Archaeology

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Summed probability distributions of radiocarbon dates can be used to estimate past demography, but methods to test for associations with environmental change are lacking. Here, DiNapoli et al. propose an approach using Approximate Bayesian Computation and illustrate it in a case study of Rapa Nui.

    • Robert J. DiNapoli
    • , Enrico R. Crema
    •  & Terry L. Hunt
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Though there is a long archaeological record of the use of honey, beeswax and other bee products, there are few known records from Africa. Here Dunne et al. analyse lipid residues from pottery from the Nok culture, Nigeria, dating to ~3500 years ago and find evidence of the collection and processing of bee products, likely honey.

    • Julie Dunne
    • , Alexa Höhn
    •  & Richard P. Evershed
  • Article
    | Open Access

    There are a number of competing explanations for the late Pleistocene extinction of many North American megafauna species. Here, the authors apply a Bayesian regression approach that finds greater concordance between megafaunal declines and climate change than with human population growth.

    • Mathew Stewart
    • , W. Christopher Carleton
    •  & Huw S. Groucutt
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Consuming the milk of other species is a unique adaptation of Homo sapiens. Here, the authors carry out proteomic analysis of dental calculus of 41 ancient individuals from Sudan and Kenya, indicating milk consumption occurred as soon as herding spread into eastern Africa.

    • Madeleine Bleasdale
    • , Kristine K. Richter
    •  & Nicole Boivin
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Oldupai Gorge, Tanzania is a key site for understanding early human evolution. Here, the authors report a multiproxy dataset from the Western basin of Oldupai Gorge dating to 2 million years ago, enabling the in situ comparison of lithic assemblages, paleoenvironments and hominin behavioral adaptability.

    • Julio Mercader
    • , Pam Akuku
    •  & Michael Petraglia
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The Seshat database has made it possible to reveal large-scale patterns in human cultural evolution. Here, Shin et al. investigate transitions in social complexity and find alternating thresholds of polity size and information processing required for further sociopolitical development.

    • Jaeweon Shin
    • , Michael Holton Price
    •  & Timothy A. Kohler
  • Article
    | Open Access

    There has been substantial debate of how hominins colonized Australasia through Wallacea, including their ability to utilize marine vs. terrestrial resources. Here, Roberts et al. use stable carbon and oxygen isotopes to reconstruct temporal shifts in the diets of early human inhabitants of Alor and Timor.

    • Patrick Roberts
    • , Julien Louys
    •  & Sue OʼConnor
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The transition to agriculture brought major changes to human populations in Europe during the Neolithic period. Here, Cubas and colleagues analyse lipid residues from Neolithic pottery from along the Atlantic coast of Europe to trace the spread of dairy production and shifts in diet.

    • Miriam Cubas
    • , Alexandre Lucquin
    •  & Oliver E. Craig
  • Article
    | Open Access

    How the development of human societies is influenced through their ecological environment and climatic conditions has been the subject of intensive debate. Here, the authors present multi-proxy data from southern Scandinavia which suggests that pre-agricultural population growth there was likely influenced by enhanced marine production.

    • J. P. Lewis
    • , D. B. Ryves
    •  & S. Juggins
  • Article
    | Open Access

    When modern humans colonized India is debated. Here, Clarkson and colleagues report an archaeological site in India that has been occupied for approximately 80,000 years and contains a stone tool assemblage attributed to Homo sapiens that matches artefacts from Africa, Arabia, and Australia.

    • Chris Clarkson
    • , Clair Harris
    •  & Michael Petraglia
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Ancient DNA analysis of early European farmers has found a high level of genetic affinity with present-day Sardinians. Here, the authors generate genome-wide capture data for 70 individuals from Sardinia spanning the Middle Neolithic to Medieval period to reveal relationships with mainland European populations shifting over time.

    • Joseph H. Marcus
    • , Cosimo Posth
    •  & John Novembre
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Little is known about the diets of early modern humans as they dispersed into Australia. Here, Florin et al. study charred plant remains from Madjedbebe rockshelter, which show that 65–53 thousand years ago, early modern humans in northern Australia already had a broad diet of plants.

    • S. Anna Florin
    • , Andrew S. Fairbairn
    •  & Chris Clarkson
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Birch pitch is thought to have been used in prehistoric times as hafting material or antiseptic and tooth imprints suggest that it was chewed. Here, the authors report a 5,700 year-old piece of chewed birch pitch from Denmark from which they successfully recovered a complete ancient human genome and oral microbiome DNA.

    • Theis Z. T. Jensen
    • , Jonas Niemann
    •  & Hannes Schroeder
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Whether Australia’s Pleistocene megafauna extinctions were caused by climate change, humans, or both is debated. Here, the authors infer the spatio-temporal trajectories of regional extinctions and find that water availability mediates the relationship among climate, human migration and megafauna extinctions.

    • Frédérik Saltré
    • , Joël Chadoeuf
    •  & Corey J. A. Bradshaw
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Remains of several hundred humans are scattered around Roopkund Lake, situated over 5,000 meters above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains. Here the authors analyze genome-wide data from 38 skeletons and find 3 clusters with different ancestries and dates, showing the people were desposited in multiple catastrophic events.

    • Éadaoin Harney
    • , Ayushi Nayak
    •  & Niraj Rai
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The archaeological record provides large ensembles of radiocarbon dates which can be used to infer long-term changes in human demography. Here, the authors analyse the radiocarbon record of the Iberian peninsula, finding support for a bottleneck during the Last Glacial-Interglacial transition

    • Javier Fernández-López de Pablo
    • , Mario Gutiérrez-Roig
    •  & Sergi Lozano
  • Article
    | Open Access

    As modern humans migrated out of Africa, they encountered novel habitats. Here, Wedage et al. study the archaeological site of Fa-Hien Lena in Sri Lanka and show that the earliest human residents of the island practiced specialized hunting of small mammals, demonstrating ecological plasticity.

    • Oshan Wedage
    • , Noel Amano
    •  & Patrick Roberts
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The Caucasus mountain range has impacted on the culture and genetics of the wider region. Here, the authors generate genome-wide SNP data for 45 Eneolithic and Bronze Age individuals across the Caucasus, and find distinct genetic clusters between mountain and steppe zones as well as occasional gene-flow.

    • Chuan-Chao Wang
    • , Sabine Reinhold
    •  & Wolfgang Haak
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The Salkhit skull from Mongolia was initially suggested to have archaic hominin characters. Here, Devièse and colleagues date the skull to approximately 34–35 thousand years ago and reconstruct its mitochondrial genome, finding that it falls within modern human haplogroup N found across Eurasia.

    • Thibaut Devièse
    • , Diyendo Massilani
    •  & Tom Higham
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Populations from North-eastern Europe, in particular those speaking Uralic languages, carry additional ancestry in similarity with modern East Asian populations. Here, the authors analyse ancient genomic data from 11 individuals from Finland and Northwest Russia, and identify genomic signals of migrations from Siberia that began at least 3500 years ago.

    • Thiseas C. Lamnidis
    • , Kerttu Majander
    •  & Stephan Schiffels
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Mineralized plaque, or dental calculus, is a valuable reservoir of the ancient oral microbiome. Here, the authors use quantitative metaproteomics to analyze the dental calculus of 21 individuals from a medieval cemetery, identifying human and microbial proteins that shed light on their oral health status.

    • Rosa R. Jersie-Christensen
    • , Liam T. Lanigan
    •  & Jesper V. Olsen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The Longobards invaded and conquered much of Italy after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Here, the authors sequence and analyze ancient genomic DNA from 63 samples from two cemeteries associated with the Longobards and identify kinship networks and two distinct genetic and cultural groups in each.

    • Carlos Eduardo G. Amorim
    • , Stefania Vai
    •  & Krishna R. Veeramah
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Leprosy, caused by infection with Mycobacterium leprae, was common in Europe in the Middle Ages. Here, Krause-Kyora et al. analyze ancient DNA from a medieval Danish leprosarium to assemble 10 complete bacterial genomes and perform association analysis of the DRB1*15:01 allele with risk of leprosy infection.

    • Ben Krause-Kyora
    • , Marcel Nutsua
    •  & Almut Nebel
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Previous studies of Pre-Columbian earthworks in the Amazon basin have left a gap in the Upper Tapajós Basin (UTB). Here, the authors detect 104 Pre-Columbian earthworks in the UTB, suggesting continuous occupation across southern Amazonia and higher population densities than previously estimated.

    • Jonas Gregorio de Souza
    • , Denise Pahl Schaan
    •  & José Iriarte
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The Bronze-age Indus civilisation (4.6–3.9 ka) was thought to have been linked to the development of water resources in the Himalayas. Here, the authors show that along the former course of the Sutlej River the Indus settlements developed along the abandoned river valley rather than an active Himalayan river.

    • Ajit Singh
    • , Kristina J. Thomsen
    •  & Sanjeev Gupta
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans is thought to have been due to environmental factors, a selective advantage of modern humans, or both. Here, Kolodny and Feldman develop a neutral model of species drift showing that rapid Neanderthal replacement can be explained parsimoniously by simple migration dynamics.

    • Oren Kolodny
    •  & Marcus W. Feldman
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Water is a fundamental resource, but its role in hominin evolution is not well explored. Here, the authors use a combination of groundwater, climate and agent-based models to show that groundwater availability may be critical to past patterns of taxonomic diversity in hominin development in East Africa.

    • M. O. Cuthbert
    • , T. Gleeson
    •  & G. M. Ashley
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Our current understanding of the demographic history of Greenland relies on preserved fossils. Here, the authors sequence ancient DNA from four midden deposits and find a prominent role for caribou, walrus and whale species in Paleo-Inuit cultures not evident from the fossil record.

    • Frederik Valeur Seersholm
    • , Mikkel Winther Pedersen
    •  & Anders Johannes Hansen
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Unlike modern humans, Neanderthals had large and projecting faces. Here, the authors show that the maxilla of modern humans is distinct from those of the Neanderthal and Middle Pleistocene hominins from Sima de los Huesos because their growth processes differ markedly during the postnatal period.

    • Rodrigo S. Lacruz
    • , Timothy G. Bromage
    •  & Eudald Carbonell
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Growing evidence reveals great diversity of archaic Asian hominins. Here, Chang and colleagues describe a newly discovered archaic Homomandible from Taiwan, which suggests the survival of multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans to eastern Asia.

    • Chun-Hsiang Chang
    • , Yousuke Kaifu
    •  & Liang-Kong Lin
  • Article |

    The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) represents the most severe climatic event since modern humans arrived in Europe and it is likely that it has changed their morphology. Here, Brewster et al. examine human cranial morphology from before and after the LGM and show significant differences across periods.

    • Ciarán Brewster
    • , Christopher Meiklejohn
    •  & Ron Pinhasi
  • Article |

    The evolution of agronomic conditions after domestication in the Fertile Crescent remains poorly understood. Here, Araus et al. show that water availability and soil fertility for crops were higher in the past and that domesticated cereals showed a progressive increase in kernel size following domestication.

    • José L. Araus
    • , Juan P. Ferrio
    •  & Ramón Buxó
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Between 8000 and 4000 BP, agriculture spread throughout Europe changing consumption patterns and increasing populations. Shennan et al. analyse radiocarbon date distributions and paleoclimate proxies to show that agriculture also triggered regional population oscillations and that climate forcing is an unlikely cause.

    • Stephen Shennan
    • , Sean S. Downey
    •  & Mark G. Thomas
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The South African archaeological record contains evidence of the early flourishing of the human mind. Ziegler et al. provide new paleoclimate reconstructions, which suggest that rapid fluctuations in global climate have played a key role in the evolution of these early human cultures.

    • Martin Ziegler
    • , Margit H. Simon
    •  & Rainer Zahn
  • Article
    | Open Access

    5,000 years ago, the Minoans established the first advanced civilization of Europe, but their origin remains unclear. Here the authors show that the Minoans were a European population, genetically similar to other ancient European populations and to the present inhabitants of the island of Crete.

    • Jeffery R. Hughey
    • , Peristera Paschou
    •  & George Stamatoyannopoulos