Aggiornamento 03/08/2023


"Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology", Volume 6, issue 1, December 2023:

- The Complex Taxonomy of ‘Nubian’ in Context, di E. Hallinan, A. E. Marks

- The Solutrean Antlerworking in Hort de Cortés–Volcán del Faro (Valencia, Spain) in the Southwest Europe Context: a Preliminary Study, di M. Borao, L. Pérez, J. E. Aura Tortosa

- What about Apatite? Possibilities and Limitations of Recognising Bone Mineral Residues on Stone Tools, di N. Taipale, D. Cnuts, V. Rots

- A GIS-Based Digital Documentation Protocol for High-Resolution Documentation of Paleolithic Sites, di F. Sauer

- Correction to: A Middle Pleistocene Butchery Site at Great Yeldham, Essex, UK: Identifying Butchery Strategies and Implications for Mammalian Faunal History, di S. A. Parfitt

- The Middle Stone Age Sequence at Klipfonteinrand 1 (KFR1), Western Cape, South Africa, di A. Mackay, R. B. K. Saktura, Z. Jacobs

- First Data from the Prehistoric Site Complex of Cueva del Arco (Murcia, Spain), di I. Martín-Lerma, D. Román, D. E. Angelucci

- Raw Material Surveys and Their Behavioral Implications in Highland Lesotho, di A. Gregory, P. Mitchell, J. Pargeter

- Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician Industry and South Moravian Sites: a Homo sapiens Late Initial Upper Paleolithic with Bohunician Industrial Generic Roots in Europe, di Y. E. Demidenko, P. Škrdla

- Exploring the Potential of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic Site Korolevo II (Ukraine): New Results on Stratigraphy, Chronology and Archaeological Sequence, di V. I. Usyk, N. Gerasimenko, P. R. Nigst

- Analyzing Trends in Material Culture Evolution—a Case Study of Gravettian Points from Lower Austria and Moravia, di A. Maier, R. John, R. Thomas

- A Predictive Model for the Non-Destructive Assessment of Stone Age Silcrete Heat Treatment Strategies, di W. Archer, D. Presnyakova, M.C. Stahlschmidt

- Revaluation of the Portable Art of Northern Iberia: a Magdalenian Decorated Bone Tube from Torre (Basque Country, Spain), di A. Erostarbe-Tome, O. Rivero, A. Arrizabalaga

- The Beginning of the Early Upper Paleolithic in Poland, di A. Picin, D. Stefański, P. Valde-Nowak

- Innovative Technological Practices and their Role in the Emergence of Initial Upper Paleolithic Technologies: A View from Boker Tachtit, di M. Goder-Goldberger, O. Barzilai, E. Boaretto

- Exploring the Possible Function of Paleolithic Open Rings as Spearthrower Finger Loops, di J. Garnett, F. Sellet

- Adhesive Strength and Rupture Behaviour of Birch Tars Made with Different Stone Age Methods, di T. J. Koch, P. Schmidt

- Seasonality of Human Occupations in El Mirón Cave: Late Upper Paleolithic Hunter-Gatherer Settlement-Subsistence Systems in Cantabrian Spain, di A. B. Marín-Arroyo, J. M. Geiling, L. Guy Straus

- Pointing to the Ahmarian. Lithic Technology and the El-Wad Points of Al-Ansab 1, di J. Gennai, M. Schemmel, J. Richter


Evidence for sophisticated raw material procurement strategies during the Lower Paleolithic—Hula Valley case study, di M. Finkel, O. Bar, Y. Ben Dor, E. Ben-Yosef, O. Tirosh, G. Sharon, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 38, Issue 5, September/October 2023, Pages 649-664 - open access -

The Hula Valley has two key Acheulian sites: Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY), a large flake Acheulian site with hundreds of basalt bifaces and a significant number of flint handaxes, and Ma'ayan Barukh (MB), where more than 3500 flint handaxes were collected. Over the last one million years, the valley was filled by alluvium and basalt flows, devoid of flint sources suitable for handaxe production. We conducted archaeological and geological surveys combined with an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry geochemical study to determine the source(s) of flint, comparing elemental compositions of handaxes from GBY and MB with those of different flint sources using a novel statistical method. The results demonstrate that Hula Valley Acheulian flint handaxes were derived from Eocene flint. For GBY, the nearest matching source for its small number of excavated handaxes is a secondary deposit of the Dishon streambed found ~8 km northwest of the site. A more likely source for both GBY and the thousands of MB handaxes is the Dishon flint extraction and reduction complex located 20 km to the west, a possibility also supported by the near absence of production waste flakes at the sites themselves. These findings support direct procurement strategy as early as the Lower Paleolithic. (...)


Winter sources of ascorbic acid for Pleistocene hominins in northern Eurasia, di H. P. Schwarcz, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 8, August 2023

Hominins emerging from Africa in the Pleistocene required sources of vitamins in addition to sources of energy and nutrient substance (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats). Most of their vitamin requirements could be provided by eating the flesh of herbivores but vitamin C is in low concentrations in animal muscle tissue. Lack of vitamin C causes the fatal disease of scurvy. In southern Eurasia, hominins would have been able to harvest fruits and vegetables throughout the year but as they migrated further to the north, they would encounter regions in which no plants were growing in mid-winter. (...)

  Inferring the territoriality of Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer’s groups settled at Cueva del Gato 2 (Épila, Zaragoza), di M. Sánchez de la Torre, L. Jiménez Ruiz, B. Gratuze, E. Duarte, M. F. Blasco, J. M. Rodanés, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 8, August 2023 - open access -

In recent decades, the development of different analytical procedures applied to the study of archaeological lithic remains has allowed us to approach the territoriality of past societies. The application of geochemical tools has improved the study of lithic raw materials, allowing direct connections between archaeological samples and specific geological formations. In a similar way, the incorporation of GIS tools to the study of past mobility and territoriality has allowed to define which could have been the most probable routes used by past groups to stock up on rocks. In this paper, we present the results obtained after the geochemical study by Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) of lithic cherts found at Upper Palaeolithic human occupations at Cueva del Gato 2 (Épila, Zaragoza, Spain) as well as the least cost path routes obtained after GIS analyses. (...)


An Upper Palaeolithic Proto-writing System and Phenological Calendar, di B. Bacon, A. Khatiri, J. Palmer, T. Freeth, P. Pettitt, R. Kentridge, "Cambridge Archaeological Journal", Volume 33 - Issue 3 - August 2023

In at least 400 European caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet and Altamira, Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens groups drew, painted and engraved non-figurative signs from at least ~42,000 BP and figurative images (notably animals) from at least 37,000 BP. Since their discovery ~150 years ago, the purpose or meaning of European Upper Palaeolithic non-figurative signs has eluded researchers. Despite this, specialists assume that they were notational in some way. Using a database of images spanning the European Upper Palaeolithic, we suggest how three of the most frequently occurring signs—the line <|>, the dot <•>, and the <Y>—functioned as units of communication. We demonstrate that when found in close association with images of animals the line <|> and dot <•> constitute numbers denoting months, and form constituent parts of a local phenological/meteorological calendar beginning in spring and recording time from this point in lunar months. (...)


Linking primatology and archaeology: The transversality of stone percussive behaviors, di S. Harmand, A. Arroyo, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 181, August 2023, 103398 - open access -

Since the launch of the Journal of Human Evolution fifty years ago, the archaeology of human origins and the evolution of culture have witnessed major breakthroughs with the identification of several new archaeological sites whose chronology has been slowly pushed back until the discovery of the earliest evidence of stone tool making at Lomekwi 3 (West Turkana, Kenya), at 3.3 Ma. Parallel to these discoveries, the study of wild primates, especially chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), allowed the development of models to understand key aspects of the behavior of extinct hominin species. Indeed, chimpanzees possess an impressive diversity of tool-aided foraging behaviors, demonstrating that technology (and culture) is not exclusive to humans. Additionally, current research has also shown that wild capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus) and long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) also rely on stone percussive foraging behaviors. (...)


Modeling Oldowan tool transport from a primate perspective, di S. Reeves, T. Proffitt, K. Almeida-Warren, L. V. Luncz, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 181, August 2023, 103399

Living nonhuman primates have long served as a referential framework for understanding various aspects of hominin biological and cultural evolution. Comparing the cognitive, social, and ecological contexts of nonhuman primate and hominin tool use has allowed researchers to identify key adaptations relevant to the evolution of hominin behavior. Although the Oldowan is often considered to be a major evolutionary milestone, it has been argued that the Oldowan is rather an extension of behaviors already present in the ape lineage. This is based on the fact that while apes move tools through repeated, unplanned, short-distance transport bouts, they produce material patterning often associated with long-distance transport, planning, and foresight in the Oldowan. Nevertheless, remain fundamental differences in how Oldowan core and flake technology and nonhuman primate tools are used. (...)


New Neanderthal remains from the Châtelperronian-attributed layer X of the Grotte du Renne (Arcy-sur-Cure, France), di J. Henrion, J. J. Hublin, B. Maureille, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 181, August 2023, 103402

The Grotte du Renne (GR) is located in the township of Arcy-sur-Cure (Yonne, France). The Cure River, which crosses the town, contributed to the weathering of the Arcy-Saint-Moré limestone formation and to the development of complex karstic systems. Among these karstic systems, the Arcy-sur-Cure caves open southwards on the left bank of the Cure. The caves have been visited since the 17th century (Baffier and Girard, 1997, 1998; Girard, 2019). Research into Arcy's prehistoric remains began with A. Parat's excavations between 1897 and 1901 (Parat, 1901). However, scientific investigations started with A. Leroi-Gourhan's excavations (1948–1963), which uncovered Upper Pleistocene human remains within four caves: the Grotte du Loup, the Grotte du Bison, the GR and its attached Schoepflin gallery, and the Grotte de l'Hyène. (...)


Technology or taphonomy? A study of the 2.04–1.95 Ma bone tools from Drimolen Main Quarry, South Africa, di R. C. Stammers, J. W. Adams, S. E. Baker, A. I. R. Herries, "Quaternary International", Volumes 665–666, 20 August 2023, Pages 20-33

Analysis of 124 rounded fossils, potential bone tools, from the 2.04–1.95 Ma early hominin-bearing Drimolen Main Quarry palaeocave deposits in South Africa were subject to comparative analysis of fossil and bone collections with known taphonomic accumulator/s, actualistic experiments, and comparative analysis relative to published data in the taphonomic literature. From this sample, 51 specimens were identified as bone tools. The inclusion of these specimens raises the number of bone tools identified at Drimolen Main Quarry to 65. The bone tools have a rounded tip and an associated use-wear pattern that is restricted to, and radiates from, this rounded tip. (...)


Taking a closer look: The advantages and disadvantages of 3D imaging functional analysis of use-wear on bone retouchers, di E. F. Martellotta, "Quaternary International", Volumes 665–666, 20 August 2023, Pages 34-47

Bone retouchers were part of the human toolkit since the Lower Palaeolithic. These tools are essential to the understanding of lithic technology and raw materials exploitation in cultural complexes associated with both Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. They are also considered to be among the oldest bone tools ever made. On account of their great morphological variability and the lack of any standardised shaping, bone retouchers are often classified as expedient tools rather than as a true bone industry. The present work proposes a new approach to the use-wear study of bone retouchers through the application of 3D imaging microscopy. (...)


Rediscovery of the Palaeolithic antler hammer from Biśnik Cave, Poland: New insights into its chronology, raw material, technology of production and function, di J. Orłowska, K. Cyrek, G. Piotr Kaczmarczyk, W. Migal, G. Osipowicz, "Quaternary International", Volumes 665–666, 20 August 2023, Pages 48-64

This article presents the results of a multifaceted study of a Palaeolithic hammer made of antler, found in Biśnik Cave in southern Poland. It is the only tool of this type known from this period in Polish prehistory. The results of the 14C dating on the object verifies previous assumptions relating to its chronology and cultural affiliation. The results of Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) analysis allow us to provide further details in relation to the raw material used in the production of the artefact. (...)


Redefining the MIS 3 climatic scenario for Neanderthals in northeastern Iberia: A multi-method approach, di  A. Fagoaga et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 313, 1 August 2023, 108186 - open access -

One of the major challenges in scientific research is to understand past climate and the mechanisms of climate change. Small vertebrates, and especially rodents, are very sensitive to shifts in climate and habitat, and their variations over time in terms of taxa and abundance can be successfully used to reconstruct past environments. The vast array of approaches to palaeoclimatic reconstruction reflects the great effort that has gone into this line of investigation. Recently, the UDA-ODA discrimination technique has been postulated as a more reliable ecologically-based methodology compared to the classical MER method. (...)


Neanderthal footprints in the “Matalascañas trampled surface” (SW Spain): new OSL dating and Mousterian lithic industry, di C. Neto de Carvalho et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 313, 1 August 2023, 108200 - open access -

In the Huelva Coast of SW Spain erosion by recent marine storms revealed the presence of a paleosol where an extensive tracksite known as “Matalascañas Trampled Surface” (MTS) has been documented. The MTS includes tracks and trackways of large species of mammals, along with bird trace fossils, invertebrate burrows and root traces. Within this record, the presence of several hominin footprints and trackways stands out. Despite previous uncertainties about the producer of these footprints, new OSL age of 151 ± 11 ka secures their attribution to Neanderthals, the only hominins known to have been present in the Iberian Peninsula during the MIS6-5 transition. (...)


A taphonomic and spatial distribution study of the new levels of the middle Pleistocene site of Notarchirico (670–695 ka, Venosa, Basilicata, Italy), di M. H. Moncel et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 7, July 2023

New excavations in the lower part of the sequence dated between 670 and 695 ka by 40Ar/39Ar and ESR-U-Th at Notarchirico revealed layers with lithic and bone remains attesting several phases of human occupations. Some of these occupations are located at the top of residual pebble/cobble lags along former water channels, while others are more disturbed. All the layers yield faunal and lithic remains. Here, we aim to discuss the interpretative limits of traces of hominin occupations in such Early Palaeolithic sites through a multidisciplinary approach focusing on depositional and post-depositional processes in sedimentary units applied on the micro/macro-mammal remains, artefacts (surfaces, micro-wear traces), and spatial distribution of the archaeological material. These data are then compared with those from M. Piperno’s previous excavations in the upper part of the sequence (610–670 ka). (...)


Exploring the reliability of handaxe morphological analyses in 2D: a simulation-based approach, di L. A. Courtenay, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 7, July 2023

Morphological analysis is a critical component in the study of archaeological artefacts. Handaxes are some of the most iconic tools of the Palaeolithic era, and the study of their morphology can provide important insights into their creation, use, and development throughout early human evolution. While many studies exist for the study of handaxe morphology, little consensus exists as to what methods should be applied. Here the most reliable means of analysing handaxe morphology are explored; based on the use of simulated 2D toy datasets, we compare two widely used methods, geometric morphometrics, and elliptic Fourier analysis, and find that the latter is more reliable and powerful for differentiating between different handaxe groups. (...)


Spatial analysis and site formation processes associated with the Middle Pleistocene hominid teeth from Q1/B waterhole, Boxgrove (West Sussex, UK), di L. Sánchez-Romero, A. Benito-Calvo, D. De Loecker, M. Pope, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 7, July 2023 - open access -

Boxgrove is a key locale for our understanding of Middle Pleistocene human behaviour in Northwestern Europe. It provides high-resolution evidence for behaviour at scale in fine-grained sediments, dating from the end of the MIS13 interglacial at around 480,000 years ago. Excavations at this site in the last quarter of the twentieth century have provided a large body of interdisciplinary data, comprising stone artefact assemblages, well-preserved faunal remains and paleoenvironmental archives, from over 100 test pits and larger excavation areas. The excavation area designated Q1/B was excavated between 1995 and 1996 and provided a particularly deep and complex record of early human activity centred upon a pond or waterhole within the wider landscape. In this work, we present a new analysis of spatial data from a single sedimentary unit (Unit 4u) at the Boxgrove Q1/B site. We consider the spatial disposition of lithic and faunal materials, fabric analysis and the role of the palaeotopography in their distribution. (...)


Brief interviews with hideous stone: a glimpse into the butchery site of Isernia La Pineta — a combined technological and use-wear approach on the lithic tools to evaluate the function of a Lower Palaeolithic context, di M. Carpentieri, G. L. F. Berruti, S. Titton, M. Arzarello, C. Peretto, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 7, July 2023 - open access -

The onset of the Middle Pleistocene (780 ka) in the European continent is associated with significant environmental variations (Middle Pleistocene Revolution), innovative behavioural strategies (bifacial productions, land-use patterns, raw material management) and a global increase in the archaeological evidence from 600 ka onward. Whether these changes are related to the rise of the Acheulean, the informative potential carried by these contexts is currently being explored through multidisciplinary approaches, allowing us to infer the role of these sites and the type of activities conducted. From this perspective, the Italian peninsula is a hot spot to compare the different technical behaviours and strategies human groups employ, given its crucial geographic location and solid archaeological record, both culturally and functionally speaking (the presence of sites with and without bifaces and core-and-flake assemblages). (...)


