Publications by authors named "Sahra Talamo"

41 Publications

Early Alpine occupation backdates westward human migration in Late Glacial Europe.

Curr Biol 2021 Apr 14. Epub 2021 Apr 14.

Institute of Genetics and Biophysics "Adriano Buzzati-Traverso," National Research Council of Italy, Via P.Castellino 111, 80131 Naples, Italy.

Before the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ∼16.5 ka ago) set in motion major shifts in human culture and population structure, a consistent change in lithic technology, material culture, settlement pattern, and adaptive strategies is recorded in Southern Europe at ∼18-17 ka ago. In this time frame, the landscape of Northeastern Italy changed considerably, and the retreat of glaciers allowed hunter-gatherers to gradually recolonize the Alps. Change within this renewed cultural frame (i.e., during the Late Epigravettian phase) is currently associated with migrations favored by warmer climate linked to the Bølling-Allerød onset (14.7 ka ago), which replaced earlier genetic lineages with ancestry found in an individual who lived ∼14 ka ago at Riparo Villabruna, Italy, and shared among different contexts (Villabruna Cluster). Nevertheless, these dynamics and their chronology are still far from being disentangled due to fragmentary evidence for long-distance interactions across Europe. Here, we generate new genomic data from a human mandible uncovered at Riparo Tagliente (Veneto, Italy), which we directly dated to 16,980-16,510 cal BP (2σ). This individual, affected by focal osseous dysplasia, is genetically affine to the Villabruna Cluster. Our results therefore backdate by at least 3 ka the diffusion in Southern Europe of a genetic component linked to Balkan/Anatolian refugia, previously believed to have spread during the later Bølling/Allerød event. In light of the new genetic evidence, this population replacement chronologically coincides with the very emergence of major cultural transitions in Southern and Western Europe.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.078DOI Listing
April 2021

Initial Upper Palaeolithic humans in Europe had recent Neanderthal ancestry.

Nature 2021 Apr 7;592(7853):253-257. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Francis Crick Institute, London, UK.

Modern humans appeared in Europe by at least 45,000 years ago, but the extent of their interactions with Neanderthals, who disappeared by about 40,000 years ago, and their relationship to the broader expansion of modern humans outside Africa are poorly understood. Here we present genome-wide data from three individuals dated to between 45,930 and 42,580 years ago from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria. They are the earliest Late Pleistocene modern humans known to have been recovered in Europe so far, and were found in association with an Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefact assemblage. Unlike two previously studied individuals of similar ages from Romania and Siberia who did not contribute detectably to later populations, these individuals are more closely related to present-day and ancient populations in East Asia and the Americas than to later west Eurasian populations. This indicates that they belonged to a modern human migration into Europe that was not previously known from the genetic record, and provides evidence that there was at least some continuity between the earliest modern humans in Europe and later people in Eurasia. Moreover, we find that all three individuals had Neanderthal ancestors a few generations back in their family history, confirming that the first European modern humans mixed with Neanderthals and suggesting that such mixing could have been common.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03335-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8026394PMC
April 2021

Unveiling an odd fate after death: The isolated Eneolithic cranium discovered in the Marcel Loubens Cave (Bologna, Northern Italy).

PLoS One 2021 3;16(3):e0247306. Epub 2021 Mar 3.

Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Alma Mater Studiorum-University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

An isolated human cranium, dated to the early Eneolithic period, was discovered in 2015 at the top of a vertical shaft in the natural Marcel Loubens gypsum Cave (Bologna area, northern Italy). No other anthropological or archaeological remains were found inside the cave. In other caves of the same area anthropic and funerary use are attested from prehistory to more recent periods. We focused on investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of this individual, since the cranium shows signs of some lesions that appear to be the results of a perimortem manipulation probably carried out to remove soft tissues. Anthropological analyses revealed that the cranium belonged to a young woman. We analysed the taphonomic features and geological context to understand how and why the cranium ended up (accidentally or intentionally) in the cave. The analyses of both the sediments accumulated inside the cranium and the incrustations and pigmentation covering its outer surface suggested that it fell into the cave, drawn by a flow of water and mud, likely from the edges of a doline. The accidental nature of the event is also seemingly confirmed by some post-mortem lesions on the cranium. The comparison with other Eneolithic archaeological sites in northern Italy made it possible to interpret the find as likely being from a funerary or ritual context, in which corpse dismemberment (in particular the displacement of crania) was practiced.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247306PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7928464PMC
March 2021

New hominin teeth from Stajnia Cave, Poland.

J Hum Evol 2021 Feb 5;151:102929. Epub 2021 Jan 5.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig D-04103, Germany; International Chair of Paleoanthropology, Collège de France, 11 Place Marcelin Berthelot, Paris 75231, France.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2020.102929DOI Listing
February 2021

Pluridisciplinary evidence for burial for the La Ferrassie 8 Neandertal child.

