Department of Geoscience

WS 2011/2012

Datum Vortragende/r

Susan M. Mentzer, Ph.D. (HEP Senckenberg)

"Geoarchaeological investigations of Üçağızlı Caves I and II, Hatay, Turkey"

Abstract: Üçağızlı I and II are two archaeological caves formed in the rocky limestone coast of south-central Turkey. Located within several hundred meters of each other, the two sequences present an opportunity to compare hominin adaptations to a coastal environment across the transition between the late Middle Paleolithic and the Upper Paleolithic periods, as well as between two early phases of the Levantine Upper Paleolithic. This project documents the formation processes of the sites using a combination of field geological techniques, archaeological micromorphology and sediment geochemistry. The results of these analyses suggest that the morphology of the sites and the coastal geomorphic features available to Paleolithic occupants were impacted by fluctuations in sea level as well as tectonic events. Micromorphology of the archaeological sediments reveal strong anthropogenic contributions to the infilling of both caves, in particular the deposition of abundant wood ashes as a result of fire-related human activities. Both sites contain similar well-preserved sequences of stacked hearth features as well as reworked deposits that result from rake-out, sweeping and dumping, insect bioturbation, or a combination thereof. In Üçağızlı I, phases of human activity alternated with periods of natural sediment input, while in Üçağızlı II, the dominant mode of sedimentation following the MIS 5a sea level high stand was anthropogenic.


Dr. Chris Miller (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie AB: Geoarchöologie)


Prof. Eric Delson (Lehman College and the Graduate School, City University of New York; NYCEP; and the American Museum of Natural History)

Title: "Paradolichopithecus, a large-bodied European terrestrial cercopithecoid: paleobiology and relationships"

Abstract: The large cercopithecine, Paradolichopithecus, is known across Europe (and perhaps into Asia) from ca. 4-2 Ma. Most sites are located in southern Europe, in France, Spain, Romania and Greece, but one tooth has recently been recognized from Slovakia. The unique type specimen of P. arvernensis (Depéret, 1929) was recovered in the 1920s at Senèze, France, and I recently co-directed new excavations there in hopes of clarifying the age, paleoenvironment and site formation system, as well as trying unsuccessfully to find additional primates. A more extensive collection was recovered in the 1960s from Graunceanu, Romania, and additional material was found in the late 1990s at Vatera, on Lesvos island, Greece. Significantly smaller-sized specimens have been discussed from Malusteni, Romania; Vialette, France; Cova Bonica, Puebla del Valverde and Moreda, Spain; and one tooth from Nova Vieska, Slovakia, also appears referable to the genus (being larger than a macaque tooth).

Ongoing research on these fossils has several goals:

  1. to clarify the relationships of the genus, to macaques or to baboons;
  2. to determine how many species or subtaxa can be recognized;
  3. to determine the relationships of these European poulations to Asian fossils termed either Paradolichopithecus or Procynocephalus;
  4. to evaluate the level of sexual dimorphism within populations (linked to point b above);
  5. to clarify the locomotor adaptation of Paradolichopithecus.

Both traditional and geometric morphometric analyses have been applied to questions a and e (and colleagues have analyzed CT scans), broadly confirming previous results that Paradolichopithecus is linked to Eurasian macaques and represents a highly terrestrial lineage. Some of the other questions are as yet unresolved.


Dr. Ursula Wittwer-Backofen (Anthropologie - Medizinische Fakultät Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

Titel: "VIP’s, unknown bodies and historical populations – Anthropological methods for identification and their actual applications"

Abstract: Soft tissue facial reconstructions and estimation of age at death deliver important information for the identification process in forensic cases as well as for the authentication of the remains from public characters. Depending from practical needs methods for facial reconstructions are currently evolving and increasingly implement virtual 3D modelling. Applications, however, are limited due to the restricted availability of appropriate soft tissue databases. Tooth cementum analysis for chronological age estimation face problems of acceptance due to high observer variability. Here as well 3D imaging techniques might be helpful to solve a major part of methodological restraints and help in the standardisation process. The approaches of the Freiburg University Institute of Anthropology are exemplified by several application including prominent projects such as the authentication test of Friedrich Schiller’s remains.

25.11.11 Hannes Napierala (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie AB: Archäozoologie )
2.12.11 StEvE Kolloquium

Dr. Jamie Clark (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie)

"The Howieson’s Poort: New Insights from the Faunal Record at Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)"

Abstract: The Howieson’s Poort (HP; ~65-60,000 years ago), an enigmatic substage of the southern African Middle Stone Age (MSA), continues to receive attention from scholars interested in human behavioral evolution during the Later Pleistocene. This is in large part because the HP preserves evidence for innovative technologies (including finely made bone points and geometric backed tools) and for symbolically mediated behavior (engraved ostrich eggshell). The HP is also of interest because the disappearance of the innovative behaviors associated with this phase is not well understood. In this talk, I will utilize faunal data from the HP and immediately post-HP MSA deposits at Sibudu Cave in order to address a number of issues relevant to our understanding of the HP. I will begin by exploring the nature of human subsistence behavior during this phase, including an evaluation of the hypothesis that remote capture technology was employed during the HP. I will then discuss the nature and extent of variability in subsistence behavior evidenced between the HP and post-HP MSA, closing with a consideration of how variability in the faunal record may relate to documented changes in technology, environment, and site use across these two phases.


Jonathan Baines (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie)

On the archaeobotany of Upper Palaeolithic sites of the Zagros Mountains

Abstract: Introducing the dissertation topic; the research questions and methodology will be illustrated by some preliminary results from Ghar e boof, Iran, and Aghitu-3, Armenia, to incite advice and criticism.

The past six months were spent in sorting and analysing seed and fruit remains recovered from the excavations and interpreting both their plant ecological significance and the pathways of their deposition in the site matrix.

Considerable evidence for mixing of the sediment and Holocene intrusion were identified in the samples from Ghar e boof. Describing the vegetation through this site in the Upper Palaeolithic is therefore rather shaky. Clear indications to the environmental conditions and two signals of human agency were found however, which reveal their activities, or customs, at the rockshelter.

As certainly the smaller sibling in the discipline; archaeobotany of the Pleistocene, a case is suggested for close liaison with micromorphology studies in providing a fairer base for examining and grouping the data.


Dr. Tracy Kivell (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

"The hand of Australopithecus sediba: Handier than Homo habilis?"

Abstract: In 2009, a new species of fossil hominin, Australopithecus sediba, was discovered at the ~2 million-year old site of Malapa, South Africa. Since this initial announcement, further fossil discoveries at Malapa have been uncovered and described, yielding two of the most complete and well-preserved australopith skeletons ever found. The Au. sediba fossils present a unpredictable and unique mosaic of primitive, australopith-like features and derived, more Homo-like features. Among these remains is an almost complete hand, displaying a mix of morphology indicative of both arboreal climbing behaviours and fine manipulative, precision-grip abilities. Comparisons to the Homo habilis "handy man" fossils suggest that there were at least two distinct types of hominin hand morphology around the Plio-Pleistocene transition and that the morphology of Au. sediba may represent a basal condition associated with early stone tool use and production.


Dr. Monika Doll (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie AB: Archäozoologie )

"Renaissance Rats and Riches: The animal bones from a noble house in Höxter, Westphalia."


Dr. Verena Schuenemann (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie AB: Paläogenetik)

"Fishing for ancient pathogens: A draft genome of a Yersinia pestis strain from the medieval Black Death"

Abstract: The Black Death is considered to be one of the most devastating epidemics in human history. In the first five years, between 1347 and 1352, approximately 30% -50% of Europeans died. Until recently the causative agent of this epidemic was discussed highly controversial, several pathogens –Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis or an unknown Filovirus- were taken into account as putative agents. Previous genetic studies were often criticized as possible contaminants of modern DNA or closely related soil bacteria. Novel methodical approaches to prove the authenticity of ancient DNA using characteristic damage patterns enabled us to show that Yersinia pestis was at least one of the causative agents of the Black Death. For this study DNA of skeletal remains from over 100 medieval plague victims buried in the East Smithfield cemetery in London were analyzed. In the next step the ancient genome of Y. pestis from four of the victims was reconstructed to 30-fold genomic coverage. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the ancient pathogen is ancestral to most recent plague strains and very close to the root of all genome wide sequenced human pathogenic Y. pestis strains. These findings indicate that the plague originated as a human pathogen in the late medieval age and suggests that all previous plague epidemics were caused by an extinct or so far not sequenced branch of Y. pestis or a different pathogen. Thus, the first genome of an ancient bacterial pathogen offers a novel opportunity to study the evolution of pathogens.


