Department of Geoscience

WS 2016/2017



Keiko Kitagawa (University of Tübingen)


Title: Glacial and Post-glacial adaptation of Hunter-Gatherers in the Southern Steppe of Eastern Europe

Abstract: Diverse landscapes and ecosystems stretching across Europe led to diverse hunter-gatherer cultural records during the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic. In response to abrupt climatic forcing, starting around the Late Glacial Maximum and followed by climatic events such as the Bølling–Allerød and the Younger Dryas in the Terminal Pleistocene, archaeological data pertaining to cultural and behavioral shifts of hunter-gatherers continue to be explored on a regional and pan-regional scale. Here we present an initial summary, which includes preliminary data on faunal analyses from multiple open air sites that span the Late Pleistocene to the Holocene, dated between the Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic (20,000-6,000 uncal 14C BP) in the southern steppe of Eastern Europe. Taken together, faunal assemblages from the Epigravettian are characterized by low diversity and are often dominated by one species of large game, including bison and equids, whereas the Mesolithic diet is characterized by higher inter-site variability subsisting on large ungulate and greater emphasis on freshwater resources.


Mateusz Baca (University of Warsaw)


Title: Population dynamics of Late Pleistocene mammals

Abstract: Climate changes during the Late Pleistocene have profound effects on population dynamics and distribution of many animal species. The course and mechanisms of responses of species to those changes are now being intensively studied with the use of ancient DNA and direct radiocarbon dating. So far large mammals such as woolly mammoths or cave bears got most of the attention. However small mammals, more susceptible to climate changes, seem more suitable to study impact of those changes on demographic processes. Recently, we investigated population dynamics of cold adapted collared lemmings. We obtained sequence of mitochondrial cytochrome b for more than 300 specimens from 26 paleontological sites scattered across Eurasia. Phylogenetic reconstructions revealed that all specimens fall into five distinct mtDNA lineages. Radiocarbon and stratigraphic dating of studied specimens revealed that during the last 50,000 years subsequent lineages occurred in Europe one after another. We postulate that the observed pattern resulted from a series of repeated collared lemming population extinctions and recolonizations of Europe most probably from eastern Russia. The timing of observed population turnovers coincides with similar events observed in other species like cave bears and woolly mammoths, which suggest large-scale changes in steppe-tundra ecosystems during the Late Pleistocene.

To better understand how ecosystems have changed facing climate changes in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene it seems essential to compile evolutionary histories of multiple species. Our focus is now on three vole species Microtus arvalis, agrestis and gregalis. These species frequently made up to 50% of temperate small mammal communities in Europe, therefore climate-driven demographic processes in their populations surely had bottom-up effects on whole ecosystems.


Prof. Matthew Collins (University of Copenhagen and University of York)


Title: The Archaeological Potential of Palaeoproteomics

Abstract: If DNA is the script, proteins are the actors in the drama of life. Advances in soft-ionization mass-spectrometry and bioinformatics have changed the way that these ‘actors’ can be detected and studied. Most current activity is focused on the comparative analysis of intra-cellular proteins but far more protein persists outside cellular regulation. Extra-cellular proteins are typically more persistent than those synthesized within the cell, but most of this protein is rapidly degraded. Nevertheless recycling is not completely efficient, protein is a persistent problem in the waste cycle and over geological time impacts upon the element cycling. The protein which persists in this ‘dead pool’ is an ‘echo’ of past biological activity. Protein fragments are recognizable in fossils (e.g. seeds, bone), worked biological remains, (e.g. wood, textiles, archaeological and art historical artifacts) as residues, and entrapped within soils and sediments. However it is only with the advent of direct sequencing using soft-ionization mass-spectrometry that it has been possible to demonstrate unequivocally that proteins persists for tens of millennia and are recoverable in complex milieu (such as soil organic matter). Analysis of ancient proteins has advanced rapidly carried on a tide of ‘proteomic’ research. This paper will explore the potential these protein remains have to advance archaeological research.


Silvia Rita Amicone (University of Tübingen and University College London)


Title: Pottery Technology at the Dawn of the Metal Age: A View from Vinča Culture

Abstract: This research focuses on the reconstruction of pottery making recipes and their transmission in the Neolithic/Chalcolithic sites of Belovode and Pločnik (c. 5200–4650 BC). These two Vinča culture sites, located respectively in North-East and South Serbia, have recently yielded some of the earliest known copper artefacts in Eurasia. The rich material culture of these two sites, therefore, offers a unique opportunity for the study of the evolution of pottery craft technology during the transition into the Metal Age.

An interdisciplinary approach employing macro observation and analytical methods including thin section petrography XRF, XRPD and SEM was applied to a wide selection of ceramic samples representing the full spectrum pottery at Pločnik and Belovode in order to reconstruct and compare pottery recipes and their development in different phases of the two studied sites. The primary aim was to trace trajectories of knowledge transmission in pottery making and to explore potential pyrotechnological associations and related changes in pottery production concomitant with the introduction of metalworking at these two sites.


