Bottle gourd, one of the most cross-culturally ubiquitous crops, had a pan-tropical distribution by the beginning of the Holocene. Our findings overturn a major component of the current model for bottle gourd’s early global dispersal, specifically regarding how it entered the Americas. Our findings also indicate that the domestication process itself took place in a diffuse pattern throughout the bottle gourd’s New World range, explaining early and nearly contemporaneous use of bottle gourds in North, Central, and South America. Bottle gourd’s weedy growth habit and the diffuse domestication pattern also suggest that early cultivation were probably not restricted to known centers of domestication. It is likely, however, that domesticated phenotypes emerged in these centers alongside food crops.
Delicate decorative murals at El Tajin were deteriorating due to salt and moisture problems. It has taken four years of work to stabilize the art
David Connolly's insight:
Delicate decorative murals that cover the walls, mouldings and cornices of Building I at the World Heritage Site of El Tajin, located in the Mexican state of Veracruz, and which constitute the most complete set preserved in situ within this archaeological complex, have been stabilized after four years of intensive work by specialists.
Widespread evidence for human occupation of the Atacama Desert, 20° to 25°S in northern Chile, has been found from 13,000 calibrated 14C years before the present (cal yr B.P.) to 9500 cal yr B.P., and again after 4500 cal yr B.P. Initial human occupation coincided with a change from very dry environments to humid environments. More than 39 open early Archaic campsites at elevations above 3600 meters show that hunters lived around late glacial/early Holocene paleolakes on the Altiplano. Cessation of the use of the sites between 9500 and 4500 cal yr B.P. is associated with drying of the lakes. The mid-Holocene collapse of human occupation is also recorded in cave deposits. One cave contained Pleistocene fauna associated with human artifacts. Faunal diversity was highest during the humid early Holocene.
Just finished up remaking the figures for the annual Jobs in British Archaeology article. Hopefully at some point in the near future it will be in an issue of The Archaeologist. I have redone the figures with a table-graph?
We have used a paleogenetics approach to investigate the genetic landscape of coat color variation in ancient Eurasian dog and wolf populations. We amplified DNA fragments of two genes controlling coat color, Mc1r (Melanocortin 1 Receptor) and CBD103 (canine-β-defensin), in respectively 15 and 19 ancient canids (dogs and wolf morphotypes) from 14 different archeological sites, throughout Asia and Europe spanning from ca. 12 000 B.P. (end of Upper Palaeolithic) to ca. 4000 B.P. (Bronze Age). We provide evidence of a new variant (R301C) of the Melanocortin 1 receptor (Mc1r) and highlight the presence of the beta-defensin melanistic mutation (CDB103-K locus) on ancient DNA from dog-and wolf-morphotype specimens. We show that the dominant KB allele (CBD103), which causes melanism, and R301C (Mc1r), the variant that may cause light hair color, are present as early as the beginning of the Holocene, over 10 000 years ago. These results underline the genetic diversity of prehistoric dogs. This diversity may have partly stemmed not only from the wolf gene pool captured by domestication but also from mutations very likely linked to the relaxation of natural selection pressure occurring in-line with this process.
Citation: Ollivier M, Tresset A, Hitte C, Petit C, Hughes S, et al. (2013) Evidence of Coat Color Variation Sheds New Light on Ancient Canids. PLoS ONE 8(10): e75110. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075110
The transition from mobile to sedentary life was one of the greatest social challenges of the human past. Yet little is known about the impact of this fundamental change on social interactions amongst early Neolithic communities, which are best recorded in the Near East. The importance of social processes associated with these economic and ecological changes has long been underestimated. However, ethnographic observations demonstrate that generalized reciprocity – such as open access to resources and land – had to be reduced to a circumscribed group before regular farming and herding could be successfully established. Our aim was thus to investigate the role of familial relationships as one possible factor within this process of segregation as recorded directly in the skeletal remains, rather than based on hypothetical correlations such as house types and social units. Here we present the revealing results of the systematically recorded epigenetic characteristics of teeth and skulls of the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic community of Basta in Southern Jordan (Figure S1). Additionally, mobility was reconstructed via a systematic strontium (Sr) isotope analysis of tooth enamel of the Basta individuals. The frequency of congenitally missing maxillary lateral incisors in the 9,000-year-old community of Basta is exceptionally high (35.7%). Genetic studies and a worldwide comparison of the general rate of this dental anomaly in modern and historic populations show that the enhanced frequency can only be explained by close familial relationships akin to endogamy. This is supported by strontium isotope analyses of teeth, indicating a local origin of almost all investigated individuals. Yet, the accompanying archaeological finds document far-reaching economic exchange with neighboring groups and a population density hitherto unparalleled. We thus conclude that endogamy in the early Neolithic village of Basta was not due to geographic isolation or a lack of exogamous mating partners but a socio-cultural choice.
