IPHES Researchers presented papers at Homo erectus 100+25, International Senckenberg Conference, Tbilisi

“Homo erectus enigma” is still one of the most intriguing issues in hominin evolutionary research and the Dmanisi hominins are crucial for addressing these questions

The scientific sessions took place in the Auditorium of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, 20-24 September

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In 1991, 100 years after the 1891 discovery of Pithecanthropus erectus in Java, the International Senckenberg Conference was held in Frankfurt to review 100 years of Homo erectus research. In 2016, 25 years later, the “Homo erectus enigma” is still one of the most intriguing issues in hominin evolutionary research. At the centennial conference in Frankfurt 1991 the first hominin find from Dmanisi had its premier appearance on the international research scene. A truly extraordinary story of discoveries started in the Southern Caucasus that has produced five skulls over the last 25 years of research.

125 years of Homo erectus. TBILISI 20-24 September 2016 was organized jointly by the Georgian National Museum, the Senckenberg Research Institute Frankfurt/Main, and the ROCEEH Project of the Heidelberg Academy of Science. The scientific sessions took place in the Auditorium of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.

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Jordi Agustí, ICREA-IPHES researcher (left) with Robert Sala, IPHES and director researcher, in the Homo erectus 100+25, International Senckenberg Conference, Tbilisi

A wealth of new finds demonstrates the high diversity within the Homo erectus hypodigm as well as the presence of regional variants in Africa and Eurasia. It is mainly the Caucasus, which added crucial information to the earliest stages of Homo out of Africa. The Dmanisi hominins are crucial for our understanding of the “Homo erectus enigma” as they display a high morphological diversity, entirely unknown before.

It is evident, that after 100+25 years of Homo erectus research, there is now sufficient new evidence to revisit the “Homo erectus enigma”. This conference on the one hand aims to comprehend state of the art knowledge about Homo erectus and on the other, to develop new approaches and questions for future international and interdisciplinary research.

Papers presented by IPHES with others researchers

Jordi Agustí, Isabel Cáceres participate in the paper lead by Mohamed Sahnouni on the Ain Hanech sequence: “Early Homo erectus behavior and adaptation in North Africa: New data from Ain Hanech and Tighennif (formerly Ternifine) sites in northern Algeria”

Robert Sala, Gema Chacón propose a paper on the Algerian sites where lead research in cooperation with the Centre de Recherches CNRPAH of Algiers: “A Middle Pleistocene human occupation of an ancient humid basin close to the Chotts Regions (N’Gaous, Algeria)”.

Isabel Cáceres participates in the Gona project lead by Sileshi Semaw: “The early Acheulian from Gona, Ethiopia: implications for Homo erectus technological transitions and diet”.

Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro, Eudald Carbonell, Xosé-Pedro Rodríguez: “The Plio-Pleistocene record from the Engel Ela basin (Danakil desert, Eritrea): geology, paleontology and archaeology”.

Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro participates in the research team of Dmanisi lead by David Lordkipanidze: “Dmanisi large mammal assemblage”

Jordi Agustí participates in the research team of Dmanisi lead by David Lordkipanidze: “The late Neogene-Quaternary small vertebrate succession from Georgia: zoogeographical and paleoecological implications”.

 

 

Maçao welcomes the XI presentation of master thesis of the Erasmus Mundus in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution

Students from many different countries as Spain, France, Italy, Chile and Venezuela have participated

Since 2006, eleventh promotions of master students have been graduated and more than 168 research works have been completed so far

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Maçao (Portugal) has hosted the presentation of 16 Erasmus Mundus master’s thesis in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution, taught in the Rovira i Virgili University (URV), in Tarragona (Spain). Apart from European students of Spain, Italy, France, Chile and Venezuela, have defended their works. The defense was held on 19th and 20th September.

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Students and teachers in Maçao these days – IPHES

The Erasmus Mundus Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution is given in partnership with other European institutions, particularly the University of Ferrara, (Italy), the National Museum of Natural History (Paris, France) and the Tomar Polytechnic Institute (in Portugal).

Internationalization

Since 2006, eleventh promotions of master students have been graduated and more than 168 research works have been completed so far. Many of them are based on different projects in which the IPHES participates, in line with the center of uniting teaching with research, field work and socializing.

