Category Archives: pre-history

A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome

A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome

Neandertals, the closest evolutionary relatives of present-day humans, lived in large parts of Europe and western Asia before disappearing 30,000 years ago. We present a draft sequence of the Neandertal genome composed of more than 4 billion nucleotides from three individuals. Comparisons of the Neandertal genome to the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world identify a number of genomic regions that may have been affected by positive selection in ancestral modern humans, including genes involved in metabolism and in cognitive and skeletal development. We show that Neandertals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neandertals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other.

To cut a long story short…

The authors suggest that non-Africans having about 1-4% Neanderthal ancestry is the most likely explanation for the variation in the DNA they have found. It’s not an absolute. A much less likely but not impossible scenarios is that the variation is due to population structure in Africa prior to the OOA, which may relate with the earlier separation of the ancestors of modern Africans and non-Africans inside Africa, although John Hawkes thinks this is so unlikely he was surprised they gave it space on the paper.

But, considering the number of genes in non Africans that have a time depth that is considerably older than the OOA movement (over 1 million years on one in one study by Hammer et al), and I think there is now decent evidence for Neanderthal ancestry in non-Africans.

I have some issues with the paper. Modern humans were in the near East about 120k ago, keeping company with Neanderthals for many millennia, but the interbreeding date comes out at 80,000 to 50,000 years. What were they doing with the rest of the time?

Such a scenario is compatible with the archaeological record, which shows that modern humans appeared in the Middle East before 100,000 years ago whereas the Neandertals existed in the same region after this time, probably until 50,000 years ago.

  And they observe that modern Europeans don’t seem to have a higher amount of Neanderthal ancestry than anyone else. But then they add:

 This possibility can be addressed by the determination of genome sequences from pre agricultural early modern humans in Europe (85). It is also possible that if the expansion of modern humans occurred differently in Europe than in the Middle East, for example by already large populations interacting with Neandertals, then there may be little or no trace of any gene flow in present-day Europeans even if interbreeding occurred.  

Which is what I suspect is more likely. I’d also like to address the apparent lack of modern human ancestry in the Neanderthals: well a quick look at the dates of the remains sampled; not younger than 38,000 BP. Which is prior to the date modern humans started to move into that part of Europe. Possibly a future investigation of later dated remains would show some AMH ancestry in them, as their appearance suugests they may be hybrids. I think the  Lagar Velho specimen would be a possible source, although it would be a pity to damage the specimen, possibly the Gorham’s Cave bones could yield relevant information.

Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe

Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe
Ron Pinhasi1*, Joaquim Fort2, Albert J. Ammerman3

1 School of Human and Life Sciences, Whitelands College, Roehampton University, London, United Kingdom, 2 Departament de Fisica, E.P.S. P-II, Universitat de Girona, Campus de Montilivi, Catalonia, Spain, 3 Department of Classics, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, United States of America

The origins of early farming and its spread to Europe have been the subject of major interest for some time. The main controversy today is over the nature of the Neolithic transition in Europe: the extent to which the spread was, for the most part, indigenous and animated by imitation (cultural diffusion) or else was driven by an influx of dispersing populations (demic diffusion). We analyze the spatiotemporal dynamics of the transition using radiocarbon dates from 735 early Neolithic sites in Europe, the Near East, and Anatolia. We compute great-circle and shortest-path distances from each site to 35 possible agricultural centers of origin—ten are based on early sites in the Middle East and 25 are hypothetical locations set at 5° latitude/longitude intervals. We perform a linear fit of distance versus age (and vice versa) for each center. For certain centers, high correlation coefficients (R > 0.8) are obtained. This implies that a steady rate or speed is a good overall approximation for this historical development. The average rate of the Neolithic spread over Europe is 0.6–1.3 km/y (95% confidence interval). This is consistent with the prediction of demic diffusion (0.6–1.1 km/y). An interpolative map of correlation coefficients, obtained by using shortest-path distances, shows that the origins of agriculture were most likely to have occurred in the northern Levantine/Mesopotamian area

