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Mannino M.A.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Catalano G.,University Pompeu Fabra | Catalano G.,University of Florence | Talamo S.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | And 10 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Hunter-gatherers living in Europe during the transition from the late Pleistocene to the Holocene intensified food acquisition by broadening the range of resources exploited to include marine taxa. However, little is known on the nature of this dietary change in the Mediterranean Basin. A key area to investigate this issue is the archipelago of the Ègadi Islands, most of which were connected to Sicily until the early Holocene. The site of Grotta d'Oriente, on the present-day island of Favignana, was occupied by hunter-gatherers when Postglacial environmental changes were taking place (14,000-7,500 cal BP). Here we present the results of AMS radiocarbon dating, palaeogenetic and isotopic analyses undertaken on skeletal remains of the humans buried at Grotta d'Oriente. Analyses of the mitochondrial hypervariable first region of individual Oriente B, which belongs to the HV-1 haplogroup, suggest for the first time on genetic grounds that humans living in Sicily during the early Holocene could have originated from groups that migrated from the Italian Peninsula around the Last Glacial Maximum. Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses show that the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of Favignana consumed almost exclusively protein from terrestrial game and that there was only a slight increase in marine food consumption from the late Pleistocene to the early Holocene. This dietary change was similar in scale to that at sites on mainland Sicily and in the rest of the Mediterranean, suggesting that the hunter-gatherers of Grotta d'Oriente did not modify their subsistence strategies specifically to adapt to the progressive isolation of Favignana. The limited development of technologies for intensively exploiting marine resources was probably a consequence both of Mediterranean oligotrophy and of the small effective population size of these increasingly isolated human groups, which made innovation less likely and prevented transmission of fitness-enhancing adaptations. © 2012 Mannino et al. Source


Mannino M.A.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Thomas K.D.,University College London | Leng M.J.,British Geological Survey | Leng M.J.,University of Nottingham | And 3 more authors.
Quaternary International | Year: 2011

Subsistence and mobility strategies of hunter-gatherers in the Mediterranean Basin during the transition from the late Pleistocene to the early Holocene have been the object of few studies, even though its karst coastal regions have high densities of prehistoric sites. One such area is the territory of the Conca d'Oro in NW Sicily, which has numerous sites with faunal remains testifying to economies mainly based on hunting of terrestrial ungulates and on the regular consumption of molluscs. This paper presents results from the study of faunal remains from cave sites occupied by hunter-gatherers in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, and of isotope analyses on shells of marine molluscs collected for food and on collagen from the bones of the hunter-gatherers buried in these caves. The mollusc assemblages are dominated by inter-tidal rocky shore species of the genera Patella and Osilinus, which from 16 to 9 kyrs cal BP were the principal marine resources exploited by the hunter-gatherers of the Conca d'Oro. Oxygen isotope analyses on shells of Osilinus turbinatus show that in the late Pleistocene the exploitation of marine molluscs at the Addaura caves, relatively close to the shoreline, was restricted to late autumn and winter, while at Grotta Niscemi, which is further inland, these resources were exploited less intensively but for longer in the year, from autumn to the early spring. The data from the shells (both isotope and biometrical) suggest that late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers spent the coldest months of the year close to the coast, moving inland in late spring and for the summer. In the early Holocene, by contrast, marine molluscs were exploited longer during the year, attesting to a change in mobility strategies and, probably, frequent moves within more restricted territories. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes in human bone collagen from Grotta Addaura Caprara and Grotta della Molara show that marine foods were marginal in the diets of both late Pleistocene and early Holocene hunter-gatherers. Overall, the data indicate that the territory of the Conca d'Oro hunter-gatherers probably extended from the coastal plain to the upland areas during the late Pleistocene, but became more restricted in the early Holocene. This model might have broader application to hunter-gatherer settlement systems in other karst coastal areas of the Mediterranean. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. Source


Mannino M.A.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | di Salvo R.,Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonino Salinas | Schimmenti V.,Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonino Salinas | di Patti C.,University of Palermo | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Archaeological Science | Year: 2011

The subsistence of hunter-gatherers in the Mediterranean Basin has been the object of few studies, which have not fully clarified the role of aquatic resources in their diets. Here we present the results of AMS radiocarbon dating and of isotope analyses on the earliest directly-dated human remains from Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The radiocarbon determinations show that the Upper Palaeolithic (Epigravettian) humans from Grotta di San Teodoro (15 232-14 126 cal. BP) and Grotta Addaura Caprara (16 060-15 007 cal. BP) date to the Late-glacial and were possibly contemporary. The diets of these individuals were dominated by the protein of large terrestrial mammalian herbivores, such as red deer (Cervus elaphus). There is no evidence for the consumption of marine resources, which is probably the result not only of the oligotrophic nature of the Mediterranean, but also perhaps of the lack of adequate technology for exploiting intensively the resources from this sea. In spite of being contemporaneous and of the cultural and technological affinities present between the San Teodoro and Addaura humans, the carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope composition of their bone collagen suggests that significant differences were present in their diets. In particular, the hunter-gatherers from Grotta di San Teodoro, in NE Sicily where coastal plains are backed by high mountain chains (Monti Nebrodi), probably had easy access to resources such as anadromous brown trout (Salmo trutta), which might not have been similarly available in the NW of the island, where reliefs are noticeably lower and watercourses fewer and farther between. This study shows that the high biodiversity of this region, which results from the complex topography of Mediterranean landscapes, was probably exploited opportunistically by Late-glacial foragers. Our data also suggest that intensification and diversification of food acquisition in Sicily did not start in the closing stages of the late Pleistocene, as in other Mediterranean regions, probably because the island had only been (re-)colonized by humans around the Last Glacial Maximum. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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