July 07, 2009

Early modern humans in Europe (Bohunician, Proto-Aurignacian, Aurignacian)

If it is confirmed by palaeoanthropology that modern humans were responsible for the Bohunician, this would push back the time of the earliest arrival of Europeans by a good 10ky+ or so. There is also a freely accessible paper online by Jiri Svoboda on the Bohunician and Emiran which should be useful for those interested in this topic.

The author of the present paper writes:
The earliest evidence of anatomically modern humans in Europe is currently dated to ≈48,000 cal BP and the beginning of the GI 12 warm interval. It is based on artifact assemblages (Bohunician) that are similar to an earlier industry in the Near East (Emiran) probably produced by modern humans. Bohunician sites are present in South-Central Europe (27, 29, 32) and possibly Eastern Europe as well, during this interval.


A possible second movement of modern humans into Europe may be represented by another group of artifact assemblages that date to as early as 45,000–44,000 cal BP and GS 11/GI 11. They vary significantly in composition and are sometimes referred to as Proto-Aurignacian (27, 43, 50, 64). Many are similar to a contemporaneous industry in the Near East (Ahmarian) manufactured by modern humans (1, 33). Proto-Aurignacian assemblages are found in Southwest and South-Central Europe and seem to be present in Eastern Europe at this time (50). Although the oldest known modern human skeletal remains in Europe date to this interval, they are not associated with artifacts (44).


Both the Bohunician and Proto-Aurignacian sites probably represent modern human population movements from the Near East into Europe via the Balkans.


After the onset of cold HE4 at ≈40,000 cal BP, a new industry (Aurignacian) possibly developed in South-Central Europe spread rapidly throughout the continent. Aurignacian assemblages are associated with the remains of modern humans in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe (1, 7, 10, 46, 52, 62).
There are currently no remains from the Bohunician, so the association with modern humans is still tentative:
Many paleoanthropologists will want to see this conclusion supported by discovery of modern human skeletal remains in these sites or at least in a context that may be dated to the same period.
Even the much later Aurignacian itself was considered by some to be an ambiguous case, although recent evidence from teeth seems to confirm that it was made by modern humans.

Thus, I don't anticipate that the acceptance of the Bohunician as modern human in origin will be without a fight by those who might see Neandertal involvement. Such things are hotly contested even when there are skulls associated with assemblages, so you can imagine how it will be when modern human involvement is only hinted by archaeological parallels, in this case with the Emiran, which also lacks associated human remains.

If Neandertals were behind the Emiran-Bohunician, this would suggest a previously unsuspected degree of vitality for late Neandertals, as it would see them undertake a colonization, or at least long-term cultural contacts across a substantial distance.

On the other hand, if modern humans are behind it, then this would suggest a much longer co-existence between moderns and Neandertals in the European continent, even though, possibly, not in the same part thereof. It would also dispel ideas about a fairly late colonization of Europe compared to Australasia that have been popularized by documentaries in recent years.

PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.0903446106

The spread of modern humans in Europe

John F. Hoffecker


The earliest credible evidence of Homo sapiens in Europe is an archaeological proxy in the form of several artifact assemblages (Bohunician) found in South-Central and possibly Eastern Europe, dating to ≤48,000 calibrated radiocarbon years before present (cal BP). They are similar to assemblages probably made by modern humans in the Levant (Emiran) at an earlier date and apparently represent a population movement into the Balkans during a warm climate interval [Greenland Interstadial 12 (GI 12)]. A second population movement may be represented by a diverse set of artifact assemblages (sometimes termed Proto-Aurignacian) found in the Balkans, parts of Southwest Europe, and probably in Eastern Europe, and dating to several brief interstadials (GI 11–GI 9) that preceded the beginning of cold Heinrich Event 4 (HE4) (≈40,000 cal BP). They are similar to contemporaneous assemblages made by modern humans in the Levant (Ahmarian). The earliest known human skeletal remains in Europe that may be unequivocally assigned to H. sapiens (Peçstera cu Oase, Romania) date to this time period (≈42,000 cal BP) but are not associated with artifacts. After the Campanian Ignimbrite volcanic eruption (40,000 cal BP) and the beginning of HE4, artifact assemblages assigned to the classic Aurignacian, an industry associated with modern human skeletal remains that seems to have developed in Europe, spread throughout the continent.



Tim said...

Thanks for posting these.

Maju said...

It's an interesting review, thanks.

Somehow it seems logical to me that if AMHs could displace Neanderthals in West and Central Eurasia by Emirian times, there is no reason why they should not be doing the same in Europe immediately after, except maybe the climatic one.

On the other hand, yes, the evidence is inconclusive.

The difference anyhow is not as extreme as you seem to remark in the post. It'd be only a matter of a few thousand years earlier in the most optimistic scenario and, in any case, I think that there are reasons (mostly genetic) to understand that the colonization of Australasia and East Asia began earlier than that of West Eurasia.

IMO the colonization of West Eurasia, that implied facing the very strong and intelligent Neanderthals, was surely largely the product of the exhaustion of the eastern migratory route (surely saturated by then), what forced the, seemingly expansive, South Asian population to take the western route instead.

Crimson Guard said...

Shouldnt these people be associated with E3b/YAP? Its the oldest follows that Near Eastern to Southwestern European route nicely.

The R1b myth from the forums is rather played out.

Maju said...

E1b1b is more recent in Europe than that no matter how you look at it. You may want to associate them with I if you really need to find such kind of association. But not E, not until at least Epipaleolithic.

Ponto said...

How do you know that? You are very imaginative.

The articles are dealing with the remains of things made by humans of some type not necessarily like us, not haplogroups. In Europe most haplogroups were probably introduced after the period when Europe began to thaw out. The ages of those haplogroups is often times much older to their introduction into Europe from an eastern source, eg mtDNA U.

It may be hard to accept but Europeans are a young breed of humans no matter how old or what manner of humans created various tools or cultures. Most haplogroups in Europe today owe more to the I.E speaking groups than to any previous humans whether neanderthal or allegedly anatomically modern humans of 45 kya. The haplogroup found in Basque men is about 4 kya, much older than the Basque ethnicity.

Maju said...

It may be hard to admit but TRMCA estimates may be just wishful thinking.

I don't know what "haplogroup found among Basques" you mean but, if it's mtDNA H, it seems at least of Gravettian age (found in aDNA of Italy and Morocco, the latter in apportions almost identical to current local dwellers).

If you mean Y-DNA R1b1b2(-a1), there has been no such aDNA reseach but one thing is clear: there is absolutely no post-Paleolithic culture that could account for such a homogeneously dominant spread through all that area, so it must be at most Epipaleolithic.

You have to undestand that TRMCA is just the product of equations, where many of the variables you need to fill in before you get a result are just mere guesses. The results, if properly done, could be at most indicative, suggestive, but never evidence of anything.

Of course TRMCA methods have never been proven, like C14 or thermoluminiscence have. So you should take them with loads of salt or, as I do, just pass and go direct for the dessert.