Publications by authors named "Alex Brittingham"

2 Publications

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Geochemical Evidence for the Control of Fire by Middle Palaeolithic Hominins.

Sci Rep 2019 10 25;9(1):15368. Epub 2019 Oct 25.

Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA.

The use of fire played an important role in the social and technological development of the genus Homo. Most archaeologists agree that this was a multi-stage process, beginning with the exploitation of natural fires and ending with the ability to create fire from scratch. Some have argued that in the Middle Palaeolithic (MP) hominin fire use was limited by the availability of fire in the landscape. Here, we present a record of the abundance of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organic compounds that are produced during the combustion of organic material, from Lusakert Cave, a MP site in Armenia. We find no correlation between the abundance of light PAHs (3-4 rings), which are a major component of wildfire PAH emissions and are shown to disperse widely during fire events, and heavy PAHs (5-6 rings), which are a major component of particulate emissions of burned wood. Instead, we find heavy PAHs correlate with MP artifact density at the site. Given that hPAH abundance correlates with occupation intensity rather than lPAH abundance, we argue that MP hominins were able to control fire and utilize it regardless of the variability of fires in the environment. Together with other studies on MP fire use, these results suggest that the ability of hominins to manipulate fire independent of exploitation of wildfires was spatially variable in the MP and may have developed multiple times in the genus Homo.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-51433-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6814844PMC
October 2019

Hunted gazelles evidence cooling, but not drying, during the Younger Dryas in the southern Levant.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 Apr 28;113(15):3997-4002. Epub 2016 Mar 28.

Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269;

The climatic downturn known globally as the Younger Dryas (YD; ∼12,900-11,500 BP) has frequently been cited as a prime mover of agricultural origins and has thus inspired enthusiastic debate over its local impact. This study presents seasonal climatic data from the southern Levant obtained from the sequential sampling of gazelle tooth carbonates from the Early and Late Natufian archaeological sites of Hayonim and Hilazon Tachtit Caves (western Galilee, Israel). Our results challenge the entrenched model that assumes that warm temperatures and high precipitation are synonymous with climatic amelioration and cold and wet conditions are combined in climatic downturns. Enamel carbon isotope values from teeth of human-hunted gazelle dating before and during the YD provide a proxy measure for water availability during plant growth. They reveal that although the YD was cooler, it was not drier than the preceding Bølling-Allerød. In addition, the magnitude of the seasonal curve constructed from oxygen isotopes is significantly dampened during the YD, indicating that cooling was most pronounced in the growing season. Cool temperatures likely affected the productivity of staple wild cereal resources. We hypothesize that human groups responded by shifting settlement strategies-increasing population mobility and perhaps moving to the warmer Jordan Valley where wild cereals were more productive and stable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1519862113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4839398PMC
April 2016