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Huysecom 2009

E. Huysecom et al., The emergence of pottery in Africa during the tenth millennium cal BC, New evidence from Ounjougou (Mali). Antiquity 83 (2009), 905–917.

E. Huysecom, M. Rasse, L. Lespez, K. Neumann, A. Fahmy, A. Ballouche, S. Ozainne, M. Maggetti, Ch. Tribolo & S. Soriano

New excavations in ravines at Ounjougou in Mali have brought to light a lithic and ceramic assemblage that dates from before 9400 cal BC. The authors show that this first use of pottery coincides with a warm wet period in the Sahara. As in East Asia, where very early ceramics are also known, the pottery and small bifacial arrowheads were the components of a new subsistence strategy exploiting an ecology associated with abundant wild grasses. In Africa, however, the seeds were probably boiled (then as now) rather than made into bread.

Keywords: Africa, Sahara, Sub-Saharan, Sahel, Early Holocene, bifacial arrowheads, ceramics

Linstädter 2013

Jörg Linstädter & Gregor Wagner, The Early Neolithic Pottery of Ifri Oudadane, NE Morocco, Qualitative and Quantitative Evidence. Journal of African Archaeology 11 (2013), 155–196.

This paper presents the Early and Late Neolithic pottery of Ifri Oudadane, a littoral shelter in Northeast Morocco containing both Epipalaeolithic as well as Neolithic deposits. The transition is indicated by the appearance of domesticated plant and animal species, pottery and diverse changes in lithic technology. A domesticated lentil dated to 7.6 ka cal BP may mark the onset of this transitional process. With the help of 22 14C-ages the Early Neolithic deposit can be subdivided in three phases (ENA, ENB, ENC). In addition, the ENC phase contained the remains of a sporadic Late Neolithic occupation. Pottery decoration of the initial ENA phase (7.6–7.3 ka cal BP) is dominated by single Cardium impressions forming horizontal and vertical bands of impressions arranged vertical, horizontal or oblique. The successive ENB phase represents the main occupation phase between 7.1 and 6.6 ka cal BP. By means of statistical methods its assemblage, which consists of 243 vessel units, could be further subdivided (ENB1, ENB2). While ENB1 (7.1–6.9 ka cal BP) is still characterised by single Cardium impressions, the transition to ENB2 is marked by the appearance of Cardium and, later, comb impressions made using rocker stamp technique as well as a few impressions of points and spatulas, striations and modelled applications. Thus the pottery assemblage of Ifri Oudadane offers insights into the irst occurrence of pottery in Mediterranean Northwest Africa and opens up the possibility for an internal classiication of the Early Neolithic.

Keywords: Morocco, Ifri Oudadane, Early Neolithic, pottery, statistics


Waters 2007

Michael R. Waters & Thomas W. Stafford Jr., Redefining the Age of Clovis, Implications for the Peopling of the Americas. science 315 (2007), 1122–1126.

The Clovis complex is considered to be the oldest unequivocal evidence of humans in the Americas, dating between 11,500 and 10,900 radiocarbon years before the present (14C yr B.P.). Adjusted 14C dates and a reevaluation of the existing Clovis date record revise the Clovis time range to 11,050 to 10,800 14C yr B.P. In as few as 200 calendar years, Clovis technology originated and spread throughout North America. The revised age range for Clovis overlaps non-Clovis sites in North and South America. This and other evidence imply that humans already lived in the Americas before Clovis.


Birney 2014

Ewan Birney & Jonathan K. Pritchard, Four makes a party. nature 505 (2014), 32–34.

Adding the first high-quality Neanderthal sequence to genomic comparisons of archaic and modern humans sheds light on gene flow, population structure and adaptation, and suggests the existence of an unknown group.

The Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes also share another intriguing feature: they both have extremely low genetic diversity, with only about two heterozygous sites (sequence differences between the paired homologous chromosomes) per 10,000 nucleotides. This equates to only around one-quarter of the genetic diversity of modern humans. The Neanderthal individual sequenced by Prüfer et al. had reduced heterozygosity in part because she was inbred (her parents were as related as half-siblings). However, the authors' analysis suggests that the primary cause of the low variability is that both groups had extremely small effective population sizes for the preceding 100,000 years or more.

Potts 2013

Richard Potts, Hominin evolution in settings of strong environmental variability. Quaternary Science Reviews 73 (2013), 1–13.

Investigations into how climate change shaped human evolution have begun to focus on environmental dynamics, i.e., the nature and tempo of climate and landscape variability, an approach that de-emphasizes static reconstructions of early hominin habitats. The interaction among insolation cycles is especially apparent in the paleoenvironmental records of the East African Rift System, where the longest records of human evolution are preserved. However, environmental indicators such as deep-sea oxygen isotopes, terrestrial dust flux, paleosol carbon isotopes, and lake sediments do not point consistently to any simple trend or climate driver of evolutionary change. Comparison of environmental indicators cautions against an exclusive focus on any given end-member of environmental fluctuation (driest or wettest, warmest or coolest), and argues for the impact of the entire range of variability in shaping evolutionary change. A model of alternating high and low climate variability for tropical Africa further implies that specific environmental indicators reflect different aspects of East African environmental dynamics. The model may thus help reconcile some of the conflicting interpretations about the environmental drivers of hominin evolution. First and last appearances of hominin lineages, benchmark biogeographic events, and the emergence of key adaptations and capacities to alter the surroundings are consistently concentrated in the predicted longest intervals of high climate variability. The view that emerges is that important changes in stone technology, sociality, and other aspects of hominin behavior can now be understood as adaptive responses to heightened habitat instability.

Keywords: Paleoclimate | Human evolution | Adaptability | Variability selection | Olorgesailie | Africa | Environment

Prüfer 2014

Kay Prüfer et al., The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains. nature 505 (2014), 43–49.


Kay Prüfer, Fernando Racimo, Nick Patterson, Flora Jay, Sriram Sankararaman, Susanna Sawyer, Anja Heinze, Gabriel Renaud, Peter H. Sudmant, Cesare de Filippo, Heng Li, Swapan Mallick, Michael Dannemann, Qiaomei Fu, Martin Kircher, Martin Kuhlwilm, Michael Lachmann, Matthias Meyer, Matthias Ongyerth, Michael Siebauer, Christoph Theunert, Arti Tandon, Priya Moorjani, Joseph Pickrell, James C. Mullikin, Samuel H. Vohr, Richard E. Green, Ines Hellmann, Philip L. F. Johnson, Hélène Blanche, Howard Cann, Jacob O. Kitzman, Jay Shendure, Evan E. Eichler, Ed S. Lein, Trygve E. Bakken, Liubov V. Golovanova, Vladimir B. Doronichev, Michael V. Shunkov, Anatoli P. Derevianko, Bence Viola, Montgomery Slatkin, David Reich, Janet Kelso & Svante Pääbo

We present a high-quality genome sequence of a Neanderthal woman from Siberia. We show that her parents were related at the level of half-siblings and that mating among close relatives was common among her recent ancestors. We also sequenced the genome of a Neanderthal from the Caucasus to low coverage. An analysis of the relationships and population history of available archaic genomes and 25 present-day human genomes shows that several gene flow events occurred among Neanderthals, Denisovans and early modern humans, possibly including gene flow into Denisovans from an unknown archaic group. Thus, interbreeding, albeit of low magnitude, occurred among many hominin groups in the Late Pleistocene. In addition, the high-quality Neanderthal genome allows us to establish a definitive list of substitutions that became fixed in modern humans after their separation from the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Raghavan 2014

Maanasa Raghavan et al., Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans. nature 505 (2014), 87–91.


Maanasa Raghavan, Pontus Skoglund, Kelly E. Graf, Mait Metspalu, Anders Albrechtsen, Ida Moltke, Simon Rasmussen, Thomas W. Stafford Jr, Ludovic Orlando, Ene Metspalu, Monika Karmin, Kristiina Tambets, Siiri Rootsi, Reedik Mägi, Paula F. Campos, Elena Balanovska, Oleg Balanovsky, Elza Khusnutdinova, Sergey Litvinov, Ludmila P. Osipova, Sardana A. Fedorova, Mikhail I. Voevoda, Michael DeGiorgio, Thomas Sicheritz-Ponten, Søren Brunak, Svetlana Demeshchenko, Toomas Kivisild, Richard Villems, Rasmus Nielsen, Mattias Jakobsson & Eske Willerslev

The origins of the First Americans remain contentious. Although Native Americans seem to be genetically most closely related to east Asians1-3, there is no consensus with regard to which specific Old World populations they are closest to4-8. Here we sequence the draft genome of an approximately 24,000-year-old individual (MA-1), from Mal'ta in south-central Siberia9, to an average depth of 13. To our knowledge this is the oldest anatomically modern human genome reported to date. The MA-1 mitochondrial genome belongs to haplogroup U, which has also been found at high frequency among Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers10-12, and the Y-chromosome of MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and near the root of most Native American lineages5. Similarly, we find autosomal evidence that MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and genetically closely related to modern-day Native Americans, with no close affinity to east Asians. This suggests that populations related to contemporary western Eurasians had a more north-easterly distribution 24,000 years ago than commonly thought. Furthermore, we estimate that 14 to 38 % of Native American ancestry may originate through gene flow from this ancient population. This is likely to have occurred after the divergence of Native American ancestors from east Asian ancestors, but before the diversification of Native American populations in the New World. Gene flow from the MA-1 lineage into Native American ancestors could explain why several crania from the First Americans have been reported as bearing morphological characteristics that do not resemble those of east Asians2,13. Sequencing of another south-central Siberian, Afontova Gora-2 dating to approximately 17,000 years ago14, revealed similar autosomal genetic signatures as MA-1, suggesting that the region was continuously occupied by humans throughout the Last Glacial Maximum. Our findings reveal that western Eurasian genetic signatures in modern-day Native Americans derive not only from post Columbian admixture, as commonly thought, but also froma mixed ancestry of the First Americans.

Ward 2014

Carol V. Ward, Matthew W. Tocheri, J. Michael Plavcan, Francis H. Brown & Fredrick Kyalo Manthi, Early Pleistocene third metacarpal from Kenya and the evolution of modern human-like hand morphology. PNAS 111 (2014), 121–124.


Despite discoveries of relatively complete hands from two early hominin species (Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus sediba) and partial hands from another (Australopithecus afarensis), fundamental questions remain about the evolution of human-like hand anatomy and function. These questions are driven by the paucity of hand fossils in the hominin fossil record between 800,000 and 1.8 My old, a time interval well documented for the emergence and subsequent proliferation of Acheulian technology (shaped bifacial stone tools). Modern and Middle to Late Pleistocene humans share a suite of derived features in the thumb, wrist, and radial carpometacarpal joints that is noticeably absent in early hominins. Here we show that one of the most distinctive features of this suite in the Middle Pleistocene to recent human hand, the third metacarpal styloid process, was present  1.42 Mya in an East African hominin from Kaitio, West Turkana, Kenya. This fossil thus provides the earliest unambiguous evidence for the evolution of a key shared derived characteristic of modern human and Neandertal hand morphology and suggests that the distinctive complex of radial carpometacarpal joint features in the human hand arose early in the evolution of the genus Homo and probably in Homo erectus sensu lato.


Lipinski 2014

Edward Lipinski, Cult Prostitution in Ancient Israel? Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2014), i, 48–56.

The conclusion, however, as we shall see, is that asherah in the Bible refers to a shrine or sacred grove, not to a goddess. The confusion can be easily recognized because in several West Semitic languages (Assyro-Babylonian, Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew), the common word for shrine (asirtu/–sertu in Assyro-Babylonian, `srt in Phoenician, `trt in Aramaic and `srh/'syrh in Hebrew) is similar to Ashtoreth ('strt) and to the name `Atrt of the Ugaritic goddess Rabbatu Atratu Yamma, “The Lady Who Treads upon the Sea.” The similarity of Biblical asherah to these terms in other related languages led modern mythographers to invent a goddess Asherah in the Bible. Modern translators followed suit.

It is clear, however, that asherah in the Bible cannot refer to a goddess. In the Bible, asherah has a plural, `srym, sometimes `srwt. This would hardly be the case if asherah were a goddess. Moreover, in the Bible asherah sometimes occurs with the article ha- (”the shrine”) and with the pronominal suffix (”his shrine”), as in the well-known Hebrew inscriptions from Khirbet el-Qom, near Jerusalem (yhwh w'srth, “Yahweh and his shrine”), and from Kuntillet `Ajrud in the Sinai (yhwh smrn w'srth, “Yahweh of Samaria and his shrine”; yhwh tmn w'srth, “Yahweh of the South and his shrine”). This proves that asherah cannot be a proper name.

Na'aman 2014

Nadav Na'aman, The case of David's Palace and the Millo, The interchange between Bible and Archaeology. Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2014), i, 57–61.

In the absence of any archaeological evidence, it is my view that the Temple Solomon built on the Temple Mount was a modest shrine that developed gradually, stage by stage, over many generations, until it became the major Temple of the kingdom. As for Solomon's residence adjacent to the Temple, the reality is that he had two royal residences: one on the Temple Mount and the other in the City of David. This naturally raises the question of their relation. Tentatively, I suggest that the residence in the City of David was the earlier residence and was more important in the early stage of the Judahite monarchy. The residence on the Temple Mount was initially a modest building, originally perhaps a ceremonial palace erected near the shrine that developed gradually over time. Since the earlier residence initially built by King David was built in a densely inhabited area which placed limitations on its growth, the center gradually shifted to the Temple Mount, which became the seat of the royal palace and the site of the central Temple of the kingdom.


Rendu 2014

William Rendu et al., Evidence supporting an intentional Neandertal burial at La Chapelle-aux-Saints. PNAS 111 (2014), 81–86.

William Rendu, Cédric Beauval, Isabelle Crevecoeur, Priscilla Bayle, Antoine Balzeau, Thierry Bismuth, Laurence Bourguignon, Géraldine Delfour, Jean-Philippe Faivre, François Lacrampe-Cuyaubère, Carlotta Tavormina, Dominique Todisco, Alain Turq & Bruno Maureille

The bouffia Bonneval at La Chapelle-aux-Saints is well known for the discovery of the first secure Neandertal burial in the early 20th century. However, the intentionality of the burial remains an issue of some debate. Here, we present the results of a 12-y fieldwork project, along with a taphonomic analysis of the human remains, designed to assess the funerary context of the La Chapelle-auxSaints Neandertal. We have established the anthropogenic nature of the burial pit and underlined the taphonomic evidence of a rapid burial of the body. These multiple lines of evidence support the hypothesis of an intentional burial. Finally, the discovery of skeletal elements belonging to the original La Chapelle aux Saints 1 individual, two additional young individuals, and a second adult in the bouffia Bonneval highlights a more complex site-formation history than previously proposed.

Mousterian burial | Middle Paleolithic | symbolic behavior | taphonomy | archaeology

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