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Initial Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens from Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria

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The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe witnessed the replacement and partial absorption of local Neanderthal populations by Homo sapiens populations of African origin1. However, this process probably varied across regions and its details remain largely unknown. In particular, the duration of chronological overlap between the two groups is much debated, as are the implications of this overlap for the nature of the biological and cultural interactions between Neanderthals and H. sapiens. Here we report the discovery and direct dating of human remains found in association with Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefacts2, from excavations at Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria). Morphological analysis of a tooth and mitochondrial DNA from several hominin bone fragments, identified through proteomic screening, assign these finds to H. sapiens and link the expansion of Initial Upper Palaeolithic technologies with the spread of H. sapiens into the mid-latitudes of Eurasia before 45 thousand years ago3. The excavations yielded a wealth of bone artefacts, including pendants manufactured from cave bear teeth that are reminiscent of those later produced by the last Neanderthals of western Europe4–6. These finds are consistent with models based on the arrival of multiple waves of H. sapiens into Europe coming into contact with declining Neanderthal populations7,8. Direct dates for human remains found in association with Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefacts at Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria) demonstrate the presence of Homo sapiens in the mid-latitudes of Europe before 45 thousand years ago.
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Nature | | 1
Initial Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens from
Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria
Jean-Jacques Hublin1,2 ✉, Nikolay Sirakov3, Vera Aldeias4, Shara Bailey1,5, Edouard Bard6,
Vincent Delvigne7,8, Elena Endarova9, Yoann Fagault6, Helen Fewlass1, Mateja Hajdinjak10,
Bernd Kromer1, Ivaylo Krumov11, João Marreiros4,12 , Naomi L. Martisius13, Lindsey Paskulin14,
Virginie Sinet-Mathiot1, Matthias Meyer10, Svante Pääbo10, Vasil Popov15, Zeljko Rezek1,16 ,
Svoboda Sirakova3, Matthew M. Skinner1,17, Geoff M. Smith1, Rosen Spasov18, Sahra Talamo1,19,
Thibaut Tuna6, Lukas Wacker20, Frido Welker1,21, Arndt Wilcke22, Nikolay Zahariev23,
Shannon P. McPherron1 & Tsenka Tsanova1
The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe witnessed the replacement and
partial absorption of local Neanderthal populations by Homo sapiens populations of
African origin1. However, this process probably varied across regions and its details
remain largely unknown. In particular, the duration of chronological overlap between
the two groups is much debated, as are the implications of this overlap for the nature
of the biological and cultural interactions between Neanderthals and H.sapiens. Here
we report the discovery and direct dating of human remains found in association with
Initial Upper Palaeolithic artefacts2, from excavations at Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria).
Morphological analysis of a tooth and mitochondrial DNA from several hominin bone
fragments, identied through proteomic screening, assign these nds to H.sapiens
and link the expansion of Initial Upper Palaeolithic technologies with the spread of
H.sapiens into the mid-latitudes of Eurasia before 45thousand years ago3. The
excavations yielded a wealth of bone artefacts, including pendants manufactured
from cave bear teeth that are reminiscent of those later produced by the last
Neanderthals of western Europe4–6. These nds are consistent with models based on
the arrival of multiple waves of H.sapiens into Europe coming into contact with
declining Neanderthal populations7,8.
Fragmentary specimens from the sites of Kent’s Cavern (United King-
and Cavallo (Italy)
have been claimed to document the earliest
presence of our species in western Europe, between 44,200–41,500cali-
brated years before present (cal. ; taken as 1950) for the former
and between 45,000–43,000cal.  for the latter. However, these dates
are based on the archaeological contexts of the specimens rather than
direct dating, and—in both cases—the exact stratigraphic origin of the
fossils is debated
. In the absence of directly dated fossil remains,
reconstructing the timing of the expansions of H.sapiens into Europe
rests on hypotheses concerning the makers of various so-called ‘tran-
sitional’ artefact assemblages at the advent of the Upper Palaeolithic.
Bacho Kiro Cave is located 5km west of Dryanovo (Bulgaria), on
the northern slope of the Balkan mountain range (Stara Planina) and
about 70km south of the Danube River (Extended Data Fig.1b). The
site formed at the mouth of a large karstic system and its deposits
encompass late Middle Palaeolithic and early Upper Palaeolithic
occupations. Bacho Kiro Cave was excavated by D.Garrod in 1938,
but is best known from more extensive excavations (in 1971 to 1975) by
a team led by B.Ginter and J.Kozłowski13. The excavations in the 1970s
yielded fragmentary human remains13 that were subsequently lost. In
2015, the National Archaeological Institute with Museum in Sofia and
the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology resumed work at Bacho Kiro Cave with the
goals of clarifying the chronology (which had previously been based on
a handful of inconsistent radiocarbon ages
) and the biological nature
of the makers of the lithic assemblages. Two sectors with similar and
well-preserved sequences were re-excavated: the Main sector and the
previously unexcavated Niche1 sector, located on the south and east
Received: 30 July 2019
Accepted: 24 February 2020
Published online: xx xx xxxx
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1Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. 2Chaire Internationale de Paléoanthropologie, Collège de France, Paris, France.
3National Institute of Archaeology with Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Soia, Bulgaria. 4Interdisciplinary Centre for Archaeology and the Evolution of Human Behaviour, Universidade
do Algarve, Faro, Portugal. 5Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, NY, USA. 6CEREGE, Aix Marseille University, CNRS, IRD, INRAE, Collège de France, Aix-en-Provence,
France. 7Service de Préhistoire, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium. 8CNRS, UMR 5199 PACEA, University of Bordeaux, Pessac, France. 9National History Museum, Soia, Bulgaria. 10Department of
Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. 11History Museum, Belogradchik, Bulgaria. 12TraCEr, Monrepos Archaeological Research Centre
and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution, RGZM, Mainz, Germany. 13Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA. 14Department of Archaeology, University
of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. 15Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Soia, Bulgaria. 16University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and
Anthropology, Philadelphia, PA, USA. 17School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. 18Archaeology Department, New Bulgarian University, Soia, Bulgaria.
19Department of Chemistry ‘G. Ciamician’, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy. 20Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. 21Evolutionary Genomics Section, Globe
Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. 22Department of Cell Therapy, Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, Leipzig, Germany. 23Archaeology
Department, New Bulgarian University, Soia, Bulgaria. e-mail:
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2 | Nature |
sides, respectively, of the excavation from the 1970s (Extended Data
Fig.1a). At the base of the sequence (Supplementary Information sec-
tion1) and overlying the bedrock, layerK has a relatively low density of
Middle Palaeolithic artefacts. Sedimentologically, the contact of layerK
with the overlying layerJ is gradual and the artefact densities remain
low; however, the upper part of layerJ contains artefacts identical to
those in layerI. Based on the radiocarbon dates
, layerJ represents
more than 3,000years of accumulation. LayerI represents an inten-
sification of the trends seen in layerJ. LayerI is an easily recognized
and archaeologically rich organic deposit that spans from 45,820 to
43,650cal. 
(95% modelled range) and yields an assemblage that was
initially described as ‘Bachokirian’, but is now considered a variant of
the Initial Upper Palaeolithic (IUP) industry
(Extended Data Figs.2–4,
Supplementary Information section2). LayerI is capped by water-laid
deposits (layersH and G) that have little archaeological content. More
than 1.7m of deposits, containing low densities of Upper Palaeolithic
artefacts, overlays layer G in the Main sector.
We found a hominin second lower molar (specimen code F6-620)
(Extended Data Fig.5a) in the upper part of layerJ. The crown dimen-
sions of this tooth place it at the high end of both the Neanderthal
and the Upper Palaeolithic H.sapiens range (Extended Data Table1).
With the exception of a moderately expressed—but divided—middle
trigonid crest, all of the morphological trait expressions found in
F6-620 align the tooth with H.sapiens (Supplementary Information
section3). The expression of a middle trigonid crest observed on the
second lower molar from Bacho Kiro Cave is present in 10% of these
teeth in some groups of humans today
and in 8% of early H. sapiens
The pulp chamber is hypotaurodont18, a condition that is common in
some recent human groups
and is unlike the hypertaurodont molars
of Neanderthals
. The four-cusp configuration of the second lower
molar from Bacho Kiro Cave is absent in Neanderthals. Our geometric
morphometric analysis of the enamel–dentine junction also clearly
assigns the specimen to H.sapiens (Extended Data Fig.5b).
We screened 1,271non-identifiable bones and teeth using
matrix-assisted laser desorption–ionization time-of-flight mass
spectrometry (MALDI–TOF MS) collagen-peptide mass fingerprint-
ing (also known as ZooMS21) to identify hominin remains, with the
additional aims of providing accurate molecular identifications for
radiocarbon-dated specimens and of enlarging our understanding
of the species composition of the fauna. ZooMS screening identified
six hominin bone fragments (Extended Data Fig.6, Supplementary
Information section4), of which four come from layerI in Niche1, one
from layerB in the Main sector (Extended Data Fig.1) and one from the
interface of layers 6a and 7 of the excavations in the 1970s13. Including
the F6-620 tooth, we recovered five hominin specimens in total from the
IUP layers. The calibrated radiocarbon dates of the 4ZooMS-identified
human fragments range from 46,790to 42,810cal.  at 95.4% prob-
ability (Fig.1). These ages are in full agreement with the modelled
boundaries of layerI (45,820–43,650cal.  at 95.4%), which includes
the 4humans and 21other dates on modified fauna
. Therefore, to
our knowledge, these bones represent the oldest European Upper
Palaeolithic hominins recovered to date.
