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Preliminary analysis of the large mammal fauna from layers G to K of Grotta Romanelli, Apulia (Southern Italy)

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Abstract

Grotta Romanelli, located on the Adriatic coast of the Apulian Region, was discovered in 1874 but only in 1900 was recognised as a site of remarkable importance becoming the first report of the Late Palaeolithic in Italy. The stratigraphic succession can be subdivided in two main parts: the upper and the lower complexes divided by the stalagmitic layer F (0-25 cm). The upper complex, known as “terre brune” (layers A-E) (360 cm), bears upper Palaeolithic tools and a cold climate vertebrate fauna including Pinguinus impennis (= Alca impennis). The “lower complex” includes the so called “terre rosse” (60-80 cm), the stalagmitic layer H (20 cm), the bone breccia (0-100 cm) and the beach deposits (0-60 cm). In the “lower complex” a diversified vertebrate fauna (including Palaeoloxodon antiquus, Hippopotamus amphibius, Canis lupus and other taxa) occur, and Mousterian limestone artefacts. Here we present the revision of the collections of the large mammal materials from the “lower complex” (level K-G) hosted at the Pigorini Museum and at the Italian Institute of Human Paleontology (IsIPU).
Preliminary analysis of the large mammal fauna from layers G to K of Grotta Romanelli,
Apulia (Southern Italy)
Beniamino MECOZZI, Luca BELLUCCI, Fabio BONA, Veronica CICIA, Jacopo CONTI, Alessio
IANNUCCI, Dawid Adam IURINO, Ilaria MAZZINI, Diana PUSHKINA, Roberta SANZI, Flavia STRANI &
Raffaele SARDELLA
B. Mecozzi, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza Università
di Roma, Roma, Italy; beniamino.mecozzi@uniroma1.it
L. Bellucci, Polo museale, Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma,
Italy; Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana, via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 18, 00197, Roma; luca.bellucci@uniroma1.it
F. Bo na , Dipartimento di S cienze del la Terra Ardito D es io ” Università di M ilano, It al y; fabgeo@libero.it
V. C i c i a , Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza Università di
Roma, Roma, Italy; cicia.1455974@studenti.uniroma1.it
J. Conti, Iannucci, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza
Università di Roma, Roma, Italy; jacopo.conti@uniroma1.it
A. Iannucci, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza
Università di Roma, Italy; iannucci.1608212@ studenti.uniroma1.it
D. A. Iurino, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza
Università di Roma, Italy; dawid.iurino@uniroma1.it
I. Mazzini, Istituto di Geologia Ambientale e Geoingegneria (IGAG), CNR, Area della Ricerca di Roma RM1, Via
Salaria km 29,300, 00016 Monterotondo Stazione, Roma, Italy; ilaria.mazzini@igag.cnr.it
D. Pushkina, University of Helsinki, Department of Geosciences and Geography, FI-00014 Helsinki (Finland);
diana.pushkina@gmial.com
R. Sanzi, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza
Università di Roma, Italy; sanzi.1555750@studenti.uniroma.it
F. St ra ni, Dipart im en to di Scien ze d ella Te rr a, Sapienza Un iv ersità di Ro ma , Rom a, Italy; PaleoFactory, Sapienza
Università di Roma, Italy; Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana, via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 18, 00197, Roma;
flavia.strani@uniroma1.it
R. Sardella, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terr a, S apie nza Unive rsit à di Rom a, R oma, Ita ly; Pale oFact ory, Sapi enza
Università di Roma, Roma, Italy; Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana, via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 18, 00197, Roma;
raffaele.sardella@uniroma1.it
Since 2015, after 42 years of inactivity in the field, an excavation campaign started at Grotta
Romanelli (Castro, Lecce, south-eastern Apulia). The field activities are led by a team from
“Sapienza University of Rome”, in collaboration with IGAG CNR and other research institutions.
Grotta Romanelli was discovered in 1874 but only in 1900 was recognised as a site of remarkable
importance becoming the first report of the Palaeolithic in Italy. In 1914 G.A. Blanc led a
pioneering excavation campaign, studying extensively the in-filling deposits. These deposits are
bounded by Cretaceous limestone that Blanc considered shaped during MIS5, constraining the age
of the deposits to the Late Pleistocene. The succession can be subdivided in two main parts: the
upper and the lower complexes divided by the stalagmitic layer F (0-25 cm). The upper complex,
known as “terre brune” (layers A-E) (360 cm), bears upper Palaeolithic tools and a cold climate
vertebrate fauna including Pinguinus impennis (= Alca impennis). The “lower complex” includes
the so called “terre rosse” (60-80 cm), the stalagmitic layer H (20 cm), the bone breccia (0-100 cm)
and the beach deposits (0-60 cm). In the “lower complex” a diversified vertebrate fauna (including
Palaeoloxodon antiquus, Hippopotamus amphibius, Canis lupus and other taxa) occur, and
Mousterian limestone artefacts. The two stalagmitic layers (F and H) were dated by Fornaca-Rinaldi
by means of the 230Th/234Th method, giving respectively an age of 40 ± 3.2 kyr and > 69 kyr. New
dating analysis are in progress.
Nowadays, the only data available about the mammal fauna from the “lower complex” are those
reported by Blanc. Several authors suggested that the fossil remains of mammals from the “lower
complex” could be chronologically referred to the late Middle Pleistocene. In particular, they
attributed the canid remains from level G to the Early-Middle Pleistocene Canis mosbachensis.
Recently, these fossils were studied in detail and were attributed to Canis lupus, making the first
revision of the palaeontological material from the lower complex. The occurrence of a true wolf is
in accordance with a late Middle to Late Pleistocene age for the lower complex.
Also, the rhino remains from the lower complex have been recently described. The rhino material
from the layer G, previously referred to Rhinoceros merckii (=Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis), have
recently been revised and referred to the narrow-nosed rhino Stephanorhinus hemitoechus. In
addition, a single isolated proximal epiphysis of a third metacarpal coming from layer I were
attributed to Coelodonta antiquitatis.
The collections of the large mammal materials from the “lower complex” hosted at the Pigorini
Museum and at the Italian Institute of Human Paleontology (IsIPU) are under revision. Moreover,
the study of the new material excavated during the 2015-2017 field activities is in progress, with the
main aim to evaluate its biochronological significance. In this scenario, in order to clarify the age of
lower complex, a comparison of the palaeontological data with radiometric and stratigraphic
analyses is therefore needed to clarify the age of the assemblage."
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