Marco Peresani: Neanderthal and sapiens in Italy 50-40 ky BP. A discussion on the ecological and cultural dynamics with a reference to the northern Adriatic rim

by Marco Peresani,
Università di Ferrara, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Sezione di Scienze Preistoriche e Antropologiche, Ferrara, Italy

One of the most investigated topics in palaeoanthropology is the pivotal phase in human evolution represented by the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic in Western Eurasia. When and how early Homo sapiens replaced the native population, Homo neanderthalensis, and the relations between these biological taxa and their respective material cultures are subjects of heated debate. Pieces of this intriguing puzzle have been unveiled in recent years from the cultural complexes known as the final Mousterian, the Uluzzian and the Protoaurignacian, which spread across the central Mediterranean rim from the Italian peninsula to the south of the Balkans (Palma di Cesnola 1989; Moroni et al. 2013). At present, the Uluzzian is the oldest known cultural expression associated with Anatomically Modern Humans (Benazzi et al. 2011) and is currently best known by its stratigraphic position above the final Mousterian in cave sedimentary sequences. This has also been observed in northern Italian caves, which expanded its cultural borders from what was thought to be exclusively southern after the discovery of assemblages at Grotta Fumane (Peresani et al. 2016) and at Riparo Broion (Peresani et al., 2019). This geographical space constrained from the Apennine, the Southern Alps, the Dinarids and the shallow Adriatic reach of MIS3, features high ecological diversity, and is of pivotal importance for influencing the possible human migratory routes and interactions between these biocultural worlds. To contribute to disentangle the story of the first modern human arrivals and the last Neanderthals in this area, we display on a behavioural perspective the possible relations occurred among different human groups by resuming a set of recently achieved evidence on chronology, human ecology and cultural aspects in the effort to evaluate the implications of innovations recorded in the 50-40 ky BP time frame.

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Event Information:

Date, Time:27/01/2020, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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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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Claire Rambeau: What peat can tell: Holocene palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in arid Southern Levant

by Claire Rambeau,
University of Freiburg,

Wetlands are important archives of environmental change, especially in arid and semi-arid areas where sediment or proxy preservation is frequently low. This contribution explores the potential of a small wetland located on the northeastern edge of the Dead Sea, Jordan, in a region presently receiving less than 150 mm/year average rainfall, to record past climate and environmental change. This “desert wetland” probably developed due to the presence of tectonic fractures crossing a local aquifer and allowing its waters to reach the surface. It preserves sediments with various amounts of organic matter – products of in-situ vegetation decomposition – and allogenic (detrital input) / authigenic minerals, resulting in a sometimes complex geochemistry. The main points considered in this contribution are: what are the constraints and potential solutions to establish a reliable age-depth model using radiocarbon dating for such an archive; and how the combination of pollen, charcoal and geochemical data helps us unravel environmental changes for the past ca. 8’000 years in arid/semi-arid Southern Jordan, as well as their potential impact on societies.

 

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Event Information:

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

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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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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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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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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Markus Fischer: Between Deserts and Lakes in southern Ethiopia – Modelling Environmental Dynamics for the African Humid Period

by Markus Fischer,
Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Section Geosciences, AG Mikropalaeoontology

The Ethiopian rift in eastern Africa is known for its diverse landscape, ranging from arid and semi-arid savannahs to high and lush mountainous regions, where anatomically modern humans were present since at least 195 ka BP. Lacustrine sediments and paleo-shorelines near-by modern shallow lakes in the rift indicate that lakes have fluctuated dramatically in the past between deep fresh water lakes, to shallow highly alkaline lakes, down to completely desiccated lakes and thus moisture availability was not constant over time. In order to understand the impact and feedback of different paleoenvironmental changes due to a changing climate (e.g. vegetation, lake sizes) in southern Ethiopia, we here present a comprehensive study that focuses on the time between 15,000 and 5,000 years, a well-known time called the last African Humid Period (AHP). This time period was not only climatically completely different to today, also a big cultural shift occurred during this time. Here we present an interdisciplinary approach that links environmental modelling with lacustrine sediment analysis. This includes a comprehensive hydro-balance modelling approach of multiple rift lakes from the southern Ethiopian Rift (Abaya, Chamo, Chew Bahir) providing insights into paleo-precipitation conditions and lake dynamics.  This model is supported by the use of Sr-Isotopes measured on microfossils from drill core sediments to reconstruct water connectivity between the investigated lakes and to backtrack annual precipitation amounts. The model outcome is then used to model paleo-vegetation dynamics using remote sensing based boosted regression trees under different assumptions of paleo-seasonality changes. This model is supported by phytolith analysis from the drill core sediments. The results suggest that an increase in precipitation of 20-30% throughout the whole Southern Ethiopian Rift was necessary to fill quickly the deepest of the investigated lakes, Lake Chew Bahir, to its overflow level, but also small changes in the water budget allowed the lake to disappear within decades. This study highlights a) the sensitivity of the rift lakes to even moderate climate changes, b) that slight seasonal precipitation changes can have a huge impact, and c) that hydrological connection plays an important role.

 

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:21/10/2019, 16:00 h – 17:30 h

Location: Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030), Zülpicher Str. 49a, Cologne
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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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William Gosling: Drivers of Ecosystem Dynamics in West Africa over the last c. 500.000 Years

Dear participants,
Please note: The meeting location has been changed to HS VI / main building / Albertus-Magnus-Platz and will beginn 5 p.m.”

by Prof. Dr. William Gosling
Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics, University of Amsterdam

Over the last half million years global climate systems have undergone significant reorganisation, largely due to changes in the Earths orbital configuration, which has resulted in significant modification of ecosystems. The reconfiguration of climate systems has resulted in changes in temperature and precipitation patterns across the globe. At high and mid-latitudes the impact of these climate changes on ecosystems is predominantly driven by the expansion and contraction of ice-sheets. However, at low latitudes the impact of global climate cycles on ecosystems is less well understood, in part due to a paucity of suitable study sites. Lake Bosumtwi (Ghana, 6oN) was formed around one million years ago when a meteorite hit the Earth. The sedimentary record that has since accumulated within Lake Bosumtwi provides a rare opportunity to explore past ecosystem dynamics in a lowland tropical setting. Here I present evidence obtained from the Lake Bosumtwi sediments, and link it with other datasets, to explore the role of fire, herbivores, CO2, temperature, precipitation, and seasonality in driving ecosystem dynamics (vegetation composition and diversity) around the crater over the last c. 500,000 years.

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Event Information:

Date, Time:14/01/2019, 17:00 h – 18:00 h

Location: HS VI Main Building UoC, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, Cologne
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Alexander Gerner: Strata- Geophilosophische Notizen zu Sergio Costa

by Dr. Alexander Gerner
Center for Philosphy of Sciences of the University of Lisbon
(presentation will be held in English)

Within his talk the German philosopher and theater director Alexander Gerner takes up abstract geology as a complementary perspective: strata as a concept derived from geology and made operational in the human realms’ arts and knowledge development. He will present an atlas of friendship between philosophy, science, art and human technology by means of an observational program presented in the painting series “Strata” and other working images of the artist Sérgio Costa. The presentation will present experimental maps, illustrating an enhanced thinking of the concept „Strata: How are we able to experience long-time change?

 

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Event Information:

Date, Time:03/12/2018, 16:00 h – 17:00 h

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

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