 1886 Neanderthals, for which at least some stratigraphic evidence has been recorded. However limited, the latter cannot be disregarded when interpreting the historical significance of the compound-specific radiocarbon analysis dates. Importantly, so far only Spy I has been dated with the new protocol. (...)


Reply to Van Peer: Direct radiocarbon dating and ancient genomic analysis reveal the true age of the Neanderthals at Spy Cave, di T. Devièse et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 29, 2021; vol. 118, no. 26, e2107116118

Van Peer contests the conclusions of our article on Neanderthal disappearance in Northwest Europe, but we think his argument may reflect a misunderstanding of the stratigraphy at Spy Cave and/or incomplete reading of our article. We provide here a response to his arguments. The idea that the discovery time of the Neanderthal bones impacts the results is not scientifically valid and indicates an incomplete review of the literature. Among the oldest radiocarbon dates obtained on the Spy Neanderthals are those measured on collagen from material collected on the slope (...)


A Middle Pleistocene Homo from Nesher Ramla, Israel, di I. Hershkovitz et alii, "Science", 25 Jun 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6549, pp. 1424-1428

It has long been believed that Neanderthals originated and flourished on the European continent. However, recent morphological and genetic studies have suggested that they may have received a genetic contribution from a yet unknown non-European group. Here we report on the recent discovery of archaic Homo fossils from the site of Nesher Ramla, Israel, which we dated to 140,000 to 120,000 years ago. Comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analyses of the parietal bones, mandible, and lower second molar revealed that this Homo group presents a distinctive combination of Neanderthal and archaic features. We suggest that these specimens represent the late survivors of a Levantine Middle Pleistocene paleodeme that was most likely involved in the evolution of the Middle Pleistocene Homo in Europe and East Asia. (...)


Middle Pleistocene Homo behavior and culture at 140,000 to 120,000 years ago and interactions with Homo sapiens, di Y. Zaidner et alii, "Science", 25 Jun 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6549, pp. 1429-1433

Fossils of a Middle Pleistocene (MP) Homo within a well-defined archaeological context at the open-air site of Nesher Ramla, Israel, shed light on MP Homo culture and behavior. Radiometric ages, along with cultural and stratigraphic considerations, suggest that the fossils are 140,000 to 120,000 years old, chronologically overlapping with H. sapiens in western Asia. Lithic analysis reveals that MP Homo mastered stone-tool production technologies, previously known only among H. sapiens and Neanderthals. The Levallois knapping methods they used are indistinguishable from that of concurrent H. sapiens in western Asia. The most parsimonious explanation for such a close similarity is the cultural interactions between these two populations. These findings constitute evidence of contacts and interactions between H. sapiens and MP Homo. (...)


Stunning ‘Dragon Man’ skull may be an elusive Denisovan—or a new species of human, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", Jun. 25, 2021

Almost 90 years ago, Japanese soldiers occupying northern China forced a Chinese man to help build a bridge across the Songhua River in Harbin. While his supervisors weren’t looking, he found a treasure: a remarkably complete human skull buried in the riverbank. He wrapped up the heavy cranium and hid it in a well to prevent his Japanese supervisors from finding it. Today, the skull is finally coming out of hiding, and it has a new name: Dragon Man, the newest member of the human family, who lived more than 146,000 years ago. In three papers in the year-old journal The Innovation, paleontologist Qiang Ji of Hebei GEO University and his team call the new species Homo longi. (Long means dragon in Mandarin.) They also claim the new species belongs to the sister group of H. sapiens, and thus, an even closer relative of humans than Neanderthals. Other researchers question that idea of a new species and the team’s analysis of the human family tree. But they suspect the large skull has an equally exciting identity: They think it may be the long-sought skull of a Denisovan, an elusive human ancestor from Asia known chiefly from DNA. (...)


Pleistocene sediment DNA reveals hominin and faunal turnovers at Denisova Cave, di E. I. Zavala et alii, "Nature", 23 June 2021 - open access -

Denisova Cave in southern Siberia is the type locality of the Denisovans, an archaic hominin group who were related to Neanderthals1,2,3,4. The dozen hominin remains recovered from the deposits also include Neanderthals5,6 and the child of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan7, which suggests that Denisova Cave was a contact zone between these archaic hominins. However, uncertainties persist about the order in which these groups appeared at the site, the timing and environmental context of hominin occupation, and the association of particular hominin groups with archaeological assemblages5,8,9,10,11. Here we report the analysis of DNA from 728 sediment samples that were collected in a grid-like manner from layers dating to the Pleistocene epoch. We retrieved ancient faunal and hominin mitochondrial (mt)DNA from 685 and 175 samples, respectively. The earliest evidence for hominin mtDNA is of Denisovans, and is associated with early Middle Palaeolithic stone tools that were deposited approximately 250,000 to 170,000 years ago; Neanderthal mtDNA first appears towards the end of this period. We detect a turnover in the mtDNA of Denisovans that coincides with changes in the composition of faunal mtDNA, and evidence that Denisovans and Neanderthals occupied the site repeatedly—possibly until, or after, the onset of the Initial Upper Palaeolithic at least 45,000 years ago, when modern human mtDNA is first recorded in the sediments. (...)


Ancient Siberian cave hosted Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans—possibly at the same time, di E. Pennisi, "Science news", Jun 23, 2021

A decade ago, anthropologists shocked the world when they discovered a fossil pinkie bone from a then-unknown group of extinct humans in Siberia’s Denisova Cave. The group was named “Denisovans” in its honor. Now, an extensive analysis of DNA in the cave’s soils reveals it also hosted modern humans—who arrived early enough that they may have once lived there alongside Denisovans and Neanderthals. The new study “gives [researchers] unprecedented insight into the past,” says Mikkel Winther Pedersen, a molecular paleoecologist at the University of Copenhagen who was not involved with the work. “It literally shows what [before] they have only been able hypothesize.” (...)


The absolute chronology of Boker Tachtit (Israel) and implications for the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the Levant, di E. Boaretto et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", June 22, 2021; vol. 118, no. 25, e2014657118

The Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) is a crucial lithic assemblage type in the archaeology of southwest Asia because it marks a dramatic shift in hominin populations accompanied by technological changes in material culture. This phase is conventionally divided into two chronocultural phases based on the Boker Tachtit site, central Negev, Israel. While lithic technologies at Boker Tachtit are well defined, showing continuity from one phase to another, the absolute chronology is poorly resolved because the radiocarbon method used had a large uncertainty. Nevertheless, Boker Tachtit is considered to be the origin of the succeeding Early Upper Paleolithic Ahmarian tradition that dates in the Negev to ~42,000 y ago (42 ka). Here, we provide 14C and optically stimulated luminescence dates obtained from a recent excavation of Boker Tachtit. (...)


The 3rd Conference World of Gravettian Hunters. Edited by György Lengyel, Jarosław Wilczyński, Piotr Wojtal Volumes 587–588, Pages 1-414 (20 June 2021):

- The 3rd Conference World of Gravettian Hunters, di G. Lengyel, J. Wilczyński, P. Wojtal

- Human adaptive responses to climate and environmental change during the Gravettian of Lapa do Picareiro (Portugal), di J. Haws et alii

- The Gravettian-Solutrean transition in westernmost Iberia: New data from the sites of Vale Boi and Lapa do Picareiro, di J. Belmiro, N. Bicho, J. Haws, J. Cascalheira

- Re-evaluating the Gravettian technocomplex in Iberia: The 497C lithic assemblage from Cova Gran de Santa Linya (Southeastern Pyrenees), di J. Sánchez-Martínez, R. Mora Torcal, J. Martínez-Moreno

- The open-air site La Sénétrière and the Gravettian in the southern Burgundy (Saône-et-Loire, France), di E. Nordwald, H. Floss

- A techno-functional interpretation of the Noailles burins from the Riparo Mochi (Balzi Rossi, Italy), di F. Santaniello, S. Grimaldi

- Epigravettian in Eastern Bohemia, di P. Šída, P. Čechák, R. Novák

- Population mobility and lithic tool diversity in the Late Gravettian – The case study of Lubná VI (Bohemian Massif), di J. Wilczyński et alii

- The Upper Paleolithic hard animal tissue under the microscope: Selected examples from Moravian sites, di S. Sázelová, S. Boriová, S. Šáliová

- Kammern-Grubgraben revisited - First results from renewed investigations at a well-known LGM site in east Austria, di M. Händel et alii

- Zöld Cave and the Late Epigravettian in Eastern Central Europe, di S. Béres et alii

- On the edge of eastern and western culture zones in the early Late Pleistocene. Święte 9 – A new epigravettian site in the south-east of Poland, di M. Łanczont et alii

- The mid Upper Palaeolithic (Gravettian) sequence of Mitoc-Malu Galben (Romania): New fieldwork between 2013 and 2016 - Preliminary results and perspectives, di P. R. Nigst et alii

- From Gravettian to Epigravettian in the Eastern Carpathians: Insights from the Bistricioara-Lutărie III archaeological site, di M. Anghelinu et alii

- The new Upper Palaeolithic site Korman’ 9 in the Middle Dniester valley (Ukraine): Human occupation during the Last Glacial Maximum, di L. Kulakovska et alii

- The Upper Palaeolithic site Radomyshl I (Ukraine): Another phenomenon of the gravettian technocomplex?, di O. Kononenko

- Paglicci 24A1 and Mira II/2: Episode at the transition between the Early and Middle UP, di V. N. Stepanchuk, D. O. Vietrov

- Subsistence activities in the gravettian occupations of the Pushkari group: Pushkari I and Pushkari VIII (Pogon) (Ukraine), di L. Demay, P.M. Vasyliev, V.I. Belyaeva

- “Hare Tracks” in the Upper Palaeolithic in the centre of the East-European Plain (an overview), di M. N. Zheltova, N. D. Burova, N. E. Zaretskaya, G. I. Zaitseva, A. A. Sementsov

- The Epigravettian of Central Russian Plain, di K. N. Gavrilov

- Kostënki 9: The chronology and lithic assemblage of a Gravettian site in Russia, di N. Reynolds et alii

- The Volchia Griva mammoth site as a key area for geoarchaeological research of human movements in the Late Paleolithic of the West Siberian Plain, di S. V. Leshchinskiy, V. N. Zenin, O. V. Bukharova

- Filling the gaps: Late Upper Palaeolithic settlement in Gvardjilas Klde, Georgia, di M. Kot et alii

- Upper Paleolithic animal exploitation in the Armenian Highlands: The zooarchaeology of Aghitu-3 Cave, di A. Bertacchi, B. Gasparyan, B. Gruwier, F. Rivals, A. W. Kandel


Ancient genomes offer rare glimpse of Neanderthal family groups, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", Jun. 16, 2021

More than 49,000 years ago, a family of Neanderthals set up camp in a cave high in Siberia’s Altai Mountains, overlooking a river valley where bison, red deer, and wild horses roamed. In the cave’s main gallery, a teenage girl lost a tooth, perhaps while gnawing on bison that her father or his kin had hunted in the sweeping grasslands. Now, researchers have analyzed the genomes of this father and daughter and 12 of their relatives, many of whom sheltered in the same cave over less than 100 years. The new genomes almost double the number of Neanderthal genomes known and offer a glimpse of the Neanderthal population at the eastern end of their range, at a time when they were headed toward extinction. (...)


The conquest of the dark spaces: An experimental approach to lighting systems in Paleolithic caves, di Mª Á. Medina-Alcaide et alii, June 16, 2021 doi: - open access -

Artificial lighting was a crucial physical resource for expanding complex social and economic behavior in Paleolithic groups. Furthermore, the control of fire allowed the development of the first symbolic behavior in deep caves, around 176 ky BP. These activities would increase during the Upper Paleolithic, when lighting residues proliferated at these sites. The physical peculiarities of Paleolithic lighting resources are very poorly understood, although this is a key aspect for the study of human activity within caves and other dark contexts. In this work, we characterize the main Paleolithic lighting systems (e.g., wooden torches, portable fat lamps, and fireplaces) through empirical observations and experimental archeology in an endokarstic context. Furthermore, each lighting system’s characteristic combustion residues were identified to achieve a better identification for the archaeological record. The experiments are based on an exhaustive review of archaeological information about this topic. Besides, we apply the estimated luminous data of a Paleolithic cave with Paleolithic art (Atxurra in northern Spain) in 3D through GIS technology to delve into the archeologic implications of illumination in Paleolithic underground activities. (...)


After the Last Glacial Maximum in the refugium of northern Iberia: Environmental shifts, demographic pressure and changing economic strategies at Las Caldas Cave (Asturias, Spain), di J. R. Jones, A. B. Marín-Arroyo, M. S. Corchón Rodríguez, M. P. Richards, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 262, 15 June 2021, 106931

The Late Upper Palaeolithic of Europe, particularly the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM: 26-19 kyr cal BP), was a time of dramatic climatic changes. Fauna, and the humans that preyed on them, were forced to adapt their behaviours in response to climate changes to survive. The Cantabrian Region of northern Spain was continuously inhabited during this period when many other areas of Europe were inhospitable. The site of Las Caldas (Asturias) was repeatedly occupied by hunter-gatherers during the Solutrean (26.1–20.3 kyr cal BP) and Magdalenian (18.5–14.3 kyr cal BP). (...)


Climate conditions during the migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa reconstructed, June 14, 2021

An international research team led by Professor Dr Frank Schäbitz has published a climate reconstruction of the last 200,000 years for Ethiopia. This means that high-resolution data are now available for the period when early Homo sapiens, our ancestors, made their way from Africa to Europe and Asia. Schäbitz and his colleagues determined the dates using a drill core of lake sediments deposited in southern Ethiopia's Chew Bahir Basin, which lies near human fossil sites. Temporal resolution of the samples, reaching nearly 10 years, revealed that from 200,000 to 125,000 years before our time, the climate there was relatively wet, providing enough water and thus abundant plant and animal food resources in the lowlands of East Africa. From 125,000 to 60,000 years ago, it gradually became drier, and particularly dry between 60,000 to 14,000 years ago. The data now obtained fit well with genetic findings, according to which our direct genetic ancestors ('African Eve') left Africa 'successfully' during a wet phase about 70,000 to 50,000 years ago. (...)


How did Neanderthals and other ancient humans learn to count? di C. Barras, "Nature", Volume 594 Issue 7861, 3 June 2021

Some 60,000 years ago, in what is now western France, a Neanderthal picked up a chunk of hyena femur and a stone tool and began to work. When the task was complete, the bone bore nine notches that were strikingly similar and approximately parallel, as if they were meant to signify something. Francesco d’Errico, an archaeologist at the University of Bordeaux, France, has an idea about the marks. He has examined many ancient carved artefacts during his career, and he thinks that the hyena bone — found in the 1970s at the site of Les Pradelles near Angoulême — stands out as unusual. Although ancient carved artefacts are often interpreted as artworks, the Les Pradelles bone seems to have been more functional, says D’Errico. He argues that it might encode numerical information. And if that’s correct, anatomically modern humans might not have been alone in developing a system of numerical notations: Neanderthals might have begun to do so, too (...)


Late Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in Central Europe: new data from eastern Poland, di T. Wiśniewski, B. Niezabitowska-Wiśniewska, "Antiquity", Volume 95, Issue 381, June 2021, e13 - open access -

Late Palaeolithic settlement in the western part of the Lublin Upland remains poorly investigated. The earliest data on this subject date to the interwar period when archaeological research was conducted in the south-west part of this area. This yielded Turonian flint outcrops and flint workshops of undetermined cultural provenance. Investigations of pre-Neolithic settlement undertaken by J. Libera in 1981–1992 were instrumental in organising and systematising knowledge of the Late Palaeolithic in the western Lublin Upland. Libera's primary focus was on re-evaluating archival museum collections. This research was published in an overview of the Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic in central-east Poland (Libera 1995, 1998). To date, 80 archaeological sites associated with the Late Palaeolithic are recognised in the western Lublin Upland. The vast majority of finds originate from regular surface surveys conducted in the 1980s by many researchers (Libera 2015). A considerable number of them are chance finds with an undetermined location. (...)


Pilot study comparing the effects of thinning processes on the cross-sectional morphologies of Early and Late Acheulian handaxes, di M. V. Caruana, "Archaeometry", Volume 63, Issue 3, June 2021, Pages 481-499

The refinement of handaxes, defined as increasing planview symmetry and profile thinness, has been used to distinguish Early and Late Acheulian assemblages. However, recent studies have found that this is not a ubiquitous trend throughout the Acheulian industry. Yet, research suggests that Late Acheulian handaxes differ from earlier forms in the complexity and extent of thinning procedures. To test the discriminatory power of thinning in distinguishing Early and Late Acheulian handaxes, cross-sectional shapes are compared through geometric morphometric techniques. (...)


