Ancient Life

Kevin Lewis

November 19, 2022

The domestic dog that lived ∼17,000 years ago in the Lower Magdalenian of Erralla site (Basque Country): A radiometric and genetic analysis
Montserrat Hervella et al.
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, forthcoming


Dogs are known to be the first species domesticated by humans, although the geographic and temporal origin of this process is still under debate in different fields of knowledge. In the present study, we examined a humerus from a canid recovered in the Lower Magdalenian level of the site of Erralla (Zestoa, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain), combining morphology, radiocarbon dating and genetics. Our results confirm the identification of this specimen as Canis lupus familiaris, discarding miss-identification with a dhole (Cuon alpinus) through genetic analyses of cytochrome b gene and mtDNA haplogroup. The direct AMS 14C dating (17,410–17,096 cal. BP) indicated that the Erralla specimen represents one of the earliest domesticated dogs in Europe, in the Lower Cantabrian Magdalenian period. We discuss our results in the light of the debate of the origin of dogs, conducting a critical review of the datings of sites of Eurasia that have provided remains of Paleolithic and Mesolithic dogs, including the so-called “dog-like wolves”.

Are you as fooled as I am? Visual illusions in human (Homo) and nonhuman (Sapajus, Gorilla, Pan, Pongo) primate species
Daniel Hanus, Valentina Truppa & Josep Call
Journal of Comparative Psychology, forthcoming 


It has been argued that humans’ susceptibility to visual illusions does not simply reflect cognitive flaws but rather specific functional adaptations of our perceptual system. The data on cross-cultural differences in the perception of geometric illusions seemingly support this explanation. Little is known, however, about the developmental trajectories of such adaptations in humans, let alone a conclusive picture of the illusionary susceptibility in other primate species. So far, most developmental or comparative studies have tested single illusions with varying procedural implementations. The current study aims at overcoming these limitations by testing human subjects of four different age classes (3- to 5 year-old children and adults) and five nonhuman primate species (capuchin monkeys, bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans) with an identical setup in five well-known geometric illusions (horizontal–vertical, Ebbinghaus, Mueller-Lyer, Ponzo, and Sander). Two food items of identical size were presented on separate trays with surrounding paintings eliciting the illusion of size differences and subjects were required to choose one of the items. Four of the five illusions elicited a strong effect in adult humans, and older children showed a greater susceptibility to illusions than younger ones. In contrast, only two illusions (Ebbingaus and horizontal–vertical) elicited a mild effect on nonhuman primates with high variation within species and little variation between species. Our results suggests that humans learn to see illusions as they develop during childhood. They also suggest that future work should address how nonhuman primates’ experience of these illusion changes throughout their development.

A new chronology for the Māori settlement of Aotearoa (NZ) and the potential role of climate change in demographic developments
Magdalena Bunbury, Fiona Petchey & Simon Bickler
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 15 November 2022


Understanding the role of climate change, resource availability, and population growth in human mobility remains critically important in anthropology. Researching linkages between climate and demographic changes during the short settlement history of Aotearoa (New Zealand) requires temporal precision equivalent to the period of a single generation. However, current modeling approaches frequently use small terrestrial radiocarbon datasets, a practice that obscures past Māori population patterns and their connection to changing climate. Our systematic analysis of terrestrial and marine 14C ages has enabled robust assessments of the largest dataset yet collated from island contexts. This analysis has been made possible by the recent development of a temporal marine correction for southern Pacific waters, and our findings show the shortcomings of previous models. We demonstrate that human settlement in the mid to late 13th century AD is unambiguous. We highlight initial (AD 1250 to 1275) settlement in the North Island. The South Island was reached a decade later (AD 1280 to 1295), where the hunting of giant flightless moa commenced (AD 1300 to 1415), and the population grew rapidly. Population growth leveled off around AD 1340 and declined between AD 1380 and 1420, synchronous with the onset of the Little Ice Age and moa loss as an essential food source. The population continued to grow in the more economically stable north, where conditions for horticulture were optimal. The enhanced precision of this research afforded by the robust analysis of marine dates opens up unique opportunities to investigate interconnectivity in Polynesia and inform the patterns seen in other island contexts.

The most recent Baltic Sea marine hunter-gatherers? The buried individual of grave IB3 in the Suutarinniemi cemetery, Finland
Maria Lahtinen, Ville Hakamäki & Jari-Matti Kuusela
PLoS ONE, November 2022 


Most European hunter-gatherers slowly assimilated into farming communities during the Neolithic period. In the north these groups persisted far longer. In this paper, we present evidence from what may be one of the most recent non-agricultural sites in the region, where a marine hunter-gatherer lifestyle may have continued until as late as the 15th–16th centuries AD. The isotope composition of incremental dental analysis suggests a significant, long-term dependence on seals. This indicates that vestiges of this means of subsistence might have been present in Europe for much longer than previously thought.

Dual ancestries and ecologies of the Late Glacial Palaeolithic in Britain
Sophy Charlton et al.
Nature Ecology & Evolution, November 2022, Pages 1658–1668 


Genetic investigations of Upper Palaeolithic Europe have revealed a complex and transformative history of human population movements and ancestries, with evidence of several instances of genetic change across the European continent in the period following the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Concurrent with these genetic shifts, the post-LGM period is characterized by a series of significant climatic changes, population expansions and cultural diversification. Britain lies at the extreme northwest corner of post-LGM expansion and its earliest Late Glacial human occupation remains unclear. Here we present genetic data from Palaeolithic human individuals in the United Kingdom and the oldest human DNA thus far obtained from Britain or Ireland. We determine that a Late Upper Palaeolithic individual from Gough's Cave probably traced all its ancestry to Magdalenian-associated individuals closely related to those from sites such as El Mirón Cave, Spain, and Troisième Caverne in Goyet, Belgium. However, an individual from Kendrick's Cave shows no evidence of having ancestry related to the Gough’s Cave individual. Instead, the Kendrick’s Cave individual traces its ancestry to groups who expanded across Europe during the Late Glacial and are represented at sites such as Villabruna, Italy. Furthermore, the individuals differ not only in their genetic ancestry profiles but also in their mortuary practices and their diets and ecologies, as evidenced through stable isotope analyses. This finding mirrors patterns of dual genetic ancestry and admixture previously detected in Iberia but may suggest a more drastic genetic turnover in northwestern Europe than in the southwest.

Diachronic shifts in lithic technological transmission between the eastern Eurasian Steppe and northern China in the Late Pleistocene
Chao Zhao, Youping Wang & John Walden
PLoS ONE, November 2022 


The successful occupation of the eastern Eurasian Steppe in the Late Pleistocene improved cultural connections between western Eurasia and East Asia. We document multiple waves of lithic technological transmission between the eastern Eurasian Steppe and northern China during 50–11 cal. ka BP. These waves are apparent in the sequential appearance of three techno-complexes in northern China: (1) the Mousterian techno-complex, (2) the blade techno-complex mixed with Mousterian elements, (3) and the microlithized blade techno-complex. These lithic techno-complexes were transmitted under different paleoenvironmental conditions along different pathways through the eastern Eurasian Steppe. The Mousterian techno-complex and the blade techno-complex mixed with Mousterian elements were only dispersed in the north and west peripheries of northern China (50–33 cal. ka BP). We argue that these techno-complexes failed to penetrate into the hinterland of northern China because they were not well suited to local geographical conditions. In contrast, the microlithized blade technology which diffused from the eastern Eurasian Steppe was locally modified into a Microblade techno-complex which was highly suited to local environmental conditions, and proliferated across the hinterland of northern China (28/27-11 cal. ka BP). The subsequent spread of microblade technology over vast regions of Mongolia and Siberia indicates that the Pleistocene inhabitants of northern China not only adopted and modified technologies from their neighbors in the Eurasian Steppe, but these modified variants were subsequently transmitted back into the Eurasian Steppe. These episodes of technological transmission indicate complicated patterns of population dispersal and technological interaction across northern China and the eastern Eurasian Steppe.


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