[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The spread of farming from western Asia to Europe had profound long-term social and ecological impacts, but identification of the specific nature of Neolithic land management practices and the dietary contribution of early crops has been problematic. Here, we present previously undescribed stable isotope determinations of charred cereals and pulses from 13 Neolithic sites across Europe (dating ca. 5900-2400 cal B.C.), which show that early farmers used livestock manure and water management to enhance crop yields. Intensive manuring inextricably linked plant cultivation and animal herding and contributed to the remarkable resilience of these combined practices across diverse climatic zones. Critically, our findings suggest that commonly applied paleodietary interpretations of human and herbivore δ(15)N values have systematically underestimated the contribution of crop-derived protein to early farmer diets.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2013;
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Arabian Peninsula is a key region for understanding hominin dispersals and the effect of climate change on prehistoric demography, although little information on these topics is presently available owing to the poor preservation of archaeological sites in this desert environment. Here, we describe the discovery of three stratified and buried archaeological sites in the Nefud Desert, which includes the oldest dated occupation for the region. The stone tool assemblages are identified as a Middle Palaeolithic industry that includes Levallois manufacturing methods and the production of tools on flakes. Hominin occupations correspond with humid periods, particularly Marine Isotope Stages 7 and 5 of the Late Pleistocene. The Middle Palaeolithic occupations were situated along the Jubbah palaeolake-shores, in a grassland setting with some trees. Populations procured different raw materials across the lake region to manufacture stone tools, using the implements to process plants and animals. To reach the Jubbah palaeolake, Middle Palaeolithic populations travelled into the ameliorated Nefud Desert interior, possibly gaining access from multiple directions, either using routes from the north and west (the Levant and the Sinai), the north (the Mesopotamian plains and the Euphrates basin), or the east (the Persian Gulf). The Jubbah stone tool assemblages have their own suite of technological characters, but have types reminiscent of both African Middle Stone Age and Levantine Middle Palaeolithic industries. Comparative inter-regional analysis of core technology indicates morphological similarities with the Levantine Tabun C assemblage, associated with human fossils controversially identified as either Neanderthals or Homo sapiens.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present bone collagen amino acid (AA) δ(13)C values for a range of archaeological samples representing four "benchmark" human diet groups (high marine protein consumers, high freshwater protein consumers, terrestrial C(3) consumers, and terrestrial C(4) consumers), a human population with an "unknown" diet, and ruminants. The aim is to establish an interpretive palaeodietary framework for bone collagen AA δ(13)C values, and to assess the extent to which AA δ(13)C values can provide additional dietary information to bulk collagen stable isotope analysis. Results are analyzed to determine the ability of those AAs for which we have a complete set, to discriminate between the diet groups. We show that very strong statistical discrimination is obtained for all interdiet group comparisons. This is often obvious from suitably chosen bivariate plots using δ(113)C values that have been normalized to compensate for interdiet group differences in bulk δ(13)C values. Bi-plots of non-normalized phenylalanine and valine δ(13)C values are useful for distinguishing aquatic diets (marine and freshwater) from terrestrial diets. Our interpretive framework uses multivariate statistics (e.g., discriminant analysis) to optimize the separation of the AA δ(13)C values of the "benchmark"' diet groups, and is capable of accurately assigning external samples to their expected diet groups. With a growing body of AA δ(13)C values, this method is likely to enhance palaeodietary research by allowing the "unknown" diets of populations under investigation to be statistically defined relative to the well-characterized or "known" diets of previously investigated populations.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 05/2012; 148(4):495-511.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: As a geographic connection between Africa and the rest of Eurasia, the Arabian Peninsula occupies a central position in elucidating hominin evolution and dispersals. Arabia has been characterized by extreme environmental fluctuation in the Quaternary, with profound evolutionary and demographic consequences. Despite the importance of the region, Arabia remains understudied. Recent years, however, have seen major developments in environmental studies and archeology, revealing that the region contains important records that should play a significant role in future paleoanthropological narratives.(1-3) The emerging picture of Arabia suggests that numerous dispersals of hominin populations into the region occurred. Populations subsequently followed autochthonous trajectories, creating a distinctive regional archeological record. Debates continue on the respective roles of regional hominin extinctions and population continuity, with the latter suggesting adaptation to arid conditions.
Evolutionary Anthropology Issues News and Reviews 05/2012; 21(3):113-25.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Williams et al. [Williams, M., Ambrose, S.H., van der Kaars, S., Ruehlemann, C., Chattopadhyaya, U., Pal, J.N., Chauhan, P., 2009, Environmental impact of the 73 ka Toba super-eruption in South Asia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 284, 295–314] recently reported Late Pleistocene palaeoenvironment indicators from terrestrial sites in central India and a marine core from the Bay of Bengal. They correlate isotopic data from soil carbonates and pollen from the marine core using occurrences of the Youngest Toba Tuff (YTT), a widespread tephra erupted from the Sumatran Toba caldera ∼ 74,000 years ago. They conclude that the Toba eruption caused both climatic cooling and prolonged deforestation in South Asia. However, consideration of the bases for these claims reveals that the YTT eruption is used as a chronological marker of cooling at the end of Dansgaard–Oeschger interstadial 20, and no evidence is provided that the eruption caused or prolonged this process. Furthermore, while the presented data add to the South Asian palaeoenvironmental literature, the applicability of the results to questions of impact on human and other populations is overstated.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa is a significant topic in human evolutionary studies. Most investigators agree that our species arose in Africa and subsequently spread out to occupy much of Eurasia. Researchers have argued that populations expanded along the Indian Ocean rim at ca 60,000 years ago during a single rapid dispersal event, probably employing a coastal route towards Australasia. Archaeologists have been relatively silent about the movement and expansion of human populations in terrestrial environments along the Indian Ocean rim, although it is clear that Homo sapiens reached Australia by ca 45,000 years ago. Here, we synthesize and document current genetic and archaeological evidence from two major landmasses, the Arabian peninsula and the Indian subcontinent, regions that have been underplayed in the story of out of Africa dispersals. We suggest that modern humans were present in Arabia and South Asia earlier than currently believed, and probably coincident with the presence of Homo sapiens in the Levant between ca 130 and 70,000 years ago. We show that climatic and environmental fluctuations during the Late Pleistocene would have had significant demographic effects on Arabian and South Asian populations, though indigenous populations would have responded in different ways. Based on a review of the current genetic, archaeological and environmental data, we indicate that demographic patterns in Arabia and South Asia are more interesting and complex than surmised to date.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Southern African populations speaking languages that are often - but inaccurately - grouped together under the label 'Khoisan' are an important focus of molecular genetic research, not least in tracking the early stages of human genetic diversification. This paper reviews these studies from an archaeological standpoint, concentrating on modern human origins, the introduction of pastoralism to southern Africa and admixture between the region's indigenous foragers and incoming Bantu-speaking farmers. To minimise confusion and facilitate correlation with anthropological, linguistic and archaeological data it emphasises the need to use ethnolinguistic labels accurately and with due regard for the particular histories of individual groups. It also stresses the geographically and culturally biased nature of the genetic studies undertaken to date, which employ data from only a few 'Khoisan' groups. Specific topics for which the combined deployment of genetic and archaeological methods would be particularly useful include the early history of Ju-Hoan- and Tuu-speaking hunter-gatherers, the expansion of Khoe-speaking populations, the chronology of genetic exchange between hunter-gatherers and farmers, and the origins of the Sotho/Tswana- and Nguni-speaking populations that dominate much of southern Africa today.
Journal of anthropological sciences 01/2010; 88:73-92.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is room for considerable cooperation between archaeology and neuroscience, but in order for this to happen we need to think about the interactions among brain-body-world, in which each of these three terms acts as cause and effect, without attributing a causally determinant position to any one. Consequently, I develop the term social ontology to look at how human capabilities of mind and body are brought about through an interaction with the material world. I look also at the key notion of plasticity to think about not only the malleable nature of human brains, but also the artefactual world. Using an example from the British Iron Age (approx. 750 BC-AD 43), I consider how new materials would put novel demands on the bodies and brains of people making, using and appreciating objects, focusing on an especially beautiful sword. In conclusion, I outline some possible areas of enquiry in which neuroscientists and archaeologists might collaborate.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 07/2008; 363(1499):2003-10.
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