Early Achievement

Kevin Lewis

February 03, 2024

Homo sapiens reached the higher latitudes of Europe by 45,000 years ago
Dorothea Mylopotamitaki et al.
Nature, forthcoming

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe is associated with the regional disappearance of Neanderthals and the spread of Homo sapiens. Late Neanderthals persisted in western Europe several millennia after the occurrence of H. sapiens in eastern Europe. Local hybridization between the two groups occurred, but not on all occasions. Archaeological evidence also indicates the presence of several technocomplexes during this transition, complicating our understanding and the association of behavioural adaptations with specific hominin groups. One such technocomplex for which the makers are unknown is the Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician (LRJ), which has been described in northwestern and central Europe. Here we present the morphological and proteomic taxonomic identification, mitochondrial DNA analysis and direct radiocarbon dating of human remains directly associated with an LRJ assemblage at the site Ilsenhöhle in Ranis (Germany). These human remains are among the earliest directly dated Upper Palaeolithic H. sapiens remains in Eurasia. We show that early H. sapiens associated with the LRJ were present in central and northwestern Europe long before the extinction of late Neanderthals in southwestern Europe. Our results strengthen the notion of a patchwork of distinct human populations and technocomplexes present in Europe during this transitional period.

Evidence from personal ornaments suggest nine distinct cultural groups between 34,000 and 24,000 years ago in Europe
Jack Baker et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, forthcoming

Mechanisms governing the relationship between genetic and cultural evolution are the subject of debate, data analysis and modelling efforts. Here we present a new georeferenced dataset of personal ornaments worn by European hunter-gatherers during the so-called Gravettian technocomplex (34,000–24,000 years ago), analyse it with multivariate and geospatial statistics, model the impact of distance on cultural diversity and contrast the outcome of our analyses with up-to-date palaeogenetic data. We demonstrate that Gravettian ornament variability cannot be explained solely by isolation-by-distance. Analysis of Gravettian ornaments identified nine geographically discrete cultural entities across Europe. While broadly in agreement with palaeogenetic data, our results highlight a more complex pattern, with cultural entities located in areas not yet sampled by palaeogenetics and distinctive entities in regions inhabited by populations of similar genetic ancestry. Integrating personal ornament and biological data from other Palaeolithic cultures will elucidate the complex narrative of population dynamics of Upper Palaeolithic Europe.

Early Canal Systems in the North American Southwest
Gary Huckleberry
American Antiquity, January 2024, Pages 78-97

Current evidence suggests that Indigenous farmers in the North American Southwest began canal irrigation in the second millennium BC, marking an important change in food production technology. Early canal systems are preserved in alluvial floodplains of the US-Mexico Borderlands region, tend to be deeply buried, and can appear as natural fluvial features. Here I discuss some of the challenges in identifying early canals and associated fields and present case studies from the Santa Cruz River in southern Arizona where buried channels dating as early as 1600–1400 BC were likely human constructed. These small channels share several stratigraphic properties and are consistent with hypotheses of early canal irrigation practiced by small family groups reliant on mixed farming and foraging. Through time, irrigation canal systems expanded in size, resulting in increased labor investment, sedentism, and productivity and facilitating the development of larger irrigation communities. Stratigraphic and geomorphic properties of early canal systems thus far identified along the Santa Cruz River provide a framework for identifying potential early canal evidence in other fine-grained floodplains of the Southwest, thereby improving our understanding of Indigenous agricultural intensification.

Gathering Ground: Unearthing 3000 Years of Prehistory at Faughan Hill, Eastern Ireland
Ger Dowling & Roseanne Schot
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 2023, Pages 83-126

The discovery of a major archaeological complex at Faughan Hill, County Meath, was first reported on in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society in 2015. Comprising a series of large hilltop enclosures, probable burial sites, and associated features, the character and scale of the complex marked this out as an important focal centre in a region populated with some of Ireland’s largest and most spectacular monument ensembles, not least at the Hill of Tara, 15 km to the south-east. A more complete picture of the site has since been revealed through further geophysical survey followed by test excavations by the Discovery Programme’s Tara Research Project. Two trenches excavated across the hilltop enclosures in 2017 yielded evidence of four discrete phases of activity spanning some 3000 years, from the mid-4th to mid-1st millennia BC. During the Middle Neolithic the hilltop was encircled by a fenced enclosure (3635–3380 cal BC) possibly associated with the production of stone tools. At 250 m in projected diameter it is one of the largest enclosures of the 4th millennium known in Ireland. This was superseded in the Late Bronze Age by a far more substantial, 400 m diameter multivallate enclosure (1280–920 cal BC) representing the only excavated hillfort of its type in Meath. The hill was the focus of renewed activity during the Early Iron Age (800–520 cal BC) and later became central to the political ambitions of aspiring, early Uí Néill kings of Tara, achieving particular reknown as the burial place of their eponymous ancestor, Niall of the Nine Hostages. Developments at Faughan are illuminated further by a wealth of prehistoric settlement and ritual sites in the surrounding area, as well as early documentary sources, and, collectively, speak to a regional centre and gathering place with long-lived social, symbolic, and political significance.

Making wine in earthenware vessels: A comparative approach to Roman vinification
Dimitri Van Limbergen & Paulina Komar
Antiquity, forthcoming

Wine was deeply embedded in all aspects of Roman life and its role in society, culture and the economy has been much studied. Ancient Roman texts and archaeological research provide valuable insights into viticulture and the manufacture, trade and consumption of wine but little is known of the sensory nature of this prized commodity. Here, the authors offer a novel oenological approach to the study of Roman dolia through their comparison with modern Georgian qvevri and associated wine-production techniques. Far from being mundane storage vessels, dolia were precisely engineered containers whose composition, size and shape all contributed to the successful production of diverse wines with specific organoleptic characteristics.


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