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The human cranium from the Peştera Cioclovina Uscată, Romania



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The Human Cranium from the Pes¸tera
Cioclovina Uscata˘, Romania
Context, Age, Taphonomy, Morphology, and
Andrei Soficaru,Catalin Petrea,Adrian Dobos¸, and
Erik Trinkaus
Institutul de Antropologie “Fr. J. Rainel,” Eroii Sanitari 8,
P.O. Box 35-13, 76241 Bucures¸ti, Romania / Institutul de
Speologie “Emil Racovit¸a,” str. Calea 13 Septembrie nr. 13,
50711 Bucures¸ti, Romania / Institutul de Arheologie “Vasile
Paˆrvan,” Henri Coanda˘ 8, Sector 1, 010667 Bucures¸ti, Ro-
mania / Department of Anthropology, Campus Box 1114,
Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, U.S.A.
( 15 I 07
Reanalysis and direct dating of an early modern human neu-
rocranium from the Pes¸tera Cioclovina Uscata˘ (Cioclovina
1), in combination with excavation and reanalysis of the re-
maining deposits in the cave, establish Cioclovina 1 as one
of a small number of European early modern humanssecurely
dated prior to ca. 28,000
C BP (ca. 32,500 cal BP). The
original stratigraphic context and archeological association of
Cioclovina 1 are unknown (and probably unknowable), but
sedimentological analysis and dating of cave bear remains
suggests substantial Late Pleistocene geological reworking of
deposits within the cave, which probably altered its context
prior to the mining operations which unearthed the neuro-
cranium. The otherwise excellent (if incomplete) preservation
of Cioclovina 1 raises questions as to what, if any, human
behaviors resulted in its burial within the Pes¸tera Cioclovina
Uscata˘. Lesions are limited to the minor exocranial traumatic
changes common among Late Pleistocene humans. Morpho-
logically, Cioclovina 1 presents a suite of distinctive, derived
modern human neurocranial features, associated with aspects
of the superior nuchal morphology best known for European
Neandertals, a mosaic pattern increasingly in evidence among
early modern humans in Europe.
Our understanding of the spread of early modern humans
into Europe during oxygen isotope stage (OIS) 3 has been
revised in the past decade as the application of direct radi-
ocarbon dating to human remains purportedly from the crit-
ical time period has removed several samples from the Pleis-
tocene (Hahno¨fersand, Velika Pec´ ina, Vogelherd), assigned
other remains to later phases of the Late Pleistocene (e.g.,
Cro-Magnon, La Rochette, Zlaty´ku˚n), and provided secure
2007 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
All rights reserved. 0011-3204/2007/4804-0008$10.00
early ages for additional specimens (e.g., Mladecˇ, Pes¸tera cu
Oase, Pes¸tera Muierii) (Trinkaus et al. 2003; Wild et al. 2005;
Trinkaus 2005; Soficaru, Dobos¸, and Trinkaus 2006). One of
the important specimens is a largely complete human neu-
rocranium from the Pes¸tera Cioclovina Uscata˘ (Cioclovina
Dry Cave), Bos¸orod, Hunedoara County, Romania (4535
N, 2307E). Traditionally assigned to the Aurignacian (Rai-
ner and Simionescu 1942; Necrasov and Cristescu 1965), the
Cioclovina human neurocranium (fig. 1) has variably been
included in considerations of early modern humans in
The Pes¸tera Cioclovina Uscata˘ is a 2,002-m-long fossil karstic
cave gallery (fig. 1). It is the superior part of a 7.8-km-long
karstic system, the Ponorici Cioclovina, and served during
the Pleistocene principally as a hibernation cave for Ursus
spelaeus. It has been known and variably described since the
1880s, and karstic geological and vertebrate paleontological
work has been conducted intermittently (Breban et al. 2003;
see also Caˆrciumaru 1999; Pa˘unescu 2001). Sometime before
1911 a human cranium was purported to have been found
within the cave associated with U. spelaeus crania; the human
specimen was never located, but the report prompted M.
Roska to undertake archeological excavations in the cave in
1911 and 1921 (Roska 1923, 1930a). Roska and subsequent
excavators of the deposits unearthed samples of techno-
typologically Mousterian and Aurignacian lithics. However,
the excavations consisted of a series of widely dispersed
soundings, the stratigraphic relationships of the lithic remains
are uncertain, and most of the pieces were assigned to one
of these technotypological complexes on the basis of individ-
ual piece attributes rather than assemblage composition (Pa˘u-
nescu 2001). The principal remains within the cave are those
of U. spelaeus, with rare remains of U. arctos,Canis lupus,
Panthera spelaea, and Capra ibex (Ra˘dulescu and Samson
1959; Pa˘unescu 2001). It therefore has the faunal profile of
a cave bear hibernation site that was occasionally used as a
den by brown bear and wolf. As with a number of cave sites
in the Carpathians (Pa˘unescu 1980, 1989, 2001; Caˆrciumaru
and Dobrescu 1997), the presence of human activity at the
Pes¸tera Cioclovina was probably minor.
