Doğa Karakaya (University of Tübingen)

Title: Archaeobotanical Investigations of the Ancient Flora of the Orontes Watershed


Abstract: In this study we analyzed ancient plant remains to distinguish certain environmental, climatic and anthropogenic factors that might have affected the environmental stability at Tell Tayinat. Our analysis aims to diachronically compare the ecological characteristics of different plant species through the Bronze and Iron Ages. To date, 210 archaeobotanical samples have been analyzed. Preliminary results indicate that the proportions and ubiquities of certain wild/weedy plant taxa differ dramatically during Early Iron Age in comparison to earlier Bronze Age periods. The ancient plant remains from Tell Tayinat offer a number of important aspects to investigate in Near Eastern Archaeology, such as climatic and/or anthropogenic effects on the environment, human decision for crop plant use, and the introduction of new crop species into cultivation.


Prof. Ben Krause-Kyora (Max Planck Institute, Jena; Kiel University)

Title: Leprosy – two sides of a coin


Abstract: Mycobacterium leprae is the etiological agent of leprosy, a chronic dermatological and neurological disease. Leprosy is one of the oldest recorded and most feared diseases in human history and was prevalent in Europe until the 16th century. Today, the disease is still wide-spread in/ many countries, with over 200,000 new cases reported worldwide annually. Even though no effective treatment of leprosy was available, the disease almost vanished during the 16th century. At around the same time, occurrence of tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, peaked in the region. This suggests an interplay of mycobacteria, the human genome and environmental factors. Numerous studies on modern DNA helped to elucidate the genomics of modern mycobacteria. Those studies are, however, only of limited use when evaluating the evolution of these two diseases because of the impact medication during the past 100 years had on both TB and lepra.

With the help of medieval skeletal remains from Europe we reconstructed the genomes of late medieval M. leprae up to a 100-fold coverage and even to de-novo assembly of medieval genomes. A phylogenetic comparison of ancient and modern strains shows a low mutation rate compared to other pathogens and a pre-medieval origin of most contemporary human and armadillo leprosy lineages. Today, the most basal lineages can be found in Asia pointing to an Asian origin of the disease. New data on ancient M. leprae and M. tuberculosis provide more insights into their evolutionary co-history and suggest a simultaneous presence of several different lineages in medieval Europe.

Further, we analysed our data for allele and genotype frequencies at different SNP loci, and the HLA region and found that they differ remarkably from the reference frequencies. This observation might support the hypothesis that past leprosy epidemics have left Europeans more resistant to leprosy but vulnerable to contemporary inflammatory disorders.


Dr. Jamie Clark (University of Alaska, Fairbanks)

Title: Evaluating Models for Behavioral Variability in the Southern African Middle Stone Age: the pre-Still Bay through post-Howieson’s Poort Fauna from Sibudu Cave (South Africa)


Abstract: The southern African Middle Stone Age has received significant attention from scholars interested in understanding human behavioral evolution during the Later Pleistocene (~125-10,000 ya). The attention primarily relates to the presence of two archaeological industries characterized by a suite of advanced behaviors/technologies—the Still Bay (~75-68 kya) and the Howieson’s Poort (~65-60 kya). Innovative behaviors evidenced during these phases include the production of object of potential symbolic significance, including shell beads, engraved ochre and engraved ostrich eggshell. These phases also provide evidence for advanced technologies, both in terms of lithic production strategies (including heat treatment and pressure flaking), and in terms of weaponry (possibly including the use of bow and arrow).  Intriguingly, most of the innovative behaviors associated with these phases disappear from the record after 60,000 years ago, raising a number of questions about their nature and significance to our broader understanding of human behavioral evolution. As one of the only known sites to preserve deposits from both the Still Bay and the Howieson’s Poort—and the phases immediately pre- and post-dating these phenomena—Sibudu Cave offers a unique opportunity to evaluate models for behavioral change during a critical period in later human evolution. In this talk, I will explore these issues using faunal data collected at Sibudu Cave over the last ten years, spanning from the pre-Still Bay (>77 kya) through the post-Howieson’s Poort (~58 ka). 


Michelle de Gruchy (Durham University, University of Tübingen)

Title: A Diachronic Reconstruction of the Northern Mesopotamia Landscape (4th to 2nd Millennia BC) from Three Separate Sources of Evidence


Abstract: This talk presents the results of a recent paper co-authored by Michelle de Gruchy, Katleen Deckers, and Simone Riehl. The diachronic study spatially reconstructs the land cover of Northern Mesopotamia using a bottom-up approach that brings together three separate strands of research conducted independently by each of the authors examining three independent lines of evidence: seed/grain, charcoal, and isotope data. The results nonetheless provide a unified picture of a diverse and changing landscape with different types of steppe and riverine forests across Northern Mesopotamia from the fourth through second millennia B.C.


Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati and Dr. Vangelis Tourloukis (University of Tübingen)

Title: The Paleoanthropology of Greece: recent field research by the ERC PaGE project

Abstract: The most important questions in European Paleoanthropology today include the timing and route of dispersal of the earliest Europeans into the continent; their identity and behavioural adaptations; continuity with later hominids; and the advent of modern humans and their impact on their Neanderthal extinction. In these discussions, crucial information has until recently been lacking. Such evidence would come from the gateway through which both archaic and early modern people likely entered Europe, the southern part of the Balkan peninsula. This region lies directly on the most likely route of dispersal between Africa, W. Asia and Europe and is one of the three major European refugia for fauna, flora and likely also human populations during glacial periods. Paleoanthropological research in the area, however, has until recently been sparse. Since 2012, the PaGE Team, in collaboration with the Ephoreia of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of Southern Greece, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, has conducted long term field exploration of selected localities in the Southern Balkans in order to close this last research gap in European paleoanthropology and test our hypotheses about dispersals, refugia and systematics of European hominins. This talk will present a summary of the field work conducted and the preliminary results from the field seasons of 2016.


Dr. Alexander Herbig (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena)

Title: Metagenomic analysis and reconstruction of a Helicobacter pylori genome from the Tyrolean Iceman


Abstract: Abstract: The Tyrolean Iceman (Ötzi) is a 5,300-year-old European Copper Age glacier mummy. Exceptional soft tissue preservation allows for aDNA-based reconstruction and comparative analysis of microbiomes from various body parts.

Here we present a metagenomic analysis of two microbiomes from lung and gingiva tissue (oral cavity). In this context we demonstrate a new computational pipeline for ancient microbiome analysis and pathogen detection that integrates the MALT algorithm for fast alignment of metagenomic DNA sequencing data to large reference databases.

Furthermore, on the basis of samples from the Iceman's stomach we were able to reconstruct a nearly complete genome of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Pathogenic strains of this bacterial species can cause gastric ulcers and cancer. Unlike H. pylori strains that are found in Europe nowadays the strain of the Iceman shows only a very low amount of admixture with African H. pylori variants, which indicates that the major admixture events between Europe's original H. pylori population and African bacterial variants happened within the last few thousand years.

Dr. Päivi Onkamo (University of Helsinki) 

Title: Project on Ancient Finno-Ugric genome


Abstract: Finno-Ugric languages speaking people include Finns, Estonians, Hungarians, and a number of smaller, fragmented language communities in current Russia, such as Mari, Mordvin, Veps, Komi, Khanty etc. The origin and closest relatives of the language family are unclear - as well as the prehistory of the people. Before Slavic expansion, e.g. 1000 AD, the Finno-Ugric speakers used to occupy the whole North-Eastern Europe. Archeologically, there has been settlement in the region since the last Ice Age. When - and with which archeological culture - did the Finno-Ugric people or language spread? Who were living there before them? How does the arrival of "Finno-Ugric genome", if such exists, fit with the evolution and dispersion of the Finno-Ugric language family on the one hand, and with the archaeological material on the other?


Dr. Emily Holt (Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris)

Title: Of Mice and Men: A Zooarchaeological Investigation of Sardinian-Mediterranean Connectivity 1700-300 BCE


Abstract: Mediterranean archaeologists disagree about when and how the island of Sardinia became incorporated into pan-Mediterranean trade networks. Sporadic finds of imported East Mediterranean pottery and artifacts in Bronze Age Sardinian contexts are often interpreted as indicating low levels of connection, especially given that little Sardinian pottery has been found in East Mediterranean contexts. Alternatively, recent research in lead isotope analysis of copper and bronze suggests that Bronze Age Sardinia was involved in a thriving pan-European metals trade; however, this evidence is not universally accepted. A zooarchaeological approach to Sardinian connectivity can help resolve these issues. By tracking the colonization of Sardinia by the Near Eastern house mouse (Mus musculus), we can identify both the point at which extra-insular contact became frequent as well as the general paths through which contact occurred.


Tina Luedecke (Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt)

Title: Plio-Pleistocene hominin evolution in the Malawi Rift: Persistent C3 vegetation in heterogeneous wooded savanna ecosystems


Abstract: The Plio-Pleistocene expansion of Eastern Africa savanna ecosystems was a major driver for morphological and behavioral innovations in hominin evolution. Most evidence for hominin ecosystem reconstructions originates from the Eastern Rift in today’s Somali-Masai Endemic Zone. The studied deposits (ca. 4.3 to 0.6 Ma) in the Karonga Basin (NE Lake Malawi) comprise abundant pedogenic carbonates and fossil remains of a diverse fauna, including two hominid fossil finds: a maxillary fragment of Paranthropus boisei and a mandible of Homo rudolfensis, both dated at around 2.4 Ma.

I present the first pedogenic Plio-Pleistocene long-term carbon (δ13C) and clumped isotope (Δ47) records from the Chiwondo Beds, one of the earliest hominid fossil sites in the East African Rift (EAR) and contrast these paleosol proxies with data from different suid, bovid, equid, elephant and hippopotamus species.

The data represents a southern hemisphere record in the EAR, a region particularly interesting for reconstructing vegetation patterns across the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and provides insights on the evolution and migration of early hominids and the proposed boundary shift between different savanna types. As the study site is situated between the well-known hominid-bearing sites of eastern and southern Africa, it fills an important geographical gap for early hominid research.

Constant δ13C values around -9 ‰ from over pedogenic carbonate and suidae enamel spanning the last ca. 4.3 Ma indicate a C3-dominated environment in the Karonga Basin. Presence of specialized grazers with more positive δ13C enamel values around -1 ‰ is indicative of localized patches of C4-grassland. The overall fraction of woody cover (60-70%) near paleolake Malawi reflects higher canopy density in the Malawi Rift than in the Eastern Rift. The discrepancy between the two savanna types increases since the Late Pliocene, when the Somali-Masai ecosystem started to show clear evidence for an open, C4-dominated landscape. Therefore, the evolution of East African ecosystems follows different patterns along the rift axis.

The appearance of C4-grasses is considered as a driver of evolutionary faunal shifts, but despite the difference of ecosystem evolution, similar hominins occurred in both landscapes, pointing to distinct habitat flexibility and nutritional versatility.


No Talk (Thursday holiday)


No Talk (Pfingsten holiday)


Dr. Andrew W. Kandel (University of Tübingen)

Title: New results from the Upper Paleolithic horizons of Sefunim Cave, Israel

Abstract: Sefunim Cave is located in Israel’s Mount Carmel region, home to many well-known cave sites including el-Wad, Raqefet, Kebara, Skhul, Tabun and Misliya. Together, these sites document a long history of Paleolithic settlement in the Levant. At Sefunim the stratigraphic sequence spans from the Middle and Upper Paleolithic through the Epipaleolithic and Pre-Pottery Neolithic. In this talk I focus on new results from the Upper Paleolithic layers, comparing the lithic and faunal remains from the Levantine Aurignacian occupations with those of the Epipaleolithic Kebaran. I examine these results in light of ongoing geoarchaeological studies and radiometric dating analyses and bring the results into a broader discussion about behavioral changes during the Upper Paleolithic and into the Epipaleolithic.


No Talk (Thursday holiday)


Talk Cancelled


Dr. Patrick Schmidt (University of Tübingen)

Title: Heat treatment of raw materials in the South African Middle Stone Age: prevalence, techniques, motivations

Abstract: The earliest known evidence of heat treatment of stone dates back to the Middle Stone Age (MSA) of Southern Africa. Silcrete, a continental silica rock of rather good knapping quality, was heated for tool production from 164ka on. The published sources on MSA heat treatment indicate that, in at least some of the sites, the phenomenon became broad scale from ~80 ka on, when almost all silcrete was heated before knapping. The exact spatial and temporal variations throughout the MSA remain poorly understood. The heating techniques used and the investment necessary for them also remain subject to debate. This lecture aims to shed light on these questions by summarising the results from a three years lasting research project on heat treatment at the University of Tübingen.