Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Neanderthal’

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.

Read Full Post »


Findings on Neanderthal oral microbiomes offer new clues on evolution, health

Original article in eurekalert.org

10-May-2021Peer-Reviewed Publication

Harvard University

Gorillas
image: Grauer’s gorilla specimens at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (Belgium), showing typical dental calculus deposits on the teeth that are stained dark likely as a result of their herbivorous diet. view more Credit: Katerina Guschanski

A new study looking at the evolutionary history of the human oral microbiome shows that Neanderthals and ancient humans adapted to eating starch-rich foods as far back as 100,000 years ago, which is much earlier than previously thought. 

The findings suggest such foods became important in the human diet well before the introduction of farming and even before the evolution of modern humans. And while these early humans probably didn’t realize it, the benefits of bringing the foods into their diet likely helped pave the way for the expansion of the human brain because of the glucose in starch, which is the brain’s main fuel source.

“We think we’re seeing evidence of a really ancient behavior that might have been part encephalization — or the growth of the human brain,” said Harvard Professor Christina Warinner, Ph.D. ’10. “It’s evidence of a new food source that early humans were able to tap into in the form of roots, starchy vegetables, and seeds.”

The findings come from a seven-year study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday that involved the collaboration of more than 50 international scientists. Researchers reconstructed the oral microbiomes of Neanderthals, primates, and humans, including what’s believed to be the oldest oral microbiome ever sequenced — a 100,000-year-old Neanderthal.

The goal was to better understand how the oral microbiome — a community of microorganisms in our mouths that help to protect against disease and promote health — developed since little is known about its evolutionary history.

“For a long time, people have been trying to understand what a normal healthy microbiome is,” said Warinner, assistant professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute. “If we only have people today that we’re analyzing from completely industrialized contexts and that already have high disease burdens, is that healthy and normal? We started to ask: What are the core members of the microbiome? Which species and groups of bacteria have actually co-evolved with us the longest?”

The scientists analyzed the fossilized dental plaque of both modern humans and Neanderthals and compared them to those of humanity’s closest primate relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, as well as howler monkeys, a more distant relative. 

Using newly developed tools and methods, they genetically analyzed billions of DNA fragments preserved in the fossilized plaque to reconstruct their genomes. It’s similar in theory to how archeologists painstakingly piece together ancient broken pots, but on a much larger scale.

The biggest surprise from the study was the presence of particular strains of oral bacteria that are specially adapted to break down starch. These strains, which are members of the genus Streptococcus, have a unique ability to capture starch-digesting enzymes from human saliva, which they then use to feed themselves. The genetic machinery the bacteria uses to do this is only active when starch is part of the regular diet. 

Both the Neanderthals and the ancient humans scientists studied had these starch-adapted strains in their dental plaque while most of the primates had almost no streptococci that could break down starch.

“It seems to be a very human specific evolutionary trait that our Streptococcus acquired the ability to do this,” Warinner said. 

The findings also push back on the idea that Neanderthals were top carnivores, given that the “brain requires glucose as a nutrient source and meat alone is not a sufficient source,” Warinner said.

Researchers said the finding makes sense because for hunter-gatherer societies around the world, starch-rich foods –underground roots, tubers (like potatoes), and forbs, as well as nuts and seeds, for example — are important and reliable nutrition sources. In fact, starch currently makes up about 60 percent of calories for humans worldwide.

“Its availability is much more predictable across the annual season for tropical hunter-gatherers,” said Richard W. Wrangham, Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology and one of the paper’s co-authors. “These new data make every sense to me, reinforcing the newer view about Neanderthals that their diets were more sapien-like than once thought, [meaning] starch-rich and cooked.”

The research also identified 10 groups of bacteria that have been part of the human and primate oral microbiome for more than 40 million years and are still shared today. While these bacteria may serve important and beneficial roles, relatively little is known about them. Some don’t even have names.

Focusing on Neanderthals and today’s humans, the analysis surprisingly showed the oral microbiome of both groups were almost indistinguishable. Only when looking at individual bacterial strains could they see some differences. For example, ancient humans living in Europe before 14,000 years ago during the Ice Age shared some bacterial strains with Neanderthals that are no longer found in humans today.

The differences and similarities from the study are all part of what makes us human, Warinner said. It also touches on the power of analyzing the tiny microbes that live in the human body, she said.

