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    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.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    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.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    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.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2012 · American Journal of Physical Anthropology
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