Use-wear analysis applied in a dissected palimpsest at the Middle Palaeolithic site of El Salt (eastern Iberia): working with lithic tools in a narrow timescale, di M. Bencomo, A. Mayor, S. Sossa-Ríos, P. Jardón, B. Galván, C. Mallol, C. M. Hernández, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 7, July 2023 - open access -

Use-wear analyses are very useful to increase knowledge about the economic and subsistence dynamics carried out by Neanderthals. In general terms, functional results traditionally came from the analysis of tools belonging to stratigraphic units whose timescale refers to geological time. This is due to the fact that many Neanderthal sites are palimpsests of reiterated occupations over time, which must be dissected to approach us to human timescale. In the stratigraphic unit Xa of El Salt (Alcoi, eastern Iberia), high temporal resolution archaeostratigraphic studies have been carried out. Diachronic material assemblages have been identified, allowing us to analyse more precisely the variability of Neanderthal behaviour over time. Amongst these assemblages, three have been selected (i.e. 5.3.1, 5.3.2 and 5.3.3) in order to analyse the lithic material functionality. (...)


Spatial analysis of an Early Middle Palaeolithic kill/butchering site: the case of the Cuesta de la Bajada (Teruel, Spain), di A. Moclán et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 7, July 2023- open access -

Kill/butchering sites are some of the most important places for understanding the subsistence strategies of hunter-gatherer groups. However, these sites are not common in the archaeological record, and they have not been sufficiently analysed in order to know all their possible variability for ancient periods of the human evolution. In the present study, we have carried out the spatial analysis of the Early Middle Palaeolithic (MIS 9–8) site of Cuesta de la Bajada site (Teruel, Spain), which has been previously identified as a kill/butchering site through the taphonomic analysis of the faunal remains. Our results show that the spatial properties of the faunal and lithic tools distribution in levels CB2 and CB3 are well-preserved although the site is an open-air location. (...)


Low-cost technologies in a rich ecological context: Hotel California open-air site at Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain, di M. Santamaría, M. Navazo, L. J. Arnold, A. Benito-Calvo, M. Demuro, E. Carbonell, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 38, Issue 5, July 2023, Pages 658-684 - open access -

Hotel California is part of a network of open-air Neanderthal sites located in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain). In this study, we examine the technology of the lithic assemblages recovered from this site's archaeological levels 3 to 7, which are characterised by the use of local raw materials, non-hierarchical centripetal exploitation systems, systematic production of flakes and few retouched items. This type of expedient technology is repeated throughout the entire sequence, which spans Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 3 to 4. Through a comparison with the technocomplexes and occupation histories of surrounding sites – including a re-evaluation of the published chronology for the nearby site of Fuente Mudarra, which is now dated exclusively to MIS 5 – we examine whether the detected pattern is applicable to the rest of the Atapuerca Mousterian record and if this expedient behaviour has equivalents in other sites in the region. (...)


Introduction to special issue “Humans in transition: The occupation of Western Europe, 600–400 Ka”, di P. García-Medrano, M. Martinón-Torres, N. Ashton, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 180, July 2023, 103388

The Acheulean is the longest-lasting technocomplex in prehistory, and its emergence from the Oldowan is one of the major transitions in human evolution (Clark 1994; de la Torre, 2016; Moncel et al., 2018). It is widely agreed that the innovation of Acheulean technology represents a critical stage in early human development (Issac, 1986; Wynn, 1989; Stout, 2015). Its success can be measured by its persistence over more than 1.5 Myr during the Early and Middle Pleistocene (MP), over the vast geographical area of Africa and Eurasia, and the involvement in this technocomplex of at least three hominin species—Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis. (...)


Descriptive catalog of Homo naledi dental remains from the 2013 to 2015 excavations of the Dinaledi Chamber, site U.W. 101, within the Rising Star cave system, South Africa, di  L. K. Delezene et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 180, July 2023, 103372

More than 150 hominin teeth, dated to ~330–241 thousand years ago, were recovered during the 2013–2015 excavations of the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, South Africa. These fossils comprise the first large single-site sample of hominin teeth from the Middle Pleistocene of Africa. Though scattered remains attributable to Homo sapiens, or their possible lineal ancestors, are known from older and younger sites across the continent, the distinctive morphological feature set of the Dinaledi teeth supports the recognition of a novel hominin species, Homo naledi. This material provides evidence of African Homo lineage diversity that lasts until at least the Middle Pleistocene. (...)


Pliocene hominins from East Turkana were associated with mesic environments in a semiarid basin, di A. Villaseñor et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 180, July 2023, 103385

During the middle Pliocene (~3.8–3.2 Ma), both Australopithecus afarensis and Kenyanthropus platyops are known from the Turkana Basin, but between 3.60 and 3.44 Ma, most hominin fossils are found on the west side of Lake Turkana. Here, we describe a new hominin locality (ET03-166/168, Area 129) from the east side of the lake, in the Lokochot Member of the Koobi Fora Formation (3.60–3.44 Ma). To reconstruct the paleoecology of the locality and its surroundings, we combine information from sedimentology, the relative abundance of associated mammalian fauna, phytoliths, and stable isotopes from plant wax biomarkers, pedogenic carbonates, and fossil tooth enamel. (...)


Des données génétiques extraites des dents d’un hominidé de 2 millions d’années, 26 juillet 2023

Les restes des Paranthropes ont été retrouvés sur le site de Swartkrans dans la région de Johannesburg. Cette espèce à l’alimentation végétarienne présente la particularité de posséder d’épaisses dents avec la plus épaisse couche d’émail identifiée à ce jour chez les hominidés. C’est donc à partir de l’email dentaire que les paléoanthropologues ont pu examiner des acides aminés, dans la couche externe minérale. C’est avec un appareil à spectrographie de masse que les quatre échantillons provenant de dents distinctes ont délivré 425 acides aminés qui ont été séquencés. Les quatre échantillons ici étudiés ont été prélevés dans la grotte de Swartkrans, à environ 40 kilomètres au nord-ouest de Johannesburg (Afrique du Sud). Depuis l’émail épais (couche externe minérale) des dents de végétariens des Paranthropus robustus, 425 acides aminés ont été séquencés et examinés grâce à la spectrométrie de masse. (...)


New evidence of plant food processing in Italy before 40ka, di M. Mariotti Lippi et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 312, 15 July 2023, 108161

Evidence of plant food processing is a significant indicator of the human ability to exploit environmental resources. The recovery of starch grains associated with use-wear on Palaeolithic grinding tools offers proof of a specific technology for making flour among Pleistocene hunter-gatherers. Here we present the analysis of five grindstones from two Italian sites, Riparo Bombrini and Grotta di Castelcivita, both inhabited during a crucial phase spanning the decline of the Neanderthals and the establishment of Sapiens. The recovery of starch grains on a Mousterian grindstone at Bombrini suggests that the last Neanderthals not only consumed and processed plants but also made flour 43–41,000 years ago. (...)


Neanderthal bones collected by hyena at Grotta Guattari, central Italy, 66–65 ka: U/Th chronology and paleoenvironmental setting, di M. F. Rolfo et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 311, 1 July 2023, 108132

After eight decades since its discovery in 1939, new investigations have been undertaken at Grotta Guattari (Latium, central Italy), a coastal cave by the Tyrrhenian Sea coast and one of the iconic sites of the Italian prehistory, as it yielded an almost complete skull and other remains of Neanderthals. The new excavations of the innermost and untouched cave deposits resulted in an outstanding amount of mammal bones, 40 out of which attributable to Neanderthal, including new large portions of cranial remains. Preliminary taphonomic hints and the collected stratigraphic evidence strongly indicate that the impressive accumulation of the large mammal bones was the work of spotted hyena, in a period in which human frequentation was really sporadic or even completely absent. (...)


A history of violence in the Mesolithic female skeleton from Mezzocorona-Borgonuovo (Trento, northeastern Italy), di V. S. Sparacello, E. Mottes, I. Dori, C. Posth, C. Knüsel, F. Nicolis, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 311, 1 July 2023, 108149

Scholars have long been interested in understanding conflict in prehistoric times. Skeletal lesions attributable to interpersonal violence constitute the most direct evidence available to make inferences on the diachronic changes in the frequency, scale, and motivation for conflict among human communities. It has been proposed that evidence of violence becomes more common among Early Holocene Mesolithic hunter-gatherers; however, the skeletal record becomes increasingly fragmentary in more ancient periods, making the finding of new evidence of great importance. We present here a case of traumatic recidivism in a Mesolithic female from the site of Mezzocorona-Borgonuovo (MBN-1) in the northeastern Italian Alps (Trento). (...)


Benchmarking methods and data for the whole-outline geometric morphometric analysis of lithic tools, di  R. P. Araujo et alii, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 32, Issue 3, June 2023, Pages 124-127

Originally developed for the quantitative analysis of organismal shapes, both two-dimensional (2D) and 3D geometric morphometric methods (GMMs) have recently gained some prominence in archaeology for the analysis of stone tools—unquestionably the primary deep-time data source for the earliest periods of human cultural evolution. The key strength of GMM rests in its ability to statistically quantify and hence qualify complex shapes, which in turn can be used to infer social interaction, function, reduction, as well as to assess classification systems and cultural relatedness. The methodological diversification that has accompanied the rise in popularity of this particular suite of methods has, however, also resulted in an increasing lack of comparability and interoperability, which—ironically—works against the promise of GMM to provide a tool for comparing artifact shapes that is not sensitive to interanalyst variation. Standardized protocols, vetted datasets, as well as case-transferable and fully reproducible methods do not currently exist, hampering the full utility of geometric morphometrics as an approach to comparatively understand human behavior as reflected in these lithic proxies. (...)


The Australopithecus assemblage from Sterkfontein Member 4 (South Africa) and the concept of variation in palaeontology, di A. Beaudet, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 32, Issue 3, June 2023, Pages 154-168 - open access -

Interpreting morphological variation within the early hominin fossil record is particularly challenging. Apart from the fact that there is no absolute threshold for defining species boundaries in palaeontology, the degree of variation related to sexual dimorphism, temporal depth, geographic variation or ontogeny is difficult to appreciate in a fossil taxon mainly represented by fragmentary specimens, and such variation could easily be conflated with taxonomic diversity. One of the most emblematic examples in paleoanthropology is the Australopithecus assemblage from the Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa. Whereas some studies support the presence of multiple Australopithecus species at Sterkfontein, others explore alternative hypotheses to explain the morphological variation within the hominin assemblage. In this review, I briefly summarize the ongoing debates surrounding the interpretation of morphological variation at Sterkfontein Member 4 before exploring two promising avenues that would deserve specific attention in the future, that is, temporal depth and nonhuman primate diversity. (...)

  Major Genetic Risk Factors for Dupuytren's Disease Are Inherited From Neandertals, di R. Ågren et alii, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 40, Issue 6, June 2023 - open access -

Dupuytren's disease is characterized by fingers becoming permanently bent in a flexed position. Whereas people of African ancestry are rarely afflicted by Dupuytren's disease, up to ~30% of men over 60 years suffer from this condition in northern Europe. Here, we meta-analyze 3 biobanks comprising 7,871 cases and 645,880 controls and find 61 genome-wide significant variants associated with Dupuytren's disease. (...)


Des gravures de 75 000 ans attribuées à Néandertal à la Roche-Cotard, 23 juin 2023

La Roche-Cotard est une ancienne cavité située sur un coteau au-dessus de la Loire. Si elle a été découverte en 1846 lorsque des carrières étaient exploitées dans la région (pour la construction d’une ligne de chemin de fer), la cavité restait inaccessible. En 1912, François d’Achon, propriétaire de la grotte, effectue les premières fouilles dans la cavité. Dans les sédiments, les fouilles permettent de mettre au jour des restes osseux de la faune chassée (cheval, bison, cerf…), présentant des traces de calcination, mais également de l’outillage lithique attribué à Néandertal. Un objet trouvé aux pieds d’une falaise à proximité a également frappé les imaginaires : un visage de pierre où un morceau d’os est enfiché et simule des yeux : le masque de la Roche Cotard (...)


Evidence for hunter-gatherer impacts on raven diet and ecology in the Gravettian of Southern Moravia, di C. Baumann, S. T. Hussain, M. Roblíčková, F. Riede, M. A. Mannino, H. Bocherens, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 22 June 2023

he earlier Gravettian of Southern Moravia—the Pavlovian—is notable for the many raven bones (Corvus corax) documented in its faunal assemblages. On the basis of the rich zooarchaeological and settlement data from the Pavlovian, previous work suggested that common ravens were attracted by human domestic activities and subsequently captured by Pavlovian people, presumably for feathers and perhaps food. Here, we report independent δ15N, δ13C and δ34S stable isotope data obtained from 12 adult ravens from the Pavlovian key sites of Předmostí I, Pavlov I and Dolní Věstonice I to test this idea. We show that Pavlovian ravens regularly fed on larger herbivores and especially mammoths, aligning in feeding preferences with contemporaneous Gravettian foragers. (...)


The earliest unambiguous Neanderthal engravings on cave walls: La Roche-Cotard, Loire Valley, France, di J. C. Marquet et alii, 21 June 2023, doi: - open access -

Here we report on Neanderthal engravings on a cave wall at La Roche-Cotard (LRC) in central France, made more than 57±3 thousand years ago. Following human occupation, the cave was completely sealed by cold-period sediments, which prevented access until its discovery in the 19th century and first excavation in the early 20th century. The timing of the closure of the cave is based on 50 optically stimulated luminescence ages derived from sediment collected inside and from around the cave. The anthropogenic origin of the spatially-structured, non-figurative marks found within the cave is confirmed using taphonomic, traceological and experimental evidence. Cave closure occurred significantly before the regional arrival of H. sapiens, and all artefacts from within the cave are typical Mousterian lithics; in Western Europe these are uniquely attributed to H. neanderthalensis. We conclude that the LRC engravings are unambiguous examples of Neanderthal abstract design. (...)


A double-pointed wooden throwing stick from Schöningen, Germany: Results and new insights from a multianalytical study, di A. Milks, J. Lehmann, D. Leder, M. Sietz, T. Koddenberg, U. Böhner, V. Wachtendorf, T. Terberger,  19 July 2023, doi: - open access -

The site of Schöningen (Germany), dated to ca. 300,000 years ago, yielded the earliest large-scale record of humanly-made wooden tools. These include wooden spears and shorter double-pointed sticks, discovered in association with herbivores that were hunted and butchered along a lakeshore. Wooden tools have not been systematically analysed to the same standard as other Palaeolithic technologies, such as lithic or bone tools. Our multianalytical study includes micro-CT scanning, 3-dimensional microscopy, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, supporting a systematic technological and taphonomic analysis, thus setting a new standard for wooden tool analysis. In illustrating the biography of one of Schöningen’s double-pointed sticks, we demonstrate new human behaviours for this time period, including sophisticated woodworking techniques. The hominins selected a spruce branch which they then debarked and shaped into an aerodynamic and ergonomic tool. They likely seasoned the wood to avoid cracking and warping. After a long period of use, it was probably lost while hunting, and was then rapidly buried in mud. Taphonomic alterations include damage from trampling, fungal attack, root damage and compression. (...)


Early humans in the Hula Valley invested in systematic procurement of raw materials hundreds of thousands of years ago – much earlier than previously assumed, 19-JUL-2023

A new study from Tel Aviv University and Tel-Hai College solves an old mystery: Where did early humans in the Hula Valley get flint to make the prehistoric tools known as handaxes? The researchers applied advanced methods of chemical analysis and AI to identify the geochemical fingerprints of handaxes from the Hula Valley's oldest prehistoric sites, Ma'ayan Barukh and Gesher Benot Ya'aqov. Their findings indicate that the raw material came from exposures of high-quality flint in the Dishon Plateau, about 20km to the west, and hundreds of meters above the Hula Valley. The researchers: "Our findings indicate that these early humans had high social and cognitive abilities: they were familiar with their surroundings, knew the available resources, and made great efforts to procure the high-quality raw materials they needed. For this purpose, they planned and carried out long journeys, and transferred this essential knowledge to subsequent generations." (...)


Ecological evaluation of the development of Neanderthal niche exploitation, di A. J. Trájer, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 310, 15 June 2023, 108127 - open access -

Understanding the ecological niche occupied by Neanderthals and their ancestors is at the forefront of many Palaeolithic investigations. In this study, a complex characterization of the environments once occupied by these hominins in Western Eurasia were performed. It included the determination of the biome and climatic zones occupied, the potential wind exposures, the classification of the karst regions where they lived, the direction of the entrance of caves inhabited and the average daily total solar irradiation values. In addition, the climatic suitability of the Mediterranean mosquito fauna, tick-borne encephalitis and four large mammal species as potential mammal hosts were also studied. It was found that Western Eurasian hominins occupied a wide ecological niche range from the semi-arid to the subarctic climates. Between the MIS20-MIS4 interval, the biomes occupied by Neanderthals and their ancestors shifted from the woodland-shrubland to the boreal biomes, indicating the increasing general biocultural adaptation to the more continental environments. (...)


