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New Radiocarbon Dating Results from the Upper Paleolithic–Mesolithic Levels in Grotta Romanelli (Apulia, Southern Italy)

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Abstract

In this paper, we present the results of the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS ¹⁴ C) dating campaign performed on samples selected from different levels in Grotta Romanelli (Castro, Italy). Grotta Romanelli is one of the key sites for the chronology of Middle Pleistocene–Holocene in Mediterranean region. After the first excavation campaigns carried out in the first decades of the 1900s, the cave has been systematically re-excavated only since 2015. During the last excavation campaigns different faunal remains were selected and submitted for ¹⁴ C dating in order to confirm the chronology of the cave with a higher resolution. Isotopic ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) measurements were also carried out on faunal remains.

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... The archaeological and palaeontological ndings from Grotta Romanelli, hosted in museums and institutions across Italy, have been the subject of several studies, both con rming (26,27) or questioning (28, 29, 30) the chrono-stratigraphic setting proposed by Blanc (20). Recently, new excavations led to a reassessment of the stratigraphy of the uppermost part of the cave in lling (31) and a partial revision of some of the palaeontological remains (32,33,34,35). Furthermore, a critical review of the Last Interglacial PSLs' along the stable coasts of the Mediterranean Sea (11), indicated the highest Grotta Romanelli's notch as older than MISs 5e. ...
... Mat.). Moreover, radiocarbon dates of the same Unit in the S, W and SW sectors of the cave, provided ages for its deposition between 13,6 cal ka BP and 11,4 cal ka BP (31,49) indicating high sedimentation rates at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Such rapid sedimentation occurred by both erosion of the surrounding landscape and related sediments and soil covers and partial re-working of the older succession within the cave, including the autochthonous coarse-grained gravels and cobbles of bedrock produced by the degradation of the cave walls and ceiling. ...
Preprint
During the last century, Grotta Romanelli (Southern Italy) has been a reference site for the European Late Pleistocene stratigraphy, due to its geomorphological setting and archaeological and palaeontological content. The beginning of the sedimentation inside the cave was attributed to MISs 5e and the oldest unearthed evidence of human occupation, including remains of hearths, was therefore referred to the Middle Palaeolithic. Recent surveys and excavations produced new U/Th dates, palaeoenvironmental interpretation and a litho-, morpho- and chrono-stratigraphical reassessment, placing the oldest human frequentation of the cave between MIS 9 and MIS 7, therefore embracing Glacial and Interglacial cycles. These new data provide evidence that the sea reached the cave during the Middle Pleistocene and human occupation occurred long before MISs 5e and persisted beyond the Pleistocene- Holocene boundary.
... This article presents the results of this work, concentrating on four panels: Panel A in area GRP002 and Panels E, F and H in area GRP005. We also refine the chronology of the cave's occupation levels (Calcagnile et al. 2019) with seven new radiocarbon dates between 11 500 and 13 400 BP. The newly discovered rock art raises questions about the chronology, technology and the context within which the Romanelli Cave art developed, showing graphical associations with other Eurasian Palaeolithic sites. ...
... Samples were selected for radiocarbon dating to confirm the chronology of the stratigraphic sequence identified during the earlier excavations. Those from the terre brune layers (in which the majority of the portable art objects were found, especially Layers B-D), returned a chronological range of 9135-8639 cal BP for Layer B and 13 976-13 545 cal BP for Layer D (for further details, see Calcagnile et al. 2019). This widens the previously published date range for the Upper Palaeolithic occupation of the cave, with Layers D and E encompassing the Late Pleistocene-Holocene boundary and Layer B extending into the younger Northgrippian (Middle Holocene) (see Table S1 in the online supplementary material (OSM)). ...
Article
The Romanelli Cave in south-east Italy is an important reference point for the so-called ‘Mediterranean province’ of European Upper Palaeolithic art. Yet, the site has only recently been subject to a systematic investigation of its parietal and portable art. Starting in 2016, a project has recorded the cave's interior, discovering new parietal art. Here, the authors report on a selection of panels, featuring animal figures, geometric motifs and other marks, identifying the use of different types of tools and techniques, along with several activity phases. These panels are discussed with reference to radiocarbon dating of nearby deposits, posing questions about chronology, technology and wider connections between Upper Palaeolithic cave sites across western Eurasia.
... The research team had to face the consequences of more than 40 years of inactivity in the site and the combined effects of erosion and illegal excavations that took place during last decades (Conti et al. 2017;Giustini et al. 2018;Sardella et al. 2018). Recently, the age of the "terre brune" has been reassessed, with new fossil remains submitted for 14 C dating using the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS14C) dating techniques (Calcagnile et al. 2019;Sigari et al. 2021). The results expand and refine the previous chronology, with a time span for levels D and B, respectively, from 13,976-13,545 14 C cal BP to 9135-8639 14 C cal BP (Calcagnile et al. 2019), whereas the level E was dated between 13,087-12,839 and 13,408-13,153 (Sigari et al. 2021). ...
... Recently, the age of the "terre brune" has been reassessed, with new fossil remains submitted for 14 C dating using the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS14C) dating techniques (Calcagnile et al. 2019;Sigari et al. 2021). The results expand and refine the previous chronology, with a time span for levels D and B, respectively, from 13,976-13,545 14 C cal BP to 9135-8639 14 C cal BP (Calcagnile et al. 2019), whereas the level E was dated between 13,087-12,839 and 13,408-13,153 (Sigari et al. 2021). As reported by Sardella et al. (2018), one of the main unexplained aspects, which needs to be investigated, concerns the age of the lower deposits due to the apparent contradiction between the supposed archaic nature of the Mousterian artifacts and the position of the vertebrate fauna being situated above the supposed MIS 5.5 terrace. ...
Article
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A river otter hemimandible has been rediscovered during the revision of the historical collections of G.A. Blanc from Grotta Romanelli, complementing the ongoing multidisciplinary research fieldwork on the site. The specimen, recovered from the level G (“terre rosse”; early Late Pleistocene or late Middle Pleistocene), is here assigned to Lutra lutra . Indeed, morphological and morphometric comparisons with other Quaternary Lutrinae fossils from Europe allow to exclude an attribution to the relatively widespread and older Lutra simplicidens , characterized by distinctive carnassial proportions. Differences with Cyrnaonyx antiqua , which possessed a more robust, shellfish-feeding dentition, support the view of a successful niche repartition between the two species during the late Middle to Late Pleistocene of Europe. The occurrence of Lutra lutra from the “terre rosse” of Grotta Romanelli suggests deep modifications of the landscapes due to the ecological adaptation of the taxon, and indicates that the Eurasian otter spread into Europe at the Middle–Late Pleistocene transition.
... Cave art Graziosi (1932Graziosi ( , 1933; Ciccarese (2000); Bugli et al. (2003); Mussi and De Marco (2008); Spinapolice (2008); Sigari (2018); Spinapolice (2018) Dating Bella et al. (1958); Alessio et al. (1964Alessio et al. ( , 1965; Fornaca-Rinaldi (1968a, 1968b; Fornaca-Rinaldi and Radmilli (1968); Calcagnile et al. (2019) However, most of the geological heritage of the Salento area is underexploited by local tourism (Margiotta and Sansò 2014;Sansò et al. 2015). According to Margiotta and Sansò (2014) and Sansò et al. (2015), the identification of geosites could be the basis for the building of a cultural attraction to promote tourism in this region. ...
... Recently, Mussi and De Marco (2008) recalibrated these dates between 10,174 ± 169 cal years BP and 14,179 ± 759 cal years BP, using the CalPal2007_HULU curve. Recently, the age of the Bterre brune^has been reassessed using the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14 C) dating techniques (Calcagnile et al. 2019). The results expand and refine the previous chronology (Table 3), with layer D (Fig. 3) encompassing the Late Pleistocene-Holocene boundary and extending the chronology of layer B to the Northgrippian (Middle Holocene). ...
... The radiocarbon date of Grotta Romanelli is from Calcagnile et al. 41 ; among dates of Grotta Paglicci, four (GrN-14874, F-65, F-66, F-68) are from Berto et al. 30 and one (OxA-26316) is a previously unpublished direct date of sample 3150. It was carried out using the dating service of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. ...
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The identification of the earliest dogs is challenging because of the absence and/or mosaic pattern of morphological diagnostic features in the initial phases of the domestication process. Furthermore, the natural occurrence of some of these characters in Late Pleistocene wolf populations and the time it took from the onset of traits related to domestication to their prevalence remain indefinite. For these reasons, the spatiotemporal context of the early domestication of dogs is hotly debated. Our combined molecular and morphological analyses of fossil canid remains from the sites of Grotta Paglicci and Grotta Romanelli, in southern Italy, attest of the presence of dogs at least 14,000 calibrated years before present. This unambiguously documents one of the earliest occurrence of domesticates in the Upper Palaeolithic of Europe and in the Mediterranean. The genetic affinity between the Palaeolithic dogs from southern Italy and contemporaneous ones found in Germany also suggest that these animals were an important common adjunct during the Late Glacial, when strong cultural diversification occurred between the Mediterranean world and European areas north of the Alps. Additionally, aDNA analyses indicate that this Upper Palaeolithic dog lineage from Italy may have contributed to the genetic diversity of living dogs.
... Recently, Mussi and De Marco (2008) recalibrated these dates between 10,174 ± 169 cal years BP and 14,179 ± 759 cal years BP, using the CalPal2007_HULU curve. Recently, the age of the Bterre brune^ has been reassessed using the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14 C) dating techniques ( Calcagnile et al. 2019). The results expand and refine the previous chronology (Table 3), with layer D (Fig. 3) encompassing the Late Pleistocene-Holocene boundary and extending the chronology of layer B to the Northgrippian (Middle Holocene). ...
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Caves as geosites structurally illustrate the strict dependence of human occupation on geological and geomorphological processes, playing a crucial role in the development of human civilisation. Grotta Romanelli embodies such a kind of geosite, being a coastal cave occupied by humans since the Middle Pleistocene and considered a symbol of the Palaeolithic period in Europe. Research on the cave, derived from the excavation activities carried out last century, consisted of a well-documented stratigraphic framework, abundant fossil remains and archaeological findings which included tools and rock art. The excavation activities stopped for about 40 years, hampering any new research on the cave. In 2015, new fieldwork was initiated and the multidisciplinary team immediately had to face several conservation issues linked to natural processes (erosion, degradation of the walls due to biodeteriogens) and human activities (mainly legal and illegal excavations). The use of 3D technologies to document the different phases of the research, from the field work to the digital reconstruction of fossil remains, has been extensively applied and represents an attempt to solve the issues of accessibility, education and sharing the heritage, which should be further implemented in the future.
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Caratteristiche tecnico-tipologiche del "Romanelliano" di Grotta Romanelli (Castro Marina, Lecce)
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Bietti A. 2003. Caratteristiche tecnico-tipologiche del "Romanelliano" di Grotta Romanelli (Castro Marina, Lecce). In: Fabbri P, Ingravallo E, Mangia A, editors. Grotta Romanelli nel centenario della sua scoperta (1900-2000): 91-111. Galatina, Italy: Congedo Editore.
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