In 1940–41 the cave was exploited for phosphates by the
Societatea Nitrogen, and in the process, as reported by Sim-
ionescu (1942), a partial human cranium was recognized by
workmen and placed with guano, three lithic artifacts, and
animal bones in a mining cart, where the team’s engineer
identified it as of interest. It was subsequently claimed to have
come from a sealed layer of Sector 1 of the exploitation, which
also yielded the three artifacts along with crania and vertebrae
of U. spelaeus (Rainer and Simionescu 1942). There is no
documentation of the original positions of these remains, and
there is no factual basis for using the artifacts or any specific
612 Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 4, August 2007
Figure 1. Plan of the primary paleontological and archeological portions
of the Pes¸tera Cioclovina Uscata˘, showing possible but unconfirmed lo-
cation of the original position of the Cioclovina 1 neurocranium, loca-
tions of the excavations by Roska in 1911 and 1921, and locations of the
recent excavation by C. Petrea (1) and the source of the Ursus spelaeus
radiocarbon samples (2). The gray area indicates the presence of U.
spelaeus remains. Plan modified from one by C. S. Protheus Hunedoara.
U. spelaeus remains to date or provide a technotypological
context for the cranium.
An association with U. spelaeus provides little chronological
control other than a Late Pleistocene age. The three artifacts
(a blade with denticulate retouch, a blade with fine retouch,
and a subtriangular flake) are commonly referred to the Au-
rignacian but are undiagnostic and too few to permit a tech-
notypological attribution. There are a number of other arti-
facts from the cave, and similarly their exact proveniences are
not known, but some 20 have been consistently attributed to
the Aurignacian (Roska 1923, 1930b; Breuil 1925; Pa˘unescu
2001; Dobrescu 2004). It is also unclear from which of the
chambers of the cave the human fossil derived. One can only
infer that it must have been found in an area where there
was a significant guano layer. Roska’s (1923) description of
the stratigraphic sequence in Sala Mare contains no mention
of such a deposit, so presumably the cranium came from a
different portion of the cave. For these reasons, even though
it has traditionally been attributed to the early Upper Paleo-
lithic (Rainer and Simionescu 1942; Necrasov 1971), others
(e.g., Churchill and Smith 2000) have pointed to the need for
a secure archeological context and/or a direct radiometric age
prior to the integration of the specimen into the European
early modern human sample.
In an effort to assess the ages of the cave’s deposits and the
important remains, geological work was undertaken by one
of us (CP) in 2004 on one of its few remaining intact sedi-
mentological profiles. This profile is a 4-m-high alternation
of siltic-clay beds (matrix support) with ruditic beds (grain
support, intraspeleic limestone clasts), indicating alternating
low- and high-energy hydraulic transport of sediments in the
cave as a result of climate change. Comparison of preliminary
magnetic susceptibility data with the reference section devel-
oped for cave sediments from southern Europe (Ellwood et
al. 1998, 2001) suggests that its upper portion contains sed-
iments deposited during the last glacial maximum (OIS 2).
A fibula of U. spelaeus from the upper part of the profile
(50–60 cm below datum) was radiocarbon-dated to ca.
C BP (table 1). Its d
C and C : N values are
well within acceptable ranges (see below), and its percent
collagen yield is relatively high for Late Pleistocene bone,
providing confidence in its age. A second U. spelaeus specimen
from 65–80 cm below datum yielded a date of ca.
C BP; its collagen yield is lower, but both the
yield and the associated d
C and C : N values are within
acceptable ranges. The substantial difference between the
Table 1. Radiocarbon Dating Results for Cioclovina 1 and Ursus spelaeus from 2004 Excavations at the
Pes¸tera Cioclovina Uscata˘
C yrs. BP)
(cal yrs. BP)
(mg) %C
%Nmg %
Cioclovina 1 temporal (LuA-5229) 29,000 700 33,726 1,132 – 536
Cioclovina 1 occipital (OxA-15527) 28,510 170 33,212 693 19.6 3.4 680 40.4 5.9 6.3 44.4 15.9
Ursus spelaeus fibula (OxA-15528) 31,700 190 36,667 261 20.4 3.3 1,400 173.0 12.4 6.0 43.6 15.0
U. spelaeus metapodial (OxA-16328) 40,550 600 44,237 710 20.3 3.2 680 25.6 3.8 5.3 42.4 15.3
Sources: Olariu et al. (2005), A. Olariu (personal communication), and this study.
Based on CalPal ( version 1.4 (May 2006).
Ultrafiltered gelatin yield.
Gelatin combusted for graphitization.
On combustion.
probable OIS 2 age of the deposits and the ages of the bear
bones indicates transport of the bones after the animals’
deaths. Consequently, even if we could identify the original
location and stratigraphic context of the human remains, it
is likely that they were in a secondary position within the
Two separate efforts have been made to date the Cioclovina
1 specimen directly. In 2001 a sample of the external right
mastoid process was taken by A. Olariu and E. Alexandrescu
and provided a date of
C BP (LuA-5229) (Pa˘-29,000 700
nescu 2005; Olariu et al. 2005) (table 1). This date was suf-
ficient to confirm the Late Pleistocene age of Cioclovina 1,
but the absence of associated chemistry and the large error
value limited its utility. It was therefore decided to redate the
specimen using ultrafiltration pretreatment (Higham et al.
2006; Higham, Jacobi, and Bronk Ramsey 2006) rather than
the standard HCI extraction. A small piece of the posterior
left foramen magnum border (lateral of opisthion and du-
plicating the preserved right side) that had become detached
in storage was taken with the permission of T. Neagu and
submitted to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. The
median value of the OxA-15527 date of
CBP28,510 170
is slightly more recent than LuA-5229, but, given the large
standard deviation on LuA-5229, the two dates are statistically
in agreement (table 1). Moreover, the d
C value for OxA-
15527 falls in the middle of the acceptable range for bone,
and its C : N ratio is within the acceptable range of 2.9 to 3.5
for well-preserved bone (Bronk Ramsey et al. 2004). The per-
cent collagen weight is moderate for bone, but the collagen
and nitrogen burnweights are acceptable.
