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  1. Abstract The genetic prehistory of human populations in Central America is largely unexplored leaving an important gap in our knowledge of the global expansion of humans. We report genome-wide ancient DNA data for a transect of twenty individuals from two Belize rock-shelters dating between 9,600-3,700 calibrated radiocarbon years before present (cal. BP). The oldest individuals (9,600-7,300 cal. BP) descend from an Early Holocene Native American lineage with only distant relatedness to present-day Mesoamericans, including Mayan-speaking populations. After ~5,600 cal. BP a previously unknown human dispersal from the south made a major demographic impact on the region, contributing more than 50% of the ancestry of all later individuals. This new ancestry derived from a source related to present-day Chibchan speakers living from Costa Rica to Colombia. Its arrival corresponds to the first clear evidence for forest clearing and maize horticulture in what later became the Maya region.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Revisamos la antigüedad y el carácter tipológico de la cerámica conocida como “Pox Pottery”. Ésta fue descrita con base en un atributo específico reportado en la década de 1960 por Charles Brush, quien lo consideró particularmente temprano (~2440 aC). Excavaciones en los mismos sitios de la costa de Guerrero donde Brush trabajó permitieron recuperar cerámica del periodo Formativo Temprano y mostraba las características “pox”. Aquí reportamos las frecuencias de fragmentos cerámicos de esos depósitos, de acuerdo con las tipologías regionales establecidas, y reportamos fechas radiométricas (AMS 14 C) usadas para establecer una cronología estratigráfica Bayesiana para delimitar la edad de los depósitos en cada sitio. Proponemos que “Pox Pottery” no corresponde con un tipo cerámico per se, y que el atributo “pox” ocurre en varios tipos cerámicos del Formativo Temprano. Ésta es similar a las tradiciones rojo sobre bayo que se desarrollaron temprano en las tierras altas del centro de México y al occidente del Istmo de Tehuantepec. Nuestro refinamiento cronológico demuestra que esta cerámica data entre 1820 y 1400 cal aC. Es consistente con estudios recientes que indican una edad similar para las cerámicas rojo sobre bayo, sugiriendo la existencia de tradiciones culturales diferentes al complejo Locona que emergiómore »paralelamente.« less
  3. Abstract

    The influence of climate change on civil conflict and societal instability in the premodern world is a subject of much debate, in part because of the limited temporal or disciplinary scope of case studies. We present a transdisciplinary case study that combines archeological, historical, and paleoclimate datasets to explore the dynamic, shifting relationships among climate change, civil conflict, and political collapse at Mayapan, the largest Postclassic Maya capital of the Yucatán Peninsula in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE. Multiple data sources indicate that civil conflict increased significantly and generalized linear modeling correlates strife in the city with drought conditions between 1400 and 1450 cal. CE. We argue that prolonged drought escalated rival factional tensions, but subsequent adaptations reveal regional-scale resiliency, ensuring that Maya political and economic structures endured until European contact in the early sixteenth century CE.

  4. Abstract Data from rock shelters in southern Belize show evidence of tool making, hunting, and aquatic resource exploitation by 10,500 cal b.c. ; the shelters functioned as mortuary sites between 7600 and 2000 cal b.c. Early Holocene contexts contain stemmed and barbed bifaces as part of a tradition found broadly throughout the neotropics. After around 6000 cal b.c. , bifacial tools largely disappear from the record, likely reflecting a shift to increasing reliance on plant foods, around the same time that the earliest domesticates appear in the archaeological record in the neotropics. We suggest that people living in southern Belize maintained close ties with neighbors to the south during the Early Holocene, but lagged behind in innovating new crops and farming technologies during the Middle Holocene. Maize farming in Belize intensified between 2750–2050 cal b.c. as maize became a dietary staple, 1000–1300 years later than in South America. Overall, we argue from multiple lines of data that the Neotropics of Central and South America were an area of shared information and technologies that heavily influenced cultural developments in southeastern Mesoamerica during the Early and Middle Holocene.
