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Original article:https: cenich.es

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

A study led by CENIEH researcher has just been presented looking at the subsistence strategies of Neanderthal groups at the Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter site (Pinilla del Valle, Madrid), whose results indicate that they mainly hunted large bovids and cervids

Abel Moclán, a researcher at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), is the lead author of a paper published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews which undertook a zooarchaeological and taphonomic study of the Neanderthal Navalmaíllo Rock Shelter site (Pinilla del Valle, Madrid), some 76,000 years old, whose results indicate that these Neanderthals mainly hunted large bovids and cervids.

Thanks to the taphonomic study, it has been possible to characterize the site as a “hunting camp”, meaning that it was used by these hominins as a staging post between where they caught their prey and the place of final consumption, at which the entire group would have made use of the resources the hunting parties obtained at different times.

Covering over 300 m2, this is possibly the region’s largest Neanderthal camp, and evidence had previously been found of different activities undertaken by these hominins here, such as manufacturing stone tools or the use of fire, at different moments, although little had been known about how important the faunal remains encountered were.

“We’ve been able to show with a high degree of certainty that the Navalmaíllo Neanderthals mainly hunted large bovids and cervids, which they processed there and then carried to a second place of reference. This point is very interesting, as this type of behavior has been identified at very few sites in the Iberian Peninsula. To do all this, we used very powerful statistical tools such as Artificial Intelligence”, says Moclán.

The other collaborators in this study were the researchers Rosa Huguet and Hugues Alexandre Blain, from the IPHES in Tarragona; Belén Márquez, César Laplana and María Ángeles Galindo-Pellicena, of the Museo Arqueológico Regional of Madrid; Nuria García, attached to the Universidad Complutense de Madrid; Diego Álvarez-Lao, of the Universidad de Oviedo, and the three co-directors of the Pinilla del Valle project: the geologist Alfredo Pérez González, the paleontologist Juan Luis Arsuaga and the archaeologist Enrique Baquedano.

Twentieth excavation campaign

The twentieth excavation campaign at the Pinilla del Valle sites is currently under way, from August 15th through September 15th. These excavations are being directed from the Museo Arqueológico Regional of the Comunidad de Madrid, and they are financed by the Comunidad de Madrid. The project is also sponsored by the company Mahou San Miguel and enjoys the collaboration of the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, the Ayuntamiento de Pinilla del Valle, the Canal de Isabel II, the Fundación General of the Universidad de Alcalá and the Dirección General de Juventud.

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By Associated PressMEXICO CITY —

Latimes.com

The number of mammoth skeletons recovered at an airport construction site north of Mexico City has risen to at least 200, with a large number still to be excavated, experts said Thursday. 

Archeologists hope the site that has become “mammoth central” — the shores of an ancient lake bed that both attracted and trapped mammoths in its marshy soil — may help solve the riddle of their extinction. 

Experts said that finds are still being made at the site, including signs that humans may have made tools from the bones of the lumbering animals that died somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. 

There are so many mammoths at the site of the new Santa Lucia airport that observers have to accompany each bulldozer that digs into the soil to make sure work is halted when mammoth bones are uncovered. 

“We have about 200 mammoths, about 25 camels, five horses,” said archeologist Rubén Manzanilla López of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, referring to animals that went extinct in the Americas. 

The site is only about 12 miles from artificial pits, essentially shallow mammoth traps, that were dug by early inhabitants to trap and kill dozens of mammoths. 

Manzanilla López said evidence is beginning to emerge suggesting that even if the mammoths at the airport died natural deaths after becoming stuck in the mud of the ancient lake bed, their remains may have been carved up by humans. Something similar happened at the mammoth-trap site in the hamlet of San Antonio Xahuento, in the nearby township of Tultepec.

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While tests are still being carried out on the mammoth bones to try to find possible butchering marks, archeologists have found dozens of mammoth-bone tools — usually shafts used to hold other tools or cutting implements — like ones in Tultepec.

“Here we have found evidence that we have the same kind of tools, but until we can do the laboratory studies to see marks of these tools or possible tools, we can’t say we have evidence that is well-founded,” Manzanilla López said.