Sci Rep 2020 12 9;10(1):21230. Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Department Geología, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad del País Vasco-Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU), Barrio Sarriena s/n, 48940, Leioa, Spain.

The origin of funerary practices has important implications for the emergence of so-called modern cognitive capacities and behaviour. We provide new multidisciplinary information on the archaeological context of the La Ferrassie 8 Neandertal skeleton (grand abri of La Ferrassie, Dordogne, France), including geochronological data -C and OSL-, ZooMS and ancient DNA data, geological and stratigraphic information from the surrounding context, complete taphonomic study of the skeleton and associated remains, spatial information from the 1968-1973 excavations, and new (2014) fieldwork data. Our results show that a pit was dug in a sterile sediment layer and the corpse of a two-year-old child was laid there. A hominin bone from this context, identified through Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) and associated with Neandertal based on its mitochondrial DNA, yielded a direct C age of 41.7-40.8 ka cal BP (95%), younger than the C dates of the overlying archaeopaleontological layers and the OSL age of the surrounding sediment. This age makes the bone one of the most recent directly dated Neandertals. It is consistent with the age range for the Châtelperronian in the site and in this region and represents the third association of Neandertal taxa to Initial Upper Palaeolithic lithic technocomplex in Western Europe. A detailed multidisciplinary approach, as presented here, is essential to advance understanding of Neandertal behavior, including funerary practices.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-77611-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725784PMC
December 2020

The early Aurignacian dispersal of modern humans into westernmost Eurasia.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 10 28;117(41):25414-25422. Epub 2020 Sep 28.

Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Evolution of Human Behaviour (ICArEHB), Universidade do Algarve, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal.

Documenting the first appearance of modern humans in a given region is key to understanding the dispersal process and the replacement or assimilation of indigenous human populations such as the Neanderthals. The Iberian Peninsula was the last refuge of Neanderthal populations as modern humans advanced across Eurasia. Here we present evidence of an early Aurignacian occupation at Lapa do Picareiro in central Portugal. Diagnostic artifacts were found in a sealed stratigraphic layer dated 41.1 to 38.1 ka cal BP, documenting a modern human presence on the western margin of Iberia ∼5,000 years earlier than previously known. The data indicate a rapid modern human dispersal across southern Europe, reaching the westernmost edge where Neanderthals were thought to persist. The results support the notion of a mosaic process of modern human dispersal and replacement of indigenous Neanderthal populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2016062117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7568277PMC
October 2020

Exploring late Paleolithic and Mesolithic diet in the Eastern Alpine region of Italy through multiple proxies.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2021 02 11;174(2):232-253. Epub 2020 Sep 11.

DANTE Diet and Ancient Technology Laboratory, Department of Oral and Maxillo Facial Sciences Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.

Objectives: The analysis of prehistoric human dietary habits is key for understanding the effects of paleoenvironmental changes on the evolution of cultural and social human behaviors. In this study, we compare results from zooarchaeological, stable isotope and dental calculus analyses as well as lower second molar macrowear patterns to gain a broader understanding of the diet of three individuals who lived between the end of the Late Pleistocene and the Early Holocene (ca., 17-8 ky cal BP) in the Eastern Alpine region of Italy.

Materials And Methods: We analyze individuals buried at the sites of Riparo Tagliente (Verona), Riparo Villabruna, and Mondeval de Sora (Belluno). The three burials provide a unique dataset for diachronically exploring the influence of climatic changes on human subsistence strategies.

Results: Isotopic results indicate that all individuals likely relied on both terrestrial and freshwater animal proteins. Even though dental calculus analysis was, in part, hindered by the amount of mineral deposit available on the teeth, tooth macrowear study suggests that the dietary habits of the individuals included plant foods. Moreover, differences in macrowear patterns of lower second molars have been documented between Neanderthals and modern humans in the present sample, due to a prevalence of Buccal wear among the former as opposed to higher values of Lingual wear in modern human teeth.

Discussion: Isotopic analyses have emphasized the contribution of animal proteins in the diet of the three foragers from the Eastern Alpine region. The possible intake of carbohydrate-rich plant foods, suggested by the retrieval of plant remains in dental calculus, is supported by the signal of macrowear analysis. Moreover, the latter method indicates that the distribution of macrowear in lower second molars (M s) allows us to discriminate between Neanderthals and modern humans within the present reference sample. Overall, our results show these three prehistoric hunter-gatherers were well adapted to the environment in which they lived exploiting many natural resources.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.24128DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7918647PMC
February 2021

New perspectives on Neanderthal dispersal and turnover from Stajnia Cave (Poland).

Sci Rep 2020 09 8;10(1):14778. Epub 2020 Sep 8.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103, Leipzig, Germany.

