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    ABSTRACT: It has been argued recently that the initial dispersal of anatomically modern humans from Africa to southern Asia occurred before the volcanic "supereruption" of the Mount Toba volcano (Sumatra) at ∼74,000 y before present (B.P.)-possibly as early as 120,000 y B.P. We show here that this "pre-Toba" dispersal model is in serious conflict with both the most recent genetic evidence from both Africa and Asia and the archaeological evidence from South Asian sites. We present an alternative model based on a combination of genetic analyses and recent archaeological evidence from South Asia and Africa. These data support a coastally oriented dispersal of modern humans from eastern Africa to southern Asia ∼60-50 thousand years ago (ka). This was associated with distinctively African microlithic and "backed-segment" technologies analogous to the African "Howiesons Poort" and related technologies, together with a range of distinctively "modern" cultural and symbolic features (highly shaped bone tools, personal ornaments, abstract artistic motifs, microblade technology, etc.), similar to those that accompanied the replacement of "archaic" Neanderthal by anatomically modern human populations in other regions of western Eurasia at a broadly similar date.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2013; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1306043110
  • Journal of Human Evolution 05/2013; 65(3). DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.03.006
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    ABSTRACT: This paper investigates evidence for subsistence and settlement activities in the Levantine Middle Epi-palaeolithic through the application of stable isotope analysis to human and non-human remains from the site of 'Uyun al-Hammam, northern Jordan. In general, bone from the site suffers a high degree of diagenesis and collagen could not be extracted for analysis here. Carbon and oxygen isotopic values from human tooth enamel samples were variable, but within expected values for the Middle Epipalaeolithic, whereas animal carbon and oxygen isotopic values varied widely, most likely due to hydrological and climatological factors. Carbon and isotopic values for the human samples indicated a predominantly C 3 plant dietary input, while animal samples appeared to have varying amounts of C 4 inputs into their diet. This is the first isotopic analysis conducted on material from the Middle Epipalaeolithic of the southern Levant and, as such, even results constrained by temporal and climatological variants within the region contribute to the overall knowledge of settlement and subsistence strategies during this cultural period.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 07/2012; 39(7). DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2012.02.034
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    ABSTRACT: The geographic distribution of genetic diversity and the population structure of tetraploid wheat landraces in the Mediterranean basin has received relatively little attention. This is complicated by the lack of consensus concerning the taxonomy of tetraploid wheats and by unresolved questions regarding the domestication and spread of naked wheats. These knowledge gaps hinder crop diversity conservation efforts and plant breeding programmes. We investigated genetic diversity and population structure in tetraploid wheats (wild emmer, emmer, rivet and durum) using nuclear and chloroplast simple sequence repeats, functional variations and insertion site-based polymorphisms. Emmer and wild emmer constitute a genetically distinct population from durum and rivet, the latter seeming to share a common gene pool. Our population structure and genetic diversity data suggest a dynamic history of introduction and extinction of genotypes in the Mediterranean fields.
    PLoS ONE 05/2012; 7(5):e37063. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0037063
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    ABSTRACT: The reanalysis of findings from two archaeological sites calls for a reassessment of when modern humans settled in Europe, and of Neanderthal cultural achievements. See Letters p.521 & p.525
    Nature 11/2011; 479(7374):483-5. DOI:10.1038/479483a
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    ABSTRACT: a b s t r a c t The role of humans in the formation of Gravettian mammoth bone accumulations of central and eastern Europe is a heavily debated topic. Grub-Kranawetberg, a multi-layered Gravettian open-air site in eastern Austria, yielded a bone accumulation in the vicinity of a campsite. Zooarchaeological, taphonomic, and spatial analyses of this assemblage offer evidence on both human subsistence and formation of mammoth bone accumulations. The deposit is dominated by Mammuthus primigenius but also includes Coelodonta antiquitatis, Rangifer tarandus, Equus sp., Megaloceros giganteus, Canis lupus, Ursus cf. arctos and Lepus cf. timidus. The presence of butchery marks on remains of both megafaunal taxa indicates a human accumulated assemblage. The absence of carnivore gnaw marks suggests that humans had primary access to meaty skeletal parts. An indication that humans occupying the adjacent campsite interacted with the bones is seen in the rearticulation of a left upper first molar of a mammoth from the campsite with its matching right first upper molar found in the bone accumulation. The deposit is further characterized by various indications of fire evident in lenses of burned sediment and abundant traces of heating faunal remains. The varied colours of burned bone, as well as reddish burned loess show that the accumulation was subjected to a wide range of fire temperatures. The current results argue for the intentional use of fire as waste removal strategy.
    Quaternary International 09/2011; 252. DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.08.019
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    ABSTRACT: European Neandertals were replaced by modern human populations from Africa ~40,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence from the best-documented region of Europe shows that during this replacement human populations increased by one order of magnitude, suggesting that numerical supremacy alone may have been a critical factor in facilitating this replacement.
    Science 07/2011; 333(6042):623-7. DOI:10.1126/science.1206930
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    ABSTRACT: Wheat has been one of the most important crop in Eurasia since the Neolithic period. Understanding the spread of wheat cultivation is crucial to understanding the spread of agriculture as a whole and the interactions between prehistoric populations across the Eurasian continent. However, the routes by which wheat cultivation spread eastwards have been poorly understood to date, due to the scarcity of plant remains recovered from archaeological sites. Desiccated wheat grains excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery in Xinjiang, and dated to the early Bronze Age, show excellent DNA preservation. Here we present an ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis of wheat (Triticum sp.) grains excavated from Xiaohe and provide the first definitive evidence for bread wheat in China during the Bronze Age. The nuclear ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS1 and ITS2) and the intergenic spacer region (IGS) were amplified. The IGS region within the D genome of wheat has a 71 bp insertion that is absent from corresponding regions in the A and B genomes. The results showed that the Xiaohe wheat showed most sequence similarity to hexaploid bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), including the characteristic insertion into the D genome. The presence of bread wheat at the Xiaohe cemetery is discussed in relation to it having spread into Xinjiang by the Bronze Age, providing new insight into the origins of bread wheat in East Asia.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 01/2011; 38(1-38):115-119. DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2010.08.016
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    ABSTRACT: Historic DNA data have the potential to identify phenotypic information otherwise invisible in the historical, archaeological and palaeontological record. In order to determine whether a single nucleotide polymorphism typing protocol based on single based extension (SNaPshot™) could produce reliable phenotypic data from historic samples, we genotyped three coat colour markers for a sample of historic Thoroughbred horses for which both phenotypic and correct genotypic information were known from pedigree information in the General Stud Book. Experimental results were consistent with the pedigrees in all cases. Thus we demonstrate that historic DNA techniques can produce reliable phenotypic information from museum specimens.
    PLoS ONE 12/2010; 5(12):e15172. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0015172
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    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2010; 107(47):20147-8. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1014588107
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