“It shows that our microbiome encodes valuable information about our own evolution that sometimes gives us hints at things that otherwise leave no traces at all,” Warinner said.

Read Full Post »

Original article in science news.org

Paleoartist Gabriela Amorós Seller draws on recent findings to depict ancient Iberian life

Bruce BowerMarch 9, 2021 at 8:00 am

painting of a Neandertal man and child on the Iberian plains
A Neandertal man and child lounge among ancient Iberian plants and animals near Bolomor Cave (about halfway up the hill on the left) in this painting depicting life in eastern Spain around a couple hundred thousand years ago.G. Amorós, Quat. Sci. Reviews, 2021

Here’s a scene guaranteed to melt the popular stereotype of Ice Age Neandertals as spear-wielding mammoth hunters confined to Eurasia’s frigid inner core.

New illustrations show what’s currently known about the environment inhabited periodically by Neandertals in Iberia, or what’s now Spain and Portugal, from at least 350,000 years ago to nearly 100,000 years ago. Paleoartist Gabriela Amorós Seller of the University of Murcia in Spain, used colored pencils to illustrate an idyllic view of a Neandertal man and child lounging on flat ground downslope from Bolomor Cave, near the Mediterranean coast of what’s now eastern Spain.

Excavations in the cave have produced evidence of the trees, plants and animals shown in the drawing, presented in the March 15 Quaternary Science Reviews. Amorós Seller also illustrated Bolomor Cave’s Neandertal-era entrance and surrounding greenery. She and her colleagues regard these scientifically informed drawings as more than simply appealing to the eye. Art that shows the basic makeup of an ancient environment can inspire scientists to ask new questions. For instance, her group now wants to explore how ancient Iberian plants grew in the wild and what they looked like before being modified over the past few thousand years by farming practices.  

illustration of the entrance to Bolomor Cave in Spain
Eastern Spain’s Bolomor Cave (illustrated) has hosted recent excavations that paint a detailed picture of what life was like for Neandertals who once inhabited that temperate region.G. Amorós, Quat. Sci. Reviews, 2021

Bolomor Cave Neandertals probably ate fruit, nuts and seeds of plants that once grew in the area, says coauthor José Carrión, an evolutionary biologist and botanist at the University of Murcia. Those plants included hazel shrubs, one of which appears just behind the Neandertal male, who is munching on a hazelnut. Strawberry trees, Mediterranean hackberry, myrtle shrubs, carob trees and chestnut trees — all shown in the drawings — were also available, he says.

Insights about local plant life during Neandertal times come largely from pollen grains and spores found in sediment layers in Bolomor Cave, previously reported by coauthor Juan Ochando, an evolutionary botanist also at the University of Murcia, and colleagues. These layers have also yielded remains of fire pits, burned animal bones, scorched tortoise shells and four Neandertal fossils — a piece of a leg bone, two teeth and part of a braincase.

The animal remains inform other parts of the drawings, such as the Neandertal child watching a tortoise inch its way forward. Tortoises were cooked and eaten at Bolomor Cave, along with frequent prey such as hares, rabbits, birds and deer. People also occasionally consumed large animals such as horses and hippos.

Neandertals most likely responded to relatively mild Iberian temperatures by wearing few or no clothes, the researchers suspect.

Whether they were a separate Homo species or an ancient variant of Homo sapiens, Neandertals had a largely unappreciated talent for finding and exploiting resource-rich parts of Iberia (SN: 3/26/20). Amorós Seller’s paintings vividly show some of that mammoth-free bounty.

Read Full Post »

 

Original Article:

popular-archaeology.com

 

PLOS ONE—When fluctuating climates in the Ice Age altered habitats, modern humans may have adapted their diets in a different way than Neandertals, according to a study published April 27, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Sireen El Zaatari of the University of Tübingen, Germany, and colleagues.

The Neandertal lineage survived for hundreds of thousands of years despite the severe temperature fluctuations of the Ice Age. The reasons for their decline around 40 thousand years ago remain unclear. The authors of this study investigated the possible influence of dietary strategies using the fossilized molars of 52 Neandertals and Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens (modern humans). They analysed the type and degree of microwear on the teeth to attempt to draw conclusions about diet type and to establish a relationship with prevalent climactic conditions.

