July 27th 2018
July 20th 2018
Speaker: Christoph Wißing (Unversity of Tübingen)
Title: Isotopic insights into patterns of diet and mobility of last Neanderthals and first modern humans in Northwestern Europe
Abstract: Stable isotopes in bone collagen from very late Neanderthals and early anatomically modern humans (AMH) of Aurignacian and Gravettian age from the cave sites of the Troisième Caverne of Goyet and Spy in Belgium provide unique insights into several paleoecological aspects. Here we trace diet and mobility for a period of special relevance in human evolution. This study shows that both early AMHs from the Aurignacian and late Neanderthals occupied a very specific ecological niche, relying essentially on the same terrestrial herbivores, while a significant broader dietary spectrum and variability can be stated for the Gravettian.
However, mobility strategies of Neanderthals and AMHs also indicate significant differences among Neandertal groups as well as in comparison to AMHs. The cannibalized Goyet Neanderthals originated from outside the region, whereas the non-cannibalized Neanderthals from Spy were local. The individual history of mobility within the Aurignacian group of AMHs appears to have been more variable than among the Neanderthal groups. The trend for a broader individual history of mobility continues during the Gravettian period. The dispersal of AMHs during the onset of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe is correlated with indications of stress on key prey species with the likelihood of drawbacks onto the whole ecosystem in the broader region. Our results indicate Upper Paleolithic AMHs explored their environment in a more intensive way and support the hypothesis that already early AMHs had a significant role in influencing the population dynamics of large mammals in Europe. Different land use strategies may have provided an advantage for AMHs over Neanderthals.
July 6th 2018
Speaker: Ariel Malinsky-Buller (MONREPOS, Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution)
Title: Palaeolithic research in Armenia - eclectic point of view and future directions
Abstract: Armenia is situated in the Southern Caucasus at the geographical intersection of Africa and Eurasia. The geography of the Armenia posed major challenges and opportunities for Palaeolithic hunter gatherer populations, with its mosaic of distinct ecological niches, large temperature gradients, and strong seasonal fluctuations across elevation gradients. This, in turn, make Armenia an ideal natural laboratory for testing models of climatic impact on hominin settlement patterns and population dynamics. The lecture will present two on-going projects in two eco-geographic regions within Armenia. The first is Kalavan 2, a Middle Palaeolithic open-air site located at 1630 masl on the northern slopes of the Areguni Mountains north of Lake Sevan. The second area is close to Ararat village at around 700 masl. Preliminary results and future directions of research will be presented in the lecture.
June 29th 2018
Speaker: Cristiano Nicosia
Title: Urban Geoarchaeology
Abstract: Geoarchaeologists are often requested to work in cities and towns, where normally the "natural" landscape is hidden by human structures and strongly modified by men. Still, a great deal of information can be gathered by geoarchaeologists about the formation processes of urban stratigraphy and, more broadly, about the evolution of the environment around cities. Two distinct approaches will be presented: geoarchaeology "of" the city, and geoarchaeology "in" the city. The presentation will focus on a series of case studies from cities in Europe, whereas "cities of clay" such as near eastern tell sites will be only briefly mentioned. The accumulation of urban waste, resulting in the marked vertical accretion of urban stratifications and a ubiquitous trait of any prolonged human settlement will be analysed and discussed.
June 15th 2018
Speaker: George Perry
Title: Parasites as proxies for studying human evolution
Abstract: Studies of our parasites and how they are affected by and have adapted to our biology, behavior, and anthropogenic environments can complement the fossil and archaeological records to inform our understanding of human evolutionary and cultural history while simultaneously advancing our knowledge of human health and disease (especially when also considering how these factors may influence vector competence for parasite-transmitted human diseases). This seminar will detail the series of experimental, functional, and evolutionary genomic studies of human parasites that are underway in the Perry lab at Penn State, including of how our tapeworms may have evolved to withstand heat stresses associated with meat cooking, a uniquely human behavior.
18 May 2018
Speaker: Elizabeth Velliky (University of Tübingen, University of Western Australia)
Title: The selection and exploitation of ancient pigments: Identifying diachronic and regional trends surrounding ochre behaviours during the Upper Palaeolithic at Hohle Fels cave, Germany
Abstract: This study investigated the selection and use of red ochre, a mineral pigment, from Hohle Fels cave (HFC) in southwestern Germany. Ochre use is well documented at the site with numerous painted limestone fragments and modified ochre pieces. New insights from a re-analysis of the assemblage revealed 26 total anthropogenically modified ochre artefacts, as well as 869 non-modified ochre artefacts from the entire Middle to Upper Palaeolithic sequence (12.5-40ka BP), totalling in 895 individual ochre artefacts. The ochre pieces were classified by various qualitative criteria, including colour, size, and streak, and visual assessment indicates clear changes through time in patterns of source exploitation and utilization. Ochres collected during the Aurignacian (32-40ka BP) are rarely modified, and consist of lighter red varieties with sandy textures. The Gravettian (27-29ka BP) and Magdalenian (12.5-13.5ka BP) assemblages, which contain more anthropogenically modified pieces, show a shift in preference towards more hematite-rich dark purple pieces. Many examples contain micaceous inclusions, are finer-grained in texture, and produce dark-red streaks. The modifications on the artefacts from these time periods are consistent with pigment extraction, i.e. macro- and micro-striations. There are also numerous other artefacts from the Gravettian and Magdalenian containing traces of red residues, including faunal elements, shells, limestone fragments, and personal ornaments like reindeer teeth and ivory beads. The diachronic trends in ochre selection and acquisition were further investigated with the use of neutron activation analysis (NAA) conducted at the MURR archaeometry laboratory in order to identify trends in geological selection throughout the Upper Palaeolithic. The results that ochre collection during the Aurignacian was more localized and expedient, and shifted over time to include more rare and exotic sources from other areas of southern Germany and possibly further. Furthermore, we conducted a comparative geochemical analysis of samples from nearby contemporary cave sites of Geißenklösterle and Vogelherd to assess the potential for networks of ochre trade or shared use of ochre resources in the region. This study promises to shed light on further aspects of the acquisition of artefacts used in symbolic capacities in southwestern Germany during the Upper Palaeolithic.
4 May 2018
Speaker: Marta Díaz-Zorita Bonilla (University of Tübingen)
Title: The Copper Age site of Valencina-Castilleja (Seville, Spain): the formation process of a Mega-site
Abstract: The mega-site of Valencina, located in south-west Spain, in the lower Guadalquivir valley, has been the focus of intensive research since the late 1990s. At this site, extraordinary megalithic monuments were found such as La Pastora, Matarrubilla and Ontiveros and the recently excavated Montelirio and Structure 10.042-10.049 at PP4-Montelirio. These monuments were found alongside with other numerous smaller megalithic structures but also hundreds of other features, including pits and large-sized ditches. Some of these outstanding structures yielded evidence of exotic material craftsmanship without parallels in Iberian Late Prehistory suggesting middle but also long-distance contacts.
The chronology of Valencina is quite wide with an occupation and use between ca. 3200 and ca. 2300 cal BC. The flourishment of this site during the 3rd millennium BC was possibly due to its strategic position in favorable environmental settings and the ecological diversity in high-productive soils with coastal, forested and abiotic resources in the vicinity. Several reasons accounted for the expansion of Valencina including the demographic and economic ones. The challenge is to explore the social complexity and cultural variability and the beginning of the formation process of the mega-site which makes Valencina the largest Copper Age site in Iberia. Therefore I will present a review of the state of the art of the current research focusing on the last bioarchaeological methods applied and the social organization of the Copper Age communities.
27 April 2018
Speakers: Claudio Tennie and Shannon McPherron
Title: The cultural status of early stone tools revisited
Abstract: The earliest evidence for material culture in our lineage (henceforth "early stone tools") presents many challenges. One of these relates to the observed pattern of "variable sameness" in early stone tools across the factors of time, species and geography – which would appear to be in direct conflict with cultural transmission theory that predicts path-dependent patterned variability along all these factors. In contrast to one recent approach that addresses this issue by swinging the pendulum from "pure culture" to "pure genetics", our own approach always acknowledged an important role of cultural processes for early stone tools, but also acknowledged that cultural processes come in various forms. In particular, comparative studies from living non-human animals show that "minimal culture" is widespread in the animal kingdom - while "cumulative culture" seems to be restricted to humans (at least in the technological domain). We shall describe the minimal culture concept and will present relevant evidence from the tool making of non-human great apes. We argue that modern ape tools are not cumulative but instead represent minimal culture. Combining the ape findings (using cognitive cladistics) and the observed patterns in the early stone tool variability leads us to think that early stone tools were minimal culture too. As such, human cultural behavior is a more recent phenomenon than many have assumed.