Paleontologist Joaquin Arroyo Cabrales said the airport site “will be a very important site to test hypotheses” about the mass extinction of mammoths.

 

“What caused these animals’ extinction, everywhere there is a debate, whether it was climate change or the presence of humans,” Arroyo Cabrales said. “I think in the end the decision will be that there was a synergy effect between climate change and human presence.”

Ashley Leger, a paleontologist at the California-based Cogstone Resource Management company, who was not involved in the dig, noted that such natural death groupings “are rare. A very specific set of conditions that allow for a collection of remains in an area but also be preserved as fossils must be met. There needs to be a means for them to be buried rapidly and experience low oxygen levels.”

The site near Mexico City now appears to have outstripped the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs, S.D. — which has about 61 sets of remains — as the world’s largest find of mammoth bones. Large concentrations have also been found in Siberia and at Los Angeles’ La Brea tar pits.

For now, the mammoths seem to be everywhere at the site and the finds may slow down, but not stop, work on the new airport.

 

Mexican Army Capt. Jesus Cantoral, who oversees efforts to preserve remains at the army-led construction site, said “a large number of excavation sites” are still pending detailed study, and that observers have to accompany backhoes and bulldozers every time they break ground at a new spot.

The airport project is so huge, he noted, that the machines can just go work somewhere else while archeologists study a specific area.

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Prehistoric ancestors

News.mit.edu

Some of the oldest remains of early human ancestors have been unearthed in Olduvai Gorge, a rift valley setting in northern Tanzania where anthropologists have discovered fossils of hominids that existed 1.8 million years ago. The region has preserved many fossils and stone tools, indicating that early humans settled and hunted there.

Now a team led by researchers at MIT and the University of Alcalá in Spain has discovered evidence that hot springs may have existed in Olduvai Gorge around that time, near early human archaeological sites. The proximity of these hydrothermal features raises the possibility that early humans could have used hot springs as a cooking resource, for instance to boil fresh kills, long before humans are thought to have used fire as a controlled source for cooking.

“As far as we can tell, this is the first time researchers have put forth concrete evidence for the possibility that people were using hydrothermal environments as a resource, where animals would’ve been gathering, and where the potential to cook was available,” says Roger Summons, the Schlumberger Professor of Geobiology in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).

Summons and his colleagues have published their findings today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study’s lead author is Ainara Sistiaga, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow based at MIT and the University of Copenhagen. The team includes Fatima Husain, a graduate student in EAPS, along with archaeologists, geologists, and geochemists from the University of Alcalá and the University of Valladolid, in Spain; the University of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania; and Pennsylvania State University.

An unexpected reconstruction

In 2016, Sistiaga joined an archaeological expedition  to Olduvai Gorge, where researchers with the Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project were collecting sediments from a 3-kilometer-long layer of exposed rock that was deposited around 1.7 million years ago. This geologic layer was striking because its sandy composition was markedly different from the dark clay layer just below, which was deposited 1.8 million years ago.

“Something was changing in the environment, so we wanted to understand what happened and how that impacted humans,” says Sistiaga, who had originally planned to analyze the sediments to see how the landscape changed in response to climate and how these changes may have affected the way early humans lived in the region.

It’s thought that around 1.7 million years ago, East Africa underwent a gradual aridification, moving from a wetter, tree-populated climate to dryer, grassier terrain. Sistiaga brought back sandy rocks collected from the Olduvai Gorge layer and began to analyze them in Summons’ lab for signs of certain lipids that can contain residue of leaf waxes, offering clues to the kind of vegetation present at the time.

“You can reconstruct something about the plants that were there by the carbon numbers and the isotopes, and that’s what our lab specializes in, and why Ainara was doing it in our lab,” Summons says. “But then she discovered other classes of compounds that were totally unexpected.”

An unambiguous sign

Within the sediments she brought back, Sistiaga came across lipids that looked completely different from the plant-derived lipids she knew. She took the data to Summons, who realized that they were a close match with lipids produced not by plants, but by specific groups of bacteria that he and his colleagues had reported on, in a completely different context, nearly 20 years ago.