They found that as the climate fluctuated and habitats altered, Neandertals may have adapted their diet to the resources that were most readily available, eating mainly meat when in open, cold steppe environments, and supplementing their diet with more plants, seeds, and nuts when in forested landscapes. Meanwhile, modern humans seemed to stick to their dietary strategy regardless of slight environmental changes and retained a relatively large proportion of plant-based foods in their diet. “To be able to do this, they may have developed tools to extract dietary resources from their environment”” says Sireen El Zaatari. The researchers concluded that Upper Paleolithic modern humans’ differing dietary strategies may have given them an advantage over the Neandertals.

The Neandertals may have maintained their opportunistic approach of eating whatever was available in their changing habitats over hundreds of thousands of years. However, modern humans seem to have invested more effort in accessing food resources and significantly changed their dietary strategies over a much shorter period of time, in conjunction with their development of tools, which may have given them an advantage over Neanderthals.

The European Neandertal and modern human individuals analysed in this study do not temporally overlap and thus would not inform us about direct dietary competition between these two groups. Nevertheless, if the behavioral differences detected in this study were already established at the time of contact between them, these differences might have contributed to the demise of the Neandertals and the survival of modern humans.

Source: PLOS ONE press release.

___________________________________________________

*El Zaatari S, Grine FE, Ungar PS, Hublin J-J (2016) Neandertal versus Modern Human Dietary Responses to Climatic Fluctuations. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0153277. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153277

his is an image of a fossilized human molar used in the study of dietary habits of Neandertals and Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens. Credit: Sireen El Zaatari

his is an image of a fossilized human molar used in the study of dietary habits of Neandertals and Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens. Credit: Sireen El Zaatari

Read Full Post »

Neanderthals may have caught, butchered and cooked wild pigeons long before modern humans became regular consumers of bird meat, a study revealed on Thursday.

Close examination of 1,724 bones from rock doves, found in a cave in Gibraltar and dated to between 67,000 and 28,000 years ago, revealed cuts, human tooth marks and burns, said a paper in the journal Scientific Reports.

This suggested the doves may have been butchered and then roasted, wrote the researchers—the first evidence of hominids eating birds.

And the evidence suggested Neanderthals ate much like a latter-day Homo sapiens would tuck into a roast chicken, pulling the bones apart to get at the soft flesh.

“They liked what we like and went for the breasts, the drumsticks and the wings,” study author Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, told journalists of the bone analysis.

“They had the knowledge and technology to do this.”

The scarred remains were from rock doves—a species that typically nests on cliff ledges and the entrance to large caves—and the ancestors of today’s widespread feral pigeon.

The discarded remains were from a time that the cave was occupied by Neanderthals and subsequently by humans.

It was long thought that modern humans were the first hominids to eat birds on a regular basis.
Yet at Gorham’s Cave, “Neanderthals exploited Rock Doves for food for a period of over 40 thousand years, the earliest evidence dating to at least 67 thousand years ago,” said the paper.

And these were not sporadic meals, as borne out by “repeated evidence of the practice in different, widely spaced” parts of the cave.

“Our results point to hitherto unappreciated capacities of the Neanderthals to exploit birds as food resources on a regular basis,” the team wrote.

“More so, they were practising it long before the arrival of modern humans and had therefore invented it independently.”

Even more human

Finlayson said the bone analysis added to a growing body of evidence that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than was once widely believed.

“This makes them even more human,” he said.

Other recent studies have shown that in addition to meat, Neanderthals ate vegetables, berries and nuts, that they took care of their elders and used sophisticated bone tools.

An enigmatic branch of the human family tree, Neanderthals lived in parts of Europe, Central Asia and Middle East for up to 300,000 years but vanished from the fossil record about 30-40,000 years ago.

Only a small proportion of bones found in regions of the cave inhabited by Neanderthals had cut marks on them, but the authors pointed out that rock doves were small and easy to eat without utensils.

“After skinning or feather removal, direct use of hands and teeth would be the best way to remove the meat and fat/cartilage from the bones,” they wrote.

“The proof of this is the human toothmarks and associated damage observed on some dove bones.”

It was not known how the birds were captured, though the team speculated they would have been relatively easy to snatch from their nests “by a moderately skillful and silent climber”

The researchers conceded the scorch marks were not conclusive proof of cooking, as they could be from waste disposal or accidental burning.

Original article:
By Brian Reyes
phys.org

IMG_0831.JPG
Photograph from the sea of Governor’s Beach, southeast side of the Rock, Gibraltar, showing Gorham’s Cave, which is the focus of this research. Credit: C. Finlayson

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-ancient-pigeon-bones-reveal-secrets.html#jCp

Read Full Post »

20130816-111825.jpg

Excavation of the Neanderthal site of Abri Peyrony (France) where three bone tools (lissoirs) were recently discovered. Image courtesy of the Abri Peyrony Project.

Topic: Stone tools

Excavations at two cave sites in southwestern France have yielded bone fragments that show intentional shaping, likely by Neanderthals, to create specialized tools. Dated to before the known advent of modern humans in Europe, researchers suggest that they are the earliest specialized bone tools produced by Neanderthals, implying the need to re-assess elements of current theoretical models of Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe.

Excavating at the Pech-de-l’Azé I and Abri Peyrony sites, both located at separate tributaries of the Dordogne river in southwestern France, co-leader Shannon P. McPherron of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and colleagues recovered and analyzed assemblages of Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition (MTA) stone artifacts, which also included specially shaped deer rib bone artifacts known as Lissoirs not usually associated with MTA finds. Lissoirs are a specialized tool type made by grinding and polishing, and are thought to have been used on hides to make them tough, impermeable, and lustrous. Three specimens were found at Abri Peyrony and were dated to 47,710 – 41,130 Cal BP using radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometry, and one specimen at Pech-de-l’Azé I, dated to 51,400 ka using optically stimulated luminescence dating techniques. The researchers identified the rib bone fragments as coming from medium-sized ungulates, specifically red deer or reindeer.

The dates make the bone tool finds the earliest known of their type associated with Neanderthals. Usually, such tools have been identified with modern humans who came upon the scene at a later time, but the dating and their location within a context of MTA stone tools, which are usually associated with Neanderthals, suggest that they were created by Neanderthals, not modern humans.

Reports McPherron, et al., “The bones reported here demonstrate that Middle Paleolithic Neandertals were shaping animal ribs to a desired, utilitarian form and, thus, were intentionally producing standardized (or formal) bone tools using techniques specific to working bone. These bones are the earliest evidence of this behavior associated with Neandertals, and they move the debate over whether Neandertals independently invented aspects of modern human culture to before the time of population replacement.”

“Thus, it remains to be determined whether MTA lissoirs are evidence that modern humans influenced Neandertals earlier and longer than previously suggested, whether these lissoirs represent independent invention and convergence, or whether, perhaps this time, Neandertals may have influenced subsequent Upper Paleolithic modern human populations in western Europe where lissoirs are common.”*

Details of their research have been published in a paper, Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe, by Marie Soressi, et al., in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

popular archaeology
August 12, 2013

20130816-111842.jpg

20130816-111857.jpg

A reconstruction of how lissoirs, made of deer ribs, could have been used to prepare hides to make them more supple, lustrous and impermeable. The natural flexibility of ribs helps keep a constant pressure against the hide without tearing it. The bottom half of the figure illustrates how the downward pressure ultimately results in a break that produces small fragments like three of the reported bones. Image courtesy of the Abri Peyrony and Pech-de-l’Azé I Projects.

Read Full Post »

20130211-100811.jpg

Topic: soup

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—Waterproof, heatproof containers were made at least 10,000 years ago, according to Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University. He and his team found such pots in a cave in China. “When you look at the pots, you can see that they were in a fire,” he explained. The pots may have been used for boiling soup or alcohol. And 25,000 years ago, soup may have been made by dropping heated rocks into a lined pit with water and other ingredients. Such broths would have balanced the diet and may even have been cooked by Neanderthals, since cooked starched grains have been found on their 46,000-year-old teeth. “This doesn’t prove that they were making soups or stews, but I would say it’s quite likely,” said John Speth, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Original article
archaeology.org
Feb 8, 2013

Main article posted on New Hampshire news feb 6, 2013

Stone Age Stew? Soup Making May Be Older Than We’d Thought

Soup comes in many variations — chicken noodle, creamy tomato, potato and leek, to name a few. But through much of human history, soup was much simpler, requiring nothing more than boiling a haunch of meat or other chunk of food in water to create a warm, nourishing broth.

So who concocted that first bowl of soup?

Most sources state that soup making did not become commonplace until somewhere between 5,000 and 9,000 years ago. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America says, for example, “boiling was not a commonly used cooking technique until the invention of waterproof and heatproof containers about five thousand years ago.”

That’s probably wrong — by at least 15,000 years.

It now looks like waterproof and heatproof containers were invented much earlier than previously thought. Harvard University archaeologist Ofer Bar-Yosef and colleagues reported last year in Science on their finding of 20,000-year-old pottery from a cave in China. “When you look at the pots, you can see that they were in a fire,” Bar-Yosef says.

Their discovery is possibly the world’s oldest-known cookware, but exactly what its users were brewing up isn’t certain. Perhaps it was alcohol, or maybe it was soup. Whatever it was, the discovery shows that waterproof, heatproof containers are far older than a mere 5,000 years.

That kind of container, though, isn’t even necessary for boiling. An ancient soup maker could have simply dug a pit, lined it with animal skin or gut, filled his “pot” with water and dropped in some hot rocks.

The power of the expanding steam cracks the rocks, a distinct characteristic that first shows up in the archaeological record around 25,000 years ago in Western Europe, says archaeologist John Speth, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

But Speth says boiling, and soup, could be even older.

He started thinking about ancient boiling after watching an episode of the television show “Survivorman,” in which host Les Stroud boils water in a plastic container. “You can boil without using heated stones,” Speth realized. All you need is a waterproof container suspended over a fire — the water inside keeps the material from burning.

Long-ago cooks could have fashioned such a container from tree bark or the hide of an animal, Speth says. Finding evidence of such boiling, though, would be incredibly difficult because those types of materials usually don’t get preserved in the archaeological record.

Speth has argued that Neanderthals, ancient human relatives that lived from around 200,000 to 28,000 years ago, would have needed boiling technology to render fat from animal bones to supplement their diet of lean meat, so that they could have avoided death by protein poisoning.

The kidneys and liver are limited in how much protein they can process in a day — when more than that amount is consumed, ammonia or urea levels in the blood can increase, leading to headaches, fatigue and even death. So humans must get more than half their calories from fat and carbohydrates.

If Neanderthals were boiling bones to obtain the fat, they could have drunk the resulting broth, Speth says.

Neanderthals were probably cooking in some way, scientists have concluded. A 2011 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found evidence of cooked starch grains embedded in 46,000-year-old fossil Neanderthal teeth from Iraq.

“This doesn’t prove that they were making soups or stews,” Speth says — some have suggested the meal would have resembled oatmeal — “but I would say it’s quite likely.”

Putting a date on the world’s first bowl of soup is probably impossible. Anthropologists haven’t been able to determine for certain when man was first able to control fire, or when cooking itself was invented (though it was likely more than 300,000 years ago, before Homo sapiens first emerged, Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham says in his book Catching Fire).

And the story is probably different for people in different parts of the world. It appears that pottery was invented in eastern Asia thousands of years before it emerged in western Asia, Bar-Yosef notes. “Maybe boiling wasn’t so important because you had bread” in the West to balance out all that protein, he says.

Other parts of the world never had any tradition of boiling food. “A lot of hunter-gatherers didn’t use containers at all,” Speth says. In places like Tanzania and the Kalahari, there are tribes that didn’t boil water until after Europeans arrived.

Speth says, though, it’s very likely that humans were concocting soup at least 25,000 years ago in some places. Whether our ancestors were boiling up broth before that — well, we’ll just have to wait and see what the archaeologists dig up.

Original article
NPR.org
By SARAH ZIELINSKI
Feb6, 2013

20130211-100823.jpg

Read Full Post »

20121114-113359.jpg

Topic Early tools

On the south coast of South Africa, scientists have found evidence for an advanced stone age technology dated to 71,000 years ago at Pinnacle Point near Mossel Bay. This technology, allowing projectiles to be thrown at greater distance and killing power, takes hold in other regions of Africa and Eurasia about 20,000 years ago. When combined with other findings of advanced technologies and evidence for early symbolic behavior from this region, the research documents a persistent pattern of behavioral complexity that might signal modern humans evolved in this coastal location. These findings were reported in the article “An Early and Enduring Advanced Technology Originating 71,000 Years Ago in South Africa” in the November 7 issue of the journal Nature.

