• Julie Hruby added an answer:
    How can we tell the pylos tablets were once only air dried after they have thorougly been baked in the final fire w/o archaeometrical investigation?

    The biscuit baking of clay is to avoid damage during the baking process I understand. Letting clay dry before a first low temp  burning is part of this. I also understand that w/o further examination from just plain sight it is impossible to state whether a piece of clay has been burned once or twice, the highest temperature will leave ist mark and overshadow previous baking. Is that correct? If so, how do we know the Pylos tablets were only air dried and not (half) baked?

    Thank You

    Julie Hruby · Dartmouth College

    No problem.



  • Guillaume Verrier added an answer:
    Has anyone has experience with commercial residue analysis labs, looking at lipids and other residues from archaeological ceramics?

    I have some ceramics from South Asia I want to quickly assess for potential preservation.

    Guillaume Verrier · Archeodunum

    on ResearchGate :

  • Johannes Loubser added an answer:
    How are the deep "pear-shaped" pits interpreted in the european Neolithic and Eneolithic?

    I am studying an archaeological site (ca 4600-4200 cal BC) where two, up to 2m deep pits were discovered, which are broader towards the bottom and narrower at the level from which they were dug.

    If I remember correctly from some lectures and papers, these are usually interpreted as storage pits. One of the pit from our site (see attached file) had a burnt layer (or several layers) 10cm thick with a lot of charcoal at the bottom. The whole pit was subsequently filled with dirt containing pottery. The fill can be separated into an upper and lower layer (one 70, other 90cm deep), which are separated by a 20-30cm thick layer containing no pottery. This is quite an interesting deposition and would require a lot of attention.

    What is the usual interpretation of pits of such shape? Were they primarily storage pits, used later for other activities such as for firing, disposing of refuse etc? Are there any good comparisons in the European Neolithic and Eneolithic? I am interested in any literature dealing with these pits specifically, but also any good references for how to deal with the deposits in these pits. Any ideas?

    Perhaps it needs adding that the South African examples mostly have rounded bottoms. The bottom portions of the pits often extend down into hard and culturally-sterile clayey-subsoil. Occasionally you hear stories of people still falling into these features, one being an unlikely-sounding account (rural legend?) of a Volkswagen Beetle being parked on a long-abandoned pit in KwaZulu and then almost disappearing within as the surface matting (covered by soil) finally collapsed. Another story has it that a road granite gravel quarry master carted off truck-loads of ashy cattle dung from a nearby prehistoric Late Iron Age Ndebele site to fertilize his yard in town. In the process he dislodged a buried grain pit lined with beautifully-preserved coiled basketry and filled with bone-dry mealies/corn still on the cob (apparently with a fragment of a human skull included in the mix). So remnants of these features are still to be found hidden below  the landscape and are occasionally encountered in unexpected ways, usually becoming bizarre topics for conversation around the campfire.

  • Thomas J. Loebel added an answer:
    Evidence for functional usage of Manganese dioxyde (MnO2)?
    Within the Mousterian record of western Europe, we have evidence for usage of black pigment made from MnO2 by Neandertals (50 000 years old at Pech-de-l'Azé I for instance). I've been using the analogy with the ethnographic record as well as some preliminary experiments to argue that they might have been used as dye stuff/stain (see Soressi et D'Errico, 2007 as well as Soressi et al 2008). Would anybody know of usage of MnO2 pigment for other purposes than body decoration/symbolic purposes?
    Thomas J. Loebel · University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    I recommend reading:

    Mandl 1961 Collagenases and Elastases. Advances in Enzymology 23 164-264

    Velo 1984 Ochre as a Medicine: a Suggestion for the Interpretation of the Archaeological Record, Current Anthropology 25(5)674.

    much work has recently been done documenting the functional use of of minerals in the "ochre" family, ie any of those containing iron oxide or iron hydroxide such as hematite, goethite, and liminonites.

  • Nikolaus Boroffka added an answer:
    Does anybody know red ocher beads from neolithic or other prehistoric periods?

    In the summer of 2014, we discovered a new Eneolithic cemetery at Sultana (Romania), and near one of the skeletons we identified a fragment of red ocher bead.

    Does anybody know other similar artefacts from prehistory or other time periods?

    Thanks in advance.

    Nikolaus Boroffka · Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

    One of my students finished an MA thesis on the various uses of ochre in the Palaeolithic - with some indications on later periods, ethnography, and much other information. The book will probably appear at the beginning of next year, but generally, as has already been mentioned above, there is much incorrect use of "ochre" in archaeology - this may mean a whole range of minerals, indeed mostly of iron-compounds or mixtures. Red colour minerals (mostly haematite) have in fact been used for more than 100.000 years, i.e. from deep in the Palaeolithic, and certainly before the appearance of "modern humans".

    For the Eneolithic in Romania the nearest (in space and time) should be the so called Ochre-Grave culture (also known as Yamnaya), which made use of ochre frequently in burial contexts. Some such burials were found at Brailita in Romania, but more information may be found in the recent book: Ion Motzoi-Chicideanu, Obiceiuri funerare în epoca bronzului la Dunărea Mijlocie şi Inferioară I-II. Editura Academiei Române (Bucureşti 2011), which includes also the Yamnaya burials.

  • Pál Sümegi added an answer:
    Does anybody know beads made of Lithoglyphus sp from Neolithic or other prehistoric periods?
    In 2003, we discovered a necklace made of Lithoglyphus sp, in the tell settlement of Sultana-Malu Roşu, Romania. In 2013 we discovered another necklace made of Lithoglyphus sp in grave 74 from cemetery that belonging to the settlement.
    From a chrono-cultural point of view the cemetery and the tell settlement belongs to the Gumelnița culture (ca. 4600–3950 BC) part of the large Eneolithic cultural complex Kodjadermen-Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI from Balkans.
    Does anybody know other beads made of Lithoglyphus sp from prehistory or other time periods?
    Thanks in advance.
    Pál Sümegi · University of Szeged

    Yes, I analysed some Late Neolithic jewelleries from Polgár Csőszhalom and Polgár Ferencihát, where the Lithoglypus naticoides shells were used.

  • Stefan Wenzel added an answer:
    Is there a database of the locations of prehistoric dogs in Britain or even Europe?

    A list of where I can find info on prehistoric dog records would greatly speed up my dissertation, if such a document exists

    Stefan Wenzel · Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum - Archaeological research institute


    this paper my also be of interest to you:

    Gerald Munt & Christopher Meiklejohn, The symbiotic dog. Why is the earliest domesticated animal also important symbolically? In: Birgitta Hårdh, Kristina Jennbert, Deborah Olausson (eds.), On the road. Studies in honour of Lars Larsson. Acta Archaeologica Lundensia in 4o, No.26 (Lund 2007), 165-169.

    The complete Festschrift is online here:

    lup : Lund University Publications

    Best regards,


  • Nelum Kanthilatha added an answer:
    sediment analysis
    I am doing prehistoric sediment analysis. I would like to share your experience....
    Nelum Kanthilatha · Southern Cross University

    Thank you very much, Popovici. I want to prove the human behaviours identified already by macroscopic artefacts using sediments.

  • Assaf Nativ added an answer:
    Do you know prehistoric graves of which the season of burial is known?

    I am looking for graves for which the season of burial is known. I am particularly interested in Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age Europe, but will follow up any hints! Season should be documented by botanical remains, pollen, or other scientific evidence.

    Many thanks!

    Assaf Nativ · University of Haifa

    While hard scientific evidence is lacking, there are  indications that at least some of the Chalcolithic cemeteries in the southern Levant were integrated into the annual economic cycle. This evidence includes small scale workshops, storage facilities and conversion of specific spaces from funerary to  'habitation' contexts, and vice versa. 

  • Akis Arabatzis added an answer:
    Can anyone help with bone projectile points of the near eastern PPN and PN?
    I'm looking for evidence for bone projectile points in Neolithic pre-pottery and pottery of the Near East. Can anybody point out relevant literature?
    Akis Arabatzis · Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

    Hello to all,

    I'm interested also in the topic and if any of you could share with me Le Dosseur's thesis, I would be very grateful.

  • Oliver Nakoinz added an answer:
    What is a good publication on iron age settlement patterns in Pleistocene coversand area's in Lower Saxony?
    I'm writing my thesis on iron age settlement patterns on the Drenthe Plateau in the north of the Netherland. Besides comparisons with other pleistocene covers and area's in the Netherlands I would like to compare it with those in the north of Germany. Since I'm not that well read in German research I would like some help with titles that give an overview of the patterns (preferable in relation to the landscape). I would prefer publications in English, but titles in German are welcome too.
    Oliver Nakoinz · Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

    The book from Ingo Eichfeld might be useful

  • Christine Mcdonnell added an answer:
    Is Canada balsam appropriate to mount permanent microscope slides for ancient starch analysis?
    Does Canada balsam presents any biological contamination? Which resin or other means would be appropriate to mount permanent slides in Archaeobotany?

    Thank you very much.
    Christine Mcdonnell · University of Connecticut

    Canada balsam is too thick to maneuver on slides so I used immersion oil. Does anyone know the correct citation for Perry on her methodology?

  • What is the evidence for early (initial colonization) access to subterranean freshwater in the Pacific and Southeast Asia?
    I'm looking for early constructions of wells, sumps, etc. or pit features used for agriculture in coastal environments.
    Antonio Montelongo Franquiz · Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

    I'm working on the subject area of ​​the Atlantic Ocean. I think they are first natural deposits offered by nature in a process of initial colonization, then after the settlement and the need for a greater amount of water resources involve building nearshore deposits, mainly wells, especially on islands besides those spaces inside water capacity enough.

  • Chun Liu added an answer:
    Do you think there are some fossilized tools that were judged mistakenly as lithic tools in historic archeology?

    My personal view, hominids could use bones, horns, sticks and so on as tools. Just as these attached in the image.

    Chun Liu · Prehistoric Archaeology

    the evidences are also overlooked.

  • Michael Buchwitz added an answer:
    Is there a database/source for dinosaur DNA and/or protein sequences?

    I want to study specific protein sequences to better understand their functional properties. I think that such information from this group of animals may help in this understanding.

    Michael Buchwitz · Museum für Naturkunde Magdeburg

    See also this recent paper about the persistence of ancient protein molecules (uploaded to RG this week), including examples from dinosaur fossils:

  • Chun Liu added an answer:
    Are there any fossilized tools in any museums in the world?
    I'm looking for information on prehistoric hominid tools. If you happen to have any photographs to compare with my collections, I would really appreciate it!
    Chun Liu · Prehistoric Archaeology

    At the same site, another one is the chopped bean cake.

  • Jean-Loïc Le Quellec added an answer:
    Is there any data on how humans used cosmetics and body painting during the pre historic time?
    I'm doing research on cosmetics and body painting during the pre historic time (like 100,000 years ago up to 5,000 years ago). I've found some information about using red ochre and decorative shells and related speculation; but apparently I need more data; especially based on cave art or something like that.
    Jean-Loïc Le Quellec · French National Centre for Scientific Research
    A good reference for Niola Doha : Simonis, Roberta, Guido Faleschini, & Giancarlo Negro 1994. «Niola Doa, "il luogo delle fanciulle" (Ennedi, Ciad).» Sahara 6: 51-62.
  • Jiri Unger added an answer:
    Does someone know Central European Late Bronze Age burials in pits laying in order position N-S or E-W and equipped with artifacts?
    In the region of Czech Republic, it is not so unusual find skeleton burials in the storage or trash pits in Late Bronze Age open settlements, especially it is characteristic for urnfield Knoviz culture, which has its ordinary burial rite as the cremation in urns. Usually it seems like the body was just thrown to the pit without any rigorous care and it is not any exception to find more bodies or only their parts laying on each other in "breakneck" position (see examples in fig. 1 + 2).
    HOWEVER there is one burial group which seems to be unique one, because the bodies are strictly oriented N-S or E-W, laying on the backs with hands next the body or put in the lap. These burials are always equipped with ceramic pots and more rarely with bronze artifacts such as earrings or knives. Attribute sui generis is the location of some of these artifacts directly under the head, especially in the case of miniature vessels (see examples in fig. 3 + 4).
    I have found some similar skeleton burials in Czech republic, containing 5 graves + 4 new ones from my 2013 excavation, but then I hit the similar indications in the area of Austria and Germany - for example sites Biblis (Starkenburg) or Köchen, where some of the bodies are buried in stone cists graves, richly equipped and again with typical miniature vessel under the head.
    From my point of view it seems that this is a specific burial practices among the urnfield cultures in Central Europe and I would like to ask for help to finding more of these burials. Thank you in advance!
    Jiri Unger · Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
    Dear collegues,

    thank You all for so helpfull and fruitfull answers!

    I am happy to say, that the analysis of mentioned skeletons are in progress and we do analyse of teeth isotops for residential mobility and as well DNA analysis of selected individuals are on the way.

    For sure I will keep You updated via this conversation.

  • Muriel Louâpre added an answer:
    Hello, did you hear about this french theory on prehistoric art called "theorie des ombres" (the shadow theory)
    It was published recently by two non-specialists and suggest cave painting art could have included the use of cast-shadows. French specialists are not amused by the idea, and I wondered if abroad the idea was greeted in the same way. The XVIIIth century is far away, when amateurs could give a hand to scientists!
    Muriel Louâpre · Université René Descartes - Paris 5
    Very interesting, thanks for this reference.
  • Sorin-Cristian Ailincai added an answer:
    Can anyone recommend some literature on the residential burials?
    I am working on Early Iron Age at Lower Danube, where in almost completely excavated settlements we have discovered a lot of infra mural burials. For understanding and finding a good explanation of this phenomenon I need to compare it with similar discoveries from different ages and areas.
    Sorin-Cristian Ailincai · Institutul de Cercetari Eco-Muzeale
    Thank you very much Kristine!
    Your recommendations sounds, and I am sure there are, very interesting!

    Best regards,
  • Elena A. Kadyshevich added an answer:
    What evidence can be found to explain the homochirality of the early building blocks of life that lead to its origin?
    Seeking answers to better explain what appears to be a random process and its ability to produce results that are decidedly nonrandom.
    Elena A. Kadyshevich · Russian Academy of Sciences
    Dear Andrew Ellzey Kirk, Dear All,

    As you, possibly, know, we earlier repeatedly wrote in our (with Victor Ostrovskii) papers dedicated to our Life Origination Hydrate Hypothesis (LOH-Hypothesis) that the phenomenon of the DNA monochirality cannot be random and that it can, apparently, be explained in the context of the fact that DNAs originated within the methane-hydrate honeycomb structure and that the intracellular protoplasm, i.e. the medium of DNA replication, has also the analogous structure. We wrote earlier that, apparently, the D-ribose radical only is capable of connecting an N-base and two phosphate groups in one complex within gas-hydrate structure and that this is a peculiarity of the system DNA–gas-hydrate structure.

    Recently, we, together with A. Dzyabchenko, developed 3D simulation of different DNA fragments within CH4-hydrate structure and saw that our assumption is correct; indeed, the D-ribose radical only can construct nucleic acids within the gas-hydrate structure. This work is not published yet, but it is in the report for our project sponsored by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.
  • Rudenc Ruka added an answer:
    Are there any Paleolithic finds or sites from Kosovo?
    The body of Paleolithic finds and information from southeast Europe has been growing to a great extend in the recent years. Nevertheless from certain areas such as Kosovo there are no finds reported whatsoever. Is this due to lack of accessible publications or lack of research in this particular field of archaeology?
    Rudenc Ruka · Institut of Archaeology, Tirana, Albania
    Unfortunately so far I have found nothing regarding Kosovo.
  • Peter J Richerson added an answer:
    What are your thoughts on the origin of science?
    I recently published my book "The Origin of Science" which can be downloaded at I am interested in alternative theories on the origin of science and how this debate can lead to a better understanding of how our ability for scientific reasoning evolved.
    Peter J Richerson · University of California, Davis
    I have long been a fan of Louis' idea that tracking requires most of the skills that later led to science. I think one reason why it is such a good example is that it is social and cumulative. Cognitive advances at the individual brain level were probably required for tracking and similar tasks, though proving that may be hard. Chimpanzees and some birds, such as corvids and parrots, seem awfully smart as individuals. What humans have in addition to cognitive "right stuff" is social learning. Neophyte trackers acquire a huge amount of natural history knowledge that has accumulated in expert hunting groups for many generations. Plus, any given tracking exercise is an exercise in social back and forth so that expert trackers collaborate on tough problems. If there is a neophyte with them, he learns from the expert interchanges. Occasionally, some given hunt may lead to a novel observation that is incorporated into the large body of extant natural history.

    I wonder if other tasks in hunter-gatherers make similar demands. What about tool-making, gathering and cooking? Perhaps tracking is just a particularly dramatic example because important decisions have to be made rapidly on the basis of enigmatic evidence and success or failure is evident pretty immediately. I imagine that other tasks use the same skills but in a temporally more drawn-out way.

    My coauthors and I recently wrote a couple of papers arguing for the importance of social learning and cumulative culture in humans:

    Boyd, R., Richerson, P. J., & Henrich, J. (2011). The cultural niche: Why social learning is essential for human adaptation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(Supplement 2), 10918-10925. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100290108

    Smaldino, P. E., & Richerson, P. J. (in press). Human cumulative cultural evolution as a form of distributed computation. In P. Michelucci (Ed.), Handbook of Human Computation.
  • Richard W. Yerkes added an answer:
    Potassium in ancient soils and residues in Europe?
    I frequently detect (using Direct Temperature-Resolved Mass Spectrometry) relatively large amounts of potassium in solid organic residues preserved on ceramics from various archaeological contexts in the Netherlands. The residues are often food remains or other residues of pre-, and protohistoric vessel use. However, I am wondering about the potassium and trying to clarify whether I am looking at a contamination from the original prehistoric context (for instance from wood ash) or a more contemporary contamination (for instance from artificial fertilizer).

    Does anyone have experience with the occurrence of Potassium in soils in relatively humid climates in Europe, and/or any references for me to read up on?
    Richard W. Yerkes · The Ohio State University
    Dear Tania,

    Since Potassium is relatively stable, we have found that if samples are taken from contexts below the plowzone, contamination from modern fertilizer is not likely.

    You should contact Rod Salisbury Roderick Salisbury (, our project soil chemist if you have additional questions. I have attached a few articles summarizing our soil chemistry results at Copper Age sites in Hungary.
  • Roger M. Pearlman CTA added an answer:
    The bottleneck
    The full grown Homo erectus spread over Africa and Eurasia for about 1.2 miljon years ago. But a new genetic study (PNAS february 2 2010) shows that they were only 37 000 individuals, both men and women, an effective population of 18 500. This seems to have been the beginning of a bottle neck that lasted to till the climate changed after the Toba castastophy for 72 000 years ago. Then the Eurasian population in about 30 000 years increased to about 60 000. That was the beginning of History!
    Roger M. Pearlman CTA · NEAT Academy Torah Center Inc.
    Or as is more probable, the 1,200,000 - 72,000 = 1,128,000 year span is a myth, that in reality lasted under 2000 years, perhaps under a few hundred.

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