The lipids that Sistiaga extracted from sediments deposited 1.7 million years ago in Tanzania were the same lipids that are produced by a modern bacteria that Summons and his colleagues previously studied in the United States, in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.

One specific bacterium, Thermocrinis ruber, is a hyperthermophilic organism that will only thrive in very hot waters, such as those found in the outflow channels of boiling hot springs.

“They won’t even grow unless the temperature is above 80 degrees Celsius [176 degrees Fahrenheit],” Summons says. “Some of the samples Ainara brought back from this sandy layer in Olduvai Gorge had these same assemblages of bacterial lipids that we think are unambiguously indicative of high-temperature water.”

That is, it appears that heat-loving bacteria similar to those Summons had worked on more than 20 years ago in Yellowstone may also have lived in Olduvai Gorge 1.7 million years ago. By extension, the team proposes, high-temperature features such as hot springs and hydrothermal waters could also have been present.

“It’s not a crazy idea that, with all this tectonic activity in the middle of the rift system, there could have been extrusion of hydrothermal fluids,” notes Sistiaga, who says that Olduvai Gorge is a geologically active tectonic region that has upheaved volcanoes over millions of years — activity that could also have boiled up groundwater to form hot springs at the surface.

The region where the team collected the sediments is adjacent to sites of early human habitation featuring stone tools, along with animal bones. It is possible, then, that nearby hot springs may have enabled hominins to cook food such as meat and certain tough tubers and roots.

“The authors’ comprehensive analyses paint a vivid picture of the ancient Olduvai Gorge ecosystem and landscape, including the first compelling evidence for ancient hydrothermal springs,” says Richard Pancost, a professor of biogeochemistry at the University of Bristol, who was not involved in the study. “This introduces the fascinating possibility that such springs could have been used by early hominins to cook food.”

“Why wouldn’t you eat it?”

Exactly how early humans may have cooked with hot springs is still an open question. They could have butchered animals and dipped the meat in hot springs to make them more palatable. In a similar way, they could have boiled roots and tubers, much like cooking raw potatoes, to make them more easily digestible. Animals could have also met their demise while falling into the hydrothermal waters, where early humans could have fished them out as a precooked meal.

“If there was a wildebeest that fell into the water and was cooked, why wouldn’t you eat it?” Sistiaga poses.

While there is currently no sure-fire way to establish whether early humans indeed used hot springs to cook, the team plans to look for similar lipids, and signs of hydrothermal reservoirs, in other layers and locations throughout Olduvai Gorge, as well as near other sites in the world where human settlements have been found.

“We can prove in other sites that maybe hot springs were present, but we would still lack evidence of how humans interacted with them. That’s a question of behavior, and understanding the behavior of extinct species almost 2 million years ago is very difficult, Sistiaga says. “I hope we can find other evidence that supports at least the presence of this resource in other important sites for human evolution.”

This research was supported, in part, by the European Commission (MSCA-GF), the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and the Government of Spain.

 

 

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Eurekalert.org

Scientific Reports

Analysing three components of ceramic cooking pots — charred remains, inner surface residues and lipids absorbed within the ceramic walls — may help archaeologists uncover detailed timelines of culinary cooking practices used by ancient civilizations. The findings, from a year-long cooking experiment, are published this week in Scientific Reports.

Led by scientists Melanie Miller, Helen Whelton and Jillian Swift, a team of seven archaeologists repetitively cooked the same ingredients in unglazed ceramic pots once per week over the course of one year, then changed recipes for the final cooking event to study whether remaining residues may represent the last meal cooked or an accumulation of cooking events over the total amount of time a vessel has been used. Recipes included ingredients such as wheat, maize and venison.

Chemical analysis of the carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of residues present in the ceramic pots, contributed by carbohydrates, lipids and proteins from the meals cooked, suggest that the remains of burnt food left within each vessel represent the final ingredients and change with each meal. The chemical composition of the thin residue layer formed on the inside surface of the cooking pot and in most direct contact with the food when cooking represents a mixture of previous meals, but most closely resembles that of the final meal. Further analysis also suggests that lipids are absorbed into the walls of the ceramic vessel over a number of cooking events and are not immediately replaced by the new recipes but are instead slowly replaced over time, representing a mixture of the ingredients cooked over the total amount of time the vessel was in use.