Semiotics and the Origin of Language in the Lower Palaeolithic, di L. Barham, D. Everett, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 2, June 2021, pages 535–579 - open access -

This paper argues that the origins of language can be detected one million years ago, if not earlier, in the archaeological record of Homo erectus. This controversial claim is based on a broad theoretical and evidential foundation with language defined as communication based on symbols rather than grammar. Peirce’s theory of signs (semiotics) underpins our analysis with its progression of signs (icon, index and symbol) used to identify artefact forms operating at the level of symbols. We draw on generalisations about the multiple social roles of technology in pre-industrial societies and on the contexts tool-use among non-human primates to argue for a deep evolutionary foundation for hominin symbol use. (...)


Numerical Reconstruction of Paleolithic Fires in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave (Ardèche, France), di F. Salmon et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 2, June 2021, pages 604–616

The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave (Ardèche, France), famous for its remarkable rock art, also contains unique thermal-alterations such as rock spalling and color changes on the walls. These alterations resulted from intense fires that have not been observed in the other decorated caves thus far discovered. The functions of these unusual fires challenge archaeologists. To characterize these combustions, we used a numerical tool, previously validated with experimental data, to study the thermo-alterations in the Megaceros Gallery. (...)


Materiality, Agency and Evolution of Lithic Technology: an Integrated Perspective for Palaeolithic Archaeology, di S. T. Hussain, M. Will, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 2, June 2021, pages 617–670 - open access -

Considerations of materiality and object-oriented approaches have greatly influenced the development of archaeological theory in recent years. Yet, Palaeolithic archaeology has been slow in incorporating this emerging body of scholarship and exploring its bearing on the human deep past. This paper probes into the potential of materiality theory to clarify the material dynamics of the Plio-Pleistocene and seeks to re-articulate the debate on the evolution of our species with materiality discourses in archaeology and the humanities more broadly. We argue that the signature temporalities and geospatial scales of observation provided by the Palaeolithic record offer unique opportunities to examine the active role of material things, objects, artefacts and technologies in the emergence, stabilisation and transformation of hominin lifeworlds and the accretion of long-term trajectories of material culture change. (...)


Sandstone Ground Stone Technology: a Multi-level Use Wear and Residue Approach to Investigate the Function of Pounding and Grinding Tools, di E. Cristiani, A. Zupancich, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 2, June 2021, pages 704–735 - open access -

Ground stone tool (GST) technology includes artefacts utilized in pounding or grinding activities and characterized by long life cycles and multiple uses. The introduction of such technology dates back to early prehistory, and for this reason, it is used as prime evidence for tackling a wide range of archaeological questions such as the origins of technology, patterns of daily subsistence and lifeways. In this paper, we contribute to the field of study of GSTs by discussing the application of a novel multi-level analytical approach combining use wear and residue observations at low and high magnification with residue spatial distribution investigated using GIS. (...)


Correlated and geographically predictable Neanderthal and Denisovan legacies are difficult to reconcile with a simple model based on inter-breeding, di W. Amos, "Royal Society Open Science", June 2021, Volume 8, Issue 6 - open access -

Although the presence of archaic hominin legacies in humans is taken for granted, little attention has been given as to how the data fit with how humans colonized the world. Here, I show that Neanderthal and Denisovan legacies are strongly correlated and that inferred legacy size, like heterozygosity, exhibits a strong correlation with distance from Africa. Simulations confirm that, once created, legacy size is extremely stable: it may reduce through admixture with lower legacy populations but cannot increase significantly through neutral drift. Consequently, populations carrying the highest legacies are likely to be those whose ancestors inter-bred most with archaics. However, the populations with the highest legacies are globally scattered and are unified, not by having origins within the known Neanderthal range, but instead by living in locations that lie furthest from Africa (...)


Beyond arrows on a map: The dynamics of Homo sapiens dispersal and occupation of Arabia during Marine Isotope Stage 5, di S. LukeNicholson et alii, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 62, June 2021, 101269

Arabia occupies a crucial central position between Africa and Eurasia. The northward expansion of the monsoonal rain-belt and the formation of grasslands during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 provided favourable conditions for Homo sapiens to occupy and traverse now arid areas of Arabia. While “Green Arabia” may have been a crucial stepping-stone on the way to H. sapiens global settlement, the occupation of Arabia is an important area of study in itself and could offer vital perspectives on human-environment interactions. In particular, Green Arabia can offer a unique insight into processes of human dispersal, occupation and extirpation in an environmentally fluctuating landscape. (...)


The Paleolithic of the Iranian Plateau: Hominin occupation history and implications for human dispersals across southern Asia, di M. Javad Shoaee, H. Vahdati Nasab, M. D. Petraglia, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 62, June 2021, 101292

The biological and cultural evolution of hominins in Asia is a central topic of paleoanthropology. Yet, the Paleolithic archaeology of key regions of Asia, including the Iranian plateau, have not been integrated into human evolutionary studies. Here, we examine the prehistory of the Iranian plateau with a focus on Iran, one of the largest and archaeologically best-known countries in the region. After approximately eight decades of professional fieldwork on the Paleolithic in Iran, a broad outline of the occupation history of the region has been achieved, though significant gaps remain in understanding the evolution and behavior of hominins in the region. (...)


"Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 155, June 2021:

- Late Pleistocene partial femora from Maomaodong, southwestern China, di P. Wei et alii

- Exploring variability in lithic armature discard in the archaeological record, di C. Gravel-Miguel, J. K. Murray, B. J. Schoville, C. D. Wren, C. W. Marean

- Mapping Early Pleistocene environments and the availability of plant food as a potential driver of early Homo presence in the Guadix-Baza Basin (Spain), di Y. Altolaguirre, M. Schulz, L. Gibert, A. A. Bruch

- New femoral remains of Nacholapithecus kerioi: Implications for intraspecific variation and Miocene hominoid evolution, di M. Pina et alii

- Trabecular bone properties in the ilium of the Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age Border Cave 3 Homo sapiens infant and the onset of independent gait, di K. A. Tommy, B. Zipfel, J. Kibii, K. J. Carlson


Human origins in Southern African palaeo-wetlands? Strong claims from weak evidence, di C. M. Schlebusch et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 130, June 2021, 105374

Attempts to identify a ‘homeland’ for our species from genetic data are widespread in the academic literature. However, even when putting aside the question of whether a ‘homeland’ is a useful concept, there are a number of inferential pitfalls in attempting to identify the geographic origin of a species from contemporary patterns of genetic variation. These include making strong claims from weakly informative data, treating genetic lineages as representative of populations, assuming a high degree of regional population continuity over hundreds of thousands of (...)


Inferring archaic introgression from hominin genetic data, di S. Gopalan, E. G. Atkinson, L. T. Buck, T. D. Weaver, B. M. Henn, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume30, Issue3, May/June 2021, Pages 199-220 - open access -

Questions surrounding the timing, extent, and evolutionary consequences of archaic admixture into human populations have a long history in evolutionary anthropology. More recently, advances in human genetics, particularly in the field of ancient DNA, have shed new light on the question of whether or not Homo sapiens interbred with other hominin groups. By the late 1990s, published genetic work had largely concluded that archaic groups made no lasting genetic contribution to modern humans; less than a decade later, this conclusion was reversed following the successful DNA sequencing of an ancient Neanderthal. This reversal of consensus is noteworthy, but the reasoning behind it is not widely understood across all academic communities. There remains a communication gap between population geneticists and paleoanthropologists. In this review, we endeavor to bridge this gap by outlining how technological advancements, new statistical methods, and notable controversies ultimately led to the current consensus. (...)


Last ice age wiped out people in East Asia as well as Europe, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", May. 27, 2021

Some of the first modern humans to settle in East Asia more than 40,000 years ago ranged across the vast northern China Plateau for thousands of years, where they hunted red deer and may have encountered Neanderthals and other archaic humans. But sometime before the end of the last ice age, they vanished. By 19,000 years ago, the landscape was populated by another group of modern humans—the hunter-gatherers who were the ancestors of today’s East Asians, a new study of ancient genomes reveals. That group replaced the early modern humans in northern East Asia, the researchers suggest. This population turnover in ice age East Asia eerily echoes what happened around the same time in Europe. There, the first modern humans arrived 45,000 years ago, only to be replaced by other groups of hunter-gatherers 19,000 to 14,000 years ago at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). “It’s exciting to see some real parallels in Europe and Asia,” says population geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School, who was not part of the new study. “There’s enough genomes now to show that there were real population replacements in East Asia, as well as Europe.” (...)


Detecting adaptive introgression in human evolution using convolutional neural networks, di G. Gower, P. Iáñez Picazo, M. Fumagalli, F. Racimo, "eLife", May 25, 2021, 2021;10:e64669, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64669 - open access -

Studies in a variety of species have shown evidence for positively selected variants introduced into a population via introgression from another, distantly related population—a process known as adaptive introgression. However, there are few explicit frameworks for jointly modelling introgression and positive selection, in order to detect these variants using genomic sequence data. Here, we develop an approach based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs). CNNs do not require the specification of an analytical model of allele frequency dynamics and have outperformed alternative methods for classification and parameter estimation tasks in various areas of population genetics. Thus, they are potentially well suited to the identification of adaptive introgression. (...)


Genome of Peştera Muierii skull shows high diversity and low mutational load in pre-glacial Europe, di E. Svensson et alii, "Current Biology", May 18, 2021, doi: - open access -

Few complete human genomes from the European Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) have been sequenced. Using novel sampling and DNA extraction approaches, we sequenced the genome of a woman from “Peştera Muierii,” Romania who lived ~34,000 years ago to 13.5× coverage. The genome shows similarities to modern-day Europeans, but she is not a direct ancestor. Although her cranium exhibits both modern human and Neanderthal features, the genome shows similar levels of Neanderthal admixture (~3.1%) to most EUP humans but only half compared to the ∼40,000-year-old Peştera Oase 1. All EUP European hunter-gatherers display high genetic diversity, demonstrating that the severe loss of diversity occurred during and after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) rather than just during the out-of-Africa migration. (...)


Identifying anthropogenic features at Seoke (Botswana) using pXRF: Expanding the record of southern African Stone Walled Sites, di S. Biagetti et alii, May 12, 2021, doi: - open access -

Numerous and extensive ‘Stone Walled Sites’ have been identified in southern African Iron Age landscapes. Appearing from around 1200 CE, and showing considerable variability in size and form, these settlements are named after the dry-stone wall structures that characterize them. Stone Walled Sites were occupied by various Bantu-speaking agropastoral communities. In this paper we test the use of pXRF (portable X-ray fluorescence analysis) to generate a ‘supplementary’ archaeological record where evident stratigraphy is lacking, survey conditions may be uneven, and excavations limited, due to the overall site size. We propose herein the application of portable X-ray fluorescence analysis (pXRF) coupled with multivariate exploratory analysis and geostatistical modelling at Seoke, a southern African SWS of historical age (18th century CE). The aim of the paper is twofold: to explore the potential of the application of a low cost, quick, and minimally invasive technique to detect chemical markers in anthropogenic sediments from a Stone Walled Site, and to propose a way to analyse the results in order to improve our understanding of the use of space at non-generalized scales in such sites. (...)


Vectorial application for the illustration of archaeological lithic artefacts using the “Stone Tools Illustrations with Vector Art” (STIVA) Method, di J. N. Cerasoni, May 11, 2021, doi: - open access -

Lithic illustrations are often used in scientific publications to efficiently communicate the technological and morphological characteristics of stone tools. They offer invaluable information and insights not only on how stone raw materials were transformed into their final form, but also on the individuals that made them. Here, the “Stone Tools Illustrations with Vector Art” (STIVA) Method is presented, which involves the illustration of lithic artefacts using vectorial graphics software (Adobe Illustrator ©). This protocol follows an optimised step-by-step method, presenting ten major sections that constitute the creation of a lithic illustration: photography, vectorial software configuration, scale, outline, scar borders, ripples, cortex, symbols, composition, and export. This method has been developed to allow researchers, students and educators to create clear and competent illustrations for any application, from scientific publications to public outreach. (...)


Neanderthals carb loaded, helping grow their big brains, di A. Gibbons, "Science news", May 10, 2021

Here’s another blow to the popular image of Neanderthals as brutish meat eaters: A new study of bacteria collected from Neanderthal teeth shows that our close cousins ate so many roots, nuts, or other starchy foods that they dramatically altered the type of bacteria in their mouths. The finding suggests our ancestors had adapted to eating lots of starch by at least 600,000 years ago—about the same time as they needed more sugars to fuel a big expansion of their brains. The study is “groundbreaking,” says Harvard University evolutionary biologist Rachel Carmody, who was not part of the research. The work suggests the ancestors of both humans and Neanderthals were cooking lots of starchy foods at least 600,000 years ago. And they had already adapted to eating more starchy plants long before the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, she says. (...)


Unearthing Neanderthal population history using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA from cave sediments, di B. Vernot et alii, "Science", 07 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6542, eabf1667

Bones and teeth are important sources of Pleistocene hominin DNA, but are rarely recovered at archaeological sites. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been retrieved from cave sediments but provides limited value for studying population relationships. We therefore developed methods for the enrichment and analysis of nuclear DNA from sediments and applied them to cave deposits in western Europe and southern Siberia dated to between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago. We detected a population replacement in northern Spain about 100,000 years ago, which was accompanied by a turnover of mtDNA. We also identified two radiation events in Neanderthal history during the early part of the Late Pleistocene. Our work lays the ground for studying the population history of ancient hominins from trace amounts of nuclear DNA in sediments. (...)


Earliest known human burial in Africa, di M. Martinón-Torres, F. d’Errico, M. D. Petraglia, "Nature", Volume 593, Issue 7857, 6 May 2021, pages 95–100

The origin and evolution of hominin mortuary practices are topics of intense interest and debate. Human burials dated to the Middle Stone Age (MSA) are exceedingly rare in Africa and unknown in East Africa. Here we describe the partial skeleton of a roughly 2.5- to 3.0-year-old child dating to 78.3 ± 4.1 thousand years ago, which was recovered in the MSA layers of Panga ya Saidi (PYS), a cave site in the tropical upland coast of Kenya. Recent excavations have revealed a pit feature containing a child in a flexed position. Geochemical, granulometric and micromorphological analyses of the burial pit content and encasing archaeological layers indicate that the pit was deliberately excavated. Taphonomical evidence, such as the strict articulation or good anatomical association of the skeletal elements and histological evidence of putrefaction, support the in-place decomposition of the fresh body. (...)


Early human impacts and ecosystem reorganization in southern-central Africa, di J. C. Thompson et alii, "Science Advances", 05 May 2021: Vol. 7, no. 19, eabf9776 - open access -

Modern Homo sapiens engage in substantial ecosystem modification, but it is difficult to detect the origins or early consequences of these behaviors. Archaeological, geochronological, geomorphological, and paleoenvironmental data from northern Malawi document a changing relationship between forager presence, ecosystem organization, and alluvial fan formation in the Late Pleistocene. Dense concentrations of Middle Stone Age artifacts and alluvial fan systems formed after ca. 92 thousand years ago, within a paleoecological context with no analog in the preceding half-million-year record. Archaeological data and principal coordinates analysis indicate that early anthropogenic fire relaxed seasonal constraints on ignitions, influencing vegetation composition and erosion. This operated in tandem with climate-driven changes in precipitation to culminate in an ecological transition to an early, pre-agricultural anthropogenic landscape. (...)


Palaeolithic archaeology of the Bytham River: human occupation of Britain during the early Middle Pleistocene and its European context, di R. Davis, N. Ashton, M. Hatch, P. G. Hoare, S. G. Lewis, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 36, Issue 4, May 2021, Pages 526-546

The Early and early Middle Pleistocene archaeological record in Britain from c. 900 to 500 ka marks a critical shift in human occupation of northwest Europe, from occasional pioneer populations with simple core and flake technology to more widespread occupation associated with the appearance of Acheulean technology. Key to understanding this record are the fluvial deposits of the extinct Bytham River in central East Anglia, where a series of Lower Palaeolithic sites lie on a 15 km stretch of the former river. In this paper we present the results of new fieldwork and a reanalysis of historical artefact collections of handaxes and scrapers to (...)