Indeed, the Erasmus Mundus Master in Quaternary Archaeology and Human Evolution began to teach at the URV in 2004-2005 academic year, thanks to the research carried out in the IPHES, participating in major global projects in its field. Last year, the European Commission renewed this academic offer within the new Erasmus + program for three more years, this award represents an important recognition of the quality and singularity to attract students and represents a key on the internationalization objectives of the URV.

Synthetic replicas jostle for analyzing bloodstains on prehistoric and ethnographic tools

An experimental study at IPHES shows that they can faithfully reproduce the morphology of red blood cells

Currently, dentistry, palaeontology, criminalistics and archaeology are some of the fields where they are applied

They could also be applicable to other organic residues such as muscle, skin or tendon, or the surface of other types of specimens, such as clinical samples or industrial pieces

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Some archaeological and ethnographic specimens are not available for direct examination using a scanning electron microscope because of methodological obstacles. For example, the piece is too large to fit in the chamber of such instrument, or it is a structure that cannot be moved from its place, like a ceremonial altar. There may also be legal troubles because the custodian or owner does not grant permission to take it out from the museum or private collection. In this context, synthetic replicas jostle for in many fields. Currently, dentistry, paleontology, criminalistics and archaeology are already some of the fields where they are applied.

At IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), synthetic replicas are used in different types of research (taphonomy, palaeoanthropology, prehistoric technology) for a long time. So far, in prehistoric technology, this type of replicas have been used for microscopic examination of traces of use, but its application to organic residues had not received the same interest. This situation may now change with the scientific contribution by Policarp Hortolà, biologist and researcher at IPHES. In an experimental study published in the journal Microscopy and Microanalysis, he shows that synthetic replicas can faithfully reproduce the morphology of red blood cells in bloodstains. Therefore, “they are feasible for identifying, via scanning electron microscope, bloodstains on archaeological and ethnographic objects”, he says.

“The most important advance is methodological, because it allows examining, under the microscope, replicas of organic residues instead of the originals”, this researcher says. It could also be applicable to organic residues different from blood (e.g. muscle, skin, tendon, etc.), as well as the surface of other types of specimens (e.g. clinical samples or industrial pieces) when, for any reason, the original is not available for microscopic study.

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Original (left) and synthetic replica (right) (© Microscopy Society of America)

To determine the viability of synthetic replicas, Policarp Hortolà carried out a pilot study with human bloodstains on stone, wood and shell, which are some of the organic materials used by prehistoric and etnohistorical societies for the manufacture of their objects.

The final objective was to evaluate the feasibility of using synthetic replicas for identifying bloodstains through the morphology of red blood cells. Broadly, if organic residues can be replicated without damaging valuable originals, then they could be studied microscopically without removing the original pieces from museums or private collections.

Silicone moulds and polyurethane replicas
To make the replicas, first silicone molds of bloodstained areas were made, from which polyurethane resin replicas were obtained. Subsequently, the original samples and their corresponding resin replicas were examined with a scanning electron microscope. Finally, the results of both types of samples were compared. “It should be noted that, in all the studied samples, the ability of the replicas to reproduce the morphology of red blood cells in the bloodstains was confirmed”, Policarp Hortolà remarks.
Reference

Hortolà, Policarp (2015). Evaluating the use of synthetic replicas for SEM identification of bloodstains (with emphasis on archaeological and ethnographic artifacts). Microscopy and Microanalysis 21(6), pp. 1504-1513.

The IPHES co-organise a scientific symposium in Japan on novel methods for the study of past human behaviour

Scientists from the Institute present to an international audience their multidisciplinary studies focusing on the analysis of the archaeological record from a chronological perspective.

The event take place in Kyoto from the 28th of August to the 2nd of September. More than one thousand scientists coming from the five continents will take part to the meeting.

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“Looking at an archaeological site, whether it is an ancient building or the floor of a Prehistoric hut, is not like looking at a picture. A picture shows a single moment of life, while an archaeological site is the result of many events and of the activity of many individuals along time, with their signs mixed and superimposed in a very complex way”, explains Francesca Romagnoli, an Italian Marie Skłodowska Curie Researcher working at Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES). She also specifies: “A challenge to modern scientific research in Archaeology and Prehistory is the identification of these events to understand how many hominids where active at the site and which were their social dynamics”.

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Francesca Romagnoli, an Italian Marie Skłodowska Curie Researcher working at Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES)

Taking up the challenge, IPHES researchers -in collaboration with The University of Tokyo- will organise a symposium on the methods coming on this stage to study past human behaviour. The symposium is part of the 8th World Archaeological Congress (WAC-8) that take place in Kyoto from 28th of August to 2nd of September 2016. More than one thousand archaeologists from the five continents participate to this event.

One example of the novel approach in archaeology is shown at Abric Romaní rock-shelter. This is a campsite where Neanderthals lived approximately 60.000 years before present. It is located in the town of Capellades, close to Barcelona, in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. A fieldwork campaign is currently under way under the IPHES direction. The application of new technologies including GIS (Geographic Information System) and the use of software for statistics have allowed the identification at this site of both areas where Neanderthals carried out specific activities and communal areas. “These discoveries have let us understand the social dynamics of this human group”, comments Francesca Romagnoli, who directs the research project funded by the European Commission and hosted at the IPHES in collaboration with the University College of London (UK) and the University of Bordeaux (France).

Furthermore, a project funded by MINECO and directed by Manuel Vaquero, researcher at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili at Tarragona and affiliated to IPHES, and Florent Rivals, researcher at ICREA (Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats) also affiliated to IPHES, by applying new methods including the analysis of the distribution of refitting on the site (a sort of 3D puzzle of archaeological materials) has allowed to discover that Neanderthals recycled their tools. “This behaviour shows clear economic strategies”, as pointed out by Francesca Romagnoli.

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One example of the novel approach in archaeology is shown at Abric Romaní rock-shelter. This is a campsite where Neanderthals lived approximately 60.000 years before present.

This Italian archaeologist together with Florent Rivals, Manuel Vaquero, and Professor Yoshihiro Nishiaki of The University of Tokyo, organise the above mentioned symposium on “Multidisciplinary approach in the definition of high-resolution events to interpret past human behaviour”. International relevant research teams from Japan, Australia, Canada, Austria, France, and Spain participate to the symposium with the aim of improving the novel methodologies to understand the behaviour of our human ancestors.

Open new perspectives

“For the first time several scientists together will address theoretical and methodological issues related to these novel disciplines in archaeology, in an excellent international environment and with no geographic and chronological limits”, Francesca Romagnoli says. The expected effect of this symposium is to enlarge potential international and interdisciplinary collaboration and open new perspectives in the study of past human behaviour.

The Congress will give IPHES archaeologists the opportunity to present their multidisciplinary work to an international audience, with results deriving from complementary projects focused on the temporal resolution of archaeological records. Francesca Romagnoli is leading the “REAPPAST” Project funded by Marie Skłodowska Curie Action of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme of the European Commission, reference 653667. Florent Rivals and Manuel Vaquero are leading the “NEANDERLIFE” Project funded by I+D Programme of the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness), reference HAR2013-48784-C3-1-P.

WAC-8 Congress is organised by World Archaeological Congress Association, Science Council of Japan, and Kyoto City Council. It is supported by several Japanese institutions including Agency of Cultural Affairs of Japanese Government, Educational Board of Kyoto Prefecture, National Institute for Cultural Heritage, Japanese Archaeological Association, and Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage.

The tooth and the parietal of a Neanderthal child 7-9 years old who lived in Teixoneres Cave 50,000 years ago have been discovered

It is the first time that human remains are recovered in this site

These fossils open up new perspectives to the research that takes place at the Toll Caves in order to know who their inhabitants were

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The excavations in the Toll Caves (Toll and Teixoneres, Barcelona, Spain) have been very productive from the scientific point of view this year. To a large amount of animal remains and stone tools that were recovered, the tooth and the parietal of a Neanderthal child who lived in Teixoneres Cave 50,000 years ago have been discovered. The tooth is a lower canine with a high degree of wear and it is estimated that it could correspond to an individual between 7 and 9 years old. The tooth still keeps the root and therefore indicates that it felt from normal natural causes, such as tooth replacement.

These fossils open up new perspectives to the research that takes place at the Toll Caves in order to know who their inhabitants were. In the prehistoric European record, children are represented by several individuals of different ages, but the number of lower canines is very scarce. The detailed study of the tooth will allow to find out the sex of the individual and to help elucidate the passage from childhood to puberty among members of this human species. Moreover, paleogenetics studies will be performed on the tooth and the parietal to better understand the phylogenetic relationships of the human groups from Moià with the inhabitants of the different regions of Europe during the same period.

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The parietal and the tooth Neanderthal – IPHES

The identification of the tooth has been confirmed by Prof. José María Bermúdez de Castro (CENIEH) and Dr. María Martinón-Torres (University College of London), both specialists in human fossil teeth.

Both Toll Cave and Teixoneres Cave are known to contain a significant record of the presence of Neanderthals in the region of Central Catalonia. The studies carried out at IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), Universitat Rovira i Virgili and CENIEH (Centro Nacional para el Estudio sobre la Evolución Humana) are providing significant data to understand how ecosystems are evolving in the area depending on the climate changes, and how the populations of the Middle Paleolithic were able to adapt to constant changes.

The 2016 excavations in the Toll Caves, from August 5th to 24th, are supported by the City of Moià. The importance at the scientific level that are acquiring these archaeological sites brought together researchers from different institutions from Spain and other countries. Thus, the team consists of 25 researchers from the institutions mentioned previously and the Universitat de Barcelona, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the Universidad de Murcia, the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, the Tel Aviv University and the Binghamton University in New York.

The research in both sites is part of a project entitled “Sharing the Space: hominid-carnivore interactions at the North-East of Iberian Peninsula” (Ref. 2014/100573 from Catalonian Government-AGAUR) supervised by Dr. Jordi Rosell (IPHES-URV, Dr. Florent Rivals (ICREA-IPHES) and Dr. Ruth Blasco (CENIEH).

 

I International conference on Transitional Societies in the Peninsular Southwest

Abstracts: deadline is 30th July 2016webcatalàespañol

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In order to celebrate the centenary of the first archaeological excavations fieldworks in El Conejar Cave (Caceres, Spain), the research team “First Settlers in Extremadura” in collaboration with the Fundación Extremeña de la Cultura and other local entities are pleased to announce the celebration of the “I International conference on Transitional Societies in the Peninsular Southwest” (TRANS-SW) to be held on 24, 25 and 26th November 2016 at the Complejo Cultural San Francisco, Caceres (Spain).

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El Conejar, Cáceres, Spain

This international conference aims to serve as an encounter place for researchers who have the last hunter-gatherers and the first farmers and herders as object of study. With this meeting, we seek to establish a new framework about the changes, adaptations and resiliences developed during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, an area with great influence of Atlantic façade, the inner peninsula and the Mediterranean basin.

IPHES presents two new informative videos about stone tools production

You can see these on the YouTube channel of this research centre

Firstly the way of identification of different hammers using on flakes (“Hard-hammer and Softhammer”) and secondly another video about the alternate and alternating reduction strategies (“Alternating and Alternate flaking method”).

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Technology becomes humans from the beginning of our evolution. Along this process the ways for tools production have changed. The Arqueosnakcs series from IPHES presents two new videos in order to explain two concrete aspects of experimental archaeology, and how the specialists identify the production techniques. Firstly the way of identification of different hammers using on flakes (“Hard-hammer and Softhammer”) and secondly another video about the alternate and alternating reduction strategies (“Alternating and Alternate flaking method”).

The new videos take part of the Arquesnacks series, focused in to make easy the explanation of human evolution and archaeological science. From the site to the public, explaining quickly the advances of the field and laboratory research.

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Each video is structured on a format question-answer. Is formulated a question and researchers and experts in each field give a reasoned synthetically response.

The ArqueoSnacks’ idea is for the archaeologist and researcher of IPHES Josep Maria Vergès : “It came to me to the need of audio-visual resources that could make it through a wide distribution network, which allows answering questions often posed by students or people visiting the sites or interested in our research”, he said.We has opted for the short format in order to make them dynamic and achieve a good reception by consumers of culture through mobile devices, something that hardly can be achieved with long documentaries. “Hence your name, ArqueoSnacks, because we intend it as a cookie, candy, anything you eat between meals (that would be the documentaries) to make you spend your appetite, while your walking or do anything else, without having to sit at the table”, points out Josep Maria Vergès.

The videos, available on channel of the IPHES at YouTube (IPHESComunicació), have been co-financed by Universitat Rovira i Virgili and IPHES. There have been three versions: in Spanish, in English and in Catalan. The company responsible for the realization of the videos has been Esclats Prehistòries Didàctiques i Natrox Produccions.The Directione has been in charge of Josep Maria Vergès and have contributed Miquel Guardiola and Juan Ignacio Morales, researchers at the IPHES

Research, Academics, Education