Analysis of all three residues reveal cooking events across different time scales for ceramic vessels and may enable archaeologists to better understand the various resources used by ancient cultures and to estimate the lifespan of pottery used in meal preparation.

 

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On this day ten years ago…
via An archaeological window on ancient farming

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Pork and possibly chicken became more popular in England after arrival of William the Conqueror

The Norman conquest led to far-reaching and long-lasting political change across England – and new research suggests it also led to the English eating more pork and chicken.

Before 1066, beef, lamb, mutton and goat were among the meats most likely to be served in England, but a study of human and animal bones – as well as fat residue found on fragments of cooking pots – found that pork and possibly chicken became much more popular following the arrival of William the Conqueror.

Experts believe the Normans passed on their love of pork to local people, and pigs and chickens began to be farmed much more intensively.

The study also suggests there were food shortages for a few years after the Norman invasion, but supplies were soon restored and life returned to normal.

Richard Madgwick, an osteoarchaeologist at Cardiff University’s school of history, archaeology and religion, said 1066 was arguably the most famous and important date in English history.

“It’s seen as a grand transition after which nothing was the same again. For the elite, the nobility, everything did change radically – the administration of the country, legal frameworks, the organisation of the landscape. But at a lower level, people adapted to the new normal rapidly.”

The research team used a range of bio-archaeological techniques to study human and animal bones recovered from sites across Oxford, along with fragments of ceramics used for cooking.

They found that pork and chicken became a more popular choice for the cooking pot at the expense of beef, lamb and mutton. Some things did not change, however: cabbage remained a staple.

Elizabeth Craig-Atkins, a senior lecturer in human osteology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Examining archaeological evidence of the diet and health of ordinary people who lived during this time gives us a detailed picture of their everyday experiences and lifestyles.

“There is certainly evidence that people experienced periods where food was scarce. But following this, an intensification in farming meant people generally had a more steady food supply and consistent diet.”

The researchers used a technique called stable isotope analysis on bones to compare the diets of 36 men and women who lived between the 10th and 13th centuries, whose remains were found in various locations around Oxford, including at Oxford Castle.

They found there was not a huge difference between the health of the individuals, who were alive at different points before and after the conquest. Levels of protein and carbohydrate consumption were similar in the group and evidence of bone conditions related to poor diet – such as rickets and scurvy – were rare.

However, detailed analysis of teeth showed evidence of short-term changes in health and diet during the transitional phase after the invasion.

Isotope analysis was also used on 60 animals found at the same sites, to ascertain how they were raised. Studies of pig bones found their diets became more consistent and richer in animal protein after the conquest, suggesting pig farming was intensified under Norman rule. They were probably living in pig sties in towns and being fed scraps instead of being allowed to forage in the countryside.

Fragments of pottery were examined using a technique called organic residue analysis. When food is cooked in ceramic pots, fats are absorbed into the vessel. The 11th-century cook would sometimes roast pork or chicken but most often simply threw it into a pot and turned it into a stew.

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On this day ten years ago…
via A 200,000-Year-Old Cut of Meat

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On this day ten years ago…
via Humans made fire 790,000 years ago

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On this day ten years ago…
via Respect Your Elders, Human!

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Eurekalert.org

Florida Museum of Natural History

IMAGE: Out-of-towners flocked to ceremonial sites on Florida’s Gulf Coast for hundreds of years to socialize and feast. Crystal River was home to one of the most prominent sites, which featured… view more 

Credit: Thomas J. Pluckhahn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — More than a thousand years ago, people from across the Southeast regularly traveled to a small island on Florida’s Gulf Coast to bond over oysters, likely as a means of coping with climate change and social upheaval.

Archaeologists’ analysis of present-day Roberts Island, about 50 miles north of Tampa Bay, showed that ancient people continued their centuries-long tradition of meeting to socialize and feast, even after an unknown crisis around A.D. 650 triggered the abandonment of most other such ceremonial sites in the region. For the next 400 years, out-of-towners made trips to the island, where shell mounds and a stepped pyramid were maintained by a small group of locals. But unlike the lavish spreads of the past, the menu primarily consisted of oysters, possibly a reflection of lower sea levels and cool, dry conditions.

People’s persistence in gathering at Roberts Island, despite regional hardship, underscores their commitment to community, said study lead author C. Trevor Duke, a researcher in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Ceramic Technology Lab.

“What I found most compelling was the fact that people were so interested in keeping their ties to that landscape in the midst of all this potential climate change and abandonment,” said Duke, a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Florida department of anthropology. “They still put forth the effort to harvest all these oysters and keep these social relationships active. These gatherings probably occurred when different groups of people were getting together and trying to figure out the future.”

Duke and his collaborators compared animal remains from shell mounds and middens – essentially kitchen trash heaps – at Roberts Island and Crystal River, home to an older, more prominent ceremonial site. Their findings showed Crystal River residents “pulled out all the stops” for ritual feasts, regaling visitors with deer, alligator, sharks and dozens of other dishes, while at Roberts Island, feasts consisted of “oysters and very little else,” Duke said.

The Roberts Island ceremonial site, which was vacated around A.D. 1050, was one of the last outposts in what was once a flourishing network of religious sites across the Eastern U.S. These sites were characterized by burial grounds with distinctly decorated ceramics known as Swift Creek and Weeden Island pottery. What differentiated Roberts Island and Crystal River from other sites was that their continuous occupation by a small group of residents who prepared for the influx of hundreds of visitors – not unlike Florida’s tourist towns today.

“These were very cosmopolitan communities,” Duke said. “I’m from Broward County, but I also spent time in the Panhandle, so I’m used to being part of a small residential community that deals with a massive population boom for a month or two months a year. That has been a Florida phenomenon for at least two thousand years.”

Archaeologists estimate small-scale ceremonies began at Crystal River around A.D. 50, growing substantially after a residential community settled the site around A.D. 200. Excavations have uncovered minerals and artifacts from the Midwest, including copper breastplates from the Great Lakes. Similarly, conch shells from the Gulf Coast have been found at Midwestern archaeological sites.

“There was this long-distance reciprocal exchange network going on across much of the Eastern U.S. that Crystal River was very much a part of,” Duke said.

Religious ceremonies at Crystal River included ritual burials and marriage alliances, Duke said, solidifying social ties between different groups of people. But the community was not immune to the environmental and social crises that swept the region, and the site was abandoned around A.D. 650. A smaller ceremonial site was soon established less than a mile downstream on Roberts Island, likely by a remnant of the Crystal River population.

Duke and his collaborators collected samples from mounds and middens at the two ceremonial sites, identifying the species present and calculating the weight of the meat they would have contained. They found that feasts at hard-strapped Roberts Island featured far fewer species. Meat from oysters and other bivalves accounted for 75% of the weight of Robert Island samples and roughly 25% of the weight from Crystal River. Meat from deer and other mammals made up 45% of the weight in Crystal River samples and less then 3% from Roberts Island.

Duke said evidence suggests that Roberts Island residents also had to travel farther to harvest food. As sea levels fell, oyster beds may have shifted seaward, possibly explaining why the Crystal River population relocated to the island, which was small and had few resources.

“Previous research suggests that environmental change completely rearranged the distribution of reefs and the ecosystem,” Duke said. “They had to go far out to harvest these things to keep their ritual program active.”

No one knows what caused the widespread abandonment of most of the region’s ceremonial sites in A.D. 650, Duke said. But the production of Weeden Island pottery, likely associated with religious activities, ramped up as bustling sites became ghost towns.

“That’s kind of counterintuitive,” he said. “This religious movement comes on really strong right as this abandonment is happening. It almost seems like people were trying to do something, create some kind of intervention to stop whatever was happening.”

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Thomas Pluckhahn of the University of South Florida and J. Matthew Compton of Georgia Southern University also co-authored the study. (more…)

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