The Micoquian is the broadest and longest enduring cultural facies of the Late Middle Palaeolithic that spread across the periglacial and boreal environments of Europe between Eastern France, Poland, and Northern Caucasus. Here, we present new data from the archaeological record of Stajnia Cave (Poland) and the paleogenetic analysis of a Neanderthal molar S5000, found in a Micoquian context. Our results demonstrate that the mtDNA genome of Stajnia S5000 dates to MIS 5a making the tooth the oldest Neanderthal specimen from Central-Eastern Europe. Furthermore, S5000 mtDNA has the fewest number of differences to mtDNA of Mezmaiskaya 1 Neanderthal from Northern Caucasus, and is more distant from almost contemporaneous Neanderthals of Scladina and Hohlenstein-Stadel. This observation and the technological affinity between Poland and the Northern Caucasus could be the result of increased mobility of Neanderthals that changed their subsistence strategy for coping with the new low biomass environments and the increased foraging radius of gregarious animals. The Prut and Dniester rivers were probably used as the main corridors of dispersal. The persistence of the Micoquian techno-complex in South-Eastern Europe infers that this axis of mobility was also used at the beginning of MIS 3 when a Neanderthal population turnover occurred in the Northern Caucasus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-71504-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7479612PMC
September 2020

Extended dilation of the radiocarbon time scale between 40,000 and 48,000 y BP and the overlap between Neanderthals and .

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 09 17;117(35):21005-21007. Epub 2020 Aug 17.

The CHRONO Centre for Climate, the Environment and Chronology, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen's University Belfast, BT7 1NN Belfast, United Kingdom.

The new radiocarbon calibration curve (IntCal20) allows us to calculate the gradient of the relationship between C age and calendar age over the past 55 millennia before the present (55 ka BP). The new gradient curve exhibits a prolonged and prominent maximum between 48 and 40 ka BP during which the radiocarbon clock runs almost twice as fast as it should. This radiocarbon time dilation is due to the increase in the atmospheric C/C ratio caused by the C production rise linked to the transition into the Laschamp geomagnetic excursion centered around 41 ka BP. The major maximum in the gradient from 48 to 40 ka BP is a new feature of the IntCal20 calibration curve, with far-reaching impacts for scientific communities, such as prehistory and paleoclimatology, relying on accurate ages in this time range. To illustrate, we consider the duration of the overlap between Neanderthals and in Eurasia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2012307117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7474600PMC
September 2020

Initial Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria.

Nature 2020 05 11;581(7808):299-302. Epub 2020 May 11.

Archaeology Department, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria.

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe witnessed the replacement and partial absorption of local Neanderthal populations by Homo sapiens populations of African origin. However, this process probably varied across regions and its details remain largely unknown. In particular, the duration of chronological overlap between the two groups is much debated, as are the implications of this overlap for the nature of the biological and cultural interactions between Neanderthals and H. sapiens. Here we report the discovery and direct dating of human remains found in association with Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefacts, from excavations at Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria). Morphological analysis of a tooth and mitochondrial DNA from several hominin bone fragments, identified through proteomic screening, assign these finds to H. sapiens and link the expansion of Initial Upper Palaeolithic technologies with the spread of H. sapiens into the mid-latitudes of Eurasia before 45 thousand years ago. The excavations yielded a wealth of bone artefacts, including pendants manufactured from cave bear teeth that are reminiscent of those later produced by the last Neanderthals of western Europe. These finds are consistent with models based on the arrival of multiple waves of H. sapiens into Europe coming into contact with declining Neanderthal populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2259-zDOI Listing
May 2020

A C chronology for the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition at Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria.

Nat Ecol Evol 2020 06 11;4(6):794-801. Epub 2020 May 11.

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

The stratigraphy at Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria, spans the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition, including an Initial Upper Palaeolithic (IUP) assemblage argued to represent the earliest arrival of Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens in Europe. We applied the latest techniques in C dating to an extensive dataset of newly excavated animal and human bones to produce a robust, high-precision radiocarbon chronology for the site. At the base of the stratigraphy, the Middle Palaeolithic (MP) occupation dates to >51,000 yr BP. A chronological gap of over 3,000 years separates the MP occupation from the occupation of the cave by H. sapiens, which extends to 34,000 cal BP. The extensive IUP assemblage, now associated with directly dated H. sapiens fossils at this site, securely dates to 45,820-43,650 cal BP (95.4% probability), probably beginning from 46,940 cal BP (95.4% probability). The results provide chronological context for the early occupation of Europe by Upper Palaeolithic H. sapiens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1136-3DOI Listing
June 2020

Archaeological evidence for two separate dispersals of Neanderthals into southern Siberia.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 02 27;117(6):2879-2885. Epub 2020 Jan 27.

