CRC-Lecture Nov 18th by Elaine Turner: A place for the living or a home for the dead? 100,000 years of Stone Age occupation at Taforalt Cave, Morocco

by Elaine Turner,
Monrepos Archaeological research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution,

With its unparalleled sequence of human occupation spanning well over 100ka, the cave site of Grotte des Pigeons, close to Taforalt in north-east Morocco, plays an important role in our understanding of human evolution and behavioural development. Ongoing investigations at this site have already produced groundbreaking results, such as evidence of the early use of personal adornment at 82ka, high precision AMS dates for the Late Pleistocene Maghreb and the first appearance of the Iberomaurusian as well as details of Iberomaurusian human mortuary behaviour in the remains of perhaps one of the earliest and most extensively used Epipalaeolithic cemeteries in North Africa. In my talk, I will give an overview of the results of our excavations, which began in 2003. In particular, I will trace the way in which game was procured and exploited by the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic occupants of the cave and how, during the Iberomaurusian, animal remains played a significant role in human mortuary practices.

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:18/11/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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CRC-Lecture Nov 4th by Ron Pinhasi: Progress and new directions in ancient DNA genomics

by Ron Pinhasi,
Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Vienna

Ancient DNA has revolutionized the study of migrations and the interactions between past populations. During the past 4  years there was a major increase in the number of genome-wide human aDNA studies, some of which  now provide paleogenomic data for 100s of prehistoric individuals from numerous archaeological cultures. However, the predominant focus of most studies on Eurasian prehistoric cultures has left certain temporal and geographic gaps. There is also a growing concern regarding the damage is caused by most current bone sampling methods to various skeletal collections. The talk will report address these aspects by discussing the following : (1) new sampling methods which minimize damage to skeletal collections and/or optimize ancient DNA yields, (2) studies of prehistoric cultures from non-temperate world regions,  and (3) our new results on the genetic legacy of the Roman Empire.

 

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:04/11/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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CRC-Lecture Dec 2nd by Elham Ghasidian: Southern Caspian Corridor: a biogeographical hominin expansion route

by Elham Ghasidian,
Neanderthal Museum

Recent research on the phylogeny of Neanderthals recognises a division within Neanderthal groups around 150ka suggesting a population turnover is likely to have occurred in the Caucasus. For instance, Neanderthal remains dated ca. 100ka associated with fully fledged Levallois lithic industry were confirmed in the Azokh 1 Cave, at the Lesser Caucasus. This exciting finding, however, raises the questions of whether the Neanderthals impacted on the Southern Caspian Corridor (SCC), which is a geo-ecological continuum of the Caucasus? What role did this SSC play in the world of hominin expansion?

In his expedition to Iran during 1960s, McBurney considered SCC provided the closest and fastest route connecting Europe and Caucasus to the Central Asia and Siberia and any hominin movement from the west might be expected to pass this region en route to the east. In his excavation at Ke’Aram Cave located in SCC he documented Middle Palaeolithic artefacts reminiscent of the Zagros Mousterian which are seen to be closely related to the lithics from Teshik-Tash Cave in Central Asia. McBurney’s conclusion provides grounding for this research project to hypothesize that the SCC, with the dual role of biogeographical corridor of expansion and habitat, witnessed a series of human evolutionary events that occurred at least in MIS 5 and 4 and it aims to go further to suggest the SCC as a potential place of admixture of Neanderthals and Anatomically Modern Humans. The exceptional physiogeographic condition of the SCC provided a milder climatic condition making this region highly attractive as a glacial refugium during the cold episodes of MIS 5 and 4 for different hominins, thereby this research also hypothesizes that contemporaneous MP assemblages from western- and eastern-most areas of the corridor represent a high degree of cultural affinity.

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:02/12/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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CRC-Lecture January 13th by Katharina Neumann & Barbara Eichhorn: Phytoliths as proxy for African palaeoenvironment and human evolution – chances and limits

by Katharina Neumann & Barbara Eichhorn,
University Frankfurt

Phytoliths are solid silica bodies formed in various plant tissues and organs, e.g. in leaves, stems, fruits and seeds. Due to their very durable nature, they are often present in ancient sediments and soils where other plant remains have not been preserved. Therefore they can play an important role for reconstructions of palaeoenvironments and human plant use in the past. Grasses (Poaceae) produce a myriad of different phytolith morphotypes and are therefore well-suited for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, especially in Africa where savannas and grasslands constitute the majority of vegetation types. Woody plants and herbs, on the other hand, often have only very few or unspecific phytoliths and are therefore mostly under-represented in phytolith assemblages. We will discuss potential and limitations of phytolith research in West, Central and East Africa, based on recent case studies.

 

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:13/01/2020, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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Winter term 2019/2020


Summer term 2019

Christine Lane: Volcanic Chronologies and Tephra Connections in East Africa

by Christine S Lane,
from Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Reconstructing past spatial and temporal variability of palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironmental change across a continent as climatically diverse as Africa, relies upon comparison of data from widespread and diverse archives. However, generating accurate, precise and independent chronologies for the comparison of detailed and varied palaeo-proxy records is challenging. In Eastern Africa, explosive eruptions of rift volcanoes generate blankets of ash that can be preserved in sedimentary basins over hundreds to thousands of kilometres from their source. Distal tephra (including cryptotephra-) research offers opportunities for direct dating of sediment sequences (e.g. by 40Ar/39Ar methods) and for making precise stratigraphic correlations between archives at single moments in time. Currently however, the volcanic eruption record for the East African Rift is patchy and for tephrochronology to reach its full potential, detailed local to regional eruption stratigraphies are needed. 

Investigations into the presence of visible and non-visible (crypto-) tephra layers within lacustrine palaeoenvironmental records of the mid to late Pleistocene from across eastern Africa are revealing the potential for distal tephra research to (i) increase our knowledge of the history of Late Quaternary explosive volcanism in eastern Africa; (ii) provide age constraints for individual core chronologies, in particular beyond the limits of radiocarbon dating; and (iii) correlate palaeoclimate and archaeological archives within a regional tephrostratigraphic framework. 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:01/07/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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Saman Heydari-Guran: “The struggle zone”: tracking the Neanderthals and modern humans contacts in the west-central Zagros Mountains of Iran

by Saman Heydari-Guran,
from Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge

In the past four decades, a topic of major interest amongst archaeologists and paleoanthropologists has been the Eurasian Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition. Recently, great progress was made in several domains, particularly Palaeogenetics, which have revealed the complex ancestry of early Eurasians. This progress – including identifying a ghost lineage of Eurasians in the Middle East – is beginning to provide important new biogeographical hypotheses that focus on the Middle East. One key region for this is the Iranian Plateau, which has not been subject to intensive research. The Kermanshah Region (on the West of the Plateau), the interest area for this research, has been recognized as one of the gates into the Iranian Plateau since it is located between the Mesopotamian lowland on the west and the high plateau where many intermountain valleys have provided easy communication routes to the eastern regions. Despite this important strategically position in the West Central Zagros, our knowledge of Palaeolithic occupation there and even in Iran is suffering from the lack of a clear, up-to-date and scientific work on stratigraphy, settlement systems and accurate absolute dating. To overcome some of these problems, after the lack of serious Paleolithic research for many years, the author has recently conducted a Palaeolithic research project including surveys and excavations in the Kermanshah Region.

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Event Information:

Date, Time:17/06/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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Daniel Richter: The age and origin of our species. Chronometric dating of Homo sapiens at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco

The first of our kind. Two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) based on micro computed tomographic scans of multiple original fossils. Dated to 300 thousand years ago these early Homo sapiens already have a modern-looking face that falls within the variation of humans living today. However, the archaic-looking virtual imprint of the braincase (blue) indicates that brain shape, and possibly brain function, evolved within the Homo sapiens lineage (Picture credit: Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig, License: CC-BY-SA 2.0)

 

by Daniel Richter,
from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

 

 

Anthropological and genetic data provide multiple lines of evidence for Africa as the place of origin of our species (Homo sapiens). The oldest occurrence is commonly assumed to represent the place of origin and thus East Africa is often considered as the cradle of modern human kind. New anthropological data reveals early Homo sapiens in Northwest Africa in the site of Jebel Irhoud (Morocco). Its chronometric dating with a specific thermoluminescence method is in agreement with direct ESR dating and provides ages older than the East African locations. The earliest numerical dates for the Levallois technique in Africa are now in broad agreement with the development of Homo sapiens. While the origin of our species is older than previously assumed, the region where Homo sapiens developed within Africa is far from clear. A multiregional origin of our species (and Levallois?) is thus quite conceivable.

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Event Information:

Date, Time:03/06/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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Philipp Gunz: What makes us human? How recent discoveries force us to rethink the origins of our species

 

by Philipp Gunz,
a biological anthropologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. His research group studies the evolution of human development with a focus on the evolution of the face and brain.

His research group studies the evolution of human development with a focus on the evolution of the face and brain

 

The African origin of our own species is well documented by fossils and genetic data of people living today. However, very little is known about the early phase of Homo sapiens evolution, as the fossil and archeological sites are scarce and sometimes poorly dated. Comparative analyses based on high-resolution computed tomographic scans show that these earliest Homo sapiens had distinctly modern-looking faces, but imprints of their braincases indicate an archaic brain shape. These differences might reflect altered neural architecture, however, in the absence of fossil brain tissue the underlying neuroanatomical changes as well as their genetic bases remain elusive. We address this challenging question through a novel interdisciplinary approach that brings together the analysis of fossil skulls, ancient genomes, brain imaging and gene expression.

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Event Information:

Date, Time:20/05/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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Kathy MacDonald: The use of fire and hominin distribution: fire-free strategies for survival in seasonal conditions in north-west Europe in the Early and Middle Pleistocene

by Kathy MacDonald,
Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden

Early evidence for hominin activity in north-west Europe occurs in palaeoenvironmental contexts where winter temperatures would have dropped to around freezing. This raises questions about the ecological niche of the early occupants, particularly given the lack of evidence for key solutions to the challenges of seasonal environments. For example, the earliest convincing evidence for anthropogenic use of fire from this region dates to 0.4-0.3 mya. The lack of earlier evidence may reflect limitations to the preservation of traces of fire use or to research into fire. However it may be worth considering the possibility that the earliest occupants of Europe had other ways of dealing with challenges posed by seasonal environments. In this talk I will discuss strategies for keeping warm and fed without fire, drawing on recent comparative reviews of the ethnographic and mammalian record and human biology (MacDonald 2018, Speth 2017). A number of plausible scenarios can be identified, providing support for the view that the relatively late date for regular use of fire may be a real pattern; however testing these scenarios is challenging. Finally, how do these ideas relate to the larger-scale and longer-term pattern of hominin range expansion and adaptation? 

 

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MacDonald, K. (2018). Fire-Free Hominin Strategies for Coping with Cool Winter Temperatures in North-Western Europe from Before 800,000 to Circa 400,000 Years Ago. PaleoAnthropology Journal, 2018, 7–26. https://doi.org/doi:10.4207/PA.2018.ART109

Speth, J. D. (2017). Putrid meat and fish in the Eurasian Middle and Upper Paleolithic: Are we missing a key part of Neanderthal and modern human diet? PaleoAnthropology Journal, 2017, 44–72. Retrieved from http://www.paleoanthro.org/journal/volumes/2017/

 

Event Information:

Date, Time:06/05/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: HS XVIIb Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne

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