Publications by authors named "Guy Bar-Oz"

40 Publications

Cavalry and the Great Walls of China and Mongolia.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Apr;118(16)

Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2024835118DOI Listing
April 2021

Middle Pleistocene genome calibrates a revised evolutionary history of extinct cave bears.

Curr Biol 2021 Feb 9. Epub 2021 Feb 9.

School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Clifton Lane, Nottingham NG11 8NS, UK.

Palaeogenomes provide the potential to study evolutionary processes in real time, but this potential is limited by our ability to recover genetic data over extended timescales. As a consequence, most studies so far have focused on samples of Late Pleistocene or Holocene age, which covers only a small part of the history of many clades and species. Here, we report the recovery of a low coverage palaeogenome from the petrous bone of a ∼360,000 year old cave bear from Kudaro 1 cave in the Caucasus Mountains. Analysis of this genome alongside those of several Late Pleistocene cave bears reveals widespread mito-nuclear discordance in this group. Using the time interval between Middle and Late Pleistocene cave bear genomes, we directly estimate ursid nuclear and mitochondrial substitution rates to calibrate their respective phylogenies. This reveals post-divergence mitochondrial transfer as the dominant factor explaining their mito-nuclear discordance. Interestingly, these transfer events were not accompanied by large-scale nuclear introgression. However, we do detect additional instances of nuclear admixture among other cave bear lineages, and between cave bears and brown bears, which are not associated with mitochondrial exchange. Genomic data obtained from the Middle Pleistocene cave bear petrous bone has thus facilitated a revised evolutionary history of this extinct megafaunal group. Moreover, it suggests that petrous bones may provide a means of extending both the magnitude and time depth of palaeogenome retrieval over substantial portions of the evolutionary histories of many mammalian clades.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.01.073DOI Listing
February 2021

Origins and genetic legacy of prehistoric dogs.

Science 2020 10 29;370(6516):557-564. Epub 2020 Oct 29.

Ancient Genomics Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute, London, UK.

Dogs were the first domestic animal, but little is known about their population history and to what extent it was linked to humans. We sequenced 27 ancient dog genomes and found that all dogs share a common ancestry distinct from present-day wolves, with limited gene flow from wolves since domestication but substantial dog-to-wolf gene flow. By 11,000 years ago, at least five major ancestry lineages had diversified, demonstrating a deep genetic history of dogs during the Paleolithic. Coanalysis with human genomes reveals aspects of dog population history that mirror humans, including Levant-related ancestry in Africa and early agricultural Europe. Other aspects differ, including the impacts of steppe pastoralist expansions in West and East Eurasia and a near-complete turnover of Neolithic European dog ancestry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aba9572DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7116352PMC
October 2020

Byzantine-Early Islamic resource management detected through micro-geoarchaeological investigations of trash mounds (Negev, Israel).

PLoS One 2020 14;15(10):e0239227. Epub 2020 Oct 14.

Laboratory for Sedimentary Archaeology, Department of Maritime Civilizations, Recanati Institute of Maritime Studies, Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Sustainable resource management is of central importance among agrarian societies in marginal drylands. In the Negev Desert, Israel, research on agropastoral resource management during Late Antiquity emphasizes intramural settlement contexts and landscape features. The importance of hinterland trash deposits as diachronic archives of resource use and disposal has been overlooked until recently. Without these data, assessments of community-scale responses to societal, economic, and environmental disruption and reconfiguration remain incomplete. In this study, micro-geoarchaeological investigations were conducted on trash mound features at the Byzantine-Early Islamic sites of Shivta, Elusa, and Nesanna to track spatiotemporal trends in the use and disposal of critical agropastoral resources. Refuse derived sediment deposits were characterized using stratigraphy, micro-remains (i.e., livestock dung spherulites, wood ash pseudomorphs, and plant phytoliths), and mineralogy by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Our investigations detected a turning point in the management of herbivore livestock dung, a vital resource in the Negev. We propose that the scarcity of raw dung proxies in the studied deposits relates to the use of this resource as fuel and agricultural fertilizer. Refuse deposits contained dung ash, indicating the widespread use of dung as a sustainable fuel. Sharply contrasting this, raw dung was dumped and incinerated outside the village of Nessana. We discuss how this local shift in dung management corresponds with a growing emphasis on sedentised herding spurred by newly pressed taxation and declining market-oriented agriculture. Our work is among the first to deal with the role of waste management and its significance to economic strategies and urban development during the late Roman Imperial Period and Late Antiquity. The findings contribute to highlighting top-down societal and economic pressures, rather than environmental degradation, as key factors involved in the ruralisation of the Negev agricultural heartland toward the close of Late Antiquity.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0239227PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7556535PMC
November 2020