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 630090 Novosibirsk, Russia.

Neanderthals were once widespread across Europe and western Asia. They also penetrated into the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, but the geographical origin of these populations and the timing of their dispersal have remained elusive. Here we describe an archaeological assemblage from Chagyrskaya Cave, situated in the Altai foothills, where around 90,000 Middle Paleolithic artifacts and 74 Neanderthal remains have been recovered from deposits dating to between 59 and 49 thousand years ago (age range at 95.4% probability). Environmental reconstructions suggest that the Chagyrskaya hominins were adapted to the dry steppe and hunted bison. Their distinctive toolkit closely resembles Micoquian assemblages from central and eastern Europe, including the northern Caucasus, more than 3,000 kilometers to the west of Chagyrskaya Cave. At other Altai sites, evidence of earlier Neanderthal populations lacking associated Micoquian-like artifacts implies two or more Neanderthal incursions into this region. We identify eastern Europe as the most probable ancestral source region for the Chagyrskaya toolmakers, supported by DNA results linking the Neanderthal remains with populations in northern Croatia and the northern Caucasus, and providing a rare example of a long-distance, intercontinental population movement associated with a distinctive Paleolithic toolkit.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1918047117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7022189PMC
February 2020

Saving Old Bones: a non-destructive method for bone collagen prescreening.

Sci Rep 2019 09 26;9(1):13928. Epub 2019 Sep 26.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 04103, Leipzig, Germany.

Bone collagen is an important material for radiocarbon, paleodietary, and paleoproteomic analyses, but it degrades over time, making such analyses more difficult with older material. Collagen preservation between and within archaeological sites is also variable, so that much time, effort, and money can go into the preparation and initial analysis of samples that will not yield meaningful results. To avoid this, various methods are employed to prescreen bone for collagen preservation (e.g., %N, microporosity, and FTIR spectroscopic analyses), but these are often destructive and/or require exportation for analysis. Here, we explore near-infrared spectroscopy as a tool for gauging the collagen content of ground and whole bone from about 500 to 45,000 years ago. We show that a portable spectrometer's ability to quantify collagen content and classify specimens by preservation status is comparable to that of other popular prescreening methods. Moreover, near-infrared spectroscopy is non-destructive and spectra can be acquired in a few seconds.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-50443-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6763469PMC
September 2019

The Northern Route for Human dispersal in Central and Northeast Asia: New evidence from the site of Tolbor-16, Mongolia.

Sci Rep 2019 08 13;9(1):11759. Epub 2019 Aug 13.

Department of Human Evolution, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 04103, Leipzig, Germany.

The fossil record suggests that at least two major human dispersals occurred across the Eurasian steppe during the Late Pleistocene. Neanderthals and Modern Humans moved eastward into Central Asia, a region intermittently occupied by the enigmatic Denisovans. Genetic data indicates that the Denisovans interbred with Neanderthals near the Altai Mountains (South Siberia) but where and when they met H. sapiens is yet to be determined. Here we present archaeological evidence that document the timing and environmental context of a third long-distance population movement in Central Asia, during a temperate climatic event around 45,000 years ago. The early occurrence of the Initial Upper Palaeolithic, a techno-complex whose sudden appearance coincides with the first occurrence of H. sapiens in the Eurasian steppes, establishes an essential archaeological link between the Siberian Altai and Northwestern China . Such connection between regions provides empirical ground to discuss contacts between local and exogenous populations in Central and Northeast Asia during the Late Pleistocene.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-47972-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6692324PMC
August 2019

The Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition occupations from Cova Foradada (Calafell, NE Iberia).

PLoS One 2019 16;14(5):e0215832. Epub 2019 May 16.

SERP, Departament d'Historia i Arqueologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

The Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition in Europe covers the last millennia of Neanderthal life together with the appearance and expansion of Modern Human populations. Culturally, it is defined by the Late Middle Paleolithic succession, and by Early Upper Paleolithic complexes like the Châtelperronian (southwestern Europe), the Protoaurignacian, and the Early Aurignacian. Up to now, the southern boundary for the transition has been established as being situated between France and Iberia, in the Cantabrian façade and Pyrenees. According to this, the central and southern territories of Iberia are claimed to have been the refuge of the last Neanderthals for some additional millennia after they were replaced by anatomically Modern Humans on the rest of the continent. In this paper, we present the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition sequence from Cova Foradada (Tarragona), a cave on the Catalan Mediterranean coastline. Archaeological research has documented a stratigraphic sequence containing a succession of very short-term occupations pertaining to the Châtelperronian, Early Aurignacian, and Gravettian. Cova Foradada therefore represents the southernmost Châtelperronian-Early Aurignacian sequence ever documented in Europe, significantly enlarging the territorial distribution of both cultures and providing an important geographical and chronological reference for understanding Neanderthal disappearance and the complete expansion of anatomically Modern Humans.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0215832PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6522054PMC
January 2020

Strontium and stable isotope evidence of human mobility strategies across the Last Glacial Maximum in southern Italy.

