Nicole Boivin

Nicole Boivin
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History · Department of Archaeology

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269
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Publications

Publications (269)
Article
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The high-altitude landscape of western Tibet is one of the most extreme environments in which humans have managed to introduce crop cultivation. To date, only sparse palaeoeconomic data have been reported from this region. The authors present archaeobotanical evidence from five sites (dating from the late first millennium BC and the early first mil...
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Eleusine coracana (finger millet) is a nutritious and easily storable grain that can be grown in unfavourable environments and is important to the food security of millions of farmers in Africa and South Asia. Despite its importance and promise as a sustainable crop for smallholders in the Global South, its history remains poorly understood. Eleusi...
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The initial movement of herders and livestock into the eastern steppe is of great interest, as this region has long been home to pastoralist groups. Due to a paucity of faunal remains, however, it has been difficult to discern the timing of the adoption of domesticated ruminants and horses into the region, though recent research on ancient dairying...
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The distribution of the black rat (Rattus rattus) has been heavily influenced by its association with humans. The dispersal history of this non-native commensal rodent across Europe, however, remains poorly understood, and different introductions may have occurred during the Roman and medieval periods. Here, in order to reconstruct the population h...
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Agriculture has been crucial in sustaining human populations in South Asia across dramatically variable environments for millennia. Until recently, however, the origins of this mode of subsistence in India have been discussed in terms of population migration and crop introduction, with limited focus on how agricultural packages were formulated and...
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Archaeological and palaeontological records offer tremendous yet often untapped potential for examining long-term biodiversity trends and the impact of climate change and human activity on ecosystems. Yet zooarchaeological and fossil remains suffer various limitations, including that they are often highly fragmented and morphologically unidentifiab...
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Olfaction has profoundly shaped human experience and behaviour from the deep past through to the present day. Advanced biomolecular and ‘omics’ sciences enable more direct insights into past scents, offering new options to explore critical aspects of ancient society and lifeways as well as the historical meanings of smell.
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The Oldowan represents the earliest recurrent evidence of human material culture and one of the longest-lasting forms of technology. Its appearance across the African continent amid the Plio-Pleistocene profound ecological transformations, and posterior dispersal throughout the Old World is at the foundation of hominin technological dependence. How...
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The Holocene of eastern Africa saw extreme climatic fluctuations between hyper-humid and arid conditions, which manifested differently across the region's lake basins, coastal ecotones, and terrestrial biomes. Changes to resource availability, distribution, and predictability presented different constraints and opportunities to diverse hunter-gathe...
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Archaeologists have long emphasized the importance of large-scale excavations and multi-year or even decades-long projects at a single site or site complex. Here, we highlight archaeological field strategies, termed coring, profiling, and trenching (CPT), that rely on relatively small-scale excavations or the collection of new samples from intact d...
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Unguja Ukuu, located on the Zanzibar Archipelago, eastern Africa, was an active Indian Ocean trading settlement from the mid-first millennium until the early second millennium AD. As part of recent archaeological excavations aimed at understanding the site’s transregional trade networks, geoarchaeological analyses were undertaken to document the ge...
Preprint
The origins and dispersal of the chicken across the ancient world remains one of the most enigmatic questions regarding Eurasian domesticated animals1,2. The lack of agreement regarding the timing and center of origin is due, in large part, to issues with morphological identifications, a lack of direct dating, and poor preservation of thin bird bon...
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The period from c. AD 900 to AD 1300 in southern Africa is characterized by transitions from small-scale Iron Age mixed economy communities to the beginnings of more intensive food production and eventually the emergence of complex polities. In Zambia, this coincides with the appearance of larger and more permanent agro-pastoralist villages that be...
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Novel trajectories of food production, urbanism, and inter-regional trade fueled the emergence of numerous complex Iron Age polities in central and southern Africa. Renewed research and re-dating efforts in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and along the Swahili Coast are transforming models for how inter-regional interaction spheres contributed to these pattern...
