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Abstract

The Romanelli Cave in south-east Italy is an important reference point for the so-called ‘Mediterranean province’ of European Upper Palaeolithic art. Yet, the site has only recently been subject to a systematic investigation of its parietal and portable art. Starting in 2016, a project has recorded the cave's interior, discovering new parietal art. Here, the authors report on a selection of panels, featuring animal figures, geometric motifs and other marks, identifying the use of different types of tools and techniques, along with several activity phases. These panels are discussed with reference to radiocarbon dating of nearby deposits, posing questions about chronology, technology and wider connections between Upper Palaeolithic cave sites across western Eurasia.

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... The results of more recent AMS 14 C dating, obtained by teeth and postcranial elements of mammal fossils collected from Terre brune (Table 1; Calcagnile et al., 2019, Sigari et al., 2021, expand and refine the previous chronology, with lower levels (level E sensu Blanc, 1920;Fig. 2) encompassing the Late Pleistocene-Holocene boundary and extending the chronology of the upper levels (level B sensu Blanc, 1920;Fig. ...
... cut marks and burning: Tagliacozzo, 1997, Cassoli et al., 2003). Moreover, the long-lasting occupation of the cave by Homo sapiens during the Upper Palaeolithic is documented by a diversified record, which includes not only human fossils and lithic artefacts as already reported, but also hearts, mobiliary and parietal art (Blanc, 1928;Sardella et al., 2018;Sigari et al., 2021). ...
Article
This study aims to understand the relationship between the palaeoenvironmental evolution of the southern margin of the Salpi lagoon (Tavoliere coastal plain, Apulia, Italy) and the development of settlements on its shores during the last part of the Holocene (Late Northgrippian to Late Meghalayan) to complement recent archaeological investigations at the site of pre-Roman Salpia Vetus, Roman Salapia and Medieval Salpi. Micropalaeontological, palynological, and sedimentological analyses were conducted on a total of ten drilled cores, revealing local and regional events. Facies and micropalaeontological analyses show that the lagoon was partially connected to the sea between 6.2 ka BP and 3.1 ka BP. Between 3.1 ka BP and 2.4 ka BP, the area was characterised by marshes and swamps with restricted brackish lagoon conditions and permanent freshwater input. After 2.4 ka BP, the continuous freshwater influx from the major rivers of the coastal plain determined the progradation of the floodplain and the closure of the lagoon, with the formation of the two coastal lakes of Lago Salso (north) and Lago Salpi (south). Pollen data show the expansion of halophytic herbs under local brackish conditions during the Early Meghalayan and the continuous spread of dryland herbs consistent with the closure of the basin. The alluvial plain progradation during the Late Meghalayan allowed the intensive exploitation of the area and the development of a highly anthropogenic landscape. The development of the settlements of pre-Roman Salpia Vetus, Roman Salapia, and Medieval Salpi was mainly determined by the insalubrious condition of the surrounding marshes, due to the reduction in water depth and oscillations in salinity.
... The non-figurative parietal art depictions are well known from the Upper Paleolithic of Southern (e.g. Servidio et al., 2021;Sigari et al., 2021) and Western Europe (e.g. Lerma et al., 2006;Ruiz-Redondo, 2014;Moralez and Straus, 2015;Riley, 2017;White et al., 2019;Ruiz et al., 2022) and assumed to be presented in Ukrainian Carpathians (Chernysh, 1959). ...
... The appearance of the Wizard from Kamyana Mohyla, however, differs from known bird depictions from Central and Western Europe (see Sigari et al., 2021). In fact, it lacks all attributes that might support this interpretation. ...
Article
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The complex of Kamyana Mohyla is the westernmost rock art location of the Eurasian Steppe and the largest accumulation of cave art sites in the Eastern Europe. So far it has been believed that the complex contains the Upper Paleolithic cave art images as well as portable art collection that resemble the instances of Upper Paleolithic worldview. Though this belief lacked the support of archaeological context and chronological attribution it remained neither proved nor disputed. However, the application of digital photogrammetric tools allowed to perform the sub-millimeter surface modeling of the rock art objects and to re-examine and reconsider the engravings that were previously attributed to Pleistocene. The modeling results presented in this article revealed the complete absence of figurative images for the collection of portable art specimens and the dubious character of those for the cave art one. Therefore, the whole collection should be reconsidered, studied and attributed according to the state of the art and contemporary archaeological record in the region. This contribution attempts to think over the possible Upper Paleolithic origin of the motifs from Kamyana Mohyla in the light of new data and proposes three hypotheses towards the understanding of the rock art assemblage from one of the caves in the complex.
... The research team had to face the consequences of more than 40 years of inactivity in the site and the combined effects of erosion and illegal excavations that took place during last decades (Conti et al. 2017;Giustini et al. 2018;Sardella et al. 2018). Recently, the age of the "terre brune" has been reassessed, with new fossil remains submitted for 14 C dating using the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS14C) dating techniques (Calcagnile et al. 2019;Sigari et al. 2021). The results expand and refine the previous chronology, with a time span for levels D and B, respectively, from 13,976-13,545 14 C cal BP to 9135-8639 14 C cal BP (Calcagnile et al. 2019), whereas the level E was dated between 13,087-12,839 and 13,408-13,153 (Sigari et al. 2021). ...
... Recently, the age of the "terre brune" has been reassessed, with new fossil remains submitted for 14 C dating using the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS14C) dating techniques (Calcagnile et al. 2019;Sigari et al. 2021). The results expand and refine the previous chronology, with a time span for levels D and B, respectively, from 13,976-13,545 14 C cal BP to 9135-8639 14 C cal BP (Calcagnile et al. 2019), whereas the level E was dated between 13,087-12,839 and 13,408-13,153 (Sigari et al. 2021). As reported by Sardella et al. (2018), one of the main unexplained aspects, which needs to be investigated, concerns the age of the lower deposits due to the apparent contradiction between the supposed archaic nature of the Mousterian artifacts and the position of the vertebrate fauna being situated above the supposed MIS 5.5 terrace. ...
Article
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A river otter hemimandible has been rediscovered during the revision of the historical collections of G.A. Blanc from Grotta Romanelli, complementing the ongoing multidisciplinary research fieldwork on the site. The specimen, recovered from the level G (“terre rosse”; early Late Pleistocene or late Middle Pleistocene), is here assigned to Lutra lutra . Indeed, morphological and morphometric comparisons with other Quaternary Lutrinae fossils from Europe allow to exclude an attribution to the relatively widespread and older Lutra simplicidens , characterized by distinctive carnassial proportions. Differences with Cyrnaonyx antiqua , which possessed a more robust, shellfish-feeding dentition, support the view of a successful niche repartition between the two species during the late Middle to Late Pleistocene of Europe. The occurrence of Lutra lutra from the “terre rosse” of Grotta Romanelli suggests deep modifications of the landscapes due to the ecological adaptation of the taxon, and indicates that the Eurasian otter spread into Europe at the Middle–Late Pleistocene transition.
... Mat.). Moreover, radiocarbon dates of the same Unit in the S, W and SW sectors of the cave, provided ages for its deposition between 13,6 cal ka BP and 11,4 cal ka BP (31,49) indicating high sedimentation rates at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Such rapid sedimentation occurred by both erosion of the surrounding landscape and related sediments and soil covers and partial re-working of the older succession within the cave, including the autochthonous coarse-grained gravels and cobbles of bedrock produced by the degradation of the cave walls and ceiling. ...
Preprint
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During the last century, Grotta Romanelli (Southern Italy) has been a reference site for the European Late Pleistocene stratigraphy, due to its geomorphological setting and archaeological and palaeontological content. The beginning of the sedimentation inside the cave was attributed to MISs 5e and the oldest unearthed evidence of human occupation, including remains of hearths, was therefore referred to the Middle Palaeolithic. Recent surveys and excavations produced new U/Th dates, palaeoenvironmental interpretation and a litho-, morpho- and chrono-stratigraphical reassessment, placing the oldest human frequentation of the cave between MIS 9 and MIS 7, therefore embracing Glacial and Interglacial cycles. These new data provide evidence that the sea reached the cave during the Middle Pleistocene and human occupation occurred long before MISs 5e and persisted beyond the Pleistocene- Holocene boundary.
... The cave was excavated by Blanc for most of the 1920s, who applied for the first time a systematic archeological/paleontological and stratigraphic method in fieldwork activities. A considerable number of finds were recovered during the excavation activities carried out over the last century, consisting of fossil remains, lithic and bone tools, and fine examples of mobiliary and rock art (Sardella et al., 2018, 2019, Sigari et al., 2021Mecozzi et al., 2022) (Fig. 2, Fig. 3). The archeological and paleontological heritage of Grotta Romanelli, recognized in all the European territory (Sardella et al., 2018(Sardella et al., , 2019, led to consider this cave a geosite which needs to be preserved. ...
Conference Paper
Grotta Romanelli is a coastal cave inhabited by humans since the Middle Pleistocene and considered a symbol of the Palaeolithic period in Europe. The site, facing the Ionian Sea, is located in the administrative territory of the Castro (Lecce) municipality, at the south-eastern extremity of Apulia.This area, also known as Salentine Peninsula, documents the Quaternary human presence and climatic changes through rich archaeological, palaeontological and geological evidence. This richness favoured the establishment of several Regional Natural Parks to protect the natural landscape and its historical heritage, such as “Porto Selvaggio and Palude del Capitano”, “Isola di Sant’Andrea e Litorale di Punta Pizzo”, “Litorale di Ugento”, “Bosco and Paludi di Rauccio” and “Costa Otranto-Santa Maria di Leuca and Bosco di Tricase” where Grotta Romanelli is located.
... The cave was excavated by Blanc for most of the 1920s, who applied for the first time a systematic archeological/paleontological and stratigraphic method in fieldwork activities. A considerable number of finds were recovered during the excavation activities carried out over the last century, consisting of fossil remains, lithic and bone tools, and fine examples of mobiliary and rock art (Sardella et al., 2018, Sigari et al., 2021Mecozzi et al., 2022) (Fig. 2, Fig. 3). The archeological and paleontological heritage of Grotta Romanelli, recognized in all the European territory (Sardella et al., 2018(Sardella et al., , 2019, led to consider this cave a geosite which needs to be preserved. ...
Book
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Procedeeding Book of the ProGEO SW Europe Regional Working Group. Virtual Conference on Geoconservation. March 30-31, 2022
Article
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During the last century, Grotta Romanelli (Southern Italy) has been a reference site for the European Late Pleistocene stratigraphy, due to its geomorphological setting and archaeological and palaeontological content. The beginning of the sedimentation inside the cave was attributed to the Last Interglacial (MISs 5e) and the oldest unearthed evidence of human occupation, including remains of hearths, was therefore referred to the Middle Palaeolithic. Recent surveys and excavations produced new U/Th dates, palaeoenvironmental interpretation and a litho-, morpho- and chrono-stratigraphical reassessment, placing the oldest human frequentation of the cave between MIS 9 and MIS 7, therefore embracing Glacial and Interglacial cycles. These new data provide evidence that the sea reached the cave during the Middle Pleistocene and human occupation occurred long before MISs 5e and persisted beyond the Pleistocene- Holocene boundary.
Article
Pollen analyses have been carried out on the infilling deposits of Grotta Romanelli (Apulia, Italy), a reference site for the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic of Italy. The analysis focused on Terre rosse, a fine unit till now ascribed to an interstadial phase following the Würm acme, and on the uppermost unit (Terre brune), recently dated to the latest Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene. Despite the diffuse barrenness and low pollen concentration of many levels, pollen data from Grotta Romanelli gives insights into the palaeoenvironmental setting of the deposits and their chronological attribution. The presence of Olea in all levels of Terre rosse strongly suggests their attribution to the Last Interglacial (Eemian), during which this plant was diffused in the Mediterranean area. The Terre brune deposition occurred when the environment was open, with rare trees and shrubs and prevailing steppe elements. This association reflects the climatic conditions of the Lateglacial, with evidence of both the warm interstadial Bølling/Allerød and the cold stadial Younger Dryas. Mediterranean, mesophilous and riparian arboreal elements are present, especially in the Early Holocene levels. Comparison with modern pollen material allowed some fossil grains, found in high amounts and in clusters, to be tentatively ascribed to the species Crithmum maritimum (Apiaceae), Muscari comosum and to Asparagus maritimus/Ornithogalum (Asparagaceae). The significant occurrence of such entomophilous plants reveals differential transportation inside the cave and, since most of them are edible and/or have medicinal properties, suggests an intentional introduction and possible use during time, by both Neanderthals and modern humans.
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A river otter hemimandible has been rediscovered during the revision of the historical collections of G.A. Blanc from Grotta Romanelli, complementing the ongoing multidisciplinary research fieldwork on the site. The specimen, recovered from the level G (“terre rosse”; early Late Pleistocene or late Middle Pleistocene), is here assigned to Lutra lutra . Indeed, morphological and morphometric comparisons with other Quaternary Lutrinae fossils from Europe allow to exclude an attribution to the relatively widespread and older Lutra simplicidens , characterized by distinctive carnassial proportions. Differences with Cyrnaonyx antiqua , which possessed a more robust, shellfish-feeding dentition, support the view of a successful niche repartition between the two species during the late Middle to Late Pleistocene of Europe. The occurrence of Lutra lutra from the “terre rosse” of Grotta Romanelli suggests deep modifications of the landscapes due to the ecological adaptation of the taxon, and indicates that the Eurasian otter spread into Europe at the Middle–Late Pleistocene transition.
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This paper presents the results of a recent systematic review of the zoomorphic figures of the Romito shelter, a key site for Upper Palaeolithic rock art and one of the best‐preserved in Europe. The research led to the discovery of two new animal figures and re‐examines the chronology of the rock art evidence and the chrono‐stylistic data. The zoomorphic figures are discussed within the wider chrono‐cultural frame of Magdalenian figurative productions, casting new light on the Palaeolithic rock art phenomenon of southern Italy. This seems to go beyond the fixed limits of the ‘Mediterranean artistic province’, being part of the bigger contemporary picture of the Magdalenian cultures and extended over a broader territory.
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Nel parco Naturale Regionale Costa Otranto Santa Maria di Leuca - Bosco di Tricase sono presenti cavità carsiche che rappresentano preziosi archivi naturali dei cambiamenti climatici avvenuti nel corso del Quaternario e dell ' antica presenza umana sul territorio. Tra queste cavità, Grotta Romanelli ha attirato l' attenzione degli studiosi sin dalla fine del 1800. Grazie alle loro ricerche, la grotta ha restituito numerosi reperti archeologici (manufatti in calcare e in selce), sepolture umane, arte parietale e mobiliare, e reperti paleontologici, come il pinguino boreale alca impenne (Pinguinus impennis) divenuto una vera e propria icona della cosiddetta "era glaciale". La straordinaria ricchezza dei depositi ha reso Grotta Romanelli un sito chiave per lo studio dei cambiamenti climatici e delle relazioni tra uomo e ambiente nell'area mediterranea durante il Quaternario. Il contenuto della grotta, che si apre direttamente sul mare, è esposto ad un alto rischio di degrado per alterazione ad opera delle acque sia continentali (precipitazione, percolazione, ruscellamento), sia marine (mareggiate e spray marino). Pertanto, la nuova fase di scavi, iniziata nel 2015 e tuttora in corso, pone un'attenzione particolare alla documentazione e alle azioni atte alla conservazione della cavità, del deposito che vi è ancora conservato, delle pareti decorate con centinaia di incisioni. A tal fine è stato avviato il monitoraggio sistematico dei fattori di degrado, il rilievo speleologico e archeologico delle evidenze di arte rupestre e la realizzazione di modelli 3D, importante risorsa per la musealizzazione e la valorizzazione interattiva di grotte di difficile accesso ai non addetti ai lavori, come è Grotta Romanelli.
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During the Upper Paleolithic, Ice Age peoples in Europe and Australia used their fingers to trace figurative and non-figurative images in soft sediments that lined the walls and ceilings of the limestone caves they encountered. The resulting images, while fragile, are preserved in at least 70 caves with the oldest dating to approximately 36,000 years ago. During the first 100 years of the study of Paleolithic cave imagery, these finger flutings were largely ignored. Though they make up a larger percentage of cave art than any other form, they are enigmatic and not always visually appealing. In 1912, Henri Breuil famously referred to them as “traits parasites” (parasite lines) and deleted them from his re-drawings of cave images, believing they detracted from the figurative art. Flutings have been interpreted alternately as doodling, serpent or water images, the residue of surface preparation for making, and evidence of the moment when a shaman touches the “skin” of the otherworld. In this paper, we argue that there are three reasons why finger flutings have taken on greater significance in the study of Pleistocene visual cultures. First, theories concerning the meaning and relevance of finger flutings were developed without supporting evidence as no methodology existed by which to study flutings until the beginning of the twenty-first century. Second, there has been a broadening of the definition of “art” in a Paleolithic context to include categories of materials, including finger flutings, which would traditionally have been excluded from consideration. Third, there has been a concomitant shift from a focus on the final product—“the artwork” to an exploration of the embodied process of manufacturing the imagery—the “work” of art. Finger flutings carry with them physical evidence of this process. Finally, by presenting a detailed study of finger flutings at Gargas Cave (France), we consider what is gained by including finger flutings in the study of Paleolithic art and what this “archaeology of intimacy” can tell us about the lived lives of Ice Age peoples.
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Grotta Romanelli, located on the Adriatic coast of southern Apulia (Italy), is considered a key site for the Mediterranean Pleistocene for its archaeological and palaeontological contents. The site, discovered in 1874, was re-evaluated only in 1900, when P. E. Stasi realised that it contained the first evidence of the Palaeolithic in Italy. Starting in 1914, G.A. Blanc led a pioneering excavation campaign, for the first-time using scientific methods applied to systematic paleontological and stratigraphical studies. Blanc proposed a stratigraphic framework for the cave. Different dating methods (C14 and U/Th) were used to temporally constrain the deposits. The extensive studies of the cave and its contents were mostly published in journals with limited distribution and access, until the end of the 1970s, when the site became forgotten. In 2015, with the permission of the authorities, a new excavation campaign began, led by a team from Sapienza University of Rome in collaboration with IGAG CNR and other research institutions. The research team had to deal with the consequences of more than 40 years of inactivity in the field and the combined effect of erosion and legal, as well as illegal, excavations. In this paper, we provide a database of all the information published during the first 70 years of excavations and highlight the outstanding problems and contradictions between the chronological and geomorphological evidence, the features of the faunal assemblages and the limestone artefacts.
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Calcite moonmilk, which is a cave deposit formed of calcite crystals and mater, is found in many caves in the Italian Alps. These modern and ancient deposits are formed of fiber calcite crystals, 50-500 nm wide and 1 to > 10 mu m long, and polycrystalline chains that have few crystal defects. Radiocarbon dating indicates that most moonmilk deposits in these caves are fossil and that for most precipitation ceased similar to 6400 cal years BP, at the end of the mid-Holocene Hypsithermal, In the caves of the Italian Alps, the optimal conditions for formation of calcite moonmilk are: (1) a temperature range of 3.5-5.5 degrees C, (2) low discharge volumes of seepage waters that are slightly supersaturated (SICAL = 0.0 to similar to 0.2), and (3) relative humidity that is at or close to 100%. Microbial activity apparently did not play an active role in the formation of the calcite moonmilk, Conditions for moonmilk formation are typically found in caves that are located beneath land surfaces, which are soil covered and support a conifer forest. Precipitation of the fiber calcite crystals apparently involved very slow how of slightly supersaturated fluids. The fact that moonmilk appears to form under a narrow range of environmental conditions means that this cave deposit has potential as a paleoclimatic indicator in high alpine karst areas.
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Gönnersdorf-style figurines and silhouettes are well known at over 40 sites in western and central Europe and are found in association with Magdalenian or Azilian lithic industries. We describe an engraving of this type discovered at Grotta Romanelli in south-western Italy, in association with a Romanellian industry, a local facies of the Italian Late Epigravettian. This find considerably extends the known geographical distribution of Gönnersdorf-type figures.
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This paper is part of a broad special issue exploring the Cultures of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in Western Europe. In this context our aim is to offer a state of the art review of the figurative Palaeolithic art spanning the period between 15000 and 11500 cal BP (12500-10000 BP) in the Mediterranean Iberia. We start with a short description of the few, but singular, finds published to date in the archaeological literature and ascribed to this period based on both absolute and relative dating techniques, assessing the quality and reliability of the ascription suggested. The aim is to offer an updated review of the main features, the evolution and sequencing of final Palaeolithic art in the study area, of interest for comparative analysis and for more global debates on the latest changes and final disappearance of figurative art of Palaeolithic style in this part of the world.
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Caves as geosites structurally illustrate the strict dependence of human occupation on geological and geomorphological processes, playing a crucial role in the development of human civilisation. Grotta Romanelli embodies such a kind of geosite, being a coastal cave occupied by humans since the Middle Pleistocene and considered a symbol of the Palaeolithic period in Europe. Research on the cave, derived from the excavation activities carried out last century, consisted of a well-documented stratigraphic framework, abundant fossil remains and archaeological findings which included tools and rock art. The excavation activities stopped for about 40 years, hampering any new research on the cave. In 2015, new fieldwork was initiated and the multidisciplinary team immediately had to face several conservation issues linked to natural processes (erosion, degradation of the walls due to biodeteriogens) and human activities (mainly legal and illegal excavations). The use of 3D technologies to document the different phases of the research, from the field work to the digital reconstruction of fossil remains, has been extensively applied and represents an attempt to solve the issues of accessibility, education and sharing the heritage, which should be further implemented in the future.
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In this paper, we present the results of the accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS ¹⁴ C) dating campaign performed on samples selected from different levels in Grotta Romanelli (Castro, Italy). Grotta Romanelli is one of the key sites for the chronology of Middle Pleistocene–Holocene in Mediterranean region. After the first excavation campaigns carried out in the first decades of the 1900s, the cave has been systematically re-excavated only since 2015. During the last excavation campaigns different faunal remains were selected and submitted for ¹⁴ C dating in order to confirm the chronology of the cave with a higher resolution. Isotopic ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) measurements were also carried out on faunal remains.
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Rock art is key for understanding European Palaeolithic societies. Long thought to have been restricted to South-west Europe, recent discoveries on the Balkan Peninsula have expanded significantly the geographic distribution of Upper Palaeolithic figurative rock art, calling into question the idea of its limited distribution. This article presents the first example of figurative cave art discovered in the Balkan region, at Romualdova Pećina ('Romuald's Cave') in Croatia, discussing its chronology and relevance in the context of recent research in Pleistocene art.
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Long doubted, the existence of Pleistocene rock art in North Africa is here proven through the dating of petroglyph panels displaying aurochs and other animals at Qurta in the Upper Egyptian Nile Valley The method used was optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) applied to deposits of wind-blown sediment covering the images.This gave a minimum age of ∼15 000 calendar years making the rock engravings at Qurta the oldest so far found in North Africa.
Article
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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