  Hommage à Alberto Broglio - Paléolithique supérieur et Épipaléolithique, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 125, Issue 2, April–May 2021:

- Hommage à Alberto Broglio, rénovateur de notre conception de la complexité culturelle du monde paléolithique, di G. Giacobini, F. Martini

- L’Italie comme axe du Paléolithique supérieur en Méditerranée. Hommage à Alberto Broglio, di M. Otte

- New advances on the Aurignacian in the central Iberian Mediterranean basin, di Á. Martínez-Alfaro, M. Ángel Bel, V. Villaverde

- La culture visuelle du Tardiglaciaire en Italie, di F. Martini

- Les occupations gravettiennes de la Grotte Santa Maria di Agnano (Pouilles, Italie) – Zone SMA-Esterno : typo-technologie lithique et archéozoologie, di H. Baills, P. Magniez, D. Coppola

- L’axe du Paléolithique supérieur : le site de Velikanov, Kazakhstan, di M. Otte

- Gravettian ivory ornaments in Central Europe, Moravia (Czech Republic), di M. Lázničková-Galetová

- Hommes modernes en Asie septentrionale, di M. Otte

- Les sépultures italiennes du Paléolithique supérieur. Inventaire et observations anthropologiques, di P. F. Fabbri, G. Giacobini

- Les sépultures italiennes du Paléolithique supérieur. Reconstitutions du régime alimentaire, di F. De Angelis, V. Veltre, O. Rickards

- Climate, sea level and culture in the Southeastern Mediterranean 20–4 ky BP, di A. Ronen, G. Almagor

- Réalisme et rupture avec le réel dans la représentation des animaux à Göbekli Tepe, di C. Domurcakli

- Late Pleistocene proboscidean ivory artifacts from the Hiscock site, NY, di R. M. Gramly

- Entre esprits, gestes et pierres : chaîne opératoire lithique sur le site de Porto de Santarém, Amazonie, di  T. Suenny Araujo da Silva, D. Pahl Schaan


The fossils of castor fiber from the middle Pleistocene site of Gruta da Aroeira (Portugal) and human-beaver interaction, di G. Cuenca‑Bescós, M. Sanz, J. Daura, J. Zilhão, "Quaternaire", vol. 32/1 | 2021, Volume 32, Numéro 1 - open access -

Here we analyze the fossil remains of Castor fiber from the Middle Pleistocene site of Gruta da Aroeira, in the Almonda karst system, Tagus basin (Torres Novas, Portugal) and discuss the archaeological implications of the presence of beavers in the region. The Almonda karst system has been the backdrop for human evolution in Portugal, because there are different localities, of different ages, from the Middle Pleistocene to the Holocene, with fossil remains of hominins as well as faunal and archaeological remains. Beaver fossils have been found in the archaeological deposits of at least three cavities of the karst system: the Gruta da Aroeira, the Gruta da Oliveira and the Galeria da Cisterna. (...)


The lower palaeolithic site of Pen Hat (Crozon, Brittany) and its regional stratigraphic context, di B. Van Vliet‑Lanoë et alii, "Quaternaire", vol. 32/1 | 2021, Volume 32, Numéro 1 - open access -

Les deux sites exceptionnels de Pen Hat et de Trez Rouz (presqu’île de Crozon, Bretagne), et celui de Trégana (bordure nord de la rade de Brest, Bretagne), sont rares de par la préservation de formations du Pléistocène moyen datées par les méthodes de luminescence stimulée par infra‑rouge, résonance de spin électronique et radiocarbone. La mise en évidence régionale de sables de couvertures périglaciaires du MIS 6 et d’un haut niveau marin attribué au MIS 9a sont d’une grande importance stratigraphique à l’échelle régionale. Ces trois sites permettent en outre de reconstituer les conditions d’occupation de sites archéologiques du Pleistocène moyen en Finistère ouest. A la fin du MIS 11, les hommes se sont implantés au sud‑est du relief de la pointe du Toulinguet, dans un secteur abrité des vents d’ouest et de nord dominants en bordure d’une lagune, barrée par deux flèches en galets, une source d’approvisionnement en petits galets de silex. Les occupations par l’Homme sont surtout observées en fin d’interglaciaire pour raison de préservation de corps sédimentaires de haut niveau marin et de début de régression associés avec une banquise littorale, et avec une possibilité de chasse sur les plaines sableuses ainsi dégagées. (...)


Aggiornamento 30/04/2021


Neanderthal ecology and the exploitation of cervids and bovids at the onset of MIS4: A study on De Nadale cave, Italy, di A. Livraghi, G. Fanfarillo, M. Dal Colle, M. Romandini, M. Peresani, "Quaternary International", Volume 586, 10 June 2021, Pages 24-41

North-eastern Italy was a familiar region for Neanderthal groups, as attested by over 20 Middle Palaeolithic multi-layered sites in caves, rockshelters and at the open, investigated during the last decades. Of this large record, evidence pointing for human frequentation during to the Marine Isotopic Stage 4 is documented at a very ephemeral level. Here we contribute to shed light on a so sparse context through the presentation of De Nadale Cave, a single-layered Quina Mousterian site located in the Berici Hills and dated to 70.2 + 1/-0.9 ka BP. (...)


What was on the menu? Mesolithic cooking and consumption practices in inland central Europe based on analysis of fireplaces, di M. Ptáková, P. Šída, L. Kovačiková, "Quaternary International", Volume 586, 10 June 2021, Pages 90-104

The northern Bohemian sandstone region brings an exceptionally rich record of Mesolithic settlement, particularly in the form of fireplaces as key structures to be studied when addressing cooking and consumption practices. A large number of different fireplace structures – including kettle-shaped pits and surface or sunken fireplaces, some lined with stones – can be interpreted in terms of performing roasting, boiling, steaming or smoking procedures. The organic remains directly associated with them reveal which resources were exploited and almost certainly consumed, although in many cases they seem to have been discarded into the fire after processing. (...)


The role of shellfish in human subsistence during the Mesolithic of Atlantic Europe: An approach from meat yield estimations, di A. García-Escárzaga, I. Gutiérrez-Zugasti, "Quaternary International", Volume 584, 20 May 2021, Pages 9-19

In spite of the increased number of investigations of the Mesolithic period in Atlantic Europe, including studies that have focused on reconstructing human diets, the information about the role of shellfish in human subsistence strategies is still very limited. In this study, an experimental programme to collect modern molluscs was carried out in northern Iberia over a three-year period in order to establish the meat yield of the four main species recovered from archaeological sites in this coastal area. The resulting dataset enabled accurate estimates of the meat yield from the shell remains recovered in the shell midden deposits of El Mazo cave (Asturias, N Spain). (...)


New paradigms in the exploitation of Mesolithic shell middens in Atlantic France: The example of Beg-er-Vil, Brittany, di C. Dupont, G. Marchand, "Quaternary International", Volume 584, 20 May 2021, Pages 59-71

The Atlantic coast of north-west France is one of the classic shell-midden regions of the European Mesolithic, made famous by the excavations of Téviec and Hoedic in the first half of the 20th century. At this time, there was a lack of interest in the food refuse component of shell middens. By the end of the 1990s new study methods and techniques had also contributed to a better description of the varied activities of these coastal populations. In Atlantic France, new excavations have demonstrated that shell middens are not a site type but rather one of a variety of stratigraphic units that make up the total settlement pattern. (...)


New evidence from Bouldnor Cliff for technological innovation in the Mesolithic, population dispersal and use of drowned landscapes, di G. Momber et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 584, 20 May 2021, Pages 116-128

Investigation of underwater prehistoric sites during the twenty-first century has been gathering momentum. This has been a positive development for the discipline that has been strengthened by research into human occupation of the drowned lands around the British coastline, particularly the submerged forests of the Solent seaway on the south coast of England as well as the North Sea. Over the last two decades underwater investigations at the Mesolithic site of Bouldnor Cliff, off the isle of Wight has revealed advanced wood working technological capabilities, the presence of sedimentary DNA from einkorn and outstanding levels of organic preservation including string, worked timbers, and most recently, a wooden platform. (...)


Targeting the Mesolithic: Interdisciplinary approaches to archaeological prospection in the Brown Bank area, southern North Sea, di T. Missiaen et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 584, 20 May 2021, Pages 141-151 - open access -

This paper describes some results of the research undertaken over the Brown Bank area during recent (2018/2019) geoarchaeological surveys in the North Sea which included seismic imaging, shallow (vibro)coring and dredging. It examines the benefits of simultaneous high-resolution (0.5 – 1 m) and ultra-high-resolution (10–20 cm) seismic survey techniques and a staged approach to resolving the submerged Holocene landscape in the highest possible detail for the purpose of targeted prospecting for archaeological material from the Mesolithic landscape of Doggerland. (...)


Lower Palaeolithic archaeology and submerged landscapes in Greece: The current state of the art, di P. Tsakanikou, N. Galanidou, D. Sakellariou, "Quaternary International", Volume 584, 20 May 2021, Pages 171-181

The Balkan Peninsula lies on a key geographical location between Africa and Eurasia. The southern part of the Balkan Peninsula, referred to as the Aegean region, was a passageway for faunal migrations throughout the Pleistocene. Recent advances in the Lower Palaeolithic archaeology of Greece and in the research of the submerged landscapes of the Aegean region prompt a reconsideration of the biogeographical role of this area in Middle Pleistocene hominin settlement and expansion. In this paper, we articulate and elaborate on a working hypothesis, namely that the Aegean region was not a barrier during the Middle Pleistocene but instead it offered attractive lands for occupation and viable pathways for dispersal. (...)


Magnetic properties of cave sediments at Gran Dolina site in Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain), di S. D'Arcangelo, F. Martín-Hernández, J. M. Parés, "Quaternary International", Volume 583, 10 May 2021, Pages 1-13

We report new rock magnetic results from a cave in the “Sierra de Atapuerca” (Burgos, North of Spain), that is one of the most important archaeological and palaeontological sites of Lower to Middle Pleistocene in Europe. Our samples are taken in cave sediments of Gran Dolina Cave. Rock magnetic analyses allowed us to determine changes in grain size, composition, and concentration in both cave-entrance and cave-interior sediments. Generally, the cave-entrance sediments are characterized by a high concentration of magnetic minerals while the cave-interior presents a more variable concentration. (...)


Neanderthal cranial remains from Baume Moula-Guercy (Soyons, Ardèche, France), di G. D. Richards, G. Guipert, R. S. Jabbour, A. R. Defleur, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 175, Issue 1, May 2021, Pages 201-226

We provide the first comparative description of the Guercy 1 cranium and isolated cranial fragments from Baume Moula-Guercy and examine their affinities to European Preneanderthals, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens. he Moula-Guercy hominins derive from deposits chronostratigraphically and biostratigraphically dated to the Eemian Interglacial (MIS 5e). For comparisons we compiled a sample of European and Southwest Asian subadult-adult Middle-to-Late Pleistocene hominins (≈MIS 14–MIS 2; N = 184). (...)


Changes in Raw Material Selection and Use at 400,000 Years bp: A Novel, Symbolic Relationship between Humans and Their World. Discussing Technological, Social and Cognitive Arguments, di F. Romagnoli, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 31, Issue 2, May 2021 - open access -

Approximately 400,000 years bp, novel technological behaviours appeared in the archaeological record, attested by evidence of the exploitation of previously unused resources and the production of new tools. I have reviewed such innovations, and I discuss them in the frame of the anthropological, palaeoneurological, genetic and behavioural changes that appeared in the Middle Pleistocene. I propose that at this chronology humans started to see the resources as ‘other-than-human’ sentient co-dwellers. The technological innovations expressed this novel cognitive complexity and the possible new things–things, human–things and environment–things relationships. Artefacts and technologies acquired multiple semiotic meanings that were strongly interconnected with the functional value. (...)


Memory Scrapers: Readymade Concepts and Techniques as Reflected in Collecting and Recycling Patinated Lower Palaeolithic Items at Qesem Cave, Israel, di B. Efrati, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 31, Issue 2, May 2021 - open access -

This paper argues that certain early Palaeolithic artefacts can be viewed as reflecting Readymade concepts and techniques from the world of modern art. I will focus on presenting a theoretical framework for this claim as well as a case study from Late Lower Palaeolithic Qesem Cave, Israel (420,000–200,000 bp). The case study is based on the ‘double patina’ phenomenon (old tools that became patinated by exposure to the elements and were then shaped again). These items, characterized by outstanding colours and textures, were produced following Readymade concepts and techniques applied in the production of tools that are both functional and mnemonic. I suggest that these items acted as mnemonic memory tools that reconnected their users to ancestral (human and non-human) beings as well as to familiar experiences, events, and places. (...)


The Elephant in the Handaxe: Lower Palaeolithic Ontologies and Representations, di R. Barkai, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 31, Issue 2, May 2021 - open access -

Indigenous hunter-gatherers view the world differently than do WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) societies. They depend—as in prehistoric times—on intimate relationships with elements such as animals, plants and stones for their successful adaptation and prosperity. The desire to maintain the perceived world-order and ensure the continued availability of whatever is necessary for human existence and well-being thus compelled equal efforts to please these other-than-human counterparts. Relationships of consumption and appreciation characterized human nature as early as the Lower Palaeolithic; the archaeological record reflects such ontological and cosmological conceptions to some extent. Central to my argument are elephants and handaxes, the two pre-eminent Lower Palaeolithic hallmarks of the Old World. (...)


"Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 154, May 2021:

- Stable isotope evidence of human diet in Mediterranean context during the Last Glacial Maximum, di D. G. Drucker et alii

- A West African Middle Stone Age site dated to the beginning of MIS 5: Archaeology, chronology, and paleoenvironment of the Ravin Blanc I (eastern Senegal), di K. Douze et alii

- Complexity and sophistication of Early Middle Paleolithic flint tools revealed through use-wear analysis of tools from Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel, di I. Groman-Yaroslavski, Y. Zaidner, M. Weinstein-Evron

- Early ontogeny of humeral trabecular bone in Neandertals and recent modern humans, di T. Chevalier et alii

- Statistical inference of earlier origins for the first flaked stone technologies, di A. J. M. Key, D. L. Roberts, I. Jarić

- Assessing the status of the KNM-ER 42700 fossil using Homo erectus neurocranial development, di K. L. Baab, A. Nesbitt, J. J. Hublin, S. Neubauer


Nery Delgado, Pioneer of Archaeological Excavation Methods at the Casa da Moura Cave (Portugal) in 1879–1880, di J. L. Cardoso, N. Bicho, "European Journal of Archaeology", Volume 24 - Issue 2 - May 2021

Nery Delgado was a key figure in the development of archaeological methods applied to prehistoric sites in Portugal within European archaeology at the end of the nineteenth century. He was the first in Europe to use a grid in his 1879–1880 excavation at the Casa da Moura cave (Óbidos, Portugal). The grid divided the cave into twenty-eight sectors excavated independently and, in each, all archaeological and bioanthropological finds were documented and marked with labels recording depth and excavation units. (...)


Magnetostratigraphy and cosmogenic dating of Wonderwerk Cave: New constraints for the chronology of the South African Earlier Stone Age, di R. Shaar, A. Matmon, L. K. Horwitz, Y. Ebert, M. Chazan, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 259, 1 May 2021, 106907

Cave sediments pose dating challenges due to complex depositional and post-depositional processes that operate during their transport and accumulation. Here, we confront these challenges and investigate the stratified sedimentary sequence from Wonderwerk Cave, which is a key site for the Earlier Stone Age (ESA) in Southern Africa. The precise ages of the Wonderwerk sediments are crucial for our understanding of the timing of critical events in hominin biological and cultural evolution in the region, and its correlation with the global paleontological and archaeological records. We report new constraints for the Wonderwerk ESA chronology based on magnetostratigraphy, with 178 samples passing our rigorous selection criteria, and fourteen cosmogenic burial ages. (...)


Dating the landscape evolution around the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave, di K. Genuite et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 11, Article number: 8944 (2021), 26 aprile 2021 - open access -

The Chauvet cave (UNESCO World Heritage site, France) is located in the Ardèche Gorge, a unique physical and cultural landscape. Its setting within the gorge—overlooking a meander cutoff containing a natural arch called the Pont d’Arc—is also remarkable. Investigating possible associations between sites’ physical and cultural settings, chronologies of human occupation, and access conditions has become a major theme in archeological research. The present study aims to reconstruct the landscape of the Pont d'Arc meander cutoff during the Upper Paleolithic, when humans were present in the Chauvet Cave. We used uranium-series and electron spin resonance analyses to date the formation of the Pont d’Arc natural arch in the Combe d’Arc meander cutoff, near the Chauvet Cave. (...)