Alexander Weide (University of Tübingen)


Title: The aceramic Neolithic site of Chogha Golan and the transition to agriculture in the Zagros Mountains

Abstract: Chogha Golan is an aceramic Neolithic site in the foothills of the central Zagros Mountains in Iran. Its archaeological sequence comprises eleven Archaeological Horizons (AH XI - I) that date to between 11,700 and 9,600 cal. BP. In this talk, I present archaeobotanical data from AH VI to AH I, which correspond to the early and middle PPNB of the Levantine chronology. During these phases, domesticated plants and animals are reported from sites throughout the entire Fertile Crescent, indicating the beginnings of farming.
My main goal is to reconstruct the development of subsistence practices at Chogha Golan over time. This includes the identification of domesticated crops, an evaluation of the diverse wild plant taxa and taphonomic analyses to assess factors influencing the composition of the flotation samples. I propose that the occupants of Chogha Golan intensively exploited the environments surrounding the settlement, making use of a huge diversity of wild plant resources. Particularly wild grasses, including small- to medium-seeded species as well as barley and goatgrass, seem to represent the staples of the gatherers throughout the investigated horizons. The interpretation of the potential uses of the diverse wild plant taxa are based on ethnobotanical and archaeobotanical data mainly from the Near and Middle East. Farming practices are not verifiable until AH II, in which domesticated emmer wheat emerges for the first time at the site. Wild barley and goatgrass were possibly cultivated in the preceding centuries, although this must remain hypothetical.
The archaeobotanical results from Chogha Golan confirm that barley and lentil, together with other large-seeded pulses, represent the common staples of the late hunter-gatherers. Interestingly, small to medium-seeded grasses are abundant at several sites throughout the Zagros Mountains, which seem to be an additional feature of the local subsistence economies. Domesticated emmer wheat first emerges at Chogha Golan and became a common crop at middle PPNB sites. However, it is unclear whether emmer wheat was locally domesticated or introduced from another region.


Dr. Elisabetta Boaretto (Weizmann Institute of Science)


Title: New insights into the Natufian chronology of Mount Carmel (Israel): integrating stable carbon and radiocarbon data

Abstract: The Natufian period in the southern Levant (15,000-11,500 cal BP) shows major social and economic changes associated with the rise of a sedentary lifestyle and the transition to agriculture. The synchronization between the social and cultural changes and climate has been re-evaluated based on a new series of radiocarbon dates from the site of el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel (Israel). The carbon stable isotope ratios of charred botanical remains from el-Wad Terrace have been analyzed to provide a better understanding of the climate in the region during this period. The integration of different proxies directly dated by radiocarbon indicates that the cultural changes detected in the archaeological record were not synchronous. The new chronological scheme of el-Wad Terrace has been compared with other sites in the region, thus providing a new understanding of Natufian chronology.


Martin Weber (University of California, Berkeley and University of Tübingen)


Title: Counter-Narratives to Collapse: Developing a Socio-Natural Perspective on the Late Bronze to Iron Age Transition in Western Syria, ca. 1250-850 BCE

Abstract: In Western Syria, the transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age has often been interpreted as a case of societal, or even civilizational, collapse. Over the past few decades, archaeologists have identified a variety of causes for this transition, with social-evolutionary perspectives being the most prominent and persistent ones. More recently, long-standing arguments concerning the role of climatic changes in the collapse of Late Bronze society have been refueled by considerable amounts of new palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental data. Recognizing the importance of environmental variables on social processes, this project develops a Socio-Natural Systems perspective to the study of the Late Bronze to Iron Age transition in Western Syria. Moving beyond the establishment of rough correlations between environmental and social processes, this project employs Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to model past environmental conditions and to analyze the effects changes within the environment would have had on ancient society and its agricultural subsistence base. Integrating archaeological, geographical, and palaeoclimatic data within a single analytical framework, this project presents a different perspective on the end of the Late Bronze Age in Western Syria, concentrating on the investigation and analysis of environmental and social change across various geographical and chronological scales.


Dr. Michael Toffolo (University of Tübingen)


Title: Accurate radiocarbon dating of minerals in archaeological ash

Abstract: Obtaining accurate age determinations from minerals in archaeological ash is a major unsolved issue in radiocarbon dating. This is because the original radiocarbon content of calcite, the main component of ash, is altered by isotopic exchange. Pyrogenic aragonite, another mineral phase recently discovered in ash, might preserve its radiocarbon signature through time. Using a new method based on density separation and step combustion, we were able to isolate and date aragonitic ash from an archaeological destruction horizon of known age. We show that the radiocarbon age of aragonite matches the age of the destruction horizon. Our results demonstrate that pyrogenic aragonite is a short-lived material suitable for radiocarbon dating and directly related to human activities involving the use of fire, which can contribute to the establishment of absolute chronologies for the past 50000 years.

25.11.16 Cancelled

Prof. Nicholas Conard, Ph.D. (University of Tübingen)

11.11.16 Dr. Susanne Münzel (University of Tübingen)

Title: 25 years of cave bear research in Tübingen

Abstract: During the last decades more and more evidences for hunting and exploitation of cave bears in Europe were found. One of the key sites in this respect is Hohle Fels cave in the Ach Valley (Swabian Jura). From here the first irrefutable proof of cave bear hunting is recorded in Gravettian context (28 ka uncal BP) by a flint projectile sticking in the processus transversus of a thoracic vertebra. Furthermore the knowledge about cave and brown bears has considerably increased by multidisciplinary research including ancient DNA, stable isotopes and micro wear analysis, which give new insights into the palaeobiology of this extinct Pleistocene mammal. The talk will give an overview of the state of art.


Cancelled (StEvE meeting)

28.10.16 None