Department of Geoscience

WS 2015/2016

Datum Vortragende/r
24.10.2015 Armando Falcucci (Università degli Studi di Ferrara)

Title: The Protoaurignacian in the context of the Early Upper Paleolithic: concepts, variability and possible technological convergences with the Early Ahmarian

Abstract: The beginning of the Upper Paleolithic is one of the most crucial periods in human prehistory, during which we see the development of a more sophisticated bone industry, the widespread use of personal ornaments and, above all, the spread of figurative art. After a quite relative stability in the archaeological record, new methods of working stone raw materials are also developed and improved. Indeed the blade-based lithic industry becomes central. This method, starting from the Aurignacian and the Early Ahmarian, permits the production of lighter and smaller products, the bladelets, that were probably hafted in composite tools and used for multiple and various activities. Due to the fact that the appearance of innovative techno-complexes have been used to trace the spread of Anatomically Modern Humans through Europe from the Near East the issue has raised up a lot of interest. However few studies analyze and compare these industries, which today come from several countries and cultures across Eurasia, so little attempt has been made to highlight the possible local affiliation or inter-regional differences between them. During our talk we will discuss the concepts, the chronology and the relationships of the Protoaurignacian with the apparent sister group, the Early Aurignacian, explaining the reasons why it would be very important to deconstruct the monolithic portrait we have built, assessing whether it is best seen as several material culture based entities.Furthermore we will criticize the hypothesis of the provenience of the European blade/bladelets dominated industries from the northern Mediterranean Levantine coast, where is attested the Early Ahmarian, probably not ancient as previously thought.
We aim to considerably increase our capacity to understand the dynamics that lead to the generalization of lamellar productions at the threshold of the Upper Paleolithic in order to clarify the relationships between the different regional groups and to assess their place in the horizon of the main models evoked in the debate on the spread of modern humans.

24.10.2015 Prof. Stefano Benazzi (University of Bolognia und MPI, Leipzig)

Title: The Italian human remains dated to the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition

Abstract: The Middle-Upper Paleolithic Transition in Europe is still intensely debated. The interpretation of ‘transitional’ and Early Upper Paleolithic cultures influences our understanding of evolutionary issues such as the timing of arrival of modern humans in Europe, their potential interactions with Neandertals, the Neandertal’s cognitive abilities and the reasons for their extinction. The doubts about the makers of these early assemblages are not resolved because of the paucity of well-preserved human remains dating to the period of the transition. Here, I discuss the human remains available in Italy during this time period and their taxonomical attribution based on state-of-the-art techniques. The results emphasize the importance of the Italian human fossil record within the European context and its prominence to decipher the biological shift that occurred in Western Europe around 45,000-35,000 calendar years ago.

30.10.2015 Nohemi Sala (University of Tübingen)
  Title: Violence and funerary behavior: two sides of the same coin. New insights from the Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca).

Abstract: The Sima de los Huesos (SH) is one of the many archaeo-palaeontological sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain). It is well-known for yielding an enormous collection of Middle Pleistocene (c. 430 ka) hominin fossils composed by a minimum of 28 individuals. The hominin fossils occur among carnivore fossils (mainly bears) and an isolated Acheulian handaxe. The characteristics of this palaeoanthropological site are unusual, due to the large size of the hominin accumulation, the lack of herbivores and its location. The origin of the human remains accumulation has been highly debated, and different hypotheses have been proposed. To address this task it was necessary to use a multidisciplinary approach that includes: i) The study of geological processes; ii) Experimental research with living carnivores as well as the study of Pleistocene den sites to analyze the role of large carnivores as accumulation agents; iii) Taphonomic analysis of the hominin fossils, and iv) Forensic analysis of the bone fractures in the hominin remains in order to explore potential causes of death. The results of these research lines allowed us to discard geological events, carnivores and accidental falls as accumulation agents at the Sima de los Huesos site. Furthermore, in SH was reported the earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence in the hominin fossil record. This finding shows that violence is an ancient human behavior and has important implications for the accumulation of bodies at the site.
06.11.2015 Michelle de Gruchy
13.11.2015 Michael Toffolo
  Title: Aragonite in ash and lime plaster: potential for radiocarbon dating