Personally, I’d go for Zagros/southern Turkey, but it’s close enough. I’m okay with the ‘ time at which the spread began can be estimated, under the same hypothesis of linearity (straight fits in Figure 2), to fall within the interval of 9,000–10,500 years before present (BP; uncalibrated years) or 10,000–11,500 BP (calibrated years)'; as domesticates turn up at about 10,500 in Cyprus, which would suggest the expansion started prior to then, which would suggest domestication of animals could be as much as 11,500 years old in the Mesopotamian area. This also bring the temple at Gobekli Tepe into the very early Neolithic (11,500 BP), although the rye at Abu Hureyra is still a bit of a problem to a simple, single start to the Neolithic.

Pinhasi and Pluciennik [26], in their analysis of craniometric affinities between populations, point to the homogeneity between Çatal Höyük and early Neolithic Greek and south-eastern European groups. This homogeneity contrasts with the pronounced heterogeneity found among other Pre-Pottery Neolithic groups in the Near East. On the basis of these results, they hypothesize that a founder population from central Anatolia (represented by specimens from Çatal Höyük) spread into south-east and central Europe. The results of the shortest-path analysis of the POAs could be consistent with their position, since they suggest that Çatal Höyük falls in the region adjacent to the one with the maximum R-values

We concur with Özdoan’s assertion that “an unbiased reassessment of the evidence strongly implies that there were multiple paths in the westward movement of the Neolithic way of life” ([36], pp. 51–52). Aceramic Neolithic levels at sites on Cyprus (late ninth millennium BC [calibrated]), Crete and the Argolid (eight and early seventh millennia BC [calibrated]) are strongly suggestive of an initial population dispersal wave from one or more centers in the Near East [37]. At the present time, it is unclear whether farming reached south-east Europe by means of a secondary demic expansion from Anatolia or as a continuation of the initial dispersal involving Cyprus, Crete, and mainland south-east Greece. In any event, Figure 3B does provide, at this stage of research, spatial information regarding differing grades of likelihood for tracing the origins of agriculture.

Delayed Use of Food Resources among Early Holocene Foragers of the Libyan Sahara

Dismantling Dung: Delayed Use of Food Resources among Early Holocene Foragers of the Libyan Sahara

At Uan Afuda, and other Early Holocene sites of the Acacus mountains, in the Libyan Sahara, dung layers and plant accumulation are a major, but repeatedly neglected, feature of hunter-gatherer communities. To understand the formation and meaning of such features, a multidimensional analysis has been undertaken, combining micromorphological, palynological, botanical, archaeozoological, and archaeological data. The hypothesis here formulated is twofold: plant accumulations are evidence of anthropic activity aimed at the storage of fodder; and dung layers are related to a forced penning of a ruminant, very likely Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). The exploration of these two features has hinted at the existence of a deep reciprocal relationship, which has been interpreted as the cultural control of wild Barbary sheep, leading to a delayed use of food resources. This behavior may be considered an opportunistic strategy adopted to minimize the effects of lean periods and implicates increasing cultural complexity within Late Acacus Saharan forager societies of the 9th millennium B.P.

Studying the ‘management’ of Barbary sheep (a kind of gazelle related to sheep and goats) during the Holocene. The paper points out a few flaws with Ehrets use of the terms ‘to drive’ etc in proto Northern Sudanic…

Of interest here is the evidence that the first forms of a planned or delayed use of resources in NorthAfrica were initially directed toward animal rather than plant resources. As a matter of fact, with the Proto-Northern-Sudanic, the roots dedicated to the vegetal world are grains and grindstones, not necessarily implicating either a delayed use of resources, or a possible incipient domestication. Conversely, with regard to the animal universe, the root “to drive” may be referred to a kind of hunting or also other activities. Since examples of hunting performed by means of fences are not known in North Africa, the idea that the root may be related to the driving of animals in specific areas (corrals?) appears to be appropriate. Finally, the root “to milk” is also linked to a typical secondary exploitation, as may be seen in the case of Bos exploitation at Bir Kiseiba in the eastern Sahara.