  Early, intensive marine resource exploitation by Middle Stone Age humans at Ysterfontein 1 rockshelter, South Africa, di E. M. Niespolo et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 20 April 2021, vol. 118, no. 16, e2020042118

Modern human behavioral innovations from the Middle Stone Age (MSA) include the earliest indicators of full coastal adaptation evidenced by shell middens, yet many MSA middens remain poorly dated. We apply 230Th/U burial dating to ostrich eggshells (OES) from Ysterfontein 1 (YFT1, Western Cape, South Africa), a stratified MSA shell midden. 230Th/U burial ages of YFT1 OES are relatively precise (median ± 2.7%), consistent with other age constraints, and preserve stratigraphic principles. Bayesian age–depth modeling indicates YFT1 was deposited between 119.9 to 113.1 thousand years ago (ka) (95% CI of model ages), and the entire 3.8 m thick midden may have accumulated within ~2,300 y. (...)

  The Last Glacial Maximum in Europe – State of the Art in Geoscience and Archaeology. Edited by A. Maier, C. Mayr, M. Peresani, Volumes 581–582, Pages 1-314 (20 April 2021):

- Human existence potential in Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum, di K. Klein et alii

- Paleoenvironments and human adaptations during the Last Glacial Maximum in the Iberian Peninsula: A review, di J. Cascalheira et alii

- Gravettian and Solutrean in the Basque Crossroads: Climate changes and human adaptations in the western Pyrenees, di A. Arrizabalaga, M. J. Iriarte-Chiapusso, N. Garcia-Ibaibarriaga

- Breaking bad? Discarding the solutrean norms: Chronology, evolution and geographical extent of the badegoulian phenomenon in Western Europe, di S. Ducasse, F. X. Chauvière, J. M. Pétillon

- The Salpetrian culture toward the end of the Solutrean around 23 ka cal BP in the Rhône Valley (France), di G. Boccaccio

- Hunter-gatherers across the great Adriatic-Po region during the Last Glacial Maximum: Environmental and cultural dynamics, di M. Peresani et alii

- Statistical and geographical modelling of Moravian (Czech Republic) Late Upper Palaeolithic occupation, di Z. Nerudová, P. Neruda, P. Hamrozi

- Gravettian backed points from Unit K11 of Dolní Věstonice II (South Moravia, Czech Republic), di M. Polanská

- The Upper and Final Gravettian in Western Slovakia and Moravia. Different approaches, new questions, di M. Polanská, B. Hromadová, S. Sázelová

- Cultural evolution and environmental change in Central Europe between 40 and 15 ka, di A. Maier et alii

- Break vs. continuity: Techno-cultural changes across the LGM in the Eastern Carpathians, di M. Anghelinu et alii

- South of Eastern Europe and Upper Paleolithic diversity around the Last Glacial Maximum, di Y. E. Demidenko

- The originality of the Byki sites among known LGM industries on the Russian Plain, di N. B. Akhmetgaleeva, N. D. Burova


DNA from cave dirt traces Neanderthal upheaval, di A. Gibbons, "Science", 16 Apr 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6539, pp. 222-223

Estatuas cave in northern Spain was a hive of activity 105,000 years ago. Artifacts show its Neanderthal inhabitants hafted stone tools, butchered red deer, and may have made fires. They also shed, bled, and excreted subtler clues onto the cave floor: their own DNA. Researchers report this week that dirt from Estatuas has yielded the first nuclear DNA from an ancient human to be gleaned from sediments. Earlier studies reported shorter, more abundant human mitochondrial DNA from cave floors, but nuclear DNA, previously available only from bones and teeth, can be far more informative. (...)


DNA from cave dirt tells tale of how some Neanderthals disappeared, di A. Gibbons, "Science", 15 Apr. 2021

Estatuas cave in northern Spain was a hive of activity 105,000 years ago. Artifacts show its Neanderthal inhabitants hafted stone tools, butchered red deer, and may have made fires. They also shed, bled, and excreted subtler clues onto the cave floor: their own DNA. “You can imagine them sitting in the cave making tools, butchering animals. Maybe they cut themselves or their babies pooped,” says population geneticist Benjamin Vernot, a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA), whose perspective may have been colored by his own baby’s cries during a Zoom call. “All that DNA accumulates in the dirt floors.” (...)


Oldest DNA from a Homo sapiens reveals surprisingly recent Neanderthal ancestry, di E. Callaway, "Nature", volume 592, issue 7854, 15 April 2021

Scientists have sequenced the oldest Homo sapiens DNA on record, showing that many of Europe’s first humans had Neanderthals in their family trees. Yet these individuals are not related to later Europeans, according to two genome studies of remains dating back more than 45,000 years from caves in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. The research adds to growing evidence that modern humans mixed regularly with Neanderthals and other extinct relatives, says Viviane Slon, a palaeogeneticist at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel. “It’s different times, different places, and it happens again and again.” (...)


A revised, Last Interglacial chronology for the Middle Palaeolithic sequence of Gruta da Oliveira (Almonda karst system, Torres Novas, Portugal), di J. Zilhão, D. E. Angelucci, L. J. Arnold, M. Demuro, D. L. Hoffmann, A. W. G. Pike, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 258, 15 April 2021, 106885 - open access -

Based on previous radiocarbon and U-series (Diffusion/Adsorption) dating of bone samples, the Middle Palaeolithic has been thought to persist at Gruta da Oliveira until ~37 thousand years (ka) ago. New U-series ages for stratigraphically constraining speleothems, coupled with new luminescence ages for sediment infill, show that the site’s ~6 m-thick archaeological stratigraphy dates entirely within a <30 ka interval spanning substages 5a-5b of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5. Significant technological change is observed across the sequence, akin to that seen in the Upper Palaeolithic over similar timescales. Flake-cleavers and bifaces, normatively definitional of the Vasconian facies, are restricted to a short interval correlated with Greenland Stadial (GS) 22, 85.1–87.6 ka ago. (...)


New hominin remains and revised context from the earliest Homo erectus locality in East Turkana, Kenya, di A. S. Hammond et alii, "Nature Communications", volume 12, article number: 1939 (2021), 13 aprile 2021  - open access -

The KNM-ER 2598 occipital is among the oldest fossils attributed to Homo erectus but questions have been raised about whether it may derive from a younger horizon. Here we report on efforts to relocate the KNM-ER 2598 locality and investigate its paleontological and geological context. Although located in a different East Turkana collection area (Area 13) than initially reported, the locality is stratigraphically positioned below the KBS Tuff and the outcrops show no evidence of deflation of a younger unit, supporting an age of >1.855 Ma. Newly recovered faunal material consists primarily of C4 grazers, further confirmed by enamel isotope data. (...)


The primitive brain of early Homo, di M. S. Ponce de León et alii, "Science", 09 Apr 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6538, pp. 165-171

The brains of modern humans differ from those of great apes in size, shape, and cortical organization, notably in frontal lobe areas involved in complex cognitive tasks, such as social cognition, tool use, and language. When these differences arose during human evolution is a question of ongoing debate. Here, we show that the brains of early Homo from Africa and Western Asia (Dmanisi) retained a primitive, great ape–like organization of the frontal lobe. (...)

  Early humans far from the South African coast collected unusual objects, di P. R. Willoughby, "Nature", volume 592, issue 7853, 8 April 2021

Ex Africa semper aliquid novi, the ancient Roman Pliny the Elder once remarked — there is always something new from Africa. Writing in Nature, Wilkins et al. present an example of such news in their report of material excavated from a rock shelter in a northern inland region of South Africa. The objects they found suggest it is time to revise current thinking about the emergence of cultural innovations among early human populations. (...)


Innovative Homo sapiens behaviours 105,000 years ago in a wetter Kalahari, di J. Wilkins et alii, "Nature", volume 592, issue 7853, 8 April 2021, pages 248–252

The archaeological record of Africa provides the earliest evidence for the emergence of the complex symbolic and technological behaviours that characterize Homo sapiens. The coastal setting of many archaeological sites of the Late Pleistocene epoch, and the abundant shellfish remains recovered from them, has led to a dominant narrative in which modern human origins in southern Africa are intrinsically tied to the coast and marine resources and behavioural innovations in the interior lag behind. However, stratified Late Pleistocene sites with good preservation and robust chronologies are rare in the interior of southern Africa, and the coastal hypothesis therefore remains untested. Here we show that early human innovations that are similar to those dated to around 105 thousand years ago (ka) in coastal southern Africa existed at around the same time among humans who lived over 600 km inland. (...)


Initial Upper Palaeolithic humans in Europe had recent Neanderthal ancestry, di M. Hajdinjak et alii, "Nature", volume 592, issue 7853, 8 April 2021, pages 253–257 - open access -

Modern humans appeared in Europe by at least 45,000 years ago, but the extent of their interactions with Neanderthals, who disappeared by about 40,000 years ago, and their relationship to the broader expansion of modern humans outside Africa are poorly understood. Here we present genome-wide data from three individuals dated to between 45,930 and 42,580 years ago from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria. They are the earliest Late Pleistocene modern humans known to have been recovered in Europe so far, and were found in association with an Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefact assemblage. Unlike two previously studied individuals of similar ages from Romania and Siberia8 who did not contribute detectably to later populations, these individuals are more closely related to present-day and ancient populations in East Asia and the Americas than to later west Eurasian populations. (...)


Our earliest ancestors weren’t as brainy as we thought, fossil skulls suggest, di M. Price, "Science", 8 Apr. 2021

Pinpointing when our ancient ancestors evolved humanlike brains is a frustratingly difficult puzzle. Brains almost never fossilize, so researchers must scrutinize impressions in the skull left behind by the brain’s grooves, folds, and bulges. A new analysis of such imprints from five skulls suggests our genus, Homo, developed complex language and advanced toolmaking hundreds of thousands of years later than previously thought. Other researchers disagree with that interpretation, but say the study still sheds much-needed light on brain structures in our genus’ earliest days. The fossil skulls, discovered in the 1990s in Dmanisi, Georgia, are tentatively identified as the early human ancestral species, Homo erectus. (...)

  Divergence-time estimates for hominins provide insight into encephalization and body mass trends in human evolution, di H. P. Püschel, O. C. Bertrand, J. E. O’Reilly, R. Bobe, T. A. Püschel, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 01 April 2021, doi:

Quantifying speciation times during human evolution is fundamental as it provides a timescale to test for the correlation between key evolutionary transitions and extrinsic factors such as climatic or environmental change. Here, we applied a total evidence dating approach to a hominin phylogeny to estimate divergence times under different topological hypotheses. The time-scaled phylogenies were subsequently used to perform ancestral state reconstructions of body mass and phylogenetic encephalization quotient (PEQ). (...)


Later Stone Age human hair from Vaalkrans Shelter, Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, reveals genetic affinity to Khoe groups, di A. Coutinho et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 174, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages 701-713 - open access -

Previous studies show that the indigenous people of the southern Cape of South Africa were dramatically impacted by the arrival of European colonists starting ~400 years ago and their descendants are today mixed with Europeans and Asians. To gain insight on the occupants of the Vaalkrans Shelter located at the southernmost tip of Africa, we investigated the genetic make-up of an individual who lived there about 200 years ago. We further contextualize the genetic ancestry of this individual among prehistoric and current groups. From a hair sample excavated at the shelter, which was indirectly dated to about 200 years old, we sequenced the genome (1.01 times coverage) of a Later Stone Age individual. We analyzed the Vaalkrans genome together with genetic data from 10 ancient (pre-colonial) individuals from southern Africa spanning the last 2000 years. (...)


Characterizing the lithic raw materials from Fuente del Trucho (Asque-Colungo, Huesca): New data about Palaeolithic human mobility in north-east Iberia, di M. Sánchez de la Torre, P. Utrilla, L. Montes, R. Domigo, F. X. Le Bourdonnec, B. Gratuze, "Archaeometry", Volume 63, Issue 2, April 2021, Pages 247-265

Fuente del Trucho cave (Asque-Colungo, Huesca, Spain) is located in the central Pre-Pyrenean range in north-east Iberia, in the Arpán ravine, a tributary of the Vero River. The mouth of the cave is 22 m wide and it is oriented to the south-east. The entrance gives access to a 24 m-deep hall. Palaeolithic paintings were discovered in the cave in 1978. The Fuente del Trucho art comprises two sectors: the external with some engraved motifs and the internal featuring more than 100 painted motifs distributed in 21 panels. Archaeological works have been undertaken since 1979, identifying several human occupations from the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. This paper presents results obtained after the analysis of lithic raw materials. (...)


The end of the Acheulo-Yabrudian and the Lower Paleolithic in the Levant: a view from the “transitional” Unit X of Tabun Cave, Israel, di R. Shimelmitz, S. L. Kuhn, M. Bisson, M. Weinstein-Evron, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 4, April 2021

Even after a century of research, the nature of the transition from the Lower-to-Middle Paleolithic in the Levant remains elusive. Responding to the sharp discontinuity in material culture, Jelinek argued that Unit X of Tabun Cave, Israel, can offer the bridgehead necessary to traverse the divide. His proposal was based on the unit’s stratigraphic position and on (2) the unique combination of traits it embodied. However, this interpretation of Unit X was later dismissed and the combination of features attributed to post-depositional mixture. In this paper, we revisit these arguments and analyze Layer J72S of Unit X. We address two major obstacles to our understanding of the Lower-to-Middle Paleolithic transition. The first is our poor understanding of the Acheulian facies of the Acheulo-Yabrudian and its implications for technological variation and settlement dynamics. (...)


Dragged, lagged, or undisturbed: reassessing the autochthony of the hominin-bearing assemblages at Gran Dolina (Atapuerca, Spain), di P. Saladié et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, issue 4, April 2021

The TD6 unit of the Gran Dolina contains an assemblage of the Early Pleistocene, interpreted firstly as a home base. More recently has been proposed a transported origin of the remains according to the sedimentology. Following this model, the remains should be dragged or lagged in a predictable pattern related to their weight, density, shape, and size. Conversely, the debris generated in an undisturbed residential camp should retain spatial relations of codependence caused by the depositional process, not related to inherent variables of materials. (...)


Evolution of Hominin Detoxification: Neanderthal and Modern Human Ah Receptor Respond Similarly to TCDD, di J. M. M. J. G. Aarts, G. M. Alink, H. J. Franssen, W. Roebroeks, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 38, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages 1292–1305 - open access -

In studies of hominin adaptations to fire use, the role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) in the evolution of detoxification has been highlighted, including statements that the modern human AHR confers a significantly better capacity to deal with toxic smoke components than the Neanderthal AHR. To evaluate this, we compared the AHR-controlled induction of cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) mRNA in HeLa human cervix epithelial adenocarcinoma cells transfected with an Altai-Neanderthal or a modern human reference AHR expression construct, and exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). We compared the complete AHR mRNA sequences including the untranslated regions (UTRs), maintaining the original codon usage. We observe no significant difference in CYP1A1 induction by TCDD between Neanderthal and modern human AHR, whereas a 150–1,000 times difference was previously reported in a study of the AHR coding region optimized for mammalian codon usage and expressed in rat cells. (...)


Subsistence practices in western Mediterranean Europe during the Final Gravettian. Zooarchaeological and taphonomic analysis of faunal remains from level D of Arbreda Cave (Serinyà, NE Iberian Peninsula), di I. Rufí, L. Lloveras, J. Soler, N. Soler, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 36, Issue 3, April 2021, Pages 467-487

During the Final Gravettian, the Reclau Caves (northeast Iberia) were intensively occupied by hunter-gatherer communities. The study of residential level D (c. 25.4–19.7 kyr bp) of Arbreda Cave offers a new view of subsistence strategies of communities which inhabited the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, a transition region between the steppe-tundra and the Iberian wooded steppe biomes, during Greenland Stadial 3. Presented here are the results of the zooarchaeological and taphonomic analysis of ungulate and carnivore remains recovered from level D. The study confirms that the faunal assemblage of this level was mainly brought there by humans. The zooarchaeological analysis indicates selective hunting based on the exploitation of familial groups of horses and deer, while other ungulate taxa appear to be infrequent. (...)


New Pliocene hominin remains from the Leado Dido’a area of Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia, di S. M. Melillo, L. Gibert, B. Z. Saylor, A. Deino, M. Alene, T. M. Ryan, Y. Haile-Selassie, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 153, April 2021, 102956

Fossiliferous deposits at Woranso-Mille span the period when Australopithecus anamensis gave rise to Australopithecus afarensis (3.8–3.6 Ma) and encompass the core of the A. afarensis range (ca. 3.5–3.2 Ma). Within the latter period, fossils described to date include the intriguing but taxonomically unattributed Burtele foot, dentognathic fossils attributed to Australopithecus deyiremeda, and one specimen securely attributed to A. afarensis (the Nefuraytu mandible). These fossils suggest that at least one additional hominin lineage lived alongside A. afarensis in the Afar Depression. Here we describe a collection of hominin fossils from a new locality in the Leado Dido’a area of Woranso-Mille (LDD-VP-1). (...)