Abstract: Anthropogenic calcite (CaCO3), such as lime plaster, is produced by heating limestone to high temperature to obtain quicklime (CaO), which is then slaked with water to become calcium hydroxide, Ca(OH)2. This mineral turns back into calcite by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, which contains an amount of radiocarbon (14C) unique to the composition of the atmosphere at the moment the plaster is made. A similar process applies to high-temperature wood ash. Therefore, in principle it would be possible to measure the amount of 14C from an archaeological lime plaster or ash deposit and obtain an accurate radiocarbon date from the mineral fraction. In practice this is not the case, either because the sediment matrix in which the material is embedded contains radiocarbon-dead calcite that may dilute the amount of 14C, or because part of the calcite dissolves and reprecipitates during burial, thus losing its original isotopic composition. To date, it is not possible to distinguish the pristine calcite fraction from the reprecipitated one, or from geogenic calcite. Recently, the less stable form of calcium carbonate, i.e. aragonite, was identified in archaeological ash and lime plaster using FTIR spectrometry. It has been shown that this aragonitic phase forms under specific conditions upon carbonation of CaO and Ca(OH)2. Considering that aragonite is more soluble than calcite and therefore it is not supposed to survive in archaeological settings, it is assumed here that its isotopic composition is pristine and thus it could provide accurate radiocarbon dates. Here we show the preliminary results of an ongoing study, with a focus on the procedure that was developed to separate aragonite from other mineral phases occurring in ash and lime plaster.
20.11.2015 Magdalena Krajcarz and Maciej Krajcarz
  Title: Windy caves – lithostratigraphy of loess and loess-like sediments from caves of Poland

Abstract: Although debris, loams and clays are usually regarded as typical cave sediments, the loess and loess-like sediments are common among clastic cave deposits of near-entrance facies of the caves and rockshelters. Late Weichselian loess layers are very common in caves of Kraków-Częstochowa Upland (southern Poland), as were recognized in almost each excavated cave and rockshelter. Traditionally, these sediments were dated to LGM (Last Glacial Maximum), however new results of chronometric dating are available and allow to present a more detailed scheme of the geological age of the series. Excavation works conducted in last years revealed more on the stratigraphy and lithological variability of cave loesses – both lateral and vertical, allowing us to present the lithostratigraphical subdivision of these sediments. Three types of loess-like sediments occur in the caves of Kraków-Częstochowa Upland: 1) typical eolian loess; 2) limestone debris with angular, sharp-edged clasts, and with loess material in between the clasts; 3) colluvial loess. Loess-like sediments in caves usually are carriers of archaeological and paleontological material. However, in case of colluvial loess the primary position of excavated objects should be regarded with caution. The use of lithostratigraphical scheme may be helpful to choose the material for chronometric dating and reduce the costs of analysis. In addition, the knowledge on the typical sequence of facies may allow to conclude on the preservation state of sediment series in a cave, as the lacking beds may be relatively easily identified, and the site formation processes reconstructed. Loess and loess-like sediments older than Last Glaciation are rare in caves of Poland. Only few sites with at least two loess layers in superposition are known, among them only two (Biśnik Cave and Nietoperzowa Cave) with more than two loess layers. In this talk I try to evaluate the significance of Polish in-cave loess layers as correlative horizons.
27.11.2015 Martin Monik

Title: Chipped stone material quality and its implication for the Upper Palaeolithic of Moravia (Czech Republic)

Abstract: At least a dozen of chert types along with erratic flints were used for chipped stone manufacture in Moravian territory in the Upper Palaeolithic. The distances covered during their transport, however, differed according to material type and Palaeolithic culture. The question is whether long-distance transports were driven by better raw material quality, i.e. by practical reasoning of Upper Palaeolithic peoples. For this purpose, mechanical tests have been conducted on selected types of cherts and flints to distinguish high and low quality materials. Contrary to previous research where only static mechanic tests (microhardness, fracture toughness, Young's modulus of elasticity etc.) were applied, dynamic mechanical tests were also conducted. Both test types indicate that erratic flints, the most frequently used material during most of Upper Palaeolithic, were not necessarily the hardest material and their superiority was probably given by greater homogeneity and easier knapping at higher speeds of used hammer. This may be in concordance with progressive soft-hammer use in Upper Palaeolithic blade-oriented industries. Numbers of this material begin to dwindle, however, in the Late Palaeolithic when we evidence progressive use of local raw materials.