Citation: Alt KW, Benz M, Müller W, Berner ME, Schultz M, et al. (2013) Earliest Evidence for Social Endogamy in the 9,000-Year-Old-Population of Basta, Jordan. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65649. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065649
The modern human face differs from that of our early ancestors in that the facial profile is relatively retracted (orthognathic). This change in facial profile is associated with a characteristic spatial distribution of bone deposition and resorption: growth remodeling. For humans, surface resorption commonly dominates on anteriorly-facing areas of the subnasal region of the maxilla and mandible during development. We mapped the distribution of facial growth remodeling activities on the 900–800 ky maxilla ATD6-69 assigned to H. antecessor, and on the 1.5 My cranium KNM-WT 15000, part of an associated skeleton assigned to African H. erectus. We show that, as in H. sapiens, H. antecessor shows bone resorption over most of the subnasal region. This pattern contrasts with that seen in KNM-WT 15000 where evidence of bone deposition, not resorption, was identified. KNM-WT 15000 is similar to Australopithecus and the extant African apes in this localized area of bone deposition. These new data point to diversity of patterns of facial growth in fossil Homo. The similarities in facial growth in H. antecessor and H. sapiens suggest that one key developmental change responsible for the characteristic facial morphology of modern humans can be traced back at least to H. antecessor.
Since the State Department recently put out warnings about traveling to the Pyramids in Egypt as well as on-going concerns about Americans traveling in Mexico (Egypt and Mexico being the two preeminent destinations for those of us with a passion for pyramids), and not to mention the constraints a still sluggish economy continues to put on my travel budget; I decided to look for a safe, inexpensive alternative to my usual dependence on foreign archaeology -- and I found it, in Georgia, of all places!
The first objective of this study is to examine temporal patterns in ancient dog burials in the Lake Baikal region of Eastern Siberia. The second objective is to determine if the practice of dog burial here can be correlated with patterns in human subsistence practices, in particular a reliance on terrestrial mammals. Direct radiocarbon dating of a suite of the region’s dog remains indicates that these animals were given burial only during periods in which human burials were common. Dog burials of any kind were most common during the Early Neolithic (~7–8000 B.P.), and rare during all other time periods. Further, only foraging groups seem to have buried canids in this region, as pastoralist habitation sites and cemeteries generally lack dog interments, with the exception of sacrificed animals. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope data indicate that dogs were only buried where and when human diets were relatively rich in aquatic foods, which here most likely included river and lake fish and Baikal seal (Phoca sibirica). Generally, human and dog diets appear to have been similar across the study subregions, and this is important for interpreting their radiocarbon dates, and comparing them to those obtained on the region’s human remains, both of which likely carry a freshwater old carbon bias. Slight offsets were observed in the isotope values of dogs and humans in our samples, particularly where both have diets rich in aquatic fauna. This may result from dietary differences between people and their dogs, perhaps due to consuming fish of different sizes, or even different tissues from the same aquatic fauna. This paper also provides a first glimpse of the DNA of ancient canids in Northeast Asia.
To the left is a figure which illustrates the phylogenetic inferences from a new paper in Nature Communications, The genomics of selection in dogs and the parallel evolution between dogs and humans (see Carl Zimmer’s coverage in The New York Times). Why is this paper important? The first thing that jumped out at me is that because they’re using whole genomes (~10X coverage) of a selection of dogs and wolves the results aren’t as subject to the bias of using “chips” of polymorphisms discovered in dogs on wolves (see: Genome-wide SNP and haplotype analyses reveal a rich history underlying dog domestication). The second aspect is that the coalescence of the dog vs. wolf lineage is pushed further back in time than earlier genetic work, by a factor of three. A standard model for the origin of dogs is that they arose in the Middle East ~10,000-15,000 years ago , possibly as part of the broad shift of lifestyles which culminated in the Neolithic Revolution.
Slope deposits in North Pare provide evidence of two millennia of anthropogenically driven land clearance, soil erosion and land degradation. Drawing on deposit stratigraphy, soil magnetic parameters, stable carbon isotope composition and radiocarbon dating, three phases of soil erosion are distinguished characterized by distinct surface processes and increasing levels of agricultural land use.
Onset of slope deposit formation in Pare since about 300 BC documents soil erosion as an immediate consequence of new land use practices associated with the spread of agriculture and iron working across northern Tanzania. By AD 500, slope deposits extended into valley bottoms and to middle slopes suggesting catchment-wide land clearance and soil erosion. In the 15th century AD, progressive anthropogenic soil erosion had exhausted the topsoil resource and material changes of the slope deposits reflect widespread subsoil erosion. The exposure of subsoils represents an ecological tipping point and triggered the transition to a new morphodynamic framework dominated by runoff-based erosion processes that are recorded as sand lenses and sand layers. The most recent deposits show ongoing accelerated erosion and severe land degradation whilst cessation of sand lens preservation indicates pre-colonial intensification of agricultural land use. Land use changes and socioeconomic transitions associated with the establishment of the Ugweno chiefdom and the 19th-century caravan trade are discussed as possible responses to imperceptible long-term land degradation in Pare.
The study demonstrates that anthropogenic soil erosion and not external climatic drivers shaped landscape development in Pare and shows that the identification of environmental thresholds is essential for the assessment of resilience in human-dominated ecosystems.
The concept of `cultural process' has been of interest to anthropologists since the late 19th century. Franz Boas indicated that investigating cultural processes was central to anthropology, but his failure to define the concept set a disciplinary precedent. Process has seldom been discussed in theoretical detail because the basic notion is commonsensical. A.L. Kroeber provided a definition in 1948 and distinguished between short-term dynamics of how cultures operate and long-term dynamics resulting in cultural change. Leslie White conflated the two families of processes. Archaeologists working before 1960 focused on processes resulting in the diachronic evolution of cultures; many of these involved cultural transmission. Initially, processes involving the synchronic operation of a culture were conflated with diachronic evolutionary processes by processual archaeologists. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lewis Binford, David Clarke, and Frank Hole and Robert Heizer all discussed cultural processes within the framework of systems theory. Simultaneously, growing concern over the formational processes that created the archaeological record shifted attention from the original conception of cultural processes. Models of the temporal duration, scale, and magnitude of cultural processes illustrate their complexity and suggest avenues for further conceptualization.
Despite being located at the crossroads of Asia, genetics of the Afghanistan populations have been largely overlooked. It is currently inhabited by five major ethnic populations: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek and Turkmen. Here we present autosomal from a subset of our samples, mitochondrial and Y- chromosome data from over 500 Afghan samples among these 5 ethnic groups. This Afghan data was supplemented with the same Y-chromosome analyses of samples from Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and updated Pakistani samples (HGDP-CEPH). The data presented here was integrated into existing knowledge of pan-Eurasian genetic diversity. The pattern of genetic variation, revealed by structure-like and Principal Component analyses and Analysis of Molecular Variance indicates that the people of Afghanistan are made up of a mosaic of components representing various geographic regions of Eurasian ancestry. The absence of a major Central Asian-specific component indicates that the Hindu Kush, like the gene pool of Central Asian populations in general, is a confluence of gene flows rather than a source of distinctly autochthonous populations that have arisen in situ: a conclusion that is reinforced by the phylogeography of both haploid loci.
Citation: Di Cristofaro J, Pennarun E, Mazières S, Myres NM, Lin AA, et al. (2013) Afghan Hindu Kush: Where Eurasian Sub-Continent Gene Flows Converge. PLoS ONE 8(10): e76748. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076748
The AIA-Stanford Society celebrated International Archaeology Day 2013 with community visitors, including children, on an enthusiastic and fun lecture tour to the Stanford Cantor Arts Center and Museum to view three ...
The Late Bronze Age world of the Eastern Mediterranean, a rich linkage of Aegean, Egyptian, Syro-Palestinian, and Hittite civilizations, collapsed famously 3200 years ago and has remained one of the mysteries of the ancient world since the event’s retrieval began in the late 19th century AD/CE. Iconic Egyptian bas-reliefs and graphic hieroglyphic and cuneiform texts portray the proximate cause of the collapse as the invasions of the “Peoples-of-the-Sea” at the Nile Delta, the Turkish coast, and down into the heartlands of Syria and Palestine where armies clashed, famine-ravaged cities abandoned, and countrysides depopulated. Here we report palaeoclimate data from Cyprus for the Late Bronze Age crisis, alongside a radiocarbon-based chronology integrating both archaeological and palaeoclimate proxies, which reveal the effects of abrupt climate change-driven famine and causal linkage with the Sea People invasions in Cyprus and Syria. The statistical analysis of proximate and ultimate features of the sequential collapse reveals the relationships of climate-driven famine, sea-borne-invasion, region-wide warfare, and politico-economic collapse, in whose wake new societies and new ideologies were created.
Citation: Kaniewski D, Van Campo E, Guiot J, Le Burel S, Otto T, et al. (2013) Environmental Roots of the Late Bronze Age Crisis. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71004. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071004
Usewear analysis is now well established as a powerful means by which to identify the function of stone tools excavated from archaeological sites. However, one of the main issues for usewear analysts is still to provide quantified analyses and interpretations. Several attempts have yielded promising results but have not, as of yet, been widely applied and usewear analyses are still mainly performed using either Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) or Optical Light Microscopy (OLM). The systematic comparison of micrographs from both types of microscope presented here enables us to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each system. Furthermore, it shows beginners or experts using only one type of microscope that these techniques are complementary and should be considered as such. It also represents a significant basis for developing the implementation of quantitative methods for usewear analysis with SEM and OLM.
Chemical analyses of ancient organic compounds absorbed into the pottery fabrics of imported Etruscan amphoras (ca. 500–475 B.C.) and into a limestone pressing platform (ca. 425–400 B.C.) at the ancient coastal port site of Lattara in southern France provide the earliest biomolecular archaeological evidence for grape wine and viniculture from this country, which is crucial to the later history of wine in Europe and the rest of the world. The data support the hypothesis that export of wine by ship from Etruria in central Italy to southern Mediterranean France fueled an ever-growing market and interest in wine there, which, in turn, as evidenced by the winepress, led to transplantation of the Eurasian grapevine and the beginning of a Celtic industry in France. Herbal and pine resin additives to the Etruscan wine point to the medicinal role of wine in antiquity, as well as a means of preserving it during marine transport.
Have you ever tried digging a hole with a stick? Or chopping down a tree with a stone axe? How about living on porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month? Reading about the way people lived in Stone Age and Mesolithic (10000-5000 BC) times gives only a very limited understanding of how things were in the distant past. Actually recreating everyday life introduces a sense of empathy and other dimensions which paint a far more detailed picture: the essence of experimental archaeology.
Let’s begin with a clarification. Experimental archaeology should not be confused with reconstruction. Those involved don’t dress up as cavemen and women for the sake of an audience. They are using certain tools and techniques common in different time periods to try and learn more about the variables which affected hunter gatherer life while also exposing some of the misunderstandings that have become accepted truths.
The University College Dublin experimental archaeology department is currently building a Mesolithic structure based on the only surviving example on this island: Mount Sandel in Co Derry, which dates from 7800 BC.
The first advanced Bronze Age civilization of Europe was established by the Minoans about 5,000 years before present. Since Sir Arthur Evans exposed the Minoan civic centre of Knossos, archaeologists have speculated on the origin of the founders of the civilization. Evans proposed a North African origin; Cycladic, Balkan, Anatolian and Middle Eastern origins have also been proposed. Here we address the question of the origin of the Minoans by analysing mitochondrial DNA from Minoan osseous remains from a cave ossuary in the Lassithi plateau of Crete dated 4,400–3,700 years before present. Shared haplotypes, principal component and pairwise distance analyses refute the Evans North African hypothesis. Minoans show the strongest relationships with Neolithic and modern European populations and with the modern inhabitants of the Lassithi plateau. Our data are compatible with the hypothesis of an autochthonous development of the Minoan civilization by the descendants of the Neolithic settlers of the island.
Yersinia pestis, the etiologic agent of the disease plague, has been implicated in three historical pandemics. These include the third pandemic of the 19th and 20th centuries, during which plague was spread around the world, and the second pandemic of the 14th–17th centuries, which included the infamous epidemic known as the Black Death. Previous studies have confirmed that Y. pestis caused these two more recent pandemics. However, a highly spirited debate still continues as to whether Y. pestis caused the so-called Justinianic Plague of the 6th–8th centuries AD. By analyzing ancient DNA in two independent ancient DNA laboratories, we confirmed unambiguously the presence of Y. pestis DNA in human skeletal remains from an Early Medieval cemetery. In addition, we narrowed the phylogenetic position of the responsible strain down to major branch 0 on the Y. pestis phylogeny, specifically between nodes N03 and N05. Our findings confirm that Y. pestis was responsible for the Justinianic Plague, which should end the controversy regarding the etiology of this pandemic. The first genotype of a Y. pestis strain that caused the Late Antique plague provides important information about the history of the plague bacillus and suggests that the first pandemic also originated in Asia, similar to the other two plague pandemics.