Publications by authors named "Francesco Berna"

15 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Site formation processes at Manot Cave, Israel: Interplay between strata accumulation in the occupation area and the talus.

J Hum Evol 2020 Oct 15:102883. Epub 2020 Oct 15.

Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 76100, Israel.

Manot Cave contains important human fossils and archaeological assemblages related to the origin and dispersal of anatomically modern humans and the Upper Paleolithic period. This record is divided between an elevated in situ occupation area and a connecting talus. We, thus, investigated the interplay between the accumulation of the sediments and their associated artifacts in the occupation areas and the translocation of part of these sediments and artifacts down the talus. We examined the lithostratigraphy of two excavation locations in the occupation area (areas E and I), and two in the talus (areas C and D). We also assessed the diagenetic processes that have affected all these areas. A linear array of stalagmites and stalactites separates the occupation area from the talus, demarcating a major topographic barrier between the two. We infer that during human occupation, sediment accumulation of soil, wood ash, and bone was rapid and that some sediments with their associated artifacts overflowed the barrier and translocated down the talus. During periods of nonoccupation, the ash in the occupation area partially dissolved owing to the release of acid from the degrading bat and bird guano, and the layer thicknesses decreased. The south side of the talus (area C) has a normally stratified archaeological record, with the older archaeological materials underlying the younger materials. This suggests that the barrier between the occupation area and area C was relatively shallow and allowed a fairly continuous sediment accumulation in the talus. In the central part of the talus (area D), the stratigraphy is complex and shows mixing, presumably owing to the steep underlying bedrock topography and the mixing that occurs when sediments move down a steep slope. Finally, the distribution of secondary phosphates is consistent with the location of a main cave entrance to the south of the Paleolithic occupation area.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2020.102883DOI Listing
October 2020

Emergence of corpse cremation during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Southern Levant: A multidisciplinary study of a pyre-pit burial.

PLoS One 2020 12;15(8):e0235386. Epub 2020 Aug 12.

National Natural History Collections, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.

Renewed excavations at the Neolithic site of Beisamoun (Upper Jordan Valley, Israel) has resulted in the discovery of the earliest occurrence of an intentional cremation in the Near East directly dated to 7031-6700 cal BC (Pre-Pottery Neolithic C, also known as Final PPNB, which spans ca. 7100-6400 cal BC). The funerary treatment involved in situ cremation within a pyre-pit of a young adult individual who previously survived from a flint projectile injury. In this study we have used a multidisciplinary approach that integrates archaeothanatology, spatial analysis, bioanthropology, zooarchaeology, soil micromorphological analysis, and phytolith identification in order to reconstruct the different stages and techniques involved in this ritual: cremation pit construction, selection of fuel, possible initial position of the corpse, potential associated items and funerary containers, fire management, post-cremation gesture and structure abandonment. The origins and development of cremation practices in the region are explored as well as their significance in terms of Northern-Southern Levantine connections during the transition between the 8th and 7th millennia BC.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0235386PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7423105PMC
September 2020

Preliminary observations on the Levantine Aurignacian sequence of Manot Cave: Cultural affiliations and regional perspectives.

J Hum Evol 2019 Dec 24:102705. Epub 2019 Dec 24.

Archaeological Research Department, Israel Antiquities Authority, P.O. Box 586, Jerusalem, Israel.

A well-preserved sequence of Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) occupations has been revealed in the past decade in Manot Cave, the studies of which shed light on the cultural dynamics and subsistence patterns and paleoenvironment. Most intriguing is the series of overlying Levantine Aurignacian occupation layers, exposed near the entrance to the cave. Area E is considered the inner part of the main activity area in Manot Cave. Remains of intact combustion features, as well as numerous flint artifacts and faunal remains, were found, indicating a high level of preservation. Within a 2.5 m sequence, nine distinct occupation layers were defined. The presence of characteristic flint and osseous industries alongside a rich mollusk assemblage led to the initial association of the sequence as a whole to the Levantine Aurignacian. However, as research advanced and variability in the material culture became apparent, it became clear that a division of the sequence into two phases, early and late, is required. A preliminary study of the assemblage variability implies distinct changes in human behavior between the two phases. Most prominently, these are indicated by a change in bladelet production method and morphology alongside an increase in the significance of the bladelet component within the flint assemblage, the disappearance of composite osseous industries, and a steep decrease in mollusk shell representation in the late occupation phase. Radiocarbon dating indicates a short time span between the two phases. The earlier phase defined as, Levantine Aurignacian, was ascribed an age range of 38-34 ka cal BP with a more constrained age range of 37-35 ka cal BP suggested based on Bayesian models. In the late phase, which is temporarily referred to as "post-Levantine Aurignacian," an age range of 36-33 ka cal BP is suggested.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.102705DOI Listing
December 2019

Hominin fire use in the Okote member at Koobi Fora, Kenya: New evidence for the old debate.

J Hum Evol 2019 08 16;133:214-229. Epub 2019 Jul 16.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Anthropology Department, NJ, USA; The National Museums of Kenya, Archaeology Department, Nairobi, Kenya.

Hominin fire use in the early Pleistocene has been debated since the early 1970s when consolidated reddened sediment patches were identified at FxJj20 East and Main, Koobi Fora, Kenya. Since then, researchers have argued for evidence of early Pleistocene fire use at a handful of archaeological sites with evidence of combustion. Some argue that morphological evidence of early Homo erectus fossils indicates a dietary shift to higher quality food sources, which could be achieved by cooking. Others contend that fire use does not become a regular behavior until later, in the middle Pleistocene, when archaeological sites begin to show regular evidence for fire use. An early date for hominin control of fire would help to explain the grade changes seen with the appearance of H. erectus, while a later date would mean that fire would have had little influence on the early development of the lineage. Early hominins would have encountered fire regularly on the landscape, increasing the possibility of hominins interacting with and habituating to natural landscape fire. Only a detailed understanding of the patterns of controlled and natural fires can lead to understanding of early hominin fire use. We present new work on the evidence of fire at the FxJj20 Site complex in Koobi Fora, dated to 1.5 Ma. We highlight evidence of burning found on site through Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometry, and describe ongoing work to investigate the association of hominin behavior and fire evidence. We present data supporting the hypothesis that the site is undisturbed and discuss spatial relationships showing burned material associated with non-burned material. We present data on a type of stone fragment, the Thermal Curve Fragment (TCF), which is indicative of knapped material being exposed to high heat. Finally, we suggest future directions on the topic of fire in the early Pleistocene.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.01.010DOI Listing
August 2019

Renewed excavations at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa.

Evol Anthropol 2017 Nov;26(6):258-260

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/evan.21558DOI Listing
November 2017

Radiocarbon chronology of Manot Cave, Israel and Upper Paleolithic dispersals.

Sci Adv 2017 11 15;3(11):e1701450. Epub 2017 Nov 15.

Max Planck-Weizmann Center for Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology, DANGOOR Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 7610001, Israel.

The timing of archeological industries in the Levant is central for understanding the spread of modern humans with Upper Paleolithic traditions. We report a high-resolution radiocarbon chronology for Early Upper Paleolithic industries (Early Ahmarian and Levantine Aurignacian) from the newly excavated site of Manot Cave, Israel. The dates confirm that the Early Ahmarian industry was present by 46,000 calibrated years before the present (cal BP), and the Levantine Aurignacian occurred at least between 38,000 and 34,000 cal BP. This timing is consistent with proposed migrations or technological diffusions between the Near East and Europe. Specifically, the Ahmarian could have led to the development of the Protoaurignacian in Europe, and the Aurignacian in Europe could have spread back to the Near East as the Levantine Aurignacian.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1701450DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5687856PMC
November 2017

The depositional environments of Schöningen 13 II-4 and their archaeological implications.

J Hum Evol 2015 Dec 2;89:71-91. Epub 2015 Sep 2.

Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology, University of Tübingen, Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany; Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany.

Geoarchaeological research at the Middle Pleistocene site of Schöningen 13 II-4, often referred to as the Speerhorizont, has focused on describing and evaluating the depositional contexts of the well-known wooden spears, butchered horses, and stone tools. These finds were recovered from the transitional contact between a lacustrine marl and an overlying organic mud, originally thought to be a peat that accumulated in place under variable moisture conditions. The original excavators proposed that hominin activity, including hunting and butchery, occurred on a dry lake shore and was followed by a rapid sedimentation of organic deposits that embedded and preserved the artifacts. Our geoarchaeological analysis challenges this model. Here, we present evidence that the sediments of Schöningen 13 II-4 were deposited in a constantly submerged area of a paleolake. Although we cannot exclude the possibility that the artifacts were deposited during a short, extreme drying event, there are no sedimentary features indicative of surface exposure in the sediments. Accordingly, this paper explores three main alternative models of site formation: anthropogenic disposal of materials into the lake, a geological relocation of the artifacts, and hunting or caching on lake-ice. These models have different behavioral ramifications concerning hominin knowledge and exploitation of the landscape and their subsistence strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.07.008DOI Listing
December 2015

On the evidence for human use and control of fire at Schöningen.

J Hum Evol 2015 Dec 16;89:181-201. Epub 2015 Jun 16.

Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany; Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany.

When and how humans began to control fire has been a central debate in Paleolithic archaeology for decades. Fire plays an important role in technology, social organization, subsistence, and manipulation of the environment and is widely seen as a necessary adaptation for the colonization of northern latitudes. Many researchers view purported hearths, burnt wooden implements, and heated flints from Schöningen as providing the best evidence for the control of fire in the Lower Paleolithic of Northern Europe. Here we present results of a multianalytical study of the purported hearths along with a critical examination of other possible evidence of human use or control of fire at Schöningen. We conclude that the analyzed features and artifacts present no convincing evidence for human use or control of fire. Our study also shows that a multianalytical, micro-contextual approach is the best methodology for evaluating claims of early evidence of human-controlled fire. We advise caution with macroscopic, qualitative identification of combustion features, burnt flint, and burnt wood without the application of such techniques as micromorphology, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, organic petrology, luminescence, and analysis of mineral magnetic parameters. The lack of evidence for the human control of fire at Schöningen raises the possibility that fire control was not a necessary adaptation for the human settlement of northern latitudes in the Lower Paleolithic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.04.004DOI Listing
December 2015

Levantine cranium from Manot Cave (Israel) foreshadows the first European modern humans.

Nature 2015 Apr 28;520(7546):216-9. Epub 2015 Jan 28.

Israel Antiquities Authority, PO Box 586, Jerusalem 91004, Israel.

A key event in human evolution is the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia between 60 and 40 thousand years (kyr) before present (bp), replacing all other forms of hominins. Owing to the scarcity of human fossils from this period, these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations remain largely enigmatic. Here we describe a partial calvaria, recently discovered at Manot Cave (Western Galilee, Israel) and dated to 54.7 ± 5.5 kyr bp (arithmetic mean ± 2 standard deviations) by uranium-thorium dating, that sheds light on this crucial event. The overall shape and discrete morphological features of the Manot 1 calvaria demonstrate that this partial skull is unequivocally modern. It is similar in shape to recent African skulls as well as to European skulls from the Upper Palaeolithic period, but different from most other early anatomically modern humans in the Levant. This suggests that the Manot people could be closely related to the first modern humans who later successfully colonized Europe. Thus, the anatomical features used to support the 'assimilation model' in Europe might not have been inherited from European Neanderthals, but rather from earlier Levantine populations. Moreover, at present, Manot 1 is the only modern human specimen to provide evidence that during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic interface, both modern humans and Neanderthals contemporaneously inhabited the southern Levant, close in time to the likely interbreeding event with Neanderthals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14134DOI Listing
April 2015

Stone tools and foraging in northern Madagascar challenge Holocene extinction models.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 Jul 15;110(31):12583-8. Epub 2013 Jul 15.

Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8277, USA.

Past research on Madagascar indicates that village communities were established about AD 500 by people of both Indonesian and East African heritage. Evidence of earlier visits is scattered and contentious. Recent archaeological excavations in northern Madagascar provide evidence of occupational sites with microlithic stone technologies related to foraging for forest and coastal resources. A forager occupation of one site dates to earlier than 2000 B.C., doubling the length of Madagascar's known occupational history, and thus the time during which people exploited Madagascar's environments. We detail stratigraphy, chronology, and artifacts from two rock shelters. Ambohiposa near Iharana (Vohémar) on the northeast coast, yielded a stratified assemblage with small flakes, microblades, and retouched crescentic and trapezoidal tools, probably projectile elements, made on cherts and obsidian, some brought more that 200 km. (14)C dates are contemporary with the earliest villages. No food remains are preserved. Lakaton'i Anja near Antsiranana in the north yielded several stratified assemblages. The latest assemblage is well dated to A.D. 1050-1350, by (14)C and optically stimulated luminescence dating and pottery imported from the Near East and China. Below is a series of stratified assemblages similar to Ambohiposa. (14)C and optically stimulated luminescence dates indicate occupation from at least 2000 B.C. Faunal remains indicate a foraging pattern. Our evidence shows that foragers with a microlithic technology were active in Madagascar long before the arrival of farmers and herders and before many Late Holocene faunal extinctions. The differing effects of historically distinct economies must be identified and understood to reconstruct Holocene histories of human environmental impact.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1306100110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3732966PMC
July 2013

Microstratigraphic evidence of in situ fire in the Acheulean strata of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape province, South Africa.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012 May 2;109(20):E1215-20. Epub 2012 Apr 2.

Department of Archaeology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

The ability to control fire was a crucial turning point in human evolution, but the question when hominins first developed this ability still remains. Here we show that micromorphological and Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (mFTIR) analyses of intact sediments at the site of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape province, South Africa, provide unambiguous evidence--in the form of burned bone and ashed plant remains--that burning took place in the cave during the early Acheulean occupation, approximately 1.0 Ma. To the best of our knowledge, this is the earliest secure evidence for burning in an archaeological context.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1117620109DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356665PMC
May 2012

Middle Stone Age bedding construction and settlement patterns at Sibudu, South Africa.

Science 2011 Dec;334(6061):1388-91

School of Geography, Archaeology, and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2050, South Africa.

The Middle Stone Age (MSA) is associated with early behavioral innovations, expansions of modern humans within and out of Africa, and occasional population bottlenecks. Several innovations in the MSA are seen in an archaeological sequence in the rock shelter Sibudu (South Africa). At ~77,000 years ago, people constructed plant bedding from sedges and other monocotyledons topped with aromatic leaves containing insecticidal and larvicidal chemicals. Beginning at ~73,000 years ago, bedding was burned, presumably for site maintenance. By ~58,000 years ago, bedding construction, burning, and other forms of site use and maintenance intensified, suggesting that settlement strategies changed. Behavioral differences between ~77,000 and 58,000 years ago may coincide with population fluctuations in Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1213317DOI Listing
December 2011

Earliest human occupations at Dmanisi (Georgian Caucasus) dated to 1.85-1.78 Ma.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2011 Jun 6;108(26):10432-6. Epub 2011 Jun 6.

Department of Geography, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203, USA.

The early Pleistocene colonization of temperate Eurasia by Homo erectus was not only a significant biogeographic event but also a major evolutionary threshold. Dmanisi's rich collection of hominin fossils, revealing a population that was small-brained with both primitive and derived skeletal traits, has been dated to the earliest Upper Matuyama chron (ca. 1.77 Ma). Here we present archaeological and geologic evidence that push back Dmanisi's first occupations to shortly after 1.85 Ma and document repeated use of the site over the last half of the Olduvai subchron, 1.85-1.78 Ma. These discoveries show that the southern Caucasus was occupied repeatedly before Dmanisi's hominin fossil assemblage accumulated, strengthening the probability that this was part of a core area for the colonization of Eurasia. The secure age for Dmanisi's first occupations reveals that Eurasia was probably occupied before Homo erectus appears in the East African fossil record.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1106638108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3127884PMC
June 2011

Comment on "DNA from pre-Clovis human coprolites in Oregon, North America".

Science 2009 Jul;325(5937):148; author reply 148

Department of Archaeology, Boston University, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

Gilbert et al. (Reports, 9 May 2008, p. 786) presented DNA analysis of coprolites recovered from an Oregon cave as evidence for a human presence in North America before the Clovis culture. Results of our micromorphological and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy analyses of one of the reported coprolites are difficult to reconcile with the DNA results identifying the coprolite as human.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1167531DOI Listing
July 2009