The Cioclovina 1 neurocranium is therefore firmly dated
to OIS 3. As such, it joins the Pes¸tera cu Oase (Trinkaus et
al. 2003, 2005a, 2006; Rougier et al. 2007), Pes¸tera Muierii
(Soficaru, Dobos¸, and Trinkaus 2006), and Mladecˇ (Wild et
al. 2005) human remains as one of a small number of di-
agnostic and directly dated early modern human samples
from Europe prior to ca. 28,000
C BP. Although it is similar
in age to the later stages of the Aurignacian in southeastern
Europe (Chirica, Borziac, and Chetraru 1996; Dobrescu
2004), it may also overlap the beginning of the Gravettian in
the same region (Chirica 1989; Caˆrciumaru 1999).
It is not clear how the Cioclovina 1 neurocranium came to
be contained within the principally ursid context of the Pes¸-
tera Cioclovina Uscata˘ . Considering its discovery during min-
ing operations purportedly from a sealed level with cave-bear
remains, it is unusual in its preservation (figs. 2 and 3). The
external vault shows little or no abrasion, and there is no
carnivore damage to the bone. The postmortem damage to
the cranium consists of loss of the facial skeleton and zygo-
matic arches, erosion of the tips of the mastoid processes,
and loss of portions of the basicranium. With respect to the
last, the posterior orbital roofs are absent, the medial petrous
processes are incomplete, and the basioccipital is lacking. Yet,
greater wings of the sphenoid bones are present, and the
sphenoid body is largely present with a portion of the vomer.
The fragile superior ethmoid bone with the cribiform plate
remains, along with most of the posterior margin of the fo-
ramen magnum. Moreover, both frontozygomatic sutures are
preserved without abrasion, and the superior 10 mm of the
nasal bones remain along the intact nasofrontal and fronto-
maxillary sutures.
There is a series of cracks through the middle of the right
parietal bone, centered around a depressed section of bone
close to the sagittal suture and radiating onto adjacent bones.
This damage has been interpreted (Ullrich 1979, 2005) as the
result of perimortem violence. However, there is no mention
of the damage in the original publication of Rainer and Sim-
ionescu (1942), even though they mentioned the other exo-
cranial lesions (see below), and Rainer was an experienced
anatomist, pathologist, and skeletal biologist. Moreover, the
original photographs show no evidence of the damage.
It remains uncertain how complete the remains of Cio-
clovina 1 were when they were deposited in the cave, whether
614 Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 4, August 2007
Figure 2. The Cioclovina 1 neurocranium in norma lateralis left. Scale in
the individual succumbed within or near the cave, and
whether it was initially in the superficial deposits of the cave
or buried. Interestingly, although intentional burials are now
unknown from the European Aurignacian (Henry-Gambier
2002), there are three karstic caves in Europe (Mladecˇ, Pes¸tera
cu Oase, and Pes¸tera Muierii) in which directly dated human
remains from this time period have been found on or near
the surface (Gheorghiu and Haas 1954; Svoboda 2000; Zilha˜o
et al. n.d.). As is suggested by Svoboda (2000) for Mladecˇ, it
is possible that these represent intentional disposals of human
remains, subsequently displaced within the caves by geological
processes. Could the pattern of preservation of the Cioclovina
1 neurocranium be the result of such a disposal of remains?
Unfortunately, the circumstances of discovery of the Mladecˇ,
Muierii, and Cioclovina remains, the clear intrakarstic hy-
draulic transport of the Oase remains, and the probable hy-
draulic displacement of Cioclovina 1 make it impossible to
test this hypothesis.
The Cioclovina 1 neurocranium has been described from the
beginning as that of an early modern human, with an age-
at-death probably in the fourth decade based on extensive
fusion but not obliteration of the cranial vault sutures. Rainer
and Simionescu (1942) suggested that it might be female, an
attribution often repeated (Necrasov and Cristescu 1965; Ni-
cola˘escu-Plops¸or 1968) but also questioned (Smith 1984;
Churchill and Smith 2000). The prominent superciliary arches
and large (if damaged) mastoid processes of Cioclovina 1,
especially with respect to presumed females such as Mladecˇ
1 and 2 and Muierii 1 (Wolpoff, Frayer, and Jelı´nek 2006;
Soficaru, Dobos¸, and Trinkaus 2006), suggest that a diagnosis
as female may not be accurate, although the specimen is less
robust than presumed males such as Mladecˇ 5 and 6 (Frayer
et al. 2006). Similarly, given the large estimation errors for
age assessment from sutural fusion (Meindl and Lovejoy
1985), its age-at-death is probably best considered as mature
but not geriatric.
Osteometrics and some morphological details have been
provided by Rainer and Simionescu (1942) and further data
will be published elsewhere. However, a few salient morpho-
logical characteristics can be mentioned here.
The supraorbital region (figs. 3 and 4) presents prominent
superciliary arches which extend laterally to slightly lateral of
the supraorbital foramina, with a slight depression above gla-
bella. There is no evidence of a sulcus separating them from
the lateral trigone, but each side has a distinct concavity above
the lateral orbital margin between the orbital margin, the
temporal crest, and the lateral superciliary arch. Nasion is
anteriorly prominent relative to the frontozygomatic sutures.
Figure 3. The Cioclovina 1 neurocranium in approximate norma frontalis
(left) and norma occipitalis (right). Scale in centimeters.
Figure 4. Supraorbital (above) and occipital (below) details of the Cio-
clovina 1 neurocranium.
616 Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 4, August 2007
Cioclovina 1 therefore lacks a full supraorbital torus and has
the pattern of superciliary arch development seen in Mladecˇ
5 and male Gravettian specimens (e.g., Cro-Magnon 3, Dolnı´
Veˇstonice 16, Pavlov 1, Prˇedmostı´ 3, Sunghir 1). Although
approached by Mladecˇ 1 in supraorbital development, it has
greater superciliary arch and glabellar projection than Mladecˇ
2, Muierii 1, and the (albeit adolescent) Oase 2 cranium.
The neurocranial vault is relatively high and rounded, with
strongly and evenly curved frontal, parietal, and occipital sag-
ittal contours (fig. 2). There is a modest change of curvature
near lambda with an associated posterior protrusion of the
superior occipital squamous; this is the configuration referred
to by Smith (1984) as a hemi-bun. However, it is smaller than
the full occipital buns (indicated by a strong change in cur-
vature near lambda and/or a distinct protrusion of the squa-
mous occipital) evident in Mladecˇ 3 and 5 and Muierii 1
(Frayer et al. 2006; Minugh-Purvis, Viola, and Teschler-Nicola
2006; Soficaru, Dobos¸, and Trinkaus 2006), as well as Cro-
Magnon 3 (Broca 1868). The nuchal plane has semispinalis
capitis fossae which meet at the midline, with a clear midline
crest along most of the nuchal plane. The juxtamastoid em-
inences are on the occipital bone and project little beyond
the surface of the nuchal plane.
The temporal bones (fig. 2) resemble those of recenthuman
males, with laterally and (originally) inferiorly prominent
mastoid processes, high and rounded squamous sutures with
posteroinferiorly sloping parietomastoid sutures, a vertically
oriented auditory porous, and the zygomatic root above the
porous. The laterally rugose mastoid processes lack anterior
tubercles and have straight anterior and posterior margins.
There are prominent supramastoid crests, and the tempo-
rozygomatic sulcus slopes markedly anteroinferiorly. The
postglenoid processes are barely perceptible, and the glenoid
fossae are deep, with vertical anterior surfaces.
These features combine to give Cioclovina 1 a coronal out-
line in norma occipitalis (fig. 3) that is largely rounded across
the sagittal suture, has rounded angles at the prominent pa-
rietal bosses, continues vertically with minor irregularities
across the squamous sutures to the supramastoid regions, and
ends with the prominent mastoid processes. This coronal pro-
file contrasts with both the ovoid forme en bombe of most
Neandertals and the more pentagonal forme en maison of
many modern humans (see Hublin 1983); it is also found on
Muierii 1, Oase 2, and possibly Mladecˇ 2, whereas at least
Mladecˇ 5 has the forme en maison pattern.
In the context of this morphologically modern human neu-
rocramial pattern, the region of the superior nuchal line pres-
ents an unusual pattern for a modern human (figs. 3 and 4).
There is no external occipital protuberance, eventhough there
is a small, nonprojecting triangular area below the nuchal
lines resulting from the confluence of the superior nuchal
lines and the midline crest between the semispinalis capitis
insertions. There is a modest but clear rounded nuchal torus
that extends primarily across the middle half of the occipital
bone, fading out laterally near the lateral extents of the semi-
spinalis capitis fossae. The nuchal line is moderately promi-
nent across the full occipital bone from asterion to asterion,
and it lies to a large extent on the nuchal torus instead of
inferior to it. Above the midline nuchal torus there is a shallow
but distinct, irregularly rugose, transversely oval depression
ca. 34 mm wide and ca. 14.5 mm high—a suprainiac fossa
morphologically similar to and contrasting only in depth with
those found universally on Neandertal occipital bones. It is
distinct from the supranuchal fossa (Sla´dek 2000) found on
Mladecˇ 5 and a number of Gravettian specimens (Frayer et
al. 2006), which is a triangular depression bounded inferiorly
by elevated nuchal lines curving inferiorly toward a prominent
external occipital protuberance. It also contrasts with the
smoother iniac regions of Mladecˇ 1 and 3, Muierii 1, and
Oase 2 (Wolpoff, Frayer, and Jelı´nek 2006; Minugh-Purvis,
Viola, and Teschler-Nicola 2006; Rougier et al. 2007).