Fossil footprints at the late Lower Paleolithic site of Schöningen (Germany): A new line of research to reconstruct animal and hominin paleoecology, di F. Altamura et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 310, 15 June 2023, 108094 - open access -

The ca. 300 ka Paleolithic sites of Schöningen in northern Germany yielded a number of localities with archeological and paleontological remains representing a rich paleoenvironmental record of the late Middle Pleistocene in northern Europe. An important line of research focused on the ichnology of two localities: Schöningen 13 I-Fs2 and Schöningen 13 II-2 Untere Berme. Here we present the first detailed study of these fossil footprints, which provides insights on Schöningen's paleoenvironment and a snapshot of the mammals once living in the area. Herds of elephants and other species of herbivores congregated along the muddy shores of a paleolake during birch, pine and grass-rich woodland phases. (...)


On the Quina side: A Neanderthal bone industry at Chez-Pinaud site, France, di M. Baumann et alii, 14 June 2023, doi: - open access -

Did Neanderthal produce a bone industry? The recent discovery of a large bone tool assemblage at the Neanderthal site of Chagyrskaya (Altai, Siberia, Russia) and the increasing discoveries of isolated finds of bone tools in various Mousterian sites across Eurasia stimulate the debate. Assuming that the isolate finds may be the tip of the iceberg and that the Siberian occurrence did not result from a local adaptation of easternmost Neanderthals, we looked for evidence of a similar industry in the Western side of their spread area. We assessed the bone tool potential of the Quina bone-bed level currently under excavation at chez Pinaud site (Jonzac, Charente-Maritime, France) and found as many bone tools as flint ones: not only the well-known retouchers but also beveled tools, retouched artifacts and a smooth-ended rib. Their diversity opens a window on a range of activities not expected in a butchering site and not documented by the flint tools, all involved in the carcass processing. The re-use of 20% of the bone blanks, which are mainly from large ungulates among faunal remains largely dominated by reindeer, raises the question of blank procurement and management. From the Altai to the Atlantic shore, through a multitude of sites where only a few objects have been reported so far, evidence of a Neanderthal bone industry is emerging which provides new insights on Middle Paleolithic subsistence strategies. (...)


The evolution of early hominin food production and sharing, di I. Alger, S. Dridi, J. Stieglitz, M. L. Wilson, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 13 June 2023, 120 (25), e2218096120 - open access -

Human foragers share food extensively. Influential scenarios for the evolution of hominin food sharing focus on hunting, scavenging, cooking, or grandparental subsidies. However, evidence that the diets of early hominins such as Australopithecus included nutrient-dense extracted foods, long before reliance on meat, fire, or increased lifespan, suggests the possibility that early hominins shared extracted foods. Here, we present a conceptual and mathematical model of the evolution of food production and sharing in early hominins, across diverse mating systems. Male mate guarding protects females from food theft, promoting extractive foraging by females. This increased foraging efficiency motivates females to share food with males when pair-bonds exist. Female provisioning of males may have catalyzed the evolution of uniquely hominin traits. (...)


Ancient human DNA recovered from a Palaeolithic pendant, di E. Essel et alii, "Nature", Volume 618 Issue 7964, 8 June 2023, pp. 328–332 - open access -

Artefacts made from stones, bones and teeth are fundamental to our understanding of human subsistence strategies, behaviour and culture in the Pleistocene. Although these resources are plentiful, it is impossible to associate artefacts to specific human individuals1 who can be morphologically or genetically characterized, unless they are found within burials, which are rare in this time period. Thus, our ability to discern the societal roles of Pleistocene individuals based on their biological sex or genetic ancestry is limited2,3,4,5. Here we report the development of a non-destructive method for the gradual release of DNA trapped in ancient bone and tooth artefacts. Application of the method to an Upper Palaeolithic deer tooth pendant from Denisova Cave, Russia, resulted in the recovery of ancient human and deer mitochondrial genomes, which allowed us to estimate the age of the pendant at approximately 19,000–25,000 years. Nuclear DNA analysis identifies the presumed maker or wearer of the pendant as a female individual with strong genetic affinities to a group of Ancient North Eurasian individuals who lived around the same time but were previously found only further east in Siberia. Our work redefines how cultural and genetic records can be linked in prehistoric archaeology. (...)


Human scalp hair as a thermoregulatory adaptation, di  T. Lasisi et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 6 June 2023, 120 (24), e2301760120 - open access -

The evolution of human scalp hair might be explained by thermoregulation pressures experienced in hot and arid environments. Bipedal posture and a hairless body may have necessitated the development of scalp hair to minimize heat gain from solar radiation, particularly in hominins with large brains. We used a thermal manikin and human-hair wigs to examine this thermoregulatory hypothesis. We confirm that scalp hair reduces heat gain from solar radiation and find an effect of hair morphology. Our results show that tightly curled hair provides the most effective protection for the scalp against solar radiation, while minimizing the need for sweat to offset heat gain. (...)


PaleoAnthropology, Volume 2023, Issue 1, 19-05-2023:

- Ahead of the Times: Blade and Bladelet Production Associated with Neandertal Remains at the Bau de l’Aubesier (Mediterranean France) Between MIS 7 and MIS 5d, di L. Carmignani, M. Soressi

- Marathousa 2: A New Middle Pleistocene Locality in the Megalopolis Basin (Greece) With Evidence of Hominin Exploitation of Megafauna (Hippopotamus), di G. Konidaris et alii

- The Wadi Madamagh (Petra Region, Jordan) Late Upper Paleolithic and Initial/Early Epipaleolithic Lithic Components, di D. I. Olszewski, M. al-Nahar, D. Schyle, B. F. Byrd, H. Parow-Souchon

- A Third Neanderthal Individual from La Ferrassie Dated to the End of the Middle Palaeolithic, di Guillaume Guérin et alii


From legacy data to survey planning? The relationship between landscape and waterscape in Southern Tuscany during the Upper Palaeolithic: towards a predicitive-postdictive approach, di G. Pizziolo, "Archeologia e Calcolatori", 34.1, 2023, pp. 237-246 - open access -

During the Upper Palaeolithic, Southern Tuscany was strongly affected by geomorphological changes that significantly altered its coastal seaboard. In particular, during the Last Glacial Maximum, the sea reached a level below 100 meters. As a result of this, the prehistoric coastland included also the present Tuscan Archipelago, in particular the Islands of Elba and Pianosa, assuming a different layout during MIS3 and MIS2. In this context, the process of prehistoric occupation took place, according to different needs and criteria. The present work explores the possibility of investigating the dynamic relationship between the prehistoric landscape and waterscape by a predictive-postdictive approach. Alongside the simulation of coastal changes, the study makes use of legacy data, taking into account those derived from artefact surface scatters collected over the past decades by various research groups. The latter provide further evidence of the prehistoric occupation process. In this scenario it is crucial to highlight areas that potentially still retain some relict features of the Palaeolithic landscape. These are examined in order to better understand settlement strategies taking place during the Upper Palaeolithic and, at the same time, to investigate the relationship between inland and coastal sites in a diachronic perspective. Although still ongoing, preliminary results provide new elements for the planning of future field surveys. (...)


Revisiting the Acheulean at Namib IV in the Namib Desert, Namibia, di G. M. Leader et alii, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 48, Issue 5 (2023), Pages: 380-394

Namib IV (S23° 44.829’, E14° 19.720’) is frequently cited, as it is one of few Earlier Stone Age sites in the Sand Sea of the Namib Desert. The site was first investigated in 1978 by Myra Shackley, who described 582 artifacts on the surface of a pan as representing an Acheulean butchery site. Descriptions of the artifacts, their number, and area were inconsistently reported. Recently rediscovered, the site of Namib IV is a rare example of a tool-rich and fossil fauna-bearing pan system in the Namib Sand Sea. (...)


Cultural changes and adaptations to climatic and environmental changes of the last Neanderthals in southern France, di T. Fourcade, "Quaternaire", Volume 34, Numéro 2, 2023, pp. 139-142 - open access -

The role of climate change as a driver of biological and cultural human evolution is a recurrent topic in the scientific literature. In order to know whether a climatic or environmental change may have produced a cultural change, it is firstly necessary to test whether both are synchronous. Previous studies focussing on this question show the difficulty of comparing archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records from a chronological point of view, and this for three reasons: 1) the different temporal resolution of environmental and archaeological records, 2) the inherent uncertainties in dating methods, and 3) the definitions of the cultures used in these studies are often questioned. (...)


Des passages discrets mais récurrents de néandertaliens à waziers le bas‑terroir : un nouveau gisement archéologique du tardiglaciaire du SIM 6 a l’optimum eemien (SIM 5e) dans le nord de la France, di D. Hérisson, P. Auguste, L. Deschodt, J. L. Locht, N. Sévêque, L. Vallin, B. Masson, "Quaternaire", Volume 34, Numéro 1, 2023, p. 9‑22 - open access -

Une séquence attribuable à l’Eemien a été révélée par une série de diagnostics préventifs lors de l’aménagement sur la commune de Waziers d’une Z.A.C. dite du « Bas-Terroir » de 2011 à 2013. Suite à cette découverte, un programme de recherche programmé a été mis sur pied permettant d’explorer la séquence et les dépôts eemiens de la zone. Ce sont les résultats des années de 2013 à 2015 de recherches sur le terrain – et principalement ceux obtenus suite aux fouilles programmées de 2014 et 2015 – qui sont restitués dans le présent article. Quatre niveaux archéologiques sont documentés pour la première fois à Waziers attestant de passages discrets mais récurrents de Néandertaliens depuis le Tardiglaciaire du SIM 6 (c. 140 ka) à l’optimum eemien (SIM 5e, c. 130 ka). L’outillage mis au jour est produit à partir de deux concepts de débitage (Levallois et discoïde). Les vestiges fauniques de vertébrés, essentiellement les mammifères, sont dans un état exceptionnel de conservation, tout comme les bois végétaux constituant une bioconstruction, identifiable comme un barrage ou une hutte de castor. (...)


An archaeostratigraphic consideration of the Gran Dolina TD10.2 cultural sequence from a quantitative approach, di A. Arteaga-Brieba et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 309, 1 June 2023, 108033 - open access -

Understanding the temporal resolution of archaeological deposits is a critical issue for drawing behavioural inferences. In the case of TD10.2 (Gran Dolina, Sierra de Atapuerca), this factor becomes essential in defining the mass communal bison hunting level and the different butchering events that took place at the sub-unit, which is characterised as a kill-butchering site. Traditionally, the dissection of events within an assemblage is performed by visual archaeostratigraphic techniques. This method, however, can be challenging in high-density sites without marked sterile gaps between levels. In this study, we present a combination of archaeostratigraphic techniques, supervised machine learning, and lithic refits applied to TD10.2. (...)


Aggiornamento 09/06/2023


Pleistocene freshwater ostracods from the Homo erectus site at Bilzingsleben, Germany—Review of historic collection and unpublished manuscript material for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, di T. Daniel, P. Frenzel, "Geoarchaeology", Volume 38, Issue 4, July/August 2023, Pages 445-465 - open access -

We provide a review of micropalaeontological research on Ostracoda from the Middle Pleistocene (MIS 11, Holstein interglacial) hominin site Bilzingsleben in Thuringia in Central Germany from 1963 to the 1990s. Samples from four sections inside and six search pits outside the excavation area were investigated and, in total, 49 ostracod species were identified. The ostracod assemblages of the sections mirror the complex and small-scale palaeoenvironmental evolution of the site from a seeping-spring to fluviatile, lacustrine and finally seeping-spring habitat in which a massive tufa layer formed and prevented erosion of the sediments beneath. Pleistocene index fossils are represented by Ilyocypris quinculminata from search pit 3/sample 9933 and Scottia browniana from section 70. Both species indicate the age dating of MIS 11 for the tufa deposit. (...)


Improved discrimination of biogenic and diagenetic elements in Palaeolithic mammoth ivory and bone from Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of Southwestern Germany, di L. Tranchant, K. Müller, Q. Lemasson, L. Pichon, S. Schöder, N. J. Conard, I. Reiche, "Quaternary International", Volume 660, 30 June 2023, Pages 4-12 - open access -

Mammoth ivory was used by humans to manufacture personal ornaments, sculptures or music instruments during the Upper Palaeolithic. These objects are among the first and most precious witnesses of ancient artistic behaviour. Archaeological ivory, however, has been subjected to complex alteration processes due to exchange with its burial environment over time. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the diagenetic phenomena in order to develop adequate conservation measures for ivory artefacts. The element-analytical study of ivory artefacts can shed light on these processes and can help to track the origin of these objects. (...)


This Small-Brained Human Species May Have Buried Its Dead, Controlled Fire and Made Art, di K. Wong, 5 June 2023 - open access -

In the millions of years over which humans have been evolving, brain size has tripled, and behavior has become exponentially more elaborate. Early, small-brained hominins (members of the human family) made only simple stone tools. Later, brainier ancestors invented more sophisticated implements and developed more advanced subsistence strategies. As for behavioral complexity in our own eggheaded species, Homo sapiens, well, we went all out—developing technology that carried us to every corner of the planet, ceremonially burying our dead, forming extensive social networks and creating art, music and language rich in shared meaning. Scientists have long assumed that increasing brain size drove these technological and cognitive advances. Now startling new discoveries at a fossil site in South Africa are challenging this bedrock tenet of human evolution. (...)

· Homo naledi est-il premier partout? sépulture, gravure, utilisation de lampes, c’est lui?, "Hominides", 6 juin 2023


The endocast from Dana Aoule North (DAN5/P1): A 1.5 million year-old human braincase from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia, di E. Bruner, R. Holloway, K. L. Baab, M. J. Rogers, S. Semaw, "American Journal of Biological Anthropology", Volume181, Issue 2, June 2023, Pages 206-215

The nearly complete cranium DAN5/P1 was found at Gona (Afar, Ethiopia), dated to 1.5–1.6 Ma, and assigned to the species Homo erectus. Its size is, nonetheless, particularly small for the known range of variation of this taxon, and the cranial capacity has been estimated as 598 cc. In this study, we analyzed a reconstruction of its endocranial cast, to investigate its paleoneurological features. The main anatomical traits of the endocast were described, and its morphology was compared with other fossil and modern human samples. The endocast shows most of the traits associated with less encephalized human taxa, like narrow frontal lobes and a simple meningeal vascular network with posterior parietal branches. (...)


Assessing the subsistence strategies of the earliest North African inhabitants: evidence from the Early Pleistocene site of Ain Boucherit (Algeria), di I. Cáceres, R. Chelli Cheheb, J. van der Made, Z. Harichane, K. Boulaghraief, M. Sahnouni, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences ", Volume 15, issue 6, June 2023 - open access -

The archaeological data on the earliest hominin behavioral subsistence activities in North Africa are derived primarily from the Early Pleistocene site of Ain Boucherit (northeastern Algeria). Ain Boucherit consists of two archaeological layers, Ain Boucherit Upper (AB-Up) and Ain Boucherit Lower (AB-Lw), estimated to ~ 1.9 Ma and ~ 2.4 Ma, respectively. Cutmarked and hammerstone percussed bones associated with Oldowan stone tools were found in both layers, with AB-Lw yielding the oldest in North Africa. The faunal assemblages from both deposits are dominated by small-sized bovids and equids. Evidence of cutmarks and percussion marks in both assemblages shows that hominins exploited animal carcasses, involving skinning, evisceration and defleshing activities. (...)


A multi-technique approach to characterization: the Sant Martí de Tous chert as a prehistoric resource for the NE of the Iberian Peninsula, di B. Gómez de Soler et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences ", Volume 15, issue 6, June 2023 - open access -

The Sant Genís Formation is located in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula (Catalonia, Spain) and is dated to the Priabonian (upper Eocene), being part of the evaporitic formations of the margin of the Ebro Basin. It is formed by a succession of sandy lutites, occasional limestone layers, marls, and local stratified gypsum and cherts, including the Sant Martí de Tous chert. The Sant Martí de Tous chert type is confirmed by its abundance at specific locations within the territory (NE Iberian Peninsula). This is an important raw material procurement area, as evidenced by the presence of this chert in the main prehistoric sites of the region (e.g., Abric Romaní) and the constant discovery of new sites in the area around the Sant Genís Formation, especially from the Neolithic period onwards (e.g., Cal Sitjo, La Guinardera Nord workshop). (...)


Production method of the Königsaue birch tar documents cumulative culture in Neanderthals, di P. Schmidt, T. J. Koch, M. A. Blessing, F. A. Karakostis, K. Harvati, V. Dresely, A. Charrié-Duhaut, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences ", Volume 15, issue 6, June 2023 - open access -

Birch tar is the oldest synthetic substance made by early humans. The earliest such artefacts are associated with Neanderthals. According to traditional interpretations, their study allows understanding Neanderthal tool behaviours, skills and cultural evolution. However, recent work has found that birch tar can also be produced with simple processes, or even result from fortuitous accidents. Even though these findings suggest that birch tar per se is not a proxy for cognition, they do not shed light on the process by which Neanderthals produced it, and, therefore, cannot evaluate the implications of that behaviour. Here, we address the question of how tar was made by Neanderthals. (...)