Trabecular organization of the proximal femur in Paranthropus robustus: Implications for the assessment of its hip joint loading conditions, di M. Cazenave, A. Oettlé, T. Rayne Pickering, J. L. Heaton, M. Nakatsukasa, J. F. Thackeray, J. Hoffman, R. Macchiarelli, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 153, April 2021, 102964

Reconstruction of the locomotor repertoire of the australopiths (Australopithecus and Paranthropus) has progressively integrated information from the mechanosensitive internal structure of the appendicular skeleton. Recent investigations showed that the arrangement of the trabecular network at the femoral head center is biomechanically compatible with the pattern of cortical bone distribution across the neck, both suggesting a full commitment to bipedalism in australopiths, but associated with a slightly altered gait kinematics compared to Homo involving more lateral deviation of the body center of mass over the stance limb. (...)

  The Middle to Later Stone Age transition at Panga ya Saidi, in the tropical coastal forest of eastern Africa, di C. Shipton et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 153, April 2021, 102954

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition is a critical period of human behavioral change that has been variously argued to pertain to the emergence of modern cognition, substantial population growth, and major dispersals of Homo sapiens within and beyond Africa. However, there is little consensus about when the transition occurred, the geographic patterning of its emergence, or even how it is manifested in the stone tool technology that is used to define it. Here, we examine a long sequence of lithic technological change at the cave site of Panga ya Saidi, Kenya, that spans the Middle and Later Stone Age and includes human occupations in each of the last five Marine Isotope Stages. (...)


What kind of hominin first left Africa?, di G. Scardia, W. A. Neves, I. Tattersall, L. Blumrich, Volume 30, Issue 2, March/April 2021, Pages 122-127

Recent discoveries of stone tools from Jordan (2.5 Ma) and China (2.1 Ma) document hominin presence in Asia at the beginning of the Pleistocene, well before the conventional Dmanisi datum at 1.8 Ma. Although no fossil hominins documenting this earliest Out of Africa phase have been found, on chronological grounds a pre-Homo erectus hominin must be considered the most likely maker of those artifacts. If so, this sheds new light on at least two disputed subjects in paleoanthropology, namely the remarkable variation among the five Dmanisi skulls, and the ancestry of Homo floresiensis.


Hidden in plain sight: A microanalytical study of a Middle Stone Age ochre piece trapped inside a micromorphological block sample, di M. M. Haaland et alii, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 36, Issue 2, March/April 2021, Pages 283-313 - open access -

A complete Middle Stone Age ochre piece was unintentionally collected and fully preserved within a micromorphological block sample intended to characterise a 74±3 ka occupation horizon at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Previously recovered ochre pieces from the same stratigraphic context (Still Bay) have displayed intricate modification patterns with significant behavioural implications. Yet, in the case of the trapped ochre, a direct visual assessment of its surfaces was impossible due to its impregnated state. In this study, we demonstrate how we successfully reconstructed three-dimensionally and characterised the block-sampled ochre piece using high-resolution microcomputed tomography scanning coupled with a range of microanalytical techniques, including optical petrography, micro-Fourier transform infra-red spectroscopy, micro-X-ray fluorescence and micro-Raman spectroscopy. (...)


The oldest Homo erectus buried lithic horizon from the Eastern Saharan Africa. EDAR 7 - an Acheulean assemblage with Kombewa method from the Eastern Desert, Sudan, di M. Masojć et alii, 23 March 2021, doi: - open access -

Although essential for reconstructing hominin behaviour during the Early Palaeolithic, only a handful of Acheulean sites have been dated in the Eastern Sahara region. This is due to the scarcity of sites for this time period and the lack of datable material. However, recent excavations in the Atbara region (Sudan) have provided unique opportunities to analyse and date Acheulean stone tools. We report here on EDAR 7, part of a cluster of Acheulean and Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites that were recently discovered in the Eastern Desert Atbara River (EDAR) region, located in the Eastern Desert (Sudan) far from the Nile valley. At EDAR 7, a 3.5 metre sedimentary sequence was excavated, allowing an Acheulean assemblage to be investigated using a combination of sedimentology, stone tool studies and optically stimulated luminescence dating (OSL). The site has delivered a complete Acheulean knapping chaine opératoire, providing new information about the Saharan Acheulean. The EDAR 7 site is interpreted as a remnant of a campsite based on the co-occurrence of two reduction modes: one geared towards the production of Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), and the other based on the flaking of small debitage and production of flake tools (...)


Reevaluating the timing of Neanderthal disappearance in Northwest Europe, di T. Devièse et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 23 March 2021, vol. 118, no. 12, e2022466118

Elucidating when Neanderthal populations disappeared from Eurasia is a key question in paleoanthropology, and Belgium is one of the key regions for studying the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Previous radiocarbon dating placed the Spy Neanderthals among the latest surviving Neanderthals in Northwest Europe with reported dates as young as 23,880 ± 240 B.P. (OxA-8912). Questions were raised, however, regarding the reliability of these dates. Soil contamination and carbon-based conservation products are known to cause problems during the radiocarbon dating of bulk collagen samples. Employing a compound-specific approach that is today the most efficient in removing contamination and ancient genomic analysis, we demonstrate here that previous dates produced on Neanderthal specimens from Spy were inaccurately young by up to 10,000 y due to the presence of unremoved contamination. (...)


Expedient behaviour and predetermination at the Ciota Ciara cave (north-western Italy) during Middle Palaeolithic, di S. Daffara, G. L. F. Berruti, M. Arzarello, "Quaternary International", Volume 577, 10 March 2021, Pages 71-92

The Ciota Ciara cave is a Middle Palaeolithic site located in Piedmont (north-western Italy) and it is the only one systematically investigated in the region. It opens at 670 m a.s.l. on the west side of Monte Fenera and its archaeological deposit has a stratigraphic sequence documenting several and repeated human frequentations. Four archaeological layers have been identified (103, 13, 14 and 15) and are characterized by lithic assemblages where vein quartz is the main exploited raw material. The upper level (13) was already subject to technological and functional studies, but the enlargement of the excavated area made necessary a completion of the technological data. (...)


How old are the oldest Homo sapiens in Far East Asia?, di J. J. Hublin, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 09 March 2021, vol. 118, no. 10, e2101173118

There is abundant genetic and paleontological evidence supporting the African origin of our species. At some point in its evolution, Homo sapiens spread out of Africa into Eurasia, replacing or partially absorbing local populations of other hominin forms. Ultimately, it colonized regions where no humans had ever lived before. Although extant humans display some physical variations resulting from adaptation to local conditions and isolation, they all share a recent African ancestry. How many times, when, and why this dispersal out of Africa occurred have been a matter of continuous debate in the field of paleoanthropology. In the past decade, research efforts have intensified in Far East Asia to elucidate the timing of the arrival of our species and have produced several notable publications. In PNAS, Sun et al. (1) question the dating of some of the foremost Chinese hominin sites that have been central to these discussions. They also raise important questions about the way the archeological and fossil records in this region can be interpreted. (...)


Neanderthals and Homo sapiens had similar auditory and speech capacities, di M. Conde-Valverde et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 01 March 2021, doi:

The study of audition in fossil hominins is of great interest given its relationship with intraspecific vocal communication. While the auditory capacities have been studied in early hominins and in the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos hominins, less is known about the hearing abilities of the Neanderthals. Here, we provide a detailed approach to their auditory capacities. Relying on computerized tomography scans and a comprehensive model from the field of auditory bioengineering, we have established sound power transmission through the outer and middle ear and calculated the occupied bandwidth in Neanderthals. (...)


Neanderthal and early modern human stone tool culture co-existed for over 100,000 years, 1 March 2021

The Acheulean was estimated to have died out around 200,000 years ago but the new findings suggest it may have persisted for much longer, creating over 100,000 years of overlap with more advanced technologies produced by Neanderthals and early modern humans. The research team, led by Dr Alastair Key (Kent) alongside Dr David Roberts (Kent) and Dr Ivan Jaric (Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences), made the discovery whilst studying stone tool records from different regions across the world. Using statistical techniques new to archaeological science, the archaeologists and conservation experts were able to reconstruct the end of the Acheulean period and re-map the archaeological record. (...)


Late Neanderthal short-term and specialized occupations at the Abri du Maras (South-East France, level 4.1, MIS 3), di M. H. Moncel et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", volume 13, issue 3, march 2021 - open access -

Level 4.1 from the Abri du Maras (Ardèche, France) is chronologically attributed to the beginning of MIS 3 and is one example of late Neanderthal occupations in the southeast of France. Previous work on the faunal and lithic remains suggests that this level records short-term hunting episodes of reindeer associated with fragmented lithic reduction sequences. During fieldwork, the high density of the material did not allow identification of clear spatial patterning of these activities. In order to try to decipher the palimpsest of these short-term occupations, we combined contextual micro-stratigraphic analysis with interdisciplinary and methodological approaches to obtain high-resolution intra-site spatial data. The former was performed by studying microfacies variability of occupation layers at meso to microscales. (...)


Introduction to ‘Theoretical Pathways’: Thinking About Human Endeavour During the Middle Stone Age and Middle Palaeolithic, di A. Högberg, M. Lombard, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 1, March 2021, pages 1-10 - open access -

In this brief introduction, we present and contextualise ‘theoretical pathways’ elaborated in this special issue, in terms of understanding humanity from a deep-time perspective. The participating authors discuss a wide range of approaches related to thinking about human endeavour during the Middle Stone Age and Middle Palaeolithic ranging from the constraints of technological niches and Material Engagement Theory to aspects of palaeo-neurology, agent-based models of self-domestication and co-evolutionary model building. Together, the contributions demonstrate that current theoretical approaches that aim to explain deep-time human endeavour require multi-disciplinary approaches, and that for some researchers, the trend is to move away from the symbolic standard or models of sudden mutation. (...)


Constraining the Likely Technological Niches of Late Middle Pleistocene Hominins with Homo naledi as Case Study, di G. L. Dusseldorp, M. Lombard, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 1, March 2021, pages 11–52 - open access -

We develop a framework to differentiate the technological niches of co-existing hominin species by reviewing some theoretical biases influential in thinking about techno-behaviours of extinct hominins, such as a teleological bias in discussing technological evolution. We suggest that some stone-tool classification systems underestimate technological variability, while overestimating the complexity of the behaviours most commonly represented. To model the likely technological niches of extinct populations, we combine ecological principles (i.e. competitive exclusion) with physical anthropology and the archaeological record. We test the framework by applying it to the co-existence of Homo naledi and Homo sapiens during the late Middle Pleistocene in southern Africa. (...)


Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to Ecological Changes, Social Behaviour and Human Intergroup Tolerance 300,000 to 30,000 BP, di P. Spikins, J. C. French, S. John-Wood, C. Dytham, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 1, March 2021, pages 53–75 - open access -

Archaeological evidence suggests that important shifts were taking place in the character of human social behaviours 300,000 to 30,000 years ago. New artefact types appear and are disseminated with greater frequency. Transfers of both raw materials and finished artefacts take place over increasing distances, implying larger scales of regional mobility and more frequent and friendlier interactions between different communities. Whilst these changes occur during a period of increasing environmental variability, the relationship between ecological changes and transformations in social behaviours is elusive. Here, we explore a possible theoretical approach and methodology for understanding how ecological contexts can influence selection pressures acting on intergroup social behaviours. We focus on the relative advantages and disadvantages of intergroup tolerance in different ecological contexts using agent-based modelling (ABM). (...)


Evolving Human Brains: Paleoneurology and the Fate of Middle Pleistocene, di E. Bruner, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 1, March 2021, pages 76–94

In the evolutionary radiation of the human genus, we have observed changes in both brain size and proportions. Some of these morphological differences are thought to be associated with functional variations, in physiological or cognitive aspects, while some others are the secondary results of cortical or cranial structural constraints. Most archaic human species, like Homo erectus and H. heidelbergensis, display larger brains when compared with earlier hominids, but specializations in their cortical proportions, if there are any, are difficult to recognize. In contrast, after or during Middle Pleistocene, more derived species like H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis show changes in overall brain size but also in specific cerebral regions. Functions associated with body cognition, visuospatial integration, tool use, language, and social structure may be involved in these paleoneurological changes. (...)


What Stimulated Rapid, Cumulative Innovation After 100,000 Years Ago?, di L. Wadley, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 1, March 2021, pages 120–141

Imagination and innovation are likely stimulated through the intersection of brain power, motor skill and social need. Through time, escalating creativity may have influenced cognition and social interactions, creating a feedback situation that also implicated demography. Such reciprocal interactions between technology, cognition and society may have motivated the accumulation of innovations that are particularly visible in the archaeological record after 100,000 years ago (not as a revolution, but incrementally). Raw materials also played a role because they are not passive; intense interaction with objects reflexively stimulates human imagination and creativity. Archaeological evidence for material culture items that appear to embody imagination is present before the appearance of Homo sapiens. (...)


Four-Field Co-evolutionary Model for Human Cognition: Variation in the Middle Stone Age/Middle Palaeolithic, di M. Lombard, A. Högberg, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 28, issue 1, March 2021, pages 142–177 - open access -

Here we explore variation and similarities in the two best-represented population groups who lived during the Middle Stone Age and Middle Palaeolithic—the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Building on approaches such as gene-culture co-evolution, we propose a four-field model to discuss relationships between human cognitive evolution, biology, technology, society, and ecology. We focus on the pre-50-ka phase, because we reason that later admixing between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in Eurasia may make it difficult to separate them in terms of cognition, or any of the other fields discussed in this paper. Using our model enabled us to highlight similarities in cognition between the two populations in terms of symbolic behaviour and social learning and to identify differences in aspects of technical and social cognition. (...)


Looking into Upper Paleolithic gear: The potential of an integrated techno-economic approach, di A. Tomasso, V. Rots, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 61, March 2021, 101240

Revealing the underlying structure of lithic assemblages is challenging. With the exception of rare favorable situations, most lithic assemblages are palimpsests that result from multiple and complex processes of accumulation. We argue that the combination of petrography, technology and use-wear in a detailed techno-economic approach permits unique insights into the structural components of an assemblage and allows the identification of different kinds of site-related gear. The site of La Péguière, located in Southeastern France and dated to ca. 20–21 ka cal. BP is most probably a palimpsest of multiple occupations with several taphonomic and stratigraphic issues, as is typical of most Upper Paleolithic sites. (...)


New excavations in the MNK Skull site, and the last appearance of the Oldowan and Homo habilis at Olduvai Gorge,Tanzania, di I. de la Torre et alii, "Journal of Anthropological Archaeology", Volume 61, March 2021, 101255

MNK Skull is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Olduvai Gorge, particularly due to the previous discovery of human fossils referred to in the paper where the Homo habilis taxon was originally defined. An important archaeological assemblage is contained in the same horizon as the hominin fossils, constituting the last evidence of both Homo habilis remains and handaxe-free tool kits in the Olduvai Gorge sequence. Our excavations at the site are the first to be conducted since the original work in the 1960s, and sought to refine the archaeological context wherein the Homo habilis remains were discovered. Chronostratigraphic results place the MNK Skull sequence in Middle Bed II prior to deposition of Tuff IIB. The assemblage was deposited near the shoreline, as Palaeolake Olduvai withdrew into the basinal depocentre, and fossils and stone tools were subjected to significant post-depositional processes. (...)


Small body size phenotypes among Middle and Later Stone Age Southern Africans, di M. E. Cameron, S. Pfeiffer, J. Stock, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 152, March 2021, 102943

Modern humans originated between 300 and 200 ka in structured populations throughout Africa, characterized by regional interaction and diversity. Acknowledgment of this complex Pleistocene population structure raises new questions about the emergence of phenotypic diversity. Holocene Southern African Later Stone Age (LSA) skeletons and descendant Khoe-San peoples have small adult body sizes that may reflect long-term adaptation to the Cape environment. Pleistocene Southern African adult body sizes are not well characterized, but some postcranial elements are available. The most numerous Pleistocene postcranial skeletal remains come from Klasies River Mouth on the Southern Cape coast of South Africa. We compare the morphology of these skeletal elements with globally sampled Holocene groups encompassing diverse adult body sizes and shapes (n = 287) to investigate whether there is evidence for phenotypic patterning. (...)


