Department of Geoscience

SoSe 2015

Datum Vortragende/r
22.05.2015 Dr. Robert Mann (JPAC Forensic Science Academy, Hawaii)

Title: What’s New in Old Bones: Emerging Topics of Research in Physical Anthropology

Abstract: This presentation will highlight new or emerging research methods and findings that might be of interest to physical and forensic anthropologists, anatomists and others interested in the human skeleton. Topics and vignettes to be presented primarily include research being conducted by Dr. Mann and include the following: sequencing distal hand phalanges, calcified common carotid artery “tubes” and their significance to dry bone studies, photographic/video superimposition, the effect of termites on human remains, some taphonomic changes to bones, decalcification of bone, and plastination.

12.06.2015 Dr. Heike Scherf and Michael Francken

Title: Pathological traits in Neolithic skeletal remains – Earliest evidence for leukemia?

Abstract: Abnormalities on human skeletons in archeological series attract interest, provoking questions about their origin. Do they represent a rare medical condition, an inherited trait, or a combination of both? The appearance of pathological cases shed light on the health status of prehistoric populations and give us a first hint about the evolution of a disease.
We present a skeleton from the Neolithic site ,Viesenhäuser Hof’ in SW Germany. Although the specimen showed no signs of severe pathologies under standard morphological assessment, investigations on the skull, humerus, sternum, vertebrae, phalanges, pelvis, and femur using high resolution CT scanning (GE v|tome|x s, University of Tübingen Paleoanthropology High Resolution Computed Tomography Laboratory) revealed a pattern of profound loss of trabeculae in both humeral and sternal cancellous bone.
This high level of internal resorption of cancellous bone is significantly different from specimens from the same site and from recent individuals. It is characteristic of endocrine disorders and neoplastic conditions. At the site of ,Viesenhäuser Hof’already one individual with symptoms of primary hyperparathyroidism, an endocrine disorder causing disintegration of cancellous bone, was found. The affected locations in the present case, however, correspond better to a neoplastic condition. The locally defined bone resorption in the sternum and humerus cancellous bone strongly suggests leukemia in initial stages, affecting the hemopoietic stem cells in bone marrow. If our interpretation is correct this case is the earliest known appearance of leukemia.

19.06.2015 Alex Brittingham, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, USA

Title: Stable Isotope Paleoclimate Reconstruction in the Southern Caucasus Mountains

Abstract: In recent years, archaeological work in the Southern Caucasus Mountains has revealed a long history of hominin occupation, from the Lower Paleolithic to present. Despite a wealth of significant archaeological remains, complementary regional paleoclimatic data is sparse. In order to get a better understanding of the impact climate had on hominin occupation, a site-based paleoclimatic reconstruction will be undertaken using two paleoclimate proxies. Sequential carbonate δ18O and δ13C values in herbivore teeth will provide a seasonal signal of regional climate change. These will be compared with sediment extracted plant epicuticular wax δD and δ13C values, a local signal of vegetative and hydrological change. In order to better interpret these data, modern meteoric water, soil, and plant samples will be collected. These data will inform on the role that climate played in the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the Southern Caucasus. Along with archaeological applications, accurate
regional paleoclimate data will help create finer predictions for future climate change in Southern Caucasus.


Prof. Hervé Bocherens


Title: Isotopic tracking of the large carnivore guild in the mammoth steppe

Abstract: Isotopic tracking of carnivore palaeoecology is a relatively new approach that yielded important results for the study of the non-analogue mammoth steppe biome. After describing the prerequisite to apply this approach and the possible complications, the main achievements will be described for extinct carnivore species such as scimitar-tooth cat Homotherium serum, cave lion Panthera spelaea, giant short-faced bear Arctodus simus, cave bear Ursus spelaeus s.l., as well as for ancient representatives of extant species such as brown bear Ursus arctos and wolf Canis lupus. The results obtained through this approach are also relevant for understanding the relationships of prehistoric humans with the rest of the carnivore guild.

03.07.2015 Prof. Cynthianne Debono Spiteri

Title: A biomolecular and isotopic approach to using ancient fats and oils as dietary markers

Abstract: Organic residue analysis (ORA), is a well established analytical technique and has been routinely applied to determine the content and function of archaeological ceramics. Its main advantage is that by analysing the fatty residues trapped within the ceramic matrix, ORA provides direct evidence for vessel use. Although it does not offer a broad picture of a community’s economy, ORA contributes significant data on the different types of commodities which past societies chose to process within ceramic vessels, for both culinary and non-culinary practices. It is instrumental in identifying the use of organic products which may not have survived in the archaeological record, or perhaps are too fragmented for a confident interpretation. Archaeological applications utilizing ORA will be reviewed, and areas of methodological development will be highlighted.

10.07.2015 Dr. Ivanka Hristova

Title: Plants in diet and ritual practices in Southeast Bulgaria during Late Prehistory and Antiquity

Abstract: The current presentation discusses the archaeobotanical evidence from Bulgaria from a subsistence perspective and considers land use changes during the late prehistory and antiquity.
The study region represents a territory which was inhabited by Thracian population. In the 6th-5th cent. BC Greek colonies were established on the Black Sea coast. With the expansion of the Macedonian Kingdom, and later the Roman Republic Southeast Bulgaria was highly influenced by the Hellenistic and Roman culture. These political and cultural dynamics influenced the everyday life of the local population, including land use, agricultural practices and the use of plants in diet and rituals.
A dataset from 20 archaeological sites consisting of detailed archaeobotanical information was assembled and evaluated with a diachronic approach and a broader regional perspective. The archaeobotanical evidence of cultivated plants, processed plant products (like porridge and bread remains) and also food stuff with possible import character (like figs) provide a good opportunity to trace the similarities and the differences in subsistence practices and plant economy on a regional and supra-regional scale, and allows for reconstructing a diachronic development in diet and food supply.

17.07.2015 Dr. Gabriele Macho
  Title: Hominins are eclectic feeders… but when did they acquire a taste for
starch-rich foods?

Abstract: Modern humans like carbohydrates. When this transition to eating starch-rich foods took place is however unclear, as evidence from genetics, palaeanthropology and morphology appears contradictory. Starch granules are hard and abrasive, and they are often contained within tough Underground Storage Organs (USOs); heat gelatinized the starch granules and will make them (as well as the food itself, i.e. through softening) easily digestible. On this basis it is questionable whether hominins could have eaten large quantities of starches prior to the controlled use of fire and/or without the presumed digestive benefits of increased salivary amylase. Taking a multi-pronged approach, I aim to shed light on this conundrum.
Morphological and biomechanical analyses indicate that the thick and highly decussated enamel of hominin teeth are suitable for masticating tough and highly abrasive starch-rich foods. The potential C4 foods available to hominins are then selected to create energetic models that ask whether hominins could have met their daily nutritional requirements within the time normally allocated to feeding among primates (approx. 5-6 hours); the extant primate underlying model creation is Papio cynocephalus from the Amboseli National Park. Teeth of P. boisei and A. bahrelghazali are particularly deleted in 13C and are therefore assumed to have eaten exceptionally high quantities of starch-rich USOs. The combined morphological and energetic analyses reveal that P. boisei probably consumed large quantities of starch-rich corms, whereas A. bahrelghazali fed on piths of sedges, which however do not contain large quantities of starches. These findings pinpoint when during hominin evolution a switch to USOs may have occurred and, perhaps even more importantly, throw light on the deep history and biogeography of A. bahrelghazali. Morphological adaptations of the hominin hand and
observation that taxa, which habitually consume a starch-rich diet, have elevated levels of salivary amylase, further strengthen the conclusions reached.