Red Balloon rock shelter Middle Stone Age ochre assemblage and population’s adaption to local resources in the Waterberg (Limpopo, South Africa), di G. Mauran, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences ", Volume 15, issue 6, June 2023 - open access -

Ochre has been found at many Middle Stone Age sites throughout southern Africa. Much work has been done to document these iron-rich raw materials, their modifications and their implications for past communities’ behaviours, skills and cognition. However, until recently few works focused on the Middle Stone Age Waterberg ochre assemblages. The paper presents the ochre assemblage recovered at Red Balloon rock shelter, a new Middle Stone Age site on the Waterberg Plateau. The site preserves Middle Stone Age occupations dated around 95,000 years ago. Scanning electron microscopy observations, portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and infrared spectroscopy characterization document the presence of four ochre types. The MSA ochre assemblage recovered is mainly composed of specularite and specular hematite similar to the ones of Olieboomspoort and North Brabant. (...)


The crystalline quartz-rich raw material from Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania): why is it called quartzite when it should be called quartz? di A. Tarriño, B. Ábalos, P. Puelles, L. Eguiluz, F. Díez-Martín, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences ", Volume 15, issue 6, June 2023 - open access -

The major raw material documented in the archeological sites of Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) is a geological material with crystalline appearance, white or colorless, foliated or seemingly massive only at the outcrop scale, with a very high quartz-rich composition, and apparently of metamorphic origin, named by us in this paper: Crystalline Quartz-rich Raw Material (CQRM). Since the early days of research in Olduvai Gorge, a long-lasting terminological imprecision has allowed defining this material in a confused way as quartz or quartzite. Stubbornness in terminological imprecision reflects the complexity and specificity of CQRM related to a protracted and complex geological history composed by quartz-bearing metamorphic rocks of varied types and origins from recycling and/or tectonic reworking of much older Precambrian orogens and cratons. (...)


Petrographic and geochemical characterization of chert artifacts from Middle, Upper, and Epi-Paleolithic assemblages in the Jebel Qalkha area, southern Jordan, di N. Ichinose et alii, "Archaeometry", Volume 65, Issue 3, June 2023, Pages 530-546

This study conducted petrographic and geochemical analyses of chert artifacts from the Late Middle Paleolithic, the Initial Upper Paleolithic, the Early Upper Paleolithic, and the Epi-Paleolithic assemblages in the Jebel Qalkha area, southern Jordan, to examine their correlations with the visual attributes and diachronic variability. The results revealed two different aspects of the petrographic and geochemical signatures. The first aspect showed some correlations with the visual chert types that were characterized by the abundance/preservation of fossils, the enrichment of several elements (i.e., Ca, Sr, and Ba), and the quartz crystallite size. (...)


"Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 179, June 2023:

- Knuckle-walking in Sahelanthropus? Locomotor inferences from the ulnae of fossil hominins and other hominoids, di M. R. Meyer et alii

- The Western European Acheulean: Reading variability at a regional scale, di P. García-Medrano, M. H. Moncel, E. Maldonado-Garrido, A. Ollé, N. Ashton

- The revolution that still isn't: The origins of behavioral complexity in Homo sapiens, di E. M. L. Scerri, M. Will

- Evolution of vertebral numbers in primates, with a focus on hominoids and the last common ancestor of hominins and panins, di J. K. Spear et alii

- Making meaning from fragmentary fossils: Early Homo in the Early to early Middle Pleistocene, di S. C. Antón, E. R. Middleton


After the emergence of the Acheulean at Melka Kunture (Upper Awash, Ethiopia): From Gombore IB (1.6 Ma) to Gombore Iγ (1.4 Ma), Gombore Iδ (1.3 Ma) and Gombore II OAM Test Pit C (1.2 Ma), di M. Mussi et alii, "Quaternary International", Volume 657, 30 May 2023, Pages 3-25 - open access -

While the emergence of the Acheulean is well documented in East Africa at ~1.7 Ma, subsequent developments are less well understood and to some extent controversial. Here, we provide robust evidence regarding the time period between 1.6 Ma and 1.2 Ma, based on an interdisciplinary approach to the stratigraphic sequences exposed in the Gombore gully of Melka Kunture, in the upper Awash Valley of Ethiopia. Throughout the Pleistocene, the environment differed significantly from elsewhere in Africa because of the elevation at 2000 m asl, the cooler and rainy climate, the Afromontane vegetation, the development of endemic animal species, and the recurrent impact of volcanic activity. At Gombore IB, dated ~1.6 Ma, remains of Homo erectus/ergaster have been discovered, associated with a rich early Acheulean assemblage. (...)


Adaptations and cultures of pleistocene humans in italy, di M. Peresani, "Alpine and Mediterranean Quaternary", 36 (2), 2023, 1-20, 26 may 2023 - open access -

Continental and above all peninsular Italy, preserve abundant biological and cultural fossil record, sometimes geographically and ecologically so peculiar contexts, to stimulate the study of population dynamics, adaptations, cultural transitions that took place during the whole Pleistocene in this country. In such a variegated region, bounded by the Alpine chain and longitudinally split by the Apennines, Italy hosted distinct migration waves attributed to unidentified hominins, and to Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens in a heterogeneous scenario subjected to profound changes during extreme sea-level lowering. The first human colonization occurred around the Early to Middle Pleistocene transition, presumably driven by major faunal renewals which invested Southern Europe. These first attestations are documented in the oldest sites, Pirro Nord and Monte Poggiolo, with lithic industries based on core-and-flake technology. After a gap in the evidence of human settlements between MIS19 and MIS17, the earliest Acheulean makes its appearance in south Italy starting from 661-614 ka. (...)


"PaleoAnthropology", volume 2023, issue 1, 2023-05-19 - open access -

- Ahead of the Times: Blade and Bladelet Production Associated with Neandertal Remains at the Bau de l’Aubesier (Mediterranean France) Between MIS 7 and MIS 5d
, di L. Carmignani, M. Soressi

- Marathousa 2: A New Middle Pleistocene Locality in the Megalopolis Basin (Greece) With Evidence of Hominin Exploitation of Megafauna (Hippopotamus), di  G. Konidaris et alii

- The Wadi Madamagh (Petra Region, Jordan) Late Upper Paleolithic and Initial/Early Epipaleolithic Lithic Components
, di D. I. Olszewski, M. al-Nahar, D. Schyle, B. F. Byrd, H. Parow-Souchon

- A Third Neanderthal Individual from La Ferrassie Dated to the End of the Middle Palaeolithic, di G. Guérin


Reconstructing Middle and Upper Paleolithic human mobility in Portuguese Estremadura through laser ablation strontium isotope analysis, di B. Linscott et alii, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", 16 May 2023, vol. 120, no. 20, e2204501120 - open access -

Understanding mobility and landscape use is important in reconstructing subsistence behavior, range, and group size, and it may contribute to our understanding of phenomena such as the dynamics of biological and cultural interactions between distinct populations of Upper Pleistocene humans. However, studies using traditional strontium isotope analysis are generally limited to identifying locations of childhood residence or nonlocal individuals and lack the sampling resolution to detect movement over short timescales. Here, using an optimized methodology, we present highly spatially resolved 87Sr/86Sr measurements made by laser ablation multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry along the growth axis of the enamel of two marine isotope stage 5b, Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal teeth (Gruta da Oliveira), a Tardiglacial, Late Magdalenian human tooth (Galeria da Cisterna), and associated contemporaneous fauna from the Almonda karst system, Torres Novas, Portugal. (...)


Human adaptation to diverse biomes over the past 3 million years, di E. Zeller, A. Timmermann, K. Sook Yun, P. Raia, K. Stein, J. Rujan, "Science", volume 380, issue 6645, 12 may 2023, pp. 604-608

To investigate the role of vegetation and ecosystem diversity on hominin adaptation and migration, we identify past human habitat preferences over time using a transient 3-million-year earth system-biome model simulation and an extensive hominin fossil and archaeological database. Our analysis shows that early African hominins predominantly lived in open environments such as grassland and dry shrubland. Migrating into Eurasia, hominins adapted to a broader range of biomes over time. (...)


Why is art disappearing? Problems with the preservation of prehistoric rock art on the north shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, di D. S. Fernández-Sánchez, M. L. Gómez-Sánchez, "Quaternary International", Volume 655, 10 May 2023, Pages 69-83 - open access -

The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the areas with the highest concentration of sites with prehistoric graphic expressions in the Iberian Peninsula. The region stands out both by the number of sites, over 400 rock shelters, and by their typological and chronological implications, with paintings dating from at least the early Upper Paleolithic to the latest stages of prehistory. However, recent decades have witnessed the generalized and accelerated deterioration of these paintings, which, in many instances, has led to them disappear altogether. This article analyzes the natural and anthropic factors that, in one way or another, contribute to the degradation of a rock art phenomenon on the verge of extinction. (...)


Resurrecting the alternative splicing landscape of archaic hominins using machine learning, di C. M. Brand, L. L. Colbran, J. A. Capra, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 04 May 2023

Alternative splicing contributes to adaptation and divergence in many species. However, it has not been possible to directly compare splicing between modern and archaic hominins. Here, we unmask the recent evolution of this previously unobservable regulatory mechanism by applying SpliceAI, a machine-learning algorithm that identifies splice-altering variants (SAVs), to high-coverage genomes from three Neanderthals and a Denisovan. We discover 5,950 putative archaic SAVs, of which 2,186 are archaic-specific and 3,607 also occur in modern humans via introgression (244) or shared ancestry (3,520). Archaic-specific SAVs are enriched in genes that contribute to traits potentially relevant to hominin phenotypic divergence, such as the epidermis, respiration and spinal rigidity. (...)


Longstanding behavioural stability in West Africa extends to the Middle Pleistocene at Bargny, coastal Senegal, di K. Niang, J. Blinkhorn, M. D. Bateman, C. A. Kiahtipes, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 04 May 2023 - open access -

Middle Stone Age (MSA) technologies first appear in the archaeological records of northern, eastern and southern Africa during the Middle Pleistocene epoch. The absence of MSA sites from West Africa limits evaluation of shared behaviours across the continent during the late Middle Pleistocene and the diversity of subsequent regionalized trajectories. Here we present evidence for the late Middle Pleistocene MSA occupation of the West African littoral at Bargny, Senegal, dating to 150 thousand years ago. Palaeoecological evidence suggests that Bargny was a hydrological refugium during the MSA occupation, supporting estuarine conditions during Middle Pleistocene arid phases. (...)


Natural products from reconstructed bacterial genomes of the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, di M. Klapper et alii, "Science", 4 May 2023, Vol 380, Issue 6645, pp. 619-624

Major advances over the past decade in the field of ancient DNA are providing access to past paleogenomic diversity, but the diverse functions and biosynthetic capabilities of this growing paleome remain largely elusive. We investigated the dental calculus of 12 Neanderthals and 52 anatomically modern humans ranging from 100,000 years ago to the present and reconstructed 459 bacterial metagenome-assembled genomes. We identified a biosynthetic gene cluster shared by seven Middle and Upper Paleolithic individuals that allows for the heterologous production of a class of previously unknown metabolites that we name “paleofurans.” (...)


Western visitors at the Blätterhöhle (city of Hagen, southern Westphalia) during the Younger Dryas? A new final palaeolithic assemblage type in western Germany, di M. Baales et alii, 3 May 2023, doi: - open access -

Until now, it was considered certain that the last reindeer hunters of the Ahrensburgian (tanged point groups) existed exclusively in northwestern Central Europe during the Younger Dryas Cold Period (~ Greenland Stadial 1). The excavations carried out since 2006 on the forecourt (Vorplatz) of the small Blätterhöhle in Hagen on the northern edge of the Sauerland uplands of southern Westphalia (North Rhine-Westphalia, western Germany) have now changed this view. Beneath a surprisingly extensive sequence of Mesolithic find horizons, Pleistocene sediments could be reached whose excavations yielded a Final Palaeolithic lithic ensemble of the Younger Dryas, unusual for the region and beyond. It is characterised by numerous backed lithic projectile points of high variability. Comparisons suggest a typological-technological connection with the Western European Laborian / Late Laborian. (...)


The three waves: Rethinking the structure of the first Upper Paleolithic in Western Eurasia, di  L. Slimak, 3 May 2023, doi: - open access -

The Neronian is a lithic tradition recognized in the Middle Rhône Valley of Mediterranean France now directly linked to Homo sapiens and securely dated to 54,000 years ago (ka), pushing back the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 10 ka. This incursion of modern humans into Neandertal territory and the relationships evoked between the Neronian and the Levantine Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) question the validity of concepts that define the first H. sapiens migrations and the very nature of the first Upper Paleolithic in western Eurasia. Direct comparative analyses between lithic technology from Grotte Mandrin and East Mediterranean archeological sequences, especially Ksar Akil, suggest that the three key phases of the earliest Levantine Upper Paleolithic have very precise technical and chronological counterparts in Western Europe, recognized from the Rhône Valley to Franco-Cantabria. (...)


Ancient human DNA recovered from a Palaeolithic pendant, di E. Essel et alii, "Nature", 03 May 2023 - open access -

Artefacts made from stones, bones and teeth are fundamental to our understanding of human subsistence strategies, behaviour and culture in the Pleistocene. Although these resources are plentiful, it is impossible to associate artefacts to specific human individuals1 who can be morphologically or genetically characterized, unless they are found within burials, which are rare in this time period. Thus, our ability to discern the societal roles of Pleistocene individuals based on their biological sex or genetic ancestry is limited2,3,4,5. Here we report the development of a non-destructive method for the gradual release of DNA trapped in ancient bone and tooth artefacts. Application of the method to an Upper Palaeolithic deer tooth pendant from Denisova Cave, Russia, resulted in the recovery of ancient human and deer mitochondrial genomes, which allowed us to estimate the age of the pendant at approximately 19,000–25,000 years. (...)


Hominin fossils from Kromdraai and Drimolen inform Paranthropus robustus craniofacial ontogeny, di J. Braga et alii, "Science Advances", volume 9, issue 18, 3 may 2023 - open access -

Ontogeny provides critical information about the evolutionary history of early hominin adult morphology. We describe fossils from the southern African sites of Kromdraai and Drimolen that provide insights into early craniofacial development in the Pleistocene robust australopith Paranthropus robustus. We show that while most distinctive robust craniofacial features appear relatively late in ontogeny, a few do not. We also find unexpected evidence of independence in the growth of the premaxillary and maxillary regions. Differential growth results in a proportionately larger and more postero-inferiorly rotated cerebral fossa in P. robustus infants than in the developmentally older Australopithecus africanus juvenile from Taung. The accumulated evidence from these fossils suggests that the iconic SK 54 juvenile calvaria is more likely early Homo than Paranthropus. It is also consistent with the hypothesis that P. robustus is more closely related to Homo than to A. africanus. (...)


The Neanderthal patellae from Krapina (Croatia): A comparative investigation of their endostructural conformation and distinctive features compared to the extant human condition, di M. Cazenave, D. Radovčić, "American Journal of Biological Anthropology", Volume181, Issue 1, May 2023, Pages 118-129 - open access -

The Neanderthal patella differs from that of extant humans by being thicker anteroposteriorly and by having more symmetric medial and lateral articular facets. However, it is still unclear to what extent these differences affect knee kinesiology. We aim at assessing the endostructural conformation of Neanderthal patellae to reveal functionally related mechanical information comparatively to the extant human condition. In principle, we expect that the Neanderthal patella (i) shows a higher amount of cortical bone and (ii) a trabecular network organization distinct from the extant human condition.
By using micro-focus X-ray tomography, we characterized the endostructure of six adult patellae from the OIS 5e Neanderthal site of Krapina, Croatia, the largest assemblage of human fossil patellae assessed so far, and compared their pattern to the configuration displayed by a sample of 22 recent humans. (...)


From the Jura Arc to the Paris Basin: exploitation of jet as black raw material for making ornamental objects during the Magdalenian in the northwest Europe, di C. Peschaux, B. Ligouis,  "American Journal of Biological Anthropology", Volume 15, issue 5, May 2023

Jet is coalified wood widely used as a black raw material for making ornamental objects at the end of the Magdalenian (16.5–14 ka cal BP). This paper applies a multidisciplinary approach, including organic petrology methods, to the study of ornamental archaeological objects, in order to analyse Magdalenian jet exploitation (acquisition and transformation) and distribution modes in northwestern Europe (Jura Arc and the Paris Basin). The results shed light on the exclusive use of jet for the production of symbolic objects (geometric beads, figurative pendants, and elements of portable art) and show that jet-working techniques were adapted to the specific mechanical properties of the material (percussion and meticulous grooving, scraping, and abrasion techniques). (...)


Searching for intra-site spatial patterns in the African Early Acheulean: the lowermost archaeo-units at FLK West (Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania), di F. Diez-Martín et alii, "American Journal of Biological Anthropology", Volume 15, issue 5, May 2023

FLK West (Olduvai Gorge) constitutes one of the most relevant archeological resources for the study of the Acheulean in East Africa. This site presents a number of unique characteristics that make it an exceptional archeological document: a precise chronological framework, a multi-component site with six different archeological units bearing a rich lithic and faunal record, the oldest association of stone tools and processed fauna, and a well-preserved paleoenvironmental context. For these reasons, FLK West constitutes a remarkable opportunity to undertake a micro-spatial analysis at an archaeo-unit level. This work pursues a first approach to the intra-site study of the archeological associations preserved in the densest patches documented in the lowermost levels (L4 to L6) of the FLK West sequence. (...)


Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis are not temporally exceptional relative to Homo erectus, di D. L. Roberts, I. Jarić, S. J. Lycett, D. Flicker, A. Key, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 38, Issue 4, May 2023, Pages 463-470 - open access -

The presence of Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis in southeast Asia 90,000 to 60,000 years ago is considered surprising by many, and has been used to support their designation as unique species and the islands they were discovered on as refugia. Here, we statistically test the null hypothesis that H. floresiensis and H. luzonensis represent temporally uninterrupted occurrences relative to Homo erectus. We do this using the ‘surprise test’ for the exceptionality of a new record. Results demonstrate that H. floresiensis and H. luzonensis are not temporally distinct relative to H. erectus. Their late persistence should, therefore, not be considered surprising, they cannot reliably be inferred to be outside of H. erectus’ temporal range, and – temporally – the islands of Luzon and Flores are not supported as refugia. (...)


Neanderthal subsistence, taphonomy and chronology at Salzgitter-Lebenstedt (Germany): a multifaceted analysis of morphologically unidentifiable bone, di K. Ruebens, G. M. Smith, H. Fewlass, V. Sinet-Mathiot, J. J. Hublin, F. Welker, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 38, Issue 4, May 2023, Pages 471-487 - open access -

Pleistocene faunal assemblages are often highly fragmented, hindering taxonomic identifications and interpretive potentials. In this paper, we apply four different methodologies to morphologically unidentifiable bone fragments from the Neanderthal open-air site of Salzgitter-Lebenstedt (Germany). First, we recorded zooarchaeological attributes for all 1362 unidentifiable bones recovered in 1977. Second, we applied zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS) to 761 fragments, and calculated glutamine deamidation values. Third, we assessed the collagen preservation of 30 fragments by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) and, finally, we pretreated 10 bones with high predicted collagen values for radiocarbon dating. All returned dates at, or beyond, the limit of radiocarbon dating, indicating an age of older than 51 000 years ago. (...)


Early Upper Paleolithic cultural variability in the Southern Levant: New evidence from Nahal Rahaf 2 Rockshelter, Judean Desert, Israel, di M. Shemer et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 178, May 2023, 103342 - open access -

The Levantine Early Upper Paleolithic (ca. 45–30 ka) has been a focus of research because of its unique position as a conduit of human, flora, and fauna species between Africa and Eurasia. Studies have mainly focused on the Early Ahmarian and Levantine Aurignacian, two entities, the former endemic and the latter foreign, which are considered to have coinhabited the region during that period. However, other cultural entities, such as the Atlitian in the Mediterranean region and the Arkov-Divshon in the arid regions of the southern Levant received less attention, and accordingly, suffer from broad definitions and chronological insecurity. These cultures hold potential insights regarding nuanced adaptations, reciprocal influences, and diachronic assimilation processes. (...)


Hominin locomotion and evolution in the Late Miocene to Late Pliocene, di P. A. Stamos, Z. Alemseged, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 178, May 2023, 103332 - open access -

In this review, we present on the evolution of the locomotor adaptation of hominins in the Late Miocene to Late Pliocene, with emphasis on some of the prominent advances and debates that have occurred over the past fifty years. We start with the challenging issue of defining hominin locomotor grades that are currently used liberally and offer our own working definitions of facultative, habitual, and obligate bipedalism. We then discuss the nature of the Pan-Homo last common ancestor and characterize the locomotor adaptation of Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, and Ardipithecus—often referred to as facultative bipeds—and examine the debates on the extent of bipedality and arboreality in these taxa. Moreover, the question of Middle Pliocene hominin locomotor diversity is addressed based on information derived from the ‘Little Foot’ specimen from Sterkfontein, footprints from Laetoli, and the Burtele Foot in Ethiopia. (...)


An overlooked Australopithecus brain endocast from Makapansgat, South Africa, di Z. Cofran, S. Hurst, A. Beaudet, B. Zipfel, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 178, May 2023, 103346 - open access -

Endocasts provide the most direct evidence for brain evolution, and the natural endocast of the Taung specimen was critical for its identification as an early hominin and designation as the holotype of a new genus and species, Australopithecus africanus (Dart, 1925). An important piece of evidence in Dart's assessment was the position of the lunate sulcus (LS), which separates the parietal and occipital lobes of the brain in nonhuman primates (Smith, 1903; Allen et al., 2006). In nonhuman primates, the LS is in a rostral position, reflecting their relatively larger visual cortex compared to humans (Frahm et al., 1984; Holloway, 1992, de Sousa et al., 2010). (...)


Plant foods in the Late Palaeolithic of Southern Italy and Sicily: Integrating carpological and dental calculus evidence, di M. Carra, A. Zupancich, E. Fiorin, L. Sarti, D. Lo Vetro, F. Martini, E. Cristiani, "Quaternary International", Volumes 653–654, 20 April 2023, Pages 53-68 - open access -

Several caves from Southern Italy and Sicily provided invaluable evidence, including several human burials, for reconstructing human adaptations and subsistence in the area during the Upper Palaeolithic. A wealth of information is available concerning the exploitation of animal resources as food. However, little is still known about the role of plants in the diet of the ancient hunter-gatherers of the region. By combining the carpological data with vegetal micro-debris entrapped in human dental calculus, we provide new clues about the dietary role of plant foods in the analysed area during the Late Glacial. Our study focused on five key sites from Southern Italy and Sicily: Grotta della Serratura in Campania, Grotta del Romito in Calabria, Grotta del Cavallo in Apulia, Grotta di San Teodoro and Grotta d’Oriente in Sicily. (...)


Archaeological evidence for two culture diverse Neanderthal populations in the North Caucasus and contacts between them, di E. V. Doronicheva, L. V. Golovanova, V. B. Doronichev, R. N. Kurbanov, 13 April 2023,  doi: - open access -

Neanderthals were widespread during the Middle Palaeolithic (MP) across Europe and Asia, including the Caucasus Mountains. Occupying the border between eastern Europe and West Asia, the Caucasus is important region regarding the Neanderthal occupation of Eurasia. On current radiometric estimates, the MP is represented in the Caucasus between about 260–210 ka and about 40 ka. Archaeological record indicates that several culture diverse MP hominin populations inhabited the Caucasus, but the region complex population history during this period remains poorly understood. In this paper, we identify for the first time the archaeological evidence indicating contacts between two culture diverse MP Neanderthal populations in the North Caucasus and discuss the nature of these contacts. Basing on the lithic assemblages that we excavated at Mezmaiskaya cave in the north-western Caucasus (Kuban River basin) and Saradj-Chuko grotto in the north-central Caucasus (Terek River basin), dating from MIS 5 to MIS 3, and comparative data from other MP sites in the Caucasus, we identify two large cultural regions that existed during the late MP in the North Caucasus (...)


A 39,600-year-old leather punch board from Canyars, Gavà, Spain, di L. Doyon, T. Faure, M. Sanz, J. Daura, L. Cassard, F. D'Errico, "Science Advances", volume 9, issue 15, 12 apr 2023 - open access -

Puncture alignments are found on Palaeolithic carvings, pendants, and other fully shaped osseous artifacts. These marks were interpreted as abstract decorations, system of notations, and features present on human and animal depictions. Here, we create an experimental framework for the analysis and interpretation of human-made punctures and apply it to a highly intriguing, punctured bone fragment found at Canyars, an Early Upper Palaeolithic coastal site from Catalonia, Spain. Changes of tool and variation in the arrangement and orientation of punctures are consistent with the interpretation of this object as the earliest-known leather work punch board recording six episodes of hide pricking, one of which was to produce a linear seam. Our results indicate that Aurignacian hunters-gatherers used this technology to produce leather works and probably tailored clothes well before the introduction of bone eyed needles in Europe 15,000 years later. (...)


Exploring the relative influence of raw materials, percussion techniques, and hominin skill levels on the diversity of the early Oldowan assemblages: Insights from the Shungura Formation, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, di A. Delagnes, M. Brenet, B. Gravina, F. Santos, 5 April 2023, doi: - open access -

The eastern African Oldowan has been documented in multiple raw material contexts and physical environments and displays considerable differences in terms of technological complexity. The relative influence of percussion techniques and raw material quality are central to debates concerning hominin skill levels as a potential driver of change during the period between 2.6 and 2 million-years (Ma). The early Oldowan assemblages from the Shugura Formation play a key role in these debates due to a number of distinctive features, including the small size of the artefacts and poorly controlled flaking. Here we mobilize quantified and replicable experimental data in order to (a) assess the significance of the bipolar technique in the Omo archaeological assemblages and (b) discriminate the respective impact of raw materials, technical choices and knapper skill levels on the unique character of these assemblages. By combining descriptive statistics with regression tree models, our analysis demonstrates knapper skill level to be of minimal importance in this context for the production of sharp-edged flakes. (...)


Stone Age Animal Urine Could Solve a Mystery about Technological Development, di E. Cutts, April 2023, volume 328, issue 4 - open access -

High on a sheer cliff in South Africa's Swartberg mountain range last September, University of Utah paleoclimatologist Tyler Faith finally reached something he hoped might solve one of anthropology's stickiest mysteries. His target looked like goo that had oozed from the sandstone cliff and hardened into a foot-thick slab of black amber. Gas mask on, Faith got to work hewing away a 70-pound chunk; dust flung from his chainsaw quickly filled the air with a yellow-gold haze. “It just gets in your pores,” Faith says. “The second you jump in the shower and that stuff finally rehydrates, it's like: Imagine the most stinky alleyway where people have been peeing. It's awesome. But yeah. All my gear now smells like pee.” The substance is fossilized urine from untold generations of marmotlike critters called rock hyraxes—and it acts as an excellent record of the ancient climate. Sticky and viscous like molasses, hyrax urine hardens quickly in air. It traps pollen grains and charcoal, telling scientists when particular plants grew and wildfires raged. It also preserves chemical isotopes indicating precipitation and temperature. And the neat layers of the urine mounds or “middens,” which form where the animals habitually relieve themselves, can be precisely radiocarbon-dated. (...)


Neanderthal teeth from Lezetxiki (Arrasate, Iberian Peninsula): New insights and reassessment, di D. López-Onaindia, M. Lozano, A. Gómez-Robles, A. Arrizabalaga, M. E. Subirà, "American Journal of Biological Anthropology", Volume 180, Issue 4, April 2023, Pages 745-760 - open access -

We reassess the taxonomic assignment and stratigraphic context of a permanent upper first molar and a permanent lower third premolar recovered from the archeological site of Lezetxiki in the North of the Iberian Peninsula.
We assessed the external and internal morphology of the teeth using qualitative descriptions, crown diameters, dental tissue proportions, and geometric morphometrics. The teeth from Lezetxiki were compared with Middle Pleistocene specimens, Neanderthals, Upper Paleolithic modern humans, and recent modern humans.
Both teeth were consistent with a Neanderthal classification. The upper first molar shows taurodontism, and its cusp proportions and overall morphology match those of Neanderthals. Geometric morphometric analyses of occlusal anatomy classify this molar as a Neanderthal with a posterior probability of 76%. The lower third premolar, which was originally classified as a lower fourth premolar, also shows a Neanderthal morphology. This premolar is classified as a Neanderthal with a posterior probability of 60%. (...)


Structuring domestic space in the Lower Magdalenian: an analysis of the fauna from Level 115 of El Mirón Cave, Cantabria, di E. Lena Jones, L. Guy Straus, A. B. Marín-Arroyo, M. R. González Morales, "Antiquity", Volume 97, Issue 392, April 2023 - open access -

Documenting the intentional structuring of space by hunter-gatherers can be challenging, especially in complex cave contexts. One approach is the spatial analysis of discard patterns. Here, the authors consider the spatial distribution of faunal remains from the Lower Magdalenian Level 115 in El Mirón Cave, Cantabria, to assess a possible structuring function for an unusual alignment of rocks. Although it is impossible to determine whether the alignment was intentionally constructed, differences in the distributions of taxa and in specimen sizes on different sides of this feature suggest that it played a role in structuring the living space of the cave's inhabitants. (...)


Antarctica as a ‘natural laboratory’ for the critical assessment of the archaeological validity of early stone tool sites, di M. I. Eren, M. R. Bebber, B. Buchanan, A. Grunow, A. Key, S. J. Lycett, E. Maletic, T. R. Riley, "Antiquity", Volume 97, Issue 392, April 2023 - open access -

Lithic technologies dominate understanding of early humans, yet natural processes can fracture rock in ways that resemble artefacts made by Homo sapiens and other primates. Differentiating between fractures made by natural processes and primates is important for assessing the validity of early and controversial archaeological sites. Rather than depend on expert authority or intuition, the authors propose a null model of conchoidally fractured Antarctic rocks. As no primates have ever occupied the continent, Antarctica offers a laboratory for generating samples that could only have been naturally fractured. Examples that resemble artefacts produced by primates illustrate the potential of ‘archaeological’ research in Antarctica for the evaluation of hominin sites worldwide. (...)


Identifying activity areas in a neanderthal hunting camp (the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter, Spain) via spatial analysis, di A. Moclán et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 4, April 2023 - open access -

Spatial analysis has been much used to examine the distribution of archaeological remains at Pleistocene sites. However, little is known about the distribution patterns at sites identified as hunting camps, i.e., places occupied over multiple short periods for the capture of animals later transported to a base camp. The present work examines a Neanderthal hunting camp (the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter in Pinilla del Valle, Madrid, Spain) to determine whether different activities were undertaken in different areas of the site. A spatial pattern was detected with a main cluster of materials (lithic tools, faunal remains, and coprolites) clearly related to the presence of nearby hearths—the backbone of the utilised space. This main cluster appears to have been related to collaborative and repetitive activities undertaken by the hunting parties that used the site. Spatial analysis also detected a small, isolated area perhaps related to carcasses processing at some point in time and another slightly altered by water. (...)


"Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 177, April 2023:

- Paleoecological evidence for environmental specialization in Paranthropus boisei compared to early Homo, di K. O'Brien, N. Hebdon, J. T. Faith

- A cranial injury from the earliest Gravettian at the Cro-Magnon rock shelter (Vézère Valley, Dordogne, southwest France), di C. J. Knüsel, A. Thibeault, S. Villotte

- World variation in three-rooted lower second molars and implications for the hominin fossil record, di G. R. Scott et alii

- Ecospaces of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition: The archaeofaunal record of the Iberian Peninsula, di E. Lena Jones, M. Carvalho

- Early evidence for bear exploitation during MIS 9 from the site of Schöningen 12 (Germany), di I. Verheijen, B. M. Starkovich, J. Serangeli, T. van Kolfschoten, N. J. Conard


Common orthopaedic trauma may explain 31,000-year-old remains, di N. J. Murphy, J. S. Davis, S. M. Tarrant, Z. J. Balogh, "Nature", volume 615, issue 7952, 16 March 2023 - open access -

The fascinating discovery of skeletal remains in Borneo of an individual (TB1) with absent left distal tibia, fibula and foot from 31,000 years ago1 has been proposed as evidence of a contemporaneous sophisticated amputation procedure. Maloney et al.1 infer from the bony abnormalities that surgical amputation is the only possible explanation and, furthermore, that the limb shows no evidence of infection. We dispute the conclusion that these skeletal remains provide evidence of a transosseous surgical amputation and that the limb shows no signs of infection. We propose that the skeletal findings have more plausible alternative explanations, such as the natural history of an injury pattern commonly encountered in blunt orthopaedic trauma, an open distal tibia/fibula fracture with growth-plate involvement. (...)


The archaeological potential of the northern Luangwa Valley, Zambia: The Luwumbu basin, di  A. Burke, M. Bisson, F. Schilt, S. Tolan, J. Museba, M. S. M. Drapeau, J. C. Aleman, M. C. Peros, 14 March 2023, doi: - open access -

The Luangwa Basin, Zambia, which forms part of the Zambezi drainage, is strategically located between the Central African plateau and the East African Rift system. The Luangwa River and major tributaries, such as the Luwumbu River, are perennial water sources supporting essential resources that sustain human communities and a rich and diverse fauna and flora. The archaeological record of Luangwa is relatively unknown, despite early archaeological exploration hinting at its potential. Recent research in the southern Luangwa valley, however, suggests that it preserves a long record of hominin occupation spanning the Early to Late Stone Age. The research described here details fieldwork carried out in northeastern Luangwa, in the Luwumbu Basin, that confirms that a relatively deep package of Quaternary deposits, containing evidence of the Stone Age occupation of the region persists in the upper piedmont zone. (...)


The dentition of the Early Upper Paleolithic hominins from Ksâr ‘Akil, Lebanon, di S. E. Bailey, C. A. Tryon, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 176, March 2023, 103323

There are scant human remains associated with Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) industries. The rock shelter at Ksâr ‘Akil, Lebanon, is one of the few circum-Mediterranean archaeological sites with EUP artifacts and associated fossils attributed to Homo sapiens. The skull and post-crania of the juvenile ‘Egbert’ (Ksâr ‘Akil 1) from the EUP levels (conservatively dated from ∼43 to 39 ka) have been lost; the partial edentulous maxilla of ‘Ethelruda’ (Ksâr ‘Akil 2) from the Initial Upper Paleolithic levels has only recently been rediscovered, leaving an isolated deciduous molar (Ksâr ‘Akil 3) from Levantine Aurignacian strata. (...)


Aggiornamento 04/03/2023

  Problems with Paranthropus, di M. Sponheimer, D. J. Daegling, P. S. Ungar, R. Bobe, O. C. C. Paine, "Quaternary International", Volume 650, 20 March 2023, Pages 40-51 - open access -

Carbon isotopic analysis has been challenging our ideas about hominin diet for nearly 30 years. The first study in 1994 revealed that Paranthropus robustus from South Africa consumed principally C3 foods (e.g., tree fruits and leaves) but also about 25% C4/CAM resources (e.g., tropical grasses and sedges). This result was largely consistent with morphological and dental microwear evidence suggesting P. robustus had a diet which included hard objects like nuts and seeds. Decades later, however, P. boisei from eastern Africa was shown to have eaten nearly 80% C4/CAM plants like the contemporaneous grass-eating primate Theropithecus. Moreover, dental microwear revealed no evidence of hard object consumption in P. boisei, suggesting a diet of tough foods such as grass or sedge leaf and stem. (...)


Dental tissue proportions and linear dimensions of Sima de los Huesos lower incisors, di A. L. Lockey et alii, Volume 180, Issue 3, March 2023, Pages 472-487

To assess the phenotypic affinities of the Sima de los Huesos (SH) mandibular incisors dental tissue proportions, and radicular dimensions, relative to Neandertals, recent modern humans (RMH), and a large comparative sample of Pleistocene hominins. (...)


Unusual pubic bone morphology in A.L. 288-1 (Australopithecus afarensis) and MH2 (Australopithecus sediba), di J. Eyre, J. M. DeSilva, S. Semaw, S. A. Williams, Volume 180, Issue 3, March 2023, Pages 573-582

We describe a novel pelvic feature, the “ventral sulcus,” located on the pubic bone ventrolateral to the pubic symphysis, which is present in A.L. 288-1 (Australopithecus afarensis) and MH2 (Australopithecus sediba). We determine how widespread the appearance of the ventral sulcus is in fossil hominins, modern humans, and other extant hominoids. (...)

  Using GIS and Geostatistical Techniques to Identify Neanderthal Campsites at archaeolevel Ob at Abric Romaní, di M. J. Gabucio, A. Bargalló, P. Saladié, F. Romagnoli, M. G. Chacón, J. Vallverdú, M. Vaquero, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 3, March 2023 - open access -

Although intra-site spatial approaches are considered a key factor when interpreting archaeological assemblages, these are often based on descriptive, qualitative, and subjective observations. Currently, within the framework of research into spatial taphonomy and palimpsest dissection, several studies have begun to employ more quantitative and objective techniques, implementing tools such as geostatistics and geographic information system (GIS) methods. This is precisely the approach that the Abric Romaní team is following. In this work, we present GIS and geostatistics methods applied to the faunal and lithic assemblages from archaeolevel Ob, including an analysis of the spatial structure, the identification of clusters and sectors, size and fabric analyses, the projection of vertical profiles, and the reconstruction of a digital elevation model of the paleosurface. The results obtained indicate a clustered distribution, primarily concentrated into four dense accumulations. (...)

  Dietary traits of the ungulates from the Middle Pleistocene sequence of Lazaret Cave: palaeoecological and archaeological implications, di F. Rivals, J. Cohen, E. Desclaux, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 3, March 2023 - open access -

Dietary traits in ungulates from Lazaret Cave were analysed for possible changes in ecological niches throughout the marine isotopic stage (MIS) 6 sequence of the site and to investigate the duration of the occupations corresponding to the accumulation of ungulate remains by human groups. The analysis revealed changes in dietary diversity throughout the sequence related to the climatic and environmental changes of the MIS 6. These changes affected the availability of vegetal resources, competition among species, and the distribution and movement of the ungulates in the territory. Human groups were also affected by these changes, as the archaeological record of Lazaret Cave in the duration of occupations at the different levels shows. (...)

  Oral Storytelling and Knowledge Transmission in Upper Paleolithic Children and Adolescents, di A. Nowell, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 30, issue 1, March 2023

The ways in which children learn in foraging societies differ from the classroom-based style of learning and teaching typical of industrialized societies in the West. This difference, however, has often been mischaracterized by anthropologists as an absence or rarity of direct teaching in foraging societies. In this paper, following Scalise Sugiyama (Evolution and Human Behavior 22:221–240, 2001), I argue that oral storytelling is a form of pedagogy in foraging societies that shares all of the key features of direct teaching including the signaling of an intention to share information (...)


Learning by Doing: Investigating Skill Through Techno-Functional Study of Recycled Lithic Items from Qesem Cave (Israel), di E. Assaf, S. Nunziante-Cesaro, A. Gopher, F. Venditti, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 30, issue 1, March 2023

In this study, we discuss learning aspects related to the production of prehistoric stone tools and their use as a holistic process, with a case study from the late Lower Paleolithic Levant—recycled items from the site of Qesem Cave (420–200,000 bp), Israel. Qesem Cave is a central and well-studied Acheuleo-Yabrudian site. Among the set of distinct behaviors documented in this site, the use of small flakes systematically produced from old-discarded flakes (i.e., lithic recycling) stands out. We will present an exploratory techno-functional study of the recycled items from the Amudian context of the southern area of the cave. Previous observations highlighted some unique features characterizing the lithic assemblages of this area, including the possibility that inexperienced knappers in the process of learning had been practicing there. (...)


To Err Is Human: Knapping Expertise and Technological Variability at the Middle Palaeolithic Site of Nesher Ramla, Israel, di L. Centi, F. Valletta, Y. Zaidner, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 30, issue 1, March 2023

One important aspect affecting variability in core reduction technology is the degree of expertise of knappers. In the present paper, we show that, at the Middle Palaeolithic open-air site of Nesher Ramla, the degree of expertise of ancient knappers played a major role in shaping the composition of the lithic assemblage. Using robust markers of knapping skill, such as the frequency and reiteration of decision mistakes in the knapping process, allowed us to establish that a clear relationship exists between the degree of structuring of core technologies and the degree of expertise of the knapper at Nesher Ramla. Simple core technologies (e.g. pebble and multiple surface cores) can be linked to the work of novices, while more structured technologies (e.g. Levallois) are linked to the work of more experienced individuals. (...)


Revealing Evolutionary Patterns Behind Homogeneity: the Case of the Palaeolithic Assemblages from Notarchirico (Southern Italy), di V. Rineau, M. H. Moncel, V. Zeitoun, "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 30, issue 1, March 2023

Notarchirico is at a nodal point in time and space for understanding the settlement of Europe in terms of migration or in situ evolution. Former technological analyses have not shown significant differences between the different lithic assemblages at Notarchirico. Our approach here is to produce a phylogenetic analysis of the lithic assemblages taken as the terminal of the analysis and interpreted as cultural units. In the cladistic framework, characters are hypotheses of relationships between lithic assemblages, and homologies are hypotheses of relationships between lithic objects: cores, flakes, nodules. To effectively grasp informative lithic innovations in the assemblages, we formalise cladistic hypotheses as hierarchical characters in the framework of three-item analysis and propose a new algorithm to remove the high number of repeated terminals among trees inherent to a cladistic analysis of assemblages. (...)


Catching a Glimpse of Mesolithic Settlement Patterns and Site Re-occupation Through Lithic Refitting, Raw Material Characterizations and Absolute Dating, di H. Vandendriessche, E. Van Maldegem, P. Crombé,  "Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory", Volume 30, issue 1, March 2023

Contemporaneity of spatially distinct activity areas at prehistoric sites is often inferred based on lithic refit connections alone. These connections are, in addition, only rarely discussed in detail, nor are they explicitly subjected to any form of critical assessment. In this paper, we present a combined use of Bayesian modeling of 14C-dates, raw material characterizations and lithic refitting to investigate the occurrence of interconnected artefact clusters at the Belgian Mesolithic site of Kerkhove (...)


Bovid Bone Accumulation in Late Middle Palaeolithic Poland, di A. Wiśniewski, J. Wilczyński, B.Przybylski, M. Ciombor, K. Stefaniak, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 48, 2023 - Issue 3

The hunting activities of Neanderthals inhabiting the European Lowlands during the Weichsel glaciation are poorly understood due to the scarcity of faunal remains. This work concerns the puzzling accumulation of mammalian remains at the Middle Palaeolithic site Haller Av. in Wrocław, southwestern Poland. The site yielded lithic artifacts in two levels and numerous bone remains typical for steppe-tundra fauna, dominated by steppe bison (Bison priscus). As the site was transformed by fluvial processes, the question arose whether the accumulation of faunal bones was the result of human activity. To resolve this question, we used a multiproxy approach, including spatial analysis with GIS, as well as taphonomic and paleozoological analyses. (...)


A Techno-Functional Analysis of Acheulean Backed Knives from Wonderboom, South Africa, di M. V. Caruana, M. G. Lotter, M. Lombard, "Journal of Field Archaeology", Volume 48, 2023 - Issue 3

We present the first techno-functional examination of backed knives from the southern African Acheulean. Our results suggest that they were opportunistically produced, although they demonstrate a unique ergonomic design that may have increased their efficiency in subsistence activities. Moreover, the frequency of backed knives at Wonderboom may be associated with possible meat harvesting at a nearby gap (...)

  Paléolithique de l'Europe, "L'Anthropologie", Volume 127, Issue 1, January–March 2023:

- The Technological Multiplicity of the Acheulean of the Southern Iberian Peninsula, di F. J. García-Vadillo et alii

- À propos de l’éclairage à la Grotte du Bison, Arcy-sur-Cure, Yonne, France, di M. Hardy

- Les silex et autres matières premières comme preuves de contacts entre les groupes de chasseurs-cueilleurs pendant le Paléolithique supérieur de la région cantabrique (nord de l’Espagne): synthèse de l’information disponible, di S. Martín-Jarque et alii

- Pigment spectroscopy analyses in Maltravieso cave, Spain, di P. Rosina et alii

- Le Jas d’en Biel 2, nouveau site gravettien du piémont est-méditerranéen des Pyrénées, di H. Baills

- A Botanical Classroom of the Early Upper Paleolithic: The vault fragments of the Grotta di Fumane depict geophytes, di R. Jürgen Koch, L. Grützmacher, N. Friesen

- Re-dating the Early Upper Paleolithic Levels of Le Trou Magrite (Pont-à-Lesse, Belgium), di L. Guy Straus, M. Otte, J. Southon, T. W. Stafford

- Chronostratigraphy and the Palaeoenvironment of the Bistrița Valley. New Interpretations and a Critical Retrospective Evaluation, di M. Cârciumaru et alii

- A new Palaeolithic female figurine from Piatra Neamț, Romania, di E. C. Nițu et alii

- Armes de chasse dans l’Épipaléolithique du Caucase du Nord, di L. Golovanova et alii

- Le Mésolithique. Continuité et développement métaphysique, di D. Delnoÿ

  Palaeogenomics of Upper Palaeolithic to Neolithic European hunter-gatherers, di C. Posth et alii, "Nature", Volume 615 Issue 7950, 2 March 2023 - open access -

Modern humans have populated Europe for more than 45,000 years1,2. Our knowledge of the genetic relatedness and structure of ancient hunter-gatherers is however limited, owing to the scarceness and poor molecular preservation of human remains from that period3. Here we analyse 356 ancient hunter-gatherer genomes, including new genomic data for 116 individuals from 14 countries in western and central Eurasia, spanning between 35,000 and 5,000 years ago. We identify a genetic ancestry profile in individuals associated with Upper Palaeolithic Gravettian assemblages from western Europe that is distinct from contemporaneous groups related to this archaeological culture in central and southern Europe4, but resembles that of preceding individuals associated with the Aurignacian culture. (...)


Were Neanderthals and Homo sapiens ‘good species’? di A. Meneganzin, M. Bernardi, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 303, 1 March 2023, 107975 - open access -

Prior to the advent of whole-genome sequencing in ancient humans, the likelihood that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals admixed has long been debated, mostly on the basis of phenotypic assessments alone. Today, evidence for archaic hominin admixture is being documented in an increasing number of studies, expanding the evidential basis of the debate on whether Homo sapiens and Neanderthals merit separate specific taxonomic status. (...)


Life on the edge or living in the middle? New perspectives on southern Africa's Middle Stone Age, di D. S. G. Thomas, R. Bynoe, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 303, 1 March 2023, 107965 - open access -

Much archaeological research is conducted within the environments, locational and cultural, that archaeologists are familiar and comfortable with. But that which is marginal and difficult today, and that which is central and convenient, may not have been so in the past. To answer new and pressing questions about human evolution, less familiar and less comfortable environments therefore require systematic and prolonged multidisciplinary investigation. With a focus on the extensive Makgadikgadi salt pans of the Middle Kalahari Desert, Botswana, six papers represent the output of systematic investigations and excavations of, predominantly, Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeology. (...)

  A 23,000-year-old southern Iberian individual links human groups that lived in Western Europe before and after the Last Glacial Maximum, di V. Villalba-Mouco et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 01 March 2023 - open access -

Human populations underwent range contractions during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) which had lasting and dramatic effects on their genetic variation. The genetic ancestry of individuals associated with the post-LGM Magdalenian technocomplex has been interpreted as being derived from groups associated with the pre-LGM Aurignacian. However, both these ancestries differ from that of central European individuals associated with the chronologically intermediate Gravettian. Thus, the genomic transition from pre- to post-LGM remains unclear also in western Europe, where we lack genomic data associated with the intermediate Solutrean, which spans the height of the LGM. Here we present genome-wide data from sites in Andalusia in southern Spain, including from a Solutrean-associated individual from Cueva del Malalmuerzo, directly dated to ~23,000 cal yr BP. (...)

  Defining paleoclimatic routes and opportunities for hominin dispersals across Iran, di M. Javad Shoaee et alii, 1 March 2023, doi: - open access -

Fossil and archaeological evidence indicates that hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia occurred throughout the Pleistocene, including the expansion of Homo sapiens populations out of Africa. While there is evidence for hominin occupations in the Pleistocene in Iran, as evidenced by the presence of Lower to Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites, the extent to which humid periods facilitated population expansions into western Asia has remained unclear. To test the role of humid periods on hominin dispersals here we assess Paleolithic site distributions and paleoenvironmental records across Iran. We developed the first spatially comprehensive, high-resolution paleohydrological model for Iran in order to assess water availability and its influence on hominin dispersals. (...)

  Evidence for Earlier Stone Age ‘coastal use’: The site of Dungo IV, Benguela Province, Angola, di I. Mesfin et alii, 24 February 2023, doi: - open access -

The relationship between Earlier Stone Age (ESA) hominins and the southern African coastal environment has been poorly investigated, despite the high concentration of open-air sites in marine and fluvial terraces of the coastal plain from c. 1Ma onward during the Mid-Pleistocene Transition. Southern Africa provides some of the earliest evidence of coastal subsistence strategies since the end of the Middle Pleistocene, during the Middle Stone Age (MSA). These coastal MSA sites showcase the role of coastal environments in the emergence and development of modern human behaviors. Given the high prevalence of coastal ESA sites throughout the region, we seek to question the relationship between hominins and coastal landscapes much earlier in time. In this regard, the +100 m raised beaches of the Benguela Province, Angola, are key areas as they are well-preserved and contain a dense record of prehistoric occupation from the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene, including sites like Dungo, Mormolo, Sombreiro, Macaca and Punta das Vacas. (...)

  Bow-and-arrow, technology of the first modern humans in Europe 54,000 years ago at Mandrin, France, di L. Metz, J. E. Lewis, L. Slimak, Volume 9, Issue 8, 22 Feb 2023 - open access -

Consensus in archaeology has posited that mechanically propelled weapons, such as bow-and-arrow or spear-thrower-and-dart combinations, appeared abruptly in the Eurasian record with the arrival of anatomically and behaviorally modern humans and the Upper Paleolithic (UP) after 45,000 to 42,000 years (ka) ago, while evidence for weapon use during the preceding Middle Paleolithic (MP) in Eurasia remains sparse. The ballistic features of MP points suggest that they were used on hand-cast spears, whereas UP lithic weapons are focused on microlithic technologies commonly interpreted as mechanically propelled projectiles, a crucial innovation distinguishing UP societies from preceding ones. (...)

  Modelling Neanderthals’ dispersal routes from Caucasus towards east, di E. Ghasidian, A. Kafash, M. Kehl, M. Yousefi, S. Heydari-Guran,  23 February 2023, doi: - open access -

The study of the cultural materials associated with the Neanderthal physical remains from the sites in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Siberian Altai and adjacent areas documents two distinct techno-complexes of Micoquian and Mousterian. These findings potentially outline two dispersal routes for the Neanderthals out of Europe. Using data on topography and Palaeoclimate, we generated computer-based least-cost-path modelling for the Neanderthal dispersal routes from Caucasus towards the east. In this regard, two dispersal routes have been identified: A northern route from Greater Caucasus associated with Micoquian techno-complex towards Siberian Altai and a southern route from Lesser Caucasus associated with Mousterian towards Siberian Altai via the Southern Caspian Corridor. Based on archaeological, bio- and physio-geographical data, our model hypothesises that during climatic deterioration phases (e.g. MIS 4) the connection between Greater and Lesser Caucasus was limited. (...)

  Back to the future: The advantage of studying key events in human evolution using a new high resolution radiocarbon method, di S. Talamo, B. Kromer, M. P. Richards, L. Wacker, 15 February 2023, doi: - open access -

Radiocarbon dating is the most widely applied dating method in archaeology, especially in human evolution studies, where it is used to determine the chronology of key events, such as the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in Europe. However, the method does not always provide precise and accurate enough ages to understand the important processes of human evolution. Here we review the newest method developments in radiocarbon dating (‘Radiocarbon 3.0’), which can lead us to much better chronologies and understanding of the major events in recent human evolution. As an example, we apply these new methods to discuss the dating of the important Palaeolithic site of Bacho Kiro (Bulgaria). (...)

  An integrative paleobiological study of woolly mammoths from the Upper Paleolithic site Kostenki 14 (European Russia), di E. A. Petrova, L. L. Voyta, A. A. Bessudnov, A. A. Sinitsyn, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 302, 15 February 2023, 107948 - open access -

This paper presents a thought-out protocol for an integrative analysis of woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) bone accumulation in the upper (I) cultural layer of the famous Upper Paleolithic site Kostenki 14 (Markina gora) using Haynes’ concept of a “demographic health measure,” the advanced concept of the “last glacial body size decrease,” and precise taphonomic analysis. We apply linear regression analysis to further reveal the complex structure of mammoth size variation, complementary to univariate measures of body size used in previous studies: body size variation in woolly mammoths is predominantly accounted for by sexual dimorphism, size differences between smaller “East” and larger “West” mammoth populations, and two types of allometry (ontogenetic and static). (...)

  Archaic hominins maiden voyage in the Mediterranean Sea, di G. Ferentinos, M. Gkion, M. Prevenios, M. Geraga, G. Papatheodorou, "Quaternary International", Volume 646, 10 February 2023, Pages 11-21 - open access -

When archaic hominins started sea-crossings and whether or not seas were barriers to their dispersal, is highly debated. This paper attempts to provide insights into these issues, focusing on the Aegean Sea. The study shows that the Central Aegean Island Chain was insular from the surrounding landmasses over the last 450 ka and contests previously available Aegean Sea palaeo-geography. This, in association with the spatiotemporal patterning of Lower and Middle Paleolithic assemblages in the margin of the Mediterranean Sea, implies that pre-sapiens, as early as 450 ka BP: (a) were sea-crossing the Aegean Sea; (b) were encouraged by the favorable land/seascape configuration to attempt sea-crossings and (c) spread to the Circum-Mediterranean basin sourcing from the Levant, following two converging routes, the one via the Aegean Sea and/or the Bosporus land-bridge and the other via the Gibraltar straits. (...)

  Expanded geographic distribution and dietary strategies of the earliest Oldowan hominins and Paranthropus, di T. W. Plummer et alii, "Science", 9 Feb 2023, Vol 379, Issue 6632, pp. 561-566

The oldest Oldowan tool sites, from around 2.6 million years ago, have previously been confined to Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle. We describe sites at Nyayanga, Kenya, dated to 3.032 to 2.581 million years ago and expand this distribution by over 1300 kilometers. Furthermore, we found two hippopotamid butchery sites associated with mosaic vegetation and a C4 grazer–dominated fauna. Tool flaking proficiency was comparable with that of younger Oldowan assemblages, but pounding activities were more common. Tool use-wear and bone damage indicate plant and animal tissue processing. Paranthropus sp. teeth, the first from southwestern Kenya, possessed carbon isotopic values indicative of a diet rich in C4 foods. (...)

· 2.9-million-year-old butchery site reopens case of who made first stone tools, "EurekAlert!", 9 feb. 2023

· 2.9-million-year-old butchery site reopens case of who made first stone tools, "ScienceDaily", 9 February 2023

· Des hippopotames des outils et des paranthropes, "Hominides", 19 février 2023


Neanderthals lived in groups big enough to eat giant elephants, di A. Curry, "Science news", 1 feb 2023

On the muddy shores of a lake in east-central Germany, Neanderthals gathered some 125,000 years ago to butcher massive elephants. With sharp stone tools, they harvested up to 4 tons of flesh from each animal, according to a new study that is casting these ancient human relatives in a new light. The degree of organization required to carry out the butchery—and the sheer quantity of food it provided—suggests Neanderthals could form much larger social groups than previously thought.
The find comes from a trove of animal bones and stone tools uncovered in the 1980s by coal miners near the town of Neumark-Nord. Beginning in 1985, archaeologists spent a decade observing the mining work, recovering animal bones and stone tools from a sprawling site. Dating to a relatively warm period in Europe known as the Eemian interglacial, 75,000 years before modern humans arrived in Western Europe, the discoveries include the bones and tusks of more than 70 mostly adult male straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus), an extinct species almost twice the size of modern African elephants that stood nearly 4 meters tall at the shoulder. Most had been left in dozens of piles along the ancient lakeshore over the course of about 300 years.
“We wondered, ‘What the hell are 70 elephants doing there?’” says Lutz Kindler, an archaeozoologist at the MONREPOS Archaeological Research Center. (...)

  The Acheulean is a temporally cohesive tradition, di A. Key, "World Archaeology", 01 Feb 2023, doi: - open access -

The Acheulean has long been considered a single, unified tradition. Decades of morphometric and technological evidence supports such an understanding by demonstrating that a single fundamental Bauplan was followed for more than 1.6 million years. What remains unknown is whether sites assigned to the Acheulean represent multiple socially-independent iterations of the same technological solution to shared ecological (functional) and ergonomic demands. Here, using the ‘surprise test’, the temporal cohesion of the Acheulean record is statistically assessed for the first time. (...)

  Hunting and processing of straight-tusked elephants 125.000 years ago: Implications for Neanderthal behavior, di S. Gaudzinski-Windheuser, L. Kindler, K. Macdonald, W. Roebroeks, "Science Advances", volume 9, Issue 5, 1 feb 2023 - open access -

Straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) were the largest terrestrial mammals of the Pleistocene, present in Eurasian landscapes between 800,000 and 100,000 years ago. The occasional co-occurrence of their skeletal remains with stone tools has generated rich speculation about the nature of interactions between these elephants and Pleistocene humans: Did hominins scavenge on elephants that died a natural death or maybe even hunt some individuals? Our archaeozoological study of the largest P. antiquus assemblage known, excavated from 125,000-year-old lake deposits in Germany, shows that hunting of elephants weighing up to 13 metric tons was part of the cultural repertoire of Last Interglacial Neanderthals there, over >2000 years, many dozens of generations. (...)


Revised age and stratigraphy of the classic Homo erectus-bearing succession at Trinil (Java, Indonesia), di S. L. Hilgen et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 301, 1 February 2023, 107908 - open access -

Obtaining accurate age control for fossils found on Java (Indonesia) has been and remains challenging due to geochronologic and stratigraphic uncertainties. In the 1890s, Dubois excavated numerous faunal fossils—including the first remains of Homo erectus—in sediments exposed along the Solo River at Trinil. Since then, various, and often contradictory age estimates have been proposed for the Trinil site and its fossils. However, the age of the fossil-bearing layers and the fossil assemblage remains inconclusive. This study constructs a chronostratigraphic framework for the Trinil site by documenting new stratigraphic sections and test pits, and by applying 40Ar/39Ar, paleomagnetic, and luminescence (pIRIR290) dating methods. Our study identifies two distinct, highly fossiliferous channel fills at the Trinil site. (...)


Reassessing palaeoenvironmental conditions during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in the Cantabrian region (Southwestern Europe), di M. Fernández-García, M. Vidal-Cordasco, J. R. Jones, A. B. Marín-Arroyo, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 301, 1 February 2023, 107928 - open access -

Climatic and environmental changes have been commonly proposed as driving factors behind the decline of Neanderthals in Europe. The Cantabrian region, in northern Iberia, is a key area for understanding the replacement of Neanderthals by Anatomically Modern Humans, where an early disappearance of Neanderthals in relation to other areas of Iberia has been proposed. To evaluate how climate might have influenced human behaviour during Marine Isotope Stage 3, an accurate review of palaeoecological conditions is required. For the first time, an assessment of the regional available terrestrial proxies linked to archaeo-palaeontological sites, including small vertebrate assemblages, pollen sequences, charcoal data and stable isotope studies on macromammals is undertaken in this region. In addition, records from macrofaunal assemblages and glacial records have also been considered. (...)


Making Points: The Middle Stone Age lithic industry of the Makgadikgadi Basin, Botswana, di S. Staurset, S. D. Coulson, S. Mothulatshipi, S. L. Burrough, D. J. Nash, D. S. G. Thomas, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 301, 1 February 2023, 107823 - open access -

Studies of early human occupation of Africa over recent decades have profoundly changed how we understand our early ancestors, their inventiveness and adaptability. The spread of Homo sapiens to new environmental settings, the expansion of diet breadth, the development of more complex technology and the use of personal ornaments have all been recognized at well-documented Middle Stone Age (MSA) cave and shelter sites, particularly along the South African coast. This paper addresses two under-represented aspects of MSA research: open-air sites and the African interior. We present here recent surveys and excavations in Ntwetwe Pan, Botswana, a remote, open landscape, that formerly contained a vast palaeolake. (...)


Post-depositional disturbance and spatial organization at exposed open-air sites: Examples from the Middle Stone Age of the Makgadikgadi Basin, Botswana, di S. Staurset, S. D. Coulson, S. Mothulatshipi, S. L. Burrough, D. J. Nash, D. S. G. Thomas, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 301, 1 February 2023, 107824 - open access -

The influence of natural factors such as bioturbation or sediment movement caused by wind and water is a perennial concern for Stone Age site selection and subsequent interpretation. This paper discusses the spatial artefact distribution of five recently excavated, open-air exposed Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites in Ntwetwe Pan, Botswana. The finds comprise lithic assemblages dominated by MSA points, manufactured in a variety of silcretes. The sites were examined following the assumption that archaeological sites are the product of a combination of natural and cultural factors, occurring both during and after artefacts are deposited. The results indicate that some of these exposed pan floor sites do preserve cultural artefact distribution patterns, and that the level of post-depositional disturbance varies locally. (...)

  Les lampes à graisse au paléolithique, Février 2023

La lampe à graisse ou lampe à huile est une invention humaine qui va permettre aux paléolithiques de maîtriser la lumière, en particulier pour s’enfoncer dans les grottes et les cavités. On dénombre seulement quelques 300 lampes paléolithiques recensées et identifiées. En effet, il existe un grand nombre d’objets dont l’étude ne permet pas de définir notamment s’ls ont été utilisées comme lampes à graisse. « L’invention d’un moyen d’éclairage portatif au Paléolithique a accru cette indépendance vis-à-vis du milieu et a sans doute influencé profondément la vie quotidienne de ces hommes en élargissant les limites de leur environnement» Sophie Archambault de Beaune (...)


Coordination of trunk motion during bipedal walking in the frontal plane: A comparison between Homo sapiens, Macaca fuscata, and an exploratory study on a gibbon, di Y. Kinoshita, R. Goto, Y. Nakano, E. Hirasaki, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 180, Issue 2, February 2023, Pages 316-327

In human walking, the pelvis lists toward the swing side during the support phase while the thorax lists toward the stance side. In contrast, during bipedal walking in chimpanzees, both the pelvis and thorax list toward the stance side during the support phase, making their body mass oscillation larger than that in humans. However, aside from a few reports on chimpanzees and macaques, studies on the relationship between trunk movements and step width during bipedal walking in nonhuman primates are limited. (...)


Crown tissue proportions and enamel thickness distribution in early Pleistocene Homo antecessor maxillary premolars (Atapuerca, Spain), di L. Martín-Francés et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 180, Issue 2, February 2023, Pages 370-385

Both morphometric and proteomic studies have revealed the close relationship of Homo antecessor with Neanderthals and H. sapiens. Considering this relationship, we aim to characterize the Early Pleistocene Atapuerca-Gran Dolina (TD6) maxillary premolars to test if their pattern of enamel thickness is shared with Neanderthals or H. sapiens. (...)


A human lower third molar from the Acheulean site of Cueva del Ángel (Lucena, Córdoba, Spain), di F. J. Bermúdez et alii, "American Journal of Physical Anthropology", Volume 180, Issue 2, February 2023, Pages 386-400

To present a new dental specimen that will provide additional evidence for a better understanding of early European Upper Pleistocene hominin morphological variability. We described the morphology of this human right lower third molar at both the outer enamel surface and the enamel–dentine junction by means of micro-computed tomography. In order to better understand hominin diversity, our morphological and metrical results were compared with those of other hominins obtained from published research. We provide a direct aspartic acid racemization dating of the molar. (...)


Cooking in caves: Palaeolithic carbonised plant food remains from Franchthi and Shanidar, di C. Kabukcu et alii, "Antiquity", Volume 97, Issue 391, February 2023, pp. 12-28 - open access -

Research on Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer diet has focused on the consumption of animals. Evidence for the use of plant foods is comparatively limited but is rapidly expanding. The authors present an analysis of carbonised macro-remains of processed plants from Franchthi Cave in the Aegean Basin and Shanidar Cave in the north-west Zagros Mountains. Microscopic examination of the charred food remains reveals the use of pounded pulses as a common ingredient in cooked plant foods. The results are discussed in the context of the regional archaeobotanical literature, leading the authors to argue that plants with bitter and astringent tastes were key ingredients of Palaeolithic cuisines in South-west Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean. (...)


New radiocarbon dates for ornamented Mesolithic objects from north-west Poland: chronology and regional connections in the western Baltic region, di T. Płonka, M. Adamczyk, M. Diakowski, Antiquity, Volume 97, Issue 391, February 2023, pp. 29 - 49 - open access -

During the northern European Mesolithic, new types of objects were ornamented with different geometric motifs. Many examples, however, are stray finds and their dating is poorly understood. The authors present new AMS radiocarbon dates for ornamented artefacts from Pomerania that contribute to an absolute chronology of Mesolithic art and allow for new consideration of connections between cultural groups in the western Baltic region. A baton, featuring an anthropomorphic figure, dates to the end of the Boreal period; three other objects date to the early Atlantic period, revealing a combination of regional and local innovations. The results demonstrate the value of absolute dating of stray finds for refining knowledge of wider cultural trends. (...)

  Déjà vu: on the use of meat resources by sabretooth cats, hominins, and hyaenas in the Early Pleistocene site of Fuente Nueva 3 (Guadix-Baza Depression, SE Spain), di P. Palmqvist et alii, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 2, February 2023 - open access -

The late Early Pleistocene archaeological site of Fuente Nueva 3 (Orce, Guadix-Baza Depression, SE Spain), dated to ~1.4 Ma, provides evidence on the subsistence strategies of the first hominin population that dispersed in Western Europe. The site preserves Oldowan tool assemblages associated with abundant remains of large mammals. A small proportion of these remains show cut marks and percussion marks resulting from defleshing and bone fracturing, and a small proportion of bones also show tooth marks. Previous taphonomic studies of FN3 suggested that the hominins had secondary access to the prey leftovers abandoned by sabretooth cats and other primary predators. However, a recent analysis by Yravedra et al. (2021) of the frequency of anthropogenic marks and tooth marks has concluded that the hominins had primary access to the carcasses of a wide variety of ungulate prey, even though the frequency of evisceration marks is strikingly low (...)

  Hominins likely occupied northern Europe before one million years ago, di A. Key, N. Ashton, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 32, Issue 1, February 2023, Pages 10-25

Our understanding of when hominins first reached northern Europe is dependent on a fragmented archaeological and fossil record known from as early as marine isotope stage (MIS) 21 or 25 (c. 840 or 950 thousand years ago [Ka]). This contrasts sharply with southern Europe, where hominin occupation is evidenced from MIS 37 to 45 (c. 1.22 or 1.39 million years ago [Ma]). Northern Europe, however, exhibits climatic, geological, demographic, and historical disadvantages when it comes to preserving fossil and archaeological evidence of early hominin habitation. It is argued here that perceived differences in first occupation timings between the two European regions needs to be revised in light of these factors. (...)

  Fossil footprints and what they mean for hominin paleobiology, di K. G. Hatala, N. T. Roach, A. K. Behrensmeyer, "Evolutionary Anthropology", Volume 32, Issue 1, February 2023, Pages 39-53

Hominin footprints have not traditionally played prominent roles in paleoanthropological studies, aside from the famous 3.66 Ma footprints discovered at Laetoli, Tanzania in the late 1970s. This contrasts with the importance of trace fossils (ichnology) in the broader field of paleontology. Lack of attention to hominin footprints can probably be explained by perceptions that these are exceptionally rare and “curiosities” rather than sources of data that yield insights on par with skeletal fossils or artifacts. In recent years, however, discoveries of hominin footprints have surged in frequency, shining important new light on anatomy, locomotion, behaviors, and environments from a wide variety of times and places (...)


Worldwide research trends on Neanderthals, di J. L. Guil-Guerrero, F. Manzano-Agugliaro, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 38, Issue 2, February 2023, Pages 208-220 - open access -

Research on Neanderthals is a topic of growing interest and it may even be considered that this subject will get more attention in the future. The demise and diets of the various Neanderthal populations are controversial issues that promote heated debates. In this work, a bibliometric study of all the publications contained in the Scopus database until 2021 has been conducted, analysing more than 3800 of them. The main authors, institutions and countries researching this subject have been identified, and their future development. Furthermore, the links between the authors, the countries and the topics researched have been analysed through communities detection. (...)


A step back to move forward: a geological re-evaluation of the El Castillo Cave Middle Palaeolithic lithostratigraphic units (Cantabria, northern Iberia), di D. M. Martín-Perea, J. M. Maíllo-Fernández, J. Marín, X. Arroyo, R. Asiaín, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 38, Issue 2, February 2023, Pages 221-234 - open access -

El Castillo Cave is one of the most important sites for understanding the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in Europe. Despite its importance, the absence of a widely used stratigraphic section with detailed lithostratigraphic descriptions and correlations between the different geological and archaeological interpretations has led to confusion in the correct identification of lithostratigraphic units in the lowermost, Middle Palaeolithic sequence. This study establishes a new lithostratigraphic framework for the site, which can be accurately correlated to previous geological and archaeological studies and generates a solid working basis for framing the Mousterian of El Castillo Cave in the Cantabrian region and southwestern Europe. (...)


Challenges and perspectives on functional interpretations of australopith postcrania and the reconstruction of hominin locomotion, di M. Cazenave, T. L. Kivell, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 175, February 2023, 103304 - open access -

In 1994, Hunt published the ‘postural feeding hypothesis’—a seminal paper on the origins of hominin bipedalism—founded on the detailed study of chimpanzee positional behavior and the functional inferences derived from the upper and lower limb morphology of the Australopithecus afarensis A.L. 288-1 partial skeleton. Hunt proposed a model for understanding the potential selective pressures on hominins, made robust, testable predictions based on Au. afarensis functional morphology, and presented a hypothesis that aimed to explain the dual functional signals of the Au. afarensis and, more generally, early hominin postcranium. (...)


An updated analysis of hominin phylogeny with an emphasis on re-evaluating the phylogenetic relationships of Australopithecus sediba, di C. S. Mongle, D. S. Strait, F. E. Grine, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 175, February 2023, 103311 - open access -

The discovery and description of Australopithecus sediba has reignited the debate over the evolutionary history of the australopiths and the genus Homo. It has been suggested that A. sediba may be an ancestor of Homo because it possesses a mosaic of derived Homo-like and primitive australopith-like traits. However, an alternative hypothesis proposes that the majority of the purported Homo-like craniodental characters can be attributed to the juvenile status of the type specimen, MH1. We conducted an independent character assessment of the craniodental morphology of A. sediba, with particular emphasis on evaluating whether the ontogenetic status of MH1 may have affected its purported Homo-like characteristics. In doing so, we have also expanded fossil hypodigms to incorporate the new Australopithecus anamensis cranium from Woranso-Mille (MRD-VP-1/1), as well as recently described Paranthropus robustus cranial remains from Drimolen (DNH 7, DNH 155). (...)


Hominin nomenclature and the importance of information systems for managing complexity in paleoanthropology, di D. N. Reed et alii, "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 175, February 2023, 103308 - open access -

Shortly after Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” (Darwin, 1859), King (1864) attributed the fossil remains from the Klein Feldhofer Grotte in the Neander Valley, Germany to a new species of extinct human ancestor, Homo neanderthalensis. King's assertion came amidst a heated debate about the taxonomic status of these remains (Huxley, 1863). Thirty years later, Dubois (1892, 1894) expanded human prehistory to Asia with the discovery of Homo erectus remains in Java. Some 30 years after that, Dart (1925) brought attention to the African continent with the discovery of the Taung skull. (...)

  New insights into the use and circulation of reindeer antler in northern Iberia during the Magdalenian (ca. 21-13 cal ka BP), di A. Lefebvre et alii, "Journal of Archaeological Science", Volume 150, February 2023, 105708 - open access -

Interactions between prehistoric foragers and reindeer at the end of the Pleistocene are still poorly documented in northern Iberia, particularly the reasons and means by which their antlers were collected, processed and circulated. Here we review the main osseous industries dated to between 21 and 13 cal ka BP, focusing on the use and circulation of reindeer antler as a raw material for the production of weapons and tools by Magdalenian foragers. Thirty-six reindeer antler artefacts were identified from 11 Iberian sites that are located at either end of the Pyrenees: the Cantabrian region to the west, and to a lesser extent, in Catalonia to the east. (...)

  Radiocarbon Dates for Las Chimeneas (Cantabria, Spain) Palaeolithic Cave Art: Quality of Radiocarbon and Relevance to Parietal Art, di M. García-Diez, Á. Ibero, B. Ochoa, P. López-Calle, D. Garrido, "European Journal of Archaeology", Volume 26 - Issue 1 - February 2023 - open access -

AMS radiocarbon dating has been widely applied in Palaeolithic art research and its value has been proven over the past three decades. Yet it still suffers from issues that need to be discussed and analysed to improve future sampling strategies and strengthen the interpretation of the results. This study presents new AMS dates for the parietal art in Cueva de Las Chimeneas in northern Spain, describes the quality of the samples, and discusses their reliability. The joint assessment of the dates and its comparison with previously obtained dates as well as stratified and dated portable art makes it possible to put forward a hypothesis about the time of creation of the cave's parietal art and the degree of synchrony or diachrony in its production. Consequently, it is proposed that the cave art at Las Chimeneas was created in the lower Magdalenian, between 19,000 and 17,500 cal BP. (...)

  A symbolic Neanderthal accumulation of large herbivore crania, di E. Baquedano et alii, "Nature Human Behaviour", 26 January 2023, doi: - open access -

This work examines the possible behaviour of Neanderthal groups at the Cueva Des-Cubierta (central Spain) via the analysis of the latter’s archaeological assemblage. Alongside evidence of Mousterian lithic industry, Level 3 of the cave infill was found to contain an assemblage of mammalian bone remains dominated by the crania of large ungulates, some associated with small hearths. The scarcity of post-cranial elements, teeth, mandibles and maxillae, along with evidence of anthropogenic modification of the crania (cut and percussion marks), indicates that the carcasses of the corresponding animals were initially processed outside the cave, and the crania were later brought inside. A second round of processing then took place, possibly related to the removal of the brain. The continued presence of crania throughout Level 3 indicates that this behaviour was recurrent during this level’s formation. This behaviour seems to have no subsistence-related purpose but to be more symbolic in its intent. (...)

  Study offers new insight on what ancient noses smelled, 25 january 2023

It sounds a little like Stone Age standup: A Denisovan and a human walk past a bees’ nest heavy with honeycomb. What happens next? According to a study led by University of Alaska Fairbanks biological anthropologist Kara C. Hoover and Universite Paris-Saclay biochemist Claire de March, the Denisovan, with the species’ greater sensitivity to sweet smells, may have immediately homed in on the scent and beat the human to a high-energy meal. "This research has allowed us to draw some larger conclusions about the sense of smell in our closest genetic relatives and understand the role that smell played in adapting to new environments and foods during our migrations out of Africa,” said Hoover, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at UAF. (...)

  A surge in obsidian exploitation more than 1.2 million years ago at Simbiro III (Melka Kunture, Upper Awash, Ethiopia), di M. Mussi et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 19 January 2023

Pleistocene archaeology records the changing behaviour and capacities of early hominins. These behavioural changes, for example, to stone tools, are commonly linked to environmental constraints. It has been argued that, in earlier times, multiple activities of everyday life were all uniformly conducted at the same spot. The separation of focused activities across different localities, which indicates a degree of planning, according to this mindset characterizes later hominins since only 500,000 years ago. Simbiro III level C, in the upper Awash valley of Ethiopia, allows us to test this assumption in its assemblage of stone tools made only with obsidian, dated to more than 1.2 million years (Myr) old. (...)

  A long-term perspective on Neanderthal environment and subsistence: Insights from the dental microwear texture analysis of hunted ungulates at Combe-Grenal (Dordogne, France), di E. Berlioz, E. Capdepon, E. Discamps, 18 January 2023, doi: - open access -

Large bovids and cervids constituted major components of the European Middle Palaeolithic faunas and hence a key resource for Neanderthal populations. In paleoenvironmental reconstructions, red deer (Cervus elaphus) occurrence is classically considered as a tree-cover indicator while Bovinae (Bison priscus and Bos primigenius) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) occurrences are typically associated with open landscapes. However, insights into the ecology of extant ungulate populations show a more complex reality. Exploring the diet of past ungulates allows to better comprehend the hunting strategies of Palaeolithic populations and to reconstruct the modifications through time of past landscapes (...)


Dietary strategies of Pleistocene Pongo sp. and Homo erectus on Java (Indonesia), di J. Kubat et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 16 January 2023, volume 7, pages 279–289

During the Early to Middle Pleistocene, Java was inhabited by hominid taxa of great diversity. However, their seasonal dietary strategies have never been explored. We undertook geochemical analyses of orangutan (Pongo sp.), Homo erectus and other mammalian Pleistocene teeth from Sangiran. We reconstructed past dietary strategies at subweekly resolution and inferred seasonal ecological patterns. Histologically controlled spatially resolved elemental analyses by laser-based plasma mass spectrometry confirmed the preservation of authentic biogenic signals despite the effect of spatially restricted diagenetic overprint. The Sr/Ca record of faunal remains is in line with expected trophic positions, contextualizing fossil hominid diet. (...)


A taphonomic analysis of PTK (Bed I, Olduvai Gorge) and its bearing on the interpretation of the dietary and eco-spatial behaviors of early humans, di E. Organista et alii, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 300, 15 January 2023, 107913 - open access -

Here, we present a thorough taphonomic analysis of the 1.84 million-year-old site of Phillip Tobias Korongo (PTK), Bed I, Olduvai Gorge. PTK is one of the new archaeological sites documented on the FLK Zinj paleolandscape, in which FLK 22 level was deposited and covered by Tuff IC. Therefore, PTK is pene-contemporary with these sites: FLK Zinj, DS, AMK and AGS. The occurrence of these sites within a thin clay unit of ∼20 cm, occupying not only the same vertically discrete stratigraphic unit, but also the same paleosurface, with an exceptional preservation of the archaeological record in its primary depositional locus, constitutes a unique opportunity to explore early hominin behavioral diversity at the most limited geochronological scale possible. (...)


Palaeoenvironmental sequences surrounding Border Cave, South Africa, and review of conditions during middle and later stone age occupation, di L. Scott, F. H. Neumann, A. C. van Aardt, G. A. Botha, "Quaternary Science Reviews", Volume 300, 15 January 2023, 107894 - open access -

As a result of selective anthropogenic accumulation of plant and faunal remains in the sedimentary record at Border Cave, palaeoclimatological records at the site can only be broadly interpreted and cannot be reconstructed with any precision. To aid environmental reconstructions spanning the sedimentary record, we review published climate change proxy records from both marine and terrestrial archives within 500 km in the surrounding the summer rainfall region of the site to derive the history of environmental change. (...)

  Balancing selection on genomic deletion polymorphisms in humans, di A. Aqil, L. Speidel, P. Pavlidis, O. Gokcume, 10 Jan 2023, doi: - open access -

A key question in biology is why genomic variation persists in a population for extended periods. Recent studies have identified examples of genomic deletions that have remained polymorphic in the human lineage for hundreds of millennia, ostensibly owing to balancing selection. Nevertheless, genome-wide investigation of ancient and possibly adaptive deletions remains an imperative exercise. Here, we demonstrate an excess of polymorphisms in present-day humans that predate the modern human-Neanderthal split (ancient polymorphisms), which cannot be explained solely by selectively neutral scenarios. We analyze the adaptive mechanisms that underlie this excess in deletion polymorphisms. (...)

  Arched footprints preserve the motions of fossil hominin feet, di K. G. Hatala, S. M. Gatesy, P. L. Falkingham, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 05 January 2023, volume 7, pages 32–41

The longitudinal arch of the human foot is viewed as a pivotal adaptation for bipedal walking and running. Fossil footprints from Laetoli, Tanzania, and Ileret, Kenya, are believed to provide direct evidence of longitudinally arched feet in hominins from the Pliocene and Pleistocene, respectively. We studied the dynamics of track formation using biplanar X-ray, three-dimensional animation and discrete element particle simulation. Here, we demonstrate that longitudinally arched footprints are false indicators of foot anatomy; instead they are generated through a specific pattern of foot kinematics that is characteristic of human walking (...)

  Homo sapiens and Neanderthals share high cerebral cortex integration into adulthood, di G. Sansalone et alii, "Nature Ecology & Evolution", 05 January 2023, volume 7, pages 42–50

There is controversy around the mechanisms that guided the change in brain shape during the evolution of modern humans. It has long been held that different cortical areas evolved independently from each other to develop their unique functional specializations. However, some recent studies suggest that high integration between different cortical areas could facilitate the emergence of equally extreme, highly specialized brain functions. Here, we analyse the evolution of brain shape in primates using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics of endocasts. We aim to determine, firstly, whether modern humans present unique developmental patterns of covariation between brain cortical areas; and secondly, whether hominins experienced unusually high rates of evolution in brain covariation as compared to other primates. (...)

  The interaction between large mammals and Acheulean tools during the Middle Pleistocene in the Manzanares valley (Madrid, Spain): new evidence for Santa Elena and Oxígeno sites, di I. Claver, J. A. Martos, J. Yravedra, J. Panera, S. Rubio-Jara, "Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences", Volume 15, issue 1, January 2023 - open access -

The fluvial deposits of the Manzanares and Jarama rivers present one of the largest concentrations of lithic and faunal remains of Pleistocene sites in Europe. In the Manzanares River close to the confluence of the Jarama River, the stepped terrace system disappears and gives way to the Complex Terrace of Butarque (CTB), where the sites of Santa Elena and Oxígeno are located. Different numerical dates obtained from the visible CTB’s bottom suggest that it was deposited during the MIS 6 or even MIS 7. This paper provides the first taphonomic and palaeoecological interpretation of both collections. A total of 445 fossil elements have been recorded in Oxígeno. The most represented are cranial fragments of Elephas sp. About Santa Elena, 130 fossil elements have been recorded. (...)

  MaLAdapt Reveals Novel Targets of Adaptive Introgression From Neanderthals and Denisovans in Worldwide Human Populations, di X. Zhang, B. Kim, A. Singh, S. Sankararaman, A. Durvasula, K. E Lohmueller, "Molecular Biology and Evolution", Volume 40, Issue 1, January 2023 - open access -

Adaptive introgression (AI) facilitates local adaptation in a wide range of species. Many state-of-the-art methods detect AI with ad-hoc approaches that identify summary statistic outliers or intersect scans for positive selection with scans for introgressed genomic regions. Although widely used, approaches intersecting outliers are vulnerable to a high false-negative rate as the power of different methods varies, especially for complex introgression events. Moreover, population genetic processes unrelated to AI, such as background selection or heterosis, may create similar genomic signals to AI, compromising the reliability of methods that rely on neutral null distributions. (...)


San Quirce (Palencia, Spain): new chronologies for the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic transition of south-west Europe, di M. Terradillos-Bernal et alii, "Journal of Quaternary Science", Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2023, Pages 21-37

San Quirce is an open-air archaeological site situated on a fluvial terrace in the Duero basin (Palencia, northern Iberia). This paper presents new and consistent chronologies obtained for the sedimentary sequence using post-infrared infrared stimulated luminescence (pIR-IR) dating of K-feldspars and single-grain thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dating of quartz. The new dating results indicate that the sequence is older than ~200000 years and place San Quirce Level III within marine isotope stages (MIS) 8 and 7, between 274±13 ka and 238±13 ka. (...)


Coherent changes in wood charcoals, site occupation and lithic technology across the MIS 4/3 transition at Klein Kliphuis rock shelter, South Africa, di A. Mackay, C. R. Cartwright, Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2023, Pages 38-48 - open access -

We explore the correspondence between changing palaeoenvironments, patterns of site use, and lithic technology at the rock shelter site Klein Kliphuis (South Africa) across the interval 65–55 000 years before present. This period coincides with the termination of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 4, and the disappearance of an iconic late Pleistocene archaeological unit known as the Howiesons Poort. Wood charcoals indicate sufficient soil moisture around Klein Kliphuis throughout the Howiesons Poort to support diverse tree species at a time when site occupation was relatively intense. At least some fuelwood-gathering in this period may have been undertaken to support heat treatment of silcrete, which was the dominant lithology in tool production. (...)

  "Journal of Human Evolution", Volume 174, January 2023:

- Introduction to special issue: The biotic context of the Early Pleistocene hominins from Dmanisi (Georgia, southern Caucasus), di D. Lordkipanidze, J. Agustí, L. Rook

- The brain of Homo habilis: Three decades of paleoneurology, di E. Bruner, A. Beaudet

- Geometric morphometric analysis of the bony labyrinth of the Sima de los Huesos hominins, di A. D. Velez et alii

- Multi-isotope zooarchaeological investigations at Abri du Maras: The paleoecological and paleoenvironmental context of Neanderthal subsistence strategies in the Rhône Valley during MIS 3, di K. Britton et alii

- Reassessment of the human mandible from Banyoles (Girona, Spain), di B. A. Keeling

- Moving beyond the adaptationist paradigm for human evolution, and why it matters, di L. Schroeder, R. Rogers Ackermann


Index di antiqui Sommario bacheca