Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution & Anthropology 

Life and Death at the Pestera cu Oase: A Setting for Modern Human Emergence in Europe

Series: Human Evolution Series

Edited By: Erik Trinkaus, Silviu Constantin and Joco Zilhco

528 pages, 70 colour & 176 b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press USA

Hardback | Nov 2012 | #197370 | ISBN-13: 9780195398229
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £105.00 $135 / €120 approx

About this book

The Pestera cu Oase is a sealed limestone cavern in southwestern Romania which served principally as a hibernation den for Pleistocene cave bears and wolves, but also contained the fossil remains of the earliest modern humans in Europe. Currently inaccessible except through cave diving and rock climbing, the cave preserved its contents undisturbed for tens of thousands of years. To understand the cave, its contents, the bear and wolves, and especially the humans, an international team mapped and excavated the Pestera cu Oase from 2002 to 2005, and has since analyzed its remains in detail. The result was a wealth of information on the geology and paleontology of this cave as a reflection of life in the southwestern Carpathians 40-50 thousand years ago.

This volume presents those findings. Among other things, the large cave bears provided the first solid evidence of the omnivorous nature of these not-so-gentle giants. The deer remains brought into the cave by wolves are among the largest known in Europe and document the westernmost extent of the eastern (wapiti) variant of this species. And the human remains, a complete lower jaw of a young adult and a largely complete skull of an adolescent, furhish detailed information on the anatomy of the earliet modern Europeans, who were modern without being fully modern. They combine an overall distinctly modern anatomy with traits reminescent of earlier archaic humans and among the largest rear molars in the genus Homo. They thus document the initial spread of modern humans into the cul-de-sac of Europe, the complex ancestry of those humans, and the ongoing nature of human evolution after the established of people like ourselves.


I. Introduction and Background
1. Introduction
2. Exploration and Documentation of the Pestera cu Oase
3. Problems, Approaches and Fieldwork: 2004-2005

II. The Cave and Its Contents
4. The Karst Geology of the Ponor-Plopa System in its Regional Context
5. The Ponor-Plopa Cave System: Description, Sediments, and Genesis
6. Uranium-Series Dating on Speleothems from the Pestera cu Oase
7. Electron Spin Resonance Dating of Vertebrate Remains from the Pestera cu Oase
8. Radiocarbon Dating of the Pestera cu Oase Faunal Remains
9. Rock Magnetic Data of Late Pleistocene sediments from the Pestera cu Oase and their Paleoclimatic Significance
10. The Distributions of Finds and Features

III. The Cave Bears 254
11. Cave Bear Paleontology and Paleobiology at the Pestera cu Oase: Fossil Population Structure and Size Variability
12. Taphonomic Analysis of the Cave Bear Remains from the Pestera cu Oase
13. An Ancient DNA Perspective on the Cave Bears from the Pestera cu Oase

IV. The Other Vertebrates 345
14. Hyena, Wolves and Foxes from the Pestera cu Oase
15. Small Mammal Remains from the Pestera cu Oase
16. The Ungulates from the Pestera cu Oase
17. Taphonomic Considerations of the Non-Ursid Vertebrate Remains
18. Stable Isotopes and Dietary Patterns of the Faunal Species from the Pestera cu Oase

V. The Human Remains
19. Radiocarbon Dating of the Pestera cu Oase Human Remains
20. The Human Mandible from the Pestera cu Oase, Oase 1
21. The Human Cranium from the Pestera cu Oase, Oase 2
22. Frontal Bone Contours of the Oase 2 Cranium
23. The Internal Cranial Morphology of Oase 2
24. The Dental and Alveolar Remains of Oase 1 and 2
25. The Oase 1 Human Stable Isotopes

VI. Discussion
26. The Paleoenvironmental Context of the Pestera cu Oase
27. Paleoanthropological Implications of the Pestera cu Oase and its Contents

VII. References

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Erik Trinkaus is a Professor of Anthropology at Washington University, who has been analyzing the late archaic and early modern fossil human remains since his doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania. He is concerned primarily with the changes in human biology that reflect the emergence of modern humans. Silviu Constantin is a geologist and senior researcher at the "Emil Racovita" Institute of Spelology. His research covers all aspects of physical speleology and karst geology with a special interest on U/Th dating of carbonates, analysis of sedimentary sequences in caves and paleoclimate reconstructions based on speleothems. Joao Zilhao is an archaeologist, currently ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona. His excavation and investigation work have primarily concerned the fate of the Neandertals, the origins of art and symbolic behavior, and the emergence of farming.

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