Nat Ecol Evol 2019 06 13;3(6):905-911. Epub 2019 May 13.

Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche, della Terra e dell'Ambiente, Unità di Ricerca Preistoria e Antropologia, Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy.

Understanding the reason(s) behind changes in human mobility strategies through space and time is a major challenge in palaeoanthropology. Most of the time this is due to the lack of suitable temporal sequences of human skeletal specimens during critical climatic or cultural shifts. Here, we present temporal variations in the Sr isotope composition of 14 human deciduous teeth and the N and C stable isotope ratios of four human remains from the Grotta Paglicci site (Apulia, southern Italy). The specimens were recovered from the Gravettian and Epigravettian layers, across the Last Glacial Maximum, and dated between 31210-33103 and 18334-19860 yr cal BP (2σ). The two groups of individuals exhibit different Sr/Sr ratios and, while the Gravettians are similar to the local macro-fauna in terms of Sr isotopic signal, the Epigravettians are shifted towards higher radiogenic Sr ratios. These data, together with stable isotopes, can be explained by the adoption of different mobility strategies between the two groups, with the Gravettians exploiting logistical mobility strategies and the Epigravettians applying residential mobility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0900-8DOI Listing
June 2019

Megalithic tombs in western and northern Neolithic Europe were linked to a kindred society.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 05 15;116(19):9469-9474. Epub 2019 Apr 15.

Human Evolution, Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden;

Paleogenomic and archaeological studies show that Neolithic lifeways spread from the Fertile Crescent into Europe around 9000 BCE, reaching northwestern Europe by 4000 BCE. Starting around 4500 BCE, a new phenomenon of constructing megalithic monuments, particularly for funerary practices, emerged along the Atlantic façade. While it has been suggested that the emergence of megaliths was associated with the territories of farming communities, the origin and social structure of the groups that erected them has remained largely unknown. We generated genome sequence data from human remains, corresponding to 24 individuals from five megalithic burial sites, encompassing the widespread tradition of megalithic construction in northern and western Europe, and analyzed our results in relation to the existing European paleogenomic data. The various individuals buried in megaliths show genetic affinities with local farming groups within their different chronological contexts. Individuals buried in megaliths display (past) admixture with local hunter-gatherers, similar to that seen in other Neolithic individuals in Europe. In relation to the tomb populations, we find significantly more males than females buried in the megaliths of the British Isles. The genetic data show close kin relationships among the individuals buried within the megaliths, and for the Irish megaliths, we found a kin relation between individuals buried in different megaliths. We also see paternal continuity through time, including the same Y-chromosome haplotypes reoccurring. These observations suggest that the investigated funerary monuments were associated with patrilineal kindred groups. Our genomic investigation provides insight into the people associated with this long-standing megalith funerary tradition, including their social dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1818037116DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6511028PMC
May 2019

Microwear and isotopic analyses on cave bear remains from Toll Cave reveal both short-term and long-term dietary habits.

Sci Rep 2019 04 5;9(1):5716. Epub 2019 Apr 5.

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

Dietary habits of the extinct Ursus spelaeus have always been a controversial topic in paleontological studies. In this work, we investigate carbon and nitrogen values in the bone collagen and dental microwear of U. spelaeus specimens recovered in Level 4 from Toll Cave (Moià, Catalonia, NE Iberian Peninsula). These remains have been dated to > 49,000 C BP. The ability of both proxies to provide data on the diet of U. spelaeus at different times in the life-history (isotopes: average diet of life; microwear: last days/weeks before death), allows us to generate high-resolution and complementary data. Our results show lower values (δC & δN) in cave bears than in strict herbivores (i.e. Cervus elaphus) recovered from the same level of Toll Cave. On the other hand, 12 lower molars (m1) were analysed through low-magnification microwear technique. The cave bears from Toll Cave show a microwear pattern like that of extant bears with omnivorous and carnivorous diets. These data are discussed in the framework of all available data in Europe and add new information about the plasticity of the dietary habits of this species at the southern latitudes of Europe during Late Pleistocene periods.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-42152-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6450970PMC
April 2019

Radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis on the purported Aurignacian skeletal remains from Fontana Nuova (Ragusa, Italy).

PLoS One 2019 20;14(3):e0213173. Epub 2019 Mar 20.

