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Skeletons in cave reveal Mediterranean secrets

Date:
November 28, 2012
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Skeletal remains in an island cave in Favignana, Italy, reveal that modern humans first settled in Sicily around the time of the last ice age and despite living on Mediterranean islands, ate little seafood.

Location of Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites on the Ègadi Islands and in NW Sicily. These cave sites include: Grotta d’Oriente (1) and Grotta dell’Ucceria (2) on the island of Favignana; Grotta di Punta Capperi (3), Grotta di Cala dei Genovesi (3), Grotta Schiacciata (4) and Grotta di Cala Calcara (5) on the island of Levanzo; Grotta Maiorana (6), Riparo San Francesco (7), Grotta Martogna (8), Grotta Emiliana (9) and Grotta Maltese (9) on the mainland of Sicily.
Credit: Mannino et al. Origin and Diet of the Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers on the Mediterranean Island of Favignana (Ègadi Islands, Sicily). PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e49802 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049802

Skeletal remains in an island cave in Favignana, Italy, reveal that modern humans first settled in Sicily around the time of the last ice age and despite living on Mediterranean islands, ate little seafood. The research is published November 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Marcello Mannino and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany.

Genetic analysis of the bones discovered in caves on the Egadi islands provides some of the first mitochondrial DNA data available for early humans from the Mediterranean region, a crucial piece of evidence in ancestry analysis. This analysis reveals the time when modern humans reached these islands. Mannino says, "The definitive peopling of Sicily by modern humans only occurred at the peak of the last ice age, around 19,000 -26,500 years ago, when sea levels were low enough to expose a land bridge between the island and the Italian peninsula."

The authors also analyzed the chemical composition of the human remains and found that these early settlers retained their hunter-gatherer lifestyles, relying on terrestrial animals rather than marine sources for meat. According to the study, despite living on islands during a time when sea level rise was rapid enough to change within a single human lifetime, these early settlers appear to have made little use of the marine resources available to them. The authors conclude, "These findings have crucial implications for studies of the role of seafood in the diet of Mediterranean hunter-gatherers."


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The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marcello A. Mannino, Giulio Catalano, Sahra Talamo, Giovanni Mannino, Rosaria Di Salvo, Vittoria Schimmenti, Carles Lalueza-Fox, Andrea Messina, Daria Petruso, David Caramelli, Michael P. Richards, Luca Sineo. Origin and Diet of the Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers on the Mediterranean Island of Favignana (Ègadi Islands, Sicily). PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11): e49802 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049802

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Skeletons in cave reveal Mediterranean secrets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128182945.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2012, November 28). Skeletons in cave reveal Mediterranean secrets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128182945.htm
Public Library of Science. "Skeletons in cave reveal Mediterranean secrets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128182945.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

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