March 18, 2013

New Neandertal remains from Mani

The age and cave origin of these remains may conceivably make them useful for ancient DNA studies.

Journal of Human Evolution doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.02.002

New Neanderthal remains from Mani peninsula, Southern Greece: The Kalamakia Middle Paleolithic cave site

Katerina Harvati et al.

The Kalamakia cave, a Middle Paleolithic site on the western coast of the Mani peninsula, Greece, was excavated in 1993–2006 by an interdisciplinary team from the Ephoreia of Paleoanthropology and Speleology (Greek Ministry of Culture) and the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (Paris). The site is dated to between ca. 100,000 and >39,000 years BP (Before Present) and has yielded Mousterian lithics, a rich fauna, and human remains from several layers. The latter include 10 isolated teeth, a cranial fragment and three postcranial elements. The remains represent at least eight individuals, two of them subadults, and show both carnivore and anthropogenic modifications. They can be identified as Neanderthal on the basis of diagnostic morphology on most specimens. A diet similar to that of Neanderthals from mixed habitat is suggested by our analysis of dental wear (occlusal fingerprint analysis) and microwear (occlusal texture microwear analysis), in agreement with the faunal and palynological analyses of the site. These new fossils significantly expand the Neanderthal sample known from Greece. Together with the human specimens from Lakonis and Apidima, the Kalamakia human remains add to the growing evidence of a strong Neanderthal presence in the Mani region during the Late Pleistocene.



andrew said...

The end date is a reasonably good fit to the appearance of modern humans in the region.

A new find this rich at this location is particularly impressive given how intensively Greece has been studied archaelogically compared to many other places in the world.

I'd also be very interested in the fauna remains, particularly to see if there is evidence of a substantial fish component to the Neanderthal diet in this coastal location.

eurologist said...


They found 17 large mammal taxa and 60 small vertebrate taxa - no sign of seafood. There were several shells in two of the layers, but the authors say they were modified to use as scrapers.

"The faunal assemblage is dominated by fallow deer, followed by ibex, wild boar and red deer."

Hopefully, the site is not too warm and humid for DNA preservation.

andrew said...

@ eurologist

Thanks. I wouldn't get your hopes up on DNA perservation though. Greece is no Siberia.