Thomas Higham's research while affiliated with University of Vienna and other places

Publications (289)

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The timing and character of the Pleistocene peopling of the Americas are measured by the discovery of unequivocal artifacts from well-dated contexts. We report the discovery of a well-dated artifact assemblage containing 14 stemmed projectile points from the Cooper's Ferry site in western North America, dating to ~16,000 years ago. These stemmed po...
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Genomic analyses of Neanderthals have previously provided insights into their population history and relationship to modern humans1–8, but the social organization of Neanderthal communities remains poorly understood. Here we present genetic data for 13 Neanderthals from two Middle Palaeolithic sites in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia: 11 fr...
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The Riparo Mochi rock shelter, located on the Ligurian coast of Italy, is one of the most important early Upper Paleolithic sites on the Mediterranean rim. Its ∼10-m-deep stratigraphy comprises a Mousterian sequence, followed by various development stages of the Upper Paleolithic. A series of radiometric dates on marine shells bearing traces of hum...
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Previous research indicates that human genetic diversity in Wallacea—islands in present-day Eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste that were never part of the Sunda or Sahul continental shelves—has been shaped by complex interactions between migrating Austronesian farmers and indigenous hunter–gatherer communities. Yet, inferences based on present-day g...
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Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Karelia, northwest Russia, is one of the largest Early Holocene cemeteries in northern Eurasia, with 177 burials recovered in excavations in the 1930s; originally, more than 400 graves may have been present. A new radiocarbon dating programme, taking into account a correction for freshwater reservoir effects, suggests that...
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Since the initial identification of the Denisovans a decade ago, only a handful of their physical remains have been discovered. Here we analysed ~3,800 non-diagnostic bone fragments using collagen peptide mass fingerprinting to locate new hominin remains from Denisova Cave (Siberia, Russia). We identified five new hominin bones, four of which conta...
Preprint
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Previous research indicates that the human genetic diversity found in Wallacea - islands in present-day Eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste that were never part of the Sunda or Sahul continental shelves - has been shaped by complex interactions between migrating Austronesian farmers and indigenous hunter-gatherer communities. Here, we provide new ins...
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The use of glutamine deamidation has been controversially proposed as a means of measuring relative decay in archeological bones using peptide mass fingerprinting data. If reliable, it could be used to identify intrusive fossils in stratigraphic layers and relatively date unprovenanced remains. However, growing empirical evidence suggests that ther...
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The timing and dispersal routes of Homo sapiens (H. sapiens) into the Iranian Plateau have always been a matter of debate in the recent years. Current studies on the Upper Palaeolithic period of the Zagros mountains demonstrated the later colonisation of West-Central Zagros by H. sapiens based on techno-typological and radiocarbon dating. The Kerma...
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Denisova Cave, a Pleistocene site in the Altai Mountains of Russian Siberia, has yielded significant fossil and lithic evidence for the Pleistocene in Northern Asia. Abundant animal and human bones have been discovered at the site, however, these tend to be highly fragmented, necessitating new approaches to identifying important hominin and faunal...
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Radiocarbon dating of bone and charcoal from sites dating to the Middle and Upper Paleolithic is challenging due to low residual levels of radiocarbon. This means that small amounts of contaminating carbon can wield a great influence over accuracy unless they are fully removed. The site of Kabazi II in the Crimea is important because radiocarbon da...
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Modern humans expanded into Eurasia more than 40,000 years ago following their dispersal out of Africa. These Eurasians carried ~2–3% Neanderthal ancestry in their genomes, originating from admixture with Neanderthals that took place sometime between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, probably in the Middle East. In Europe, the modern human expansion pre...
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The Kostenki-Borshchevo site complex (Voronezh region, Russia) serves as the foundation of Eastern Europe’s Upper Paleolithic chronocultural framework. Here we present new radiocarbon dates for three Kostenki sites. Dates of ∼27.5–27 ka BP for Kostenki 15 suggest that its archaeological layer accumulated over a short period. These results help to c...
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Most scholars of the subject consider that a pre-Columbian transpacific transfer accounts for the historical role of American sweet potato Ipomoea batatas as the kūmara staple of Indigenous New Zealand/Aotearoa Māori in cooler southwestern Polynesia. Archaeologists have recorded evidence of ancient Polynesian I . batatas cultivation from warmer par...
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Recent research on Later Stone Age (LSA) San rock art in southern Africa has unveiled some of the paint recipes the artists employed. However, these discoveries still need to be linked to human activities in or near the rock shelters where the paintings were made. In this paper, we report characterization and dating results from the catchment of th...
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The limestone islands of the Bahamian archipelago provide a challenging environment for human settlement, one that was not taken up until after AD 700. The analysis of human skeletal remains offers new insights into how this challenge was met. A substantial program of AMS ¹⁴C dating on pre-Columbian humans (n = 66) provides a robust chronological f...
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Kůlna Cave is the only site in Moravia, Czech Republic, from which large assemblages of both Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian archaeological materials have been excavated from relatively secure stratified deposits. The site therefore offers the unrivalled opportunity to explore the relationship between these two archaeological phases. In this study,...
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Hafting adhesives play a crucial role in the study of composite objects such as hunting weapons. However, they tend to degrade rapidly and, when they exceptionally preserve, they represent only micro remains. Over the last 20 years, different techniques have been applied to study such hafting residues. These techniques include optical microscopy, s...
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The site of Riparo Broion (Vicenza, northeastern Italy) preserves a stratigraphic sequence documenting the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition, in particular the final Mousterian and the Uluzzian cultures. In 2018, a human tooth was retrieved from a late Mousterian level, representing the first human remain ever found from this rock shelter (Rip...
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The peopling of the Americas marks a major expansion of humans across the planet. However, questions regarding the timing and mechanisms of this dispersal remain, and the previously accepted model (termed ‘Clovis-first’)—suggesting that the first inhabitants of the Americas were linked with the Clovis tradition, a complex marked by distinctive flut...
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In prehistoric coastal and western-central Thailand, rice was the dominant cultivar. In eastern-central Thailand, however, the first known farmers cultivated millet. Using one of the largest collections of archaeobotanical material in Southeast Asia, this article examines how cropping systems were adapted as domesticates were introduced into easter...
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The Khao Wong Prachan Valley of central Thailand is one of four known prehistoric loci of copper mining, smelting and casting in Southeast Asia. Many radiocarbon determinations from bronze-consumption sites in north-east Thailand date the earliest copper-base metallurgy there in the late second millennium BC. By applying kernel density estimation a...
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The initial colonization of the Americas remains a highly debated topic1, and the exact timing of the first arrivals is unknown. The earliest archaeological record of Mexico—which holds a key geographical position in the Americas—is poorly known and understudied. Historically, the region has remained on the periphery of research focused on the firs...
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The presence of people in Switzerland in recently deglaciated landscapes after the Last Glacial Maximum represents human utilisation of newly available environments. Understanding these landscapes and the resources available to the people who exploited them is key to understanding not only Late Upper Palaeolithic settlement in Switzerland, but more...
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With the improvements in the techniques of radiocarbon dating since the 1990s and the pretreatment of bone samples, it has become apparent that some of the radiocarbon dates from Irish caves such as Castlepook Cave may not be as accurate as previously determined. The faunal remains and sediments within Castlepook Cave are important as this cave is...
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Skeletal evidence of two probable cases of treponematosis, caused by infection with the bacterium Treponema pallidum, from the northern Vietnamese early Neolithic site of Man Bac (1906–1523 cal B.C.) is described. The presence of nodes of subperiosteal new bone directly associated with superficial focal cavitations in a young adult male and a seven...
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Abri Pataud (France) is the type site in studies focusing on the appearance of modern humans and the development of classic Upper Paleolithic technocomplexes in Europe. It contains important evidence of successful adaptation strategies of modern humans to new territories and in response to sharply changing climatic conditions that characterized Mar...
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Central Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) was dominated by polar desert and steppe-tundra biomes. Despite this, a human presence during this time period is evident at several locations across the region, including in Switzerland, less than 50 km from the Alpine ice sheet margin. It has been hypothesised that such human activity may have...
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89th Annual Meeting of the American-Association-of-Physical-Anthropologists (AAPA), Los Angeles, CA, APR 15-18, 2020
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This paper presents new archaeological material and first dates on Upper Pleistocene layers at the site of La Crouzade cave (Gruissan, Aude, France). The site was first excavated by T. and P. Héléna at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the excavations were recently completed during three years (2016–2018) of systematic campaigns.We obtain...
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Bone is one of the main sample types used for building chronologies in archaeology. It is also used in other research areas such as palaeodiet and palaeoenvironmental studies. However, for results to be accurate, samples must be free of exogenous carbon. Contamination can originate from a wide range of sources in the post-depositional environment b...
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The early occupation of America The Cooper's Ferry archaeological site in western North America has provided evidence for the pattern and time course of the early peopling of the Americas. Davis et al. describe new evidence of human activity from this site, including stemmed projectile points. Radiocarbon dating and Bayesian analysis indicate an ag...
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Objectives: This article documents an incomplete child's mandible found in H. Obermaier's excavation campaign (in 1912) in El Castillo Cave, Spain. This fossil was assigned to what was then considered a phase of the "Aurignacian-delta". Materials and methods: We exhaustively analyzed the original Obermaier documents, with particular attention to...
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Removing contaminants: a restatement of the value of isolating single compounds for AMS dating - Volume 93 Issue 370 - Thomas F.G. Higham
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The current phylogeographic pattern of European brown bears (Ursus arctos) has commonly been explained by postglacial recolonization out of geographically distinct refugia in southern Europe, a pattern well in accordance with the expansion/contraction model. Studies of ancient DNA from brown bear remains have questioned this pattern, but have faile...
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One of the most reliable proofs of terrestrial ice-free conditions within Stadials is the presence of terrestrial vertebrate fauna that require access to vegetation in the winter, for example sedentary birds such as Ptarmigans and herbivorous mammals in particular. The musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) is an example of the latter; modern-day distributions...
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Archaeogenetic studies have described the formation of Eurasian ‘steppe ancestry’ as a mixture of Eastern and Caucasus hunter-gatherers. However, it remains unclear when and where this ancestry arose and whether it was related to a horizon of cultural innovations in the 4th millennium BCE that subsequently facilitated the advance of pastoral societ...
Preprint
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Several questions remain regarding the timing and nature of the Neanderthal-anatomically modern human (AMH) transition in Europe. The situation in Eastern Europe is generally less clear due to the relatively few sites and a dearth of reliable radiocarbon dates. Claims have been made for both notably early AMH and notably late Neanderthal presence,...
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Supplementary material for Davis et al. (2019) Science paper "Late Upper Paleolithic occupation at Cooper’s Ferry, Idaho, USA, ~16,000 years ago"
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Understanding extinction events requires an unbiased record of the chronology and ecology of victims and survivors. The rhinoceros Elasmotherium sibiricum, known as the ‘Siberian unicorn’, was believed to have gone extinct around 200,000 years ago—well before the late Quaternary megafaunal extinction event. However, no absolute dating, genetic anal...
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Complex processes in the settling of the Americas The expansion into the Americas by the ancestors of present day Native Americans has been difficult to tease apart from analyses of present day populations. To understand how humans diverged and spread across North and South America, Moreno-Mayar et al. sequenced 15 ancient human genomes from Alaska...
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The Late Bronze Age–Early Iron Age midden sites of Southern Britain are amongst the richest archaeological sites in the country. The organic accumulations contain substantial quantities of animal bone, decorated ceramics, metalwork and other objects; the often deep stratigraphy allows for changes in material culture and depositional practices, food...
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New evidence from archaeological investigations in north-east Thailand shows a transition in rice farming towards wetland cultivation that would have facilitated greater yields and surpluses. This evidence, combined with new dates and palaeoclimatic data, suggests that this transition took place in the Iron Age, at a time of increasingly arid clima...
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Interdisciplinary scientific investigations utilising chemical analysis, shotgun metagenomics, textile analysis and radiocarbon dating have been applied to the study of an intact prehistoric Egyptian mummy, allowing insights into when this individual lived and died, and the funerary treatments employed in the preparation of the body. Here we presen...
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There are numerous burials known from Upper Palaeolithic contexts in European Russia. One of the lesser-known of these burials is that found at Kostënki 18, in the Kostënki-Borshchëvo region on the Don river near Voronezh. At this site, a lithic assemblage attributed to the Kostënki-Avdeevo Culture was also found, but no direct stratigraphic connec...
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Found in 1968, the archaeological site of Anzick, Montana, contains the only known Clovis burial. Here, the partial remains of a male infant, Anzick-1, were found in association with a Clovis assemblage of over 100 lithic and osseous artifacts—all red-stained with ochre. The incomplete, unstained cranium of an unassociated, geologically younger ind...
Preprint
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Archaeogenetic studies have described the formation of Eurasian 'steppe ancestry' as a mixture of Eastern and Caucasus hunter-gatherers. However, it remains unclear when and where this ancestry arose and whether it was related to a horizon of cultural innovations in the 4th millennium BCE that subsequently facilitated the advance of pastoral societ...
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The majority of archaeological remains found at El Castillo in northern Iberia were excavated between 1910 and 1914 by Hugo Obermaier. Since the 1980s El Castillo has been studied through a detailed analysis of Obermaier's original excavation notes, the cleaning and study of the extant section, and the excavation of material in the shelter entrance...