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”.

 

 

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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.