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Rice is one of the most culturally valued and widely grown crops in the world today, and extensive research over the past decade has clarified much of the narrative of its domestication and early spread across East and South Asia. However, the timing and routes of its dispersal into West Asia and Europe, through which rice eventually became an impo...
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During the Early Bronze Age, populations of the western Eurasian steppe expanded across an immense area of northern Eurasia. Combined archaeological and genetic evidence supports widespread Early Bronze Age population movements out of the Pontic–Caspian steppe that resulted in gene flow across vast distances, linking populations of Yamnaya pastoral...
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The study of faunal remains from archaeological sites is often complicated by the presence of large numbers of highly fragmented, morphologically unidentifiable bones. In Australia, this is the combined result of harsh preservation conditions and frequent scavenging by marsupial carnivores. The collagen fingerprinting method known as zooarchaeology...
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The antiquity and nature of coastal resource procurement is central to understanding human evolution and adaptations to complex environments. It has become increasingly apparent in global archaeological studies that the timing, characteristics, and trajectories of coastal resource use are highly variable. Within Africa, discussions of these issues...
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Plant wax biomarkers are an innovative proxy for reconstructing vegetation composition and structure, rainfall intensity, temperature, and other climatic and environmental dynamics. Traditionally used in earth sciences and climate studies from “off-site” ocean and lake records, biomarker research is now incorporated in archeology and paleoanthropol...
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It has been suggested that Iberian arrival in the Americas in 1492 and subsequent dramatic depopulation led to forest regrowth that had global impacts on atmospheric CO2 concentrations and surface temperatures. Despite tropical forests representing the most important terrestrial carbon stock globally, systematic examination of historical afforestat...
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Studies of modern carnivore accumulations of bone (i.e., neo-taphonomy) are crucial for interpreting fossil accumulations in the archaeological and paleontological records. Yet, studies in arid regions have been limited in both number and detailed taphonomic data, prohibiting our understanding of carnivore bone-accumulating and -modifying behavior...
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Open Access Check for updates on crossmark Research articles Collagen fingerprinting traces the introduction of caprines to island Eastern Africa Courtney Culley, Anneke Janzen, Samantha Brown, Mary E. Prendergast, Jesse Wolfhagen, Bourhane Abderemane, Abdallah K. Ali, Othman Haji, Mark C. Horton, Ceri Shipton, Jillian Swift, Tabibou A. Tabibou, He...
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The transition from hunting to herding transformed the cold, arid steppes of Mongolia and Eastern Eurasia into a key social and economic center of the ancient world, but a fragmentary archaeological record limits our understanding of the subsistence base for early pastoral societies in this key region. Organic material preserved in high mountain ic...
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The mountain foothills of inner Asia have served as a corridor of communication and exchange for at least five millennia, using historically documented trade routes such as the Silk Road and the Tea-Horse Road. Recent research has illustrated the important role that this mountain corridor played in the dispersal of crops and farming technology betw...
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The advent of Christianity in Nubia (modern Sudan) in the sixth century AD prompted a far-reaching cultural transformation, with changes in material culture, architecture, and cultural practice, marked in the funerary sphere as well. Due to its uneven hydrological conditions, Sudan has always been populated by peoples possessing diverse economic ad...
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Large-scale extinction is one of the defining challenges of our time, as human processes fundamentally and irreversibly reshape global ecosystems. While the extinction of large animals with popular appeal garners widespread public and research interest, the importance of smaller, less “charismatic” species to ecosystem health is increasingly recogn...
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Assessing past foodways, subsistence strategies, and environments depends on the accurate identification of animals in the archaeological record. The high rates of fragmentation and often poor preservation of animal bones at many archaeological sites across sub-Saharan Africa have rendered archaeofaunal specimens unidentifiable beyond broad categor...
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Today, over half of the people living in South Asia are employed in an agricultural sector that supports one of the most densely populated regions on Earth. Yet the origins of agriculture in this environmentally and culturally diverse region have received relatively little attention compared to other parts of the Old World. Narratives of agricultur...