Dr. Petra Kroenneck (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie AB: Archäozoologie)

"Preliminary remarks of the bird remains of the Achtal"

Abstract: In the cave sites of the Achtal bird remains are quite common in the faunal material. Birds were hunted in the same environment as other game, however, they are often more specific to certain habitats. They were prepared and eaten by man, and their feathers and bones were used to produce tools, music instruments or adornment. In this preliminary report I will show some aspects of the birds from Hohle Fels and Geißenklösterle

In den Fundstellen im Achtal sind Vogelreste nicht selten. Bisher wurden sie allerdings kaum bearbeitet. Dabei können mit ihnen wertvolle Informationen gewonnen werden. Sie brüten in spezifischen Biotopen, wurden gejagt, zubereitet und liefern Rohstoffe für Musikinstrumente und Schmuck. In diesem ersten Vortrag möchte ich ein paar Aspekte der Vogelfunde aus dem Geißenklösterle und dem Hohle Fels vorstellen.

Keiko Kitagawa (Institut für Naturwissenschafliche Archäologie AB: Archäozoologie)

"Exploring cave use among cave bears, hyenas and hominins in Hohlenstein-Stadel, Swabian Jura: Preliminary thoughts"

Abstract: The common use of natural shelters by hominins and other animals has complicated the zooarchaeological interpretation of fauna recovered in such contexts. At the same time, faunal assemblage from caves allows researchers to explore how hominins and other animals made use of shelters over time. Here, I present a preliminary result of the faunal analysis from Hohlenstein-Stadel in the Swabian Jura. Among all identified fauna, cave bears and hyenas are most commonly found in the Middle Paleolithic with a gradual decrease in the Upper Paleolithic. The decline of cave bears and hyenas as well as carnivore modification can possibly be linked to an increase in the presence of modern humans in the Swabian Jura. While the demography and population patterns of hominins in Paleolithic Europe remain to be fully explored, fauna from Hohlenstein-Stadel, in addition to other nearby cave sites, appear to indicate changes in the intensity and/or the use of caves in the Swabian Jura.


Dr. Katerina Douka /Prof. Tom Higham (University of Oxford)

"Understanding the extinction of Neanderthals and the dispersal(s) of modern humans in Europe using advanced radiocarbon dating."

1. Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, RLAHA, University of Oxford, Oxford.

Abstract: A reliable chronology is central in understanding the nature of the transition from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic in western Eurasia. Defining the period over which this took place and the length of the temporal overlap between the two groups may shed light, for example, to the reasons underlying the expansion of modern humans and the broadly concurrent Neanderthal extinction, the cognitive abilities of the latter, the prevailing environmental conditions of the time.

However, establishing a reliable chronological framework close to the limit of the radiocarbon dating technique is very challenging. Work undertaken in Oxford over the last decade has been aimed at improving the dating of old material, between ~25—55 ka BP, which covers the Middle–Upper Palaeolithic transition. We have developed aspects of our pre-treatment chemistry, particularly the purification of bone collagen using ultrafiltration, that of charcoal using ABOx and of marine shell using advanced screening methods.

Within a large project funded by the NERC in the UK (2006-2010), we have applied these new radiocarbon protocols on over 500 samples of bone, shell and charcoal from more than 50 key Palaeolithic sites in over 10 countries. The main focus has been on sites with a succession of contexts containing archaeological remains attributed to the Mousterian, Uluzzian, Châtelperronian, Aurignacian and Gravettian.

In this presentation we will discuss the emerging chronology for the dispersal of the earliest anatomically modern humans into Europe and the extinction of Neanderthals by presenting results from some of the key sites in France, Italy, Germany and the UK.