We extracted DNA22,23 from F6-620 and the six hominin bone frag-
ments identified using ZooMS. We performed library preparation
enrichment of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
and sequencing,
which enabled us to recover between 13,856 and 795,043unique mtDNA
fragments (Supplementary Information section5). The frequencies
of cytosine-to-thymine substitutions, which are characteristic of
ancient-DNA base damage, ranged from 13.5% to 54.9% at the 5 ends
and from 9.4% to 42.2% at the 3 ends of these fragments (Extended
Data Fig.7), which suggests that at least some of the fragments are of
ancient origin. After restricting analyses to putatively deaminated DNA
fragments to remove contamination by recent human DNA, sequence
coverage of the mitochondrial genome enabled us to reconstruct six full
mitochondrial genomes out of seven. The mtDNA sequences of F6-620
and one of the ZooMS-identified hominin bone fragments (AA7-738)
are identical, which indicates that these specimens belonged either to
the same individual or to two maternally related individuals. In a tree
relating these mtDNA genomes to the known mtDNA sequences of
54present-day humans, 12ancient H.sapiens, 22Neanderthals, 4Denis-
ovans and a hominin from Sima de los Huesos, all of the Bacho Kiro Cave
mtDNA genomes fall within the variation of H.sapiens (Fig.2, Extended
Data Fig.8). The specimens from layerI yielded mtDNA sequences that
fall close to the base of each of the three major macro-haplogroups of
present-day non-Africans (M, N and R). Although the mtDNA sequences
belong to different macro-haplogroups, they differ (at most) at 15posi-
tions from each other—which is lower than the differences observed
among 97.5% of contemporary European individuals who are not closely
related to one another26. The older Bacho Kiro population contains
early representatives of the macro-haplogroup M, which is not present
in Europe today
. Furthermore, the mtDNA genomes of the Bacho
Kiro Cave specimens accumulated fewer substitutions than those
of present-day humans. Using 10directly dated ancient H.sapiens
as calibration points28,29 (Supplementary Information section5), we
obtained genetic dates that range from 44,830 to 42,616yr  for the
layer-I hominins (Extended Data Table2), in good agreement with the
calibrated radiocarbon dates (Fig.1).
The fauna associated with these H.sapiens specimens (11,259 piece
plotted animal bone fragments from layersI andJ) includes 23species,
dominated by Bos or Bison, cervids and caprines, alongside equids
(Supplementary Information section6). The species composition com-
prises a mix of taxa adapted both to cold and to warmer environments,
characteristic of the faunal record during marine isotope stage3 in the
. A variety of carnivores are also present, dominated by cave
bear (Ursus spelaeus). Zooarchaeological analyses strongly indicate that
the accumulation of the fauna is predominantly anthropogenic. One
notable aspect of the faunal assemblage is the presence of numerous
anthropogenically modified objects (Fig.3, Supplementary Informa-
tion section6): worked pieces include awls, lissoirs (‘smoothers’) and
incised pieces. Several of the artefacts have red staining that is consist-
ent with the use of ochre. We identified 1perforated ivory bead and
12perforated or grooved pendants, 11 of which were made from cave
bear teeth and 1 from an ungulate tooth (Fig.3).
The stone tools associated with H.sapiens in layerI were initially
assigned to the Bachokirian techno-complex because they did not fit
Date (cal. BP)
Châtelperronian Late Neanderthals
Grotte du Renne AR-14 (MAMS-25149)
Saint-Césaire SP 28 (OxA-18099)
Upper Palaeolithic
H. sapiens
Bacho Kiro CC7-335 (ETH-86772)
Bacho Kiro CC7-2289 (ETH-86771)
BachoKiro BB7-240 (ETH-86770)
Bacho Kiro AA7-738 (ETH-86769)
Peũtera cu Oase 1 (GrA-22810)
Kostenki 14 (OxA-X-2395-15)
Kostenki 1 (OxA-15055)
Bacho Kiro F6-597 (ETH-86773/AIX-12025*)
Bacho Kiro BK 1653 (ETH-86768/AIX-12024*)
Siberia Ust'-Ishim 1 (OxA-25516/OxA-30190*)
China Tianyuan Cave (BA-03222)
Fig. 1 | Dire ct dates for ho minins of the M iddle to Uppe r Palaeolith ic
transition in Eurasia. Directly dated Châtelperronian Neanderthals (blue) and
H.sapiens (red or black) of the M iddletoUpper Palaeoli thic transitio n in
Eurasia. T he dates from Ba cho Kiro Cave (red) are repo rted in an ass ociated
study3, as part of a n extensive site chr onology. Aster isks mark the dat es that
were combine d using the R _Combine func tion in OxCal v.4.3 . Accelerated ma ss
spectr ometry (AM S) laboratory co des are shown in pa rentheses; all t he dates
shown here are i n Supplement ary Table16, with sample infor mation and
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved
Nature | | 3
comfortably with either the Middle Palaeolithic or Aurignacian-like
Upper Palaeolithic techno-complexes. We now know that these tools
fit within the IUP
. IUP assemblages—similar to that of Bacho Kiro Cave
(Supplementary Information section2)—are characterized by blades
and tool types typical of the Upper Palaeolithic, but with some Levallois
forms and faceted platforms that are reminiscent of the preceding Mid-
dle Palaeolithic and African Middle Stone Age
(Extended Data Figs.3,
4). IUP assemblages, which span Eurasia from central Europe to Mon-
golia, occur before the appearance of Upper Palaeolithic assemblages
characterized by bladelet production, and arguably have their origin
in southwest Asia (Extended Data Fig.2). For instance, the Bacho Kiro
Cave IUP is similar to the IUP from layers I–F at Üçağızlı Cave (Turkey) in
terms of lithic technology, typology, and the presence of shaped bone
tools and pendants, as well as with respect to ages32,33.
The Bacho Kiro Cave site clearly demonstrates that the IUP in this
region was made by H.sapiens, and is consistent with models that attrib-
ute the spread of the IUP to the dispersal of our species throughout large
parts of Eurasia. The presence of IUP assemblages documents a wave
of peopling that precedes the spread of the first Upper Palaeolithic
bladelet techno-complexes—such as the Early Ahmarian industry in the
Levant, the Early Kozarnikan industry in the eastern Balkans and the Pro-
toaurignacian industry in western and central Europe—by several mil-
lennia1,34. At Bacho Kiro Cave, the IUP starts before 45,000cal.  and,
as the assemblage of the upper part of layerJ is identical to that from
layerI, it may begin as early as 47,000cal. 
. We now have evidence
for H.sapiens in Eurasia spanning from Ust'-Ishim28 in western Siberia
to Bacho Kiro Cave in eastern Europe, directly dated to approximately
45,000cal. . Together, the behavioural and biological evidence
strongly suggest a relatively rapid dispersal of IUP assemblages from
southwest Asia
into mid-latitude Eurasia by groups that—contrary to
Aurignacian populations—seem unrelated to present-day European
populations28. Direct contact with Neanderthals must have occurred
much earlier in eastern Europe than in western Europe, where the latest
Neanderthals and their associated assemblages persisted until at least
about 40,000cal. 
. In Romania, the Petera cu Oase H.sapiens
Chinese 2
Australian 2
Australian 1
Mixteca Baja
Japan 2
Warao 1
Bacho Kiro CC7-2289
Onge 1
Fumane 2*
Oase 1*
Kostenki 14*
Dolni Vestonice 13*
Warao 2
PNG high 1
Dolni Vestonice 14*
Native American 1
Native American 2
Oberkassel 998*
PNG high 2
Bacho Kiro BK-1653
Bacho Kiro molar F6-620
Onge 2
Palaeo-Eskimo Saqqaq*
Bacho Kiro AA7-738
Great Andamanese 2
Great Andamanese 1
PNG coast
Chinese 1
Japan 1
Bacho Kiro CC7-335
Bacho Kiro BB7-240
Sima de los Huesos
Fig. 2 | Maxi mum parsimo ny tree. Maxi mum parsimony tre e relating Bach o
Kiro Cave mtDNA s to 54present-day hum ans, 12ancient H.sapiens,
22Neander thals, 4Denisova ns and 1individual f rom Sima de los Hue sos. The
insert s hows the part of th e tree closest t o the mtDNAs of th e specimens f rom
Bacho Kiro C ave. Bacho Kiro Cave mt DNAs are red. A sterisks de note mtDNA
from ancie nt H.sapiens (Supp lementar y Table9) other than the B acho Kiro
Cave specime ns. The numb er of inferred sub stitutions p ersequence is gi ven
above each bra nch. A chimpanze e mtDNA sequ ence was used to r oot the tree
(not shown). rCRS, r evised Cambr idge Reference Se quence. U, R, N, M a nd L3
refer to the mitochondrial haplogroups.
bcde f
Fig. 3 | Bone t ools and per sonal ornam ents from Ba cho Kiro Cave layersI
and J (Nich e1 and Main sec tors). aj, Pendants mad e from perforate d and
grooved tee th (a, ungulate; bj, cave bear). k, l, o, Awls. m, Anthro pogenically
modifi ed piece. n, p, Lissoirs. q, Ivory bead . Further detai ls are provided in
Supplemen tary Table15. Scal e bars, 1cm (ao, q), 3cm (p).
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved
4 | Nature |
individual had a Neanderthal ancestor as recently as four-to-six genera-
tions back in his family tree
. In light of the Bacho Kiro Cave results,
the 42,000–37,000cal. yr  radiocarbon age of the Petera cu Oase
fossil implies an extended period of contact between Neanderthals and
H.sapiens in eastern Europe. Alternatively, it may be that the direct date
of Petera cu Oase—which was obtained before recent improvements in
pretreatment techniques—is an underestimate, and that local coexist-
ence was more ancient and ephemeral. The IUP pendants of Bacho Kiro
Cave (Fig.3) are notably similar to artefacts produced by late Nean-
derthals of the Châtelperronian layers at Grotte du Renne (France)
Whatever the cognitive complexity of the last Neanderthals might
have been, the earlier age of the Bacho Kiro Cave material supports the
notion that these specific behavioural novelties seen in declining Nean-
derthal populations resulted from contacts with migrant H.sapiens7.
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maries, source data, extended data, supplementary information,
acknowledgements, peer review information; details of author con-
tributions and competing interests; and statements of data and code
availability are available at
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No statistical methods were used to predetermine sample size.
Excavation methods
The site was excavated closely following existing protocols
. Layers
were defined first on lithological criteria, and second on archaeological
criteria. Our stratigraphy was determined and named independently of
previous excavations13. Additionally, we excavated in two unconnected
areas of the site, and thus separate naming conventions were used
between these two areas. The excavations in the south area (Extended
Data Fig.1) are known as the Main sector, and the layers are named with
letters for the large divisions and numbers for divisions within these
(for example, layerI or layerA0). The other area excavated is a niche
to the east of the previous excavations. We call this area Niche1 (or
N1), and all layer names from this area are prefixed with N1-. Where we
hypothesize a link between the two sectors, we use the same layer name
(for example, layers N1-I and I). Where we are unable to form a strong
hypothesis about the link between the two sectors, we use different
layer names (numbers in this case) in the Niche1 sector to denote this
(for example, N1-3), followed by letter for internal subdivisions (for
example, N1-3a). All finds were recorded by layer and 3D coordinates
(using an arbitrary grid established for the excavation and aligned to
the previous excavations) measured with Leica total stations (5 accu-
racy) using data collectors with self-authored software (EDM-Mobile).
All lithics and fauna >20mm in length and all specialists’ samples (for
example, ancient DNA, micromorphology, phytoliths and so on) were
provenienced and given unique identifiers (IDs). Complete bones,
identifiable teeth and human remains <20 mm in length (but larger
than microfauna) were also given coordinates and IDs. Natural stones
>10 cm in length were recorded with a single coordinate, and stones
>20 cm in length were measured with multiple coordinates to describe
their volume and orientation. The sediment, excluding recorded stones
and artefacts, was collected by 9-l buckets and wet-screened on-site
through 6- and 1.2-mm meshes to form two fractions. Buckets have
unique IDs. Their coordinates were measured first in the centre of the
area to be excavated and then again at the centre of the area excavated
at the completion of the bucket. Large (>20-mm-long) objects found in
the sediment in the buckets during wet-screening were given IDs and
assigned the coordinates of the bucket. All features were provenienced.
Digital photographs documenting the excavation were recorded daily,
and final sections were documented through a combination of digi-
tal photography, drawing, and total station measures. Additionally,
structure-from-motion models were made of all final sections and
excavation areas. These models were georeferenced to the excavation
grid using total station coordinates.
We screened 1,271fragmentary bone and tooth specimens from Bacho
Kiro Cave using ZooMS
. Eleven bone specimens were derived from
the previous excavations at the site13, 371 from our excavations in
the Main sector, and 889 bone specimens from the Niche 1 area. We
particularly focused on IUP layersI and N1-I (n=822). Extraction and
analytical protocols followed previously published work5. In brief,
a small bone sample (<20 mg) was taken from each bone or dentine
specimen. The sample was incubated at 65°C for an hour in 50 mM
ammonium-bicarbonate buffer, digested overnight using trypsin (Pro-
mega) at 37°C, acidified using 20% TFA, and cleaned on C18 ZipTips
(either from Sigma-Aldrich or Thermo Scientific). MALDI–TOF MS anal-
ysis was conducted at the IZI Fraunhofer in Leipzig43. MALDI–TOF MS
spectra were analysed in comparison to a reference database containing
collagen-peptide marker masses of all medium- to larger-sized genera
in existence in western Eurasia during the Late Pleistocene epoch5. In
cases in which ammonium-bicarbonate extraction failed, an attempt
was made to recover further informative collagen peptides through acid
demineralization of the same bone sample, as previously explained5.
Collagen deamidation in these spectra was assessed for two peptides
(P1105 and P1706)44,45.
Bone pretreatment and accelerator mass spectrometry dating
Small aliquots (80–110 mg) of the six ZooMS-identified hominin bone
fragments were sampled for dating to preserve as much material as
possible for further analyses. Collagen was extracted using a previously
described technique
for small bone sample sizes, based on a modified
Longin collagen-extraction protocol
followed by an ultrafiltration
step48. In brief, the outer surfaces of the bone samples were removed
with a sandblaster, and samples were removed using a rotary tool.
The bones were demineralized in 0.5 M HCl at 4°C until soft and CO
effervescence had stopped. Then, 0.1 M NaOH was added for 10 min at
room temperature to remove humic acid contamination, and samples
were re-acidified in 0.5M HCl. The collagen was gelatinized in acidic
water (HCl pH 3) at 70°C for several hours (4–6 h). The collagen sam-
ples were then passed through an Ezee Filter (Elkay Laboratories) to
remove large particles (>80 µm) and separated by molecular weight
with pre-cleaned Sartorius VivaSpin Turbo 15 ultrafilters (30kDa molec-
ular weight cut-off (MWCO))49,50. The samples were freeze-dried and the
large molecular fraction (>30 kDa) was graphitized using Automated
Graphitisation Equipment III
and measured using the latest model
of the MICADAS accelerator mass spectrometer
in the Laboratory
of Ion Beam Physics at ETH-Zurich (laboratory code ETH). Small ali
quots (66–89 mg) of a background cave bear bone (>50,000yr )
were extracted alongside the samples to monitor contamination intro-
duced in the laboratory53. These were measured in the same magazine
as the hominin samples and used in the age calculation. Oxalic acid
II standards were also measured in the same magazine and used for
normalization. Data reduction was performed using BATS software54.
An additional 1‰ was added to the error calculation of the samples, as
per standard practice. The dates were calibrated using the IntCal13
dataset in OxCal v.4.356.
Shape analysis of the molar enamel–dentine junction
Enamel and dentine tissues (Extended Data Fig.5) of lower second
molars were segmented using the 3D voxel value histogram and its dis-
tribution of greyscale values
. After segmentation, the enamel–den-
tine junction was reconstructed as a triangle-based surface model using
Avizo. Small enamel–dentine junction defects were corrected digitally
using the ‘fill holes’ module of Geomagic Studio. We then used Avizo
to digitize 3D landmarks and curve-semilandmarks on the enamel–
dentine junction surface57,58. Anatomical landmarks were placed on
the tip of the dentine horn of the protoconid, metaconid, entoconid
and hypoconid. A sequence of landmarks was also placed along the
marginal ridge connecting the dentine horns, beginning at the top of
the protoconid and moving in lingual direction; the points along this
ridge curve were then later resampled to the same point count on every
specimen using Mathematica. Likewise, we digitized and resampled a
curve along the cemento–enamel junction as a closed curve starting
and ending below the protoconid horn and the mesiobuccal corner
of the cervix. The resampled points along the two ridge curves were
subsequently treated as sliding curve semilandmarks and analysed
using geometric morphometrics together with the four anatomical
landmarks. Landmarks not preserved on the Bacho Kiro Cave specimen
were removed before principal component analysis. The specimens of
Homo erectus sensu lato include KNM-ER 1802, KNM-ER 992 and San-
giran 1b. Specimens of archaic Middle Pleistocene hominins include
Balanica 1, Mauer, Xiahe and KNM-ER BK 67. The Neanderthal sample
includes Abri Suard S36, Krapina 1, 6, 9, 53, 54, 55, 57, 59, 80, 86, 105 and
107, La Quina H9, Le Moustier 1, Regourdou, Scladina 4A1, El Sidron 540
and 755, and Vindija 11.39. The fossil H.sapiens sample includes Dar es
Soltane II H4, El Harhoura, Jebel Irhoud 3 and 11, Qafzeh 9, 10, 11 and 15,
and Temara. The recent H.sapiens sample includes clinical extractions
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved
from dentists based in Germany, Neolithic specimens from Belgium
(Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) and specimens from the
Francisc J. Rainer Collection (Institutul de Antropologie ‘Francisc J.
DNA extraction and library preparation
Samples of between 29.3 mg and 64.7 mg of tooth or bone powder were
removed from 7 Bacho Kiro Cave specimens (F6-620, AA7-738, BB7-
240, CC7-2289, CC7-335, F6-597 and BK-1653) using a sterile dentistry
drill (Supplementary Table4) after a thin layer of surface was removed
from the sampling areas. DNA was extracted from the powder using a
silica-based method22 as previously described23. Five single-stranded
DNA libraries24 were made from 10 µl from each extract on an automated
liquid handling platform (Bravo NGS workstation B, Agilent Technol-
ogies)59. A control oligonucleotide was spiked into each reaction to
determine the efficiency of library preparation
, and quantitative PCR
was used to determine the total number of unique library molecules
as well as the number of oligonucleotides that were successfully con-
. The libraries were amplified into plateau with AccuPrime
Pfx DNA polymerase (Life Technologies)
and labelled with two unique
. Half of the volume of the amplified libraries (50 µl) was puri-
fied using SPRI beads on the automated liquid handling platform
. The
concentrations of the purified DNA libraries were determined using a
NanoDrop Spectrophotometer (NanoDrop Technologies).
mtDNA capture and sequencing
An aliquot of each amplified library was enriched for human mtDNA
using a bead-based hybridization method29. Enriched libraries were
sequenced on an Illumina MiSeq platform in a double index configura-
tion (2×76 cycles)
and base-calling was done using Bustard (Illumina).
Overlapping paired-end reads were merged into single sequences and
the adapters were trimmed using leeHom
. The Burrows–Wheeler
Aligner (BWA, version: 0.5.10-evan.9-1-g44db244; https://github.
com/mpieva/network-aware-bwa)64, with parameters adjusted for
ancient DNA (‘-n 0.01 –o 2 –l 16500’)
, was used to align the data to the
revised Cambridge Reference Sequence (NC_01290). Only reads with
perfect matches to the expected index combinations were retained for
downstream analyses. PCR duplicates were removed using bam-rmdup
(version 0.6.3; SAMtools
(version 1.3.1)66 was used to filter for fragments that were longer than
35base pairs and that had a mapping quality of at least 25. We merged
the libraries originating from the same extract (that is, the same speci-
men) using SAMtools merge to produce the final dataset.
Phylogenetic inferences
We reconstructed the mitochondrial genomes of the Bacho Kiro Cave
specimens once by using all mapped fragments longer than 35 base
pairs with a mapping quality of at least 25 and once using only fragments
with a cytosine (C) to thymine (T) difference to the reference genome at
the first three and/or last three terminal positions
(that is, putatively
deaminated fragments). We called a consensus base at each position
along the mtDNA that was covered by at least 3 DNA fragments and at
which at least 2/3 of fragments carried an identical base and the base
quality was 20 or higher67. To prevent deamination-induced substitu-
tions affecting the calling of a consensus base, we converted A on the
reverse strands and T on the forward strands in the first three and the
last three positions of a fragment into N.
The libraries prepared from the F6-597 specimen yielded too few
informative mtDNA fragments to reconstruct a complete mtDNA
using putatively deaminated fragments. We investigated the state of
F6-597 DNA fragments that overlapped positions ‘diagnostic’ for each
branch in a mtDNA tree relating present-day humans, Neanderthals,
Denisovans and the hominin from Sima de los Huesos68 (Supplementary
Table6). To diminish the influence of substitutions derived from deami-
nation, all forward strands were ignored if one of the possible states
at an informative state was a C and all reverse strands were ignored if
one of the possible states was G.
We aligned the reconstructed mitochondrial genomes of the Bacho
Kiro Cave individuals to the mtDNA genomes of 54 present-day humans
from a wide geographical distribution
, 12 ancient H.sapiens
(Supplementary Table9), 22 Neanderthals
, 4Denisovans
a Sima de los Huesos individual
and a chimpanzee
using MAFFT
v.7.27184. The number of pairwise differences among the genomes was
calculated using MEGA785 and a maximum parsimony tree was recon-
structed using Parsimony ratchet as implemented in the R package
. We identified the haplogroup of each of the reconstructed
mitochondrial genomes with HaploGrep87 based on the PhyloTree
database (, build 17).
Contamination estimates
We used two complementary approaches to estimate levels of
present-day human mtDNA contamination in the libraries. We iden
tified positions at which each of the reconstructed Bacho Kiro Cave
mtDNAs differ from at least 99% of a world-wide panel of 311 present-day
human mtDNAs36,69 (Supplementary Tables7, 8). We then counted
DNA fragments that overlap these positions and did not match the
consensus base of the respective specimen, again taking into account
the strand orientation in cases in which one of the possible states at an
informative site was C or G. In the second approach, we used an iterative
probabilistic method, schmutzi88, which uses a nonredundant database
of human mitochondrial genomes to estimate levels of present-day
human DNA contamination (Supplementary Information section5)
(parameters: ‘--notusepredC --uselength’).
Molecular DNA dating
We estimated the tip dates of the reconstructed Bacho Kiro Cave
mtDNAs using the Bayesian phylogenetic method as implemented in
BEAST2 (version 2.4.8)
by aligning the reconstructed mitochondrial
genomes to 54 present-day humans and 10 directly radiocarbon-dated
ancient H.sapiens
, which were used for tip calibration. The
Neanderthal mtDNA genome of Vindija 33.16
was used as an outgroup.
The best-fitting substitution model was determined using jModel-
. We investigated a strict clock and an uncorrelated log-normal
relaxed clock as two models of rate variation and a constant population
size and a Bayesian skyline as tree priors28. For each model, we carried
out Markov chain Monte Carlo runs with 30,000,000 iterations and
sampling every 1,000 steps. After discarding 10% of the iterations as
burn-in, the output was analysed with Tracer v.1.5.0 ( A marginal likelihood estimation
was used for model comparison and best support assessment. Both
the maximum parsimony and the BEAST2 tree were visualized with
FigTree (version v.1.4.2) (
Field observations of the sediments were complemented by archaeo-
logical micromorphology analyses. Micromorphological samples were
collected as undisturbed blocks by carefully carving and wrapping them
with either pre-plastered bandages or soft paper and tape. Thin sections
were manufactured by Spectrum Petrographics through a standard
procedure of drying the blocks in an oven for several days at about
60°C. The blocks were then impregnated with a mixture of polyester
resin and styrene, to which a catalyst was added. Thin sections were
ground to a thickness of 30 µm and observed under a petrographic
microscope in plane- and cross-polarized light at magnifications rang-
ing from 20× to 400×. Micromorphological nomenclature follows
previously published work92,93.
Reporting summary
Further information on research design is available in theNature
Research Reporting Summary linked to this paper.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved
Data availability
The data that support the findings of this study are available from the
corresponding author upon reasonable request. Genetic sequence
reads from all libraries and corresponding negative controls are depos-
ited at European Nucleotide Archive under the study accession number
PRJEB35466. The FASTA files of the mitochondrial genomes are depos-
ited in GenBank with the accession numbers MN706602–MN706607.
Details are as follows: Bacho Kiro AA7-738, MN706602; Bacho Kiro
BB7-240, MN706603; Bacho Kiro BK-1653, MN706604; Bacho Kiro
CC7-335, MN706605; Bacho Kiro CC7-2289, MN706606; and Bacho
Kiro molar F6-620, MN706607.
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Acknowledgements We thank the tourism association of Bacho Kiro Cave in the town of
Dryanovo, the History museum – Dryanovo, the Regional History museum in the city of Gabrovo,
Dryanovo town hall and V. Lafchiiski for their assistance with the ieldwork and in the laboratory;
N. Spassov from the National Museum of Natural History in Soia for cooperating and hosting
researchers of our project; H. Temming and J. Honeyford for their technical assistance and S.
Nagel, B. Nickel, B. Schellbach and A. Weihmann for their help with the ancient DNA laboratory
procedures and sequencing. Field operations were funded by the Max Planck Society.
AixMICADAS and its operation are funded by Collège de France and the EQUIPEX
ASTER-CEREGE (principal investigator, E.B.). S.T. is funded by the European Research Council
under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant
agreement no. 803147-951 RESOLUTION). The ancient DNA part of this study was funded by the
Max Planck Society and the European Research Council (grant agreement no. 694707 to S.P.).
Author contributions J.-J.H. designed the study. T. Tsanova, N.S., V.A., S.S., R.S., E.E., Z.R. and
S.P.M. collected ield data; H.F., B.K., L.W., E.B., Y.F., T. Tuna and S.T. established the radiocarbon
dates; V.A. studied the micromorphology of the sediments; S.B., M.M.S. and J.-J.H. analysed
hominin dental morphology; V.S.-M., L.P., F.W. and A.W. performed ZooMS; M.H., M.M. and S.P.
performed mtDNA analysis; T. Tsanova, N.S., N.Z., S.S., I.K., V.D., J.M. and S.P.M. conducted the
study of the lithics; G.M.S., R.S., V.P. and N.L.M. analysed the faunal assemblages and the
osseous objects. J.-J.H. wrote the paper with contributions of all authors.
Competing interests The authors declare no competing interests.
Additional information
Supplementary information is available for this paper at
Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.-J.H.
Peer review information Nature thanks William Banks, Richard G. Klein and the other,
anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Extende d Data Fig. 1 | Excava tions at Bach o Kiro Cave, 2015–2018. a, Plan
view of the en trance and the excav ated areas of the c ave, with the gri d system of
our recent exc avations (let ters in the lef t column) and those of t he 1971–1975
excavations ( letters in the r ight column). b, Site loc ation in south eastern
Europe. c, Photo graph of the entr ance of the cave. T he floor is ar tificia lly
raised; the o riginal entra nce was several me tres lower than show n in this
photograph. d, Initial str atigraphic s ection drawi ng of the expose d profile
from the Main s ector in 201 5 (codes for the archae ological layers ar e on the left,
with the cor responding l ayers from the 1971–1975 excavations in p arenthese s).
e, Frontal view of t he Niche1 sector a nd its stratig raphic subdiv isions. f, Lower
part of the s tratigraphi c section draw ing of the Niche1 sec tor, in 2018. Note the
thickne ss and preser vation of the lower d eposits here i n comparison w ith the
Main sector profile. g, Photo graph of the Mai n sector tran sversal sect ion on the
line betwe en squares F5–F6 and sq uares G5–G6 be fore excavation in 201 5. CF,
combustion feature. hn, Hominin remain s identifie d by ZooMS with th eir IDs:
BK-1653 (h) and F6-597 (j) f rom layerB, with h comin g from the 1971–1975
excavations (dash ed line); BB7-240 (k), CC7-2289 (l), CC7-335 (m) and A A7-738
(n) from layer N1-I. Con tinuous lines c onnect the fos sils with their f ind
locations. i, Second lowe r molar (F6-620) from layerJ in th e Main sector.
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Extended Data Fig. 2 | Geographical distributions. Geographical d istribution o f the main IUP site s of western and c entral Eurasia ( black dots), directly d ated
early H.sapiens predatin g 37,000cal.  (empty bl ack dots) and direc tly dated late Ne anderthals a ssociated w ith Châtelper ronian assem blages (orange square s).
Bacho Kiro C ave is represente d by a red circle.
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Extende d Data Fig. 3 | Pho tographs of li thic artefa cts from layerI of Ba cho Kiro Cave. Poin ted retouche d blades and frag ments (1–4, 6, 7) and pie ce with
bifacial reto uch (5). Photograph s by V.S.-M. and T. Tsanova.
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Extende d Data Fig. 4 | Draw ings of lithi c artefac ts from layerI of Bacho K iro
Cave. Poin ted retouche d blade with sligh tly oblique trun cation and bas e
modifi ed by inverse retouc h (1), pointed blade fra gments (2 and 5, wh ich has
an oblique tr uncation and sli ght notch on the le ft edge, and was p erhaps
intentio nally fragmen ted), pointed, sma ll blades frag ments (3, 7, 8 and 9),
pointed bl ade fragment w ith opposing p seudo-bur in blows on the apex and o n
the distal f racture edge (p erhaps indic ating use as a proje ctile) (4) and Levallois
flake (6). Drawings by I .K. and T. Tsanova).
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Extende d Data Fig. 5 | Hum an lower secon d molar (F6-62 0). a, Mesial, buccal
and distal v iews of the crown, ro ot and pulp chamb er (left) and oc clusal views
of the ename l and dentine crow n (right). b, A principal com ponent analysi s of
the shape of th e enamel–dent ine junction r idge and cerv ix places the Ba cho
Kiro Cave seco nd lower molar (F6-62 0) representedby a red st arwithin the
samples of r ecent (n=8) and Pleistoce ne (n=9) H.sapiens, and outsid e the
distribution of Neanderthals (n=20) and H.erectus (n=3).
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Extende d Data Fig. 6 | MA LDI–TOF MS spectra fo r the six bone sp ecimens i dentif ied as homin ins through Zo oMS analysi s. a, B4-1653 (inter face of layers6a
and 7). b, AA7-738 (layerN1-I). c, BB7-240 (layerN1-I). d, CC7-2289 (layerN1-I). e, CC7-335 (layerN1-I). f, F6-597 (layerB).
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Extende d Data Fig. 7 | Frequ ency of nucle otide subs titutions at t he
beginn ing and the end s of mtDNA alig nments for the B acho Kiro Cave
specimens. Only fragme nts of at least 3 5base pairs in leng th that mappe d to
the revise d Cambridge Refere nce Sequenc e with a mapping qu ality of at leas t
25 were use d for this analysis . Solid lines in red d epict all frag ments and das hed
lines depi ct the fragm ents that have a C-to-T substi tution at the opp osing end
(‘conditional’ C-to-T substitutions). All other types of substitution are marked
in g rey.
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Extende d Data Fig. 8 | Bayes ian phylogen etic tree rel ating Bacho K iro Cave
mtDNA to 54present-day humans, 10directly radiocarbon dated ancient
H.sapiens and the Vindija 33.16 Neanderthal. The Bacho Kiro C ave
specime ns are in red. Oth er ancient H.sapiens use d as calibration p oints to
estimate t he tip dates of Ba cho Kiro Cave speci mens are italic ized. The
posteri or probabilitie s are denoted ab ove the branches. T he mtDNA of Vin dija
33.16 was us ed to root the tre e (not shown).
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Extended Data Table 1 | Comparative dental metrics
BL, bucco-lingual width; MD, mesiodistal length; CI, crown index (BL/MD); CCA, calculated crown area (BL×MD).Values are in mm.
is the mean; minimum and maximum values are between
the brackets; σ is the standard deviation; n indicates sample size. The Upper Palaeolithic H.sapiens sample includes individuals from the sites of: Les Abeilles, Bacho Kiro Cave, Brno, Bruniquel,
Castenet, La Chaud, Dolní Vĕstonice, Farincourt, La Ferrassie, La Grèze, Les Rois, Isturitz, Kostenki, Kumchon, Laugerie-Basse, Lespugue, La Linde, Abri dela Madeleine, Nazlet Khater, Petera cu
Oase, Peche dela Boissiere, San Teodoro, St Germaine-la-Rivière, Sunghir, Les Vachons and Vindija. The early H.sapiens sample includes individuals from the sites of Border Cave, El Harhoura,
Cave of Hearths, Dar es Soltane, Die Kelders, Haua Fteah, Jebel Irhoud, Klaises River Mouth, Mumba, Qafzeh, Skhul, Témara and Zhiren. The Neanderthal sample includes individuals from the
sites of: Arcy-sur-Cure, Krapina, La Fate, Grotta Guattari, Hortus, Monte Fernera, Montmaurin, Ochoz, Petit-Puymoyen, La Quina, Le Regourdou, Spy, St Césaire, Subalyuk and Tabun. The recent
human sample includes archaeological specimens representing western Europe, eastern Europe, southern Europe, Japan, China, the Near East, India, the Andaman Islands, Australia, New
Guinea, northern Africa, southern Africa, eastern Africa and western Africa.
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Extended Data Table 2 | mtDNA branch-shortening estimates
Estimates for Bacho Kiro Cave specimens as determined in a Bayesian framework imple-
mented in BEAST2, and by using 10radiocarbon-dated ancient H.sapiens as calibration points
(Supplementary Table9).
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nature research | reporting summary October 2018
Corresponding author(s): Jean-Jacques Hublin
Last updated by author(s): Feb 4, 2020
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Data analysis BATS 4.0; OxCal V4.3; Wolfram Mathematica 10; bam-rmdup 0.6.3; SAMtools 1.3.1; MAFFT v7.271; MEGA7, jModelTest2, mMass 5.5.0, R
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Study description Analysis of the palaeontological and archaeological material discovered in the course of a new excavation at the site of Bacho Kiro
Cave (Bulgaria).
Research sample The archaeological material (artifacts and faunal remains) was extracted from two areas (Main Sector and Niche 1) in the Bacho Kiro
cave. Sediment samples were collected from each layer to perform micromorphological analyses. Collagen was extracted from
archaeological bones from all stratigraphic levels of Bacho Kiro Cave to perform ZooMS and radiocarbon analyses.
Sampling strategy For ZooMS, a random selection of morphologically unidentifiable bone specimens with a maximum length of over 2 centimeters was
conducted. For radiocarbon dating and ancient DNA analyses , all human remains identified by ZooMS were sampled. For the
morphological study of the human tooth F6-620, all comparative samples are detailed in the methods section.
Data collection M.H., T.T., N.S., VA, S.S., R.S. Z.R. and S.P.M. collected field data; S.B., M.S. and J.J.H. collected morphological data on the hominin
remains; V.S.M., L.P., F.W. and A.W. collected bone samples to perform ZooMS; M.H extracted mtDNA from hominin bone samples;
H.F. and S.T. collected bone samples to perform radiocarbon dating of hominin remains; G.S., R.S., V.P., N.M. collected morphological
data on the faunal assemblage using the faunal reference collection stored at the Bulgarian National Museum of Natural History was
used to accurately identify species and skeletal element; T.T. and S.P.M. collected metrical data on the lithic assemblage; V.A.
collected micromorphological and sedimentological data in the site.
Timing and spatial scale Bones were excavated from the Niche 1 and Main Sector areas of Bacho Kiro Cave during the 2015/2016/2017 field seasons. Bone
pretreatment, and ancient DNA analyses were carried out over the course of 2016-2018.
Data exclusions For the EDJ analysis, fossil teeth that were highly worn were excluded. For Radiocarbon dating two AMS dating methods across three
AMS labs were used to check reproducibility. 11 collagen extracts from different layers were dated with graphite targets on a
MICADAS AMS at two labs (ETH-Zurich and MAMS). Results were in statistical agreement for 8 of the extracts. Dates from the two
labs were outside 2 sigma for 3 of the oldest extracts (all >40,000 BP). These samples were excluded from further analysis in the
companion paper by Fewlass et al. Collagen from two human bones was dated with graphite targets at ETH-Zurich and in replicate
with the gas ion source of the Aix-MICADAS AMS at CEREGE. All measurements were in statistical agreement.
Reproducibility The mitochondrial genome sequences of Bacho Kiro Cave hominin specimens are deposited in GenBank.
Randomization ZooMS samples were randomly analyzed. For the EDJ study we cannot determine any reason to apply randomization.
Blinding For the EDJ study, blinding would be inappropriate given the small sample sizes and the relatively simple inferences made from the
results of the principal component analysis.
Did the study involve field work? Yes No
Field work, collection and transport
Field conditions Yearly excavation inside the Bacho Kiro Cave of about one month between 2015-2018
Location Bacho Kiro Cave, near Dryanovo (Bulgaria)
Access and import/export The archaeological material was studied in Bulgaria. Temporary exports of some items were organized between Bulgaria and
Germany. Permit delivered by National Museum of Natural History (Sofia) Nr. 4CH30/04.01.19.
Disturbance The samples were obtained through archaeological excavation of two sections in the cave. At the end of the project (summer
2020) measures will be taken to protect the stratigraphic profiles.
Reporting for specific materials, systems and methods
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We require information from authors about some types of materials, experimental systems and methods used in many studies. Here, indicate whether each material,
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Materials & experimental systems
n/a Involved in the study
Eukaryotic cell lines
Animals and other organisms
Human research participants
Clinical data
n/a Involved in the study
Flow cytometry
MRI-based neuroimaging
Specimen provenance Excavation of the Bacho Kiro Cave aurorized by the Bulgarian Ministery of the culture, delivered by NAIM-BAS: Nr124/11.05
2015; Nr225/28.04.2016; Nr47/02.05.2017; Nr99/17.04.2018/ Nr120/2019.
Specimen deposition The palaeontological material will be deposited at the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia and the lithic material at the
History Museum of Dryanovo (Bulgaria)
Dating methods Small aliquots (80-110 mg) of the six ZooMS identified hominin bone fragments were sampled to preserve as much material as
possible for further analyses. Collagen was extracted using a technique based on a modified Longin collagen extraction protocol
followed by an ultrafiltration step. The gelatinized collagen samples were then passed through an Ezee Filter (Elkay labs, UK) to
remove large particles (>80 μm) and separated by molecular weight with pre-cleaned Sartorius VivaSpin Turbo 15 ultrafilters (30
kD MWCO). The samples were freeze dried and the large molecular fraction (>30 kD) was graphitised using the Automated
Graphitisation Equipment III and measured using the latest model of the MICADAS AMS in the Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics at
ETH-Zurich (lab code: ETH). The dates were calibrated using the IntCal13 dataset in OxCal v4.3.
Tick this box to confirm that the raw and calibrated dates are available in the paper or in Supplementary Information.
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... The last discovery is the presence of MH in the Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria) identified by one molar and the mtDNA and nDNA sequences from several hominin bone fragments; these remains were directly dated at ~45 ka cal. BP and appeared with an Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) assemblage (Hublin et al. 2020;Hajdinjak et al. 2021). ...
... Therefore, the human fossils assigned to this period, especially those from the Aurignacian and other early phases of the Upper Paleolithic, could partially correspond to MH individuals who seem to have immigrated into Europe, according to several authors (e.g., Villa and Roebroeks 2014;Hublin et al. 2020) bringing different cultural traditions, and mixing with the indigenous Neanderthals, implying reciprocal cultural exchanges (e.g., Cabrera et al. 2006;Zilhão 2006;Villa and Roebroeks 2014;Greenbaum et al. 2019). These exchanges were also genetic, and for many years, some morphological characteristics of numerous fossils have been interpreted by various authors as traces of crossbreeding between the N and MHs (e.g., Frayer 1993;Wolpoff et al. 2000Wolpoff et al. , 2001Wolpoff et al. , 2004Zilhão and Trinkaus 2002;Trinkaus et al. 2003;Bayle et al. 2010). ...
... If the position of the metacone and the morphology of the crown occlusal outline "can be used very successfully to identify the taxonomic assignment of isolated teeth when the choice is H. neanderthalensis versus H. sapiens" (Bailey et al. 2014), we should consider that this ULdm 2 Castillo 492 can also be attributed to a Neanderthal child, and its dimensions are not far from those of the young Carihuela 7 (García Sanchez et al. 1994) from the Granada region. Furthermore, the traces of a potential mid-trigonid crest on the Ldm 2 (Castillo 292) also permit its assignment to Neanderthals (although the presence of a mid-trigonid crest is present in 10% of the permanent LM 2 in some recent humans today and in 10% of early H. sapiens: Hublin et al. 2020). ...
Full-text available
Three deciduous tooth crowns were found in Unit 18B in El Castillo Cave (Spain), considered a transitional Middle-Upper Paleolithic Unit with numerous 14 C dates with means earlier than > 42-44 ka cal. BP. Our goal was to describe these teeth, compare them to Neanderthal, Mousterian Modern Humans, and Early-Mid Upper Paleolithic fossils (through scatterplots and Z-scores), and analyze their morphology. The teeth consist of deciduous and isolated crowns (one ULdi 1 , one ULdm 2 , and one LRdm 2) corresponding to three children, and all of them were modified by heavy occlusal and interproximal wear. Their length and breadth diameters, shown in the bivariate scatterplots, were similar to those of the teeth of several young Neanderthals. The Z-scores of the two crown diameters with respect to the Late Neanderthal, Qafzeh and Skhul, and Aurig-nacian-Gravettian series had values of approximately 0, while those of the altered MDs of the ULdm 2 are just below − 1, except in comparison to the last group; the Z-scores of the BL diameters fall within the range of variability of the three series. Qualitative morphological comparisons highlighted several characteristics that were consistent with a Neanderthal taxonomic assignment. The combined archeological and anatomical-comparative study suggested the presence of three Neanderthal children in Unit 18, in a location considered a primary butchery area. The chronology and morphology of these teeth in the framework of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition are outstanding in the debate about the last Neanderthals and the unconfirmed, but possible, presence of a few groups of modern humans in Western Europe.
... Even though the IUP has been defined based on stone tools, bone tools and ornaments are a common feature of IUP deposits when organic preservation conditions are good (Newcomer, 1974;Newcomer and Watson, 1984;Derevianko and Rybin, 2003;Kuhn et al., 2009;Kuhn and Zwyns, 2014;Hublin et al., 2020;Shunkov et al., 2020). Early occurrences of the IUP are found in southwest Asia starting from around 50 ka (Marks and Volkman, 1983;Boaretto et al., 2021), and then spread into regions such as central and north Asia and in Europe by roughly 48e45 ka or perhaps earlier Kuhn and Zwyns, 2014;Slimak et al., 2022). ...
... Notably, Ksâr 'Akil in Lebanon and Üça gızlı Cave I in Turkey have been intensively investigated and have preserved both bone tools and a great number of marine shell ornaments (Newcomer, 1974;Newcomer and Watson, 1984;Kuhn et al., 2009;Bosch et al., 2019). In the southeast European Balkans, three sites in Bulgaria, Bacho Kiro Cave and the caves of Temnata and Kozarnika, also have bone tools, personal ornaments, and several other osseous artifacts in deposits that correspond chronostratigraphically to the IUP (Guadelli et al., 2005;Tsanova, 2008;Fewlass et al., 2020;Hublin et al., 2020;Tsanova et al., 2021). ...
... Although formal bone tools are sometimes recognized within later MP deposits (Gaudzinski, 1999;Soressi et al., 2013;Stepanchuk et al., 2017), formal bone working appears to have a deeper history in Africa beginning from around 120e90 ka in northwest Africa (El Hajraoui and Deb enath, 2012;Jacobs et al., 2012;Bouzouggar et al., 2018;Hallett et al., 2021) and shortly after in other regions (Yellen et al., 1995;d'Errico and Henshilwood, 2007;d'Errico et al., 2012a). After 50 ka, formal bone tool working is more frequently recognized in various regions outside of Africa, such as within the IUP deposits of southeastern Europe and central and north Asia, and later in other UP contexts (Newcomer, 1974;Kozłowski, 1982;Derevianko and Rybin, 2003;Kuhn et al., 2009;Guadelli, 2011;Hublin, 2015;Zwyns and Lbova, 2019;Hublin et al., 2020;Shunkov et al., 2020;Lbova, 2021). ...
The expansion of Homo sapiens and our interaction with local environments, including the replacement or absorption of local populations, is a key component in understanding the evolution of our species. Of special interest are artifacts made from hard animal tissues from layers at Bacho Kiro Cave (Bulgaria) that have been attributed to the Initial Upper Paleolithic. The Initial Upper Paleolithic is characterized by Levallois-like blade technologies that can co-occur with bone tools and ornaments and likely represents the dispersal of H. sapiens into several regions throughout Eurasia starting by 45 ka or possibly earlier. Osseous artifacts from the Initial Upper Paleolithic are important components of this record and have the potential to contribute to our understanding of group interactions and population movements. Here, we present a zooarchaeological, technological, and functional analysis of the diverse and sizable osseous artifact collection from Bacho Kiro Cave. Animal raw material sources are consistent with taxa found within the faunal assemblage including cervids, large bovids, and cave bears. A variety of bone tool morphologies, both formal and informal, indicate a diverse technological approach for conducting various on-site activities, many of which were focused on the processing of animal skins, likely for cold weather clothing. Technological flexibility is also evident in the manufacture of personal ornaments, which were made primarily from carnivore teeth, especially cave bear, though herbivore teeth and small beads are also represented. The osseous artifacts from Bacho Kiro Cave provide a series of insights into the bone technology and indirectly on the social aspects of these humans in southeast Europe, and when placed within the broader Initial Upper Paleolithic context, both regional and shared behaviors are evidently indicating widespread innovation and complexity. This is especially significant given the location and chronology of the site in the context of H. sapiens dispersals.
... Interestinglyand even though the archaeological and palaeogenetic evidence on the likely hominin bearers of the Northwestern and Central European LRJ is likely to tip in favor of early H. sapiens populations rather than late Neanderthals (or show that both demes contributed to its formation) -the LRJ and other 'transitional' or 'Initial' Upper Paleolithic complexes such as the Bachokirian (Hublin et al. 2020), the Bohunician (Svoboda 2003;Valoch 2013b) and possibly the Western European Châtelperronian (Rios-Garaizar et al. 2012;Discamps et al. 2019) seem to showcase a typical Middle Paleolithic signature when carnivore faunal fingerprints, site formation histories and relationships are concerned. This in turn may suggest that the significance of carnivores for Paleolithic societies was not primarily a question of hominin taxonomy and hominin-carnivore correlations, and that the latter were possibly continuous across the Middle Palaolithic-IUP transition. ...
... sapiens polarities, points to overlapping lifeworlds and cultural logics supporting similar carnivore relationshipsa contestation perhaps indirectly supported by the emerging aDNA picture, according to which Europe between 45 and 40 kya was populated by more-or-less Neanderthal-like populations rather than genetically distinct Neanderthal and H. sapiens subpopulations (Fu et al. 2014(Fu et al. , 2015Prüfer et al. 2021). The pierced bear teeth recovered from the IUP layers of Bacho Kiro cave (Hublin et al. 2020) at least seems to continue a trajectory of intensification, and perhaps diversification, in hominin-bear relationships already prefigured in the later Middle Paleolithic. ...
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Late Pleistocene hominins co-evolved with non-analogue assemblages of carnivores and carnivorous omnivores. Although previous work has carefully examined the ecological and adaptive significance of living in such carnivore-saturated environments, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the social and cultural consequences of being-with, and adapting to, other charismatic predators and keystone carnivores. Focusing on Neanderthal populations in Western Eurasia, this paper draws together mounting archaeological evidence that suggests that some Late Pleistocene hominins devised specific behavioral strategies to negotiate their place within the vibrant carnivore guilds of their time. We build on integrative multispecies theory and broader re-conceptualizations of human-nature relations to argue that otherwise puzzling evidence for purported ‘symbolic’ behavior among Neanderthals can compellingly be re-synthesized with their ecology, settlement organization and lifeworld phenomenology. This re-framing of Neanderthal lifeways in the larger context of startling carnivore environments reveals that these hominins likely developed intimate, culturally mediated, and hence varied, bonds with raptor, hyena and bear others, rather than merely competing with them for resources, space and survival. This redressing of human-carnivore relations in the Middle Paleolithic yields important challenges for current narratives on evolving multispecies systems in the Late Pleistocene, complicating our understanding of Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions and the roles of hominins in these processes.
... This overlap suggests a coexistence of several millennia between Neanderthal and modern groups (Marín-Arroyo et al., 2018), and interbreeding between Neanderthals and ancestors of non-African modern humans (Green et al., 2010). In recent years, genetic studies show the coexistence of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens by admixture from Neanderthals into ancestors of present populations in several regions of the world (Green et al., 2010;Prüfer et al., 2014Prüfer et al., , 2021Fu et al., 2015;Bokelmann et al., 2019;Bergström et al., 2020) either through a single (Sankararaman et al., 2012;Bergström et al., 2020) or multiple episodes of gene flow (Prüfer et al., 2014;Vernot and Akey, 2015;Villanea and Schraiber, 2019;Hublin et al., 2020). ...
Evaluating synchronies between climate and cultural changes is a prerequisite for addressing the possible effect of environmental changes on human populations. Searching for synchronies during the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition (ca. 48–36 ka) is hampered by the limits of radiocarbon dating techniques and the large chronological uncertainties affecting the archaeological and paleoclimatic records, as well by their low temporal resolution. Here, we present a high-resolution, pollen-based vegetation record from the Bay of Biscay, sea surface temperature changes, additional ¹⁴ C ages, and a new IRSL date on the fine-sediment fraction of Heinrich Stadial (HS) 6. The IRSL measurements give an age of ca. 54.0 ± 3.4 ka. The paleoclimatic results reveal a succession of rapid climatic changes during the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition in SW France (i.e. D-O 12–8 and two distinct climatic phases during HS 4). Comparison of the new paleoclimatic record with chronologically well-constrained regional archaeological changes shows that no synchronies exist between cultural transitions and environmental changes. The disappearance of Neanderthals and the arrival of Homo sapiens in SW France encompassed a long-term forest opening, suggesting that Homo sapiens may have progressively replaced Neanderthals from D-O 10 to HS 4 through competition for the same ecological niches.
... The cave gained interest for its human occupation potential after the discovery of potential bone artefacts and an intruiguing accumulation of bear skulls and bones (Gurova et al., 2015Gurova and Ivanova, in press) [Supporting Information (SI) 1]. Mishin Kamik cave site is located a few kilometres to the west of known human occupation sites such as Kozarnika (Guadelli et al., 2005;Sirakov et al., 2010), Temnata (Ginter et al., 2011) and Bacho Kiro (Hublin et al., 2020) and therefore provides an opportunity to fill chronological and spatial gaps regarding patterns of human occupation and dispersal along the Balkan route and its relationship to palaeoenvironmental conditions. ...
The Balkan Peninsula represents one of the most important human pathways into and out of Europe during the Pleistocene. Mishin Kamik cave, located in the karst region of Western Stara Planina, has a rich faunal content and shows promising features indicating a human occupation site with the discovery of potential bone artefacts and an intriguing accumulation of bear skulls and bones. Petrographic study and U-series dating of a stalagmite and other calcite deposits in the cave provide an absolute chronological frame for the detrital infillings and their archaeological content and inform the environmental and climatic context of the cave evolution. Most detrital deposits in the cave were probably deposited before Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 and the cave morphology and sedimentary deposits display current morphologies since~135 ka. Consequently, the palaeontological and archaeological findings are older than~135 ka. Calcite dated on and under the accumulation of bear skulls and bones suggests deposition during MIS 7. A first depositional contextualization of the bone accumulation does not allow us to discriminate between a natural or anthropogenic origin. The study emphasizes the added value of speleothem studies in archaeological sites and particularly in bringing a well-constrained chronological and environmental framework.
... A subsequent expansion (linked to IUP in Eurasia) can be dated earlier than 45 ka as proposed by Zwyns et al. (2019), and here we propose it to be a wider phenomenon that populated the broad geographic area between Mediterranean Levant (Marks and Kaufman 1983;Boëda and Bonilauri 2006;Kuhn et al. 2009;Leder 2017;Kadowaki et al. 2021), East Europe (Richter et al. 2008;Fewlass et al. 2020;Hublin et al. 2020), Siberia-Mongolia (Zwyns et al. 2012;Derevianko et al. 2013;Kuhn 2019;Zwyns and Lbova 2019;Zwyns et al. 2019;Rybin et al. 2020), and East Asia (Boëda et al. 2013;Morgan et al. 2014;Peng et al. 2020) in ,5 kyr, reaching as far South as Papua New Guinea before 38 ka, and which eventually died out in Europe after repeated admixtures with Neanderthals (Bacho Kiro and Oase1 being two notable examples) ( fig. 2B). ...
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The population dynamics that followed the Out of Africa (OoA) expansion and the whereabouts of the early migrants before the differentiation that ultimately led to the formation of Oceanian, West and East Eurasian macropopulations have long been debated. Shedding light on these events may, in turn, provide clues to better understand the cultural evolution in Eurasia between 50 and 35 ka. Here, we analyze Eurasian Paleolithic DNA evidence to provide a comprehensive population model and validate it in light of available material culture. Leveraging on our integrated approach we propose the existence of a Eurasian population Hub, where Homo sapiens lived between the OoA and the broader colonization of Eurasia, which was characterized by multiple events of expansion and local extinction. A major population wave out of Hub, of which Ust'Ishim, Bacho Kiro, and Tianyuan are unadmixed representatives, is broadly associated with Initial Upper Paleolithic lithics and populated West and East Eurasia before or around 45 ka, before getting largely extinct in Europe. In this light, we suggest a parsimonious placement of Oase1 as an individual related to Bacho Kiro who experienced additional Neanderthal introgression. Another expansion, started before 38 ka, is broadly associated with Upper Paleolithic industries and repopulated Europe with sporadic admixtures with the previous wave (GoyetQ116-1) and more systematic ones, whereas moving through Siberia (Yana, Mal'ta). Before these events, we also confirm Zlatý Kůň as the most basal human lineage sequenced to date OoA, potentially representing an earlier wave of expansion out of the Hub.
... Piage is among the few sites that have yielded Protoaurignacian levels and is one of the extremely rare sites to have yielded human remains associated with this archaeological cultural complex (Benazzi et al., 2015). These characteristics make it a key piece of the puzzle concerning the makers of tools and artifacts during a period marked by dramatic biological and cultural changes in Eurasia (Hublin et al., 2020;Zilhão et al., 2015). Furthermore, complex post-depositional natural processes occurred at the site, notably solifluction which mixed the Solutrean and Badegoulian cultural material. ...
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Higher education in evolutionary anthropology involves providing students with in‐depth knowledge of biological and cultural heritage sites and collections that are frequently inaccessible. Indeed, most sites, fossils, and archaeological remains can be visited or manipulated only rarely and solely by specialists with extensive experience. Owing to the development of 3D and medical imaging techniques, this fragile heritage is now more widely accessible, and in a dynamic way. However, exclusive adoption of virtual teaching and learning has a negative impact on student engagement and, naturally, on exchanges with instructors, and thus cannot be used without some reservations. In the ITAP (Immersion dans les Terrains de l’Anthropologie biologique et de la Préhistoire) project of the higher education STEP (Soutien à la Transformation et à l’Expérimentation Pédagogiques) transformation program at the University of Bordeaux, we combine student‐active teaching with Master's students fully immersed in ongoing fieldwork, laboratory study, and dissemination of research results in order to develop more individually shaped learning curricula and to foster both professional and new interdisciplinary skills. Here, we present examples of experiments conducted in the ITAP project using both authentic and virtual collections of archaeological, experimental, and reference materials that help to break down the barriers between research activities and higher education, as well as providing a more general appraisal of the appropriate use of virtual tools in higher education by combining them with real‐life situations. The article describes examples of novel teaching methods that we have developed in our Master's program in evolutionary anthropology, where we combine student‐active teaching with Master's students fully immersed in ongoing fieldwork, laboratory study, and dissemination of research results.
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Points from the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician complex (LRJ) evoke numerous comments regarding their cultural patterning and their typo-technological characteristics. The unceasing interest in this group of tools is additionally stimulated by the fact that, in light of the most recent chronometric data, the development of the LRJ complexes in Europe coincides exactly with the period of the Neanderthals’ extinction and the niche extension by modern humans. So far, however, scant information has been provided on the weapon systems used by the hunter-gatherers of LRJ. A re-examination of this group of tools from Nietoperzowa Cave in Poland, the richest LRJ set in Europe, provides new data which fill this gap. Using a multi-proxy approach, which involves geometric-morphometric analyses as well as microscopic and technological studies, we concluded that the points form a homogeneous group with respect to their morphology and functional character. Our findings suggest that the shape subject to predominantly laterisation was the result of the selection of half-product or elongated flakes, and the use of a consistently repetitive procedure to form the proximal and distal parts. The microscopic examination provided evidence that the points were mainly used as components of hunting weapons. We also obtained, for the first time, evidence that answers the question of how some points may have been mounted. In terms of tip cross-section indices, the points from Nietoperzowa Cave are intermediate between arrowheads and tips of the atlatl and examples of Middle Palaeolithic points; they differ only slightly from Szeletian points, which are assigned to the late Middle Palaeolithic or Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP). They show an affinity to some blade EUP industries.
Mitochondrial DNA phylogenetic and phylogeographic studies have been very useful in reconstructing the history of modern humans. In addition, recent advances in ancient DNA techniques have enabled direct glimpses of the human past. Taking advantage of these possibilities, I carried out a spatiotemporal study of the rare and little-studied mtDNA haplogroup U8. Today, U8, represented by its main branches U8a and U8b, has a wide western Eurasian range but both with average frequencies below 1%. It is known that, in Paleolithic times, U8 reached high frequencies in European hunter-gatherers. However, it is pertinent to precise that only lineages belonging to U8a and U8c, a sister branch of U8b, were detected at that time. In spite of its wide geographic implantation, U8c was extinct after the Last Glacial Maximum, but U8a subsisted until the present day, although it never reached its high Paleolithic frequencies. U8a is detected mainly in northern and western Europe including the Basques, testifying to a minor maternal Paleolithic continuity. In this respect, it is worth mentioning that Basques show more U8-based affinities with continental European than with Mediterranean populations. On the contrary, coalescent ages of the most ancient U8b clades point to a Paleolithic diversification in the Caucasus and the Middle Eastern areas. U8b-derived branches reached eastern Europe since the Mesolithic. Subsequent Neolithic and post-Neolithic expansions widen its ranges in continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, including northern Africa, albeit always as a minor clade that accompanied other, more representative, mitochondrial lineages.
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The stratigraphy at Bacho Kiro Cave, Bulgaria, spans the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition, including an Initial Upper Palaeolithic (IUP) assemblage argued to represent the earliest arrival of Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens in Europe. We applied the latest techniques in 14C dating to an extensive dataset of newly excavated animal and human bones to produce a robust, high-precision radiocarbon chronology for the site. At the base of the stratigraphy, the Middle Palaeolithic (MP) occupation dates to >51,000 yr BP. A chronological gap of over 3,000 years separates the MP occupation from the occupation of the cave by H. sapiens, which extends to 34,000 cal BP. The extensive IUP assemblage, now associated with directly dated H. sapiens fossils at this site, securely dates to 45,820–43,650 cal BP (95.4% probability), probably beginning from 46,940 cal BP (95.4% probability). The results provide chronological context for the early occupation of Europe by Upper Palaeolithic H. sapiens. Free full-text, view-only access at:
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We present the latest version of the Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis (MEGA) software, which contains many sophisticated methods and tools for phylogenomics and phylomedicine. In this major upgrade, MEGA has been optimized for use on 64-bit computing systems for analyzing bigger datasets. Researchers can now explore and analyze tens of thousands of sequences in MEGA. The new version also provides an advanced wizard for building timetrees and includes a new functionality to automatically predict gene duplication events in gene family trees. The 64-bit MEGA is made available in two interfaces: graphical and command line. The graphical user interface (GUI) is a native Microsoft Windows application that can also be used on Mac OSX. The command line MEGA is available as native applications for Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX. They are intended for use in high-throughput and scripted analysis. Both versions are available from free of charge.
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Collagen type I fingerprinting (ZooMS) has recently been used to provide either palaeoenvironmental data or to identify additional hominin specimens in Pleistocene contexts, where faunal assemblages are normally highly fragmented. However, its potential to elucidate hominin subsistence behaviour has been unexplored. Here, ZooMS and zooarchaeology have been employed in a complementary approach to investigate bone assemblages from Final Mousterian and Uluzzian contexts at Fumane cave (Italy). Both approaches produced analogous species composition, but differ significantly in species abundance, particularly highlighted by a six fold-increase in the quantity of Bos/Bison remains in the molecularly identified component. Traditional zooarchaeological methods would therefore underestimate the proportion of Bos/Bison in these levels to a considerable extent. We suggest that this difference is potentially due to percussion-based carcass fragmentation of large Bos/Bison bone diaphyses. Finally, our data demonstrates high variability in species assignment to body size classes based on bone cortical thickness and fragment size. Thus, combining biomolecular and traditional zooarchaeological methods allows us to refine our understanding of bone assemblage composition associated with hominin occupation at Fumane.
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Radiocarbon dating archaeological bone typically requires 300–1000 mg material using standard protocols. We report the results of reducing sample size at both the pretreatment and 14C measurement stages for eight archaeological bones spanning the radiocarbon timescale at different levels of preservation. We adapted our standard collagen extraction protocol specifically for <100 mg bone material. Collagen was extracted at least twice (from 37–100 mg material) from each bone. Collagen aliquots containing <100 μg carbon were measured in replicate using the gas ion source of the AixMICADAS. The effect of sample size reduction in the EA-GIS-AMS system was explored by measuring 14C of collagen containing either ca. 30 μg carbon or ca. 90 μg carbon. The gas dates were compared to standard-sized graphite dates extracted from large amounts (500–700 mg) of bone material pretreated with our standard protocol. The results reported here demonstrate that we are able to reproduce accurate radiocarbon dates from <100 mg archaeological bone material back to 40,000 BP.
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Current protocols for ancient DNA and radiocarbon analysis of ancient bones and teeth call for multiple destructive samplings of a given specimen, thereby increasing the extent of undesirable damage to precious archaeological material. Here we present a method that makes it possible to obtain both ancient DNA sequences and radiocarbon dates from the same sample material. This is achieved by releasing DNA from the bone matrix through incubation with either EDTA or phosphate buffer prior to complete demineralization and collagen extraction utilizing the acid-base-acid-gelatinization and ultrafiltration procedure established in most radiocarbon dating laboratories. Using a set of 12 bones of different ages and preservation conditions we demonstrate that on average 89% of the DNA can be released from sample powder with minimal, or 38% without any, detectable collagen loss. We also detect no skews in radiocarbon dates compared to untreated samples. Given the different material demands for radiocarbon dating (500 mg of bone/dentine) and DNA analysis (10-100 mg), combined DNA and collagen extraction not only streamlines the sampling process but also drastically increases the amount of DNA that can be recovered from limited sample material.
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The timing and location of the emergence of our species and of associated behavioural changes are crucial for our understanding of human evolution. The earliest fossil attributed to a modern form of Homo sapiens comes from eastern Africa and is approximately 195 thousand years old, therefore the emergence of modern human biology is commonly placed at around 200 thousand years ago. The earliest Middle Stone Age assemblages come from eastern and southern Africa but date much earlier. Here we report the ages, determined by thermoluminescence dating, of fire-heated flint artefacts obtained from new excavations at the Middle Stone Age site of Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, which are directly associated with newly discovered remains of H. sapiens. A weighted average age places these Middle Stone Age artefacts and fossils at 315 ± 34 thousand years ago. Support is obtained through the recalculated uranium series with electron spin resonance date of 286 ± 32 thousand years ago for a tooth from the Irhoud 3 hominin mandible. These ages are also consistent with the faunal and microfaunal assemblages and almost double the previous age estimates for the lower part of the deposits. The north African site of Jebel Irhoud contains one of the earliest directly dated Middle Stone Age assemblages, and its associated human remains are the oldest reported for H. sapiens. The emergence of our species and of the Middle Stone Age appear to be close in time, and these data suggest a larger scale, potentially pan-African, origin for both.
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The presence of Neandertals in Europe and Western Eurasia before the arrival of anatomically modern humans is well supported by archaeological and paleontological data. In contrast, fossil evidence for Denisovans, a sister group of Neandertals recently identified on the basis of DNA sequences, is limited to three specimens, all of which originate from Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains (Siberia, Russia). We report the retrieval of DNA from a deciduous lower second molar (Denisova 2), discovered in a deep stratigraphic layer in Denisova Cave, and show that this tooth comes from a female Denisovan individual. On the basis of the number of “missing substitutions” in the mitochondrial DNA determined from the specimen, we find that Denisova 2 is substantially older than two of the other Denisovans, reinforcing the view that Denisovans were likely to have been present in the vicinity of Denisova Cave over an extended time period. We show that the level of nuclear DNA sequence diversity found among Denisovans is within the lower range of that of present-day human populations.
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Ancient DNA is revealing new insights into the genetic relationship between Pleistocene hominins and modern humans. Nuclear DNA indicated Neanderthals as a sister group of Denisovans after diverging from modern humans. However, the closer affinity of the Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to modern humans than Denisovans has recently been suggested as the result of gene flow from an African source into Neanderthals before 100,000 years ago. Here we report the complete mtDNA of an archaic femur from the Hohlenstein–Stadel (HST) cave in southwestern Germany. HST carries the deepest divergent mtDNA lineage that splits from other Neanderthals ∼270,000 years ago, providing a lower boundary for the time of the putative mtDNA introgression event. We demonstrate that a complete Neanderthal mtDNA replacement is feasible over this time interval even with minimal hominin introgression. The highly divergent HST branch is indicative of greater mtDNA diversity during the Middle Pleistocene than in later periods.