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Nomads, or highly specialized mobile pastoralists, are prominent features in Central Asian archaeology, and they are often depicted in direct conflict with neighboring sedentary peoples. However, new archaeological findings are showing that the people who many scholars have called nomads engaged in a mixed economic system of farming and herding. Ad...
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The origin and evolution of hominin mortuary practices are topics of intense interest and debate1–3. Human burials dated to the Middle Stone Age (MSA) are exceedingly rare in Africa and unknown in East Africa1–6. Here we describe the partial skeleton of a roughly 2.5- to 3.0-year-old child dating to 78.3 ± 4.1 thousand years ago, which was recovere...
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Significance The current biodiversity crisis is often depicted as a struggle to preserve untouched habitats. Here, we combine global maps of human populations and land use over the past 12,000 y with current biodiversity data to show that nearly three quarters of terrestrial nature has long been shaped by diverse histories of human habitation and u...
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The morphological differentiation of African bovids in highly fragmented zooarchaeological assemblages is a major hindrance to reconstructing the nature and spread of pastoralism in sub-Saharan Africa. Here we employ collagen peptide mass fingerprinting, known as Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS), coupled with recently published African Z...
Preprint
Full-text available
The distribution of the black rat ( Rattus rattus ) has been heavily influenced by its association with humans. The dispersal history of this non-native commensal rodent across Europe, however, remains poorly understood, and different introductions may have occurred during the Roman and medieval periods. Here, in order to reconstruct the population...
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The Middle to Later Stone Age transition is a critical period of human behavioral change that has been variously argued to pertain to the emergence of modern cognition, substantial population growth, and major dispersals of Homo sapiens within and beyond Africa. However, there is little consensus about when the transition occurred, the geographic p...
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Despite its harsh and arid conditions, the Gobi Desert has played an important role in shaping Holocene populations , including the transition from hunting to herding lifeways. Here we present three newly documented rock art sites in the Gobi-Altai Mountains of south-central Mongolia, a cave (Gazar Agui 1), a rock shelter (Gazar Agui 13) and an ope...
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Megafaunal extinctions are recurring events that cause evolutionary ripples, as cascades of secondary extinctions and shifting selective pressures reshape ecosystems. Megafaunal browsers and grazers are major ecosystem engineers, they: keep woody vegetation suppressed; are nitrogen cyclers; and serve as seed dispersers. Most angiosperms possess set...
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Though hundreds of caves are known across Mongolia, few have been subject to systematic, interdisciplinary archaeological surveys and excavations to understand Late Pleistocene and Holocene environments. Previous cave excavations in Mongolia have demonstrated their potential for preservation of archaeological and biological material, including Pala...
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The Scythians are frequently presented, in popular and academic thought alike, as highly mobile warrior nomads who posed a great economic risk to growing Mediterranean empires from the Iron Age into the Classical period. Archaeological studies provide evidence of first millennium BCE urbanism in the steppe while historical texts reference steppe ag...
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This paper situates Eastern Africa in the early maritime trade of the Indian Ocean, reviewing evidence for connections from Egypt and Red Sea, the Gulf, and Southeast Asia from prehistory to the Islamic Period. The region played a pivotal role in developing global networks, but we argue that it has become the “forgotten south” in an era of emerging...
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The ‘Wet Tropics’ of Australia host a unique variety of plant lineages that trace their origins to the super-continent of Gondwanaland. While these ‘ancient’ evolutionary records are rightly emphasised in current management of the region, multidisciplinary research and lobbying by Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples have also demonstrated the significanc...
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Consuming the milk of other species is a unique adaptation of Homo sapiens, with implications for health, birth spacing and evolution. Key questions nonetheless remain regarding the origins of dairying and its relationship to the genetically-determined ability to drink milk into adulthood through lactase persistence (LP). As a major centre of LP di...