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

Proving voyaging at sea by Palaeolithic humans is a difficult archaeological task, even for short distances. In the Mediterranean, a commonly accepted sea crossing is that from the Italian Peninsula to Sicily by anatomically modern humans, purportedly of the Aurignacian culture. This claim, however, was only supported by the typological attribution to the Aurignacian of the lithic industries from the insular site of Fontana Nuova. AMS radiocarbon dating undertaken as part of our research shows that the faunal remains, previously considered Aurignacian, actually date to the Holocene. Absolute dating on dentinal collagen also attributes the human teeth from the site to the early Holocene, although we were unable to obtain ancient DNA to evaluate their ancestry. Ten radiocarbon dates on human and other taxa are comprised between 9910-9700 cal. BP and 8600-8480 cal. BP, indicating that Fontana Nuova was occupied by Mesolithic and not Aurignacian hunter-gatherers. Only a new study of the lithic assemblage could establish if the material from Fontana Nuova is a mixed collection that includes both late Upper Palaeolithic (Epigravettian) and Mesolithic artefacts, as can be suggested by taking into account both the results of our study and of the most recent reinterpretation of the lithics. Nevertheless, this research suggests that the notion that Aurignacian groups were present in Sicily should now be revised. Another outcome of our study is that we found that three specimens, attributed on grounds both of morphological and ZooMS identifications to Cervus elaphus, had δ13C values significantly higher than any available for such species in Europe.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213173PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6426221PMC
November 2019

Exceptionally high δN values in collagen single amino acids confirm Neandertals as high-trophic level carnivores.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2019 03 19;116(11):4928-4933. Epub 2019 Feb 19.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.

Isotope and archeological analyses of Paleolithic food webs have suggested that Neandertal subsistence relied mainly on the consumption of large herbivores. This conclusion was primarily based on elevated nitrogen isotope ratios in Neandertal bone collagen and has been significantly debated. This discussion relies on the observation that similar high nitrogen isotopes values could also be the result of the consumption of mammoths, young animals, putrid meat, cooked food, freshwater fish, carnivores, or mushrooms. Recently, compound-specific C and N isotope analyses of bone collagen amino acids have been demonstrated to add significantly more information about trophic levels and aquatic food consumption. We undertook single amino acid C and N isotope analysis on two Neandertals, which were characterized by exceptionally high N isotope ratios in their bulk bone or tooth collagen. We report here both C and N isotope ratios on single amino acids of collagen samples for these two Neandertals and associated fauna. The samples come from two sites dating to the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition period (Les Cottés and Grotte du Renne, France). Our results reinforce the interpretation of Neandertal dietary adaptations as successful top-level carnivores, even after the arrival of modern humans in Europe. They also demonstrate that high δN values of bone collagen can solely be explained by mammal meat consumption, as supported by archeological and zooarcheological evidence, without necessarily invoking explanations including the processing of food (cooking, fermenting), the consumption of mammoths or young mammals, or additional (freshwater fish, mushrooms) dietary protein sources.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1814087116DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6421459PMC
March 2019

Reconstructing the Deep Population History of Central and South America.

Cell 2018 11 8;175(5):1185-1197.e22. Epub 2018 Nov 8.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig 04103, Germany.

We report genome-wide ancient DNA from 49 individuals forming four parallel time transects in Belize, Brazil, the Central Andes, and the Southern Cone, each dating to at least ∼9,000 years ago. The common ancestral population radiated rapidly from just one of the two early branches that contributed to Native Americans today. We document two previously unappreciated streams of gene flow between North and South America. One affected the Central Andes by ∼4,200 years ago, while the other explains an affinity between the oldest North American genome associated with the Clovis culture and the oldest Central and South Americans from Chile, Brazil, and Belize. However, this was not the primary source for later South Americans, as the other ancient individuals derive from lineages without specific affinity to the Clovis-associated genome, suggesting a population replacement that began at least 9,000 years ago and was followed by substantial population continuity in multiple regions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.10.027DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6327247PMC
November 2018

A reassessment of the presumed Badegoulian skull from Rond-du-Barry cave (Polignac, France), using direct AMS radiocarbon dating.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2018 08 2;166(4):921-929. Epub 2018 May 2.

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Human Evolution, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig D-04103, Germany.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.23468DOI Listing
August 2018

Reconstructing the genetic history of late Neanderthals.

Nature 2018 03 21;555(7698):652-656. Epub 2018 Mar 21.

Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.

Although it has previously been shown that Neanderthals contributed DNA to modern humans, not much is known about the genetic diversity of Neanderthals or the relationship between late Neanderthal populations at the time at which their last interactions with early modern humans occurred and before they eventually disappeared. Our ability to retrieve DNA from a larger number of Neanderthal individuals has been limited by poor preservation of endogenous DNA and contamination of Neanderthal skeletal remains by large amounts of microbial and present-day human DNA. Here we use hypochlorite treatment of as little as 9 mg of bone or tooth powder to generate between 1- and 2.7-fold genomic coverage of five Neanderthals who lived around 39,000 to 47,000 years ago (that is, late Neanderthals), thereby doubling the number of Neanderthals for which genome sequences are available. Genetic similarity among late Neanderthals is well predicted by their geographical location, and comparison to the genome of an older Neanderthal from the Caucasus indicates that a population turnover is likely to have occurred, either in the Caucasus or throughout Europe, towards the end of Neanderthal history. We find that the bulk of Neanderthal gene flow into early modern humans originated from one or more source populations that diverged from the Neanderthals that were studied here at least 70,000 years ago, but after they split from a previously sequenced Neanderthal from Siberia around 150,000 years ago. Although four of the Neanderthals studied here post-date the putative arrival of early modern humans into Europe, we do not detect any recent gene flow from early modern humans in their ancestry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature26151DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6485383PMC
March 2018

A combined method for DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating from a single sample.

Sci Rep 2018 03 7;8(1):4127. Epub 2018 Mar 7.

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

Current protocols for ancient DNA and radiocarbon analysis of ancient bones and teeth call for multiple destructive samplings of a given specimen, thereby increasing the extent of undesirable damage to precious archaeological material. Here we present a method that makes it possible to obtain both ancient DNA sequences and radiocarbon dates from the same sample material. This is achieved by releasing DNA from the bone matrix through incubation with either EDTA or phosphate buffer prior to complete demineralization and collagen extraction utilizing the acid-base-acid-gelatinization and ultrafiltration procedure established in most radiocarbon dating laboratories. Using a set of 12 bones of different ages and preservation conditions we demonstrate that on average 89% of the DNA can be released from sample powder with minimal, or 38% without any, detectable collagen loss. We also detect no skews in radiocarbon dates compared to untreated samples. Given the different material demands for radiocarbon dating (500 mg of bone/dentine) and DNA analysis (10-100 mg), combined DNA and collagen extraction not only streamlines the sampling process but also drastically increases the amount of DNA that can be recovered from limited sample material.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-22472-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5841407PMC
March 2018

The genomic history of southeastern Europe.

Nature 2018 03 21;555(7695):197-203. Epub 2018 Feb 21.

Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Firenze, 50122 Florence, Italy.

Farming was first introduced to Europe in the mid-seventh millennium bc, and was associated with migrants from Anatolia who settled in the southeast before spreading throughout Europe. Here, to understand the dynamics of this process, we analysed genome-wide ancient DNA data from 225 individuals who lived in southeastern Europe and surrounding regions between 12000 and 500 bc. We document a west-east cline of ancestry in indigenous hunter-gatherers and, in eastern Europe, the early stages in the formation of Bronze Age steppe ancestry. We show that the first farmers of northern and western Europe dispersed through southeastern Europe with limited hunter-gatherer admixture, but that some early groups in the southeast mixed extensively with hunter-gatherers without the sex-biased admixture that prevailed later in the north and west. We also show that southeastern Europe continued to be a nexus between east and west after the arrival of farmers, with intermittent genetic contact with steppe populations occurring up to 2,000 years earlier than the migrations from the steppe that ultimately replaced much of the population of northern Europe.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature25778DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6091220PMC
March 2018

A chronological framework connecting the early Upper Palaeolithic across the Central Asian piedmont.

J Hum Evol 2017 12 6;113:107-126. Epub 2017 Sep 6.

National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Independence Ave. 54, Astana, Kazakhstan.

Central Asia has delivered significant paleoanthropological discoveries in the past few years. New genetic data indicate that at least two archaic human species met and interbred with anatomically modern humans as they arrived into northern Central Asia. However, data are limited: known archaeological sites with lithic assemblages generally lack human fossils, and consequently identifying the archaeological signatures of different human groups, and the timing of their occupation, remains elusive. Reliable chronologic data from sites in the region, crucial to our understanding of the timing and duration of interactions between different human species, are rare. Here we present chronologies for two open air Middle to Upper Palaeolithic (UP) sequences from the Tien Shan piedmont in southeast Kazakhstan, Maibulak and Valikhanova, which bridge southern and northern Central Asia. The chronologies, based on both quartz optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and polymineral post-infrared infrared luminescence (pIR-IRSL) protocols, demonstrate that technological developments at the two sites differ substantially over the ∼47-19 ka time span. Some of the innovations typically associated with the earliest UP in the Altai or other parts of northeast Asia are also present in the Tien Shan piedmont. We caution against making assumptions about the directionality of spread of these technologies until a larger, better defined database of transitional sites in the region is available. Connections between the timing of occupation of regions, living area setting and paleoenvironmental conditions, while providing hypotheses worth exploring, remain inconclusive. We cautiously suggest a trend towards increasing occupation of open air sites across the Central Asian piedmont after ∼40 ka, corresponding to more humid climatic conditions which nevertheless included pulses of dust deposition. Human occupation persisted into the Last Glacial Maximum, despite cooler, and possibly drier, conditions. Our results thus provide additional data to substantiate arguments for occupation of Central Asia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.07.006DOI Listing
December 2017

Palaeoproteomic evidence identifies archaic hominins associated with the Châtelperronian at the Grotte du Renne.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 10 16;113(40):11162-11167. Epub 2016 Sep 16.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.

