Department of Geoscience

SoSe 2014

Datum Vortragende/r
  Dr. Faysal Bibi (Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin)

Title:"Evolution and Environment in Africa through the Fossil Record of Antelopes"

 Paleoenvironmental evidence at sites of hominid evolution have come mainly from studies of the accompanying faunas. In the African Plio-Pleistocene record, bovids (antelopes) make up a large and diverse component of most assemblages, and make an excellent environmental proxy given their adaptation to particular vegetational environments. The sheer size of the bovid fossil record means large-scale analyses of evolutionary turnover and ecological change over time are possible. Here I present ongoing results from large-scale analyses of the eastern African fossil record to test and infer patterns of evolutionary turnover and regional and local environmental change.


Marlijn Noback

Title: "Climate- and diet-related variation of the human cranium"

Abstract: Why do we look the way we do? Modern human cranial shape is geographically diverse. However, the processes underlying this cranial variation are still not well understood. Here I present a summary of my PhD project were I focused on the relationships between climate, diet and human cranial shape. I applied 3D geometric morphometrics, computer based medical imaging and specific statistical tools to analyze cranial shape variation and covariation. Nasal cavity shape shows strong correlations with climate, whereas diet influences shape and size of the overall cranium and masticatory muscles. This body of work sheds light on the physiological basis of craniofacial variation and the selective forces driving modern human geographic diversity.


Kristin Bos

Title: "Genomic investigations of tuberculosis in the pre-contact New World"

Abstract: Comparative genomics of modern isolates reveal that tuberculosis strains in the Americas group with those of European origin, thus suggesting that Mycobacterium tuberculosis was introduced to the New World after contact. This proposal, however, is incompatible with the abundant archeological evidence for tuberculosis infections in the pre-contact New World as revealed through diagnostic skeletal changes. For several decades the question of “what was New World tuberculosis?” has been one of the most compelling mysteries in paleopathology. Was it a tuberculosis strain that has since gone extinct? Was it an unknown disease that mimicked the skeletal changes we see today with modern tuberculosis? The demonstrated success of ancient DNA capture as applied to pathogens from archeological bone makes this an attractive method to address the above questions by hunting for the presence of tuberculosis DNA and that of other diseases in pre-contact New World skeletons. In this seminar I will present some very recent results of our attempts to identify mycobacterial infections in skeletal material from the pre-contact New World using DNA capture and high throughput sequencing. The results will be discussed within a phylogenetic and phylogeographic framework, addressing theories on pre-contact mycobacterial infections in the New World and the evolution in general of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.


Dr. Andrea Taylor

Title: "Big mouths or strong bites: what drives the evolution of the feeding apparatus in primates?"

Abstract: For the past 15 years, my colleagues and I have been conducting comparative studies of feeding-system morphology and feeding behavior in primates. Biting is an important performance variable related to feeding, as is the ability to generate wide jaw gapes. However, the latter is also an important performance variable in other non-feeding behaviors, such as canine threat displays (“yawning”). Much of our work has focused on these two performance variables as they pertain to feeding because they place competing demands on feeding system morphology. More recent studies have focused on the morphological correlates of canine gape display. Our current work indicates that whereas some primates generate relatively wide jaw gapes to facilitate access to foods, other primates such as sexually dimorphic Old World monkeys maximize jaw gape to facilitate canine gape display. Our findings suggest that the ability to increase muscle and bite force is not the the sole driver of evolutionary changes in feeding-system morphology. Selection to facilitate relatively wide maximum jaw gapes for canine gape display is likely to have played an important role in shaping feeding-system morphology in some primates.


Wolfgang Maier

Title: "Morphologie und Evolution der menschlichen Nasenkapsel"

Abstract: Die Nasenkapsel wird als rostralster Abschnitt des Chondrocranium knorpelig angelegt; daraus entsteht durch enchondrale Verknöcherung das Ethmoid. Die fragilen Strukturen des Ethmoid können nunmehr mittels der microCT studiert werden, aber wegen der Beziehungen zu den Weichteilen ist für die Interpretation des Skeletts auch der Rückgriff auf die Histologie notwendig. Die menschliche Nasenkapsel im allgemeinen und das Ethmoid im besonderen sind innerhalb der Primaten sehr abgeleitet. Daher werden ihre Strukturen morphologisch nur verständlich im Vergleich zur makrosmatischen Nase der Säugetiere und der Halbaffen (Strepsirhini).


Susan Mentzer


Corinna Rößner

Title: "The origin of agriculture in the northern Fertile Crescent – possible food plants at Körtik Tepe, SE-Anatolia"

Abstract: The origins of agriculture are one of the most intriguing fields of research within archaeology. There are currently few sites in the northern Fertile Crescent that are intensively investigated. The PPN site of Körtik Tepe offers the opportunity to study the transition to agriculture in detail. More than 20 14C dates in combination with Bayesian modeling, provide an excellent stratigraphy of occupation from the final Younger Dryas to the Early Holocene (9600-9300 cal. BC), the crucial period for understanding the Neolithisation process. Since 2009, we retrieved 537 archaeobotanical samples. Until now, more than 140 different taxa were identified from about 20.000 plant remains.
The results show only a few wild progenitors of today’s crops and hardly any chaff remains. It appears that the inhabitants of Körtik Tepe used a wide variety of plant resources in their subsistence strategy and the diet was not focused on wild cereals. In this presentation we will investigate the reasons for these differences through comparison with some other contemporary sites like e.g. Abu Hureyra and by focusing on potential food plant resources other than wild cereals.


Knut Bretzke

Title: "Paleolithic and paleo-environmental records of South Arabia and their implications for modeling hominin expansions out of Africa"

Abstract: In the last decade Southern Arabia has received increased consideration in models of hominin expansions out of Africa. Given its geographic position as a bridge between Africa and Southwest Asia, the Arabian Peninsula seems to represent a critical link. However, paleoanthropological and archaeological evidence are scarce, and the Pleistocene history of hominins on the Arabian Peninsula remains largely speculative. This picture is beginning to change as a result of intensified field work in the region aimed at collecting new archaeological and paleo-climatic data. Starting from my own work at Jebel Faya in the United Arab Emirates, I will provide an overview of the geography, Paleolithic archaeology and Late Pleistocene paleo-environmental records of Southern Arabia. I will further discuss the implications with regard to the chronology and dispersal patterns of hominins expanding out of Africa.


Prof. Steve Webb (Professor of Australian Studies, Bond University)

Title: "Who did reach Australia first?"

Our two research communities work at either end of the migration route of modern humans on their journey out of Africa. In Australia the Willandra Lakes, particularly Lake Mungo, are synonymous with the earliest human occupants of the continent. Some believe only Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) reached there and that they did not leave Africa till 60,000 years ago. The fact is we dont know when the successful group left; how long they took to get here; which route(s) they took or who they encountered on the way. We might also ask: was there more than one migration and how many people were needed to make it a success?

The first people probably left Africa 30-50,000 years before people finally reached Australia. That migration possibly stalled in the Levant but Tubingen University research suggests they took another route, perhaps earlier. Recent DNA research shows modern humans met and bred with Neanderthals but who else did they meet? Others existed and as modern humans migrated east they probably met them. What happened then? DNA work has shown Denisovan DNA in Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians. The latest discoveries bring more questions than answers but they are important to our understanding in Australia of who the first Australians were. Can the Australian and Middle Eastern evidence calculate what happened between? I discuss this in this talk.

Artefact assemblages found along likely migration routes do not seem to resolve issues. They show a sophisticated beginning and a simpler tool design at the end with the Australian evidence lacking African and Middle Eastern typology or its refinement. What happened, did the migrants adopt an easier technology or did they pass through a 'cultural sieve' when crossing the Equator? Or were they influenced by others? Certainly, artefacts found in the earliest Australian sites are far simpler than the Levallois and Lower Nubian types in the Middle East found 70-80,000 years earlier.

The Willandran story began almost 40 years ago but today that story is seen in a very different light than that envisaged in the 1970's. Reaching Australia AMH people were 20,000 km from their origins. But picture yourself on those ancient Ice Age shorelines of northern Australia watching the rafts arrive, you might ask:

What did they sound like?
What route did they take?
What was their language like?
How did they change along the way?
How long did their journey take?
Who did they meet?
What was their culture like? and
What did they look like?

We might have some answers, but we have many more questions.....