04.12.2015 Prof. Almut Nebel
  Title: Letting the pigs out of the poke – insights into pig domestication by ancient DNA analysis

Abstract: Based on archaeozoological evidence, pigs (Sus scrofa) were first domesticated in the Near East ~8,500 BC and subsequently spread across Europe alongside early agriculturalists. Ancient mitochondrial DNA studies suggest that soon after the arrival of Near Eastern pigs, European farmers started to incorporate local wild boar into their Sus livestock. Continuous manipulation and artificial selection over millennia have eventually led to the variety of today’s domestic pig breeds that differ drastically from their wild counterparts in a number of traits, such as muscle growth, fat deposition, fertility, behaviour or coat colour.
The Kiel Ancient DNA group is running a pilot study on early pig domestication in northern Germany, in collaboration with the Institutes of Animal Breeding and Husbandry and Pre- and Protohistory at Kiel University. The talk will summarize the current status and address the following questions:
1) To which extent were wild boar incorporated into ‘domestic’ pig stocks during the Neolithic?
2) Did indigenous hunter-gatherer in the north take up ‘domestic’ pigs from their farming neighbours?
3) How common were changes in the coat colour gene MC1R in Neolithic ‘domestic’ pigs?
18.12.2015 Leore Grosman
  Title: The Late Natufian in the Southern Levant: New Perspectives

Abstract: A review of the various possible circumstances that led to the origination of agriculture has been attempted many times, with arguments concentrating on a few major variables such as environmental, social, and population changes. While focusing on this important transition in the southern Levant, previous studies have established that the unique features of the Natufian culture, which immediately predates the Neolithic, played an important role in the processes of Neolithization and concur that this stage represents the point of no return for the establishment of farming communities. For a better understanding of this transition I will zoom onto the chronological contact point of the transition, the final phase of the Natufian, in the Galilee and the Jordan Valley, Southern Levant. In particular, I will present the site Nahal Ein Gev II which provides new perspectives on several issues critical for understanding the Late Natufian adaptation.
08.01.2015 James Collins

Title: The application of organic biomarkers to the sediments of Diepkloof Rock Shelter: towards an understanding of past climate and site usage

Abstract: Excavations from Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa have yielded a multitude of findings from the Middle Stone Age, including lithics, faunal remains and Engraved Ostrich Eggshells. A number of techniques have also been applied to the sediments from the site including micromorphological and charcoal analyses. We set out to investigate organic biomarkers from the sediments of the site. We used pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to elucidate the organic matter composition and assess the relative proportion of possible burning products in the sediment. We have also analysed the distribution and isotopic composition of leaf-wax n-alkanes in the sediment, using gas chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry. The leaf-wax distribution and isotopic composition likely reflect the vegetation and climate of the region, respectively. Our results suggest a shift towards more arid conditions during the intermediate Howiesons Poort, in line with previous findings.

15.01.2015 Maxime Rageot
  Title: The natural substances during Neolithic in North Western Mediterranean: products used for their adhesive and hydrophobic properties.

Abstract: Natural substances and transformed organic products used for their adhesive and hydrophobic properties are rarely considered for the prehistorically periods in the North Western Mediterranean. These materials can however be used as evidence for the exploitation of the natural environment and provide technological, economic, social and environmental information about ancient societies.
A biomolecular approach was applied to answer questions related to the different types of substances exploited by ancient communities, and their use. (birch bark tars, conifer resins, beeswax, fats, bitumen and mixtures).
Experimental work allowed a better understanding of the chaîne opératoire required for the production of birch bark tar that was widely used during prehistoric times in Europe, and the knowledge of which has almost disappeared. The chemistry of the products resulting from experimental heat treatment of birch bark was studied in detail. Results showed that it is possible to distinguish between the different manufacturing processes based on molecular criteria.
To investigate procurement strategies of plant raw materials, archaeobotanical data was integrated using a spatial approach. In the case of birch, before considering the palaeovegetation; a model was created and used to integrate Betula (birch) autoecology based on modern data. The most favourable birch distribution areas have been mapped for the south of France, Catalonia and Corsica.
The analysis carried out provided evidence for the exploitation of a variety of raw materials used during Neolithic in the North Western Mediterranean. Birch bark tar was found to be the major product utilised, its method of production varying depending on the chrono-cultural area. The use of birch products were also identified in regions unfavourable to Betula, showing movement of this product. Bitumen, on the other hand, was found to have been exploited only when locally available. Other materials commonly identified as mixtures included beeswax, animal fats, and Pinaceae resins, suggesting different methods of procurement and processing. This diversification was mostly apparent for the Chassey culture, where there appears to be intensification in the use of these materials.
22.01.2016 Peter Kaulicke
  Title: Research on early human occupations in the Central Andes (ca.14.000 to
3000 BC): Past, Present, and Future

Abstract: This talk focuses on three topics: a) the initial colonization and
adaptation, b) domestication of plants and animals, and c) emergence of
social complexity in the Central Andes in an historical perspective. Given
the colonial past, interest in Peru was centered in the reconstruction of a
glorious origin with one site, Chavín de Huántar, as a convenient paradigm
and previous human presence as rather irrelevant prolegomena. Thus, a
pre-Chavín past had to be reconstructed with the help of non-Peruvian
prehistorians. This process started in the forties of last century and
culminated in several projects in the seventies and eighties. Political
turmoil brought these efforts to an abrupt end and only with the current
century new projects and important insights have been achieved in all of
the mentioned three research topics. But their real importance still has to
be defined in all its complexity in order to give it its proper place in
world prehistory.
05.02.2015 Dr. Sarah Inskip
  Title: Iberian Leprosy: An Archaeological Investigation of Leprosy from the Roman to the Post-Medieval Period.

Abstract: Recent research has vastly improved our knowledge of leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in different parts of Europe from the Roman to the post-Medieval period. In particular, genetic studies have demonstrated that migration, and especially military movements, are likely to be responsible for the spread of the disease into Europe, potentially with different strains emerging in different regions. In addition osteological and funerary analyses have been key in demonstrating that although many individuals may have been isolated, such notions are inaccurate when applied to all regions and times. However, Iberia is strikingly absent from these discussions despite its importance in terms of being an entry point into Western Europe and its role in connecting the east, the west and Africa. Furthermore, the unique social and religious situation in Iberia provides an opportunity to explore the variation in social reactions to the diseased. This presentation outlines the preliminary results of an archaeological examination of leprosy cases in Iberia (2nd century BC-17th century AD), focusing on spatial and temporal variation in funerary rites. It outlines future collaborative plans for genotyping. Overall it is hoped that the research will not only provide a more complete understanding of leprosy in Iberia, but also that this data can then be integrated into wider research exploring trends in Europe and beyond.
  Dr. Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo
  Title: Man-eaters in Prehistoric Europe: A taphonomical perspective of human cannibalism

Abstract: Human cannibalism is seen as an unnatural and antisocial behavior that some historians and archaeologists have rejected while others have questioned the reasons for it. This has made prehistoric cannibalism the subject of various debates. Its acceptance as a fact and the types of cannibalism concerned are the main lines of research that have been developed. In European prehistoric sites we found 20 cases where cannibalism was confirmed or its possible existence was at least suspected. The following have also been recorded: the possible ritual treatment of skulls from the end of the Upper Paleolithic period; cases of intergroup violence or warfare in the early Pleistocene and Neolithic, respectively; and the possible existence of cannibalism among Neanderthals. However, it appears that there is no agreement on the criteria that establish the causes and context of cannibalism. Determining whether cases involve the isolated or repeated practice of it seems to be key for attributing cannibalism to one type or another. Finally, most of these groups share different taphonomic markers that can be used to confirm the consumption of human bodies by other humans in cases where this is in doubt. These features include: abundant anthropogenic modifications; intensive processing of bodies and the use of all the tissues; and the presence of human tooth marks. The identification of the latter marker eliminates any doubt about the existence of consumption.
12.02.2016 Dr. Jamie Woodward (The University of Manchester)
  Title: Eight Thousand Years of Landscape Change and Archaeology in the Desert Nile of Northern Sudan

Abstract: The relationship between climate change and the development of Old World civilizations in major river valleys is often poorly understood because inadequate dating control has prevented effective integration of archaeological, fluvial, and climate records. The use of OSL dating, however, has transformed our understanding of Holocene river behaviour in the desert Nile. This talk presents recent work in northern Sudan on the archaeology, geomorphology, and age of major Nile palaeochannels and explores its wider significance. The archaeology spans about 8000 years from the Neolithic to the Medieval period and includes the Kingdom of Kerma (2400–1450 BC) – a major Bronze Age civilization in the Sudanese Nile Valley. Recent geoarchaeological work has identified a series of major Holocene channel contractions – or abrupt events when river flows decreased markedly and the channel network on the valley floor contracted. These events had major implications for the people of the desert Nile. This talk will also present new data on the strontium isotope record for the Holocene Nile and show why bioarchaeologists who work on floodplain sites must consider long-term changes in river basin sediment sources.