In Western Europe, the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition is associated with the disappearance of Neandertals and the spread of anatomically modern humans (AMHs). Current chronological, behavioral, and biological models of this transitional period hinge on the Châtelperronian technocomplex. At the site of the Grotte du Renne, Arcy-sur-Cure, morphological Neandertal specimens are not directly dated but are contextually associated with the Châtelperronian, which contains bone points and beads. The association between Neandertals and this "transitional" assemblage has been controversial because of the lack either of a direct hominin radiocarbon date or of molecular confirmation of the Neandertal affiliation. Here we provide further evidence for a Neandertal-Châtelperronian association at the Grotte du Renne through biomolecular and chronological analysis. We identified 28 additional hominin specimens through zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS) screening of morphologically uninformative bone specimens from Châtelperronian layers at the Grotte du Renne. Next, we obtain an ancient hominin bone proteome through liquid chromatography-MS/MS analysis and error-tolerant amino acid sequence analysis. Analysis of this palaeoproteome allows us to provide phylogenetic and physiological information on these ancient hominin specimens. We distinguish Late Pleistocene clades within the genus Homo based on ancient protein evidence through the identification of an archaic-derived amino acid sequence for the collagen type X, alpha-1 (COL10α1) protein. We support this by obtaining ancient mtDNA sequences, which indicate a Neandertal ancestry for these specimens. Direct accelerator mass spectometry radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modeling confirm that the hominin specimens date to the Châtelperronian at the Grotte du Renne.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1605834113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5056053PMC
October 2016

Direct radiocarbon dating and genetic analyses on the purported Neanderthal mandible from the Monti Lessini (Italy).

Sci Rep 2016 07 8;6:29144. Epub 2016 Jul 8.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.

Anatomically modern humans replaced Neanderthals in Europe around 40,000 years ago. The demise of the Neanderthals and the nature of the possible relationship with anatomically modern humans has captured our imagination and stimulated research for more than a century now. Recent chronological studies suggest a possible overlap between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans of more than 5,000 years. Analyses of ancient genome sequences from both groups have shown that they interbred multiple times, including in Europe. A potential place of interbreeding is the notable Palaeolithic site of Riparo Mezzena in Northern Italy. In order to improve our understanding of prehistoric occupation at Mezzena, we analysed the human mandible and several cranial fragments from the site using radiocarbon dating, ancient DNA, ZooMS and isotope analyses. We also performed a more detailed investigation of the lithic assemblage of layer I. Surprisingly we found that the Riparo Mezzena mandible is not from a Neanderthal but belonged to an anatomically modern human. Furthermore, we found no evidence for the presence of Neanderthal remains among 11 of the 13 cranial and post-cranial fragments re-investigated in this study.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep29144DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4937366PMC
July 2016

The genetic history of Ice Age Europe.

Nature 2016 06 2;534(7606):200-5. Epub 2016 May 2.

Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehistóricas, Universidad de Cantabria, 39005 Santander, Spain.

Modern humans arrived in Europe ~45,000 years ago, but little is known about their genetic composition before the start of farming ~8,500 years ago. Here we analyse genome-wide data from 51 Eurasians from ~45,000-7,000 years ago. Over this time, the proportion of Neanderthal DNA decreased from 3-6% to around 2%, consistent with natural selection against Neanderthal variants in modern humans. Whereas there is no evidence of the earliest modern humans in Europe contributing to the genetic composition of present-day Europeans, all individuals between ~37,000 and ~14,000 years ago descended from a single founder population which forms part of the ancestry of present-day Europeans. An ~35,000-year-old individual from northwest Europe represents an early branch of this founder population which was then displaced across a broad region, before reappearing in southwest Europe at the height of the last Ice Age ~19,000 years ago. During the major warming period after ~14,000 years ago, a genetic component related to present-day Near Easterners became widespread in Europe. These results document how population turnover and migration have been recurring themes of European prehistory.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature17993DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4943878PMC
June 2016

A reassessment of the presumed Torrener Bärenhöhle's Paleolithic human tooth.

J Hum Evol 2016 Apr 11;93:120-5. Epub 2016 Mar 11.

Department of Cultural Heritage, University of Bologna, Via degli Ariani 1, 48121 Ravenna, Italy; Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.01.007DOI Listing
April 2016