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Earliest Mexican Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in the Maya Region: Implications for Pre-Hispanic Animal Trade and the Timing of Turkey Domestication

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Late Preclassic (300 BC–AD 100) turkey remains identified at the archaeological site of El Mirador (Petén, Guatemala) represent the earliest evidence of the Mexican turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in the ancient Maya world. Archaeological, zooarchaeological, and ancient DNA evidence combine to confirm the identification and context. The natural pre-Hispanic range of the Mexican turkey does not extend south of central Mexico, making the species non-local to the Maya area where another species, the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata), is indigenous. Prior to this discovery, the earliest evidence of M. gallopavo in the Maya area dated to approximately one thousand years later. The El Mirador specimens therefore represent previously unrecorded Preclassic exchange of animals from northern Mesoamerica to the Maya cultural region. As the earliest evidence of M. gallopavo found outside its natural geographic range, the El Mirador turkeys also represent the earliest indirect evidence for Mesoamerican turkey rearing or domestication. The presence of male, female and sub-adult turkeys, and reduced flight morphology further suggests that the El Mirador turkeys were raised in captivity. This supports an argument for the origins of turkey husbandry or at least captive rearing in the Preclassic.

Document type: 
Article
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Risk of Resource Failure and Toolkit Variation in Small-Scale Farmers and Herders

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Recent work suggests that global variation in toolkit structure among hunter-gatherers is driven by risk of resource failure such that as risk of resource failure increases, toolkits become more diverse and complex. Here we report a study in which we investigated whether the toolkits of small-scale farmers and herders are influenced by risk of resource failure in the same way. In the study, we applied simple linear and multiple regression analysis to data from 45 small-scale food-producing groups to test the risk hypothesis. Our results were not consistent with the hypothesis; none of the risk variables we examined had a significant impact on toolkit diversity or on toolkit complexity. It appears, therefore, that the drivers of toolkit structure differ between hunter-gatherers and small-scale food-producers.

Document type: 
Article

An Assessment of the Impact of Hafting on Paleoindian Point Variability

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

It has long been argued that the form of North American Paleoindian points was affected by hafting. According to this hypothesis, hafting constrained point bases such that they are less variable than point blades. The results of several studies have been claimed to be consistent with this hypothesis. However, there are reasons to be skeptical of these results. None of the studies employed statistical tests, and all of them focused on points recovered from kill and camp sites, which makes it difficult to be certain that the differences in variability are the result of hafting rather than a consequence of resharpening. Here, we report a study in which we tested the predictions of the hafting hypothesis by statistically comparing the variability of different parts of Clovis points. We controlled for the potentially confounding effects of resharpening by analyzing largely unused points from caches as well as points from kill and camp sites. The results of our analyses were not consistent with the predictions of the hypothesis. We found that several blade characters and point thickness were no more variable than the base characters. Our results indicate that the hafting hypothesis does not hold for Clovis points and indicate that there is a need to test its applicability in relation to post-Clovis Paleoindian points.

Document type: 
Article

The Origin of Malarial Parasites in Orangutans

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Background

Recent findings of Plasmodium in African apes have changed our perspectives on the evolution of malarial parasites in hominids. However, phylogenetic analyses of primate malarias are still missing information from Southeast Asian apes. In this study, we report molecular data for a malaria parasite lineage found in orangutans.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We screened twenty-four blood samples from Pongo pygmaeus (Kalimantan, Indonesia) for Plasmodium parasites by PCR. For all the malaria positive orangutan samples, parasite mitochondrial genomes (mtDNA) and two antigens: merozoite surface protein 1 42 kDa (MSP-142) and circumsporozoite protein gene (CSP) were amplified, cloned, and sequenced. Fifteen orangutans tested positive and yielded 5 distinct mitochondrial haplotypes not previously found. The haplotypes detected exhibited low genetic divergence among them, indicating that they belong to one species. We report phylogenetic analyses using mitochondrial genomes, MSP-142 and CSP. We found that the orangutan malaria parasite lineage was part of a monophyletic group that includes all the known non-human primate malaria parasites found in Southeast Asia; specifically, it shares a recent common ancestor with P. inui (a macaque parasite) and P. hylobati (a gibbon parasite) suggesting that this lineage originated as a result of a host switch. The genetic diversity of MSP-142 in orangutans seems to be under negative selection. This result is similar to previous findings in non-human primate malarias closely related to P. vivax. As has been previously observed in the other Plasmodium species found in non-human primates, the CSP shows high polymorphism in the number of repeats. However, it has clearly distinctive motifs from those previously found in other malarial parasites.

Conclusion

The evidence available from Asian apes indicates that these parasites originated independently from those found in Africa, likely as the result of host switches from other non-human primates.

Document type: 
Article

A Morphometric Assessment of the Intended Function of Cached Clovis Points

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

A number of functions have been proposed for cached Clovis points. The least complicated hypothesis is that they were intended to arm hunting weapons. It has also been argued that they were produced for use in rituals or in connection with costly signaling displays. Lastly, it has been suggested that some cached Clovis points may have been used as saws. Here we report a study in which we morphometrically compared Clovis points from caches with Clovis points recovered from kill and camp sites to test two predictions of the hypothesis that cached Clovis points were intended to arm hunting weapons: 1) cached points should be the same shape as, but generally larger than, points from kill/camp sites, and 2) cached points and points from kill/camp sites should follow the same allometric trajectory. The results of the analyses are consistent with both predictions and therefore support the hypothesis. A follow-up review of the fit between the results of the analyses and the predictions of the other hypotheses indicates that the analyses support only the hunting equipment hypothesis. We conclude from this that cached Clovis points were likely produced with the intention of using them to arm hunting weapons.

Document type: 
Article

High Precision U/Th Dating of First Polynesian Settlement

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012-11-07
Abstract: 

Previous studies document Nukuleka in the Kingdom of Tonga as a founder colony for first settlement of Polynesia by Lapita peoples. A limited number of radiocarbon dates are one line of evidence supporting this claim, but they cannot precisely establish when this event occurred, nor can they afford a detailed chronology for sequent occupation. High precision U/Th dates of Acropora coral files (abraders) from Nukuleka give unprecedented resolution, identifying the founder event by 2838±8 BP and documenting site development over the ensuing 250 years. The potential for dating error due to post depositional diagenetic alteration of ancient corals at Nukuleka also is addressed through sample preparation protocols and paired dates on spatially separated samples for individual specimens. Acropora coral files are widely distributed in Lapita sites across Oceania. U/Th dating of these artifacts provides unparalleled opportunities for greater precision and insight into the speed and timing of this final chapter in human settlement of the globe.

Document type: 
Article
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High Potential for Using DNA from Ancient Herring Bones to Inform Modern Fisheries Management and Conservation

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012-11-30
Abstract: 

Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) are an abundant and important component of the coastal ecosystems for the west coast of North America. Current Canadian federal herring management assumes five regional herring populations in British Columbia with a high degree of exchange between units, and few distinct local populations within them. Indigenous traditional knowledge and historic sources, however, suggest that locally adapted, distinct regional herring populations may have been more prevalent in the past. Within the last century, the combined effects of commercial fishing and other anthropogenic factors have resulted in severe declines of herring populations, with contemporary populations potentially reflecting only the remnants of a previously more abundant and genetically diverse metapopulation. Through the analysis of 85 archaeological herring bones, this study attempted to reconstruct the genetic diversity and population structure of ancient herring populations using three different marker systems (mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), microsatellites and SNPs). A high success rate (91%) of DNA recovery was obtained from the extremely small herring bone samples (often <10 mg). The ancient herring mtDNA revealed high haplotype diversity comparable to modern populations, although population discrimination was not possible due to the limited power of the mtDNA marker. Ancient microsatellite diversity was also similar to modern samples, but the data quality was compromised by large allele drop-out and stuttering. In contrast, SNPs were found to have low error rates with no evidence for deviations from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, and simulations indicated high power to detect genetic differentiation if loci under selection are used. This study demonstrates that SNPs may be the most effective and feasible approach to survey genetic population structure in ancient remains, and further efforts should be made to screen for high differentiation markers.This study provides the much needed foundation for wider scale studies on temporal genetic variation in herring, with important implications for herring fisheries management, Aboriginal title rights and herring conservation.

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Article
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Testing for Divergent Transmission Histories among Cultural Characters: A Study Using Bayesian Phylogenetic Methods and Iranian Tribal Textile Data

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Abstract: 

Background

Archaeologists and anthropologists have long recognized that different cultural complexes may have distinct descent histories, but they have lacked analytical techniques capable of easily identifying such incongruence. Here, we show how Bayesian phylogenetic analysis can be used to identify incongruent cultural histories. We employ the approach to investigate Iranian tribal textile traditions.

Methods

We used Bayes factor comparisons in a phylogenetic framework to test two models of cultural evolution: the hierarchically integrated system hypothesis and the multiple coherent units hypothesis. In the hierarchically integrated system hypothesis, a core tradition of characters evolves through descent with modification and characters peripheral to the core are exchanged among contemporaneous populations. In the multiple coherent units hypothesis, a core tradition does not exist. Rather, there are several cultural units consisting of sets of characters that have different histories of descent.

Results

For the Iranian textiles, the Bayesian phylogenetic analyses supported the multiple coherent units hypothesis over the hierarchically integrated system hypothesis. Our analyses suggest that pile-weave designs represent a distinct cultural unit that has a different phylogenetic history compared to other textile characters.

Conclusions

The results from the Iranian textiles are consistent with the available ethnographic evidence, which suggests that the commercial rug market has influenced pile-rug designs but not the techniques or designs incorporated in the other textiles produced by the tribes. We anticipate that Bayesian phylogenetic tests for inferring cultural units will be of great value for researchers interested in studying the evolution of cultural traits including language, behavior, and material culture.

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Article
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Estimating Surface Area in Early Hominins

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Abstract: 

Height and weight-based methods of estimating surface area have played an important role in the development of the current consensus regarding the role of thermoregulation in human evolution. However, such methods may not be reliable when applied to early hominins because their limb proportions differ markedly from those of humans. Here, we report a study in which this possibility was evaluated by comparing surface area estimates generated with the best-known height and weight-based method to estimates generated with a method that is sensitive to proportional differences. We found that the two methods yield indistinguishable estimates when applied to taxa whose limb proportions are similar to those of humans, but significantly different results when applied to taxa whose proportions differ from those of humans. We also found that the discrepancy between the estimates generated by the two methods is almost entirely attributable to inter-taxa differences in limb proportions. One corollary of these findings is that we need to reassess hypotheses about the role of thermoregulation in human evolution that have been developed with the aid of height and weight-based methods of estimating body surface area. Another is that we need to use other methods in future work on fossil hominin body surface areas.

Document type: 
Article

Archaeological Support for the Three-Stage Expansion of Modern Humans across Northeastern Eurasia and into the Americas

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2010
Abstract: 

Background

Understanding the dynamics of the human range expansion across northeastern Eurasia during the late Pleistocene is central to establishing empirical temporal constraints on the colonization of the Americas [1]. Opinions vary widely on how and when the Americas were colonized, with advocates supporting either a pre-[2] or post-[1], [3], [4], [5], [6] last glacial maximum (LGM) colonization, via either a land bridge across Beringia [3], [4], [5], a sea-faring Pacific Rim coastal route [1], [3], a trans-Arctic route [4], or a trans-Atlantic oceanic route [5]. Here we analyze a large sample of radiocarbon dates from the northeast Eurasian Upper Paleolithic to identify the origin of this expansion, and estimate the velocity of colonization wave as it moved across northern Eurasia and into the Americas.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We use diffusion models [6], [7] to quantify these dynamics. Our results show the expansion originated in the Altai region of southern Siberia ~46kBP , and from there expanded across northern Eurasia at an average velocity of 0.16 km per year. However, the movement of the colonizing wave was not continuous but underwent three distinct phases: 1) an initial expansion from 47-32k calBP; 2) a hiatus from ~32-16k calBP, and 3) a second expansion after the LGM ~16k calBP. These results provide archaeological support for the recently proposed three-stage model of the colonization of the Americas [8], [9]. Our results falsify the hypothesis of a pre-LGM terrestrial colonization of the Americas and we discuss the importance of these empirical results in the light of alternative models.

Conclusions/Significance

Our results demonstrate that the radiocarbon record of Upper Paleolithic northeastern Eurasia supports a post-LGM terrestrial colonization of the Americas falsifying the proposed pre-LGM terrestrial colonization of the Americas. We show that this expansion was not a simple process, but proceeded in three phases, consistent with genetic data, largely in response to the variable climatic conditions of late Pleistocene northeast Eurasia. Further, the constraints imposed by the spatiotemporal gradient in the empirical radiocarbon record across this entire region suggests that North America cannot have been colonized much before the existing Clovis radiocarbon record suggests.

Document type: 
Article
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