Department of Geoscience

WS 2014/2015

Datum Vortragende/r
31.10.2014 Susan Mentzer and Britt M. Starkovich

Title: Scientific Analysis and Continuity of Cult at the Sanctuary of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion

Abstract: The Sanctuary of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion (Peloponnese, Greece) is a well-known sacred site in the ancient Greek world. Recent archaeological work focused in part on the mountaintop “Ash Altar.” There, excavators uncovered an abundance of items that were deposited by people as offerings, including ceramics, bronze objects, food, and burned animal bones. This talk offers zooarchaeological and geoarchaeological perspectives on the human activities that led to the formation of the feature. Analyses of species representation and body parts of sacrificed animals indicates that there is a remarkable continuity of ritual activities at the site, spanning from the early Mycenaean through late Classical period. The sediment associated with these activities, which is rich is ashes, charcoal, burned bone, and fire-cracked rock, is almost entirely derived from combustion. Multiple high-resolution radiocarbon dates from near the bottom of the archaeological sequence place the beginning of the practice before 1300 BCE, which is considerably earlier than was previously expected. Geoarchaeological analyses indicate that the first burning activities were likely episodic, as greater amounts of geogenic sediment are present here, and ashes have been impacted by surface exposure. Offerings at the very base of the sequence are quite different in character, and also date to the early Mycenaean period. This brings up the possibility that ritual animal sacrifice might have originated locally, or was quickly adopted by people already using the site for ritual purposes.

14.11.2014 Dr. Tom Rein

Title: The correspondence between limb skeletal shape and suspensory locomotion: Implications for interpreting the primate fossil record

Abstract: The interplay between skeletal function and phylogeny as influences on skeletal form is a topic of special significance in paleoanthropology because it is one of the main causes of controversy regarding the locomotor behavior of early hominin species and Miocene catarrhines. The unique combinations of postcranial traits characterizing these taxa and the understanding that the skeletal morphology of an organism is a compromise between selective, phylogenetic, and developmental factors has made it difficult to infer adaptation to locomotion. The aim of this study was to identify those aspects of ulnar shape variation that most strongly correspond to variation in the performance of suspensory locomotion across a broad range of anthropoid primates. Using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics, traits such as relative bone length, joint size, and joint orientation were examined as potential adaptations to the mechanical demands associated with forelimb suspensory behaviors. The results of the analysis on extant taxa were applied to inferring adaptation to these behaviors in extinct catarrhine primates.

21.11.2014 Mirjana Roksandic (University of Winnipeg)

Title: The early migrations in the Caribbean

Abstract: Building a regional picture of the early peopling of the Caribbean is a challenging task. One of the main issues is the lack of a consistent, large scale chronological framework that would allow us to reconstruct direction(s), frequencie(s) and causes of past population movements. Two important outcomes of our research in Cuba --the evidence of strong ties between Cuba and Central America by the 2nd millennium BC; and a much earlier adoption of cultigens in the Caribbean than previously suspected – pointed out the possibility of migration from Lower Central America and Mesoamerica into the Greater Antilles early in the island colonization. Recent archaeological evidence from the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua provides some interesting insights into this poorly known region. Tying it with the reconstruction of the sea level between 8ky and 4ky BP, lack of evidence for pre-Taíno sites in Jamaica and the current understanding of Cuban archaeological sequence offers both interesting insights and some tantalizing new possibilities.


David Reich 1,2,3 and Nick Patterson 2,3

1 Harvard Medical School, 2 Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, 3 Howard Hughes Medical Institute


Title: Ancient DNA points to the Eurasian steppe as a proximate source for Indo-European migrations into Europe

Abstract: We generated genome-wide data from 65 Europeans who lived between 8,000-3,000 years ago by enriching ancient DNA libraries for a target set of about 390,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms. This strategy decreases the sequencing required to obtain genome-wide data from ancient DNA samples by around 1000-fold, allowing us to study an order of magnitude more individuals than previous studies and to obtain new insights about the past. We show that in western Europe, the farmers of both Germany and Spain >7,000 years ago were descended from a common ancestral stock. These farmers did not replace the earlier hunter-gatherers, but continued to mix with them, leading to a resurgence of hunter-gatherer ancestry in both Germany and Spain ~1,000-2,000 years later. In eastern Europe, the hunter-gatherers of Russia >7,000 years ago were distinct from those of the west, having an increased affinity to a ~24,000 year old individual from Siberia, but this affinity was reduced by ~5,000 years ago in the Yamnaya steppe pastoralists because of admixture with a population of Near Eastern ancestry. Western and Eastern Europe collided ~4,500 years ago with the appearance of the Corded Ware people in Central Europe, who derived at least two thirds of their ancestry from an eastern population closely related to the Yamnaya. The evidence for mass migration into Europe thousands of years after the arrival of agriculture, in combination with linguistic and archaeological data, makes a compelling case for the steppe as a proximate source for the spread of Indo-European languages into Europe.

09.01.2015 Dr. Jason T. Herrmann Institut für die Kulturen des Alten Orients Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Title: Structural Variation in Middle Woodland (~2200-1550 BP) Mounds in the
Lower Illinois River Valley as Seen through Remote Sensing

Abstract: Archaeologists from the Center for American Archeology (CAA) in
Kampsville, Illinois are using a variety of near-surface geophysical
techniques including, magnetic gradiometry, ground-penetrating radar
(GPR) and electrical resistance tomography (ERT) to document the
internal structure of Middle Woodland Period (~2200-1550 BP) burial
mounds in the Lower Illinois River Valley (LIV). This project,
embedded within ongoing CAA regional research efforts and the Arizona
State University Kampsville Field School, has shown that geophysical
data can build on results of limited or parallel excavations to
identify key structural elements within Illinois Hopewell mounds while
minimizing invasive and destructive activities on mortuary contexts.
This study has paved the way for a regional research initiative in the
LIV to use spatial and temporal variation in structure among Middle
Woodland mounds to map the development of individual community
identities in the region during the Middle Woodland Period.

16.01.2014 Vangelis Tourloukis

Title: Geoarchaeological research at the open-air Palaeolithic site of Kokkinopilos, Greece:
revisiting a long-lasting controversy

The red-bed site of Kokkinopilos is an emblematic and yet also most enigmatic open-air Palaeolithic site in Greece, stimulating controversy ever since its discovery in 1962. While early research raised claims for stratigraphically in situ artifacts, later scholars considered the material reworked and of low archaeological value, a theory that was soon to be challenged again by the discovery of in situ lithics, including handaxes. In this talk, I will present results of a latest and long-term research that includes geoarchaeological assessments, geomorphological mapping and luminescence dating. This recent work demonstrates that the site preserves an overall undisturbed sedimentary sequence related to an ephemeral lake, marked by paleosols and stratigraphic units with Palaeolithic material that is geologically in situ and hence datable. In effect, this study resolves the issues that have been the source of controversy: the depositional environment, stratigraphic integrity, chronological placement and archaeological potential of the site. Moreover, the minimum ages obtained through luminescence dating indicate that the lithic component with bifacial specimens considerably pre-dates the last interglacial and therefore comprises the earliest stratigraphically defined and radiometrically-assessed archaeological material in Greece. Kokkinopilos has served as a reference site for the interpretation of all other red-bed sites in north-west Greece, therefore these results have significantly wider implications: by analogy to Kokkinopilos, the open-air sites of Epirus should not anymore be considered ‘by default’ as inscrutable palimpsests with limited archaeological potential; rather, these sites can be excavated and chronologically constrained. This realization opens up new prospects for future research in Epirus, an area that is the most prolific in Palaeolithic remains in Greece.

23.1.2015 David K. Wright (Seoul National University)
  Title: Legacies of stone: Archival and field approaches toward understanding human paleodemography in northern Kenya

Abstract: As the country’s central repository of cultural artifacts, the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) possesses one of the deepest chronological records of human evolution in the world. However, the vast majority of the collection was curated before the advent of computer technology and large swaths remain unpublished and inaccessible to all but a few researchers. Recently, progress has been made on converting the NMK collections into a digital format. Combined with geoarchaeological investigations reconstructing the paleohydrology of Lake Turkana, a clearer picture is emerging of the cultural processes at work in the region throughout the Holocene. This talk will explore how humans seem to have responded to the rather erratic position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and Congo Air Boundary during the African Humid Period and during its protracted termination phase in contrast to what came afterward. Although humans respond non-linearly to climate, cultural patterns of movement and subsistence are better contextualized within robust paleoclimatic models afforded by high-resolution datasets. Georeferenced archival data reveal previously undetected patterns of culture change against the backdrop of profound oscillations in lake levels over the last 12,000 years. The eventual goal is to complete the digitization of the NMK by 2019 so that it will be possible to analyze such datasets deep into the Pleistocene across the entire country of Kenya.
30.1.2015 Alexander Weide

Title: Identifying plant domestication at the aceramic Neolithic site of Chogha Golan (Iran)

Abstract: Reconstructing the domestication process of cereals is a basic requirement for the understanding of the Early Neolithic in the Near East and how agriculture emerged. Although there is general agreement on the criteria of differentiating wild from domesticated cereals, their application to material from aceramic Neolithic sites is problematic for reasons of preservation and diversity of early transitional chaff remains. In the present study we established an identification key for the distinction of wild and domestic emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides/dicoccum). General morphological analyses as well as experimental charring and measurements on wild and domestic emmer from the Fertile Crescent were conducted to track the main features that distinguish the two forms. Wild emmer can be differentiated from domestic emmer using longitudinal sections through rachises. The scar morphology of wild emmer specimens with a rough upper abscission scar is distinct from domestic emmer. In addition, two of the measuring tracks distinguish between domestic emmer and its progenitor. These results were applied to archaeological specimens from the aceramic Neolithic site of Chogha Golan (Ilam Province, Iran), which was excavated in 2009 and 2010 by a team of the Tübingen Iranian Stone Age Research Project. The carbonized emmer remains dating to about 9,800 cal. BP. include domestic-type rachises, indicating the beginnings of farming at the site. Several wild taxa contribute to the spectrum of used plants, implying continued gathering activities or the cultivation of wild plants as well.

06.02.2015 Cosimo Posth

Title: Genetic investigation of Paleolithic and Mesolithic human remains from the Swabian Jura (South-West Germany)

Abstract: In the present study hybridization capture in combination with high-throughput sequencing technologies is applied to reconstruct complete or almost complete mitochondrial genomes (mtDNAs) of prehistoric human remains from several archaeological sites in the Swabian Jura. Various stringency criteria are applied in order to reduce the impact of modern human contamination potentially present in the analyzed samples. The authenticated mtDNAs are used to assess phylogenetic relationships and molecular ages of Middle Paleolithic, Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic ancient human remains.
A first study examines a right hominin femur shaft with archaic morphology that was excavated in 1937 from the cave of Hohlenstein-Stadel and assigned to a Middle Paleolithic layer called Black Mousterian. The attempt to directly radiocarbon date the specimen resulted in inconsistent outcomes. Here we present genetic and isotopic analyses of the femur shaft as well as related faunal remains that suggest an age of the human femur older than previously assumed and provide insights into genetic changes of Neandertal populations through time.
A second study focuses on analyses of Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic anatomically modern human (AMH) mtDNAs. European mitochondrial genome variation during Paleolithic and Mesolithic time is currently poorly understood as only a limited number of individuals from those periods have been genetically analyzed and those suggest genetic continuity between hunter-gatherer populations across Europe. In this study ten newly reconstructed AMH mitochondrial genomes from the Swabian Jura are co-analyzed with previously published ancient and modern complete mtDNA sequences and used to address.