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    ABSTRACT: It is commonly accepted that, following the end of the Pleistocene, semi-arid deciduous oak woodlands did not spread in the Irano-Anatolian region of Southwest Asia as quickly as they did in the Levantine Mediterranean littoral, despite the fact that climatic improvement occurred broadly at the same time in both regions. Prehistoric impacts on woodland vegetation (such as woodcutting, burning and clearance for cultivation), the harsh continental climate of inland Southwest Asia and its distance from late Pleistocene arboreal refugia have all been discussed in the literature as likely causes of the delay. In this paper we argue that semi-arid deciduous oak woodlands should not be viewed as part of the “natural” vegetation of the Irano-Anatolian region that has been progressively destroyed by millennia of human activities since the Neolithic. They represent instead one of the earliest anthropogenic vegetation types in Southwest Asia, one that owes its very existence to prehistoric landscape practices other scholars commonly label as “destructive”. Drawing on anthracological, pollen and modern vegetation data from central Anatolia we describe how the post-Pleistocene species-rich and structurally diverse temperate semi-arid savanna grasslands were gradually substituted by low-diversity, even-aged Quercus-dominated parklands and wood pastures in the course of the early Holocene. Economic strategies that encouraged the establishment and spread of deciduous oaks included sheep herding that impacted on grass and forb vegetation, the controlling of competing arboreal vegetation through woodcutting, and woodland management practices such as coppicing, pollarding and shredding that enhanced Quercus vegetative propagation, crown and stem growth. Understanding the origin and evolution of the Irano-Anatolian semi-arid oak woodlands of Southwest Asia is of critical importance for reconstructing the changing ecologies and geographical distributions of the progenitors of domesticated crop species, and the nature and scale of early agricultural impacts on the landscape.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Quaternary Science Reviews
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    ABSTRACT: Debate over the taxonomic status of the Neanderthals has been incessant since the initial discovery of the type specimens, with some arguing they should be included within our species (i.e. Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) and others believing them to be different enough to constitute their own species (Homo neanderthalensis). This synthesis addresses the process of speciation as well as incorporating information on the differences between species and subspecies, and the criteria used for discriminating between the two. It also analyses the evidence for Neanderthal–AMH hybrids, and their relevance to the species debate, before discussing morphological and genetic evidence relevant to the Neanderthal taxonomic debate. The main conclusion is that Neanderthals fulfil all major requirements for species status. The extent of interbreeding between the two populations is still highly debated, and is irrelevant to the issue at hand, as the Biological Species Concept allows for an expected amount of interbreeding between species.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
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    ABSTRACT: The popular theory that complex tool-making and language co-evolved in the human lineage rests on the hypothesis that both skills share underlying brain processes and systems. However, language and stone tool-making have so far only been studied separately using a range of neuroimaging techniques and diverse paradigms. We present the first-ever study of brain activation that directly compares active Acheulean tool-making and language. Using functional transcranial Doppler ultrasonography (fTCD), we measured brain blood flow lateralization patterns (hemodynamics) in subjects who performed two tasks designed to isolate the planning component of Acheulean stone tool-making and cued word generation as a language task. We show highly correlated hemodynamics in the initial 10 seconds of task execution. Stone tool-making and cued word generation cause common cerebral blood flow lateralization signatures in our participants. This is consistent with a shared neural substrate for prehistoric stone tool-making and language, and is compatible with language evolution theories that posit a co-evolution of language and manual praxis. In turn, our results support the hypothesis that aspects of language might have emerged as early as 1.75 million years ago, with the start of Acheulean technology.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · PLoS ONE
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