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As our planet emerges into a new epoch in which humans dominate the Earth system, it is imperative that societies initiate a new phase of responsible environmental stewardship. Here we argue that information from the past has a valuable role to play in enhancing the sustainability and resilience of our societies. We highlight the ways that past dat...
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Non-human primates are among the most vulnerable tropical animals to extinction and ~50% of primate species are endangered. Human hunting is considered a major cause of increasingly ‘empty forests’, yet archaeological data remains under-utilised in testing this assertion over the longer-term. Zooarchaeological datasets allow investigation of human...
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Rapid environmental change is a catalyst for human evolution, driving dietary innovations, habitat diversification, and dispersal. However, there is a dearth of information to assess hominin adaptions to changing physiography during key evolutionary stages such as the early Pleistocene. Here we report a multiproxy dataset from Ewass Oldupa, in the...
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The aim of this study is to present the anthracological results from three archaeological sites located in the North, North West and South East of Sri Lanka. The study is based on the observation and analysis of 1689 charcoal fragments using for support the reference collection of South Indian wood at the Institute of Archaeology ( UCL), Inside Woo...
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Significance This study provides insights into the emergence and adoption of equestrian technologies in China. Analysis of ancient horse bones from Shirenzigou and Xigou in eastern Xinjiang demonstrates that pastoralists along China’s northwest frontier practiced horseback riding and mounted archery by the fourth century BCE. This region may have p...
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Historically, agricultural and culinary traditions on the Tibetan Plateau have centered on a specific variety of naked frost-tolerant barley. Single-crop-dominant cultivation systems were rare in the ancient world, and we know little about how, why, and exactly when and where this unique barley-dominant economy developed. Previous research has show...
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The Eastern Eurasian Steppe was home to historic empires of nomadic pastoralists, including the Xiongnu and the Mongols. However, little is known about the region’s population history. Here, we reveal its dynamic genetic history by analyzing new genome-wide data for 214 ancient individuals spanning 6,000 years. We identify a pastoralist expansion i...
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The emergence of agriculture in Central Africa has previously been associated with the migration of Bantu-speaking populations during an anthropogenic or climate-driven ‘opening’ of the rainforest. However, such models are based on assumptions of environmental requirements of key crops (e.g. Pennisetum glaucum) and direct insights into human dietar...
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Museum collections not only provide educational tools for the public, but also reference material for osteological research and baseline information for understanding historical population dynamics and food webs. Such applications are only possible, however, with accurate identifications of museum osteological specimens, which is sometimes challeng...
Preprint
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Environmental change is key for human evolution, especially at times of anatomical and behavioral change in life histories, such as the origin of meat consumption, economic diversification, and dispersal. However, for the earliest phase of human evolution featuring the technology-dependent hominins that shaped our lineage since 2.6 Ma, the Oldowan,...
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Ecosystem engineering is an innovative concept that recognizes that organisms impact their environment, and that these changes can be detected over time. Thus, additional datasets from the ecological longue durée are necessary, specifically in response to the onset of the Anthropocene and the impacts of humans and their commensal organisms upon eco...
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Africa hosts the greatest human genetic diversity globally, but legacies of ancient population interactions and dispersals across the continent remain understudied. Here, we report genome-wide data from 20 ancient sub-Saharan African individuals, including the first reported ancient DNA from the DRC, Uganda, and Botswana. These data demonstrate the...
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Archaeologists contend that it was our aptitude for symbolic, technological, and social behaviors that was central to Homo sapiens rapidly expanding across the majority of Earth’s continents during the Late Pleistocene. This expansion included movement into extreme environments and appears to have resulted in the displacement of numerous archaic hu...
Preprint
Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectromtery (ZooMS) allows for taxonomic identification by the peptide mass fingerprinting of collagen type I. This protocol combines an EDTA based pretreatment, a SP3 (single-pot, solid-phase-enhanced) protein extraction, and a peptide purification (both ZipTips and StageTips have been used and are provided as options) to p...