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Grotta Romanelli (Lecce, Southern Italy) Between Past and Future: New Studies and Perspectives for an Archaeo-geosite Symbol of the Palaeolithic in Europe

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Abstract

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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... It is important to revisit this model, which was initially proposed by Palma di Cesnola and Borzatti von Löwenstern, and to pose new research questions as we gain insights from recent research from Porto Selvaggio including Grotta del Cavallo (Giaccio et al., 2008;Carmignani, 2010;Benazzi et al., 2011;D'Errico et al., 2012;Romagnoli, 2012;Ranaldo, 2017;Ranaldo et al., 2017a,b;Sarti et al., 2017;Moroni et al., 2018;Zanchetta et al., 2018;Sarti and Martini, 2020) as well as outside of the Park such as at Grotta Romanelli (Sardella et al., 2018). These lines of evidence enable us to enhance our knowledge of the local prehistory and consider the possible role that southern Europe played in the settlement dynamics of archaic humans. ...
... This is supported by the assemblages from Layer A′ of GTA, which is probably a remnant of deposits that pre-dates the Interglacial period, and Grotta-Riparo Marcello Zei (Dantoni and Nardi, 1980;Palma di Cesnola, 2001) that is under investigation for radiometric dating. Furthermore, researchers consider layer N in Grotta del Cavallo to be younger than layers E-D of GTA (Palma di Cesnola, 2001;Sarti and Martini, 2020) and recent dating to 116 ± 0.7 and 117 ± 0.7 ka obtained from the speleothems of layer N (Zanchetta et al., 2020) makes the lower horizons of GTA potentially older than MIS 5. New data from Grotta Romanelli (Sardella et al., 2018(Sardella et al., , 2019 and Grotta Mario Bernardini, which revealed occupations that pre-date MIS 4, can help clarify the true antiquity of human occupations in southern Italy (Palma di Cesnola, 2001). ...
... This is supported by the assemblages from Layer A′ of GTA, which is probably a remnant of deposits that pre-dates the Interglacial period, and Grotta-Riparo Marcello Zei (Dantoni and Nardi, 1980;Palma di Cesnola, 2001) that is under investigation for radiometric dating. Furthermore, researchers consider layer N in Grotta del Cavallo to be younger than layers E-D of GTA (Palma di Cesnola, 2001;Sarti and Martini, 2020) and recent dating to 116 ± 0.7 and 117 ± 0.7 ka obtained from the speleothems of layer N (Zanchetta et al., 2020) makes the lower horizons of GTA potentially older than MIS 5. New data from Grotta Romanelli (Sardella et al., 2018(Sardella et al., , 2019 and Grotta Mario Bernardini, which revealed occupations that pre-date MIS 4, can help clarify the true antiquity of human occupations in southern Italy (Palma di Cesnola, 2001). ...
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... Most studies focus on terrestrial environments: coastal areas [9][10][11][12][13][14][15], mountain areas [16][17][18], karst areas [19][20][21][22], volcanic areas [23][24][25][26] and even urban areas [27][28][29][30]. In recent years research has been conducted on underwater geoheritage and marine geosites ( [13] and references therein]) and on archaeogeosites, i.e., sites linking archaeological and geological interests [31][32][33][34]. New insights are being given on geosites risk of degradation and interaction with human actions [35,36]. ...
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An attempt has been made to assemble the large number of C 14 dates measured in Groningen since the last date list was published in 1958. We have not succeeded in preparing all the measurements done in this time; the present list contains a more or less random selection. It is hoped the rest will be included in next year's list.
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Oligocene carbonate ramps and platforms are widespread and though they are important carbonate reservoirs, detailed studies on the facies organization, platform type and internal architecture are scarce. Within this context, the Chattian carbonate units cropping out in Salento (southern Italy) allow detailed study of the distribution of skeletal components and facies architecture. The lower Chattian Castro Limestone, previously considered as a fringing reef, is reinterpreted as a distally steepened ramp with a distal talus induced by a palaeo-escarpment in the substrate. Epiphytic biota and sediment dweller organisms thriving in seagrass meadows dominated production in the shallow-water euphotic zone. Seawards, large rotalids foraminifers dominated a detritic mesophotic zone. Near the edge of the escarpment, also in the mesophotic zone, luxurious growth of corals built discrete mounds with no evidences of wave-resistant growth fabrics. Basinward, 25° to 30° dipping clinobeds abut against the escarpment where coral rudstone/floatstone textures resulted from downfall of corals and sediments. The upper Chattian Porto Badisco Calcarenite represents a homoclinal ramp dominated by packstone textures. In the euphotic inner ramp, autochthonous biota suggests the occurrence of extensive seagrass meadows. Basinward, large rotalid packstone and small coral mounds developed in mesophotic conditions, and rhodolithic floatstone to rudstone and large lepidocyclinid packstone characterize the sediments of the deeper oligophotic zone. Comminuted skeletal debris, depleted of light-dependent organisms, typifies deposition in the dysphotic/aphotic zone. In both examples, middle ramp (meso-oligophotic zones) were the most prolific in terms of carbonate production, whereas shallow-water seagrass-related production (euphotic) was much less important. Corals built mounds, also in the mesophotic zone but never reached sea level. Hydrodynamic conditions in the meso-oligophotic zone are better explained by breaking of internal waves, and their induced up- and down-slope currents, instead of the surface storm waves.
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The Salento peninsula is a well-known Apulian tourist area. Its peculiar geological and geomorphological features also have attracted numerous researchers during the last 150 years. The importance of the Salento geological heritage and identification of key sites was determined by literature review, assessment of the records of field trips in and around the Salento area during scientific geological meetings, and conferences over the last 30 years, using a geographical information system. Furthermore, these sites identified are the Otranto-Castro and Gallipoli-Porto Selvaggio coastal areas, the area of Leuca as well as the area between Cursi and Melpignano. The Otranto-Castro area contains Late Cretaceous Rudist reefs and Ammonites, an Upper Oligocene reef complex, as well as Lower Pleistocene calcarenites containing slumps and erosional features. The coastal landscape is marked by boulder accumulations produced by a historical tsunami. The Gallipoli-Porto Selvaggio area is noted for its abundant remains of Strombus bubonius Lamarck. In Porto Selvaggio, there is a rich fossiliferous association with abundant taxa of fish found in Cretaceous dolomitic and calcareous layers, with the rocks showing thin chert layers and spectacular slump features that had been triggered by tectonic activity. The Leuca area is the location for the stratotype of the Leuca Formation and by the occurrence of Grotta del Diavolo, a coastal cave that exhibits polycyclic evolution in the Middle Pleistocene. Finally, the Cursi-Melpignano area is important for its numerous quarries of Pietra Leccese Formation that have yielded numerous fossils of Miocene marine vertebrates. The results from the analysis point to the valuable geological heritage of the Salento area which is still completely unexploited by the local tourist industry. Data reported in this paper could be usefully integrated in plans aiming to build a cultural tourist attraction in Salento area.
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Resume. — Etude anthropologique des restes fragmentaires d'au moins six adultes et six enfants, decouverts dans la Grotte Romanelli (Lecce, Italie) et conserves a l'Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana a Rome. Les pieces etudiees, datant de l'Epigravettien final (Romanellien) sont comparees avec les restes italiens contemporains. Elles ont des caracteres morphologiques semblables a ceux qui ont ete decrits pour les populations du Paleolithique Superieur italien et europeen. Les dimensions se placent generalement a la limite inferieure de la variabilite des echantillons de comparaison.
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Some results in dating of cave concretions are given. Limits for the application of the 230Th/238U method are discussed in detail.
Presentazione delle industrie musteriane su calcare dei livelli a terre rossa di Grotta Romanelli. Atti dell’VIII riunione dell’istituto di Preistoria e Protostoria
  • L Cardini
Cardini L (1963) Presentazione delle industrie musteriane su calcare dei livelli a terre rossa di Grotta Romanelli. Atti dell'VIII riunione dell'istituto di Preistoria e Protostoria, Trieste, 43 pp.