The conservation of the fossils recovered in archeopaleontological sites is an accurate work that demands specialized techniques. In order to improve the conservation of the 1 million year-old large mammals remains from the Barranc de la Boella site (Tarragona, Spain), Lucía López-Polín, conservator at IPHES (the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) has benefit from fellowship grant to conduct her research at the at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.
The aim of this research was to study the packaging and storage systems for fossil vertebrates that are used in the above-mentioned Smithsonian museum. The study seek to assess if their methods would be useful for the fossils of proboscides and other large mammals from Barranc de la Boella, which have a unique problem due to their large dimensions and weights.
The work has been developed in the Conservation department headed by Catharine Hawks who is in charge of the conservation of the museum’s enormous collections. There, Lucía López-Polin has reviewed the different packaging systems of fossil vertebrates and she also carried out a series of quantitative analyzes on the protection that different packaging systems provide to the fossils. The experimental work that has been carried out along with Steven Jabo, preparator at the Paleobiology department.
Lucía López-Polín is a conservator-restorer specialized in the treatment of quaternary remains. Member of the Atapuerca Research Team since 1997, she joined the scientific team led by Eudald Carbonell at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili as a fellow in 2003. Since 2008 she has been a conservator at IPHES. She is an expert in field work and in the treatment of archaeopaleontological material from Paleolithic sites up to 1 million.
The Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) has obtained the ‘HR Excellence in Research’ logo awarded by the European Commission. The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) proves that IPHES endorses the general principles of the European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (Charter & Code), and firmly supports its commitment in improving internal policies and procedures.
This recognition of excellence is an opportunity to establish a comprehensive and coherent Human Resources Strategy, that should allow to achieve international visibility by providing favorable working environment for research with equal opportunities, ethical integrity and work life balance.
Our Human Resources Strategy for Researchers Action Plan (HRS4R Action Plan) was drawn up by a working group in a participative and open process involving this the representatives of the whole IPHES research areas through a general survey. The 2016- 2020 Action Plan comprises actions related to 4 pillars: ethical and professional aspects, recruitment, working conditions and Social Security, and training.
The history of our own species – Homo sapiens – is longer and probably more complicated than scientists had previously believed. While Africa is widely accepted as the place of origin of the first modern humans, there was no evidence that these people moved out of Africa prior to between 120,000 and 90,000 years ago. Now an international team of researchers has described the earliest modern human fossil ever found outside of Africa. The left side of an adult upper jawbone including most of the dentition was found at Misliya Cave in Israel, one of a series of prehistoric cave sites located on Mount Carmel. In this research, Carlos Lorenzo, IPHES researcher and professor at Rovira i Virgili University (URV), has participated in the paleoanthropological study of the human fossil.
The team applied several dating techniques to archaeological materials from the site and the human fossil itself to obtain an age. The results suggest the fossil dates to between 177,000 and 194,000 years, pushing back the first modern human migration out of Africa by roughly 60,000 years. In addition, the Misliya fossil is about the same age as other early Homo sapiens fossils from two sites in East Africa.
To establish what species the Misliya fossil represents, the researchers relied on multiple approaches to analyze the fossil itself. The multidisciplinary team applied classic anthropological measurements on the jawbone and teeth, as well as micro-Computed Tomography scans to study the inner anatomy and compare the shape using 3D virtual models. The comparison with African, European and Asian hominin fossils and with recent human populations showed that the Misliya fossil is unequivocally an early modern human.
Luckily, the roof of Misliya Cave collapsed about 160,000 years ago and protected the human fossil and the archaeological artifacts buried in the sediments until the present day. The rich archaeological evidence reveals that the inhabitants of Misliya cave were capable hunters of large game species such as aurochs, persian fallow deer and gazelles, they controlled the production of fire in hearths, made a wide use of plants and produced an Early Middle Paleolithic stone tool kit, employing sophisticated innovative techniques, similar to those found with the earliest modern humans in Africa.
While older fossils related to modern humans have been found in Northwest Africa, the timing and routes of modern human migration out of Africa are key issues for understanding the evolution of our own species. The region of the Middle East represents a major corridor for hominin migrations during the Pleistocene and has been occupied at different times by modern humans, Neandertals, and even earlier human species. This new discovery from Misliya Cave opens the door to demographic replacement or genetic admixture between modern humans and other local populations much earlier than previously thought. Indeed, the evidence from Misliya is consistent with recent suggestions based on ancient DNA for an earlier migration, prior to 220,000 years ago, of modern humans out of Africa. Several recent archaeological and fossil discoveries in Asia are also pushing back the first appearance of modern humans in the region and, by implication, the migration out of Africa.
For further information:
Hershkovitz, I., Weber, G.W., Quam, R., Duval, M., Grün, R., Kinsley, L., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Valladas, H., Mercier, N., Arsuaga, J.L., Martinón-Torres, M., Bermúdez de Castro, J.M., Fornai, C., Martín-Francés, L., Sarig, R., May, H., Krenn, V.A., Slon, V., Rodríguez, L., García, R., Lrenzo, C., Carretero, J.M., Frumkin, A., Shahack-Gross, R., Bar-Yosef Mayer, D.E., Cui, Y., Wu, X., Peled, N., Groman-Yaroslavski, I., Weissbrod, L., Yeshurun, R., Tsatskin, A., Zaidner, Y. & Weinstein-Evron, M. (2018). “The earliest modern humans outside Africa”. Science, published online 26th January 2018.
Homo sapiens are considered to be the only species with a predominance of a preferred use of the right hand, with a ratio of 9 right-handed to 1 left-handed people. However, when did the human handedness appeared in human evolution remains unknown. An international research recently published and led by Marina Lozano, researcher at IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), shows that this behaviour is more ancient than it was thought. At population level, Neandertal as far as 130,000 years ago, showed a well-stablished hand preference as our species. Nevertheless, this practice goes back to Homo habilis showing that handedness is an ancestral characteristic of our genus.
The scientific community has developed a huge amount of studies focused on handedness and brain laterality in hominins. However, in this work, a large sample has been analyzed, for the first time, following the same methodology. That is 120 individuals of five different human species (Homo habilis, Homo antecessor, preneandertals, European Neandertals and Homo sapiens), spanning almost 2 million years.
The main research teams focused on the study of handedness in fossil hominins are involved in this work. So, this is the result of an international collaboration between researchers of Spain, USA and Italy. Thanks to this work “we can affirm that the trend to have a preferred hand is an intrinsic characteristic of our genus. The handedness was established slowly in each of the species who precede us. From this research, we can do some inferences because handedness implies brain laterality that is closely related to language”, mentions the researcher Marina Lozano.
This international team studied the cultural dental wear, specifically the striations (cut marks) that result from the use of the mouth as a third hand, when some material is held between the anterior teeth and cut with a lithic tool. These marks are analyzed with environmental scanning electron microscopy.
The large scientific production of posters by the IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) members that are presented in worldwide conferences is very relevant, and moreover some of them have won prizes thanks to the didactic and attractive displayed designs. A very accurate work that often is stored back at the research centre without any other visibility. With the idea of changing this situation, and making them public more permanently and bring them closer to the scientific community and the general public, an exhibition was firstly started at IPHES, showing two posters during a month, but finally a leap was taken to the internet creating a blog.
The initiative was launched by the IPHES researcher Ethel Allué, that doing this has promoted also the virtual archive of this open access contents. Since its creation on 2015 there have been 22 posts, each of which belongs to a poster and from each one there is an image and the information of the issues and the authorship, as well as the link to the congress in which they were presented. They are classified into categories and they can be also found chronologically according to the date of the post. The periodicity, between October and May, is of two per month and they are also exhibited physically at the resting hall at IPHES, located at the campus Sescelades of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, at Tarragona.
The poster issues that have already been blogged are diverse and they mainly refer to the research results carried out in this research centre, such as the study of tooth wear to acknowledge the hominid diet habits, that focused the two new posts this year. These belong to two posters presented by Marina Lozano (IPHES, researcher) to the Association of Physical Anthropology during the annual meeting held at New Orleans on April 2017.
Tarragona host the V International Congress of Experimental Archaeology, organized by three Catalan Research Centers (IPHES, ICAC and ICRPC), together with the EXPERIMENTA association, and with the collaboration of the Port of Tarragona and the University Rovira i Virgili (URV).
The Congress will gather researchers who use the experimental archaeology for solving problems derived from the study of ancient cultures. Within this forum, they will present their last results regarding didactics, dissemination and value-added of heritage.
There will be also a practical day where the specialist will make reproductions of prehistoric hafting, ropes or basketry, between others. The afternoon session will be open to the general public.
In the last decades, the archaeology has produced a higher interest in the experimental methodology used to validate hypothesis about the archaeological formation processes, the technology and the ways of living of past communities. Thus, the main specialists use the experimental reproduction as the way to reconstruct the environmental conditions and the behavioural patterns of the past human groups.
Within this context, Tarragona will host the V International Congress of Experimental Archaeology, between the 25th and 27th of October. This is co-organized by three Catalan Research Centres, IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), ICAC (Institut Català d’Arqueologia Clàssica), ICRPC (Institut Català de Recerca en Patrimoni Cultural) and the EXPERIMENTA association. These conferences count also with the collaboration of the Port of Tarragona and the University Rovira i Virgili (URV).
The Congress will attend two days to theoretical presentations, both oral and poster communications, and discussion (25th and 26th October) and a day for the presentation of experiments, demonstrations and workshops (27th October). The theoretical sessions will be held in the Aula Magna of Facultade Lletres of the University Rovira i Virgili (Av. Catalunya, 35. 43002 Tarragona). The practical day will take place in the facilities of the Port of Tarragona, Refugi 4 and in the Port of Tarragona Museum (Moll de Costa, s/n).
The theoretical sessions will be organized by large thematic blocks: From hunter-gatherers to producer societies; from the beginning of complex societies to the present; and didactics, dissemination and value-added of heritage.
The practical day will be divided into two parts. The morning will be devoted to the live experiments, workshops and demonstrations to generate a proactive discussion within the participants to the congress. Some of these activities will be related with the action of tying, from the first hunter-gatherers to nowadays. So, the specialists will reproduce prehistoric hafting, ropes and basketry, looms, fishing nets, etc… During the afternoon, these activities will be open to the general public in an attempt to bring experimental archaeology to the society.