Modern humans have populated Europe for more than 45,000 years1,2. Our knowledge of the genetic relatedness and structure of ancient hunter-gatherers is however limited, owing to the scarceness and poor molecular preservation of human remains from that period³. Here we analyse 356 ancient hunter-gatherer genomes, including new genomic data for 116 individuals from 14 countries in western and central Eurasia, spanning between 35,000 and 5,000 years ago. We identify a genetic ancestry profile in individuals associated with Upper Palaeolithic Gravettian assemblages from western Europe that is distinct from contemporaneous groups related to this archaeological culture in central and southern Europe⁴, but resembles that of preceding individuals associated with the Aurignacian culture. This ancestry profile survived during the Last Glacial Maximum (25,000 to 19,000 years ago) in human populations from southwestern Europe associated with the Solutrean culture, and with the following Magdalenian culture that re-expanded northeastward after the Last Glacial Maximum. Conversely, we reveal a genetic turnover in southern Europe suggesting a local replacement of human groups around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, accompanied by a north-to-south dispersal of populations associated with the Epigravettian culture. From at least 14,000 years ago, an ancestry related to this culture spread from the south across the rest of Europe, largely replacing the Magdalenian-associated gene pool. After a period of limited admixture that spanned the beginning of the Mesolithic, we find genetic interactions between western and eastern European hunter-gatherers, who were also characterized by marked differences in phenotypically relevant variants.
Volcanic flanks subject to hydrothermal alteration become mechanically weak and gravitationally unstable, which may collapse and develop far-reaching landslides. The dynamics and trajectories of volcanic landslides are hardly preserved and challenging to determine, which is due to the steep slopes and the inherent instability. Here we analyze the proximal deposits of the 21 July 2014, landslide at Askja (Iceland), by combining high-resolution imagery from satellites and Unoccupied Aircraft Systems. We performed a Principal Component Analysis in combination with supervised classification to identify different material classes and altered rocks. We trained a maximum-likelihood classifier and were able to distinguish 7 different material classes and compare these to ground-based hyperspectral measurements that we conducted on different rock types found in the field. Results underline that the Northern part of the landslide source region is a hydrothermally altered material class, which bifurcates halfway downslope and then extends to the lake. We find that a large portion of this material is originating from a lava body at the landslide headwall, which is the persistent site of intense hydrothermal activity. By comparing the classification result to in-situ hyperspectral measurements, we were able to further identify the involved types of rocks and the degree of hydrothermal alteration. We further discuss associated effects of mechanical weakening and the relevance of the heterogeneous materials for the dynamics and processes of the landslide. As the study demonstrates the success of our approach for identification of altered and less altered materials, important implications for hazard assessment in the Askja caldera and elsewhere can be drawn.
The earliest monumentality in Western Europe is associated with megalithic structures, but where did the builders of these monuments live? Here, the authors focus on west-central France, one of the earliest centres of megalithic building in Atlantic Europe, commencing in the mid fifth millennium BC. They report on an enclosure at Le Peu (Charente), dated to the Middle Neolithic ( c . 4400 BC), and defined by a ditch with two ‘crab claw’ entrances and a double timber palisade flanked by two timber structures—possibly defensive bastions. Inside, timber buildings—currently the earliest known in the region—were possibly home to the builders of the nearby Tusson long mounds.
Unlabelled: This paper, jointly written by participants of a workshop held in 2021, argues for an increased recognition and application of neutron activation analysis (NAA) in the archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean. Discussing the methodological strengths and challenges, it highlights the great potential NAA has for collecting proxy data from ceramics in order to develop progressive concepts of archaeological research within and beyond the Mediterranean Bronze and Iron Age, pointing out opportunities to revisit long-held assumptions of scholarship and to refine visual/macroscopic provenance determinations of pottery. To take full advantage of NAA's strengths toward a better understanding of the socioeconomic background of ceramics production, distribution, and consumption, the paper emphasises the need for both interdisciplinary collaboration and basic data publication requirements. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12520-023-01728-1.
The crossing of the Wallacean islands and settlement of Sahul by modern humans over 50,000 years ago, represents the earliest successful seafaring of our species anywhere in the world. Archaeological research throughout this vast island archipelago has recovered evidence for varied patterns in island occupation, with accumulating evidence suggesting a significant change in cultural activities and interaction amongst island communities following the LGM. New forms of technology such as shell fish hooks and adzes appear alongside standardised forms of shell beads, indicating that these technological innovations were accompanied by shared styles of personal ornamentation. Simultaniously, obsidian from a single, off-island source is found in the archaeological assemblages on at least four islands. We explore these implied spheres of interaction across Wallacea, with a focus on the terminal-Pleistocene/early-Holocene cultural materials and customs linking the southeastern Wallacean islands of Alor, Timor, and Kisar, and other parts of greater Wallacea and Near Oceania.
The Bronze to Iron Age underground salt mining complex of Hallstatt (Austria) is widely recognised for its cultural importance and wealth of archaeological artefacts. However, while the daily life in the salt mines is archaeologically well documented and environmental effects of the mining activity have been investigated recently, the impact of natural hazards on the prehistoric mining community is still poorly understood. For instance, while it is well established that the prehistoric underground mines have repeatedly been destroyed by large‐scale mass movements, only little is known about the characteristics and extent of these events as well as about mass‐movement recurrence during more recent times. To shed light on past mass‐movement activity in the vicinity of the Hallstatt salt mines, we investigated sediment cores from adjacent Lake Hallstatt. Within the regular lake sediments we identified three large‐scale event deposits, which are interpreted to originate from spontaneous or seismically induced mass movements in the mid‐19th and late 9th century ce and the mid‐4th century bce. While the age of the latter event is in good agreement with the abandonment of the famous Iron Age cemetery at Hallstatt, the younger events indicate that large‐scale mass movements also occurred repeatedly during the Common Era.
The construction of ancient road networks spanned generations and exhibits temporal path dependence that is not fully captured by established network formation models that are used to support archaeological reasoning. We introduce an evolutionary model that captures explicitly the sequential nature of road network formation: A central feature is that connections are added successively and according to an optimal cost–benefit trade-off with respect to existing connections. In this model, the network topology emerges rapidly from early decisions, a trait that makes it possible to identify plausible road construction orders in practice. Based on this observation we develop a method to compress the search space of path-dependent optimization problems. We use this method to show that the model’s assumptions on ancient decision making allow the reconstruction of partially known road networks from the Roman era in good detail and from sparse archaeological evidence. In particular, we identify missing links in the major road network of ancient Sardinia that are in good agreement with expert predictions.
Growing reliance on animal and plant domestication in the Near East and beyond during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) (the ninth to eighth millennium BC) has often been associated with a "revolutionary" social transformation from mobility toward more sedentary lifestyles. We are able to yield nuanced insights into the process of the Neolithization in the Near East based on a bioarchaeological approach integrating isotopic and archaeogenetic analyses on the bone remains recovered from Nevalı Çori, a site occupied from the early PPNB in Turkey where some of the earliest evidence of animal and plant domestication emerged, and from Ba'ja, a typical late PPNB site in Jordan. In addition, we present the archaeological sequence of Nevalı Çori together with newly generated radiocarbon dates. Our results are based on strontium (87Sr/86Sr), carbon, and oxygen (δ18O and δ13Ccarb) isotopic analyses conducted on 28 human and 29 animal individuals from the site of Nevalı Çori. 87Sr/86Sr results indicate mobility and connection with the contemporaneous surrounding sites during the earlier PPNB prior to an apparent decline in this mobility at a time of growing reliance on domesticates. Genome-wide data from six human individuals from Nevalı Çori and Ba'ja demonstrate a diverse gene pool at Nevalı Çori that supports connectedness within the Fertile Crescent during the earlier phases of Neolithization and evidence of consanguineous union in the PPNB Ba'ja and the Iron Age Nevalı Çori.
Near Eastern monumental buildings once hosted institutions with a variety of economic and environmental footprints. In this article examining a Middle Bronze Age II (seventeenth century BC) building complex at Zincirli, Turkey, we integrate bioarchaeological remains with ceramic and artifactual evidence to evaluate whether this building was a specialized node in a broader network and centralized economy. Combining seed/fruit/chaff analysis with charcoal, phytolith, diatom, and spherulite investigations and zooarchaeology allows for a more holistic identification of the building’s environmental and economic catchments. The pronounced presence of conifer, probably related to the building’s architecture, suggests an elite function of the complex. A broad range of activities took place within the complex, such as the preparation, storage, and consumption of different food and drink products, alongside craft activities. There is evidence for centralized storage of diverse crops and production of wine and textiles. The building seems to have functioned as a kind of estate, possessing access to large areas of land. The bioarchaeological remains evidence the exploitation of the varied environments surrounding the site, where economically valuable resources were locally available and exploited, such as cedar, pine, grapes, and large hunting game. Complex DD provides evidence of wetland exploitation, agropastoral production, wood procurement, and hunting in the semi-steppe batha environments of the Islahiye plain and the woodland forests of the Amanus.
The Andes offers a particularly effective focus for an archaeology of mobility because their extreme topography compresses enormous vertical resource diversity across short horizontal distances. In this article, the authors combine findings from two large-scale archaeological studies of adjacent watersheds—the Nasca-Palpa Project and One River Project —to provide the necessary context in which to explore changing mobilities from the Archaic Period to the Inca Empire, and from the Pacific coast to the high Andes. Analyses of obsidian lithics and stable isotopes in human hair are used to argue that changing patterns of mobility offer a new way of defining the ‘Horizons’ that have long dominated concepts of periodisation here.
The settlement of Elephantine in southern Egypt is one of the few places where a local jewellery production made from different materials can be documented. In particular, semiproducts and production waste suggest the manufacture of bracelets and beads from stone and faience from the late Old Kingdom onwards. The production waste also allows for the reconstruction of the way hippopotamus ivory was cut into bracelets. A jewellery workshop can be identified as one of the functions of a large building dating to the Thirteenth Dynasty. Here, raw materials from the surrounding desert regions, i.e., amethyst and ostrich eggshells, were processed into beads, pendants, and scarabs. Various stages of a production line show how the ostrich eggshells were made into beads. The raw material and an unfinished scarab indicate the manufacture of amethyst objects. Semiproducts in the neighbouring houses show that in that area, pendants were also cut from mother of pearl.
Archaeology is often argued to provide a unique long-term perspective on humans that can be utilised for effective policy-making, for example, in discussions of resilience and sustainability. However, the specific archaeological evidence for resilient/sustainable systems is rarely explored , with these terms often used simply to describe a community that survived a particular shock. In this study, a set of 74 case studies of papers discussing archaeological evidence for resili-ence/sustainability are identified and analysed using bibliometric methods. Variables from the papers are also quantified to assess patterns and provide a review of current knowledge. A great variety of scales of analysis, case study locations, stressors, resilient/sustainable characteristics, and archaeological evidence types are present. Climate change was the most cited stressor (n = 40) and strategies relating to natural resources were common across case studies, especially subsistence adaptations (n = 35), other solutions to subsistence deficiencies (n = 23), and water management (n = 23). Resilient/sustainable characteristics were often in direct contrast to one-another, suggesting the combination of factors is more important than each factor taken individually. Further quantification of well-defined variables within a formally-produced framework is required to extract greater value from archaeological case studies of resilience/sustainability.
The question of mobility of Bronze Age societies in southern Central Asia is a lively subject for discussion and remains a key aspect for understanding past human life. Central Asia represents a region where mobility and migration had a deep impact on the development of cultural communities. Surrounded by the great empires of the ancient Near East, it exhibited a high ethnic and genetic diversity. In this paper we present a regional study for southern Central Asia of isotopic analyses of ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr and δ¹⁸O of human samples from several Bronze Age sites in southern Turkmenistan (Ulug Depe), south/central Uzbekistan (Dzharkutan, Sapallitepa, Tilla Bulak, Bustan and Bashman 1) and southern Tajikistan (Saridzhar, Gelot and Darnaichi). The three geographical zones manifest different patterns of mobility. The analysis of the Ulug Depe people demonstrates a high rate of immigration during the early periods (EBA) and a tendency for permanent residence. The later periods (MBA) are marked by a decrease in immigration and mobility, indicating a more extensive use of the surrounding landscape. Dzharkutan people displayed a different and complex pattern of mobility and subsistence, with frequent movements during individual lifetime within a limited area. The other sites in the Surkhan Darya Valley and southern Tajikistan indicate active mobility in which individuals migrated within a wide area of southern Central Asia.
Subsidence along the central coast of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta and a subsequent rapid burial by mangrove mud have preserved a hundred earthen kilns at 11 localities, exposed due to recent coastal erosion. The associated pottery indicates that the kilns were used for salt crystallization in brine pots mounted on perforated hotplates. Four kiln varieties were found at successive elevations. The kiln chamber walls and the basal charcoal layers were dated using thermoluminescence and radiocarbon dating respectively. The oldest kilns with a round outline, found at the lowest elevations, were operating in the early 8th to middle 9th century. Oval-shaped kilns, found at a 1-m higher elevation, were used from the mid-9th to early 10th century. After a 600-year long period without documented kilns, rectangular kilns with a lateral slot were built again at a 1-m higher land surface in the 16th and 17th century. The youngest kiln type consists of rectangular twin chambers dating from the late 16th to mid-18th century and occurs at 1.5 m below the present sediment surface. Architecture and functioning of these rectangular kilns are reconstructed, showing a multi-step procedure. This technique had been improved in the 19th century when pyramidal kilns were described in historic records.
Artificial illumination is a fundamental human need. Burning wood and other materials usually in hearths and fireplaces extended daylight hours, whilst the use of flammable substances in torches offered light on the move. It is increasingly understood that pottery played a role in light production. In this study, we focus on ceramic oval bowls, made and used primarily by hunter-gatherer-fishers of the circum-Baltic over a c. 2000 year period beginning in the mid-6th millennium cal BC. Oval bowls commonly occur alongside larger (cooking) vessels. Their function as 'oil lamps' for illumination has been proposed on many occasions but only limited direct evidence has been secured to test this functional association. This study presents the results of molecular and isotopic analysis of preserved organic residues obtained from 115 oval bowls from 25 archaeological sites representing a wide range of environmental settings. Our findings confirm that the oval bowls of the circum-Baltic were used primarily for burning fats and oils, predominantly for the purposes of illumination. The fats derive from the tissues of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial organisms. Bulk isotope data of charred surface deposits show a consistently different pattern of use when oval bowls are compared to other pottery vessels within the same assemblage. It is suggested that hunter-gatherer-fish-ers around the 55th parallel commonly deployed material culture for artificial light production but the evidence is restricted to times and places where more durable technologies were employed, including the circum-Baltic.
Phoenicians were the first to systematically develop the area surrounding the Strait of Gibraltar at the end of the 9th century B.C. Following pioneering studies in the Río Guadiaro estuary (Málaga/Cádiz) in the 1980s, a German‐Spanish cooperation project focussed on the role of indigenous people in the Phoenician colonisation trading networks at Los Castillejos de Alcorrín (Manilva, Málaga), one of the most important Early Iron Age settlements in southwestern Iberia. In the recent past, combined with systematic archaeological surveys, geoarchaeological research embedded in the interdisciplinary project ‘Archeostraits’ aimed at (i) deciphering palaeoenvironmental and coastal changes in the surroundings of Los Castillejos de Alcorrín throughout the mid‐ to late Holocene; (ii) constraining palaeoenvironmental conditions during early Phoenician colonisation; and (iii) better understanding human–environment interactions during the Final Bronze and Early Iron Age (i.e., end of 9th and 8th centuries B.C.). Coring transects along the Río Guadiaro allowed for differentiating successive palaeoenvironments and for establishing a chrono‐stratigraphy for the Holocene sedimentary infill of the valley. Based on these results, the deposition of shallow marine sands, overlying deltaic deposits of alternating sand and mud, and the subsequent development of lagoonal conditions in the lower Guadiaro valley took place before the Phoenicians established the first settlements along the coast.
Despite decades of lively debate about Taiwan’s role in the spread of early agriculture, crops and cultivation practices to the Indo-Pacific region, there is little archaeobotanical data from the island. Here we present the first directly dated and systematically analysed macrobotanical records from Taiwan obtained by flotation at the archaeological site Sanbaopi 5 (23°07′03′′N, 120°15′32′′E), representing the Dahu (1400 BCE–100 CE) and Niaosong (100–1400 CE) culture periods. The results suggest that Middle Dahu (900–100 BCE) communities in the study area practiced rainfed crop cultivation with mainly foxtail (Setaria italica) and broomcorn (Panicum miliaceum) millet and rice (Oryza sativa). Pulses (Vigna angularis, Glycine soja/max) were also part of the subsistence of local farmers and used as supplementary food and/or green manure. The archaeobotanical record together with archaeological site data for prehistoric China substantiates evidence that the Dahu culture originates in the Lower Yellow River region and migrated to Taiwan along the East China Sea coast. The emergence of the Dahu culture coincided with the spread of mixed millet-rice farming to the Korean Peninsula and Japan and was possibly related to enhanced economic and political expansion of the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties and the long-term weakening of summer monsoon precipitation. Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) and mung bean (V. radiata var. radiata) assemblages from the sixth century CE Niaosong period highlight the influx of goods, crops, knowledge and people from South and Southeast Asia via southern routes in the context of enhanced exchange across the South China Sea region.
Recent scholarship on North African cities has done much to dispel earlier assumptions about late antique collapse and demonstrate significant continuity into the Byzantine and medieval periods. Yet urban changes did not affect North Africa evenly. Far less is known about the differing regional trajectories that shaped urban transformation and the extent to which pre-Roman and Roman micro-regions continued to share meaningful characteristics in subsequent periods. This article provides a preliminary exploration of regional change from the fourth to the eleventh century focused on a zone in the Central Medjerda Valley (Tunisia) containing the well-known sites of Bulla Regia and Chimtou. We place these towns in their wider historical and geographical setting and interrogate urban change by looking at investment in public buildings and spaces, religious buildings and housing, and ceramic networks. The process of comparison identifies new commonalities (and differences) between the sites of this stretch of the Medjerda River and provides a framework for understanding the many transformations of North African cities over the long late antiquity.
Holocene environmental and climate change on the Tibetan Plateau is intensively studied and discussed with the aim to better understand the factors controlling the hydrology of individual river catchments and especially the availability of water which is of utmost significance for the communities downstream in times of rapid climate change. Thus, a late glacial and Holocene sediment record from Lake Heihai in the Kunlun-Pass region was investigated using ostracod and geochemical analyses. Cold and dry conditions were inferred between ca. 12.9 and 12.3 cal ka BP and higher temperatures before and afterwards. The cold spell probably corresponds to the Younger Dryas (YD) event in the North Atlantic region. Warmer and wetter conditions with highest lake levels and decreased lake-water salinity were recorded from ca. 10.8 to 7.0 cal ka BP when the summer monsoon was strengthened. The cold 8.2 cal ka BP event is not significantly recorded in the region probably due to the predominance of the summer monsoon over the westerlies. A declined lake level and increased lake-water salinity as the result of cold and dry conditions are inferred from ca. 7.0 to 4.5 cal ka BP when the strengthening of the mid-latitude westerly circulation probably triggered glacier advances in the catchment. An even lower lake level existed during cold conditions with glacier advances from ca. 4.5 to 1.2 cal ka BP. The level of Lake Heihai rose again after ca. 1.2 cal ka BP due to warmer conditions, causing the retreat of glaciers and higher runoff. Our record from the Kunlun Pass region provides further evidence for the catchment-specific response of hydrographical systems which are partly controlled by glaciers as major water sources.
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