  5. Introduced predators currently threaten endemic animals on Madagascar through predation, facilitation of human-led hunts, competition, and disease transmission, but the antiquity and past consequences of these introductions are poorly known. We use directly radiocarbon dated bones of introduced dogs ( Canis familiaris ) to test whether dogs could have aided human-led hunts of the island’s extinct megafauna. We compare carbon and nitrogen isotope data from the bone collagen of dogs and endemic “fosa” ( Cryptoprocta spp.) in central and southwestern Madagascar to test for competition between introduced and endemic predators. The distinct isotopic niches of dogs and fosa suggest that any past antagonistic relationship between these predators did not follow from predation or competition for shared prey. Radiocarbon dates confirm that dogs have been present on Madagascar for over a millennium and suggest that they at least briefly co-occurred with the island’s extinct megafauna, which included giant lemurs, elephant birds, and pygmy hippopotamuses. Today, dogs share a mutualism with pastoralists who also occasionally hunt endemic vertebrates, and similar behavior is reflected in deposits at several Malagasy paleontological sites that contain dog and livestock bones along with butchered bones of extinct megafauna and extant lemurs. Dogs on Madagascar have had amore »wide range of diets during the past millennium, but relatively high stable carbon isotope values suggest few individuals relied primarily on forest bushmeat. Our newly generated data suggest that dogs were part of a suite of animal introductions beginning over a millennium ago that coincided with widespread landscape transformation and megafaunal extinction.« less
  6. El cambio de la recolección de moluscos a la pesca como una estrategia primaria de forrajear costero pueda permitir las cazadores-recolectores a obtener más comida y asentar con poblaciones más altas. En las islas Channel más norteñas de California (NCI), después el desarrollo de los anzuelos hechos de piezas individuales de concha cerca de 2500 años calibrados ante de presente (cal BP), la dieta expandía de moluscos ante todo a incluir peces de cerca de la orilla en cantidades mayores. Durante la anomalía climática medieval (1150–600 cal BP), asentamiento en las islas condensaba a una cantidad pequeña de pueblos costales grandes con poblaciones de alta densidad apoyados por especies de pez de cerca de la orilla incluso de los rocotes, las mojarras y las señoritas. Datos faunales de cinco sitios de la región oeste de la Isla Santa Rosa (CA-SRI-15, -31, -97, -313 y -333) demuestran un aumento en la pesca cerca de la orilla a través del tiempo. Discutimos que cambios demográficos que ocurrían en la NCI eran acompañados por cambios en las estrategias subsistencias relacionadas en parte al riesgo de el fracaso cuando intentar a obtener recursos diferentes. Mientras la densidad de población aumentaba, la estrategia de bajomore »riesgo de cosechar los moluscos declinaba en importancia relativa y la estrategia del riesgo alto de la pesca cerca de la orilla aumentaba. Aunque ejemplos de múltiples estrategias de subsistencia simultáneos en comunidades de cazadores-recolectores están presentes en el registro etnográfico, este estudio proporciona una estructura a observar patrones semejantes en el registro arqueológico.« less
  7. Abstract Multiple lines of genetic and archaeological evidence suggest that there were major demographic changes in the terminal Late Pleistocene epoch and early Holocene epoch of sub-Saharan Africa 1–4 . Inferences about this period are challenging to make because demographic shifts in the past 5,000 years have obscured the structures of more ancient populations 3,5 . Here we present genome-wide ancient DNA data for six individuals from eastern and south-central Africa spanning the past approximately 18,000 years (doubling the time depth of sub-Saharan African ancient DNA), increase the data quality for 15 previously published ancient individuals and analyse these alongside data from 13 other published ancient individuals. The ancestry of the individuals in our study area can be modelled as a geographically structured mixture of three highly divergent source populations, probably reflecting Pleistocene interactions around 80–20 thousand years ago, including deeply diverged eastern and southern African lineages, plus a previously unappreciated ubiquitous distribution of ancestry that occurs in highest proportion today in central African rainforest hunter-gatherers. Once established, this structure remained highly stable, with limited long-range gene flow. These results provide a new line of genetic evidence in support of hypotheses that have emerged from archaeological analyses but remain contested, suggesting increasing regionalizationmore »at the end of the Pleistocene epoch.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 10, 2023
  8. Maize is a cultigen of global economic importance, but when it first became a staple grain in the Americas, was unknown and contested. Here, we report direct isotopic dietary evidence from 52 radiocarbon-dated human skeletons from two remarkably well-preserved rock-shelter contexts in the Maya Mountains of Belize spanning the past 10,000 years. Individuals dating before ~4700 calendar years before present (cal B.P.) show no clear evidence for the consumption of maize. Evidence for substantial maize consumption (~30% of total diet) appears in some individuals between 4700 and 4000 cal B.P. Isotopic evidence after 4000 cal B.P. indicates that maize became a persistently used staple grain comparable in dietary significance to later maize agriculturalists in the region (>70% of total diet). These data provide the earliest definitive evidence for maize as a staple grain in the Americas.