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Concept: Archaeological record


The impact of changing climate on terrestrial and underwater archaeological sites, historic buildings, and cultural landscapes can be examined through quantitatively-based analyses encompassing large data samples and broad geographic and temporal scales. The Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) is a multi-institutional collaboration that allows researchers online access to linked heritage data from multiple sources and data sets. The effects of sea-level rise and concomitant human population relocation is examined using a sample from nine states encompassing much of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the southeastern United States. A 1 m rise in sea-level will result in the loss of over >13,000 recorded historic and prehistoric archaeological sites, as well as over 1000 locations currently eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), encompassing archaeological sites, standing structures, and other cultural properties. These numbers increase substantially with each additional 1 m rise in sea level, with >32,000 archaeological sites and >2400 NRHP properties lost should a 5 m rise occur. Many more unrecorded archaeological and historic sites will also be lost as large areas of the landscape are flooded. The displacement of millions of people due to rising seas will cause additional impacts where these populations resettle. Sea level rise will thus result in the loss of much of the record of human habitation of the coastal margin in the Southeast within the next one to two centuries, and the numbers indicate the magnitude of the impact on the archaeological record globally. Construction of large linked data sets is essential to developing procedures for sampling, triage, and mitigation of these impacts.

Concepts: Oceanography, Anthropology, Archaeology, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Prehistory, National Register of Historic Places, Archaeological record, Archaeological site


Austronesian speaking peoples left Southeast Asia and entered the Western Pacific c.4000-3000 years ago, continuing on to colonise Remote Oceania for the first time, where they became the ancestral populations of Polynesians. Understanding the impact of these peoples on the mainland of New Guinea before they entered Remote Oceania has eluded archaeologists. New research from the archaeological site of Wañelek in the New Guinea Highlands has broken this silence. Petrographic and geochemical data from pottery and new radiocarbon dating demonstrates that Austronesian influences penetrated into the highland interior by 3000 years ago. One potsherd was manufactured along the northeast coast of New Guinea, whereas others were manufactured from inland materials. These findings represent the oldest securely dated pottery from an archaeological context on the island of New Guinea. Additionally, the pottery comes from the interior, suggesting the movements of people and technological practices, as well as objects at this time. The antiquity of the Wañelek pottery is coincident with the expansion of Lapita pottery in the Western Pacific. Such occupation also occurs at the same time that changes have been identified in subsistence strategies in the archaeological record at Kuk Swamp suggesting a possible link between the two.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Oceania, Archaeology, New Guinea, Archaeological record


This paper presents the study of the fungi remains preserved in the waterlogged deposits of the Neolithic site of La Draga. These resources had the potential of being used as food and medicine, but also as tinder. Fire was without a doubt one of the most important resources for past people. It was used for lighting, heating, processing food and other materials, cooking and protection, and also possessed social and ritual significance. Hearths are one of the most common features at archaeological sites, but very often little attention is paid to the question of how these fires were lit, and they are seldom reflected in the archaeological record. In order to produce fire by percussion, an intermediate material is required between the sparks and the fuel. Fruiting bodies of fungi are a potential form of tinder, but are less inclined to be well-preserved than other materials. This paper presents the fungal fruiting bodies found at the Neolithic site of La Draga and discusses the meaning of their presence within the archaeological context of the site and European Prehistory.

Concepts: Fungus, Meaning of life, Spain, Archaeology, Prehistory, Archaeological record, Archaeological site, Archaeological context


The 3D orientation of clasts within a deposit are known to be informative on processes that formed that deposit. In archaeological sites, a portion of the clasts in the deposit are introduced by non-geological processes, and these are typically systematically recorded in archaeological excavations with total stations. By recording a second point on elongated clasts it is possible to quickly and precisely capture their orientation. The statistical and graphical techniques for analyzing these data are well published, and there is a growing set of actualistic and archaeological comparative data to help with the interpretation of the documented patterns. This paper advances this area of research in presenting methods to address some shortcomings in current methodologies. First, a method for calculating confidence intervals on orientation statistics is presented to help address the question of how many objects are needed to assess the formation of a deposit based on orientations. Second, a method for assessing the probability that two assemblages have different orientations is presented based on permutations testing. This method differs from existing ones in that it considers three-dimensional orientations rather than working separately with the two-dimensional bearing and plunge components. Third, a method is presented to examine spatial variability in orientations based on a moving windows approach. The raw data plus the R code to build this document and to implement these methods plus those already described by McPherron are included to help further their use in assessing archaeological site formation processes.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistics, Confidence interval, Archaeology, Methods and principles in archaeology, Archaeological record, Archaeological site, Archaeological ethics


Isernia La Pineta (south-central Italy, Molise) is one of the most important archaeological localities of the Middle Pleistocene in Western Europe. It is an extensive open-air site with abundant lithic industry and faunal remains distributed across four stratified archaeosurfaces that have been found in two sectors of the excavation (3c, 3a, 3s10 in sect. I; 3a in sect. II). The prehistoric attendance was close to a wet environment, with a series of small waterfalls and lakes associated to calcareous tufa deposits. An isolated human deciduous incisor (labelled IS42) was discovered in 2014 within the archaeological level 3 coll (overlying layer 3a) that, according to new 40Ar/39Ar measurements, is dated to about 583-561 ka, i.e. to the end of marine isotope stage (MIS) 15. Thus, the tooth is currently the oldest human fossil specimen in Italy; it is an important addition to the scanty European fossil record of the Middle Pleistocene, being associated with a lithic assemblage of local raw materials (flint and limestone) characterized by the absence of handaxes and reduction strategies primarily aimed at the production of small/medium-sized flakes. The faunal assemblage is dominated by ungulates often bearing cut marks. Combining chronology with the archaeological evidence, Isernia La Pineta exhibits a delay in the appearance of handaxes with respect to other European Palaeolithic sites of the Middle Pleistocene. Interestingly, this observation matches the persistence of archaic morphological features shown by the human calvarium from the Middle Pleistocene site of Ceprano, not far from Isernia (south-central Italy, Latium). In this perspective, our analysis is aimed to evaluate morphological features occurring in IS42.

Concepts: Europe, Human evolution, Pleistocene, Stone Age, Archaeology, Prehistory, Archaeological record, Tufa


We report here on the 2007 discovery, in perfect archaeological context, of part of the engraved and ocre-stained undersurface of the collapsed rockshelter ceiling from Abri Castanet, Dordogne, France. The decorated surface of the 1.5-t roof-collapse block was in direct contact with the exposed archaeological surface onto which it fell. Because there was no sedimentation between the engraved surface and the archaeological layer upon which it collapsed, it is clear that the Early Aurignacian occupants of the shelter were the authors of the ceiling imagery. This discovery contributes an important dimension to our understanding of the earliest graphic representation in southwestern France, almost all of which was discovered before modern methods of archaeological excavation and analysis. Comparison of the dates for the Castanet ceiling and those directly obtained from the Chauvet paintings reveal that the “vulvar” representations from southwestern France are as old or older than the very different wall images from Chauvet.

Concepts: France, Archaeology, Harris matrix, Archaeological section, Excavation, Archaeological record, Archaeological association


Historical ecologists have demonstrated legacy effects in apparently wild landscapes in Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Amazonia, Africa and Oceania. People live and farm in archaeological sites today in many parts of the world, but nobody has looked for the legacies of past human occupations in the most dynamic areas in these sites: homegardens. Here we show that the useful flora of modern homegardens is partially a legacy of pre-Columbian occupations in Central Amazonia: the more complex the archaeological context, the more variable the floristic composition of useful native plants in homegardens cultivated there today. Species diversity was 10% higher in homegardens situated in multi-occupational archaeological contexts compared with homegardens situated in single-occupational ones. Species heterogeneity (β-diversity) among archaeological contexts was similar for the whole set of species, but markedly different when only native Amazonian species were included, suggesting the influence of pre-conquest indigenous occupations on current homegarden species composition. Our findings show that the legacy of pre-Columbian occupations is visible in the most dynamic of all agroecosystems, adding another dimension to the human footprint in the Amazonian landscape.

Concepts: Agriculture, North America, South America, Americas, Central America, Archaeology, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Archaeological record


Archival research into episodes of frontier violence in the Kimberley region of Western Australia indicate that the bodies of Aboriginal victims of massacres were frequently incinerated following the event. This paper presents the results of a scientific investigation of a reported massacre at Sturt Creek where burnt bone fragments were identified in two adjacent sites and documents the archaeological signatures associated with the sites. The methodology used to undertake the project brought together three systems of knowledge: the oral testimonies of the descent group originating from a sole adult survivor of the massacre; archival, historical and scientific research. An archaeological survey defined the two distinct sites containing hundreds of fragile bone fragments; a third site was found to be highly disturbed. Scientific investigations included macroscopic and microscopic examination of selected bone fragments by an anatomical pathologist and a zooarchaeologist and X-ray diffraction analysis of sixteen bone fragments. The anatomical pathologist and zooarchaeologist undertook macroscopic and microscopic examinations of selected bone samples to identify morphological evidence for human origin. It was concluded that three bone fragments examined may have been human, and two of the fragments may have been from the vault of a skull. It was concluded that the likelihood of them being human would be strengthened if it was found that the three samples had been subjected to high temperatures. X-ray diffraction analysis of 16 bone fragments provided this evidence. All fragments showed sharp hydroxylapatite peaks (crystallite sizes 9882nm and 597nm respectively) and all had been subjected to extreme temperatures of either 600°C for more than 80h, 650°C for more than 20h, 700°C for more than 4h or 800°C for more than 1h. XRD analyses were also done on bone samples collected from three cooking hearths at three different archaeological sites. It was found that two of the three samples had been exposed to substantially lower temperatures for a short time period. It was concluded that there was strong pathological and archaeological evidence that the bone fragments were human in origin, but that the evidence was not conclusive. This research also identified archaeological signatures for the identification of massacre sites in similar Australian environments and circumstances.

Concepts: Scientific method, X-ray, Science, Western Australia, Indigenous Australians, Archaeology, Archaeological record, Kimberley


Archaeological finds including spears, other wooden artifacts, lithic artifacts, and bones with impact scars and cut marks document the repeated presence of hominins on the shoreline of an approximately 300,000 year old lake near Schöningen in Northern Germany. Continuing excavations have uncovered in the locality “Schöningen” at least 20 sites dating to the late Lower Paleolithic. Schöningen is therefore not only a singular archaeological site with remarkable finds; it is a vast locality that preserves a multifaceted archaeological landscape with numerous sites. Ongoing excavations have exposed several large surfaces with organic materials dating to MIS 9. In particular, recent excavations have uncovered new sections belonging to the original Spear Horizon from Schöningen 13 II-4 (the Horse Butchery Site). Current research in Schöningen places the exceptional artifacts within a spatial and environmental context, and provides a wealth of new information on the subsistence strategies and settlement dynamics of the inhabitants of these short-term lakeside occupations. Schöningen, with an overall excavated area of 9400 m(2), is one of the largest excavated archaeological localities from MIS 9. Here we present a summary of all the sites, as well as the most relevant excavated areas since 2008 (excavations Tübingen/NLD).

Concepts: Time, Germany, Organic matter, Paleolithic, Archaeology, Archaeological record, Archaeological site, Spear


Studies of past human-landscape interactions rely upon the integration of archaeological, biological and geological information within their geographical context. However, detecting the often ephemeral traces of human activities at a landscape scale remains difficult with conventional archaeological field survey. Geophysical methods offer a solution by bridging the gap between point finds and the surrounding landscape, but these surveys often solely target archaeological features. Here we show how simultaneous mapping of multiple physical soil properties with a high resolution multi-receiver electromagnetic induction (EMI) survey permits a reconstruction of the three-dimensional layout and pedological setting of a medieval reclaimed landscape in Flanders (Belgium). Combined with limited and directed excavations, the results offer a unique insight into the way such marginal landscapes were reclaimed and occupied during the Middle Ages. This approach provides a robust foundation for unravelling complex historical landscapes and will enhance our understanding of past human-landscape interactions.

Concepts: Middle Ages, Philosophy, Renaissance, Flanders, Excavation, Archaeological record, Archaeological field survey, Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe