A Very Remote Period Indeed

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A blog reviewing recent archaeological publications having to do with Paleolithic archaeology, paleoanthropology, lithic technology, hunter-gatherers and archaeological theory.

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  • September 14, 2011
  • 03:44 PM

A Mousterian wooden spade from Abric Romani, Spain

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

A group of researchers from the IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) reports on the discovery of a handheld wooden implement from Mousterian deposits at Abric Romaní, Spain. The tool was found in Level P which dates to about 56,000 years BP, and its morphology suggests that it might have been a small spade/shovel, or perhaps a poker, given its association to a hearth... Read more »

Vallverdú, J., Vaquero, M., Cáceres, I., Allué, E., Rosell, J., Saladié, P., Chacón, G., Ollé, A., Canals, A., Sala, R.... (2010) Sleeping Activity Area within the Site Structure of Archaic Human Groups. Current Anthropology, 51(1), 137-145. DOI: 10.1086/649499  

  • August 30, 2011
  • 06:59 PM

Multimillennial Neanderthal occupation at La Cotte de St. Brelade

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

The BBC has a brief news story about some of the results of new excavations conducted at the site of La Cotte St. Brélade (Jersey, Channel Islands). The site is perhaps most famous for having yielded clear evidence for the systematic slaughter of mammoths and wooly rhinos by Neanderthals, which prompted a reevaluation of their hunting abilities (Scott 1980). That analysis, however, suggested that... Read more »

  • August 25, 2011
  • 08:30 PM

170,000 year-old human skull fragment found at Lazaret

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

A couple of weeks ago (Aug. 13, to be precise), part of a hominin frontal skull fragment was found during excavations at Grotte du Lazaret, near Nice, France. The find was first reported in a series of French media outlets, but it wasn't removed until just a couple of days ago, after it was apparently given time to dry, as reported in the first English-language report I've seen about the find. ... Read more »

  • June 1, 2011
  • 02:40 PM

The Arabian Middle Paleolithic and the southern route of human dispersal

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

In a comment on my last post, Maju who's a regular commenter on this blog, pointed out that recent finds in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf suggest that modern humans might have been present in the Middle East by the time Shanidar 3 was killed. Some of the specific evidence in support of this that has come out in the past year include that presented by Armitage et al. (2011) and Rose (... Read more »

Petraglia, Michael D., & Alsharekh, Abdullah. (2003) The Middle Palaeolithic of Arabia: Implications for modern human origins, behaviour and dispersals . Antiquity, 77(298), 671-684. info:/

  • May 30, 2011
  • 07:53 PM

Who really killed Shanidar 3?

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

Fun with footnotes, today at AVRPI!! You'll remember that a couple of summers ago, a study by Churchill et al. (2009) tried to argue that the cut marks on a rib from the Shanidar 3 Neanderthal were the result of a wound inflicted by a modern human on that poor sap. Naturally, the science press had a field day with this, although several commentators argued that the evidence presented by Churchill... Read more »

Churchill, S., Franciscus, R., McKean-Peraza, H., Daniel, J., & Warren, B. (2009) Shanidar 3 Neandertal rib puncture wound and paleolithic weaponry. Journal of Human Evolution, 57(2), 163-178. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.05.010  

Trinkaus, E., & Buzhilova, A. (2010) The death and burial of sunghir 1. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. DOI: 10.1002/oa.1227  

  • May 5, 2011
  • 01:59 AM

The raw and the cooked, caveman redux

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

A few months ago, Henry et al. (2011a) published a truly remarkable study that analyzed the phytoliths and starch grains that had gotten encrusted in the dental calculus (i.e., plaque) of three Neanderthal individuals, two from the site of Spy (Belgium), and another from the site of Shanidar (Iraq). Their study provided the first direct evidence that plant foods were an integral part of the ... Read more »

  • May 4, 2011
  • 02:35 AM

Osama bin Laden, sasquatch and human biogeography

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

Science has a post on their website about a little study (Gillespie et al. 2009) that came out a couple of years ago that applied some key biogeographical principles to provide a prediction of where Osama bin Laden might have been hiding. The paper was discussed in Scientific American when if first came out, but now has received a ton of attention because the authors' predicted hiding place for ... Read more »

  • May 2, 2011
  • 08:32 PM

Things to kill when you're original, affluent and social...

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

I have to admit this made me laugh.

© http://www.quickdraw.me/1169

So, it's kind of a silly comic, definitely good for a few chuckles. Yet, when you take a second to think about it, there's a lot packed into it. In two little panels, the cartoonist manages to bring up two of the biggest misconceptions about prheistoric hunter-gatherers: 1) that hunter-gatherers spend only a small amount of ... Read more »

  • May 1, 2011
  • 03:30 AM

Neanderthal use of coal

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

A little while ago, someone contacted me asking if there was any evidence that Neanderthals had ever used coal. This is an interesting question, and one about which there is only little available information. In fact, there is almost no evidence of Neanderthals using coal, but the proof that does exist is very intriguing. The single instance comes from the Mousterian site of Les Canalettes, ... Read more »

  • April 28, 2011
  • 03:25 AM

Stone Age ≠ Caveman!!! Archaeology, science, the media, and some tangential thoughts on the 'gay caveman' story

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

By now, you've surely heard all the media hoopla about the alleged 'gay caveman' found in the Czech Republic that's been all over the news and internet for the past few weeks. Ugh! Y'know, I just got done reading Ben Goldacre's fantastic book Bad Science in which he bemoans (and entertainingly skewers!) the way medical findings are consistently distorted in the media, where flashy headlines seem ... Read more »

  • April 26, 2011
  • 03:59 PM

New 'lion man' fragments from Hohlenstein-Stadel

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

Neat Aurignacian art objects keep popping up in Germany! A few years ago, the Hohle Fels 'Venus' was recovered in deposits dating to more than 30kya (Conard 2009), and now we learn that renewed excavations in the Aurignacian levels of the nearby site of Hohlenstein-Stadel have yielded new fragments of what is perhaps the most iconic piece of Aurignacian portable art, the so-called Löwenmensch, ... Read more »

  • March 2, 2011
  • 05:14 PM

The Combe Capelle burial is Holocene in age

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

So says this Past Horizons report. This is fairly important in that it joins a bunch of other modern Homo sapiens remain long thought to have been associated with the Aurignacian to recently have been directly dated and shown to be much more recent (Churchill and Smith 2000). One recent and well publicized case was that of the Vogelherd remains, which were redated to between 3.9-5kya as opposed ... Read more »

Churchill SE, & Smith FH. (2000) Makers of the early Aurignacian of Europe. American journal of physical anthropology, 61-115. PMID: 11123838  

  • March 2, 2011
  • 06:05 AM

Obsidian blades as surgical tools

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

In my recent post on #hipsterscience, the quote that struck closest to home was the one about the obsidian blade. See, most of my analytical work has been focused on stone tools (aka lithics) and how they were manufactured, used and managed by people in the past. Whenever it was available, obsidian seems to have been one of the preferred materials to make sharp flakes of, mainly because it is ... Read more »

Buck BA. (1982) Ancient technology in contemporary surgery. The Western journal of medicine, 136(3), 265-9. PMID: 7046256  

  • February 24, 2011
  • 05:49 AM

Neanderthals and ornaments, birds of a feather?

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

© Mauro Cutrona.
M. Peresani and colleagues (2011) report on the discovery of cut-marked bird bones from the latest Mousterian levels at Grotta di Fumane, located in the Veneto region of NE Italy. They interpret the fact that these cutmarks are almost exclusively found on wing bones of only a subset of the 22 species of birds found at Fumane as evidence that Neanderthals there specifically ... Read more »

Zilhao, J., Angelucci, D., Badal-Garcia, E., d'Errico, F., Daniel, F., Dayet, L., Douka, K., Higham, T., Martinez-Sanchez, M., Montes-Bernardez, R.... (2010) Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(3), 1023-1028. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914088107  

  • September 28, 2010
  • 07:01 AM

Independent Neanderthal Innovation - Some Additional Considerations

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

One of my upcoming papers (Riel-Salvatore 2010) was written-up in a series of mainstream news outlets, including the New York Times, the BBC, Discovery News, AOLNews, MSNBC and sundry others. The original, reproduced in Science Daily, was published under the headline "Neanderthals More Advanced Than Previously Thought: They Innovated, Adapted Like Modern Humans, Research Shows." In the original ... Read more »

Churchill SE, & Smith FH. (2000) Makers of the early Aurignacian of Europe. American journal of physical anthropology, 61-115. PMID: 11123838  

Green, R., Krause, J., Briggs, A., Maricic, T., Stenzel, U., Kircher, M., Patterson, N., Li, H., Zhai, W., Fritz, M.... (2010) A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome. Science, 328(5979), 710-722. DOI: 10.1126/science.1188021  

Higham, T., Brock, F., Peresani, M., Broglio, A., Wood, R., & Douka, K. (2009) Problems with radiocarbon dating the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Italy. Quaternary Science Reviews, 28(13-14), 1257-1267. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.12.018  

Trinkaus, E. (2003) An early modern human from the Pestera cu Oase, Romania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(20), 11231-11236. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2035108100  

Zilhão, J. (2006) Neandertals and moderns mixed, and it matters. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 15(5), 183-195. DOI: 10.1002/evan.20110  

  • August 26, 2010
  • 02:22 PM

Why flour matters

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

A couple of days ago, I mentioned how excavations at a Paleoindian site in Utah has revealed that the site's occupants had been milling various seeds to produce different kinds of flours. In that post, I mentioned how this discovery re-emphasized the fact that hunter-gatherers in general hunt as well as gather. In fact, outside of the highest latitudes, plant foods often account for a majority of... Read more »

Aranguren,Biancamaria, Becattini, Roberto, Mariotti Lippi, Marta, & Revedin, Anna. (2007) Grinding flour in Upper Palaeolithic Europe (25000 years bp). Antiquity, 81(314), 845-855. info:/

  • August 24, 2010
  • 02:21 AM

Portrait of the artist as a Neanderthal

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

In a recent paper, O. Moro Abadia and M.R. Gonzales Morales (2010) argue that an important component of the 'multiple species model' (MSM) that sees Neanderthals as having essentially 'modern' behavioral capacities and that originated in the late 90's is based not so much on new discoveries as it is on new ways of looking at the archaeological record. Specifically, they make the case that part of... Read more »

  • August 21, 2010
  • 12:25 AM

Paleolithic whodunnit: Who made the Chatelperronian?

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

The Chatelperronian is a lithic industry that springs up for several thousand years during the transition from Middle to Upper Paleolithic industries. Its precise age is debated, but it clearly is associated with this interval. One of the reasons the Chatelperronian is the subject of so much debate is because, since the discovery of a Neanderthal in a Chatelperronian level at the site of
St. ... Read more »

  • August 19, 2010
  • 06:04 AM

The final (?) word on those handaxes from Crete

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

While everybody was busy talking about unexpectedly old cutmarks and other Pleistocene goings-on last week, the paper by Strasser et al. (2010) describing the discovery of quartz handaxe assemblages on Crete quietly came out in Hesperia. This is a topic that was discussed at length on this blog, in several posts that generated a large amount of comments a few months back. The sticking point of ... Read more »

  • August 16, 2010
  • 06:32 PM

Ape-man the hunter?

by Julien Riel-Salvatore in A Very Remote Period Indeed

Well, at least the butcher, if not the tool-maker... McPherron et al. (2010) report the discovery of four bone fragments bearing marks left by stone tools from the the Dikika-55 locality in Ethiopia (dating to between 3.24-3.42 million years BP), a stone's throw from where the juvenile Australopithecus afarensis dubbed Selam was found. This is a pretty monumental discovery, in that it pushes back the evidence for the use of stone tool technology by about 800,000 years, and associates it fairly c........ Read more »

Semaw S, Renne P, Harris JW, Feibel CS, Bernor RL, Fesseha N, & Mowbray K. (1997) 2.5-million-year-old stone tools from Gona, Ethiopia. Nature, 385(6614), 333-6. PMID: 9002516  

Stout D, Quade J, Semaw S, Rogers MJ, & Levin NE. (2005) Raw material selectivity of the earliest stone toolmakers at Gona, Afar, Ethiopia. Journal of human evolution, 48(4), 365-80. PMID: 15788183  

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