So I’m not the only person who spotted it. The fact that captured wild animals were being ‘kept’ in the Sahara not that far away from Nabta in space and time does have a bearing on the suggested cattle domestication there. A similar scenario to the Barbary sheep would seem more likely, as physically distinguishable domesticated cattle only appear along with Neolithic Asian goats and sheep, and don’t show an closer point of origin like Nabta with dates for domesticated cattle radiating out from the area (fully domesticated cattle should have been seen from dates as old as 8,300 bp in Egypt and Nubia if that were the case- but they aren’t). It would be interesting to look at the bone isotope values of pre-domestication sites in both Asia and north Africa to see it they were using dairy from tamed animals.

The history and spread of donkeys in Africa

The history and spread of donkeys in Africa

The domestication and historical development of the donkey are traced through archaeological and linguistic associations. The donkey is indigenous to the African continent and its wild progenitor is usually considered to be the Nubian wild ass. Historically, a chain of races of wild ass spread from the Atlas Mountains to the Red Sea and probably as far south as the border of present-day northern Kenya. The wild ass may well have been domesticated several times, given the semi-feral production systems under which it was managed until recently. Records of domestic asses begin in Egypt in the fourth millennium BC. The extent to which the wild ass penetrated the interior of Africa is unknown. Faunal remains and rock art representations are extremely rare, which is somewhat at odds with the widespread distribution and economic importance of the donkey in Africa today. This apparent contradiction can probably be explained by the fact that donkeys have been of most importance to poor households and have consequently had low prestige. The spread of the donkey across Africa was linked with the proliferation of long distance caravans. It is argued that greater attention to the nearly extinct wild ass and to traditional management systems could be helpful in the future development of the donkey in Africa.

In brief – donkeys domesticated probably in the Egypt/Nubia area at the beginning of the neolithic in Africa about 6,500 years ago. Their expansion also seems to mark the expansion of sorghum as a crop, so assuming a similar date for both domestications seems reasonable. I can tell you from memory the oldest donkey remains in Syria/Iraq are about 4,800 years old, similar for sorghum. I have another item around here somewhere on this subject. The conclusion is…

The donkey is certainly derived from the African wild ass, although it may have been domesticated several times in regions of its former range no longer represented by its present-day distribution. This appears to be confirmed by studies of terms for donkey in various African language families. Egypt remains the most likely centre for its early development for agricultural work, although without further archaeology outside the Nile Valley this is uncertain.

Using ancient DNA to examine genetic continuity at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Portugal

Using ancient DNA to examine genetic continuity at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Portugal

Two main mechanisms for the introduction of agriculture at the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in Portugal have been proposed: indigenous adoption and colonisation. Distinguishing between these mechanisms can be regarded as a question of genetic continuity or discontinuity at the transition. A genetic comparison of late Mesolithic and early Neolithic populations at the transition using ancient DNA is described here. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was extracted from human remains collected in several Mesolithic sites of the Sado estuary and from Neolithic cave sites. Phylogenetic analysis, based on the mitochondrial hypervariable region 1 (HVSI), and comparison with DNA from modern European populations was performed. The absence of mtDNA haplogroup J in the ancient Portuguese Neolithic sample suggests that this population was not derived directly from Near Eastern farmers. The Mesolithic and Neolithic groups show genetic discontinuity implying colonisation at the Neolithic transition in Portugal.

A study of Mesolithic and Neolithic Mt DNA from sites inPortugal.

mesoneoportugal1

J shows iself to be absent from the Mesolithic and Neolithic samples, and there was some loss of diversity in less common Hg’s. There’s a fair difference between the Mesolithic and Neolithic samples, suggestin population discontinuity-probably a large amount of immgration at the start of the neolithic, although the lack of J suggests this wasn’t from the near East

mesodna

old-dna-port

It also mentions isotope studies on the bones show a very abrupt change from the Meolithic Maritime diet to the land based Neolithic diet, the same as in Britain.

Sharp shift in diet at onset of Neolithic in Britain

Sharp shift in diet at onset of Neolithic

The introduction of domesticated plants and animals into Britain during the Neolithic cultural period between 5,200 and 4,500 years ago is viewed either as a rapid event or as a gradual process that lasted for more than a millennium. Here we measure stable carbon isotopes present in bone to investigate the dietary habits of Britons over the Neolithic period and the preceding 3,800 years (the Mesolithic period). We find that there was a rapid and complete change from a marine- to a terrestrial-based diet among both coastal and inland dwellers at the onset of the Neolithic period, which coincided with the first appearance of domesticates. As well as arguing against a slow, gradual adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry by Mesolithic societies, our results indicate that the attraction of the new farming lifestyle must have been strong enough to persuade even coastal dwellers to abandon their successful fishing practices.

From this it seems the swap from hunter gatherer to farmer in Britain was very quick, with the ancient Britons abandoning the old ways wholesale.

mesobone

Who made the early Aurignacian? The dental evidence.

Who made the early Aurignacian? Evidence from isolated teeth.

Page 5

S.E. Bailey. Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig), Department of
Anthropology, New York University.

Neandertals and anatomically modern humans overlapped in Europe between 45- and 30,000 BP. Unfortunately, the human fossil record during this important time period is sparse. What is preserved is fragmentary and consists primarily of jaws and isolated teeth. This has led some to question whether we can determine if Neandertals or anatomically modern humans were responsible for the early Aurignacian. The goals of this study were, first, to investigate whether root lengths can help differentiate these two taxa; and second, to combine these data with tooth crown traits to assess the taxonomic affiliation of isolated teeth from two early Aurignacian sites (Brassempouy and La Ferrassie).

Root lengths were measured from the lingual aspect of permanent teeth of Neandertals (maximum n=15) and Upper Paleolithic modern humans (maximum n=10). The student’s t-test showed that the mean root lengths of I1, I2, C’, I1, I2, C, P3, P4 and M2 were significantly longer in Neandertals than in Upper Paleolithic moderns (p<0.05), with no overlap in the ranges of I1, I1, C’, and P4. At Brassempouy, the root lengths of the two I1s, C’ and M2 fall more than three standard deviations below the Neandertal mean. Likewise, the single I1 from Le Ferrassie possesses a root that is too short to be considered Neandertal. Additionally, the tooth crowns at both Brassempouy and La Ferrassie lack any diagnostically Neandertal traits. Thus, the preponderance of dental evidence suggests that anatomically modern humans, not Neandertals, are associated with these early Aurignacian sites.

And also by the same author… 

Who made the Early Aurignacian? A Reconsideration of the Brassempouy Dental Remains

The dental human remains from the early Aurignacian layers of Brassempouy (Landes) have been recently described by Henry-Gambier et al. (2004). We provide a critical re-assessment of the features that have led these authors to conclude that the taxonomic status of these fossils is uncertain. Although the works of one of us (S.B.) have been partly used and cited by Henry-Gambier et al. (2004), we disagree with the conclusions that have been drawn from them. In our view and based on the available evidence, the early Aurignacian dental remains from Brassempouy are unambiguously modern in their anatomy. They indeed provide further evidence that the makers of the ancient Aurignacian were early anatomically modern Europeans.

 The second link contains a more complete article.I’ll refrain from mentioning that if the remains are so similar at times that they can only be categorised as one or the other with difficulty.. surely this would suggest some overlap between the two genetically as well as physically.

Discovery of a human skull from the Iberomaurusian levels of Taza cave I, Jijel, Algeria

Discovery of a human skull from the Iberomaurusian levels of Taza cave I, Jijel, Algeria

Archaeological excavations were carried out from 1987 to 1990 in the prehistorically inhabited cave site of Taza I (eastern coast, Algeria). Recovered materials included stone and bone artifacts, faunal remains, and a single human skull. A radiocarbon date for the upper cave level from which the skull was found was 16,100 BP. Taza Skull I is from an adult female, very small overall, particularly in the middle facial area. Her measured cranial capacity was only 1,125 ml. However, her cranial and facial shape compare closely with several North African skull series from Columnata and Afalou in Algeria, Taforalt in Morocco, and Hassi-el-Abiod in Mali.

The North Africans before the Neolithic all seems quite closely related to each other, from Mali to Algeria. Unfortunately I can’t locate more on this.

The case for and against cattle domestication and sorghum cultivation at Nabta Playa

First of all a link to a Fred Wendorf paper on Nabta PLaya.

Nabta Playa and Its Role in Northeastern African Prehistory

Nabta Playabasin offers an unprecedented longitudinal view on the emergence, consolidation and complexification on human–livestock relationships, from the early stage of the Early Holocene (c. 11,000 cal. B.P.) to 6000 B.P. The problem of cattle domestication in Northeastern Africa is considered and hopefully ‘‘solved’’ in the light of new mtDNA evidence which suggest an early late Pleistocene split between African, Asian, and Eurasian wild Bospopulations. The paper presents a contextualized analysis of almost all the components of archaeological investigation, including climatic change, culture history of Early to Mid-Holocene Nabta-Playans, the development of social differentiation, and probably ranking with ‘‘labor-consuming’’ megalithic features with the emergence of characteristic features of pastoralideology and religions. As far as the emergence and adoption of new food ways are concerned, the cultural development outlined with the Nabta Playa  archaeological record is important for the understanding of the Holocene prehistory of Africa as a whole.

nabta1

One of the most interesting bits (my POV) from this paper was the presence of legumes at about 10,000 BC.

One of these sites yielded charred seeds of wild millet and two varieties of legumes (Wasylikowa, report to F. Wendorf 1996)

It also has a reference to possible early domesticated sorghum. Although again the case is bit weak. There’s more reference to it here. The seeds don’t appear to resemble any kind of cultivated sorghum though. They did seem to be harvesting and storing them in large amounts; some of the houses had storage pits for the grains.

Preliminary chemicalanalyses by infrared spectroscopy of the lipids in the archaeological sorghum show closer resemblance to some modern domestic sorghum than to wild varieties (Wasylikowa et al. 1993)

In a later publication (97)  Wasylikowa describes the Sorghum as more likely to be wild, after another study of the seeds showed them to be typically wild seeds. 

Smaller grain size and the lack of any spikelets containing attached branchlets of the inflorescence or rachis fragments suggest that the material harvested and eaten at the Nabta Playa site were of a wild type.

This sorghum doesn’t seem to ‘spread out’, as farmers tend to expand massively into their hunter gatherer neighbours very rapidly. The expansion of domesticated sorgum doesn’t seem to begin until the expansion  of the domesticated donkey, which parallels it’s spread into Asia quite well, and the donkey seems to have been domesticated about 6,000 BP.

It also mentions the barley from this site, once thought to be an ancient domesticate, but now known to be a neolithic contaminant.

The barley recovered from this site during the 1977 excavations (Hadidi in Wendorf and Schild 1980: 347) is regarded as intrusive.

And the first appearance of goats and sheep.

Around 8000 cal B.P. there was an important new addition to the food economy of the Middle Neolithic. Domestic caprovids, either sheep or goat, or both, were introduced from Southwest Asia, probably by way of the Nile Valley (although the oldest radiocarbon dates now available for the Neolithic along the Nile are about 500 years later)

Since the only legumes I know of come from Anatolia, I shall dig a bit deeper into this. This could possibly be a breadcrumb for my ‘proto-Neolithic’ expansion from the near east, circa 13,000 to 14,000 years ago. The paper has made me warm a bit more to pastoralism there in the Holocene, although I’m not sure that it went beyond providing water to keep the cattle around. The claims for dairying are a bit dubious IMO. There’s a link here to a Wendorf item on the Saharan cattle. I think analysing lipids on the surviving pottery from the era might be a good way forward in this case. There have done some kind of analysis along these lines already (sorghum lipids) but there was no sign of milk fats -I’m sure Wendorf would have mentioned them  if they had been found. If there were dairy fats in the pots that would be a different story, a wild cow isn’t going to let a human near her udders. One of my main objections to the very early pastoralism at Nabta PLaya is that it should have seen a population expansion from the area, and to date no sign of that is to be found.

Also, to quote another source…

Grigson’s study concluded cattle from all periods at Nabta Playa were morphologically wild (2000).

Smith’s study: morphologically wild prior to and including the El Nabta/Al Jerar Maximum (7050 – 6150 BC), but domesticated from the Ru’at El Ghanam phase (5900 – 5500 BC) onward

From the Wendorf item on cattle domestication, it states that domesticated sheep, goats etc are all included in the proto Sahelian, but (as he says above) they all arrive with the early neolithic from the near East about 8,000 years ago along with agriculture (they have been shown to be native Asian domesticates, not African, and the date is more like 7,500 years), so the 9,000 year time depth given for proto Sahelian seems unlikely, 7,500 years or younger would make more sense. These Sahelian words appear to be words of Neolithic and not older origin. You’d also expect the domesticated cattle dates in Mali and Mauritania to be a lot older than 4,200 years if the Sahara was the source of very early domesticated cattle.

Another issue is how long it takes animals to show physical signs of domestication. The domestication of Asian cattle now seeming about 11,000 years old) didn’t show any real changes until about 9,500 years ago, a similar situation is seen with domesticated donkeys-they show signs of load bearing and heavy labour for about 1000 years  before they begin to change physically. This would suggest some leeway in the morphologically studies of the cattle. However, there should still have been physically differentiated domesticated African cattle existing right across the Nile region and the Sahara/East Africa by about 7,5000 BP; domesticates spread out quickly, as does pastoralism/agriculture, and there is no sign of fully domesticated cattle at so early a date in Africa. If there were, they should be definably different to the Asian domesticates (through drift) by the time the sheep, goats, and cereals arrive from Asia. So far, domesticated cattle track the arrival of the rest of the neolithic, evidence for domestication in Nabta is still negligible.

Linguistic evidence

The Proto-Northern Sudanic language contains root words such as “to drive,” “cow, “grain,””ear of grain,” and “grindstone.” Any of these might apply to food production, but another root word meaning “to milk” is cetainly the most convincing evidence of incipient pastoralism. There are also root words for “temporary shelter” and “to make a pot.” In the succeeding Proto-Saharo-Sahelian language, there are root words for “to cultivate”, “to prepare field”, to “clear” (of weeds), and “cultivated field.” this is the first unambiguous linguistic evidence of cultivation. There are also words for “thornbush cattle pen,” “fence,” “yard,” “grannary,” as well as “to herd” and “cattle.” In the following Proto-Sahelian period, there are root words for “goat,” “sheep,” “ram,” and “lamb,” indicating the presence of small livestock. There are root words for “cow,” “bull,” “ox,” and “young cow” or “heifer” and, indeed, a variety of terms relating to cultivation and permanent houses

The word for grindstone could date back to about 25k ago, so it’s not likely to be associated with agriculture, and wild grains were being eaten in the area for a very long time, as were cattle. As for the word ‘to milk’, it’s suggestive but again not exactly solid. Pottery in the Sahara does go back that far though, and the main word for pot seems to have derived from water pot, which is interesting. There are cached book links here and here that go into this in more depth, but as they’ve already make a miscalculation for the age of proto Sahelian judging by the inclusion of sheep and goats which dates it securely to the arrivval of the neolithic-as sheep and goats are not native to Africa and only appear when the domesticates are being herded in from Asia. Non- pastoral people in the Sahara were penning and keeping wild animals (Barbary sheep at Uan Afada); so assuming terms that describe fencing in animals must be from domestication is a fallacy. In essence the presence of the words goat and sheep in proto Sahelian, that can only date to the Neolithic, torpedoes a lot of the linguistics argument, and means proto Sahelian probably has a date of 7,500 BP or slightly younger. This would bring proto Sahara Sahelian within the range of the Neolithic as well, as it’s only slightly older (estimated). A link to the Nilo Saharan Language family family tree. In fact, I’d suggest the presence of agricultural terms dates the arrival of the Neolithic, rather than showing agriculture there at an earlier date. This also casts some major doubt on Ehrets dates for proto Sudanic if it’s estimated by the same method.

This linguistic information would really depend on the dating of the age of proto Sudanic. One inaccuracy I’ve spotted in these links is that Proto Indo European is down as 6,000 years old; it’s now estimated at more like 9,000 years, seems to come from Turkey and is a very good match for the start date and location of the Neolithic expansion. There’s another link that discusses the claimed domestication.

So,  predating the Asian domestication seems unlikely (since it now dates pretty reliable back to 11,000 Bp, the same as sheep and goats), and in a lot of African sites domesticated cattle bones don’t show up until sheep, goats and grain do. It’s not convincing for a very early domestication in the Sahara, although there does seem to have been a specific domestication of African cattle at some point, similar to the domestication of the Zebu In Pakistan. My theory is that the Asian cattle just weren’t up to the local climate and parasites and tended to die in droves, making a local domestications necessary. I’d suggest African cattle domestication probably dates to the Neolithic, sometime between 8,000 and 6,000 BP, and so does sorghum.

A middle palaeolithic burial of a modern human at Taramsa Hill, Egypt

taramsa-bones

A middle palaeolithic burial of a modern human at Taramsa Hill, Egypt

 Taramsa Hill, near Qena in Upper Egypt, is an isolated landform, situated some 2.5 km southeast of the Dandara temple (26 [degrees] 6 [minutes] N 32 [degrees] 42 [minutes] E)  The hill is capped with a 4-m thick cobble deposit. Excavations have been carried out at the site, called Taramsa 1, since 1989 (Vermeersch et al. 1995).

The site was used for systematic quarrying of chert cobbles, as demonstrated by numerous pits and trenches. On the basis of both typology and stratigraphy, multiple quarrying phases fall into three main extraction periods, of early, mid and late Middle Palaeolithic respectively (Vermeersch in press). The early Middle Palaeolithic is characterized by the presence of handaxes, foliates and Nubian point and flake Levallois methods. In stratigraphically superimposed assemblages, assigned to the mid Middle Palaeolithic, foliates and handaxes are lacking but the Nubian point and flake Levallois methods continue to be represented. The latest assemblages, established through stratigraphical observations, do not contain Nubian point Levallois methods but they are characterized by a Levallois reduction system that is transitional to the systematic production of blades. In these late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages we are confronted with a changing Levellois production, not unlike the transitional assemblages known in the Negev.

From the article, a description of the remains. It’s been given a rough age of 55,000 years.

The skeleton appears to belong to an anatomically modern child. This is particularly evident from the morphology of the frontal bone which shows none of the recession or supraorbital development which would be expected in immature archaic humans at this developmental stage. Many features seem to he close to those of the robust Epipalaeolithic populations of North-Africa (‘Mechtoids’) but also to those of the early anatomically modern humans of the Levant. The slenderness of the long bones, the rounding of the forehead and of the occipital region, the pentagonoid shape of the skull in occipital view and certain details of the orbits and their surroundings are undoubtedly anatomically modern features. On the other hand, the relatively large and apparently prognathic face may set this child closer to the more primitive forms of Jebel Irhoud, rather than the above-mentioned Mechtoid populations. Further comparisons with sub-Saharan Africa are necessary. On the basis of this preliminary assessment, an attempt to place this skeleton in a precise phylogenetic position would be dangerous. The fact that the skeleton belongs to a child who had not yet developed all the characteristics of an adult individual invites caution. Further study will be carried out on the surviving fragments after conservation and preparation.