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.

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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).