Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece

Athens, Greece

Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece

Athens, Greece
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Karkanas P.,Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece | Pavlopoulos K.,Harokopio University | Kouli K.,National and Kapodistrian University of Athens | Ntinou M.,University of Ioannina | And 3 more authors.
Geoarchaeology | Year: 2011

Dispilio is a lakeside settlement by the Orestias Lake, Kastoria, northern Greece. The site was inhabited from the Middle Neolithic to the Chalcolithic, with some surface evidence of Bronze Age occupation. Microfacies analysis of the sediments, supported by a suite of environmental indices, has provided detailed paleoenvironmental data and elucidated the main processes involved in the formation of the site and its history of occupation. The settlement was established on the lakeshore, on a shallow sand ridge and a shore marsh. Initially, houses were built on raised platforms above the water. After a major conflagration, a range of depositional microenvironments were established that caused local changes in the sedimentation rate. Therefore, some areas quickly emerged and became dry land, while some others continued to be flooded as part of the transitional supra-littoral environment. On the dry land, houses were built directly on the ground, whereas in the transitional areas houses continued to be built on raised platforms. Thus, gradually, a mound was formed and further shaped by subsequent lake-level fluctuations. One of the lake-level rises is tentatively related to the abandonment of the mound in the Chalcolithic and the development of a hardpan on its surface. There is also evidence of later occupation during the Bronze Age in the form of a few, mostly surface, archaeological remains. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Pickering R.,University of Melbourne | Jacobs Z.,University of Wollongong | Herries A.I.R.,La Trobe University | Karkanas P.,Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece | And 5 more authors.
Quaternary Science Reviews | Year: 2013

Deposits in sea caves found along the southern coastline of South Africa have produced a rich and detailed archaeological record of early modern humans. There is, however, little evidence for coastal cave deposits and human occupation older than MIS5e (~120 ka). Based on the correlation of four different chronological methods we present evidence for remnant cave deposits of 1.1-1.0 Ma from the quartzite sea cliff of Pinnacle Point, near Mossel Bay. Initial uranium-thorium ages at isotopic equilibrium indicated an age of >500 ka for two flowstone layers, confirmed by uranium-lead dating of these flowstones from 1.099 ± 0.012 to 1.047 ± 0.011 Ma. TT-OSL (thermally transferred optically stimulated luminescence) provides an age of 1.02 ± 0.088 Ma for the sand grains imbedded in the tufa underlying the flowstone and 0.720 ± 0.066 to 0.665 ± 0.056 for the overlying beach sediments, producing an internally consistent age sequence centring on 1.0-1.1 Ma. The normal palaeomagnetic signal of the younger section of the flowstone is interpreted to represent the Jaramillo between 1.07 and 0.99 Ma. There is a clear hiatus in the middle of this flowstone, leading us to interpret the lower normal signal as the Punaruu event at ~1.115-1.1051 Ma. Together these four techniques point to an age of 1.1-1.0 Ma for these cave deposits at Pinnacle Point, far older than anticipated. The persistent presence of these 1.1-1.0 Ma deposits means that the enigmatic lack of Earlier Stone Age (Acheulean) artefacts in the sea caves along this coastal region can no longer be explained entirely by the age of the caves or through removal of sediments by previous sea level highstands. We believe that these and other coastal caves from this region, if located high enough above sea level, may contain deposits of great antiquity, which could provide outstanding records of climate, environment, sea level change, and human occupation back into the early to middle Pleistocene. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Gopher A.,Tel Aviv University | Ayalon A.,Geological Survey of Israel | Bar-Matthews M.,Geological Survey of Israel | Barkai R.,Tel Aviv University | And 4 more authors.
Quaternary Geochronology | Year: 2010

We present here the results of a U-Th dating project at Qesem Cave, a Middle Pleistocene, late Lower Paleolithic site in Israel. It provides 54 new MC-ICP-MS U-Th ages for speleothems from the cave. The results indicate that human occupation started sometime between ∼420 and 320 ka and ended between 220 and 194 ka. A survey of dates from culturally similar sites in the Levant indicates that the general range of ca. 400-ca. 200 ka is an appropriate estimate for the life span of the Acheulo-Yabrudian Cultural Complex (AYCC). © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Douka K.,University of Oxford | Higham T.F.G.,University of Oxford | Wood R.,University of Oxford | Wood R.,Australian National University | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2014

The Uluzzian, one of Europe's 'transitional' technocomplexes, has gained particular significance over the past three years when the only human remains associated with it were attributed to modern humans, instead of Neanderthals as previously thought. The position of the Uluzzian at stratified sequences, always overlying late Mousterian layers and underlying early Upper Palaeolithic ones, highlights its significance in understanding the passage from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic, as well as the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in southeastern Mediterranean Europe. Despite several studies investigating aspects of its lithic techno-typology, taxonomy and material culture, the Uluzzian chronology has remained extremely poorly-known, based on a handful of dubious chronometric determinations. Here we aim to elucidate the chronological aspect of the technocomplex by presenting an integrated synthesis of new radiocarbon results and a Bayesian statistical approach from four stratified Uluzzian cave sequences in Italy and Greece (Cavallo, Fumane, Castelcivita and Klissoura 1). In addition to building a reliable chronological framework for the Uluzzian, we examine its appearance, tempo-spatial spread and correlation to previous and later Palaeolithic assemblages (Mousterian, Protoaurignacian) at the relevant regions. We conclude that the Uluzzian arrived in Italy and Greece shortly before 45,000 years ago and its final stages are placed at ~39,500 years ago, its end synchronous (if not slightly earlier) with the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption. © 2014.

Karkanas P.,Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece | Goldberg P.,Boston University | Goldberg P.,University of Tübingen
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2010

Site PP13B is a cave located on the steep cliffs of Pinnacle Point near Mossel Bay in Western Cape Province, South Africa. The depositional sequence of the cave, predating Marine Isotopic Stage 11 (MIS 11) and continuing to present, is in the form of isolated sediment exposures with different depositional facies and vertical and lateral variations. Micromorphological analysis demonstrated that a suite of natural sedimentation processes operated during the development of the sequence ranging from water action to aeolian activity, and from speleothem formations to plant colonization and root encrustation. At the same time, anthropogenic sediments that are mainly in the form of burnt remains from combustion features (e.g., wood ash, charcoal, and burnt bone) were accumulating. Several erosional episodes have resulted in a complicated stratigraphy, as discerned from different depositional and post-depositional features. The cave is associated with a fluctuating coastal environment, frequent changes in sea level and climate controlled patterns of sedimentation, and the presence or absence of humans. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Karkanas P.,Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece
Quaternary International | Year: 2010

Minerals that are preserved or formed inside the sediment or soil can be used to determine whether primary anthropogenic constituents (bones, phytoliths, organic matter, charcoal, etc.) would have been affected by diagenesis. Stability diagrams of the minerals that describe the chemical system under investigation can be constructed and then tested in the field. In this approach, it is assumed that the stability of the archaeological material of interest is known. Except for bone, there are not many studies on the stability of other archaeological materials. This approach does not provide information on the former presence of an archaeological material in the sediment or soil but only whether these materials are stable in such an environment. Some indirect indication may be provided by unique mineral associations, but much more has to be done in this direction. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.

Maul L.C.,Senckenberg Research Institutes and Natural History Museums | Smith K.T.,Senckenberg Research Institutes and Natural History Museums | Barkai R.,Tel Aviv University | Barash A.,Tel Aviv University | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2011

Preliminary results of the investigation of the microfauna at the Acheulo-Yabrudian Middle Pleistocene site of Qesem Cave, Israel, are presented. Thus far the assemblage includes ca. 10,000 bone and tooth fragments, of which 50% could be identified to the generic and some hundreds to the species level. Based on the current material, the fauna includes the following squamate reptiles: Laudakia sp., Chamaeleo sp., Gekkonidae indet., Lacertidae indet., Scincidae indet., Pseudopus sp., Varanus sp., Colubroidea indet. (at least three species) and micromammals: Suncus etruscus, Crocidura cf. leucodon, Crocidurinae indet. (large form), Chiroptera indet., S. ciurus cf. anomalus, Cricetulus cf. migratorius, Microtus guentheri, Nannospalax ehrenbergi, Dipodillus cf. dasyurus, Meriones cf. tristrami, Gerbillidae indet., Mus cf. musculus, Apodemus cf. flavicollis. These results suggest that the fauna includes only taxa that occur recently in the territory of Israel. The ecological preferences of the nearest living relatives of the recorded taxa allow us to infer a paleoenvironment with a mosaic of open and woodland habitats. However, comparing the lower with the upper levels of the microfauna-bearing profile, a slight shift towards more wooded conditions might be detectable. Biostratigraphical inferences from the recorded micromammal taxa cover a rather wide age range, whereas the radiometric (U-series and preliminary TL) dating enable a provisionally estimated date for the microfauna-bearing levels at 360-300 ka. Detailed morphometric comparisons with material from other sites in the region are necessary and may yet provide further insights. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Ntinou M.,The Malcolm H Weiner Laboratory For Archaeological Science | Kyparissi-Apostolika N.,Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany | Year: 2016

This paper presents the results of wood charcoal analysis carried out on material from Theopetra cave in central Greece. The sequence dates from prior to 130–8 ka bp and is made up of layers of both anthropogenic and geogenic origins. The study of the wood charcoal samples from these layers sets out to distinguish changes in the local vegetation through time, to correlate these with broader environmental conditions and to discuss how they may relate to differences in the frequency and intensity of human occupation of the cave from shortly before the last interglacial to the Holocene. Changes in the presence and frequency of Prunus sp., Juniperus sp. as well as taxa needing temperate, thermophilous or riverine conditions in successive layers reflect a pattern of vegetation succession that can be correlated with the pollen and marine isotope stage (MIS) records. The earliest human occupation took place in an open park-woodland environment dominated by Prunus during the late MIS 6–6/5 transition. This was followed by a succession of temperate woodlands with deciduous Quercus, Carpinus and Fraxinus, reflecting the optimal conditions of the last interglacial (MIS 5e), followed by more open vegetation during subsequent cooling events. Middle Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers visited the cave repeatedly during the last interglacial, in contrast to more sporadic human presence during the following climatic deterioration. This was characterized by Juniperus dominated steppe and open vegetation and/or riparian woods, reflecting the harsh and unstable climatic conditions of the pleniglacial. Finally, the expansion of Pistacia and re-establishment of temperate woodland points to climatic amelioration during the Holocene from which there is evidence of regular use of the cave by Mesolithic and Neolithic people. The dominant role of Prunus observed in several periods provides important complementary information to the pollen evidence from the late Pleistocene. © 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Tourloukis V.,University of Tübingen | Karkanas P.,Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece
Quaternary Science Reviews | Year: 2012

In the debate about hominin dispersals, Greece is expected to have been among the core areas for the peopling of Eurasia, serving as a 'refugium' and source region for (re)colonizations. Yet, its early Pleistocene record is still scarce, forming a conspicuous 'gap' in the early human geography of the Mediterranean. Here we investigate this gap and provide for the first time a synthesis of the Lower Palaeolithic record of Greece. Our study adopts a geoarchaeological approach to explain the current status of the record and argues that the 'absence of evidence' should be understood as the result of the biasing effects of erosional geomorphic processes and not as an indication of a former absence of hominins. In this line, the potential for archaeological preservation and recovery is assessed as a function of landscape dynamics. Climatic seasonality, tectonic activity, high relief and marine inundations have altogether contributed to significant reworking and/or total loss of archaeological sites: in spatial terms, only about 2-5% of the Lower Palaeolithic record of Greece may have survived up to the present. On the other hand, we interpret recent geological data, which show that half of the Aegean Sea would have been subaerially exposed for most of the early Pleistocene. Our results emphasize the potentially central role of the Aegean region in hominin dispersals, both as a biogeographical landbridge and as a highly productive landscape for occupation. This conclusion opens up new prospects for future fieldwork in an area that was hitherto essentially neglected. Finally, in showing how geomorphic processes bias site distribution patterns, the results and methodological perspective developed here can be seen as having implications that are wider than the geographical limits of the Greek Peninsula: they are pertinent to the investigation and interpretation of the early Pleistocene archaeological records in the highly dynamic landscapes of southern Europe - if not in even broader scales. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Karkanas P.,Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology Speleology of Southern Greece | White D.,University of Southampton | Lane C.S.,University of Oxford | Stringer C.,Natural History Museum in London | And 6 more authors.
Quaternary Science Reviews | Year: 2015

Three cryptotephra layers associated with important periods of climatic change were identified in the Middle Palaeolithic sequence of Theopetra Cave, Greece. The lower cryptotephra layer, THP-TII5, is correlated with the P-11 Pantellerian eruption dated to ~128-131 ka. This cryptotephra postdates a thick sequence of combustion layers that show a complex vegetation succession quite similar to that of the last deglaciation succession in the cave. Two other cryptotephras, THP-TII10 and THP-TII12, are correlated with the Nisyros Upper Pumice and the Pantellerian Y6/Green Tuff, dated to >50 ka and 45.7 ka, respectively. This sequence confirms the position of the Nisyros Upper tephra, below the Pantellerian Green Tuff, in the volcanic event stratigraphy of the Mediterranean. Moreover, these two upper cryptotephras bracket an extended combustion layer with interstadial vegetation characteristics that may be coincident with the complex Greenland Interstadial 13-14. On the basis of this new chronology it can be deduced that the intensity of occupation and presence or absence of humans in the cave were closely related to climatic changes. In addition, a remarkable similarity in the pattern of occupational intensity during the last two deglaciations can be suggested. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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