The combination of three of these features—absence of a
distinct occipital protuberance, a modest nuchal torus limited
to the medial half of the occipital bone, and a transversely
oval suprainiac fossa—is principally found on Neandertal cra-
nia, absent from Middle Paleolithic modern humans, and
rarely found on other contemporaneous or older human cra-
nia (Hublin 1978; Santa Luca 1978; Trinkaus 2004). Cio-
clovina 1 contrasts with Neandertals in this anatomical region
principally in that the superior nuchal line is relatively prom-
inent and traverses the nuchal torus. However,if one separates
out the two complexes (suprainiac fossa, nuchal torus, and
external occipital protuberance, on the one hand, and the size
and position of the superior nachal lines, on the other), it is
apparent that Cioclovina 1 shares the former with the Nean-
dertals and the latter with early modern humans. Distin-
guishing the Cioclovia 1 suprainiac fossa complex from the
Neandertal range of variation would be possible only if one
applied different criteria to Neandertal versus modern human
The Cioclovina 1 cranium provides evidence of antemortem
trauma in the form of two shallow depressions on the external
frontal squamous portion. One of them is ca. 12 mm in
diameter centered 52 mm above nasion just to the right of
the midline, and the other is ca. 9 mm in diameter 52 mm
above right superior orbital margin and 7 mm medial of the
temporal line; both were noted by Rainer and Simionescu
(1942). They are limited to the external table, healed long
before death, and similar to lesions common on Late Pleis-
tocene human crania (Berger and Trinkaus 1995; Trinkaus et
al. 2005b; Frayer et al. 2006). It is unclear whether these minor
injuries were the result of interpersonal violence (see Walker
1997), hunting (see Berger and Trinkaus 1995), or incidental
accidents. Independent of their origin, they would not have
affected the individual once healed.
Given the fortuitous discovery of the human cranium, the
nature of previous archeological and paleontological work in
the cave, and the dearth of undisturbed sediments remaining,
we will probably never know how the human remains came
to be preserved in the cave. However, several aspects have
been clarified by recent work.
The human cranium is securely dated to between 28,000
and 29,000
C BP. This brackets it between the Mladecˇ and
Muierii remains and the Cro-Magnon sample. It is possible
the Cioclovina 1 postdates the primary hibernation period
for the bears, but it remains untestable whether human or
geological processes were responsible for the introduction of
the human remains into the karstic system.
The specimen is of an early modern human adult of un-
certain sex. The overall morphological pattern of the specimen
is similar to that of earlier Upper Paleolithic modern humans
from Europe, but its superior nuchal region has distinctly
Neandertal-like aspects. This combination of principally
modern human features with archaic morphological aspects
is becoming increasingly evident among early modern hu-
mans across Eurasia. The human remains from Pes¸tera cu
Oase (Trinkaus et al. 2003; Rougier et al. 2007), Pes¸tera Mui-
erii (Soficaru, Dobos¸, and Trinkaus 2006), Mladecˇ (Frayer et
al. 2006; Wolpoff, Frayer, and Jelı´nek 2006; Minugh-Purvis,
Viola, and Teschler-Nicola 2006), and Les Rois (Vallois 1958)
present a variable morphological mosaic that is difficult to
explain as a simple OIS 3 expansion of modern human pop-
ulations derived solely from those of Middle Paleolithic East
Africa and extreme southwestern Asia. Although overwhelm-
ingly presenting derived modern human features (Trinkaus
2006), these remains (now joined by Cioclovina 1) present a
variable sprinkling of traits that are either distinctly Nean-
dertal-like, generally archaic Homo features that had been lost
in the Middle Paleolithic modern human sample, or unusual
in either potentially ancestral sample (potentially descendant
groups and more recent Paleolithic specimens are irrelevant).
This mosaic is most parsimoniously explained as the result
of a modest level of admixture with Neandertals as modern
humans dispersed across Europe. Given the reproductive
compatibility of many closely related species (Jolly 2001; Hol-
liday 2006) and the culturally mediated nature of mate choice
in humans, such admixture should be neither rare nor un-
expected. Moreover, current analyses of recent (Templeton
2005; Evans et al. 2006; Garrigan and Hammer 2006) and
ancient (Serre et al. 2004; Zilha˜o 2006; Noonan et al. 2006)
human DNA support and/or permit such a level of admixture
in the Late Pleistocene. The morphological patterning of these
European early modern human fossils is beginning to doc-
ument such populational interactions.
The 2004 excavation in the Pes¸tera Cioclovina was undertaken
by CP through the auspices of the Institutul de Speologie
“Emil Racovit¸a,” Academia Romaˆna˘. The reanalysis and direct
dating of Cioclovina 1 was made possible by T. Neagu and
funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation (grant 7290) and the
National Science Foundation (BCS-0509072). A. Olariu pro-
vided the available limited data on the original dating of the
Cioclovina 1 specimen. To all of them we are grateful.
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... This is an important issue, because recent genetic studies have indicated a DNA exchange between Neandertals and Palaeolithic Homo sapiens as well as between them and Denisovans (whose cranial morphology is currently unknown) (see [56]). Additionally, in the literature, examples of possible hybrids between the above-mentioned types of hominins have been proposed (e.g. the cranial remains Cioclovina 1, Oase 2, and Muierii 1, thought of as belonging to Homo sapiens but exhibiting some Neandertal traits, including occipital fossae; see [11,57]). However, to date the internal structure of their occipital depressions is unknown and the assumption of their Neandertal origin is based only on external morphology. ...
... This is an important issue, because recent genetic studies have indicated a DNA exchange between Neandertals and Palaeolithic Homo sapiens as well as between them and Denisovans (whose cranial morphology is currently unknown) (see [56]). Additionally, in the literature, examples of possible hybrids between the above-mentioned types of hominins have been proposed (e.g. the cranial remains Cioclovina 1, Oase 2, and Muierii 1, thought of as belonging to Homo sapiens but exhibiting some Neandertal traits, including occipital fossae; see [11,57]). However, to date the internal structure of their occipital depressions is unknown and the assumption of their Neandertal origin is based only on external morphology. ...
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Although recently the internal structure of the non-supranuchal fossa of Homo sapiens has been described and compared to that observed in the Neandertal suprainiac fossa, until now it has not been examined in any modern human children. In this study, the internal structure of this fossa in the occipital bones of three children (two aged 3‒4 years and one aged 5 years ± 16 months) and one adult individual representing recent Homo sapiens from Australia was analysed and compared to that of the Neandertal suprainiac fossa. In order to analyse the internal composition of the fossae of the examined specimens, initially, high-resolution micro-CT datasets were obtained for their occipital bones; next, 3D topographic maps of the variation in thickness of structural layers of the occipital bones were made and 2D virtual sections in the median region of these fossae were prepared. In the fossa of one immature individual, the thinning of the diploic layer characteristic of a Neandertal suprainiac fossa was firmly diagnosed. The other Neandertal-like trait, concerning the lack of substantial thinning of the external table of the bone in the region of the fossa, was established in two individuals (one child and one adult) due to the observation of an irregular pattern of the thickness of this table in the other specimens, suggesting the presence of an inflammatory process. Our study presents, for the first time, Neandertal-like traits (but not the whole set of features that justifies the autapomorphic status of the Neandertal supraniac fossa) in the internal structure of non-supranuchal fossae of some recent Homo sapiens. We discuss the phylogenetic implications of the results of our analysis and stress the reasons that use of the 3D topographic mapping method is important for the correct diagnosis of Neandertal traits of the internal structure of occipital fossae.
... Had the cranium undergone long-distance, detrital transport, erosion would be generalized and not limited to certain restricted areas. However, the abrasion of prominent/restricted areas, such as facial or supraorbital regions, has been observed in other human crania with the absence of biological modifications, such as anthropogenic or carnivore actors, and intrinsically related to sedimentary processes (Soficaru, Petrea, Dobos, & Trinkaus, 2007;Zilhão et al., 2007). In the Oase 2 cranium, the contrasting states of preservation of the abraded regions of the nasal and supraorbital areas and the well preserved fragile areas are explained (Zilhão et al., 2007) by the presence of soft tissue that protected the brittle areas, together with the face-down displacement of the skull. ...
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Objectives The aim of this work is to describe the taphonomic signatures of the Aroeira 3 cranium, with a specific focus on cranial breakage, comparing the cranium with other Middle and Upper Pleistocene hominin fossils in order to approximate the cause of death and the biological agencies and geologic processes involved in the taphonomic record of this specimen. Aroeira‐3 was recovered from Acheulean layer X of Gruta da Aroeira (Portugal), dated to 390–436 ka. Materials and methods Taphonomic analyses noted surface modifications employing standard methods. The cranial breakage pattern of Aroeira 3 was analyzed to assess the presence/absence of perimortem (fresh bone) and postmortem (dry bone) fractures and the possible causes of perimortem skull bone fractures. Results Aroeira 3 presents substantial bone loss of the left supraorbital arch and the outer cranial table of the frontal squama. Most of the fractures present features consistent with postmortem injuries. The fracture to the posterior region of the parietal bone, however, displays features more usually present in perimortem bone fractures. No evidence of anthropogenic activity or of carnivore modification has been identified. None of the expected features of interpersonal conflict are observed. Finally, the bone loss in the frontal squama and the supraorbital arch could be attributed to different agencies, and a traumatic event cannot be totally ruled out as origin of the bone alteration. Discussion Cannibalism, secondary treatment of the corpse and accumulation induced by carnivores can all be discarded, making an accident the most plausible explanation for the cranial fracture.
... This techno-complex has been identified across an area as large as the Northern European Plain where no contemporaneous Early Aurignacian occupations have yet been discovered (Flas, 2006(Flas, , 2011. The oldest directly dated occurrence of early anatomically modern humans in Europe currently comes from Peştera cu Oase in Romania at ca. 35,000 BP (Trinkaus et al., 2003) with examples of AMH remains from other European sites having been directly AMS dated to around 32,000 BP (Wild et al., 2005;Soficaru et al., 2006Soficaru et al., , 2007Henry-Gambier & Sacchi, 2008;Prat et al., 2011). No clear chronological overlap between Neandertals and modern human populations in Europe is therefore perceptible based solely on the direct AMS dating of human fossils. ...
... Traces of humans and human activity (i.e., the Neanderthal footprint of Vârtop Cave dated at *62,000 years; the remains and traces of Homo sapiens dated between ca. 35,000 and 30,000 years in Oase, Ciur Izbuc, Muierii, and Cioclovina caves; the rock art of Coliboaia Cave, one of the oldest in Europe dated at *32,000 years, etc.) (Boroneanţ 2000;Trinkaus et al. 2003;Onac et al. 2005;Soficaru et al. 2007;Alexandrescu et al. 2010;Clottes et al. 2012;Webb et al. 2014) and bones of large mammals that went extinct around 25,000 years ago (Robu 2015(Robu , 2016 can be seen as duplications or authentic artifacts in some of the show caves or in adjacent museums. ...
From prehistoric times, caves have been used as shelters and places for cultural, religious, and ceremonial manifestation. There is no ancient culture that does not mention in its history at least once “the afterlife,” “the other world,” or “the underground world.” Starting with the eighteenth century, cave exploration and research began to reveal the subterranean beauty in all its elements: geology, biology, paleontology, archeology, and hydrology. In the last century, people started to use the caves for touristic purposes. Over the past decades, the concept of sustainable use of natural and cultural heritage has been introduced in show caves management to protect and preserve their heritage for future generations. In Romania, more than 12,500 caves have been discovered and explored. The first cave that opened its gates for tourism was Meziad Cave in 1903. Today, Romania has seventeen show caves, all included into a national protected area network. Apuseni Mountains and South Carpathians host most of the show caves of Romania, seven and eight, respectively. In these caves, the visitor has the opportunity to explore the ancient history of Europe and the today’s beautiful subterranean landscapes. Some show caves (i.e., Muierii, Ungurului, Meziad) are emblematic for the distant past, with traces of human activities or skeletal remains ranging in age from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic. Scărișoara Ice Cave allows the visitors to discover one of the world’s largest and oldest ice blocks, whereas Urșilor Cave is known for its important fossil assemblages, among which a cave bear skeleton in anatomic connection that is ca. 40,000 years old. All show caves of Romania host peculiar fauna and unique landscapes, and discovering their natural and cultural heritage while enjoying the beauty of the natural protected areas that host them is an experience worth taking.
... Perhaps the best-researched area of early Upper Paleolithic archaeology in the Carpathian Basin is the Banat-a historical region shared by western Romania, northwestern Serbia and southeastern Hungary, where open plains, marshes and karstic mountains coexist in close proximity (Tasić et al. 2011). Here, stratified Aurignacian sites are found close, spatially and temporally, to the multiple welldated early human remains at the Peștera cu Oase (Trinkaus et al. 2003(Trinkaus et al. , 2012, as well as further afield in the southeastern Carpathian Basin at Muierii and Cioclovina (Alexandrescu et al. 2010;Harvati et al. 2007;Soficaru et al. 2006Soficaru et al. , 2007Trinkaus et al. 2009). ...
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Early Upper Paleolithic sites in the Danube catchment have been put forward as evidence that the river was an important conduit for modern humans during their initial settlement of Europe. Central to this model is the Carpathian Basin, a region covering most of the Middle Danube. As the archaeological record of this region is still poorly understood, this paper aims to provide a contextual assessment of the Carpathian Basin’s geological and paleoenvironmental archives, starting with the late Upper Pleistocene. Subsequently, it compiles early Upper Paleolithic data from the region to provide a synchronic appraisal of the Aurignacian archaeological evidence. It then uses this data to test whether the relative absence of early Upper Paleolithic sites is obscured by a taphonomic bias. Finally, it reviews current knowledge of the Carpathian Basin’s archaeological record and concludes that, while it cannot reject the Danube corridor hypothesis, further (geo)archaeological work is required to understand the link between the Carpathian Basin and Central and Southeastern Europe.
... In recent years, the Banat has been of high palaeoanthropological importance, in no small part due to the finds at the Peștera cu Oase and Peștera Cioclovina, two caves that have yielded among the earliest securely dated remains of modern humans in Europe (Soficaru et al. 2007;Trinkaus et al. 2003). Re-analysis of the open-air sites of Româneşti-Dumbrăviţa, Coşava and Tincova, have also highlighted the archaeological prominence of the Banat Sitlivy et al. 2012a;Sitlivy et al. 2012b). ...
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We present an analysis and interpretation of current knowledge on Paleolithic diet in Siberia and Eastern Europe, based on C and N stable isotope ratios in bone collagen of the pre-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and LGM hominins: three Neanderthals; one possible Denisovan; a Neanderthal/Denisovan hybrid; and 13 early anatomically modern humans (AMH). We used animal stable isotope information for Siberia obtained previously to establish the baselines for hominins; this is supplemented by stable isotope values for large mammals from the central West Siberian Lowland which were the probable sources of protein for Paleolithic humans in this region (first of all, the oldest directly radiocarbon-dated Ust’-Ishim AMH in Asia). A comparison of results on Paleolithic hominin diet from Siberia and Eastern Europe with Central Europe was also undertaken. The Neanderthal diet in Siberia was based on the consumption of terrestrial animal protein. As for the Neanderthal/Denisovan hybrid from Denisova Cave (Altai Mountains, southern Siberia), the contribution of aquatic food like freshwater fish can be preliminarily suggested. Overall, Paleolithic AMHs in Siberia and Eastern Europe procured mainly terrestrial herbivores—in particular, reindeer, horse, and bison. It is possible that some of the oldest AMH individuals—like Kostenki 1—supplemented their diet with a certain amount of aquatic food (freshwater fish).
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The Carpathian Basin is a key region for understanding modern human expansion into western Eurasia during the Late Pleistocene because of numerous early hominid fossil find spots. However, the corresponding archeological record remains less understood due to a paucity of well dated, contextualized sites. To help rectify this, we excavated and sampled Crvenka-At (Serbia), one of the largest Upper Paleolithic sites in the region to obtain radiometric ages for the archeological artifacts and evaluate their depositional context and subsequent site formation processes. Our results confirm that this locality represents a multiple-occupation Aurignacian site that dates to 36.4 ± 2.8 ka based on modeling of luminescence ages. Electrical resistivity tomography measurements indicate that the site formed on a sandy-gravelly fill terrace covered by overbank deposits. Complex grain size distributions further suggest site formation in contrasting depositional environments typically occurring alongside fluvial channels, at lakeshores, in alluvial fan or delta settings. The site is thus the closest (ca. 50 km) known Aurignacian site to the earliest undisputed modern human remains in Europe at the Peştera cu Oase and some intervals of the occupation may therefore have been contemporaneous with them. This suggests that modern humans, during their initial settlement of Europe, exploited a wider range of topographic and ecological settings than previously posited. Our findings indicate that lowland areas of the Carpathian Basin are an important part of understanding the early settlement patterns of modern humans in Europe.
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Romania has thousands of karstic caves in the Carpathian and Dobrudja regions, some of which have yielded important early prehistoric finds including human fossils and cave art. However, despite over a century of exploration and systematic archeological investigations, cave excavations have yet to produce large, well-stratified Pleistocene artifact assemblages that are known in neighboring regions. is article explores possible reasons for the low number of significant assemblages and discusses the ramifications for the Paleolithic record while making future recommendations for research.
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In 1925 Josef Szombathy (1853-1943) published a full, and for its time, relatively complete account of the excavations, geology, paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology of the Mladeč Caves1. It is unclear how Szombathy learned of Mladeč but in 1881 and 1882 he was commissioned by the Vienna Academy of Sciences to conduct exploratory research in the caves (Fig. 1.). The property was then owned by Prince Johann von and zu Liechtenstein, who as Szombathy commented, provided some "meager" financial support to run the excavations. The days Szombathy spent there were devoted to mapping the Main Cave and putting in test excavations, primarily in an area Szombathy called the "Dome of the Dead." As luck would have it, his excavations, though intended to be preliminary, produced major collections of human remains and prehistoric artifacts. Szombathy identified the locus of some discoveries, made a sketch of the vertical stratigraphy, and saved a great deal of the excavated material. After completing his work at the Main Cave in the late 19th century, all of the human remains and archaeological materials, and all of the faunal materials were brought to the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, where they still reside. Szombathy returned to Mladeč twice more, once in 1904 to study some of the new discoveries by Knies and Smyčka in the Quarry Cave and again in 1925 to examine new specimens excavated from the Main Cave. On the last trip, it seems he was expecting to have this material transferred to him in Vienna, but he was only allowed to study them in Litovel. He wrote2 "it was impossible for me, however, to undertake intensive investigation [⋯] because I was equipped only with my traveling tool kit" (1925, 73).
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Avec 17 Figures Zusammenfassung: Das Studium von 68 Unterkiefern des U. spelaeus, welche Exem­ plaren in einem Alter zwischen 6 Wochen und 16 Monaten angehören, erlaubt uns festzustellen, daß neben dem gewöhnlichen Fall mit d2, d3 und d4 auch Exemplare existieren, bei denen der d2 völlig rückgebildet ist. Der d2 ist — wenn er existiert — schräg eingepflanzt und zeigt eine mar­ kante morphologische Variabilität; seine Krone kann elliptisch-oder kreisförmig sein. Das Fehlen von Abwetzungsspuren und sein Auftreten in einer Fossette des Unterkiefers, nötigen uns zu der Annahme, daß dieser Zahn nicht gebraucht wird und in Rückbildung ist. Der d3 kann zwei distinkte Wurzeln haben, welche in einigen Fällen verschmelzen und mehr oder weniger deutliche Spuren dieses Prozesses zeigen; parallel dazu beobachtet man den d3 mit nur einer Wurzel. Der d4 ist ein sehr wechselhafter Zahn; neben dem Schema mit fünf Haupthöckern findet man eine wech­ selnde Zahl von Nebenhöckern. Die Reihenfolge, in welcher diese drei Milchzähne d2, d3 und d4 erscheinen, wie auch ihr Ausfallen, ist disto-mesial; der d2 kann bis zu 16 Monaten oder noch länger persistieren. Abstract : The study of 68 mandibles of Ursus spelaeus, appertaining to individuals bet­ ween 6 weeks and 16 months, allowed us to observe that besides the usual case with d2, d3, d4, there are specimens which have d2 in a completely reduced state; d2, when existing, is obliquely implanted and presents a marked morphological variability; its crown can be ellipsoidal or buttonlike; the lack of any marks of use and its insertion in a groove of the mandible allow us to infer that this tooth is not functional, but on its reduction way; d3 may present two distinct roots whidi in some cases join, having marks more or less evident of this process; in the same time we observe d3 with one root only; d4 is a tooth extremely variable; a variable number of accessory tubercles is added to the scheme with five principal cones. The order of appearance and shedding of the three milk-teeth, d2, d3, d4, is disto-mesial; d2 may persist till the age of 16 months and sometimes more. L'existence d'enormes depots d'ossements dt l'Ours des cavernes a produit, depuis longtemps, une litterature prodigieusement riche; pourtant, chose assez curieuse, les etudes sur les dents lacteales, restent encore ä leur debut. Bien que le materiel soit difficile ä conserver, par sa nature meme, les restes fossiles ne nous semblent pas etre si rares comme on a dejä suppose*.
The Upper Paleolithic fossils of the Mladec caves, South Moravia, excavated at the end of the 19th century, hold a key position in the current discussion on modern human emergence within Europe and the fate of the Neanderthals. Although undoubtedly early modern humans - recently radio carbon dated to 31.000 years BP - their morphological variability and the presence of archaic features are indicative to some degree of regional Neanderthal ancestry. The beautifully illustrated monograph addresses - for the first time - the complete assemblage of the finds, including the human cranial, post cranial, teeth and jaw fragments of several individuals (most of them stored at the Natural History Museum Vienna) as well as the faunal remains and the archaeological objects. Leading scientists present their results, obtained with innovative techniques such as DNA analysis, 3D-morphometry and isotope analysis, which are of great importance for further discussions on both human evolution and archaeological issues.