Department of Geoscience

WiSe 2017/18

27 October

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Mirjana Roksandic, University of Winnipeg

Title: Redefining Homo heidelbergensis hypodigm: A view from the Eastern Mediterranean Area (EMA)

Abstract: The hominin mandible BH-1 from the Middle Pleistocene cave of Mala Balanica suggested the possibility that human populations in this part of the continent were not subject to the process of Neanderthalization observed in the west. The current hominin fossil record of the early Middle Pleistocene in the region suggests that Europe was inhabited by two different populations: a population in the west of the continent with derived Neanderthal morphology; and a more variable population in the east characterized by a combination of plesiomorphous and synapomorphous traits. In order to continue using the nomenclature of Homo heidelbergensis the current hypodigm needs to be revised. I review the paleoanthropological evidence from the Central Balkans in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean Area and present the new material from Southern Serbia excavated in the last five field campaigns by Professor Dušan Mihailović (U Belgrade) and Museum Counselor Bojana Mihailović (National Museum Belgrade).

3 November

no lecture

10 November

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Christopher Miller, University of Tübingen

Abstract: Eland’s Bay Cave, situated along the modern-day coastline of the Western Cape of South Africa, has been the focus of intensive archaeological investigations since the 1970s. At this site, researchers such as John Parkington, Karl Butzer, and Richard Klein pioneered an environmental archaeological approach that linked variations in resource exploitation during the Later Stone Age (LSA) with changes in the position of the coastline over time. Renewed excavations at Eland’s Bay Cave, under the direction of Guillaume Porraz, have focused largely on Middle Stone Age and earlier LSA deposits with the aim of reassessing the chrono-cultural sequence and establishing a site formation model. Here I report on the geoarchaeological analysis of the site, which employed a combination of field- and laboratory-based techniques such as ground penetrating radar, micromorphology, Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy, microscopic X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy and organic petrology. The results of this study helped clarify the depositional history of the site, including the role of humans as sedimentary agents. Furthermore, we were able to identify chemical diagenetic processes that are important for the differential preservation of anthropogenic features and material culture.

17 November

Speaker: Ashild Vagene, University of Tübingen, MPI Jena

Title: Infectious disease in pre- and post-contact era Americas- insights from ancient pathogen genome analyses

Abstract: Much remains unknown about the presence and distribution of human infectious diseases circulating in the New World pre- and post- European contact. Utilizing bioinformatics and molecular techniques such as metagenomic screening of non-enriched DNA sequencing data (i.e. MALT), hybridization capture and High-throughput sequencing, the detection and retrieval of ancient pathogen genomes is possible. Thus, allowing us to approach research questions regarding infectious disease in the New World from a molecular standpoint.

A first study explores the long-standing archaeological observation of a tuberculosis-like disease circulating in New World human populations prior to European arrival. In a recent study, three genomes -- most closely resembling tuberculosis strains infecting seals and sea lions today (Mycobacterium pinnipedii) -- were recovered from human remains from the southern coast of Peru, dated to ~1000 AD. Seal-to-human transfer of the bacterium was thought to be the most parsimonious explanation for these individuals. Here we present three new pre-contact M. pinnipedii genomes: one additional genome from Peru and two from inland non-coastal sites in Colombia. Seal-to-human transfer is not a viable option to account for the spread of M. pinnipedii strains to inland Colombia. This suggests a different ecological model accounting for its transmission to inland sites, including the possibility of human-to-human transmission or the involvement of different animal hosts.

A second study investigates the causative agent for the 1545-1550 CE “cocoliztli” outbreak at a Mixtec site called Teposcolula-Yucundaa in Southern Mexico. The 1545 “cocoliztli” affected large parts of Mexico and Guatemala, and is one of the most devastating 16th c. epidemics to have occurred after European arrival in the New World. The pathogenic agent of this outbreak is unknown from archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence. Here we present genome-wide data from Salmonella enterica Paratyphi C, a bacterial cause of enteric (typhoid/paratyphoid) fever, isolated from ten individuals from the epidemic cemetery at Teposcolula-Yucundaa. We propose that S. Paratyphi C contributed to the population decline sustained during the 1545 “cocoliztli” epidemic at Teposcolula-Yucundaa.

24 November

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Feng Li, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Humboldt Research Fellow at the University of Tübingen

Title: An introduction of two Middle Paleolithic caves in Inner Mongolia, northern China

Abstract: For many years now, there have been debates about whether the term ‘Middle Paleolithic (MP),’ generally associated with Neandertals in western Eurasia, was even applicable to China and adjoining areas. Our project currently aims at locating sites in northern China with Middle Paleolithic technological and typological features and revealing the variability and adaptation among different MP assemblages. Here I am going to introduce the stratigraphy, chronology, and the general lithic technology of the two MP caves newly found in Inner Mongolia, northern China. A preliminary comparison with the assemblages from the Siberian Altai and some plans for studying the MP in East Asia will also be discussed.

1 December

Speaker: Dr. Ozgur Bolut, Hitit University

Title: Facial Reconstruction: From Death to Life

Abstract: Forensic anthropology applies the science of physical or biological anthropology to the legal process. Forensic or biological anthropologists focus their studies on the human body as it relates to explaining the circumstances of solving a crime. Forensic anthropology involves applying anthropological research and techniques including facial reconstruction. Facial reconstruction is the process of rebuilding a face onto a representation of an unknown skull to help identification in forensic investigations as a last resort. In this lecture, I will talk about facial reconstruction method and its application areas in forensic science with presenting forensic cases.

8 December

Speaker: Jun-Prof. Dr. Annett Junginger, University of Tübingen

Title: From Mud and Dust to Curves and Concepts: The east African palaeoenvironmental context of human evolution and migration

15 December

Speaker: Prof. Kyle Freund, Indian River State College

Title: Making Provenance Studies Relevant: Case-Studies from the World of Obsidian

Abstract: This presentation provides a broad overview of provenance studies in archaeology, including a discussion of the various materials and techniques that comprise this growing field of discourse. This discussion specifically focuses on obsidian, in turn outlining the current state-of-play of sourcing studies around the world. This includes thematically characterizing the research questions that inform these analyses, including the archaeological questions that have been asked of obsidian sourcing data and what potential questions can be asked in the future. By outlining larger trends in obsidian sourcing discourse, it becomes possible to understand how provenance studies fit within broader archaeological research objectives.

While provenance studies are relatively simple in that they reveal where artifacts originate, the implications of this premise are far-reaching, and it is further argued that a broader contextualization of provenance data, including information about the form and function of archaeological objects, leads to more informed theoretical positions capable of making meaningful and relevant contributions to the field. This point is illustrated using a case-study from the prehistoric central Mediterranean.

22 December - 5 January

no lecture, holiday break

12 January

Speaker: Dr. Alvise Barbieri, University of Tübingen

Title: Did Late Pleniglacial landscape changes diversify the Gravettian record of Ach and Lone valleys?

Abstract: The Ach and Lone valleys of the Swabian Jura (In Bade-Württemberg, Southwest Germany) represent a key region in the study of human migrations in central Europe. In contrast with the Aurignacian and the Magdalenian, the Gravettian record preserved in the cave sites of these two valleys is poorer and appears variable. Previous lithic analyses conducted on the Gravettian stone tools of The Ach Valley have discovered multiple refitted artefacts found across several different cave sites, which might indicate that this part of the Jura was repeatedly occupied by the same group of humans. In contrast, in the Lone Valley material and 14C dating indicative for the Gravettian occupation are sparser and are largely redeposited within younger sediments.
Over the past years we have investigated the natural processes that shape the landscape and the cave deposits of these two valleys. By combining a variety of methods (including geophysical prospection, coring, micromorphology, FTIR, and radiocarbon dating) we demonstrate that alternating phases of soil formation, hillside denudation, river valley incision and floodplain aggradation have been the major processes active in Lone and Ach valleys throughout the Pleistocene and Holocene.
Here we evaluate how local variables (such as valley gradient, drainage basin extent, size and relative elevation of caves) influenced these processes and their impact on cave sedimentation. Our results suggests that a phase of river valley incision and subsequent, intensive mass-wasting of the hillsides promoted the erosion of Gravettian-aged deposits from the caves of these valleys. The so eroded sediments accumulated at the foot of the hill, where they promoted a phase of floodplain aggradation. In the Lone Valley this final phase of aggradation occurred at a lower rate in comparison with The Ach Valley. As a result the effect of the drop in base level lasted longer in The Lone Valley, thereby promoting further erosion of the cave deposits. We conclude that the record of Gravettian-aged occupation is variable across the two valleys as a result of natural landscape-scale geomorphological processes.

19 January

Speaker: Natalie Roski, University of Tübingen

Title: Maritime fishing during the transition between Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic at the Abri Ifri Oudadane, NE Morocco

Abstract: My study of fish remains from the Abri Ifri Oudadane (Eastern Rif, Morocco) aims to illustrate the relationship between early humans and the mediterranean marine environment during the transition between Epipaleolithic and Early Neolithic. The present research deals with fish bones from four excavation campaigns and three excavation methods (hand collected, dry sieved and flotation). The material consists of thousands of cranial and vertebra remains, of coastal fish species. They are assigned to nine families (Serranidae, Sparidae, Mugilidae, Labridae, Carangidae, Muraenidae, Gobiidae, Belonidae and Clupeiidae). Compared to the rest of the fauna, which consists terrestrial and other marine animal bones, the importance of the resource fish can be well recognized. Data show that the inhabitants of the Abri caught reef associated and neritic – demersal fishes in the Epipaleolithic (EPI) as well as in all Early Neolithic phases (ENA, ENB, ENC). The size comparison analysis also shows that small fish (5 – 20 cm SL) become more common since Early Neolithic A and indicates that there may be some technical innovations such as an improved or different net catching technique.

26 January

Speaker: Dr. Ruth Siddall, University College London

Title: The identification and analysis of artists’ pigments: a review of materiality from painted caves to contemporary art

Abstract: Pigments can be routinely identified in paints, and related materials such as cosmetics and clay-based slips, using the technique of optical polarising light microscopy (PLM) along with complementary techniques primarily Raman Microspectroscopy and XRD analysis. This talk will introduce the effectiveness of PLM as the primary analytical technique for pigment identification, using examples from archaeological and art historical material.

We will then go on to explore the limitations of using pigment identification techniques in the characterisation of ochres. Despite their ubiquity in a wide range of Earth environments and their 40,000 + ka use as pigments, relatively few studies exist characterising ochres across the fields of Earth sciences, scientific archaeology or forensic art history. Although geologically the term ‘ochre’ may include all metal oxides and oxide-hydroxides, usually occurring as a friable, earthy deposits, the commonest ochres on Earth are the iron ochres. Iron ochres exhibit a wide range of colours ranging from yellow through reds, browns and purples to black. Identifying and provenancing of these materials is especially difficult partly due to their very small particle size and changes in oxidation state during heating and also within the geological environment. We will examine the effects of formation process, diagenesis and particle size on observed colour and optical properties of ochreous minerals as well as the challenges present in the study of pigments in archaeological and art historical materials. It is hoped that further discussions and research may bring to light further useful and effective techniques for the analysis and characterisation of these important cultural materials.

2 February

Speaker: Jennifer Kielhofer, University of Arizona

Title: Biomarker analysis at early archaeological sites, central Alaska: What plant leaf waxes and soil bacterial compounds tell us about deglacial climate change (~15-10k cal B.P.)

Abstract: For several decades, archaeologists, geologists, and ecologists, among others, have worked to provide paleoenvironmental context for human colonization of subarctic lowlands in eastern Beringia (modern Alaska and the Yukon) during the Late Glacial period (~15-10k cal. B.P.). Eastern Beringia is highly significant in archaeology, as it is currently considered the main route for human settlement of the Americas. This high-latitude region also experienced sweeping climatic and environmental change during the Late Glacial, which likely had great impact of the timing, routes, and mechanisms of human settlement of the far north. Loess-paleosol sequences in Shaw Creek Flats (SCF) of central Alaska contain well-preserved organic compounds that can be used as a terrestrial proxy for Late Glacial climatic change. Bulk soil and sediment samples were collected from five of the earliest archaeological localities in SCF: Swan Point, Mead, Camp section (proxy for Broken Mammoth), Rosa-Keystone Dune, and the Cook site, many of which contain occupations dated to ~14-13k cal. B.P. Plant leaf wax (n-alkane) hydrogen (dD) isotope values indicate variability during the Late Glacial and Early Holocene, interpreted as fluctuations in aridity. The distribution of bacterially-derived branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGT), a proxy for mean annual air temperature (MAAT), indicates an expected trend of increasing MAAT over time and slight deglacial variability, although some sites show contrasting signals. Thus far, these proxies have confirmed earlier paleoenvironmental records, while also providing a more quantitative estimate of past climatic conditions. More work is needed to evaluate the role that biomarker analysis can play in high-latitude, loess-paleosol settings.

9 February

No lecture, exams week