The rise and fall of viticulture in the Late Antique Negev Highlands reconstructed from archaeobotanical and ceramic data.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 08 27;117(33):19780-19791. Epub 2020 Jul 27.

The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University, 52900 Ramat Gan, Israel;

The international scope of the Mediterranean wine trade in Late Antiquity raises important questions concerning sustainability in an ancient international economy and offers a valuable historical precedent to modern globalization. Such questions involve the role of intercontinental commerce in maintaining sustainable production within important supply regions and the vulnerability of peripheral regions believed to have been especially sensitive to environmental and political disturbances. We provide archaeobotanical evidence from trash mounds at three sites in the central Negev Desert, Israel, unraveling the rise and fall of viticulture over the second to eighth centuries of the common era (CE). Using quantitative ceramic data obtained in the same archaeological contexts, we further investigate connections between Negev viticulture and circum-Mediterranean trade. Our findings demonstrate interrelated growth in viticulture and involvement in Mediterranean trade reaching what appears to be a commercial scale in the fourth to mid-sixth centuries. Following a mid-sixth century peak, decline of this system is evident in the mid- to late sixth century, nearly a century before the Islamic conquest. These findings closely correspond with other archaeological evidence for social, economic, and urban growth in the fourth century and decline centered on the mid-sixth century. Contracting markets were a likely proximate cause for the decline; possible triggers include climate change, plague, and wider sociopolitical developments. In long-term historical perspective, the unprecedented commercial florescence of the Late Antique Negev appears to have been unsustainable, reverting to an age-old pattern of smaller-scale settlement and survival-subsistence strategies within a time frame of about two centuries.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1922200117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7443973PMC
August 2020

Polyplax brachyrrhyncha (Anoplura: Polyplacidae) and Rhipicephalus turanicus (Ixodidae: Rhipicephalinae) in an Ancient Louse Comb.

J Med Entomol 2020 07;57(4):1021-1024

Laboratory of Archaeozoology, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

A fine-toothed comb found in the Judean Desert and resembling an ancient louse comb was examined. Based on radiocarbon dating, it ranged between 1660 AD and 1950 AD. From the material accumulated between the teeth, an oribatid mite, a pseudoscorpion, exuviae of beetle larvae, a sucking louse (Polyplax brachyrrhyncha Cummings, 1915), as well as a fully engorged larva and a nymph of the ixodid tick Rhipicephalus turanicus Pomerantzev, 1936 were recorded. Additionally, the comb included numerous hairs of a spiny mouse (Acomys sp.). Although finding mites, beetle larvae, and a pseudoscorpion on a louse comb could be regarded as contamination, the findings of P. brachyrrhyncha, as well as of a larva and nymph of R. turanicus, are noteworthy. We hypothesize that the presence of animal lice and ticks could indicate some sort of pet grooming.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jme/tjaa007DOI Listing
July 2020

Climate stability and societal decline on the margins of the Byzantine empire in the Negev Desert.

Sci Rep 2020 01 30;10(1):1512. Epub 2020 Jan 30.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 199 Aba-Hushi Avenue, Haifa, 3498838, Israel.

Understanding past human settlement of inhospitable regions is one of the most intriguing puzzles in archaeological research, with implications for more sustainable use of marginal regions today. During the Byzantine period in the 4 century CE, large settlements were established in the arid region of the Negev Desert, Israel, but it remains unclear why it did so, and why the settlements were abandoned three centuries later. Previous theories proposed that the Negev was a "green desert" in the early 1 millennium CE, and that the Byzantine Empire withdrew from this region due to a dramatic climatic downturn. In the absence of a local climate archive correlated to the Byzantine/Early Islamic transition, testing this theory has proven challenging. We use stable isotopic indicators of animal dietary and mobility patterns to assess the extent of the vegetative cover in the desert. By doing so, we aim to detect possible climatic fluctuations that may have led to the abandonment of the Byzantine settlements. The findings show that the Negev Desert was not greener during the time period under investigation than it is today and that the composition of the animals' diets, as well as their grazing mobility patterns, remained unchanged through the Byzantine/Early Islamic transition. Favoring a non-climatic explanation, we propose instead that the abandonment of the Negev Byzantine settlements was motivated by restructuring of the Empire's territorial priorities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-58360-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6992700PMC
January 2020

Zooarchaeology of the social and economic upheavals in the Late Antique-Early Islamic sequence of the Negev Desert.

Sci Rep 2019 04 30;9(1):6702. Epub 2019 Apr 30.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

The Byzantine - Islamic transition (7-8 centuries CE) in the desert-edge Palaestina Tertia is examined using faunal remains recovered from archaeological sites in the Negev. Archaeozoological analyses suggest sharp differences between Late Byzantine and Early Islamic animal economies, especially in herding patterns and the exploitation of wildlife resources. These differences are suggested to reflect both cultural and land ownership changes following the Arab conquest, against the backdrop of climatic change. The archaeozoological record thereby provides independent evidence to the rise and fall of societal complexity in this marginal region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-43169-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6491595PMC
April 2019

Ancient trash mounds unravel urban collapse a century before the end of Byzantine hegemony in the southern Levant.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 04 25;116(17):8239-8248. Epub 2019 Mar 25.

Dangoor Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometer Radiocarbon Laboratory, Weizmann Institute of Science, 76100 Rehovot, Israel.

The historic event of the Late Antique Little Ice Age (LALIA) was recently identified in dozens of natural and geological climate proxies of the northern hemisphere. Although this climatic downturn was proposed as a major cause for pandemic and extensive societal upheavals in the sixth-seventh centuries CE, archaeological evidence for the magnitude of societal response to this event is sparse. This study uses ancient trash mounds as a type of proxy for identifying societal crisis in the urban domain, and employs multidisciplinary investigations to establish the terminal date of organized trash collection and high-level municipal functioning on a city-wide scale. Survey, excavation, sediment analysis, and geographic information system assessment of mound volume were conducted on a series of mounds surrounding the Byzantine urban settlement of Elusa in the Negev Desert. These reveal the massive collection and dumping of domestic and construction waste over time on the city edges. Carbon dating of charred seeds and charcoal fragments combined with ceramic analysis establish the end date of orchestrated trash removal near the mid-sixth century, coinciding closely with the beginning of the LALIA event and outbreak of the Justinian Plague in the year 541. This evidence for societal decline during the sixth century ties with other arguments for urban dysfunction across the Byzantine Levant at this time. We demonstrate the utility of trash mounds as sensitive proxies of social response and unravel the time-space dynamics of urban collapse, suggesting diminished resilience to rapid climate change in the frontier Negev region of the empire.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1900233116DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6486770PMC
April 2019

Improving integration in societal consequences to climate change.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 03 21;116(11):4755-4756. Epub 2019 Feb 21.

Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 919051, Israel.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1901538116DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6421455PMC
March 2019

Tooth oxygen isotopes reveal Late Bronze Age origin of Mediterranean fish aquaculture and trade.

Sci Rep 2018 09 20;8(1):14086. Epub 2018 Sep 20.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Past fish provenance, exploitation and trade patterns were studied by analyzing phosphate oxygen isotope compositions (δO) of gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) tooth enameloid from archaeological sites across the southern Levant, spanning the entire Holocene. We report the earliest evidence for extensive fish exploitation from the hypersaline Bardawil lagoon on Egypt's northern Sinai coast, as indicated by distinctively high δO values, which became abundant in the southern Levant, both along the coast and further inland, at least from the Late Bronze Age (3,550-3,200 BP). A period of global, postglacial sea-level stabilization triggered the formation of the Bardawil lagoon, which was intensively exploited and supported a widespread fish trade. This represents the earliest roots of marine proto-aquaculture in Late Holocene coastal domains of the Mediterranean. We demonstrate the potential of large-scale δO analysis of fish teeth to reveal cultural phenomena in antiquity, providing unprecedented insights into past trade patterns.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-32468-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6148281PMC
September 2018

Partial genomic survival of cave bears in living brown bears.

Nat Ecol Evol 2018 10 27;2(10):1563-1570. Epub 2018 Aug 27.

Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.

Although many large mammal species went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, their DNA may persist due to past episodes of interspecies admixture. However, direct empirical evidence of the persistence of ancient alleles remains scarce. Here, we present multifold coverage genomic data from four Late Pleistocene cave bears (Ursus spelaeus complex) and show that cave bears hybridized with brown bears (Ursus arctos) during the Pleistocene. We develop an approach to assess both the directionality and relative timing of gene flow. We find that segments of cave bear DNA still persist in the genomes of living brown bears, with cave bears contributing 0.9 to 2.4% of the genomes of all brown bears investigated. Our results show that even though extinction is typically considered as absolute, following admixture, fragments of the gene pool of extinct species can survive for tens of thousands of years in the genomes of extant recipient species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0654-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6590514PMC
October 2018

Ancient goat genomes reveal mosaic domestication in the Fertile Crescent.

Science 2018 07;361(6397):85-88

Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.

Current genetic data are equivocal as to whether goat domestication occurred multiple times or was a singular process. We generated genomic data from 83 ancient goats (51 with genome-wide coverage) from Paleolithic to Medieval contexts throughout the Near East. Our findings demonstrate that multiple divergent ancient wild goat sources were domesticated in a dispersed process that resulted in genetically and geographically distinct Neolithic goat populations, echoing contemporaneous human divergence across the region. These early goat populations contributed differently to modern goats in Asia, Africa, and Europe. We also detect early selection for pigmentation, stature, reproduction, milking, and response to dietary change, providing 8000-year-old evidence for human agency in molding genome variation within a partner species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aas9411DOI Listing
July 2018

The Emergence of Animal Management in the Southern Levant.

Sci Rep 2018 06 18;8(1):9279. Epub 2018 Jun 18.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, 31905, Haifa, Israel.

Our compilation of zooarchaeological data from a series of important archaeological sites spanning the Epipaleolithic through Pre-Pottery Neolithic B periods in the Mediterranean Hills of the southern Levant contributes to major debates about the beginnings of ungulate management in Southwest Asia. The data support an onset of ungulate management practices by the Early PPNB (10,500-10,000 cal. BP), more than 500 years earlier than previously thought for this region. There is a clear developmental connection between reduced hunting intensity and the uptake of ungulate management, confirming that this process began in response to local, density-dependent demographic factors. The early process of goat domestication in the southern Levant appears to have been overwhelmingly local. This may have been true for cattle and pigs as well. Nevertheless, the loose synchrony of animal management trends across Southwest Asia was undoubtedly enabled by large-scale social networks that transmitted knowledge. The results add to growing evidence that animal management processes followed multiple regional evolutionary pathways within the Fertile Crescent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-27647-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6006362PMC
June 2018

Pigeons at the edge of the empire: Bioarchaeological evidences for extensive management of pigeons in a Byzantine desert settlement in the southern Levant.

PLoS One 2018 21;13(3):e0193206. Epub 2018 Mar 21.

Laboratory of Archaeozoology, Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Metric data of 6th century CE pigeons from the Negev Desert, Israel, are employed to test competing hypotheses on flock management strategies: that directed selection for size or shape took place under intensive management; or, alternatively, that stabilizing selection was a stronger determinant of size and shape under extensive management conditions. The results of the analysis support the second hypothesis by demonstrating that the Byzantine Negev pigeons were like wild pigeon (Columba livia) in shape, albeit small-sized. The inferred extensive management system is then discussed in the context of pigeon domestication and human micro-ecologies in marginal regions.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0193206PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5862435PMC
June 2018

A glimpse of an ancient agricultural ecosystem based on remains of micromammals in the Byzantine Negev Desert.

R Soc Open Sci 2018 Jan 10;5(1):171528. Epub 2018 Jan 10.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel 3498838, Israel.

It is widely believed that Byzantine agriculture in the Negev Desert (fourth to seventh century Common Era; CE), with widespread construction of terraces and dams, altered local landscapes. However, no direct evidence in archaeological sites yet exists to test this assumption. We uncovered large amounts of small mammalian remains (rodents and insectivores) within agricultural installations built near fields, providing a new line of evidence for reconstructing anthropogenic impact on local habitats. Abandonment layers furnished high abundances of remains, whereas much smaller numbers were retrieved from the period of human use of the structures. Digestion marks are present in low frequencies (20% of long bones and teeth), with a light degree of impact, which indicate the role of owls (e.g. ) as the principal means of accumulation. The most common taxa-gerbils ( spp.) and jirds ( spp.)-occur in nearly equal frequencies, which do not correspond with any modern Negev communities, where gerbils predominate in sandy low-precipitation environments and jirds in loessial, higher-precipitation ones. Although low-level climate change cannot be ruled out, the results suggest that Byzantine agriculture allowed jirds to colonize sandy anthropogenic habitats with other gerbilids and commensal mice and rats.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.171528DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5792933PMC
January 2018

Visible induced luminescence reveals invisible rays shining from Christ in the early Christian wall painting of the Transfiguration in Shivta.

PLoS One 2017 26;12(9):e0185149. Epub 2017 Sep 26.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

The Transfiguration scene depicted in a Byzantine church at Shivta, Israel, is one of two figurative examples of the scene from the early Christian period. The use of Egyptian blue pigment in the wall painting was investigated with various analytical methods. Visible Induced Luminescence (VIL) imaging was used in-situ in order to map the distribution of the Egyptian blue pigment in the painting. The VIL imaging revealed surprising insights into the understanding of the iconography and the technology of this rare painting. Previously undetected elements of the painting include rays of light that were discovered emerging from the body of Christ and illuminating the other figures in the painting. Although this motif is an important part of the Transfiguration narrative and appears in most of its scenes depicted elsewhere, it had not been previously identified in this painting as it was undetectable by any other inspection technique. Another important result is the identification of Egyptian blue as a common blue pigment used at Shivta during the Byzantine period, when it is considered to be very rare.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185149PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5614614PMC
October 2017

Palaeobiology: Ensure equal access to ancient DNA.

Nature 2017 08;548(7666):158

University of Haifa, Israel.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/548158aDOI Listing
August 2017

Reply to Dekel et al.: Preagricultural commensal niches for the house mouse and origins of human sedentism.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 07 13;114(27):E5281-E5282. Epub 2017 Jun 13.

CNRS, UMR 7209 Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques et Environnements, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 75005 Paris, France;

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1706914114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5502652PMC
July 2017

Eastern Mediterranean Mobility in the Bronze and Early Iron Ages: Inferences from Ancient DNA of Pigs and Cattle.

Sci Rep 2017 04 6;7(1):701. Epub 2017 Apr 6.

Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, 69978, Israel.

The Late Bronze of the Eastern Mediterranean (1550-1150 BCE) was a period of strong commercial relations and great prosperity, which ended in collapse and migration of groups to the Levant. Here we aim at studying the translocation of cattle and pigs during this period. We sequenced the first ancient mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA of cattle from Greece and Israel and compared the results with morphometric analysis of the metacarpal in cattle. We also increased previous ancient pig DNA datasets from Israel and extracted the first mitochondrial DNA for samples from Greece. We found that pigs underwent a complex translocation history, with links between Anatolia with southeastern Europe in the Bronze Age, and movement from southeastern Europe to the Levant in the Iron I (ca. 1150-950 BCE). Our genetic data did not indicate movement of cattle between the Aegean region and the southern Levant. We detected the earliest evidence for crossbreeding between taurine and zebu cattle in the Iron IIA (ca. 900 BCE). In light of archaeological and historical evidence on Egyptian imperial domination in the region in the Late Bronze Age, we suggest that Egypt attempted to expand dry farming in the region in a period of severe droughts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-00701-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429671PMC
April 2017

Origins of house mice in ecological niches created by settled hunter-gatherers in the Levant 15,000 y ago.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 04 27;114(16):4099-4104. Epub 2017 Mar 27.

Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, CNRS-UMR 7209, Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques et Environnements, 75005 Paris, France;

Reductions in hunter-gatherer mobility during the Late Pleistocene influenced settlement ecologies, altered human relations with animal communities, and played a pivotal role in domestication. The influence of variability in human mobility on selection dynamics and ecological interactions in human settlements has not been extensively explored, however. This study of mice in modern African villages and changing mice molar shapes in a 200,000-y-long sequence from the Levant demonstrates competitive advantages for commensal mice in long-term settlements. Mice from African pastoral households provide a referential model for habitat partitioning among mice taxa in settlements of varying durations. The data reveal the earliest known commensal niche for house mice in long-term forager settlements 15,000 y ago. Competitive dynamics and the presence and abundance of mice continued to fluctuate with human mobility through the terminal Pleistocene. At the Natufian site of Ain Mallaha, house mice displaced less commensal wild mice during periods of heavy occupational pressure but were outcompeted when mobility increased. Changing food webs and ecological dynamics in long-term settlements allowed house mice to establish durable commensal populations that expanded with human societies. This study demonstrates the changing magnitude of cultural niche construction with varying human mobility and the extent of environmental influence before the advent of farming.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1619137114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5402403PMC
April 2017

Note on the contribution of genetics to understanding the organization of camel caravans in antiquity.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 08 2;113(32):E4582. Epub 2016 Aug 2.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1609773113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987801PMC
August 2016

Earliest economic exploitation of chicken outside East Asia: Evidence from the Hellenistic Southern Levant.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Aug 20;112(32):9849-54. Epub 2015 Jul 20.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 3498838, Israel.

Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is today one of the most widespread domesticated species and is a main source of protein in the human diet. However, for thousands of years exploitation of chickens was confined to symbolic and social domains such as cockfighting. The question of when and where chickens were first used for economic purposes remains unresolved. The results of our faunal analysis demonstrate that the Hellenistic (fourth-second centuries B.C.E.) site of Maresha, Israel, is the earliest site known today where economic exploitation of chickens was widely practiced. We base our claim on the exceptionally high frequency of chicken bones at that site, the majority of which belong to adult individuals, and on the observed 2:1 ratio of female to male bones. These results are supported further by an extensive survey of faunal remains from 234 sites in the Southern Levant, spanning more than three millennia, which shows a sharp increase in the frequency of chicken during the Hellenistic period. We further argue that the earliest secure evidence for economic exploitation of chickens in Europe dates to the first century B.C.E. and therefore is predated by the finds in the Southern Levant by at least a century. We suggest that the gradual acclimatization of chickens in the Southern Levant and its gradual integration into the local economy, the latter fully accomplished in the Hellenistic period, was a crucial step in the adoption of this species in European husbandry some 100 y later.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1504236112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4538678PMC
August 2015

Optimal Ancient DNA Yields from the Inner Ear Part of the Human Petrous Bone.

PLoS One 2015 18;10(6):e0129102. Epub 2015 Jun 18.

Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, Faculty for Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknechtstr. 24-25, 14476 Potsdam Golm, Germany; Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, Heslington, York, United Kingdom.

The invention and development of next or second generation sequencing methods has resulted in a dramatic transformation of ancient DNA research and allowed shotgun sequencing of entire genomes from fossil specimens. However, although there are exceptions, most fossil specimens contain only low (~ 1% or less) percentages of endogenous DNA. The only skeletal element for which a systematically higher endogenous DNA content compared to other skeletal elements has been shown is the petrous part of the temporal bone. In this study we investigate whether (a) different parts of the petrous bone of archaeological human specimens give different percentages of endogenous DNA yields, (b) there are significant differences in average DNA read lengths, damage patterns and total DNA concentration, and (c) it is possible to obtain endogenous ancient DNA from petrous bones from hot environments. We carried out intra-petrous comparisons for ten petrous bones from specimens from Holocene archaeological contexts across Eurasia dated between 10,000-1,800 calibrated years before present (cal. BP). We obtained shotgun DNA sequences from three distinct areas within the petrous: a spongy part of trabecular bone (part A), the dense part of cortical bone encircling the osseous inner ear, or otic capsule (part B), and the dense part within the otic capsule (part C). Our results confirm that dense bone parts of the petrous bone can provide high endogenous aDNA yields and indicate that endogenous DNA fractions for part C can exceed those obtained for part B by up to 65-fold and those from part A by up to 177-fold, while total endogenous DNA concentrations are up to 126-fold and 109-fold higher for these comparisons. Our results also show that while endogenous yields from part C were lower than 1% for samples from hot (both arid and humid) parts, the DNA damage patterns indicate that at least some of the reads originate from ancient DNA molecules, potentially enabling ancient DNA analyses of samples from hot regions that are otherwise not amenable to ancient DNA analyses.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129102PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4472748PMC
April 2016

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

Mammalian extinction in ancient Egypt, similarities with the southern Levant.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Jan 13;112(3):E238. Epub 2015 Jan 13.

Department of Biology and Environment, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa-Oranim, Tivon 3600600, Israel.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1422133112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311820PMC
January 2015

Satsurblia: new insights of human response and survival across the Last Glacial Maximum in the southern Caucasus.

PLoS One 2014 29;9(10):e111271. Epub 2014 Oct 29.

Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.

The region of western Georgia (Imereti) has been a major geographic corridor for human migrations during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic (MP/UP). Knowledge of the MP and UP in this region, however, stems mostly from a small number of recent excavations at the sites of Ortvale Klde, Dzudzuana, Bondi, and Kotias Klde. These provide an absolute chronology for the Late MP and MP-UP transition, but only a partial perspective on the nature and timing of UP occupations, and limited data on how human groups in this region responded to the harsh climatic oscillations between 37,000-11,500 years before present. Here we report new UP archaeological sequences from fieldwork in Satsurblia cavein the same region. A series of living surfaces with combustion features, faunal remains, stone and bone tools, and ornaments provide new information about human occupations in this region (a) prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) at 25.5-24.4 ka cal. BP and (b) after the LGM at 17.9-16.2 ka cal. BP. The latter provides new evidence in the southern Caucasus for human occupation immediately after the LGM. The results of the campaigns in Satsurblia and Dzudzuana suggest that at present the most plausible scenario is one of a hiatus in the occupation of this region during the LGM (between 24.4-17.9 ka cal. BP). Analysis of the living surfaces at Satsurblia offers information about human activities such as the production and utilisation of lithics and bone tools, butchering, cooking and consumption of meat and wild cereals, the utilisation of fibers, and the use of certain woods. Microfaunal and palynological analyses point to fluctuations in the climate with consequent shifts in vegetation and the faunal spectrum not only before and after the LGM, but also during the two millennia following the end of the LGM.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111271PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4213019PMC
June 2015

Intensification and sedentism in the terminal Pleistocene Natufian sequence of el-Wad Terrace (Israel).

J Hum Evol 2014 May 21;70:16-35. Epub 2014 Mar 21.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 3498838, Israel. Electronic address:

Measuring subsistence intensification in the archaeofaunal record has provided strong evidence for socioeconomic shifts related to sedentarization in the terminal Pleistocene Mediterranean Basin, but the precise timing and scale of the intensification trend and its place in the evolution of settled societies remain contentious. New archaeofaunal data from the key Natufian sequence of el-Wad Terrace (Mount Carmel, Israel, ca. 15.0-11.7 ka [thousands of years ago]) is used here to clarify and contextualize paleoeconomy and mobility trends in the latest Pleistocene Levant, representing the culmination of Epipaleolithic subsistence strategies. Taphonomic variables serve as supplementary indicators of habitation function and occupation intensity along the sequence. At el-Wad, a very broad range of animals, mostly small to medium in size, were captured and consumed. Consumption leftovers were discarded in intensively occupied domestic spaces and suffered moderate attrition. The Early (ca. 15.0-13.7/13.0 ka) and Late (ca. 13.7/13.0-11.7 ka) Natufian phases display some differences in prey exploitation and taphonomic markers of occupation intensity, corresponding with other archaeological signals. We further set the intra-Natufian taxonomic and demographic trends in perspective by considering the earlier Epipaleolithic sequence of the same region, the Israeli coastal plain. Consequently, we show that the Early Natufian record constituted an important dietary shift related to greater occupation intensity and sedentarization, rather than a gradual development, and that the Late Natufian record appears to be maintaining, if not amplifying, many of these novel signals. These conclusions are important for understanding the mode and tempo of the transition to settled life in human evolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.02.011DOI Listing
May 2014

Ancient urban ecology reconstructed from archaeozoological remains of small mammals in the Near East.

PLoS One 2014 12;9(3):e91795. Epub 2014 Mar 12.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

Modern rapidly expanding cities generate intricate patterns of species diversity owing to immense complexity in urban spatial structure and current growth trajectories. We propose to identify and uncouple the drivers that give rise to these patterns by looking at the effect of urbanism on species diversity over a previously unexplored long temporal frame that covers early developments in urbanism. To provide this historical perspective we analyzed archaeozoological remains of small mammals from ancient urban and rural sites in the Near East from the 2nd to the 1st millennium BCE, and compared them to observations from modern urban areas. Our data show that ancient urban assemblages consistently comprised two main taxa (Mus musculus domesticus and Crocidura sp.), whereas assemblages of contemporaneous rural sites were significantly richer. Low species diversity also characterizes high-density core areas of modern cities, suggesting that similar ecological drivers have continued to operate in urban areas despite the vast growth in their size and population densities, as well as in the complexity of their technologies and social organization. Research in urban ecology has tended to emphasize the relatively high species diversity observed in low-density areas located on the outskirts of cities, where open and vegetated patches are abundant. The fact that over several millennia urban evolution did not significantly alter species diversity suggests that low diversity is an attribute of densely-populated settlements. The possibility that high diversity in peripheral urban areas arose only recently as a short-term phenomenon in urban ecology merits further research based on long-term data.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0091795PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951428PMC
May 2015

Cats in recent Chinese study on cat domestication are commensal, not domesticated.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014 Mar 21;111(10):E876. Epub 2014 Feb 21.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1324177111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956164PMC
March 2014