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The oldest anatomically modern humans from far southeast Europe: direct dating, culture and behavior.

Prat S, Péan SC, Crépin L, Drucker DG, Puaud SJ, Valladas H, Lázničková-Galetová M, van der Plicht J, Yanevich A - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: Based on a multidisciplinary approach for the study of human and faunal remains, we describe here the oldest AMH remains from the extreme southeast Europe, in conjunction with their associated cultural and paleoecological background.The direct-dating results of human bone establish a secure presence of AMHs at 31,900+240/-220 BP in this region.These findings are essential for the debate on the spread of modern humans in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic, as well as their cultural behaviors.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratoire Dynamique de l'Evolution Humaine/UPR 2147, CNRS, Paris, France. sandrine.prat@evolhum.cnrs.fr

ABSTRACT

Background: Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) are known to have spread across Europe during the period coinciding with the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Whereas their dispersal into Western Europe is relatively well established, evidence of an early settlement of Eastern Europe by modern humans are comparatively scarce.

Methodology/principal finding: Based on a multidisciplinary approach for the study of human and faunal remains, we describe here the oldest AMH remains from the extreme southeast Europe, in conjunction with their associated cultural and paleoecological background. We applied taxonomy, paleoecology, and taphonomy combined with geomorphology, stratigraphy, archeology and radiocarbon dating. More than 160 human bone remains have been discovered. They originate from a well documented Upper Paleolithic archeological layer (Gravettian cultural tradition) from the site of Buran-Kaya III located in Crimea (Ukraine). The combination of non-metric dental traits and the morphology of the occipital bones allow us to attribute the human remains to Anatomically Modern Humans. A set of human and faunal remains from this layer has been radiocarbon dated by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry. The direct-dating results of human bone establish a secure presence of AMHs at 31,900+240/-220 BP in this region. They are the oldest direct evidence of the presence of AMHs in a well documented archeological context. Based on taphonomical observations (cut marks and distribution of skeletal elements), they represent the oldest Upper Paleolithic modern humans from Eastern Europe, showing post-mortem treatment of the dead as well.

Conclusion/significance: These findings are essential for the debate on the spread of modern humans in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic, as well as their cultural behaviors.

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Comparison of the skeletal preservation between Homo sapiens and Saiga tatarica from Buran-Kaya III, layer 6-1.A, percentage of number of identified specimens (%NISP). B, Percentage of element Representation (PR or % survival) defined as PR(i) = (MNE(i)*100)/(N(i)*cMNI).
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pone-0020834-g015: Comparison of the skeletal preservation between Homo sapiens and Saiga tatarica from Buran-Kaya III, layer 6-1.A, percentage of number of identified specimens (%NISP). B, Percentage of element Representation (PR or % survival) defined as PR(i) = (MNE(i)*100)/(N(i)*cMNI).

Mentions: In Buran-Kaya III, the representation of skeletal elements (%NISP and Percentage of element Representation) of the human and faunal remains (illustrated by saiga antelope, predominant prey) are noticeably different: absence of human upper and lower limbs and over-representation of human skulls compared to post-cranial parts (Figure 15). Conversely, all the skeletal elements of saiga antelope are represented. The percentages of bones with cut marks are also different: cut marks are observed on 9.5% of the human skull remains, 1.3% for saiga antelope; on 0% of the human post-cranial remains, 7.7% for saiga antelope. The modification frequencies are significantly different (chi 2 = 51.65, p<0.05, ddl = 2). Marrow extraction is evidenced only in saiga antelope (mandible, long bones and phalanges). These features suggest that humans and main game of the hunters-gatherers were not processed in a similar way. Thus, the hypothesis of a dietary cannibalism, as defined above [63], does not seem to be supported by evidence based on body treatment. We consider an alternative scenario. The modifications on human remains could be interpreted as a mortuary ritual, either ritual cannibalism or a specific mortuary practice: post-mortem disarticulation processes of corpses for secondary disposal. The primary processing of the deceased body would have occurred in the site, where mainly cranial and dental remains along with a few phalanges, ribs and vertebra were leftover. The remaining parts of the body would have been taken outside the site by humans (at least as far as the excavated part of the site is concerned). Furthermore, the association with imported body ornaments reinforces the hypothesis of symbolic behavior related to the treatment and disposal of the human remains.


The oldest anatomically modern humans from far southeast Europe: direct dating, culture and behavior.

Prat S, Péan SC, Crépin L, Drucker DG, Puaud SJ, Valladas H, Lázničková-Galetová M, van der Plicht J, Yanevich A - PLoS ONE (2011)

Comparison of the skeletal preservation between Homo sapiens and Saiga tatarica from Buran-Kaya III, layer 6-1.A, percentage of number of identified specimens (%NISP). B, Percentage of element Representation (PR or % survival) defined as PR(i) = (MNE(i)*100)/(N(i)*cMNI).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3117838&req=5

pone-0020834-g015: Comparison of the skeletal preservation between Homo sapiens and Saiga tatarica from Buran-Kaya III, layer 6-1.A, percentage of number of identified specimens (%NISP). B, Percentage of element Representation (PR or % survival) defined as PR(i) = (MNE(i)*100)/(N(i)*cMNI).
Mentions: In Buran-Kaya III, the representation of skeletal elements (%NISP and Percentage of element Representation) of the human and faunal remains (illustrated by saiga antelope, predominant prey) are noticeably different: absence of human upper and lower limbs and over-representation of human skulls compared to post-cranial parts (Figure 15). Conversely, all the skeletal elements of saiga antelope are represented. The percentages of bones with cut marks are also different: cut marks are observed on 9.5% of the human skull remains, 1.3% for saiga antelope; on 0% of the human post-cranial remains, 7.7% for saiga antelope. The modification frequencies are significantly different (chi 2 = 51.65, p<0.05, ddl = 2). Marrow extraction is evidenced only in saiga antelope (mandible, long bones and phalanges). These features suggest that humans and main game of the hunters-gatherers were not processed in a similar way. Thus, the hypothesis of a dietary cannibalism, as defined above [63], does not seem to be supported by evidence based on body treatment. We consider an alternative scenario. The modifications on human remains could be interpreted as a mortuary ritual, either ritual cannibalism or a specific mortuary practice: post-mortem disarticulation processes of corpses for secondary disposal. The primary processing of the deceased body would have occurred in the site, where mainly cranial and dental remains along with a few phalanges, ribs and vertebra were leftover. The remaining parts of the body would have been taken outside the site by humans (at least as far as the excavated part of the site is concerned). Furthermore, the association with imported body ornaments reinforces the hypothesis of symbolic behavior related to the treatment and disposal of the human remains.

Bottom Line: Based on a multidisciplinary approach for the study of human and faunal remains, we describe here the oldest AMH remains from the extreme southeast Europe, in conjunction with their associated cultural and paleoecological background.The direct-dating results of human bone establish a secure presence of AMHs at 31,900+240/-220 BP in this region.These findings are essential for the debate on the spread of modern humans in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic, as well as their cultural behaviors.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Laboratoire Dynamique de l'Evolution Humaine/UPR 2147, CNRS, Paris, France. sandrine.prat@evolhum.cnrs.fr

ABSTRACT

Background: Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) are known to have spread across Europe during the period coinciding with the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Whereas their dispersal into Western Europe is relatively well established, evidence of an early settlement of Eastern Europe by modern humans are comparatively scarce.

Methodology/principal finding: Based on a multidisciplinary approach for the study of human and faunal remains, we describe here the oldest AMH remains from the extreme southeast Europe, in conjunction with their associated cultural and paleoecological background. We applied taxonomy, paleoecology, and taphonomy combined with geomorphology, stratigraphy, archeology and radiocarbon dating. More than 160 human bone remains have been discovered. They originate from a well documented Upper Paleolithic archeological layer (Gravettian cultural tradition) from the site of Buran-Kaya III located in Crimea (Ukraine). The combination of non-metric dental traits and the morphology of the occipital bones allow us to attribute the human remains to Anatomically Modern Humans. A set of human and faunal remains from this layer has been radiocarbon dated by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry. The direct-dating results of human bone establish a secure presence of AMHs at 31,900+240/-220 BP in this region. They are the oldest direct evidence of the presence of AMHs in a well documented archeological context. Based on taphonomical observations (cut marks and distribution of skeletal elements), they represent the oldest Upper Paleolithic modern humans from Eastern Europe, showing post-mortem treatment of the dead as well.

Conclusion/significance: These findings are essential for the debate on the spread of modern humans in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic, as well as their cultural behaviors.

Show MeSH