The morphology of the Late Pleistocene hominin remains from the site of La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey (Channel Islands), di T. Compton et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 152, March 2021, 102939

Thirteen permanent fully erupted teeth were excavated at the Paleolithic site of La Cotte de St Brelade in Jersey in 1910 and 1911. These were all found in the same location, on a ledge behind a hearth in a Mousterian occupation level. They were originally identified as being Neanderthal. A fragment of occipital bone was found in a separate locality in a later season. Recent dating of adjacent sediments gives a probable age of <48 ka. The purpose of this article is to provide an updated description of the morphology of this material and consider its likely taxonomic assignment from comparison with Neanderthal and Homo sapiens samples. One of the original teeth has been lost, and we identify one as nonhominin. (...)


A detailed analysis of the spatial distribution of Schöningen 13II-4 'Spear Horizon' faunal remains, di A. García-Moreno, J. M. Hutson, A. Villaluenga, E. Turner, S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 152, March 2021, 102947

The Middle Pleistocene Schöningen 13II-4 ‘Spear Horizon’ (Germany) is a key site for the study of human evolution, most notably for the discovery of Paleolithic wooden weaponry and evidence for developed hunting strategies. On the other hand, the ‘Spear Horizon’ offers an excellent opportunity to approach hominin spatial behavior, thanks to the richness of the archeological assemblage, its exceptional preservation, and the vast expanse of the excavated surface. Analyzing how space was used is essential for understanding hominin behavior at this unique open-air site and, from a wider perspective, for approaching how humans adapted to interglacial environments. (...)


Mapping the walls: High-resolution cartography applied to the analysis of prehistoric cave art in the Grotte du Mammouth (Domme, Dordogne, France), di V. Le Fillâtre, E. Robert, S. Petrognani, E. Lesvignes, C. Cretin, X. Muth, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 127, March 2021, 10533

The analysis of paintings and engravings on the walls of Upper Palaeolithic caves generally focuses on the images themselves, their technical or stylistic characteristics, graphical and spatial composition, and, to a lesser extent, radiometric dating. More recent studies of cave art have reinforced new interdisciplinary perspectives that address the archaeology, karstology and geomorphology of the site. (...)


Interpreting gaps: A geoarchaeological point of view on the Gravettian record of Ach and Lone valleys (Swabian Jura, SW Germany), di A. Barbieri, F. Bachofer, E. M. Schmaltz, C. Leven, N. J. Conard, C. E. Miller, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 127, March 2021, 105335 - open access -

Unlike other Upper Paleolithic industries, Gravettian assemblages from the Swabian Jura are documented solely in the Ach Valley (35-30 Kcal BP). On the other hand, traces of contemporaneous occupations in the nearby Lone Valley are sparse. It is debated whether this gap is due to a phase of human depopulation, or taphonomic issues related with landscape changes. In this paper we present ERT, EC-logging and GPR data showing that in both Ach and Lone valleys sediments and archaeological materials eroded from caves and deposited above river incisions after 37-32 Kcal BP. We argued that the rate of cave erosion was higher after phases of downcutting, when hillside erosion was more intensive. (...)


Palaeoenvironmental considerations on the latest pleistocene and holocene micromammals from the grotta dei pipistrelli (hyblaean mountains, sicily, italy), di M. T. Spena, P. Agnelli, J. Di Maita, R. Grasso, L. Salari, "Alpine and Mediterranean Quaternary", 34 (2), 2021 - open access -

The Eulipotyphla and Rodentia remains from the Grotta dei Pipistrelli in Sicily (Italy), a key region for the historical reconstruction of the Quaternary climates and environments of the central Mediterranean basin, are described and discussed. Three 14C radiometric dating display that the fossil remains were accumulated during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and in the middle Holocene. Taphonomic observations show that the small mammal remains probably come from Asio otus pellets. Both the micromammal assemblages are oligotypical and similar to each other. However, the relative abundance of Apodemus sylvaticus suggest temperate-warm and humid climatic conditions, in both LGM and middle Holocene. The frequency variations in the recognized taxa indicate that the palaeoenvironment was slightly more wooded in the LGM than during the middle Holocene. (...)


Nubian Levallois technology associated with southernmost Neanderthals, di J. Blinkhorn et alii, "Scientific Reports", volume 11, article number: 2869 (2021) - open access -

Neanderthals occurred widely across north Eurasian landscapes, but between ~70 and 50 thousand years ago (ka) they expanded southwards into the Levant, which had previously been inhabited by Homo sapiens. Palaeoanthropological research in the first half of the twentieth century demonstrated alternate occupations of the Levant by Neanderthal and Homo sapiens populations, yet key early findings have largely been overlooked in later studies. Here, we present the results of new examinations of both the fossil and archaeological collections from Shukbah Cave, located in the Palestinian West Bank, presenting new quantitative analyses of a hominin lower first molar and associated stone tool assemblage. (...)


Ardipithecus hand provides evidence that humans and chimpanzees evolved from an ancestor with suspensory adaptations, di T. C. Prang et alii, "Science Advances", 24 Feb 2021: Vol. 7, no. 9, eabf2474 - open access -

The morphology and positional behavior of the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees are critical for understanding the evolution of bipedalism. Early 20th century anatomical research supported the view that humans evolved from a suspensory ancestor bearing some resemblance to apes. However, the hand of the 4.4-million-year-old hominin Ardipithecus ramidus purportedly provides evidence that the hominin hand was derived from a more generalized form. Here, we use morphometric and phylogenetic comparative methods to show that Ardipithecus retains suspensory adapted hand morphologies shared with chimpanzees and bonobos. We identify an evolutionary shift in hand morphology between Ardipithecus and Australopithecus that renews questions about the coevolution of hominin manipulative capabilities and obligate bipedalism initially proposed by Darwin. Overall, our results suggest that early hominins evolved from an ancestor with a varied positional repertoire including suspension and vertical climbing, directly affecting the viable range of hypotheses for the origin of our lineage. (...)

  Origins of modern human ancestry, di A. Bergström, C. Stringer, M. Hajdinjak, E. M. L. Scerri, P. Skoglund, "Nature", volume 590, issue 7845, 11 February 2021, pages 229–237

New finds in the palaeoanthropological and genomic records have changed our view of the origins of modern human ancestry. Here we review our current understanding of how the ancestry of modern humans around the globe can be traced into the deep past, and which ancestors it passes through during our journey back in time. We identify three key phases that are surrounded by major questions, and which will be at the frontiers of future research. The most recent phase comprises the worldwide expansion of modern humans between 40 and 60 thousand years ago (ka) and their last known contacts with archaic groups such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. (...)

  The biogeographic threshold of Wallacea in human evolution, di C. Shipton, S .O'Connor, S. Kealy, "Quaternary International", Volume 574, 10 February 2021, Pages 1-12

The Wallacean archipelago between the Indian and Pacific Oceans is a critical biogeographic boundary for all kinds of animals, from butterflies to birds. Humans are no exception, and in this paper we offer a three stage model for how our genus overcame this boundary. We review how Lower Palaeolithic hominins were able to colonize the larger islands of western Wallacea through incidental seagoing, and subsistence on the megaherbivores that also made these crossings. However, Lower Palaeolithic hominins were not able to maintain geneflow between islands, nor cross into eastern Wallacea and beyond into Sahul. (...)


Revealing the “hidden” Pannonian and Central Balkan Mesolithic: new radiocarbon evidence from Serbia, di I. Živaljević et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 574, 10 February 2021, Pages 52-67

With the exception of the well known Mesolithic sites in the Danube Gorges (or the Iron Gates), the wider areas of the Central Balkans and southern fringes of the Great Pannonian Plain still represent a terra incognita when it comes to the presence of Mesolithic communities. The absence of Mesolithic sites in the region was associated with environmental changes in the Early Holocene, presumed low human population densities, limited possibilities of detection, or the lack of adequate research. However, valuable insights into the obscure regional Mesolithic can be gained not only by new archaeological excavations, but also by revisiting and reanalysing of existing archaeological collections. (...)


Coastal curios? An analysis of ex situ beach finds for mapping new Palaeolithic sites at Happisburgh, UK, di R. Bynoe et alii, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 36, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 191-210 - open access -

Recent archaeological discoveries from exposures of the Cromer Forest-bed Formation at Happisburgh, UK, have radically changed interpretations of the nature and timing of early hominin occupation of northern latitudes, but this in situ archaeology is only one part of the picture. Surface finds of Pleistocene mammalian remains have been found along this coastline for centuries, with stone tools adding to this record over the past 7 years. The ex situ nature of these finds, however, means they are often seen as limited in the information they can provide. This work contributes to a growing body of research from a range of landscape and environmental contexts that seeks to demonstrate the value and importance of these ex situ assemblages. Here the focus is on Palaeolithic flint artefacts and Pleistocene mammalian remains recovered by a group of local collectors through systematic, GPS-recorded beach collection from 2013 to 2017, and their use in developing a methodology for working with ex situ Palaeolithic finds in coastal locations. (...)

  "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 151, February 2021:

- The DNH 7 skull of Australopithecus robustus from Drimolen (Main Quarry), South Africa, di Y. Rak, W. H. Kimbel, J. Moggi-Cecchi, C. A. Lockwood, C. Menter

- Chipping and wear patterns in extant primate and fossil hominin molars: ‘Functional’ cusps are associated with extensive wear but low levels of fracture, di I. Towle, C. Loch, J. D. Irish, A. Veneziano, T. Ito

- A revised AMS and tephra chronology for the Late Middle to Early Upper Paleolithic occupations of Ortvale Klde, Republic of Georgia, di V. L. Cullen et alii

- Virtual reconstruction of the Kebara 2 Neanderthal pelvis, di M. T. Adegboyega, P. A. Stamos, J. J. Hublin, T. D. Weaver

- The environments of Australopithecus anamensis at Allia Bay, Kenya: A multiproxy analysis of early Pliocene Bovidae, di L. Dumouchel, R. Bobe, J. G. Wynn, W. A. Barr

- Is ulna curvature in the StW 573 (‘Little Foot’) Australopithecus natural or pathological?, di I. Araiza, M. R. Meyer, S. A. Williams

- Isotopic calcium biogeochemistry of MIS 5 fossil vertebrate bones: application to the study of the dietary reconstruction of Regourdou 1 Neandertal fossil, di P. J. Dodat et alii

- New hominin teeth from Stajnia Cave, Poland, di W. Nowaczewska et alii

- Bayesian luminescence dating at Ghār-e Boof, Iran, provides a new chronology for Middle and Upper Paleolithic in the southern Zagros, di M. Heydari, G. Guérin, M. Zeidi, N. J. Conard

  The Shigir Idol in the Context of Early Art in Eurasia, "Quaternary International".  Edited by T. Terberger, M. Zhilin, S. Savchenko, Volume 573, Pages 1-112 (30 January 2021):

- Personal ornaments as markers of social behavior, technological development and cultural phenomena in the Siberian early upper Paleolithic, di L. Lbova

- The Shigir idol in the context of early art in Eurasia, di T. Terberger, M. Zhilin, S. Savchenko

- A new subject in the study of the Great Shigir Idol, di S. F. Koksharov

- Shigir idol: Origin of monumental sculpture and ideas about the ways of preservation of the representational tradition, di V. Bobrov

- The Bolvanskii Nos I shrine as a reflection of the position of wooden idols in the cultural tradition of the Polar Urals in an archaeological context, di M. Zheltova, M. Zheltov

- Stylized animal images in the bone inventory of Mesolithic Hunters-Fishers at Zamostje 2 (Volga-Oka region), di O. V. Lozovskaya

- Zigzag lines and other protective patterns in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic art, di P. Vang Petersen

- Human representations in the Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic art of north-western Europe, di T. Płonka

- Mesolithic anthropomorphic sculptures from the Northern Europe, di T. Jonuks

  "Alpine and Mediterranean Quaternary", 34 (1), 2021:

- New data on the middle pleistocene small mammal fauna from the homo bearing site of Fontana Ranuccio (Anagni Basin, central Italy), di F. Bona, F. Strani

- The pre-modern human fossil record in Italy from the middle to the late Pleistocene: an updated reappraisal, di C. Buzi, F. Di Vincenzo, A. Profico, G. Manzi

- Lithic productions during the first half of the middle Pleistocene (MIS 19-12) in the italian peninsula: an overview, di B. Muttillo, G. Lembo, R: Gallotti

- Large mammals from the middle Pleistocene (MIS 11) site of Fotnignano 2 (Rome, central Italy), with an overview of "San Cosimato" assemblages, di A. Iannucci, B. Mecozzi, R. Sardella


Ecosystem engineering in the Quaternary of the West Coast of South Africa, di D. R. Braun et alii, "Evolutionary Anthropology", January/February 2021 - open access -

Despite advances in our understanding of the geographic and temporal scope of thePaleolithic record, we know remarkably little about the evolutionary and ecological con-sequences of changes in human behavior. Recent inquiries suggest that human evolu-tion reflects a long history of interconnections between the behavior of humans andtheir surrounding ecosystems (e.g., niche construction). Developing expectations toidentify such phenomena is remarkably difficult because it requires understanding themulti-generational impacts of changes in behavior. These long-term dynamics requireinsights into the emergent phenomena that alter selective pressures over longer timeperiods which are not possible to observe, and are also not intuitive based on observa-tions derived from ethnographic time scales. (...)


The ripples of modernity: How we can extendpaleo anthropology with the extended evolutionary synthesis, di M. Kissel, A. Fuentes, "Evolutionary Anthropology", January/February 2021 - open access -

Contemporary understandings of paleoanthropological data illustrate that the searchfor a line defining, or a specific point designating, “modern human” is problematic.Here we lend support to the argument for the need to look for patterns in the paleo-anthropological record that indicate how multiple evolutionary processes intersectedto form the human niche, a concept critical to assessing the development and pro-cesses involved in the emergence of a contemporary human phenotype. We suggestthat incorporating key elements of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) intoour endeavors offers a better and more integrative toolkit for modeling and assessingthe evolution of the genus Homo. (...)

  Hommage à Jean Combier Paléolithique inférieur et moyen, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 125, Issue 1, January–March 2021:

- Les nodules sphériques de basalte de l’unité archéologique US2 du site de « Bois-de-Riquet », France: origine et caractérisation d’une sélection, di L. Bourguignon et alii

- Pre-Quaternary hominin settlements in Asia: Archaeology, bio-lithostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy evidences at Masol, Siwaliks, Northwestern India, di D. Cauche et alii

- Les sites acheuléens des grottes la Terrasse et du Coupe-Gorge, à Montmaurin, Haute Garonne, France, di D. Thiam

- Technological persistency following faunal stability during the Pleistocene: A model for reconstructing Paleolithic adaptation strategies based on mosaic evolution, di M. Finkel, R. Barkai

- L’assemblage lithique du site Acheuléen de Namib IV (Namib central, Namibie), di I. Mesfin, D. Pleurdeau, H. Forestier

- Dawn of a new day: The role of children in the assimilation of new technologies throughout the Lower Paleolithic, di E. Assaf

- Faune du site de Muhkai 2 (Russie), di M. V. Sablin, K. Yu. Iltsevich

- Acquisition et exploitation des ressources animales et lithiques sur le site Moustérien de Mirefleurs (Puy-de-Dôme), di J. F. Pasty, C. Beauval, C. Ballut

- Locals and Foreigners in the Levant during the Pleistocene, di O. Bar-Yosef

- Le « Moustérien » de Tipasa et de Ténès (littoral ouest algérois) dans la lecture climatique du second pléniglacaire, di M. Betrouni

- Contribution à l’étude du Middle Stone Age (MSA) d’Afrique Centrale. Étude typo-technologique des industries lithiques du site préhistorique de Mpila, Brazzaville, République du Congo, di N. Demayumba

- A new discovery of Neanderthal settlements in Turkey: Sürmecik open-air campsite in Western Anatolia, di H. Taşkıran, Y. Aydın, K. Özçelik, E. Erbil


A critical assessment of the potential and limitations of physicochemical analysis to advance knowledge on Levantine rock art, di D. Sanz, M. Vendrell, A. Chieli, "Quaternary International", Volume 572, 20 January 2021, Pages 24-40

This paper offers an updated review of the variety of physicochemical analysis applied so far to Levantine rock art (Spain) to characterize the composition of the pigments, as well as the substrate and/or the natural coating covering these particular prehistoric paintings. This paper is part of a broader special issue evaluating the real contribution of scientific approaches to rock art research, assessing how they have improved our understanding of this particular heritage and the new research questions they open. In this context, and with a focus on Levantine rock art, our aim is to explore: 1. The guiding principles behind the different sorts of analysis conducted and published so far; 2. (...)


Dating Iberian prehistoric rock art: Methods, sampling, data, limits and interpretations, di B. Ochoa, M. García-Diez, I. Domingo, A. Martins, "Quaternary International", Volume 572, 20 January 2021, Pages 88-105

Rock art dating has been one of the major challenges since its discovery and recognition. The methods have evolved through the last century, beginning with the study of superpositions and style until to the application of numeric methods since the 1990s. The aim of this paper is to evaluate and publish an up-to-date database of all of the numerical dates currently available for Iberian prehistoric rock art sites. For this purpose, the manuscript reviews all the methods applied so far to Iberian rock art discussing the limits, the sampling involved, and the problems affecting the results. (...)


Prehistoric charcoal drawings in the caves in the Slovak Republic, Central Europe: Successful radiocarbon dating by a micro-sample 14C AMS, di A. Šefčáková, V. A. Levchenko, "Quaternary International", Volume 572, 20 January 2021, Pages 120-130

In Central Europe, only a few caves with ancient drawings on the walls are known. During the past years, simple lines and sketches made of charcoal or smearing traces from torches are found mainly in less accessible locations in some caves of the Slovak Karst. Previous attempts to date these findings were unsuccessful since the painted layers were too thin to allow sampling and enable routine AMS dating. Now the application of the small mass radiocarbon accelerator mass-spectrometry (AMS) technique developed at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) made possible successful 14C determinations for a set of cave drawings and markings from the Slovak Karst. (...)


Aggiornamento 08/02/2021


  Late Neanderthal subsistence strategies and cultural traditions in the northern Iberia Peninsula: Insights from Prado Vargas, Burgos, Spain, di M. Navazo Ruiz et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 254, 15 February 2021, 106795

In order to better understand the causes and geographic patterns of Neanderthal demise it is necessary to broaden the focus of existing Neanderthal studies to include new sites from understudied regions, particularly those containing multi-level fossil and lithic records, and to improve regional-scale Neanderthal extinction frameworks using multiple dating techniques. To this end, we present an interdisciplinary study of the stratigraphy, chronology, pollen, fauna, lithic technology and human remains of the last Neanderthal level (Level N4) of Prado Vargas – a cave in northern Iberia, whose geographic location and chronology are ideal for investigating possible socio-economic and climatic influences on Neanderthal decline. Level N4 has yielded a rich Late Mousterian palimpsest indicative of repeated seasonal occupations, as well as a deciduous Neanderthal tooth, confirming the presence of children at the site. (...)

  Nehandertals' gut microbiota and the bacteria helping our health, 5-FEB-2021

Neanderthals' gut microbiota already included some beneficial micro-organisms that are also found in our own intestine. An international research group led by the University of Bologna achieved this result by extracting and analysing ancient DNA from 50,000-year-old faecal sediments sampled at the archaeological site of El Salt, near Alicante (Spain). Published in Communication Biology, their paper puts forward the hypothesis of the existence of ancestral components of human microbiota that have been living in the human gastrointestinal tract since before the separation between the Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals that occurred more than 700,000 years ago. "These results allow us to understand which components of the human gut microbiota are essential for our health, as they are integral elements of our biology also from an evolutionary point of view" explains Marco Candela, the professor of the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology of the University of Bologna, who coordinated the study. "Nowadays there is a progressive reduction of our microbiota diversity due to the context of our modern life: this research group's findings could guide us in devising diet- and lifestyle-tailored solutions to counteract this phenomenon". (...)

  Short-term occupations at high elevation during the Middle Paleolithic at Kalavan 2 (Republic of Armenia), di A. Malinsky-Buller et alii, 4 February 2021, doi: - open access -

The Armenian highlands encompasses rugged and environmentally diverse landscapes and is characterized by a mosaic of distinct ecological niches and large temperature gradients. Strong seasonal fluctuations in resource availability along topographic gradients likely prompted Pleistocene hominin groups to adapt by adjusting their mobility strategies. However, the role that elevated landscapes played in hunter-gatherer settlement systems during the Late Pleistocene (Middle Palaeolithic [MP]) remains poorly understood. At 1640 m above sea level, the MP site of Kalavan 2 (Armenia) is ideally positioned for testing hypotheses involving elevation-dependent seasonal mobility and subsistence strategies. Renewed excavations at Kalavan 2 exposed three main occupation horizons and ten additional low densities lithic and faunal assemblages. The results provide a new chronological, stratigraphical, and paleoenvironmental framework for hominin behaviors between ca. 60 to 45 ka. The evidence presented suggests that the stratified occupations at Kalavan 2 locale were repeated ephemerally most likely related to hunting in a high-elevation within the mountainous steppe landscape. (...)

  Les dents de Néandertal découvertes il y a 110 ans à Jersey nous étonnent encore! 03/02/2021

C’est entre 1910 et 1911, sur le site de La Cotte de St Brelade (île de jersey) que l’anthropologue Robert Ranulph Marett entame des fouilles. Son équipe met au jour des restes de faune (mammouth et renne principalement) ainsi que plus de 15 000 outils en silex. La preuve d’un habitat récurrent est apportée par la découverte de traces de foyers (silex chauffés) et surtout de dents d’hominidés. Au total, 13 dents sont attribuées par les chercheurs à Néandertal. En 1916, Robert R. Marett publie les résultats des fouilles (The Site, Fauna, and Industry of La Cotte de St. Brelade, Jersey 1916). Ponctuellement, en fonction de l’évolution des techniques, les artefacts de la grotte de la Cotte bénéficient par la suite de nouvelle études. En 1994, les silex chauffés sont datés par thermoluminescence à 238 000 ans pour les plus anciens. En 2013, les sédiments contenant les dents sont datés par la méthode OSL (luminescence stimulée optiquement) entre - 48 000 et -100 000 ans. (...)

  The expansion of the Acheulian to the Southeastern Ethiopian Highlands: Insights from the new early Pleistocene site-complex of Melka Wakena, di E. Hovers et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 253, 1 February 2021, 106763

Current models of early hominin biological and cultural evolution are shaped almost entirely by the data accumulated from the East African Rift System (EARS) over the last decades. In contrast, little is known about the archaeological record from the high-elevation regions on either side of the Rift. Melka Wakena is a newly discovered site-complex on the Southeastern Ethiopian Highlands (SEH) (>2300 m above mean sea level) just east of the central sector of the Main Ethiopian Rift (MER), where eight archaeological and two paleontological localities were discovered to date. Nine archaeological horizons from three localities were tested so far, all dated to the second half of the early Pleistocene (~1.6 to >0.7 Ma). All the lithic assemblages belong to the Acheulian technocomplex. (...)

  Investigating relationships between technological variability and ecology in the Middle Gravettian (ca. 32–28 ky cal. BP) in France, di A. Vignoles et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 253, 1 February 2021, 106766

The French Middle Gravettian represents an interesting case study for attempting to identify mechanisms behind the typo-technological variability observed in the archaeological record. Associated with the relatively cold and dry environments of GS.5.2 and 5.1, this phase of the Gravettian is characterized by two lithic typo-technical entities (faciès in French): the Noaillian (defined by the presence of Noailles burins) and the Rayssian (identified by the Raysse method of bladelet production).
The two faciès have partially overlapping geographic distributions, with the Rayssian having a more northern and restricted geographic extension than the Noaillian. Their chronological relationship, however, is still unclear, and interpretations of their dual presence at many sites within the region of overlap are not yet consensual. (...)


Exploring late Paleolithic and Mesolithic diet in the Eastern Alpine region of Italy through multiple proxies, di G. Oxilia et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 174, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 232-253 - open access -

The analysis of prehistoric human dietary habits is key for understanding the effects of paleoenvironmental changes on the evolution of cultural and social human behaviors. In this study, we compare results from zooarchaeological, stable isotope and dental calculus analyses as well as lower second molar macrowear patterns to gain a broader understanding of the diet of three individuals who lived between the end of the Late Pleistocene and the Early Holocene (ca., 17–8 ky cal BP) in the Eastern Alpine region of Italy.
We analyze individuals buried at the sites of Riparo Tagliente (Verona), Riparo Villabruna, and Mondeval de Sora (Belluno). The three burials provide a unique dataset for diachronically exploring the influence of climatic changes on human subsistence strategies. (...)

  Prevalence of cranial trauma in Eurasian Upper Paleolithic humans, di J. Beier, N. Anthes, J. Wahl, K. Harvati, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 174, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 268-284 - open access -

This study characterizes patterns of cranial trauma prevalence in a large sample of Upper Paleolithic (UP) fossil specimens (40,000–10,000 BP).
Our sample comprised 234 individual crania (specimens), representing 1,285 cranial bones (skeletal elements), from 101 Eurasian UP sites. We used generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) to assess trauma prevalence in relation to age‐at‐death, sex, anatomical distribution, and between pre‐ and post‐Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) samples, while accounting for skeletal preservation. (...)


Comparative morphometric analyses of the deciduous molars of Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa, di J. K. Brophy, J. Moggi-Cecchi, G. J. Matthews, S. E. Bailey, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 174, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 299-314

The purpose of this study is to help elucidate the taxonomic relationship between Homo naledi and other hominins.
Homo naledi deciduous maxillary and mandibular molars from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa were compared to those of Australopithecus africanus, Australopithecus afarensis, Paranthropus robustus, Paranthropus boisei, early Homo sp., Homo erectus, early Homo sapiens, Upper Paleolithic H. sapiens, recent southern African H. sapiens, and Neanderthals by means of morphometric analyses of crown outlines and relative cusp areas. The crown shapes were analyzed using elliptical Fourier analyses followed by principal component analyses (PCA). The absolute and relative cusp areas were obtained in ImageJ and compared using PCA and cluster analyses. (...)


Assessing complexity in hominid dental evolution: Fractal analysis of great ape and human molars, di H. Cano-Fernández, A. Gómez-Robles, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 174, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 352-362

Molar crenulation is defined as the accessory pattern of grooves that appears on the occlusal surface of many mammalian molars. Although frequently used in the characterization of species, this trait is often assessed qualitatively, which poses unavoidable subjective biases. The objective of this study is to quantitatively test the variability in the expression of molar crenulation in primates and its association with molar size and diet.
The variability in the expression of molar crenulation in hominids (human, chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan) was assessed with fractal analysis using photographs of first, second and third upper and lower molars. After this, representative values for 29 primate species were used to evaluate the correlation between molar complexity, molar size, and diet using a phylogenetic generalized least squares regression. (...)

  Archaeological and experimental studies of splintered pieces in the Central Asian Upper Paleolithic, di K. A. Kolobova et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, Issue 2, February 2021

In Paleolithic archaeology, there are two dichotomous perspectives on so-called splintered pieces, or pieces esquillées, in which, depending upon archaeological context and the availability and quality of lithic of raw material, such pieces are considered bipolar cores or tools for processing organic materials. Here, we discuss for the first time functionality, reduction models, and modes of using Upper Paleolithic pièces esquillées from two Central Asian regions: the Tian Shan Mountains of eastern Uzbekistan and the Yenisey Valley of Siberian Russia. By applying attributive, experimental, scar-pattern, and use-wear analyses, we determined that these artifacts derived from two widely separated regions are tools for processing hard organic materials, which were rotated often during use. Reconstructed reduction sequences indicate that the morphological appearance of the implements was affected by the working processes associated with contact between the hammer and the organic material being processed. (...)

  First large-scale provenance study of pigments reveals new complex behavioural patterns during the Upper Palaeolithic of south-western Germany, di E. C. Velliky, B. L. MacDonald, M. Porr, N. J. Conard, "Archaeometry", Volume 63, Issue 1, February 2021, Pages 173-193 - open access -

The use of red iron-based earth pigments, or ochre, is a key component of early symbolic behaviours for anatomically modern humans and possibly Neanderthals. We present the first ochre provenance study in Central Europe showing long-term selection strategies by inhabitants of cave sites in south-western Germany during the Upper Palaeolithic (43–14.5 ka). Ochre artefacts from Hohle Fels, Geißenklösterle and Vogelherd, and local and extra-local sources, were investigated using neutron activation analysis (NAA), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The results show that local ochre sources were continuously and systematically accessed for c.29 500 years, with periodic events of long‐distance (about > 300 km) ochre acquisition during the Aurignacian (c.35–43 ka), suggesting higher mobility than previously suspected. The results reveal previously unknown long-term, complex spatio-temporal behavioural patterns during the earliest presence of Homo sapiens in Europe. (...)

  The 40,000-Year-Old Female Figurine of Hohle Fels: Previous Assumptions and New Perspectives, di M. K. Stannard, M. C. Langley, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 31, Issue 1, February 2021, pp. 21-33 - open access -

As the earliest image of a human being and the oldest piece of figurative art, the female figurine of Hohle Fels remains a significant discovery for understanding the development of symbolic behaviour in Homo sapiens. Discovered in southwestern Germany in 2008, this mammoth-ivory sculpture was found in several fragments and has always been assumed to be complete, never owning a head. In place of a head, there is instead a small loop that would allow her to be threaded, possibly to be worn as a pendant. Several hypotheses have been put forward as to her original use context, ranging from representing a fertility goddess to a pornographic figure. Yet none of these theses have ever suggested that she once had a head. Here we explore whether the female figurine of Hohle Fels was designed as a two-part piece, with the head made of perishable material culture, possibly woven plant or animal fibres; or that the artefact is a broken and reworked figurine with the head simply never found. By exploring the possibility that this figurine did originally have a second part—a head—we investigate issues surrounding the role of women and children in the Swabian Aurignacian. (...)

  Characterization and sources of Paleolithic–Mesolithic ochre from Coves de Santa Maira (Valencian Region, Spain), di J. E, Aura Tortosa, G. Gallello, C. Roldán, G. Cavallo, A. Pastor, S. Murcia-Mascarós, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 36, Issue 1, January/February 2021, Pages 72-91

The origin of iron-oxide materials found at Paleolithic and Neolithic sites in the Spanish Mediterranean region is a pivotal issue that has not yet been explored. The aim of this study is to investigate the exploitation of local ochre sources during the different archaeological phases identified at the site of Coves de Santa Maira (Valencian Region, Eastern Spain). A sampling strategy and a methodological approach were developed. Lumps of ochre and raw materials were sampled from the archaeological site and its surroundings. The archaeological materials studied are from the occupational phases dated to between 15 and 6 ka cal BP, whereas the raw materials sampled from the surroundings of the cave are red fine-grained and earthy-grained sedimentary materials and Late Triassic (Keuper) clays. (...)

  Archaeological Survey in Guadalajara: Human Occupation in Central Spain during the Late Pleistocene, di A. Burke et alii, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 46, 2021 - Issue 1

The central Meseta is a high plateau located in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula. Abundant evidence of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic occupations of the region contrasts with scarce evidence of a human presence during the early Upper Palaeolithic. On this basis, it has been suggested that climatic downturns triggered the temporary abandonment, or near abandonment, of the central Meseta during the Last Glacial period. We conducted three archaeological surveys in Guadalajara province, located in the southern part of the region, in 2009, 2010, and 2017. (...)

  Biomechanics of the human thumb and the evolution of dexterity, di  F. A. Karakostis, D. Haeufle, I. Anastopoulou, G. Hotz, V. Tourloukis, K. Harvati, 28 January 2021, doi: - open access -

Systematic tool production and use is one of humanity’s defining characteristics, possibly originating as early as >3 million years ago. Although heightened manual dexterity is considered to be intrinsically intertwined with tool use and manufacture, and critical for human evolution, its role in the emergence of early culture remains unclear. Most previous research on this question exclusively relied on direct morphological comparisons between early hominin and modern human skeletal elements, assuming that the degree of a species’ dexterity depends on its similarity with the modern human form. Here, we develop a new approach to investigate the efficiency of thumb opposition, a fundamental component of manual dexterity, in several species of fossil hominins. Our work for the first time takes into account soft tissue as well as bone anatomy, integrating virtual modeling of musculus opponens pollicis and its interaction with three-dimensional bone shape form. (...)

  An integrated study discloses chopping tools use from Late Acheulean Revadim (Israel), di F. Venditti, A. Agam, J. Tirillò, S. Nunziante-Cesaro, R. Barkai, 19 January 2021, doi: - open access -

Chopping tools/choppers provide one of the earliest and most persistent examples of stone tools produced and used by early humans. These artifacts appeared for the first time ~2.5 million years ago in Africa and are characteristic of the Oldowan and Acheulean cultural complexes throughout the Old World. Chopping tools were manufactured and used by early humans for more than two million years regardless of differences in geography, climate, resource availability, or major transformations in human cultural and biological evolution. Despite their widespread distribution through time and space in Africa and Eurasia, little attention has been paid to the function of these items, while scholars still debate whether they are tools or cores. In this paper, we wish to draw attention to these prominent and ubiquitous early lithic artifacts through the investigation of 53 chopping tools retrieved from a specific context at Late Acheulean Revadim (Israel). We combined typo-technological and functional studies with a residue analysis aimed at shedding light on their functional role within the tool-kits of the inhabitants of the site. Here we show that most of the chopping tools were used to chop hard and medium materials, such as bone, most probably for marrow extraction. (...)

