Sunday, May 27, 2012

More On The Aurignacian

The tag "Aurignacian" at Dienekes' Anthropology Blog provide a very nice summary of some of the leading or simply most interesting research on this pre-historic modern human era in the last five years or so.

Upper Paleolithic Ethnic Divisions In Europe

One of the most facinating catches in the batch was in a post made on March 22, 2006 and was made without comment on that blog, argues based upon differences in beadwork with no other explanation that the European Aurignacian probably involved two distinct ethno-linguistic populations, one in the "Rhône valley, Italy, Greece and Austria" and the other in Northern Europe. This is the only paper that I am aware of that suggests the kind of broad regional ethnic divide within Europe during that Upper Paleolithic, that is visible from the earliest days of the European Neolithic (LBK v. Cardial Pottery) and recurs again and again in European pre-history and history.
Personal ornaments reveal ethno-linguistic diversity of Aurignacian Europe Journal of Archaeological Science (Article in Press)

Aurignacian ethno-linguistic geography of Europe revealed by personal ornaments

Marian Vanhaeren et al.


Our knowledge of the migration routes of the first anatomically modern populations colonising the European territory at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic, of their degree of biological, linguistic, and cultural diversity, and of the nature of their contacts with local Neanderthals, is still vague. Ethnographic studies indicate that of the different components of the material culture that survive in the archaeological record, personal ornaments are among those that best reflect the ethno-linguistic diversity of human groups. The ethnic dimension of beadwork is conveyed through the use of distinct bead types as well as by particular combinations and arrangements on the body of bead types shared with one or more neighbouring groups. One would expect these variants to leave detectable traces in the archaeological record. To explore the potential of this approach, we recorded the occurrence of 157 bead types at 98 European Aurignacian sites. Seriation, correspondence, and GIS analyses of this database identify a definite cline sweeping counter-clockwise from the Northern Plains to the Eastern Alps via Western and Southern Europe through fourteen geographically cohesive sets of sites. The sets most distant from each other include Aurignacian sites from the Rhône valley, Italy, Greece and Austria on the one hand, and sites from Northern Europe, on the other. These two macro-sets do not share any bead types. Both are characterised by particular bead types and share personal ornaments with the intermediate macro-set, composed of sites from Western France, Spain, and Southern France. We argue that this pattern, which is not explained by chronological differences between sites or by differences in raw material availability, reflects the ethnolinguistic diversity of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic populations of Europe.
Near Eastern Roots For Both Aurignacian And North African Upper Paleolithic Associated With mtDNA Back Migration To Africa

Another bold claim about that era was recounted in a December 16, 2006 post from Dienekes:
mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6 originated in Eurasia See also a related National Geographic story regarding this article.

Science 15 December 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5806, pp. 1767 - 1770

The mtDNA Legacy of the Levantine Early Upper Palaeolithic in Africa

Anna Olivieri et al.

Sequencing of 81 entire human mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) belonging to haplogroups M1 and U6 reveals that these predominantly North African clades arose in southwestern Asia and moved together to Africa about 40,000 to 45,000 years ago. Their arrival temporally overlaps with the event(s) that led to the peopling of Europe by modern humans and was most likely the result of the same change in climate conditions that allowed humans to enter the Levant, opening the way to the colonization of both Europe and North Africa. Thus, the early Upper Palaeolithic population(s) carrying M1 and U6 did not return to Africa along the southern coastal route of the "out of Africa" exit, but from the Mediterranean area; and the North African Dabban and European Aurignacian industries derived from a common Levantine source.
The claim that mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6 are back migrations to Africa from Eurasia are themselves all that bold. (And the consensus opinion that "out of Africa" happened via the Gate of Tears rather than the Sinai Pennisula has been cast into doubt by a recent archaeological find from that era.)

But, the further conclusions that the migration was Levantine, and that it was part of the North Africa Dabban culture, and that it has a common source with the European Aurignacian in the Near East, are ambitious and interesting claims.

Given the inherent limitations of precision associated with mtDNA mutation rate dating, an archaeological association to coroborate the existence of some kind of migration in that time frame would be useful. Still, even if an archaeological association between the North African Upper Paleolithic and the Aurignacian is found, one still has to address how such an mtDNA signal survived the population explosion of the Neolithic which increased populations in the region by something on the order of one hundred fold (based on an indirect measurement). Personally, I find a post-Last Glacial Maximum back migration for M1 and U6 to be more plausible, but I certainly can't rule out an earlier date, since climate probably did not have as intense a population replacement impact in North Africa as it did in Northern Europe.

Aurignacian Archaeological Antecedents In The Near East

Another post from July 7, 2009 discusses potential linkages between Proto-Aurignacian and pre-Aurignacian archaeological cultures in the Balkans and similar archaeological cultures of the Near East. A key passage from the study discussed states:
The earliest evidence of anatomically modern humans in Europe is currently dated to ≈48,000 cal BP and the beginning of the GI 12 warm interval. It is based on artifact assemblages (Bohunician) that are similar to an earlier industry in the Near East (Emiran) probably produced by modern humans. Bohunician sites are present in South-Central Europe and possibly Eastern Europe as well, during this interval....

A possible second movement of modern humans into Europe may be represented by another group of artifact assemblages that date to as early as 45,000–44,000 cal BP and GS 11/GI 11. They vary significantly in composition and are sometimes referred to as Proto-Aurignacian. Many are similar to a contemporaneous industry in the Near East (Ahmarian) manufactured by modern humans. Proto-Aurignacian assemblages are found in Southwest and South-Central Europe and seem to be present in Eastern Europe at this time. Although the oldest known modern human skeletal remains in Europe date to this interval, they are not associated with artifacts....

Both the Bohunician and Proto-Aurignacian sites probably represent modern human population movements from the Near East into Europe via the Balkans.
The Bohunician is also discussed here. There is a nice, and well illustrated 35 page pdf discussion of the period here with a particularly useful illustration on page 22 showing the Ulluzian, Bohunician, Emiran, Amharian, and Dabban cultures in relationship to each other on a map with selective dates.


The Neanderthal-modern human transition at or somewhat before the Aurignacian culture appears isn't a core focus of my interest, which mostly is a bit further along in pre-history, but I do discuss it in one May 2010 post at Wash Park Prophet.

One of the main late Neanderthal archaeological cultures is the Mousterian (found from ca. 300,000 BP and 30,000 BP), betwixt this and the Aurignacian industry is the Châtelperronian industry (flourished 35,000 BP to 29,000 BP and almost mostly seen as a Neanderthal innovation arising out of the Mouterian culture, although not without controversy; Jared Diamond makes the case in his book, "The Third Chimpanzee" (1991), that this may have represented a hybrid or imitative Neanderthal culture). The two archaeological cultures that follow the Aurignacian are the Gravettian (flourished 28,000 to 22,000 years before present, with the earliest signs ca. 32,000 years ago in the Crimean Mountains, and generally appearing after the Aurignacian whereever it appears), and the Solutrean (flourished 22,000 to 17,000 years before present, roughly during the glacial period, and apparently originating in Spain and the Franco-Cantabrian refugium area generally). Coincident Paleoclimate and volcano evidence of tumult at around the time of this transition is discussed here.


Maju said...

Pity that most of those materials are PPV.
Critical may be understanding whether the Franco-Cantabrian Aurignacian is derived from that of the Rhône (I suspect so) or from some other combo (like partly also Swabia).

Whatever the case this exposition does seem to suggest that an Aurignacian establishment of the basics of modern European gene pools are plausible.

andrew said...

PPV? I don't know that acronymn.

I'm not sure that it says much about the Aurignacian establishment of the modern European gene pool at all, other than making clear that the modern European gene pool clearly can't have an earlier derivation (since there weren't humans there earlier). Realistically, a post-LGM (and hence post-Aurignacian) basis for the modern European gene pools seems strongly favored.

Maju said...

PPV=pay per view.

"Realistically, a post-LGM (and hence post-Aurignacian) basis for the modern European gene pools seems strongly favored".

Not in Southern Europe (where the impact of the LGM was minor and in some cases like non-Cantabrian Iberia even favorable) and not if there were groups in Central/North Europe who survived in the LGM and were the main seed of their own re-expansion, as may have been the case with the Ahrensburgian-Hamburgian.

Even if I do think that there was fall of numbers in Central Europe in the LGM, the population did not collapse to zero, specially not around Moravia, and was still larger than in Italy, the Balcans or Eastern Europe.

By contrast, non-Cantabrian Iberia had the largest numbers in all the Upper Paleolithic (probably triggering expansion towards North Africa ·> Oranian), while for the Franco-Cantabrian region the demographic situation was stable in relation to the previous period (but experienced indeed a massive expansion later, in the Magdalenian, with extension to Central Europe).

My hypothesis (one of them) would be that there were (at least) two related but also distinct populations since Aurignacian, whose distinction is still apparent in some elements.

But of course there are other possibilities.

I find difficult to explain for example the existance of two major R1b subclades in Europe (North and South clades for short) of which only the South one can be related (and very strongly so) with the Franco-Cantabrian region and hence the Magdalenian re-expansion.

The North clade, which appears to be quite tightly related with Central and Northern Europe needs a distinct source and that one may well be a Central/North European UP distinctiveness.