Publications by authors named "Katerina Douka"

41 Publications

Earliest known human burial in Africa.

Nature 2021 May 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

Evidence for early dispersal of domestic sheep into Central Asia.

Nat Hum Behav 2021 Apr 8. Epub 2021 Apr 8.

ArchaeoZOOlogy in Siberia and Central Asia - ZooSCAn, CNRS - IAET SB RAS International Research Laboratory, IRL 2013, Institute of Archaeology SB RAS, Novosibirsk, Russia.

The development and dispersal of agropastoralism transformed the cultural and ecological landscapes of the Old World, but little is known about when or how this process first impacted Central Asia. Here, we present archaeological and biomolecular evidence from Obishir V in southern Kyrgyzstan, establishing the presence of domesticated sheep by ca. 6,000 BCE. Zooarchaeological and collagen peptide mass fingerprinting show exploitation of Ovis and Capra, while cementum analysis of intact teeth implicates possible pastoral slaughter during the fall season. Most significantly, ancient DNA reveals these directly dated specimens as the domestic O. aries, within the genetic diversity of domesticated sheep lineages. Together, these results provide the earliest evidence for the use of livestock in the mountains of the Ferghana Valley, predating previous evidence by 3,000 years and suggesting that domestic animal economies reached the mountains of interior Central Asia far earlier than previously recognized.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01083-yDOI Listing
April 2021

Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian chronology and palaeoenvironments at Kůlna Cave, Moravia, Czech Republic.

Archaeol Anthropol Sci 2021 17;13(1). Epub 2020 Dec 17.

Institute of Archaeology, University College London, London, UK.

Kůlna Cave is the only site in Moravia, Czech Republic, from which large assemblages of both Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian archaeological materials have been excavated from relatively secure stratified deposits. The site therefore offers the unrivalled opportunity to explore the relationship between these two archaeological phases. In this study, we undertake radiocarbon, stable isotope (carbon, nitrogen and sulphur), and ZooMS analysis of the archaeological faunal assemblage to explore the chronological and environmental context of the Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian deposits. Our results show that the Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian deposits can be understood as discrete units from one another, dating to the Late Glacial between c. 15,630 cal. BP and 14,610 cal. BP, and c. 14,140 cal. BP and 12,680 cal. BP, respectively. Stable isotope results (δC, δN, δS) indicate that Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian activity at Kůlna Cave occurred in very different environmental settings. Magdalenian occupation took place within a nutrient-poor landscape that was experiencing rapid changes to environmental moisture, potentially linked to permafrost thaw. In contrast, Epimagdalenian occupation occurred in a relatively stable, temperate environment composed of a mosaic of woodland and grassland habitats. The potential chronological gap between the two phases, and their associations with very different environmental conditions, calls into question whether the Epimagdalenian should be seen as a local, gradual development of the Magdalenian. It also raises the question of whether the gap in occupation at Kůlna Cave could represent a change in settlement dynamics and/or behavioural adaptations to changing environmental conditions.

Supplementary Information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12520-020-01254-4.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01254-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7746568PMC
December 2020

Testing the efficacy and comparability of ZooMS protocols on archaeological bone.

J Proteomics 2021 02 15;233:104078. Epub 2020 Dec 15.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH), Kahlaische Straße 10, 07745 Jena, Germany. Electronic address:

Collagen peptide mass fingerprinting, best known as Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (or ZooMS) when applied to archaeology, has become invaluable for the taxonomic identification of archaeological collagenous materials, in particular fragmentary and modified bone remains. Prior to MALDI-based spectrometric analysis, collagen needs to be extracted from the bone's inorganic matrix, isolated and purified. Several protocols are currently employed for ZooMS analysis, however their efficacy and comparability has not been directly tested. Here, we use four different ZooMS protocols to analyze 400 bone samples from seven archaeological sites, dating to between ~500,000-2000 years ago. One of them, single-pot solid-phase-enhance sample preparation (SP3), is used for the first time as a ZooMS protocol. Our results indicate that the least-destructive ZooMS protocol which uses an ammonium bicarbonate buffer as a means of extracting collagen is most suitable for bones with good collagen preservation, whereas the acid-based methodologies can improve success rates for bones with low-to-medium collagen preservation. Since preservation of biomolecules in archaeological bones is highly variable due to age and environmental conditions, we use the percent nitrogen by weight (%N) value as an independent semi-quantitative proxy for assessing collagen content and for predicting which bones will likely result in a successful ZooMS-based identification. We find that 0.26%N as a threshold for screening material could optimize the number of spectra which produce identifications using ZooMS. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We present a direct comparison of three previously published ZooMS protocols for the analyses of archaeological bones, and the first use of an SP3-based approach to ZooMS analysis. Our results show that the acid-based ZooMS protocols increase the success rate for bones with low-medium collagen preservation. We identify 0.26%N as a threshold for optimizing the number of samples with enough collagen for successful peptide mass fingerprinting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jprot.2020.104078DOI Listing
February 2021

On the standardization of ZooMS nomenclature.

J Proteomics 2021 03 5;235:104041. Epub 2020 Nov 5.

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

Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) is rapidly becoming a staple in archaeological and cultural heritage science. Developed a decade ago, this peptide mass fingerprinting technique is expanding from a small group of researchers mainly involved in method development to a broader group of scientists using it as another tool in their toolboxes. With new researchers beginning to use the method, it is imperative that a user-friendly, standardized approach be established. A major barrier has been the often haphazard and changing nomenclature used to label peptide markers necessary for taxonomic identification. Consistent, reliable, and easy-to-understand nomenclature is key to the growth of ZooMS, particularly as the reference library continues to expand. We propose a new set of standardized guidelines for peptide markers based on their position in the type I collagen sequence from the beginning of the highly conserved, helical region. Since this region has no insertions or deletions over a wide range of taxonomic groups, the proposed nomenclature system can be used reliably and consistently across all vertebrate taxa. We propose to label ZooMS peptide markers with the gene, followed by the position of the first and last amino acid of the marker from the start of the helical region. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We propose a standardized nomenclature system for ZooMS peptide markers that provides consistent labels across multiple, broad taxonomic groups. This system unambiguously locates the marker peptides in the type I collagen sequence, avoids duplication of marker names, and facilitates the creation of large ZooMS databases which can include all vertebrates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jprot.2020.104041DOI Listing
March 2021

A refined chronology for the Gravettian sequence of Abri Pataud.

J Hum Evol 2020 04 9;141:102730. Epub 2020 Mar 9.

Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3TG, UK.

Abri Pataud (France) is the type site in studies focusing on the appearance of modern humans and the development of classic Upper Paleolithic technocomplexes in Europe. It contains important evidence of successful adaptation strategies of modern humans to new territories and in response to sharply changing climatic conditions that characterized Marine Isotope Stages 3 and 2. Despite being for decades one of the best excavated and most studied Paleolithic sites, the chronology of Abri Pataud has lacked precision and revealed large discrepancies. The chronology of the lowermost part of the sequence (Levels 14-5) was refined in 2011 with the publication of 32 new radiocarbon determinations, mainly from the Aurignacian levels. In contrast, the Gravettian levels (Levels 5-2) remained poorly dated until now. Here, we present 18 new radiocarbon dates on cut-marked animal bones from the Gravettian part of the site, which complete the dating of this important sequence. The determinations are analyzed using Bayesian statistical modeling, and the results allow us to place the start of the Gravettian at the site between ∼33,000 and 32,000 cal BP (∼29,000-28,000 BP). We discuss the succession of the Gravettian facies across the sequence (Bayacian, Noaillian, Rayssian), as well as the likely duration of each archaeological level. With a total of more than 50 radiocarbon determinations, Abri Pataud offers secure information for the appearance and development of the technocomplexes linked with early modern humans and their establishment in western Europe. Based on published genetic data, it appears that it is the Gravettian hunter-gatherers and subsequent human groups, rather than the earlier Aurignacian and pre-Aurignacian groups, that contributed to the genetic signature of later and living Europeans. Hence, elucidating the precise timing of the Gravettian appearance has broad implications in our understanding of late human evolution across Europe.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.102730DOI Listing
April 2020

Long non-coding RNAs in development and disease: conservation to mechanisms.

J Pathol 2020 04 16;250(5):480-495. Epub 2020 Mar 16.

School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.

Our genomes contain the blueprint of what makes us human and many indications as to why we develop disease. Until the last 10 years, most studies had focussed on protein-coding genes, more specifically DNA sequences coding for proteins. However, this represents less than 5% of our genomes. The other 95% is referred to as the 'dark matter' of our genomes, our understanding of which is extremely limited. Part of this 'dark matter' includes regions that give rise to RNAs that do not code for proteins. A subset of these non-coding RNAs are long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), which in particular are beginning to be dissected and their importance to human health revealed. To improve our understanding and treatment of disease it is vital that we understand the molecular and cellular function of lncRNAs, and how their misregulation can contribute to disease. It is not yet clear what proportion of lncRNAs is actually functional; conservation during evolution is being used to understand the biological importance of lncRNA. Here, we present key themes within the field of lncRNAs, emphasising the importance of their roles in both the nucleus and the cytoplasm of cells, as well as patterns in their modes of action. We discuss their potential functions in development and disease using examples where we have the greatest understanding. Finally, we emphasise why lncRNAs can serve as biomarkers and discuss their emerging potential for therapy. © 2020 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/path.5405DOI Listing
April 2020

Early Pastoral Economies and Herding Transitions in Eastern Eurasia.

Sci Rep 2020 01 22;10(1):1001. Epub 2020 Jan 22.

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

While classic models for the emergence of pastoral groups in Inner Asia describe mounted, horse-borne herders sweeping across the Eurasian Steppes during the Early or Middle Bronze Age (ca. 3000-1500 BCE), the actual economic basis of many early pastoral societies in the region is poorly characterized. In this paper, we use collagen mass fingerprinting and ancient DNA analysis of some of the first stratified and directly dated archaeofaunal assemblages from Mongolia's early pastoral cultures to undertake species identifications of this rare and highly fragmented material. Our results provide evidence for livestock-based, herding subsistence in Mongolia during the late 3rd and early 2nd millennia BCE. We observe no evidence for dietary exploitation of horses prior to the late Bronze Age, ca. 1200 BCE - at which point horses come to dominate ritual assemblages, play a key role in pastoral diets, and greatly influence pastoral mobility. In combination with the broader archaeofaunal record of Inner Asia, our analysis supports models for widespread changes in herding ecology linked to the innovation of horseback riding in Central Asia in the final 2nd millennium BCE. Such a framework can explain key broad-scale patterns in the movement of people, ideas, and material culture in Eurasian prehistory.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-57735-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6976682PMC
January 2020

Microliths in the South Asian rainforest ~45-4 ka: New insights from Fa-Hien Lena Cave, Sri Lanka.

PLoS One 2019 2;14(10):e0222606. Epub 2019 Oct 2.

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

Microliths-small, retouched, often-backed stone tools-are often interpreted to be the product of composite tools, including projectile weapons, and efficient hunting strategies by modern humans. In Europe and Africa these lithic toolkits are linked to hunting of medium- and large-sized game found in grassland or woodland settings, or as adaptations to risky environments during periods of climatic change. Here, we report on a recently excavated lithic assemblage from the Late Pleistocene cave site of Fa-Hien Lena in the tropical evergreen rainforest of Sri Lanka. Our analyses demonstrate that Fa-Hien Lena represents the earliest microlith assemblage in South Asia (c. 48,000-45,000 cal. years BP) in firm association with evidence for the procurement of small to medium size arboreal prey and rainforest plants. Moreover, our data highlight that the lithic technology of Fa-Hien Lena changed little over the long span of human occupation (c. 48,000-45,000 cal. years BP to c. 4,000 cal. years BP) indicating a successful, stable technological adaptation to the tropics. We argue that microlith assemblages were an important part of the environmental plasticity that enabled Homo sapiens to colonise and specialise in a diversity of ecological settings during its expansion within and beyond Africa. The proliferation of diverse microlithic technologies across Eurasia c. 48-45 ka was part of a flexible human 'toolkit' that assisted our species' spread into all of the world's environments, and the development of specialised technological and cultural approaches to novel ecological situations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222606PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6774521PMC
March 2020

The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia.

Science 2019 09;365(6457)

Earth Institute, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland.

By sequencing 523 ancient humans, we show that the primary source of ancestry in modern South Asians is a prehistoric genetic gradient between people related to early hunter-gatherers of Iran and Southeast Asia. After the Indus Valley Civilization's decline, its people mixed with individuals in the southeast to form one of the two main ancestral populations of South Asia, whose direct descendants live in southern India. Simultaneously, they mixed with descendants of Steppe pastoralists who, starting around 4000 years ago, spread via Central Asia to form the other main ancestral population. The Steppe ancestry in South Asia has the same profile as that in Bronze Age Eastern Europe, tracking a movement of people that affected both regions and that likely spread the distinctive features shared between Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aat7487DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6822619PMC
September 2019

Hafting of Middle Paleolithic tools in Latium (central Italy): New data from Fossellone and Sant'Agostino caves.

PLoS One 2019 20;14(6):e0213473. Epub 2019 Jun 20.

Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy.

Hafting of stone tools was an important advance in the technology of the Paleolithic. Evidence of hafting in the Middle Paleolithic is growing and is not limited to points hafted on spears for thrusting or throwing. This article describes the identification of adhesive used for hafting on a variety of stone tools from two Middle Paleolithic caves in Latium, Fossellone Cave and Sant'Agostino Cave. Analysis of the organic residue by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry shows that a conifer resin adhesive was used, in one case mixed with beeswax. Contrary to previous suggestions that the small Middle Paleolithic tools of Latium could be used by hand and that hafting was not needed since it did not improve their functionality, our evidence shows that hafting was used by Neandertals in central Italy. Ethnographic evidence indicates that resin, which dries when exposed to air, is generally warmed by exposure to a small fire thus softened to be molded and pushed in position in the haft. The use of resin at both sites suggests regular fire use, as confirmed by moderate frequencies of burnt lithics in both assemblages. Lithic analysis shows that hafting was applied to a variety of artifacts, irrespective of type, size and technology. Prior to our study evidence of hafting in the Middle Paleolithic of Italy was limited to one case only.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213473PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6586293PMC
February 2020

Quantifying spatial variability in shell midden formation in the Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia.

PLoS One 2019 12;14(6):e0217596. Epub 2019 Jun 12.

University of York, Heslington, United Kingdom.

During the past decade, over 3000 shell middens or shell matrix deposits have been discovered on the Farasan Islands in the southern Red Sea, dating to the period c. 7,360 to 4,700 years ago. Many of the sites are distributed along a palaeoshoreline which is now 2-3 m above present sea level. Others form clusters with some sites on the shoreline and others located inland over distances of c. 30 m to 1 km. We refer to these inland sites as 'post-shore' sites. Following Meehan, who observed a similar spatial separation in shell deposition in her ethnographic study of Anbarra shellgathering in the Northern Territory of Australia, we hypothesise that the shoreline sites are specialised sites for the processing or immediate consumption of shell food, and the post-shore sites are habitation sites used for a variety of activities. We test this proposition through a systematic analysis of 55 radiocarbon dates and measurement of shell quantities from the excavation of 15 shell matrix sites in a variety of locations including shoreline and post-shore sites. Our results demonstrate large differences in rates of shell accumulation between these two types of sites and selective removal of shoreline sites by changes in sea level. We also discuss the wider implications for understanding the differential preservation and visibility of shell-matrix deposits in coastal settings in other parts of the world extending back into the later Pleistocene in association with periods of lowersea level. Our results highlight the importance of taphonomic factors of post-depositional degradation and destruction, rates of shell accumulation, the influence on site location of factors other than shell food supply, and the relative distance of deposits from their nearest palaeoshorelines as key variables in the interpretation of shell quantities. Failure to take these variables into account when investigating shells and shell-matrix deposits in late Pleistocene and early Holocene contexts is likely to compromise interpretations of the role and significance of shell food in human evolutionary and socio-cultural development.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0217596PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6561681PMC
February 2020

Specialized rainforest hunting by Homo sapiens ~45,000 years ago.

Nat Commun 2019 02 19;10(1):739. Epub 2019 Feb 19.

Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, 07745, Jena, Germany.

Defining the distinctive capacities of Homo sapiens relative to other hominins is a major focus for human evolutionary studies. It has been argued that the procurement of small, difficult-to-catch, agile prey is a hallmark of complex behavior unique to our species; however, most research in this regard has been limited to the last 20,000 years in Europe and the Levant. Here, we present detailed faunal assemblage and taphonomic data from Fa-Hien Lena Cave in Sri Lanka that demonstrates specialized, sophisticated hunting of semi-arboreal and arboreal monkey and squirrel populations from ca. 45,000 years ago, in a tropical rainforest environment. Facilitated by complex osseous and microlithic technologies, we argue these data highlight that the early capture of small, elusive mammals was part of the plastic behavior of Homo sapiens that allowed it to rapidly colonize a series of extreme environments that were apparently untouched by its hominin relatives.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-08623-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381157PMC
February 2019

Age estimates for hominin fossils and the onset of the Upper Palaeolithic at Denisova Cave.

Nature 2019 01 30;565(7741):640-644. Epub 2019 Jan 30.

Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Denisova Cave in the Siberian Altai (Russia) is a key site for understanding the complex relationships between hominin groups that inhabited Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene epoch. DNA sequenced from human remains found at this site has revealed the presence of a hitherto unknown hominin group, the Denisovans, and high-coverage genomes from both Neanderthal and Denisovan fossils provide evidence for admixture between these two populations. Determining the age of these fossils is important if we are to understand the nature of hominin interaction, and aspects of their cultural and subsistence adaptations. Here we present 50 radiocarbon determinations from the late Middle and Upper Palaeolithic layers of the site. We also report three direct dates for hominin fragments and obtain a mitochondrial DNA sequence for one of them. We apply a Bayesian age modelling approach that combines chronometric (radiocarbon, uranium series and optical ages), stratigraphic and genetic data to calculate probabilistically the age of the human fossils at the site. Our modelled estimate for the age of the oldest Denisovan fossil suggests that this group was present at the site as early as 195,000 years ago (at 95.4% probability). All Neanderthal fossils-as well as Denisova 11, the daughter of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan-date to between 80,000 and 140,000 years ago. The youngest Denisovan dates to 52,000-76,000 years ago. Direct radiocarbon dating of Upper Palaeolithic tooth pendants and bone points yielded the earliest evidence for the production of these artefacts in northern Eurasia, between 43,000 and 49,000 calibrated years before present (taken as AD 1950). On the basis of current archaeological evidence, it may be assumed that these artefacts are associated with the Denisovan population. It is not currently possible to determine whether anatomically modern humans were involved in their production, as modern-human fossil and genetic evidence of such antiquity has not yet been identified in the Altai region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0870-zDOI Listing
January 2019

No hard borders for humans.

Authors:
Katerina Douka

Nat Ecol Evol 2019 02;3(2):157-158

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

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0795-9DOI Listing
February 2019

Early pastoral economies along the Ancient Silk Road: Biomolecular evidence from the Alay Valley, Kyrgyzstan.

PLoS One 2018 31;13(10):e0205646. Epub 2018 Oct 31.

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

The Silk Road was an important trade route that channeled trade goods, people, plants, animals, and ideas across the continental interior of Eurasia, fueling biotic exchange and key social developments across the Old World. Nestled between the Pamir and Alay ranges at a baseline elevation of nearly 3000m, Kyrgyzstan's high Alay Valley forms a wide geographic corridor that comprised one of the primary channels of the ancient Silk Road. Recent archaeological survey reveals a millennia-long history of pastoral occupation of Alay from the early Bronze Age through the Medieval period, and a stratified Holocene sequence at the site of Chegirtke Cave. Faunal remains were recovered from test excavations as well as surface collection of material from recent marmot activity. Although recovered specimens were highly fragmented and mostly unidentifiable using traditional zooarchaeological methods, species identification via collagen mass fingerprinting (ZooMS) coupled with sex and first-generation hybrid identification through ancient DNA enabled preliminary characterization of the animal economy of Alay herders. Our new results indicate primary reliance on sheep at Chegirtke Cave (ca. 2200 BCE), with cattle and goat also present. The discovery of a large grinding stone at a spatially associated Bronze or Iron Age habitation structure suggests a mixed agropastoral economic strategy, rather than a unique reliance on domestic animals. Radiocarbon-dated faunal assemblages from habitation structures at nearby localities in the Alay Valley demonstrate the presence of domestic horse, as well as Bactrian camel during later periods. The current study reveals that agropastoral occupation of the high-mountain Alay corridor started millennia before the formal establishment of the Silk Road, and posits that ZooMS, when paired with radiocarbon dates and ancient DNA, is a powerful and cost-effective tool for investigating shifts in the use of animal domesticates in early pastoral economies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0205646PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6209189PMC
March 2019

The genome of the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

Nature 2018 09 22;561(7721):113-116. Epub 2018 Aug 22.

Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.

Neanderthals and Denisovans are extinct groups of hominins that separated from each other more than 390,000 years ago. Here we present the genome of 'Denisova 11', a bone fragment from Denisova Cave (Russia) and show that it comes from an individual who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. The father, whose genome bears traces of Neanderthal ancestry, came from a population related to a later Denisovan found in the cave. The mother came from a population more closely related to Neanderthals who lived later in Europe than to an earlier Neanderthal found in Denisova Cave, suggesting that migrations of Neanderthals between eastern and western Eurasia occurred sometime after 120,000 years ago. The finding of a first-generation Neanderthal-Denisovan offspring among the small number of archaic specimens sequenced to date suggests that mixing between Late Pleistocene hominin groups was common when they met.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0455-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6130845PMC
September 2018

Grotta del Cavallo (Apulia-Southern Italy). The Uluzzian in the mirror.

J Anthropol Sci 2018 Dec 1;96:125-160. Epub 2018 Jul 1.

Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche, della Terra e dell'Ambiente-Unitá di Ricerca di Preistoria e Antropologia-Universitá degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy.

The Uluzzian techno-complex is commonly considered to be a "transitional industry" mostly on the basis of some inferred characteristics such as a chiefly flake-based production, a small amount of Upper Palaeolithic-like tools and a combination of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic elements both in the toolkit and in the technical systems. Following its discovery, the Uluzzian was identified as the Italian counterpart of the French Châtelperronian and attributed to Neandertals. However, a study issued in 2011 has established the modern character of the two deciduous teeth found in 1964 in the Uluzzian deposit of Grotta del Cavallo, fostering renewed interests to the Uluzzian culture, which real nature is almost unknown to the international scientific community. Here we provide preliminary results of the study on the lithic assemblage from the earliest Uluzzian layer and on backed pieces from the whole Uluzzian sequence of Grotta del Cavallo (Apulia, Italy), the type site of the Uluzzian. Moreover, besides a thorough review on the stratigraphy of Grotta del Cavallo (Supplementary Materials), we provide updated information on the human remains by presenting two unpublished teeth from the reworked deposit of the same cave. We conclude that the early Uluzzians demonstrate original technological behavior and innovations devoid of any features deriving or directly linked with the late Mousterian of Southern Italy. Therefore, the novelty nature of the Uluzzian techno-complex (with respect to the preceding Mousterian) complies with the recent reassessment of the two deciduous teeth from Grotta del Cavallo in suggesting an earliest migration of modern humans in southern Europe around 45,000 years ago.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4436/JASS.96004DOI Listing
December 2018

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

On the origin of modern humans: Asian perspectives.

Science 2017 12;358(6368)

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Kahlaische Strasse 10, D-07743 Jena, Germany.

The traditional "out of Africa" model, which posits a dispersal of modern across Eurasia as a single wave at ~60,000 years ago and the subsequent replacement of all indigenous populations, is in need of revision. Recent discoveries from archaeology, hominin paleontology, geochronology, genetics, and paleoenvironmental studies have contributed to a better understanding of the Late Pleistocene record in Asia. Important findings highlighted here include growing evidence for multiple dispersals predating 60,000 years ago in regions such as southern and eastern Asia. Modern humans moving into Asia met Neandertals, Denisovans, mid-Pleistocene , and possibly , with some degree of interbreeding occurring. These early human dispersals, which left at least some genetic traces in modern populations, indicate that later replacements were not wholesale.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aai9067DOI Listing
December 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

Chronometric investigations of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the Zagros Mountains using AMS radiocarbon dating and Bayesian age modelling.

J Hum Evol 2017 08 23;109:57-69. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, OX1 3QY Oxford, United Kingdom.

The Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition is often linked with a bio-cultural shift involving the dispersal of modern humans outside of Africa, the concomitant replacement of Neanderthals across Eurasia, and the emergence of new technological traditions. The Zagros Mountains region assumes importance in discussions concerning this period as its geographic location is central to all pertinent hominin migration areas, pointing to both east and west. As such, establishing a reliable chronology in the Zagros Mountains is crucial to our understanding of these biological and cultural developments. Political circumstance, coupled with the poor preservation of organic material, has meant that a clear chronological definition of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition for the Zagros Mountains region has not yet been achieved. To improve this situation, we have obtained new archaeological samples for AMS radiocarbon dating from three sites: Kobeh Cave, Kaldar Cave, and Ghār-e Boof (Iran). In addition, we have statistically modelled previously published radiocarbon determinations for Yafteh Cave (Iran) and Shanidar Cave (Iraqi Kurdistan), to improve their chronological resolution and enable us to compare the results with the new dataset. Bayesian modelling results suggest that the onset of the Upper Paleolithic in the Zagros Mountains dates to 45,000-40,250 cal BP (68.2% probability). Further chronometric data are required to improve the precision of this age range.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.05.011DOI Listing
August 2017

Direct radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis of the Darra-i-Kur (Afghanistan) human temporal bone.

J Hum Evol 2017 06 4;107:86-93. Epub 2017 May 4.

Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3QY, United Kingdom.

The temporal bone discovered in the 1960s from the Darra-i-Kur cave in Afghanistan is often cited as one of the very few Pleistocene human fossils from Central Asia. Here we report the first direct radiocarbon date for the specimen and the genetic analyses of DNA extracted and sequenced from two areas of the bone. The new radiocarbon determination places the find to ∼4500 cal BP (∼2500 BCE) contradicting an assumed Palaeolithic age of ∼30,000 years, as originally suggested. The DNA retrieved from the specimen originates from a male individual who carried mitochondrial DNA of the modern human type. The petrous part yielded more endogenous ancient DNA molecules than the squamous part of the same bone. Molecular dating of the Darra-i-Kur mitochondrial DNA sequence corroborates the radiocarbon date and suggests that the specimen is younger than previously thought. Taken together, the results consolidate the fact that the human bone is not associated with the Pleistocene-age deposits of Darra-i-Kur; instead it is intrusive, possibly re-deposited from upper levels dating to much later periods (Neolithic). Despite its Holocene age, the Darra-i-Kur specimen is, so far, the first and only ancient human from Afghanistan whose DNA has been sequenced.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.03.003DOI Listing
June 2017

Understanding the emergence of modern humans and the disappearance of Neanderthals: Insights from Kaldar Cave (Khorramabad Valley, Western Iran).

Sci Rep 2017 03 2;7:43460. Epub 2017 Mar 2.

Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Zona educacional 4, Campus Sescelades URV (Edif. W3), 43007 Tarragona, Spain.

Kaldar Cave is a key archaeological site that provides evidence of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Iran. Excavations at the site in 2014-2015 led to the discovery of cultural remains generally associated with anatomically modern humans (AMHs) and evidence of a probable Neanderthal-made industry in the basal layers. Attempts have been made to establish a chronology for the site. These include four thermoluminescence (TL) dates for Layer 4, ranging from 23,100 ± 3300 to 29,400 ± 2300 BP, and three AMS radiocarbon dates from charcoal samples belonging to the lower part of the same layer, yielding ages of 38,650-36,750 cal BP, 44,200-42,350 cal BP, and 54,400-46,050 cal BP (all at the 95.4% confidence level). Kaldar Cave is the first well-stratified Late Palaeolithic locality to be excavated in the Zagros which is one of the earliest sites with cultural materials attributed to early AMHs in western Asia. It also offers an opportunity to study the technological differences between the Mousterian and the first Upper Palaeolithic lithic technologies as well as the human behaviour in the region. In this study, we present a detailed description of the newly excavated stratigraphy, quantified results from the lithic assemblages, preliminary faunal remains analyses, geochronologic data, taphonomic aspects, and an interpretation of the regional paleoenvironment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep43460DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5333163PMC
March 2017

Early cave art and ancient DNA record the origin of European bison.

Nat Commun 2016 10 18;7:13158. Epub 2016 Oct 18.

Department of Archaeology, Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton SO17 1BF, UK.

The two living species of bison (European and American) are among the few terrestrial megafauna to have survived the late Pleistocene extinctions. Despite the extensive bovid fossil record in Eurasia, the evolutionary history of the European bison (or wisent, Bison bonasus) before the Holocene (<11.7 thousand years ago (kya)) remains a mystery. We use complete ancient mitochondrial genomes and genome-wide nuclear DNA surveys to reveal that the wisent is the product of hybridization between the extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus) and ancestors of modern cattle (aurochs, Bos primigenius) before 120 kya, and contains up to 10% aurochs genomic ancestry. Although undetected within the fossil record, ancestors of the wisent have alternated ecological dominance with steppe bison in association with major environmental shifts since at least 55 kya. Early cave artists recorded distinct morphological forms consistent with these replacement events, around the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ∼21-18 kya).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms13158DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5071849PMC
October 2016

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

Identification of a new hominin bone from Denisova Cave, Siberia using collagen fingerprinting and mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Sci Rep 2016 Mar 29;6:23559. Epub 2016 Mar 29.

Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, M13 9PL, UK.

DNA sequencing has revolutionised our understanding of archaic humans during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. Unfortunately, while many Palaeolithic sites contain large numbers of bones, the majority of these lack the diagnostic features necessary for traditional morphological identification. As a result the recovery of Pleistocene-age human remains is extremely rare. To circumvent this problem we have applied a method of collagen fingerprinting to more than 2000 fragmented bones from the site of Denisova Cave, Russia, in order to facilitate the discovery of human remains. As a result of our analysis a single hominin bone (Denisova 11) was identified, supported through in-depth peptide sequencing analysis, and found to carry mitochondrial DNA of the Neandertal type. Subsequent radiocarbon dating revealed the bone to be >50,000 years old. Here we demonstrate the huge potential collagen fingerprinting has for identifying hominin remains in highly fragmentary archaeological assemblages, improving the resources available for wider studies into human evolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep23559DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4810434PMC
March 2016