“Every time we excavate a new site in coastal South Africa with advanced field techniques, we discover new and surprising results that push back in time the evidence for uniquely human behaviors,” said co-author Curtis Marean, project director and Arizona State University professor in the Institute of Human Origins, a research center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

The reported technology focused on the careful production of long, thin blades of stone that were then blunted (called “backing”) on one edge so that they could be glued into slots carved in wood or bone. This created light armaments for use as projectiles, either as arrows in bow and arrow technology, or more likely as spear throwers (atlatls). These provide a significant advantage over hand cast spears, so when faced with a fierce buffalo (or competing human), having a projectile weapon of this type increases the killing reach of the hunter and lowers the risk of injury. The stone used to produce these special blades was carefully transformed for easier flaking by a complex process called “heat treatment,” a technological advance also appearing early in coastal South Africa and reported by the same research team in 2009.

“Good things come in small packages,” said Kyle Brown, a skilled stone tool replicator and co-author on the paper, who is an honorary research associate with the University of Cape Town, South Africa. “When we started to find these very small carefully made tools, we were glad that we had saved and sorted even the smallest of our sieved materials. At sites excavated less carefully, these microliths may have been discarded in the back dirt or never identified in the lab.”

Prior work showed that this microlithic technology appear briefly between 65,000 and 60,000 years ago during a worldwide glacial phase, and then it was thought to vanish, thus showing what many scientists have come to accept as a “flickering” pattern of advanced technologies in Africa. The so-called flickering nature of the pattern was thought to result from small populations struggling during harsh climate phases, inventing technologies, and then losing them due to chance occurrences wiping out the artisans with the special knowledge.

“Eleven thousand years of continuity is, in reality, an almost unimaginable time span for people to consistently make tools the same way,” said Marean. “This is certainly not a flickering pattern.”

The appearance and disappearance is more likely a function of the small sample of well-excavated sites in Africa. Because of this small sample, each new site has a high probability of adding a novel observation. The African sample is a tiny fraction of the known European sample from the same time period.

“This is why continued and well-funded fieldwork in Africa is of the highest scientific priority if we want to learn about what it means to be human, and where and when it happened,” said Marean.

The site where this technology was discovered is called Pinnacle Point 5-6 (PP5-6). This spectacular site preserves about 14 meters of archaeological sediment dating from approximately 90,000 to 50,000 years ago. The documentation of the age and span of the technology was made possible by an unprecedented fieldwork commitment of nine, two-month seasons (funded by the National Science Foundation and Hyde Family Foundation) where every observed item related to human behavior was plotted directly to a computer using a “total station.” A total station is a surveying instrument that digitally captures points where items are found to create a 3D model of the excavation. Almost 200,000 finds have been plotted to date, and excavations continue. This was joined to over 75 optically stimulated luminescence dates by project geochronologist Zenobia Jacobs at the University of Wollongong (Australia), creating the highest resolution stone-age sequence from this time span.

“As an archaeologist and scientist, it is a privilege to work on a site that preserves a near perfect layered sequence capturing almost 50,000 years of human prehistory,” said Brown, who codirected excavations at PP5-6. “Our team has done a remarkable job of identifying some of the subtle but important clues to just how innovative these early humans on the south coast were.”

Research on stone tools and Neanderthal anatomy strongly suggests that Neanderthals lacked true projectile weapons.

“When Africans left Africa and entered Neanderthal territory they had projectiles with greater killing reach, and these early moderns probably also had higher levels of pro-social (hyper-cooperative) behavior. These two traits were a knockout punch. Combine them, as modern humans did and still do, and no prey or competitor is safe,” said Marean. “This probably laid the foundation for the expansion out of Africa of modern humans and the extinction of many prey as well as our sister species such as Neanderthals.”

Original article:
November7, 2012
eurekalert.org

Photos are of the excavation site is at Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay, on the southern coast of South Africa. The cave opening is in the center of the top image.

20121114-113419.jpg

20121114-113449.jpg

Read Full Post »

Topic Diet change

I don’t think I posted this before, I looked through my past entries and didn’t see it.

Have a good weekend!

Disappearance of the elephant caused rise of modern humans: Dietary change led to modern humans in Middle East 400,000 years ago.

Original article:

Sciencedaily.com

Dec 2011

Read Full Post »

Topic Neandertals:

Nothing on food here but the find is of intrest- me I have bread waiting to bake so next post Monday.

Have a great weekend!

European Neandertals were on the verge of extinction even before the arrival of modern humans.

 

Original article:

eurekalert

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: