Sunday, May 27, 2012

Aurignacian Arose After An Anatolian AMH Adieu?

The majority of scholars conclude that the Aurignacian is the earliest signature of the first modern humans in Europe. Recent research suggests that this is not likely to be the case. . . . the Uluzzian of Italy and Greece is likely to be a modern human industry based on the reanalysis of infant teeth in the archaeological site of Cavallo, and also demonstrated that it dates to 45,000-43,000 cal BP. Other dated examples from other Uluzzian sites fall into the same period, and the Uluzzian is always stratigraphically below the Proto-Aurignacian in Italian sites where both co-occur. This adds an additional level of complexity to the emerging picture of early human dispersals and suggests that the Aurignacian does not represent the earliest evidence of our species in Europe. . . .
Taken together, these results suggest that modern humans arrived in Europe as early as ~45,000 cal BP and spread rapidly across Europe to as far as southern England between 43,000 and41,000 cal BP. The dates for the lower Aurignacian at Geissenklosterle fall in the same period and appear to pre-date the ages for the Proto- Aurignacian and Early Aurignacian in other regions. The new results suggest that the caves of the Swabian Jura document the earliest phase of the Aurignacian, and the region can be viewed as one of the key areas in which a variety of cultural innovations, including figurative art, mythical images, and musical instruments, are first documented. These dates are consistent with the Danube Valley serving as an important corridor for the movement of people and ideas.  
From here.

O.K., I admit it, I was on an alliteration binge this afternoon.  Forgive me.

The arrival of modern humans in Europe is being dated with increasing precision as archaeologists develop increasing confidence about the association of both Uluzzian and Aurignacian archaeological cultures with Upper Paleolithic modern humans in Europe.  The new research from a cave in Southwest Germany near the source of the Danube, slightly pushes back the confirmed dates for early modern humans in Europe to somewhat before 43,000 B.C.E. and also suggests that the Aurignacian culture may have European origins because it post-dates the earlier brief episodes of archaeological cultures now associated with modern humans.

It also extends the period of Neanderthal and modern human co-existence in Europe.  Neanderthals and modern humans encounted each other in the Levant around 100,000 years ago and co-existed for many millenia.  Then, modern humans disappear from the non-African fossil and archaeological record for a couple dozen millenia.  Then modern humans start to reappear in the Near East and within not so many millenia, beyond.

By 43,000 B.C.E., modern humans arrive in Europe.  Within a few millenia after 30,000 B.C.E., the last traces of Eurasian archaic hominins are gone.  By the time the last glacial maximum hits ca. 18,000 B.C.E., with the accompanying depopulation of ice sheet blanketed Northern Europe as modern humans retreat to Southern European refugia, the Neanderthals (and probably the Northern extent of the Denisovian population) is gone. 

Ancient DNA samples from Neanderthals confirm that non-Africans derive about 2.5% of their DNA from Neanderthals, although there is only modest overlap between the Neanderthal genes inherited by East Eurasians and West Eurasians.  No trace of the heighened tens of millenia of modern human co-existence with Neanderthals survives in the modern gene pool, although I still hold out hope that this is because much of the Epipaleolthic repopulation of Europe was from non-European sources who did not have extended Neanderthal admixture and that there may still be some relict populations in Europe more stongly genetically tied to pre-LGM European populations that may show some elevated Neanderthal admixture.

Other Archaic Transitions

The last few years have unearthed suggestions, however, that there may have been relict populations of archaic hominins in Flores, Indonesia until perhaps 16,000 B.C.E., and in the jungles of Central Africa until perhaps 11,000 B.C.E. 

Ancient DNA from an archaic hominin species called Denisovians for the location of the Siberian cave where fragmentary bones harboring ancient DNA were harvested.  On top of the Neanderthal admixture, aborginal Australians and indigeneous Melanesians have perhaps 5% or more Denisovian admixture, with populations admixed with them having proportionately less Denisovian admixture.  There is almost no trace of Denisovian admixture not traceable to relatively recent subsequent admixture with Melanesians on the Eurasian side of the Wallace line.  Conceivably, some Asian Negrito populations could have independent and ancient, rather than recent Australian/Melanesian admixture sources for their Denisovian admixture which is at considerably lower levels. 

If I were a betting man, I'd guess that Homo Florensis are Denisovians, although probably ones who suffer from island dwarfism - it is hard to know because the Denisovian ancient DNA source has an insufficient collection of associated bones to make any meaningful reconstruction of what they would have looked like.

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