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Chronological and stratigraphic frameworks are of the utmost importance for Upper Paleolithic archaeology, physical anthropology, and ecology. Wide ranging radiocarbon (14C) dates were previously obtained for the Sungir burial complex in the central part of European Russia, which is well-known as the richest funeral Paleolithic assemblage in the world yet recorded. The major problem was the contamination caused by consolidants used during the recovery of human bones in the 1960s. The stratigraphy and spatial structure of the Sungir site were also not well understood previously. New radiocarbon and stable isotope data are generated for the Sungir burials. While some dates were younger due to incomplete removal of contamination, the XAD 14C age on S-1 burial (ca. 29,780 BP) was found to be statistically the same as the previously performed HYP 14C age for this burial (ca. 28,890 BP). Four animal bones found in cultural layer below the burial date to ca. 28,800–30,140 BP, suggesting that both this layer and human burials date to roughly this age range. Narrowing these ages further is difficult considering the larger errors of the 14C dates. This shows that future research attempting to 14C date material excavated many years ago needs to eliminate potential contamination from consolidants through analyses such as FTIR, prior to 14C dating. The chronology and stratigraphy of Sungir do not contradict to correlation of its lithic artifacts with the Streletskian assemblage as the East European variant of the Final Szeletian technocomplex (Early Upper Paleolithic).
The attribution of osteological remains of a bird discovered in Preceramic deposits at Nemocón IV rockshelter (Sabana de Bogotá, Colombia) to Ara sp. (macaws) is confirmed through osteological and morphometrical analyses. Thirteen bones were recovered from two adjacent, arbitrary excavation levels; and are considered the remains of a single individual because of the rarity of the taxon, their similar size and taphonomic alteration, and the presence of paired elements. Radiocarbon dating of the macaw reveals it comes from the ninth millennium cal BP, the oldest date recorded from Nemocón IV. Paleoenvironmental data suggest that, during the deposition of the Preceramic levels at Nemocón IV, climatic conditions were close to those of today. The modern range of the macaws is outside these climatic parameters, and all modern Ara species are allochthonous to the Sabana de Bogotá, indicating the archaeological macaw was also allochthonous in Preceramic times. Analysis of the remains shows the macaw was not dismembered, so it is unlikely that it was used as food. Early conquest records indicate macaws were traded and maintained outside their natural ranges as pets, as a source of feathers, for use in rituals, or for a combination of uses.
Prehistoric stone structures are prominent and well-studied in the Levantine desert margins. In northern Arabia, however, such structures have received less attention. This article presents the results of investigations of a 35m-long stone platform, first constructed in the mid sixth millennium BC, overlooking the oasis of Dûmat al-Jandal in northern Saudi Arabia. Excavation of the platform has yielded bioarchaeological and cultural remains, along with evidence for several phases of construction and intermittent use down to the first millennium BC. Analysis of the platform and nearby tombs highlights the persistent funerary and ritual use of this area over millennia, illuminating nomadic pastoralist lifeways in prehistoric Arabia.
The deer stone and khirgisuur (DSK) monumental complexes are iconic elements of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1200–700 BC) ceremonial mortuary landscape of the Eastern Eurasian Steppe. A precise chronological framework of these monuments is crucial for understanding their ritual and funerary roles, as well as their wider social functions. The authors establish the first high-precision chronology for a large DSK complex in central Mongolia using 100 new radiocarbon dates. Their chronology suggests that the construction of this DSK complex extended over approximately 50 years, perhaps requiring only locally available human and animal resources, without the need to draw on those of wider regional networks.
Late prehistoric archaeological research in Myanmar is in a phase of rapid expansion. Recent work by the Mission Archéologique Française au Myanmar aims to establish a reliable Neolithic to Iron Age culture-historical sequence, which can then be compared to surrounding regions of Southeast Asia. Excavations at Nyaung'gan and Oakaie in central Myanmar have provided 52 new AMS dates, which allow the creation of Myanmar's first reliable prehistoric radiometric chronology. They have also identified the Neolithic to Bronze Age transition in central Myanmar, which is of critical importance in understanding long-range interactions at the national, regional and inter-regional level. This research provides the first significant step towards placing late prehistoric Myanmar in its global context.
Several Gigantopithecus faunas associated with taxonomically undetermined hominoid fossils and/or stone artifacts are known from southern China. These faunas are particularly important for the study of the evolution of humans and other mammals in Asia. However, the geochronology of the Gigantopithecus faunas remains uncertain. In order to solve this problem, a program of geochronological studies of Gigantopithecus faunas in Guangxi Province was recently initiated. Chuifeng Cave is the first studied site, which yielded 92 Gigantopithecus blacki teeth associated with numerous other mammalian fossils. We carried out combined ESR/U-series dating of fossil teeth and sediment paleomagnetic studies. Our ESR results suggest that the lower layers at this cave can be dated to 1.92 ± 0.14 Ma and the upper layers can be dated to older than 1.38 ± 0.17 Ma. Correlation of the recognized magnetozones to the geomagnetic polarity timescale was achieved by combining magnetostratigraphic, biostratigraphic and ESR data. The combined chronologies establish an Olduvai subchron (1.945–1.778 Ma) for the lowermost Chuifeng Cave sediments. We also analyzed the enamel δ13C values of the Gigantopithecus faunas. Our results show that southern China was dominated by C3 plants during the early Pleistocene and that the Gigantopithecus faunas lived in a woodland-forest ecosystem.
This study aims at comparing the reliability of different types of apatite fractions for which collagen cannot be dated. We focused on the remains of individuals found at the necropolis of Porta Nocera near Pompeii, and for which the date of burial can be assessed independently. The dated human samples range between 1805±49 and 5570±120 14C yr BP and can display a large (up to 1200 14C yr) intra-individual age variability. We show that while a marine diet or an old-wood effect could explain the smallest age shifts, they are not able to explain the largest ones, and propose diagenesis as the main cause. The 14C depletion is likely due to the influence of the 14C-free CO2 emissions of the nearby Vesuvius volcano and the Campi Flegrei volcanic system on the age of secondary carbonate incorporated into the bone and enamel crystallites during diagenesis. This study demonstrates that in volcanic contexts, a large deviation from expected age can be measured, even in calcined apatites. Our calculations indicate that while the absolute amount of contamination is lower in calcined bones than in burnt bone and enamel apatite, its impact on the 14C age of the sample can be much higher due to the low carbon content of calcined bones.
Ra’s al-Hamra 6 (RH-6) is one of the earliest stratified archaeological sites along the eastern littoral of the Arabian Peninsula. This shell midden was radiocarbon dated to the 6th–5th millennium cal BC, but the majority of the dates were obtained before the advent of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dating and suffer from large uncertainties. In addition, most of these dates were obtained on marine and mangrove shells and required correction for local variations from the global average marine 14C reservoir age (MRA). This proved difficult because no consensus value exists for this period in the area. Recent excavations at RH-6 offered the opportunity to redate this important site in order to precisely determine its occupation history and later use as a graveyard, and establish the marine reservoir effect for this time period. Thirty-eight samples of charcoal, shells, and human bone apatite were selected for 14C dating. Bayesian modeling of the 14C dates suggests that the formation of the shell midden spanned ~1 millennium, between the mid-6th and the mid-5th millennium cal BC. Positive and consistent ΔR values were calculated throughout the entire sequence, ranging from 99±27 to 207±43 14C yr. At the beginning of the 4th millennium cal BC, RH-6 was used as a graveyard, as suggested by the 14C dating of a shell in strict association with an individual buried at the surface of the site. 14C dating of human bone apatite allowed us to calculate that 89% of this individual’s diet derived from marine resources. This finding confirms previous observations showing the overwhelming presence of marine and mangrove-dwelling species in the faunal and charcoal assemblage, and implies a low mobility, or mobility restricted to the coast for this population during the 4th millennium cal BC.
Chad is a key region for understanding early hominid geographic expansion in relation to late Miocene and Pliocene environmental changes, owing to its location 2500 km west from the Rift Valley and to the occurrence of sites ranging in age from about 6 to 3 Ma, some of which yield fossil hominids. To reconstruct changes in herbivore paleodiet and therefore changes in the paleoenvironment, we measured the carbon and oxygen isotope composition of 80 tooth-enamel samples from three time horizons for nine families of Perissodactyla, Proboscidea, and Artiodactyla. The absence of significant alteration of in vivo isotopic signatures can be determined for carbon, thus allowing paleodietary and paleoenvironmental interpretations to be made.
While the results generally confirm previous dietary hypotheses, mostly based on relative crown height, there are some notable surprises. The main discrepancies are found among low-crowned proboscideans (e.g., Anancus) and high-crowned rhinocerotids (Ceratotherium). Both species were more opportunistic feeders than it is usually believed. This result confirms that ancient feeding ecology cannot always be inferred from dental morphology or extant relatives.
There is an increase in the average carbon isotope composition of tooth enamel from the oldest unit to the youngest, suggesting that the environment became richer in C4 plants with time. In turn, more C4 plants indicate an opening of the plant cover during this period. This increase in carbon isotope composition is also recorded within genera such as Nyanzachoerus, Ceratotherium, and Hexaprotodon, indicating a change from a C3-dominated to a C4-dominated diet over time. It appears that, unlike other middle Pliocene hominid sites in eastern and southern Africa, this part of Chad was characterized by very open conditions and that savanna-like grasslands were already dominant when hominids were present in the area.
One century after its discovery, the Columns Tomb of Kumbi Saleh (Mauritania) remains an archaeological riddle. Since 1914, six field programs have been successively carried out at the medieval urban site of Kumbi Saleh, which now is commonly identified as Ghana. The latter was the famous capital city of the medieval West African state, which controlled the gold mines of West Africa and was involved in the gold trade with North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. However, interpretation of the tomb, the largest structure from the necropolis, is still an issue as its dating itself has never been firmly established. As a consequence, scholars have usually referred to an unsatisfactory timeframe spanning 1000 years. The study of this monument was recently resumed, motivated by the rediscovery of bones collected in the tomb in 1914 and stored at the Musée de 1'Homme (Paris, France). AMS radiocarbon dating of the bone and tooth apatite fraction of three skulls demonstrates that the three individuals occupying the main vault of the tomb died between the end of the 11th century and the 12th century, precisely at the time of expansion of the Muslim Almoravid movement south of Sahara.
This work aims to test the reliability of calcined bones for radiocarbon dating of the Paleolithic. Fifty-five calcined bone samples coming from Aurignacian and Gravettian layers at Abri Pataud (Dordogne, France) were selected based on their macroscopic features. For each sample, the heating state was estimated on the basis of bone crystallinity (splitting factor [SF] using FTIR) and δ13C value. Twenty-seven bone samples (3 unburnt and 24 calcined) from 5 different levels were prepared for 14C dating. The majority (15/24) of the calcined samples had to undergo a sulfix treatment prior to graphitization, probably due to the presence of cyanamide ion in these samples. The comparison between our results and recently published dates on bone collagen for the same levels shows that unburned bone apatite is systematically too young, while a third of the calcined bones fall within or very near the range of expected age. No clear correlation was found between 14C age offset and δ13C value or SF. Most of the sulfixed samples (14/16) yielded ages that were too young, while almost all of the non-sulfixed samples (8/9) gave ages similar or <0.2 pMC from the expected minimum age. Although preliminary, these results suggest that sulfix should be avoided if possible and that clean CO2 gas from well-calcined Paleolithic bones can provide reliable 14C ages.
The aim of this study is to directly radiocarbon date pottery from prehistoric rock-art shelters in the Tassili n'Ajjer (central Sahara). We used a combined geochemical and microscopic approach to determine plant material in the pottery prior to direct 14C dating. The ages obtained range from 5270 ± 35 BP (6276–5948 cal BP) to 8160 ± 45 BP (9190–9015 cal BP), and correlate with the chronology derived from pottery typology. Our results document the transition from pre-Pastoral to Pastoral contexts, dated to the early-mid Holocene transition, and confirm that vegetal temper in pottery can provide reliable 14C ages within Saharan contexts.
Jean-François Saliège passed away on Friday, 1 June 2012, following a heart attack at age 68. Jean-François was born in Chartres and spent his entire career in Paris, a city that he particularly enjoyed. He was hired in 1965 as a junior technician at the Laboratoire de Géologie Dynamique de la Faculté des Sciences de Paris at La Sorbonne University (Director Louis Glangeaud), where he participated in the creation of the radiocarbon and mass spectrometry laboratory under supervision of René Létolle, Jean-Charles Fontes, and Colette Vergnaud-Grazzini. In 1975, he moved to the University of Paris VI and worked more specifically with J-C Fontes in the 14C laboratory as an engineer. In 1981, he helped J-C Fontes to create the Hydrology and Isotope Geochemistry lab at Orsay University. The following year, he returned to the University of Paris VI and joined the team led by Colette Vergnaud-Grazzini at the Laboratoire de Géologie Dynamique, where Jean-François set up the new stable isotope and radiocarbon lab. Between 1990 and 2008, he continued to work at the University of Paris VI at the LODYC lab (Dir. Lilianne Merlivat), then at the LOCEAN lab (Dir. Laurence Eymard) on Catherine Pierre's team.
Radiocarbon dating of the carbonate remaining in calcined bones is widely regarded as a viable alternative to date skeletal remains in situations where collagen is no longer present. However, anomalously low δ13C values measured in calcined bones prompted questions about the origin of the carbon used for dating. The goal of this study was to quantify the magnitude of carbon isotope exchange between bone carbonate and environmental CO2 for bones calcined under natural conditions. Four archaeological bones ranging in age between the Neolithic and the Medieval period were combusted on a separate open fire for up to 4 hr and subsamples of calcined bones were taken every hour. All the bones experienced a significant increase in IRSF values and decrease in carbonate content and δ13C values. 14C ages measured in the carbonate fraction of well-calcined bones indicate that 67 ± 3% to 91 ± 8% of the carbon present in bone carbonate was replaced by carbon from the atmosphere of combustion. This finding confirms previous results obtained under laboratory conditions and has serious implications for 14C dating of calcined bones found in archaeological contexts. The 14C age obtained on a calcined bone will only reflect the true age of the bone sample if the age difference between the bone and the charcoal can be neglected. Our results show also that δ13C values of calcined bones can be used to estimate the degree of C exchange and control for post-burial diagenetic alteration.
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