  Neanderthal foraging in freshwater ecosystems: A reappraisal of the Middle Paleolithic archaeological fish record from continental Western Europe, di E. Guillaud et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 252, 15 January 2021, 106731

The prevalence of large game found in association with Middle Paleolithic tools has traditionally biased our ideas of Neanderthal subsistence practices. Studies document the exploitation of small mammals, birds, and plants by Neanderthals, whereas data on aquatic resources are still scarce and data on fish are almost non-existent. This article presents a review of fish remains from 11 Middle Palaeolithic fish bone assemblages from well contextualized sites in Belgium, France and Spain. It explores the nature of the evidence in order to determine whether Neanderthal fished and if so, whether fishing was a casual, opportunistic activity or a systematic practice. The first issue to address is whether archaeological fish remains at any given site represent human activity or not. Our study tests that assertion while enhancing our understanding of the diversity of food alternatives available to Neanderthals at any given site, and their ability to adapt to them. (...)

  Continuity of the Middle Stone Age into the Holocene, di E. M. L. Scerri et alii, "Scientific Reports", Volume 11, Article number: 70 (2021), 11 January 2021 - open access -

The African Middle Stone Age (MSA, typically considered to span ca. 300–30 thousand years ago [ka]), represents our species’ first and longest lasting cultural phase. Although the MSA to Later Stone Age (LSA) transition is known to have had a degree of spatial and temporal variability, recent studies have implied that in some regions, the MSA persisted well beyond 30 ka. Here we report two new sites in Senegal that date the end of the MSA to around 11 ka, the youngest yet documented MSA in Africa. This shows that this cultural phase persisted into the Holocene. These results highlight significant spatial and temporal cultural variability in the African Late Pleistocene, consistent with genomic and palaeoanthropological hypotheses that significant, long-standing inter-group cultural differences shaped the later stages of human evolution in Africa. (...)

  Earliest Olduvai hominins exploited unstable environments ~ 2 million years ago, di J. Mercader, P. Akuku, M. Petraglia, "Nature Communications", Volume 12, Article number: 3 (2021), 07 January 2021 - open access -

Rapid environmental change is a catalyst for human evolution, driving dietary innovations, habitat diversification, and dispersal. However, there is a dearth of information to assess hominin adaptions to changing physiography during key evolutionary stages such as the early Pleistocene. Here we report a multiproxy dataset from Ewass Oldupa, in the Western Plio-Pleistocene rift basin of Olduvai Gorge (now Oldupai), Tanzania, to address this lacuna and offer an ecological perspective on human adaptability two million years ago. Oldupai’s earliest hominins sequentially inhabited the floodplains of sinuous channels, then river-influenced contexts, which now comprises the oldest palaeolake setting documented regionally. Early Oldowan tools reveal a homogenous technology to utilise diverse, rapidly changing environments that ranged from fern meadows to woodland mosaics, naturally burned landscapes, to lakeside woodland/palm groves as well as hyper-xeric steppes. Hominins periodically used emerging landscapes and disturbance biomes multiple times over 235,000 years, thus predating by more than 180,000 years the earliest known hominins and Oldowan industries from the Eastern side of the basin. (...)


Prehistoric ivory items from Siberia, 7 January 2021

The skill of ivory softening was used more than 12,000 years ago to make tools - or decorations - that still puzzle modern science. A dozen solid elongated ivory bars crafted from softened ivory, and several figurines made from spongy parts of large mammoth bones, and resembling various animals were found at the Afontova Gora-2 archeological site by river Yenisey in Krasnoyarsk (Russia). The finds were made in early 2000, but were re-examined recently by Dr Evgeny Artemyev who said that the figurines can be either Ice Age toys made by people who populated this area of the modern-day Siberia, or a form of primeval art. "When you look at them at different angles, they resemble different types of animals. It is possible that this is the new form of Palaeolithic art," the archeologist said. (...)

  Interconnected Magdalenian societies as revealed by the circulation of whale bone artefacts in the Pyreneo-Cantabrian region, di A. Lefebvre et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 251, 1 January 2021, 106692

Coastal adaptations of Palaeolithic foragers along the north Atlantic seaboard have received renewed attention in the last decade and include growing evidence for exploitation of whale bone by Late Glacial Magdalenian groups to the north of the Pyrenees. Here we present a systematic revision of Magdalenian osseous industries from the Cantabrian region designed to explore whether this phenomenon was more widely shared by hunter-gatherer groups along the Atlantic coast of the northern Iberian Peninsula. Fifty-four whale bone objects were identified from 12 of the 64 sampled sites. Essentially represented by large, finished weapon elements (projectile points), these objects are primarily associated with the middle phase of the Cantabrian Magdalenian, and overlap slightly with the beginning its upper and probably the end of its lower phases. (...)

  High-resolution late Middle Pleistocene paleoclimatic record from the Galería Complex, Atapuerca archaeological site, Spain - An environmental magnetic approach, di M. F. Bógalo et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 251, 1 January 2021, 106721

The Galería Complex is a cave sediment succession at the Atapuerca paleoanthropological site (Burgos, Spain) that offers detailed environmental information about the late Middle Pleistocene, especially the period between marine oxygen isotope stages MIS10 and MIS7. Previous studies have reconstructed the chronology and detailed the environmental development of this key succession. We introduce rock magnetic climate proxies from the sedimentary units of the Galería succession that we correlate with the global climate record as represented by the marine oxygen isotope record. The cave sediment sequence consists of five infilling phases, four of which were sampled at high resolution across a 5 m thick composite profile. (...)

  Assessment of physiological disturbances during pre- and early postnatal development based on microscopic analysis of human deciduous teeth from the Late Epipaleolithic site of Shubayqa 1 (Jordan), di H. Kierdorf, C. Witzel, E. Bocaege, T. Richter, U. Kierdorf, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 174, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 20-34

To study pre- and early postnatal tooth formation and to analyze the effects of physiological disturbances on enamel and dentin formation in deciduous teeth of infants from the Late Epipaleolithic (Natufian) site Shubayqa 1.
Ten deciduous teeth from six infants (ages at death between 21 and 239 days) were analyzed by light and scanning electron microscopy.
Marked prism cross-striations and an abnormal wavy course of the prisms were recorded in pre. and postnatal enamel of all analyzed teeth. Single or multiple accentuated incremental lines were observed in prenatal enamel of nine teeth and in postnatal enamel of eight teeth. (...)

  Virtually estimated endocranial volumes of the Krapina Neandertals, di Z. Cofran, M. Boone, M. Petticord, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 174, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 117-128

The Krapina rock shelter has yielded a large assemblage of early Neandertals. Although endocranial volume (ECV) has been estimated for four individuals from the site, several published values that appear in the literature warrant revisiting.
We used virtual methods, including high‐resolution surface models of fossils and 3D geometric morphometrics, to reconstruct endocasts and estimate ECV for five Krapina crania. We generated 10 reconstructions of each endocast to quantify missing data uncertainty. To assess the method and our ECV estimates, we applied these techniques to the Spy II Neandertal, and estimated ECV of a human reference endocast simulating the missing data of the Krapina fossils. (...)


Explanations of variability in Middle Stone Age stone tool assemblage composition and raw material use in Eastern Africa, di J. Blinkhorn, M. Grove, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2021 - open access -

The Middle Stone Age (MSA) corresponds to a critical phase in human evolution, overlapping with the earliest emergence of Homo sapiens as well as the expansions of these populations across and beyond Africa. Within the context of growing recognition for a complex and structured population history across the continent, Eastern Africa remains a critical region to explore patterns of behavioural variability due to the large number of well-dated archaeological assemblages compared to other regions. Quantitative studies of the Eastern African MSA record have indicated patterns of behavioural variation across space, time and from different environmental contexts. Here, we examine the nature of these patterns through the use of matrix correlation statistics, exploring whether differences in assemblage composition and raw material use correlate to differences between one another, assemblage age, distance in space, and the geographic and environmental characteristics of the landscapes surrounding MSA sites. (...)


From forest to settlement: Magdalenian hunter-gatherer interactions with the wood vegetation environment based on anthracology and intra-site spatial distribution, di B. Mas, E. Allué, E. S. Alonso, M. Vaquero, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2021 - open access -

This study aims to provide anthracological data on forest transformations on the north-eastern Iberian Peninsula during the transition from the last glacial GS-2a to the last isotopic event of interstadial GI-1. We present a complete anthracological sequence from Molí del Salt (Vimbodí i Poblet, Tarragona, NE Iberian Peninsula), a site assigned to the Late Upper Palaeolithic. Our results suggest a continuous forest cover transformation throughout the inter-GI-1. Forest opening was determined by the retreat of Pinus sylvestris type, which was dominant during the Late Pleistocene, in relation to the continuous expansion of Juniperus sp. Likewise, our results suggest a progressive increase in the diversity of cold- and drought-resistant mesophilic taxa, which would have begun with the more temperate climatic conditions occasioned by the positive isotopic oscillations of GI-1. (...)


Specialized aquatic resource exploitation at the Late Natufian site of Nahal Ein Gev II, Israel, di N. D. Munro, A. N. Petrillo, L. Grosman, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2021

This paper investigates aquatic resource exploitation at the Late Natufian site (ca. 12,000 cal. BP) of Nahal Ein Gev II located 2 km east of the Sea of Galilee. Aquatic game, here fish and waterfowl, were an important component of the diverse small game resources that became important in the Late Epipaleolithic in Southwest Asia. We characterize local adaptations to the aquatic habitat and their economic and social implications at Nahal Ein Gev II. Taxonomic abundance and diversity, body-part representation, and fish body-size were investigated to evaluate the contribution of aquatic resources to human diets and butchery and transport strategies. Our results show that the residents of Nahal Ein Gev II were highly selective of the aquatic resources they captured and transported home. (...)


Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian chronology and palaeoenvironments at Kůlna Cave, Moravia, Czech Republic, di H. Reade et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2021 - open access -

Kůlna Cave is the only site in Moravia, Czech Republic, from which large assemblages of both Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian archaeological materials have been excavated from relatively secure stratified deposits. The site therefore offers the unrivalled opportunity to explore the relationship between these two archaeological phases. In this study, we undertake radiocarbon, stable isotope (carbon, nitrogen and sulphur), and ZooMS analysis of the archaeological faunal assemblage to explore the chronological and environmental context of the Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian deposits. Our results show that the Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian deposits can be understood as discrete units from one another, dating to the Late Glacial between c. 15,630 cal. BP and 14,610 cal. BP, and c. 14,140 cal. BP and 12,680 cal. BP, respectively. Stable isotope results (δ13C, δ15N, δ34S) indicate that Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian activity at Kůlna Cave occurred in very different environmental settings. (...)

  Evolutionary History of Endogenous Human Herpesvirus 6 Reflects Human Migration out of Africa, di A. Aswad et alii, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 96–107 - open access -

Human herpesvirus 6A and 6B (HHV-6) can integrate into the germline, and as a result, ~70 million people harbor the genome of one of these viruses in every cell of their body. Until now, it has been largely unknown if 1) these integrations are ancient, 2) if they still occur, and 3) whether circulating virus strains differ from integrated ones. Here, we used next-generation sequencing and mining of public human genome data sets to generate the largest and most diverse collection of circulating and integrated HHV-6 genomes studied to date. In genomes of geographically dispersed, only distantly related people, we identified clades of integrated viruses that originated from a single ancestral event, confirming this with fluorescent in situ hybridization to directly observe the integration locus. (...)

  Early anthropogenic use of hematite on Aurignacian ivory personal ornaments from Hohle Fels and Vogelherd caves, Germany, di E. C. Velliky et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 150, January 2021, 102900

The Aurignacian (ca. 43–35 ka) of southwestern Germany is well known for yielding some of the oldest artifacts related to symbolic behaviors, including examples of figurative art, musical instruments, and personal ornaments. Another aspect of these behaviors is the presence of numerous pieces of iron oxide (ocher); however, these are comparatively understudied, likely owing to the lack of painted artifacts from this region and time period. Several Aurignacian-aged carved ivory personal ornaments from the sites of Hohle Fels and Vogelherd contain traces of what appear to be red ocher residues. We analyzed these beads using a combination of macroanalytical and microanalytical methods, including scanning electron microscopy equipped with energy dispersive spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy. (...)

  A Middle Pleistocene abrading tool from Tabun Cave, Israel: A search for the roots of abrading technology in human evolution, di R. Shimelmitz, I. Groman-Yaroslavski, M. Weinstein-Evron, D. Rosenberg, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 150, January 2021, 102909

During the reanalysis of the finds from Jelinek's and Ronen's excavations at Tabun Cave, Israel, we encountered a cobble bearing traces of mechanical alterations similar to those recorded on grinding tools. However, the artifact derives from the early layers of the Acheulo-Yabrudian complex of the late Lower Paleolithic (ca. 350 ka), a time with no evidence for grinding or abrasion. Accordingly, we sought to determine whether the traces on the artifact can be attributed to purposeful human action. We conducted a detailed use-wear analysis of the cobble and implemented an experimental program, gaining positive results for the hypothesis of purposeful human practice. (...)

  Olduvai's oldest Oldowan, di H. Stollhofen et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 150, January 2021, 102910

Previously, Olduvai Bed I excavations revealed Oldowan assemblages <1.85 Ma, mainly in the eastern gorge. New western gorge excavations locate a much older ~2.0 Ma assemblage between the Coarse Feldspar Crystal Tuff (~2.015 Ma) and Tuff IA (~1.98 Ma) of Lower Bed I, predating the oldest eastern gorge DK assemblage below Tuff IB by ~150 kyr. We characterize this newly discovered fossil and artifact assemblage, adding information on landscape and hominin resource use during the ~2.3–2.0 Ma period, scarce in Oldowan sites. Assemblage lithics and bones, lithofacies boundaries, and phytolith samples were surveyed and mapped. Sedimentological facies analysis, tephrostratigraphic and sequence stratigraphic principles were applied to reconstruct paleoenvironments and sedimentary processes of sandy claystone (lake), sandstone (fluvial), and sandy diamictite (debris flow) as principal lithofacies. Artifacts, sized, weighed, categorized, were examined for petrography, retouch, and flake scar size. (...)

  Quantifying differences in hominin flaking technologies with 3D shape analysis, di W. Archer et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 150, January 2021, 102912

Genetic and climate-driven estimates of past population dynamics are increasingly influential in broader models of hominin migration and adaptation, yet the contribution of stone artifact variability remains more contentious. Scientists are increasingly recognizing the potential of unretouched stone flakes (‘flakes’) in exploring existing models of hominin behavioral evolution. This is because flakes (1) were produced by all stone tool manufacturing groups in the past, (2) are abundant from the inception of the archaeological record up into the ethnographic present, and (3) preserve under most conditions. The statistical tools of 3D geometric morphometrics capture detailed approximations of flake form that are challenging to document with conventional artifact analyses. (...)

  Quantifying accessibility to Palaeolithic rock art: Methodological proposal for the study of human transit in Atxurra Cave (Northern Spain), di I. Intxaurbe et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 125, January 2021, 105271

The systematic evaluation of accessibility to different sectors in caves with Palaeolithic rock art is crucial to interpret the contexts of prehistoric human activity that took place inside them, especially if focused on the areas that are harder to reach. 3D models have been employed in a GIS to process spatial information, calculate numerical cost values and estimate optimal transit routes or needed times to reach several sectors inside a cave, based on morphological features and movement types. These have been obtained through empirical observations and experimental archaeology. (...)

  Geochronology of a long Pleistocene sequence at Kilombe volcano, Kenya: from the Oldowan to Middle Stone Age, di S. Hoare et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 125, January 2021, 105273

We report a newly extended stratigraphic sequence with associated Palaeolithic sites from the area of the extinct Kilombe volcano in central Kenya. The extended archaeological sequence runs from Oldowan finds, through the Acheulean, and up to the Middle Stone Age. The sedimentary sequences within the Kilombe caldera and south flanks of the mountain have been dated through 40Ar/39Ar measurements and palaeomagnetic studies. A series of 40Ar/39Ar values date the geological sequence from 2.493 ± 0.095 Ma, near the beginning of the Lower Pleistocene, through to 0.118 ± 0.030 Ma near the Middle to Upper Pleistocene transition. It includes the first entirely new area of Oldowan localities in East Africa south of Ethiopia for thirty years, and the first in a rugged mountainous setting. (...)



Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca