Publications by authors named "Norbert Mercier"

18 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

A West African Middle Stone Age site dated to the beginning of MIS 5: Archaeology, chronology, and paleoenvironment of the Ravin Blanc I (eastern Senegal).

J Hum Evol 2021 Mar 19;154:102952. Epub 2021 Mar 19.

Laboratory of Archaeology and Population in Africa, Anthropology Unit, Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva, Quai Ernest-Ansermet 30, 1205 Genève, Switzerland.

The Ravin Blanc I archaeological occurrence, dated to MIS 5, provides unprecedented data on the Middle Stone Age (MSA) of West Africa since well-contextualized archaeological sites pre-dating MIS 4/3 are extremely rare for this region. The combined approach on geomorphology, phytolith analysis, and OSL date estimations offers a solid framework for the MSA industry comprised in the Ravin Blanc I sedimentary sequence. The paleoenvironmental reconstruction further emphasizes on the local effects of the global increase in moisture characterizing the beginning of the Upper Pleistocene as well as the later shift to more arid conditions. The lithic industry, comprised in the lower part of the sequence and dated to MIS 5e, shows core reduction sequences among which Levallois methods are minor, as well as an original tool-kit composition, among which pieces with single wide abrupt notches, side-scrapers made by inverse retouch, and a few large crudely shaped bifacial tools. The Ravin Blanc I assemblage has neither a chronologically equivalent site to serve comparisons nor a clear techno-typological correspondent in West Africa. However, the industry represents an early MSA technology that could either retain influences from the southern West African 'Sangoan' or show reminiscences of the preceding local Acheulean. A larger-scale assessment of behavioral dynamics at work at the transition period between the Middle to Upper Pleistocene is discussed in view of integrating this new site to the global perception of this important period in the MSA evolutionary trajectories.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2021.102952DOI Listing
March 2021

New data on settlement and environment at the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary in Sudano-Sahelian West Africa: Interdisciplinary investigation at Fatandi V, Eastern Senegal.

PLoS One 2020 9;15(12):e0243129. Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Archéologie et Peuplement de l'Afrique, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.

The end of the Palaeolithic represents one of the least-known periods in the history of western Africa, both in terms of its chronology and the identification of cultural assemblages entities based on the typo-technical analyses of its industries. In this context, the site of Fatandi V offers new data to discuss the cultural pattern during the Late Stone Age in western Africa. Stratigraphic, taphonomical and sedimentological analyses show the succession of three sedimentary units. Several concentrations with rich lithic material were recognized. An in situ occupation, composed of bladelets, segments, and bladelet and flake cores, is confirmed while others concentrations of lithic materials have been more or less disturbed by erosion and pedogenic post-depositional processes. The sequence is well-dated from 12 convergent OSL dates. Thanks to the dating of the stratigraphic units and an OSL date from the layer (11,300-9,200 BCE [13.3-11.2 ka at 68%, 14.3-10.3 ka at 95%]), the artefacts are dated to the end of Pleistocene or Early Holocene. Palaeoenvironmental data suggest that the settlement took place within a mosaic environment and more precisely at the transition between the open landscape of savanna on the glacis and the plateau, and the increasingly densely-wooded alluvial corridor. These humid areas must have been particularly attractive during the dry season by virtue of their rich resources (raw materials, water, trees, and bushes). The Fatandi V site constitutes the first stratified site of the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary in Senegal with both precise geochronological and palaeoenvironmental data. It complements perfectly the data already obtained in Mali and in the rest of western Africa, and thus constitutes a reference point for this period. In any case, the assemblage of Fatandi V, with its bladelets and segments and in the absence of ceramics and grinding material, fits with a cultural group using exclusively geometric armatures which strongly differs from another group characterized by the production of bifacial armatures, accompanied in its initial phase by ceramics (or stoneware) and grinding material.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0243129PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725507PMC
January 2021

Fire and brief human occupations in Iberia during MIS 4: Evidence from Abric del Pastor (Alcoy, Spain).

Sci Rep 2019 12 4;9(1):18281. Epub 2019 Dec 4.

UDI de Prehistoria, Arqueología e Historia Antigua, Departamento de Geografía e Historia, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad de La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain.

There is a relatively low amount of Middle Paleolithic sites in Europe dating to MIS 4. Of the few that exist, several of them lack evidence for anthropogenic fire, raising the question of how this period of global cooling may have affected the Neanderthal population. The Iberian Peninsula is a key area to explore this issue, as it has been considered as a glacial refugium during critical periods of the Neanderthal timeline and might therefore yield archaeological contexts in which we can explore possible changes in the behaviour and settlement patterns of Neanderthal groups during MIS 4. Here we report recent data from Abric del Pastor, a small rock shelter in Alcoy (Alicante, Spain) with a stratified deposit containing Middle Palaeolithic remains. We present absolute dates that frame the sequence within MIS 4 and multi-proxy geoarchaeological evidence of in situ anthropogenic fire, including microscopic evidence of in situ combustion residues and thermally altered sediment. We also present archaeostratigraphic evidence of recurrent, functionally diverse, brief human occupation of the rock shelter. Our results suggest that Neanderthals occupied the Central Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula during MIS 4, that these Neanderthals were not undergoing climatic stress and they were habitual fire users.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-54305-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6892787PMC
December 2019

New electron spin resonance (ESR) ages from Geißenklösterle Cave: A chronological study of the Middle and early Upper Paleolithic layers.

J Hum Evol 2019 08 1;133:133-145. Epub 2019 Jul 1.

Tübingen/Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology, University of Tübingen, Sigwartstraβe 10, 72074, Tübingen, Germany; Abteilung Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, University of Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070, Tübingen, Germany.

Geißenklösterle Cave (Germany) is one of the most important Paleolithic sites in Europe, as it is characterized by human occupation during the Middle and early Upper Paleolithic. Aurignacian layers prior to 37-38 ka cal BP feature both musical and figurative art objects that are linked to the early arrival in Europe of Homo sapiens. Middle Paleolithic layers yielded lithic artifacts attributed to Homo neanderthalensis. Since human occupation at the site is attributed to both Neanderthals and modern humans, chronology is essential to clarify the issues of Neanderthal disappearance, modern human expansion in Europe, and the origin of the Aurignacian in Western Europe. Electron spin resonance (ESR) dating was performed on fossil tooth enamel collected from the Middle Paleolithic layers, which are beyond the radiocarbon dating range, and from the nearly sterile 'transitional' geological horizon (GH) 17 and the lower Aurignacian deposits, to cross-check ESR ages with previous radiocarbon, thermoluminescence and ESR age results. The Middle Paleolithic layers were dated between 94 ± 10 ka (GH 21) and 55 ± 6 ka (GH 18) by ESR on tooth enamel. Mean ages for GH 17, at 46 ± 3 ka, and for the lower Aurignacian layers, at 37 ± 3 ka, are in agreement with previous dating results, thus supporting the reliability of ESR chronology for the base of the sequence where dating comparisons are not possible. These results suggest that Neanderthals occupied the site from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 to the second half of MIS 3 and confirm the antiquity of early Aurignacian deposits. The presence of an almost sterile layer that separates Middle and Upper Paleolithic occupations could be related to the abandonment of the site by Neanderthals, possibly during Heinrich Stadial 5 (ca. 49-47 ka), thus before the arrival of H. sapiens in the area around 42 ka cal BP. These dates for the Middle Paleolithic of the Swabian Jura represent an important contribution to the prehistory of the region, where nearly all of the excavations were conducted decades ago and prior to the development of reliable radiometric dating beyond the range of radiocarbon.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.05.014DOI Listing
August 2019

Response to Comment on "The earliest modern humans outside Africa".

Science 2018 10;362(6413)

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

Our original claim, based on three independent numerical dating methods, of an age of ~185,000 years for the Misliya-1 modern human hemi-maxilla from Mount Carmel, Israel, is little affected by discounting uranium-series dating of adhering crusts. It confirms a much earlier out-of-Africa expansion than previously suggested by the considerably younger (90,000 to 120,000 years) Skhul/Qafzeh hominins.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aat8964DOI Listing
October 2018

The MIS5 Pietersburg at '28' Bushman Rock Shelter, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

PLoS One 2018 10;13(10):e0202853. Epub 2018 Oct 10.

CNRS, UMR 7041, ArScAn-AnTET, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Paris, France.

In the past few decades, a diverse array of research has emphasized the precocity of technically advanced and symbolic practices occurring during the southern African Middle Stone Age. However, uncertainties regarding the regional chrono-cultural framework constrain models and identification of the cultural and ecological mechanisms triggering the development of such early innovative behaviours. Here, we present new results and a refined chronology for the Pietersburg, a techno-complex initially defined in the late 1920's, which has disappeared from the literature since the 1980's. We base our revision of this techno-complex on ongoing excavations at Bushman Rock Shelter (BRS) in Limpopo Province, South Africa, where two Pietersburg phases (an upper phase called '21' and a lower phase called '28') are recognized. Our analysis focuses on the '28' phase, characterized by a knapping strategy based on Levallois and semi-prismatic laminar reduction systems and typified by the presence of end-scrapers. Luminescence chronology provides two sets of ages for the upper and lower Pietersburg of BRS, dated respectively to 73±6ka and 75±6ka on quartz and to 91±10ka and 97±10ka on feldspar, firmly positioning this industry within MIS5. Comparisons with other published lithic assemblages show technological differences between the Pietersburg from BRS and other southern African MIS5 traditions, especially those from the Western and Eastern Cape. We argue that, at least for part of MIS5, human populations in South Africa were regionally differentiated, a process that most likely impacted the way groups were territorially and socially organized. Nonetheless, comparisons between MIS5 assemblages also indicate some typological similarities, suggesting some degree of connection between human groups, which shared similar innovations but manipulated them in different ways. We pay particular attention to the end-scrapers from BRS, which represent thus far the earliest documented wide adoption of such tool-type and provide further evidence for the innovative processes characterizing southern Africa from the MIS5 onwards.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0202853PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6179383PMC
March 2019

Corrigendum to "Dating the Middle Palaeolithic deposits of La Quina Amont (Charente, France) using luminescence methods" [Journal of Human Evolution 109 (2017) 30-45].

J Hum Evol 2018 Nov 6;124:140-141. Epub 2018 Sep 6.

IRAMAT-CRP2A, UMR 5060 CNRS - Université Bordeaux Montaigne - Esplanade des Antilles, 33600, Pessac, France.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.05.003DOI Listing
November 2018

The earliest modern humans outside Africa.

Science 2018 Jan;359(6374):456-459

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

To date, the earliest modern human fossils found outside of Africa are dated to around 90,000 to 120,000 years ago at the Levantine sites of Skhul and Qafzeh. A maxilla and associated dentition recently discovered at Misliya Cave, Israel, was dated to 177,000 to 194,000 years ago, suggesting that members of the clade left Africa earlier than previously thought. This finding changes our view on modern human dispersal and is consistent with recent genetic studies, which have posited the possibility of an earlier dispersal of around 220,000 years ago. The Misliya maxilla is associated with full-fledged Levallois technology in the Levant, suggesting that the emergence of this technology is linked to the appearance of in the region, as has been documented in Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aap8369DOI Listing
January 2018

Dating the Middle Paleolithic deposits of La Quina Amont (Charente, France) using luminescence methods.

J Hum Evol 2017 08 20;109:30-45. Epub 2017 Jun 20.

IRAMAT-CRP2A, UMR 5060 CNRS - Université Bordeaux Montaigne - Esplanade des Antilles, 33600, Pessac Cedex, France.

The site of La Quina Amont, located in the Charente region, is one of the most important sites in southwestern France for studying major changes in human behaviors from the Middle Paleolithic (MP) to the Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP). Extensively excavated over the past 50 years, numerous dating studies have been focused on the Upper Paleolithic deposits using radiocarbon on bone collagen and thermoluminescence (TL) on heated flints; however, the Mousterian levels remain undated due to the scarcity of suitable materials. Our investigations aimed to provide for the first time a chronological framework for the site using luminescence dating methods on different minerals contained in the sediments. Coarse grains of quartz were dated using the optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) technique, and polymineral fine grains were dated using both infrared (IRSL) and post-infrared (pIR-IRSL) stimulated luminescence signals. OSL, IRSL and pIR-IRSL results were combined with available TL and radiocarbon data sets to propose a chronology for the site. The agreement between these methods provides key insights into the sedimentological processes involved in the site formation and into the chronology of the human occupations. In particular, it shows that the sequence spans almost ∼20,000 years (20 ka). Moreover, the new chronological framework suggests that the makers of the Quina lithic technocomplex (LTC), who were reindeer hunters, inhabited the site from the end of marine isotope stage (MIS) 4 to the beginning of MIS 3. We also show that Levallois and Discoidal industries occurred successively under temperate paleoclimatic conditions, during MIS 3 but not after ∼40 ka. Finally, we compare the Quina LTC dataset with other sites in southern France in order to shed light upon the variability in Mousterian industries of this region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.05.002DOI Listing
August 2017

A revised chronology for the Grotte Vaufrey (Dordogne, France) based on TT-OSL dating of sedimentary quartz.

J Hum Evol 2014 Oct 6;75:53-63. Epub 2014 Sep 6.

PACEA (UMR5199), University of Bordeaux 1 - CNRS, F33405 Talence, France.

Grotte Vaufrey, located in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, is well known for its substantial archaeological sequence containing a succession of Acheulean and Mousterian occupations. While over the last thirty years numerous studies have attempted to outline a detailed chronostratigraphy for this important sequence, the failure to employ a common chronological framework has complicated its interpretation. Here, we aim to resolve these inconsistencies by providing a new chronology for the site based on luminescence dating. To this end, thermally-transferred optically stimulated luminescence (TT-OSL) dates were obtained from eight sediment samples distributed throughout the sequence, which, when combined with already available chronological information, produce a new chronostratigraphic model for the site. Our results demonstrate that the Typical Mousterian extends from MIS 7 to MIS 5, while the earliest Acheulean occupation could be associated with MIS 8 and may date to as early as MIS 10. When compared with other regional sequences, the Acheulean levels from the Grotte Vaufrey provide evidence for one of the earliest hominin occupations in southwestern France.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.05.010DOI Listing
October 2014

New evidence of early Neanderthal disappearance in the Iberian Peninsula.

J Hum Evol 2014 Oct 10;75:16-27. Epub 2014 Jul 10.

Estación Volcanológica de Canarias, IPNA-CSIC, Av. Astrofísico Francisco Sánchez n.° 3, 38206 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.

The timing of the end of the Middle Palaeolithic and the disappearance of Neanderthals continue to be strongly debated. Current chronometric evidence from different European sites pushes the end of the Middle Palaeolithic throughout the continent back to around 42 thousand years ago (ka). This has called into question some of the dates from the Iberian Peninsula, previously considered as one of the last refuge zones of the Neanderthals. Evidence of Neanderthal occupation in Iberia after 42 ka is now very scarce and open to debate on chronological and technological grounds. Here we report thermoluminescence (TL) and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates from El Salt, a Middle Palaeolithic site in Alicante, Spain, the archaeological sequence of which shows a transition from recurrent to sporadic human occupation culminating in the abandonment of the site. The new dates place this sequence within MIS 3, between ca. 60 and 45 ka. An abrupt sedimentary change towards the top of the sequence suggests a strong aridification episode coinciding with the last Neanderthal occupation of the site. These results are in agreement with current chronometric data from other sites in the Iberian Peninsula and point towards possible breakdown and disappearance of the Neanderthal local population around the time of the Heinrich 5 event. Iberian sites with recent dates (<40 ka) attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic should be revised in the light of these data.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.06.002DOI Listing
October 2014

Dating the Lower to Middle Paleolithic transition in the Levant: a view from Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel.

J Hum Evol 2013 Nov 12;65(5):585-93. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS UVSQ, Bât. 12, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France. Electronic address:

The transition from the Lower to the Middle Paleolithic in the Levant is a crucial event in human evolution, since it may involve the arrival of a new human population. In the current study, we present thermoluminescence (TL) dates obtained from 32 burnt flints retrieved from the late Lower Paleolithic (Acheulo-Yabrudian) and Early Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) layers of Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel. Early Middle Paleolithic industries rich in Levallois and laminar products were assigned mean ages ranging from ~250 to ~160 ka (thousands of years ago), suggesting a production of this industry during MIS 7 and the early part of MIS 6. The mean ages obtained for the samples associated with the Acheulo-Yabrudian (strengthened by an isochron analysis) indicate a production of this cultural complex ~250 ka ago, at the end of MIS 8. According to the Misliya TL dates, the transition from the Lower to the Middle Paleolithic in the site took place at the limit MIS 8/7 or during the early part of MIS 7. The dates, together with the pronounced differences in lithic technology strongly suggest the arrival of a new population during this period.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.07.005DOI Listing
November 2013

How confident are we in the chronology of the transition between Howieson's Poort and Still Bay?

J Hum Evol 2013 Apr 27;64(4):314-7. Epub 2013 Feb 27.

Center for Nuclear Technologies, Technical University of Denmark, DTU Risø Campus, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.01.006DOI Listing
April 2013

New radiometric ages for the BH-1 hominin from Balanica (Serbia): implications for understanding the role of the Balkans in Middle Pleistocene human evolution.

PLoS One 2013 6;8(2):e54608. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Newly obtained ages, based on electron spin resonance combined with uranium series isotopic analysis, and infrared/post-infrared luminescence dating, provide a minimum age that lies between 397 and 525 ka for the hominin mandible BH-1 from Mala Balanica cave, Serbia. This confirms it as the easternmost hominin specimen in Europe dated to the Middle Pleistocene. Inferences drawn from the morphology of the mandible BH-1 place it outside currently observed variation of European Homo heidelbergensis. The lack of derived Neandertal traits in BH-1 and its contemporary specimens in Southeast Europe, such as Kocabaş, Vasogliano and Ceprano, coupled with Middle Pleistocene synapomorphies, suggests different evolutionary forces acting in the east of the continent where isolation did not play such an important role during glaciations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0054608PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566111PMC
December 2013

Inland human settlement in southern Arabia 55,000 years ago. New evidence from the Wadi Surdud Middle Paleolithic site complex, western Yemen.

J Hum Evol 2012 Sep 4;63(3):452-74. Epub 2012 Jul 4.

CNRS, Université Bordeaux 1, PACEA, Avenue des Facultés, 33405 Talence Cedex, France.

The recovery at Shi'bat Dihya 1 (SD1) of a dense Middle Paleolithic human occupation dated to 55 ka BP sheds new light on the role of the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the alleged expansion of modern humans out of Africa. SD1 is part of a complex of Middle Paleolithic sites cut by the Wadi Surdud and interstratified within an alluvial sedimentary basin in the foothills that connect the Yemeni highlands with the Tihama coastal plain. A number of environmental proxies indicate arid conditions throughout a sequence that extends between 63 and 42 ka BP. The lithic industry is geared toward the production of a variety of end products: blades, pointed blades, pointed flakes and Levallois-like flakes with long unmodified cutting edges, made from locally available rhyolite. The occasional exploitation of other local raw materials, that fulfill distinct complementary needs, highlights the multi-functional nature of the occupation. The slightly younger Shi'bat Dihya 2 (SD2) site is characterized by a less elaborate production of flakes, together with some elements (blades and pointed flakes) similar to those found at SD1, and may indicate a cultural continuity between the two sites. The technological behaviors of the SD1 toolmakers present similarities with those documented from a number of nearly contemporaneous assemblages from southern Arabia, the Levant, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. However, they do not directly conform to any of the techno-complexes typical of the late Middle Paleolithic or late Middle Stone Age from these regions. This period would have witnessed the development of local Middle Paleolithic traditions in the Arabian Peninsula, which suggests more complex settlement dynamics and possible population interactions than commonly inferred by the current models of modern human expansion out of Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.03.008DOI Listing
September 2012

A human mandible (BH-1) from the Pleistocene deposits of Mala Balanica cave (Sićevo Gorge, Niš, Serbia).

J Hum Evol 2011 Aug 19;61(2):186-96. Epub 2011 Apr 19.

Department of Anthropology, University of Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

Neandertals and their immediate predecessors are commonly considered to be the only humans inhabiting Europe in the Middle and early Late Pleistocene. Most Middle Pleistocene western European specimens show evidence of a developing Neandertal morphology, supporting the notion that these traits evolved at the extreme West of the continent due, at least partially, to the isolation produced by glacial events. The recent discovery of a mandible, BH-1, from Mala Balanica (Serbia), with primitive character states comparable with Early Pleistocene mandibular specimens, is associated with a minimum radiometric date of 113 + 72 - 43 ka. Given the fragmented nature of the hemi-mandible and the fact that primitive character states preclude assignment to a species, the taxonomic status of the specimen is best described as an archaic Homo sp. The combination of primitive traits and a possible Late Pleistocene date suggests that a more primitive morphology, one that does not show Neandertal traits, could have persisted in the region. Different hominin morphologies could have survived and coexisted in the Balkans, the "hotspot of biodiversity." This first hominin specimen to come from a secure stratigraphic context in the Central Balkans indicates a potentially important role for the region in understanding human evolution in Europe that will only be resolved with more concentrated research efforts in the area.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.03.003DOI Listing
August 2011

Reassessment of TL age estimates of burnt flints from the Paleolithic site of Tabun Cave, Israel.

J Hum Evol 2003 Nov;45(5):401-9

Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, UMR CEA/CNRS, 91190, Gif sur Yvette, France.

The stratigraphy of Tabun Cave (Mt. Carmel), which comprises one of the longest sequences of Lower and Middle Paleolithic of the Near East, is widely used as a reference in debates on the evolution of Paleolithic industries and on the origin of modern humans and their relationship to the Neandertals. Considering the methodological improvements during the last ten years, the thermoluminescence (TL) dates of heated flints frequently quoted in the literature require an update. New TL results are discussed and compared with radiometric data recently obtained for this site, in particular by the ESR method, and with those obtained for other Levantine sites. The chronological framework previously proposed for the Paleolithic industries of the area is then re-examined.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2003.09.004DOI Listing
November 2003

Emergence of modern human behavior: Middle Stone Age engravings from South Africa.

Science 2002 Feb 10;295(5558):1278-80. Epub 2002 Jan 10.

Iziko Museums of Cape Town, South African Museum, Post Office Box 61, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa.

In the Eurasian Upper Paleolithic after about 35,000 years ago, abstract or depictional images provide evidence for cognitive abilities considered integral to modern human behavior. Here we report on two abstract representations engraved on pieces of red ochre recovered from the Middle Stone Age layers at Blombos Cave in South Africa. A mean date of 77,000 years was obtained for the layers containing the engraved ochres by thermoluminescence dating of burnt lithics, and the stratigraphic integrity was confirmed by an optically stimulated luminescence age of 70,000 years on an overlying dune. These engravings support the emergence of modern human behavior in Africa at least 35,000 years before the start of the Upper Paleolithic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1067575DOI Listing
February 2002