Publications by authors named "Ceri Shipton"

27 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Multiple hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia over the past 400,000 years.

Nature 2021 Sep 1;597(7876):376-380. Epub 2021 Sep 1.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Pleistocene hominin dispersals out of, and back into, Africa necessarily involved traversing the diverse and often challenging environments of Southwest Asia. Archaeological and palaeontological records from the Levantine woodland zone document major biological and cultural shifts, such as alternating occupations by Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. However, Late Quaternary cultural, biological and environmental records from the vast arid zone that constitutes most of Southwest Asia remain scarce, limiting regional-scale insights into changes in hominin demography and behaviour. Here we report a series of dated palaeolake sequences, associated with stone tool assemblages and vertebrate fossils, from the Khall Amayshan 4 and Jubbah basins in the Nefud Desert. These findings, including the oldest dated hominin occupations in Arabia, reveal at least five hominin expansions into the Arabian interior, coinciding with brief 'green' windows of reduced aridity approximately 400, 300, 200, 130-75 and 55 thousand years ago. Each occupation phase is characterized by a distinct form of material culture, indicating colonization by diverse hominin groups, and a lack of long-term Southwest Asian population continuity. Within a general pattern of African and Eurasian hominin groups being separated by Pleistocene Saharo-Arabian aridity, our findings reveal the tempo and character of climatically modulated windows for dispersal and admixture.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03863-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8443443PMC
September 2021

67,000 years of coastal engagement at Panga ya Saidi, eastern Africa.

PLoS One 2021 26;16(8):e0256761. Epub 2021 Aug 26.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

The antiquity and nature of coastal resource procurement is central to understanding human evolution and adaptations to complex environments. It has become increasingly apparent in global archaeological studies that the timing, characteristics, and trajectories of coastal resource use are highly variable. Within Africa, discussions of these issues have largely been based on the archaeological record from the south and northeast of the continent, with little evidence from eastern coastal areas leaving significant spatial and temporal gaps in our knowledge. Here, we present data from Panga ya Saidi, a limestone cave complex located 15 km from the modern Kenyan coast, which represents the first long-term sequence of coastal engagement from eastern Africa. Rather than attempting to distinguish between coastal resource use and coastal adaptations, we focus on coastal engagement as a means of characterising human relationships with marine environments and resources from this inland location. We use aquatic mollusc data spanning the past 67,000 years to document shifts in the acquisition, transportation, and discard of these materials, to better understand long-term trends in coastal engagement. Our results show pulses of coastal engagement beginning with low-intensity symbolism, and culminating in the consistent low-level transport of marine and freshwater food resources, emphasising a diverse relationship through time. Panga ya Saidi has the oldest stratified evidence of marine engagement in eastern Africa, and is the only site in Africa which documents coastal resources from the Late Pleistocene through the Holocene, highlighting the potential archaeological importance of peri-coastal sites to debates about marine resource relationships.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0256761PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8389378PMC
August 2021

Collagen fingerprinting traces the introduction of caprines to island Eastern Africa.

R Soc Open Sci 2021 Jul 28;8(7):202341. Epub 2021 Jul 28.

School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia.

The human colonization of eastern Africa's near- and offshore islands was accompanied by the translocation of several domestic, wild and commensal fauna, many of which had long-term impacts on local environments. To better understand the timing and nature of the introduction of domesticated caprines (sheep and goat) to these islands, this study applied collagen peptide fingerprinting (Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry or ZooMS) to archaeological remains from eight Iron Age sites, dating between 300 and 1000 CE, in the Zanzibar, Mafia and Comoros archipelagos. Where previous zooarchaeological analyses had identified caprine remains at four of these sites, this study identified goat at seven sites and sheep at three, demonstrating that caprines were more widespread than previously known. The ZooMS results support an introduction of goats to island eastern Africa from at least the seventh century CE, while sheep in our sample arrived one-two centuries later. Goats may have been preferred because, as browsers, they were better adapted to the islands' environments. The results allow for a more accurate understanding of early caprine husbandry in the study region and provide a critical archaeological baseline for examining the potential long-term impacts of translocated fauna on island ecologies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.202341DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8316820PMC
July 2021

Earliest known human burial in Africa.

Nature 2021 05 5;593(7857):95-100. Epub 2021 May 5.

UMR 5199 CNRS De la Préhistoire à l'Actuel: Culture, Environnement, et Anthropologie (PACEA), Université Bordeaux, Talence, France.

The origin and evolution of hominin mortuary practices are topics of intense interest and debate. Human burials dated to the Middle Stone Age (MSA) are exceedingly rare in Africa and unknown in East Africa. Here we describe the partial skeleton of a roughly 2.5- to 3.0-year-old child dating to 78.3 ± 4.1 thousand years ago, which was recovered in the MSA layers of Panga ya Saidi (PYS), a cave site in the tropical upland coast of Kenya. Recent excavations have revealed a pit feature containing a child in a flexed position. Geochemical, granulometric and micromorphological analyses of the burial pit content and encasing archaeological layers indicate that the pit was deliberately excavated. Taphonomical evidence, such as the strict articulation or good anatomical association of the skeletal elements and histological evidence of putrefaction, support the in-place decomposition of the fresh body. The presence of little or no displacement of the unstable joints during decomposition points to an interment in a filled space (grave earth), making the PYS finding the oldest known human burial in Africa. The morphological assessment of the partial skeleton is consistent with its assignment to Homo sapiens, although the preservation of some primitive features in the dentition supports increasing evidence for non-gradual assembly of modern traits during the emergence of our species. The PYS burial sheds light on how MSA populations interacted with the dead.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03457-8DOI Listing
May 2021

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition at Panga ya Saidi, in the tropical coastal forest of eastern Africa.

J Hum Evol 2021 04 11;153:102954. Epub 2021 Mar 11.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745, Jena, Germany; Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 600 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, D.C., USA; School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 4072, Australia.

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition is a critical period of human behavioral change that has been variously argued to pertain to the emergence of modern cognition, substantial population growth, and major dispersals of Homo sapiens within and beyond Africa. However, there is little consensus about when the transition occurred, the geographic patterning of its emergence, or even how it is manifested in the stone tool technology that is used to define it. Here, we examine a long sequence of lithic technological change at the cave site of Panga ya Saidi, Kenya, that spans the Middle and Later Stone Age and includes human occupations in each of the last five Marine Isotope Stages. In addition to the stone artifact technology, Panga ya Saidi preserves osseous and shell artifacts, enabling broader considerations of the covariation between different spheres of material culture. Several environmental proxies contextualize the artifactual record of human behavior at Panga ya Saidi. We compare technological change between the Middle and Later Stone Age with on-site paleoenvironmental manifestations of wider climatic fluctuations in the Late Pleistocene. The principal distinguishing feature of Middle from Later Stone Age technology at Panga ya Saidi is the preference for fine-grained stone, coupled with the creation of small flakes (miniaturization). Our review of the Middle to Later Stone Age transition elsewhere in eastern Africa and across the continent suggests that this broader distinction between the two periods is in fact widespread. We suggest that the Later Stone Age represents new short use-life and multicomponent ways of using stone tools, in which edge sharpness was prioritized over durability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2021.102954DOI Listing
April 2021

Monumental landscapes of the Holocene humid period in Northern Arabia: The mustatil phenomenon.

Holocene 2020 Dec 17;30(12):1767-1779. Epub 2020 Aug 17.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Between 10 and six thousand years ago the Arabian Peninsula saw the most recent of the 'Green Arabia' periods, when increased rainfall transformed this generally arid region. The transition to the Neolithic in Arabia occurred during this period of climatic amelioration. Various forms of stone structures are abundant in northern Arabia, and it has been speculated that some of these dated to the Neolithic, but there has been little research on their character and chronology. Here we report a study of 104 'mustatil' stone structures from the southern margins of the Nefud Desert in northern Arabia. We provide the first chronometric age estimate for this type of structure - a radiocarbon date of ca. 5000 BC - and describe their landscape positions, architecture and associated material culture and faunal remains. The structure we have dated is the oldest large-scale stone structure known from the Arabian Peninsula. The mustatil phenomenon represents a remarkable development of monumental architecture, as hundreds of these structures were built in northwest Arabia. This 'monumental landscape' represents one of the earliest large-scale forms of monumental stone structure construction anywhere in the world. Further research is needed to understand the function of these structures, but we hypothesise that they were related to rituals in the context of the adoption of pastoralism and resulting territoriality in the challenging environments of northern Arabia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959683620950449DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7575307PMC
December 2020

Early ground axe technology in Wallacea: The first excavations on Obi Island.

PLoS One 2020 19;15(8):e0236719. Epub 2020 Aug 19.

Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional, Jakarta, Indonesia.

The first excavations on Obi Island, north-east Wallacea, reveal three phases of occupation beginning in the terminal Pleistocene. Ground shell artefacts appear at the end of the terminal Pleistocene, the earliest examples in Wallacea. In the subsequent early Holocene occupation phase, ground stone axe flakes appear, which are again the earliest examples in Wallacea. Ground axes were likely instrumental to subsistence in Obi's dense tropical forest. From ~8000 BP there was a hiatus lasting several millennia, perhaps because increased precipitation and forest density made the sites inhospitable. The site was reoccupied in the Metal Age, with this third phase including quadrangular ground stone artefacts, as well as pottery and pigs; reflecting Austronesian influences. Greater connectivity at this time is also indicated by an Oliva shell bead tradition that occurs in southern Wallacea and an exotic obsidian artefact. The emergence of ground axes on Obi is an independent example of a broader pattern of intensification at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in Wallacea and New Guinea, evincing human innovation in response to rapid environmental change.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0236719PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7437812PMC
October 2020

s and the evolutionary origins of ritual in .

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2020 08 29;375(1805):20190424. Epub 2020 Jul 29.

School of Psychology, Keele University, Keele, UK.

There is a large, if disparate, body of archaeological literature discussing specific instantiations of symbolic material culture and the possibility of ritual practices in Neanderthal populations. Despite this attention, however, no single synthesis exists that draws upon cognitive, psychological and cultural evolutionary theories of ritual. Here, we review the evidence for ritual-practice among now-extinct , as well as the necessary cognitive pre-conditions for such behaviour, in order to explore the evolution of ritual in . We suggest that the currently available archaeological evidence indicates that Neanderthals may have used 'ritualization' to increase the successful transmission of technical knowledge across generations-providing an explanation for the technological stability of the Middle Palaeolithic and attesting to a survival strategy differing from near-contemporary . This article is part of the theme issue 'Ritual renaissance: new insights into the most human of behaviours'.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0424DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7423259PMC
August 2020

Isotopic evidence for initial coastal colonization and subsequent diversification in the human occupation of Wallacea.

Nat Commun 2020 04 29;11(1):2068. Epub 2020 Apr 29.

School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 2600, Australia.

The resource-poor, isolated islands of Wallacea have been considered a major adaptive obstacle for hominins expanding into Australasia. Archaeological evidence has hinted that coastal adaptations in Homo sapiens enabled rapid island dispersal and settlement; however, there has been no means to directly test this proposition. Here, we apply stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis to human and faunal tooth enamel from six Late Pleistocene to Holocene archaeological sites across Wallacea. The results demonstrate that the earliest human forager found in the region c. 42,000 years ago made significant use of coastal resources prior to subsequent niche diversification shown for later individuals. We argue that our data provides clear insights into the huge adaptive flexibility of our species, including its ability to specialize in the use of varied environments, particularly in comparison to other hominin species known from Island Southeast Asia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15969-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7190613PMC
April 2020

Trajectories of cultural innovation from the Middle to Later Stone Age in Eastern Africa: Personal ornaments, bone artifacts, and ocher from Panga ya Saidi, Kenya.

J Hum Evol 2020 04 9;141:102737. Epub 2020 Mar 9.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, D-07745 Jena, Germany; School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia; Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. N.W., Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada; Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW Washington, D.C. 20560, USA.

African Middle Stone Age (MSA) populations used pigments, manufactured and wore personal ornaments, made abstract engravings, and produced fully shaped bone tools. However, ongoing research across Africa reveals variability in the emergence of cultural innovations in the MSA and their subsequent development through the Later Stone Age (LSA). When present, it appears that cultural innovations manifest regional variability, suggestive of distinct cultural traditions. In eastern Africa, several Late Pleistocene sites have produced evidence for novel activities, but the chronologies of key behavioral innovations remain unclear. The 3 m deep, well-dated, Panga ya Saidi sequence in eastern Kenya, encompassing 19 layers covering a time span of 78 kyr beginning in late Marine Isotope Stage 5, is the only known African site recording the interplay between cultural and ecological diversity in a coastal forested environment. Excavations have yielded worked and incised bones, ostrich eggshell beads (OES), beads made from seashells, worked and engraved ocher pieces, fragments of coral, and a belemnite fossil. Here, we provide, for the first time, a detailed analysis of this material. This includes a taphonomic, archeozoological, technological, and functional study of bone artifacts; a technological and morphometric analysis of personal ornaments; and a technological and geochemical analysis of ocher pieces. The interpretation of the results stemming from the analysis of OES beads is guided by an ethnoarcheological perspective and field observations. We demonstrate that key cultural innovations on the eastern African coast are evident by 67 ka and exhibit remarkable diversity through the LSA and Iron Age. We suggest the cultural trajectories evident at Panga ya Saidi were shaped by both regional traditions and cultural/demic diffusion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.102737DOI Listing
April 2020

Human occupation of northern India spans the Toba super-eruption ~74,000 years ago.

Nat Commun 2020 02 25;11(1):961. Epub 2020 Feb 25.

School of Social Science, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, 4072, Australia.

India is located at a critical geographic crossroads for understanding the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa and into Asia and Oceania. Here we report evidence for long-term human occupation, spanning the last ~80 thousand years, at the site of Dhaba in the Middle Son River Valley of Central India. An unchanging stone tool industry is found at Dhaba spanning the Toba eruption of ~74 ka (i.e., the Youngest Toba Tuff, YTT) bracketed between ages of 79.6 ± 3.2 and 65.2 ± 3.1 ka, with the introduction of microlithic technology ~48 ka. The lithic industry from Dhaba strongly resembles stone tool assemblages from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Arabia, and the earliest artefacts from Australia, suggesting that it is likely the product of Homo sapiens as they dispersed eastward out of Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14668-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7042215PMC
February 2020

The expansion of later Acheulean hominins into the Arabian Peninsula.

Sci Rep 2018 11 29;8(1):17165. Epub 2018 Nov 29.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

The Acheulean is the longest lasting cultural-technological tradition in human evolutionary history. However, considerable gaps remain in understanding the chronology and geographical distribution of Acheulean hominins. We present the first chronometrically dated Acheulean site from the Arabian Peninsula, a vast and poorly known region that forms more than half of Southwest Asia. Results show that Acheulean hominin occupation expanded along hydrological networks into the heart of Arabia from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 7 until at least ~190 ka ̶ the youngest documented Acheulean in Southwest Asia. The site of Saffaqah features Acheulean technology, characterized by large flakes, handaxes and cleavers, similar to Acheulean assemblages in Africa. These findings reveal a climatically-mediated later Acheulean expansion into a poorly known region, amplifying the documented diversity of Middle Pleistocene hominin behaviour across the Old World and elaborating the terminal archaic landscape encountered by our species as they dispersed out of Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-35242-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6265249PMC
November 2018

Acheulean technology and landscape use at Dawadmi, central Arabia.

PLoS One 2018 27;13(7):e0200497. Epub 2018 Jul 27.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Despite occupying a central geographic position, investigations of hominin populations in the Arabian Peninsula during the Lower Palaeolithic period are rare. The colonization of Eurasia below 55 degrees latitude indicates the success of the genus Homo in the Early and Middle Pleistocene, but the extent to which these hominins were capable of innovative and novel behavioural adaptations to engage with mid-latitude environments is unclear. Here we describe new field investigations at the Saffaqah locality (206-76) near Dawadmi, in central Arabia that aim to establish how hominins adapted to this region. The site is located in the interior of Arabia over 500 km from both the Red Sea and the Gulf, and at the headwaters of two major extinct river systems that were likely used by Acheulean hominins to cross the Peninsula. Saffaqah is one of the largest Acheulean sites in Arabia with nearly a million artefacts estimated to occur on the surface, and it is also the first to yield stratified deposits containing abundant artefacts. It is situated in the unusual setting of a dense and well-preserved landscape of Acheulean localities, with sites and isolated artefacts occurring regularly for tens of kilometres in every direction. We describe both previous and recent excavations at Saffaqah and its large lithic assemblage. We analyse thousands of artefacts from excavated and surface contexts, including giant andesite cores and flakes, smaller cores and retouched artefacts, as well as handaxes and cleavers. Technological assessment of stratified lithics and those from systematic survey, enable the reconstruction of stone tool life histories. The Acheulean hominins at Dawadmi were strong and skilful, with their adaptation evidently successful for some time. However, these biface-makers were also technologically conservative, and used least-effort strategies of resource procurement and tool transport. Ultimately, central Arabia was depopulated, likely in the face of environmental deterioration in the form of increasing aridity.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0200497PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6063418PMC
January 2019

Publisher Correction: 78,000-year-old record of Middle and Later Stone Age innovation in an East African tropical forest.

Nat Commun 2018 06 5;9(1):2242. Epub 2018 Jun 5.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, Jena, D-07745, Germany.

The originally published version of this Article contained an error in Fig. 3, whereby an additional unrelated graph was overlaid on top of the magnetic susceptibility plot. Furthermore, the Article title contained an error in the capitalisation of 'Stone Age'. Both of these errors have now been corrected in both the PDF and HTML versions of the Article.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04753-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5988799PMC
June 2018

78,000-year-old record of Middle and Later stone age innovation in an East African tropical forest.

Nat Commun 2018 05 9;9(1):1832. Epub 2018 May 9.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, Jena, D-07745, Germany.

The Middle to Later Stone Age transition in Africa has been debated as a significant shift in human technological, cultural, and cognitive evolution. However, the majority of research on this transition is currently focused on southern Africa due to a lack of long-term, stratified sites across much of the African continent. Here, we report a 78,000-year-long archeological record from Panga ya Saidi, a cave in the humid coastal forest of Kenya. Following a shift in toolkits ~67,000 years ago, novel symbolic and technological behaviors assemble in a non-unilinear manner. Against a backdrop of a persistent tropical forest-grassland ecotone, localized innovations better characterize the Late Pleistocene of this part of East Africa than alternative emphases on dramatic revolutions or migrations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04057-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5943315PMC
May 2018

Reconstructing Prehistoric African Population Structure.

Cell 2017 Sep;171(1):59-71.e21

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK; British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi 30710, Kenya.

We assembled genome-wide data from 16 prehistoric Africans. We show that the anciently divergent lineage that comprises the primary ancestry of the southern African San had a wider distribution in the past, contributing approximately two-thirds of the ancestry of Malawi hunter-gatherers ∼8,100-2,500 years ago and approximately one-third of the ancestry of Tanzanian hunter-gatherers ∼1,400 years ago. We document how the spread of farmers from western Africa involved complete replacement of local hunter-gatherers in some regions, and we track the spread of herders by showing that the population of a ∼3,100-year-old pastoralist from Tanzania contributed ancestry to people from northeastern to southern Africa, including a ∼1,200-year-old southern African pastoralist. The deepest diversifications of African lineages were complex, involving either repeated gene flow among geographically disparate groups or a lineage more deeply diverging than that of the San contributing more to some western African populations than to others. We finally leverage ancient genomes to document episodes of natural selection in southern African populations. PAPERCLIP.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2017.08.049DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5679310PMC
September 2017

Reconstructing Asian faunal introductions to eastern Africa from multi-proxy biomolecular and archaeological datasets.

PLoS One 2017 17;12(8):e0182565. Epub 2017 Aug 17.

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.

Human-mediated biological exchange has had global social and ecological impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa, several domestic and commensal animals were introduced from Asia in the pre-modern period; however, the timing and nature of these introductions remain contentious. One model supports introduction to the eastern African coast after the mid-first millennium CE, while another posits introduction dating back to 3000 BCE. These distinct scenarios have implications for understanding the emergence of long-distance maritime connectivity, and the ecological and economic impacts of introduced species. Resolution of this longstanding debate requires new efforts, given the lack of well-dated fauna from high-precision excavations, and ambiguous osteomorphological identifications. We analysed faunal remains from 22 eastern African sites spanning a wide geographic and chronological range, and applied biomolecular techniques to confirm identifications of two Asian taxa: domestic chicken (Gallus gallus) and black rat (Rattus rattus). Our approach included ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis aided by BLAST-based bioinformatics, Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) collagen fingerprinting, and direct AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) radiocarbon dating. Our results support a late, mid-first millennium CE introduction of these species. We discuss the implications of our findings for models of biological exchange, and emphasize the applicability of our approach to tropical areas with poor bone preservation.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0182565PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5560628PMC
October 2017

Ancient crops provide first archaeological signature of the westward Austronesian expansion.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 06 31;113(24):6635-40. Epub 2016 May 31.

School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2PG, United Kingdom; Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, D-07743 Jena, Germany.

The Austronesian settlement of the remote island of Madagascar remains one of the great puzzles of Indo-Pacific prehistory. Although linguistic, ethnographic, and genetic evidence points clearly to a colonization of Madagascar by Austronesian language-speaking people from Island Southeast Asia, decades of archaeological research have failed to locate evidence for a Southeast Asian signature in the island's early material record. Here, we present new archaeobotanical data that show that Southeast Asian settlers brought Asian crops with them when they settled in Africa. These crops provide the first, to our knowledge, reliable archaeological window into the Southeast Asian colonization of Madagascar. They additionally suggest that initial Southeast Asian settlement in Africa was not limited to Madagascar, but also extended to the Comoros. Archaeobotanical data may support a model of indirect Austronesian colonization of Madagascar from the Comoros and/or elsewhere in eastern Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1522714113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4914162PMC
June 2016

Continental Island Formation and the Archaeology of Defaunation on Zanzibar, Eastern Africa.

PLoS One 2016 22;11(2):e0149565. Epub 2016 Feb 22.

Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

With rising sea levels at the end of the Pleistocene, land-bridge or continental islands were formed around the world. Many of these islands have been extensively studied from a biogeographical perspective, particularly in terms of impacts of island creation on terrestrial vertebrates. However, a majority of studies rely on contemporary faunal distributions rather than fossil data. Here, we present archaeological findings from the island of Zanzibar (also known as Unguja) off the eastern African coast, to provide a temporal perspective on island biogeography. The site of Kuumbi Cave, excavated by multiple teams since 2005, has revealed the longest cultural and faunal record for any eastern African island. This record extends to the Late Pleistocene, when Zanzibar was part of the mainland, and attests to the extirpation of large mainland mammals in the millennia after the island became separated. We draw on modeling and sedimentary data to examine the process by which Zanzibar was most recently separated from the mainland, providing the first systematic insights into the nature and chronology of this process. We subsequently investigate the cultural and faunal record from Kuumbi Cave, which provides at least five key temporal windows into human activities and faunal presence: two at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), one during the period of post-LGM rapid sea level rise and island formation, and two in the late Holocene (Middle Iron Age and Late Iron Age). This record demonstrates the presence of large mammals during the period of island formation, and their severe reduction or disappearance in the Kuumbi Cave sequence by the late Holocene. While various limitations, including discontinuity in the sequence, problematize attempts to clearly attribute defaunation to anthropogenic or island biogeographic processes, Kuumbi Cave offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine post-Pleistocene island formation and its long-term consequences for human and animal communities.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149565PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4763145PMC
July 2016

Childhood and the evolution of higher-effort teaching.

Behav Brain Sci 2015 ;38:e52

British Institute in Eastern Africa,Nairobi,GPO 00100,Kenya.

Kline presents an excellent synthesis of teaching theory and research, with cogent arguments regarding its prevalence. In this, she claims that "active teaching" is human specific, and presents tangible reasons why. But in doing so, she overlooks a critical aspect of the human condition that may have arisen only recently in our evolutionary history: Childhood as a life stage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X14000545DOI Listing
August 2016

Before Cumulative Culture : The Evolutionary Origins of Overimitation and Shared Intentionality.

Hum Nat 2015 Sep;26(3):331-45

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK,

In the 7 million years or so since humans shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees we have colonized more of the planet's terrestrial habitat than any other mammalian species and come to account for more biomass than all other terrestrial vertebrates combined. Chimpanzees, in contrast to and under pressure from ourselves, have veered toward extinction. There are multiple reasons for the stark evolutionary trajectories humans and chimpanzees have taken. Recent theoretical and empirical interest has focused on the emergence of cumulative culture whereby technological innovations are progressively incorporated into a population's stock of skills and knowledge, generating ever more sophisticated repertoires. Here we look at the role of high-fidelity imitation and intention-reading in the establishment of cumulative culture. By focusing on the lithic record, we aim to identify when in our evolutionary history these skills became part of our ancestors' behavioral repertoire. We argue that evidence of cooperative construction in stone tool manufacture, along with speculation regarding changes to the mirror neurone system, hint at the foundations of overimitation and shared intentionality around 2 million years ago. However, these are not the only ingredients of cumulative culture, which is why we do not see convincing evidence for it until slightly more than a million years later.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12110-015-9233-8DOI Listing
September 2015

Beyond the Levant: first evidence of a pre-pottery Neolithic incursion into the Nefud Desert, Saudi Arabia.

PLoS One 2013 19;8(7):e68061. Epub 2013 Jul 19.

CNRS, Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, UMR 5133 Archéorient, Lyon, France.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages are best known from the fertile areas of the Mediterranean Levant. The archaeological site of Jebel Qattar 101 (JQ-101), at Jubbah in the southern part of the Nefud Desert of northern Saudi Arabia, contains a large collection of stone tools, adjacent to an Early Holocene palaeolake. The stone tool assemblage contains lithic types, including El-Khiam and Helwan projectile points, which are similar to those recorded in Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B assemblages in the Fertile Crescent. Jebel Qattar lies ∼500 kilometres outside the previously identified geographic range of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures. Technological analysis of the typologically diagnostic Jebel Qattar 101 projectile points indicates a unique strategy to manufacture the final forms, thereby raising the possibility of either direct migration of Levantine groups or the acculturation of mobile communities in Arabia. The discovery of the Early Holocene site of Jebel Qattar suggests that our view of the geographic distribution and character of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures may be in need of revision.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0068061PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3716651PMC
March 2014

Variation in lithic technological strategies among the Neanderthals of Gibraltar.

PLoS One 2013 6;8(6):e65185. Epub 2013 Jun 6.

School of Social Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

THE EVIDENCE FOR NEANDERTHAL LITHIC TECHNOLOGY IS REVIEWED AND SUMMARIZED FOR FOUR CAVES ON THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR: Vanguard, Beefsteak, Ibex and Gorham's. Some of the observed patterns in technology are statistically tested including raw material selection, platform preparation, and the use of formal and expedient technological schemas. The main parameters of technological variation are examined through detailed analysis of the Gibraltar cores and comparison with samples from the classic Mousterian sites of Le Moustier and Tabun C. The Gibraltar Mousterian, including the youngest assemblage from Layer IV of Gorham's Cave, spans the typical Middle Palaeolithic range of variation from radial Levallois to unidirectional and multi-platform flaking schemas, with characteristic emphasis on the former. A diachronic pattern of change in the Gorham's Cave sequence is documented, with the younger assemblages utilising more localized raw material and less formal flaking procedures. We attribute this change to a reduction in residential mobility as the climate deteriorated during Marine Isotope Stage 3 and the Neanderthal population contracted into a refugium.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0065185PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3675147PMC
January 2014

Hominin dispersal into the Nefud Desert and Middle palaeolithic settlement along the Jubbah Palaeolake, Northern Arabia.

PLoS One 2012 19;7(11):e49840. Epub 2012 Nov 19.

School of Archaeology, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

The Arabian Peninsula is a key region for understanding hominin dispersals and the effect of climate change on prehistoric demography, although little information on these topics is presently available owing to the poor preservation of archaeological sites in this desert environment. Here, we describe the discovery of three stratified and buried archaeological sites in the Nefud Desert, which includes the oldest dated occupation for the region. The stone tool assemblages are identified as a Middle Palaeolithic industry that includes Levallois manufacturing methods and the production of tools on flakes. Hominin occupations correspond with humid periods, particularly Marine Isotope Stages 7 and 5 of the Late Pleistocene. The Middle Palaeolithic occupations were situated along the Jubbah palaeolake-shores, in a grassland setting with some trees. Populations procured different raw materials across the lake region to manufacture stone tools, using the implements to process plants and animals. To reach the Jubbah palaeolake, Middle Palaeolithic populations travelled into the ameliorated Nefud Desert interior, possibly gaining access from multiple directions, either using routes from the north and west (the Levant and the Sinai), the north (the Mesopotamian plains and the Euphrates basin), or the east (the Persian Gulf). The Jubbah stone tool assemblages have their own suite of technological characters, but have types reminiscent of both African Middle Stone Age and Levantine Middle Palaeolithic industries. Comparative inter-regional analysis of core technology indicates morphological similarities with the Levantine Tabun C assemblage, associated with human fossils controversially identified as either Neanderthals or Homo sapiens.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0049840PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501467PMC
May 2013

Large cutting tool variation west and east of the Movius Line.

J Hum Evol 2008 Dec 17;55(6):962-6. Epub 2008 Sep 17.

Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Henry Wellcome Building, Fitzwilliam Street, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 1QH, England.

Norton et al. (2006) compared "handaxes" from Korea and two basins with Acheulean assemblages (Olorgesailie, Kenya and Hunsgi-Baichbal, India). The authors found significant morphological variance between Eastern and Western handaxes, leading them to conclude that East Asian tool forms were not morphologically similar to typical Acheulean implements. We test this finding using a larger array of localities, and find some metrical overlaps between handaxes and cleavers in the West and East. We indicate the role of convergence in lithic assemblage formation, but we also raise the possibility that handaxes and cleavers in the Luonan Basin (China) may represent evidence for Acheulean stone tool manufacturing methods.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.11.007DOI Listing
December 2008
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