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Τετάρτη, 29 Ιανουαρίου 2020

New Middle Palaeolithic sites from the Mani Peninsula

We here report the first results from a systematic research project in Mani (Southern Greece), which includes survey and test excavations. Forty-six caves, rockshelters and open-air sites in lowland settings were surveyed. Geomorphological data were collected in order to assess how geological processes affect the preservation of sites and bias site distribution patterns. Artifacts manufactured from non-local rock indicate potential raw material transfers and suggest links among the different regions of Mani, related to mobility patterns. Our research in the Mani has nearly doubled the number of known Middle Palaeolithic sites from the region and confirmed that the peninsula has the strongest ‘Neanderthal signal’ identified to date in Greece. Almost all sites are located at coastal areas. Despite the influence of Pleistocene landscape dynamics, this distribution emerges as a persistent pattern, perhaps indicating a preference for coastal locations. The Neanderthal occupation of Mani can illuminate important aspects of Middle Palaeolithic adaptation in one of the southernmost coastal regions of Europe.

Paleoanthropological research in Greece has been sparse despite the significance of the country’s geographic position; it lies directly on the likeliest route of dispersal from Africa and the Near East to Europe (Harvati et al. 2009), and thus is a logical place to look for evidence of such human migrations. It is also one of the three southern European peninsulas that acted as refugia for plant, animal, and likely also for human populations during glacial intervals (Tzedakis et al. 2002), and therefore a potential “biogeographical hotspot” or “source area” for European hominins (sensu Dennell et al. 2011). The last two decades have witnessed important advances in Greek Palaeolithic archaeology and palaeoanthropology (Darlas 2007; Harvati et al. 2009; Harvati in press) and these efforts have recently been accelerated by the establishment, in 2012, of a project entitled “Palaeoanthropology at the Gates of Europe: Human evolution in the Southern Balkans” (PaGE) (Harvati and Tourloukis 2013). PaGE is a five-year interdisciplinary project funded by the European Research Council (ERC STG283503) involving collaborative, intensive, geoarchaeologically- informed and target-oriented (cf. Tourloukis and Karkanas 2012) Palaeolithic/ palaeoanthropological fieldwork in Greece (see also Panagopoulou et al. 2015 and Konidaris et al., 2015). PaGE aims to systematically explore potentially informative areas, to identify new sites and to increase the number of hominin and Paleolithic findings from the region. The ultimate goal of the project is to shed light on crucial paleoanthropological questions about the earliest human dispersals into Europe, the possible late Neanderthal survival there, the earliest arrival of modern humans on the continent and the likely interaction between the two species. The Mani peninsula (Peloponnese), where Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites were already known, was one of the areas targeted for systematic investigation by the project. Here we report the findings of our 2012 surface survey in Mani, as well as the preliminary results of a test excavation at the Mavri Spilia cave in 2013 conducted jointly with the Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology and Speleology of Southern Greece (Greek Ministry of Culture).

The Mani is one of the regions with the highest concentration of Palaeolithic/ palaeoanthropological sites in Greece. It has yielded numerous localities with Middle and Upper Palaeolithic material, including three important excavated sites with human remains (FIG. 1): Kalamakia, a Middle Paleolithic cave, which has so far produced the largest assemblage of Neanderthal fossil specimens in Greece (Darlas and de Lumley 1998, 2004; Harvati et al. 2013); Lakonis cave, which preserves an extraordinarily high-density anthropogenic sequence, where a Neanderthal tooth was found associated with an Initial Upper Paleolithic industry (Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004; Harvati et al. 2003; Elefanti et al. 2008); and the Apidima cave complex, with two early Neanderthal crania probably dating to around the end of the Middle Pleistocene, as well as a proposed Upper Paleolithic burial (Pitsios 1999; Harvati et al. 2009,2011). Even though the excavation of these important sites has succeeded in demonstrating a long-standing presence of human groups in the area during the late Pleistocene, the Mani has not been investigated by systematic, intensive surface surveys, and large parts of the region remain unexplored. As a result, our understanding of the Pleistocene in the Mani remains fragmentary and mainly limited to the results produced by these three excavations.
The 2012 survey aimed at investigating the northwestern coast of the peninsula, which thus far had been unexplored and largely neglected. The research in the Mani had two main proximal goals. Our first goal was to identify new sites with secure stratified contexts that could be excavated and/or dated by means of relative or chronometric dating techniques, in order to construct a local chronostratigraphic framework.
As discussed at length elsewhere (Tourloukis2010), developing local and regional chronostratigraphic frameworks should be a primary research objective for Palaeolithic studies in Greece. Suffice it to note here that from a total of ca. 200 known Greek Middle Palaeolithic sites, no more than a dozen have yielded material associated with stratigraphic contexts and/or have been systematically excavated (Harvati et al. 2009). The second goal of the research was to construct an inventory of caves and cave systems regardless of whether or not they preserved archaeological remains, allowing inferences on how geomorphological processes affected the preservation of sites and thus, overall site distribution patterns (Tourloukis 2010).
Additional research questions, pertinent to the broader agenda of our research in the Mani, included the following. How do we understand patterns in site distribution, land use, lithic reduction sequences and assemblage composition when we compare the Middle Palaeolithic of the Mani with that of Epirus-the two most extensively researched areas in Greece that have yielded the highest densities of Palaeolithic remains? Do we see a pattern of land use centered on fixed points in the landscape, such as the fresh-water resources proposed for the Epirus sites (Runnels and van Andel 2003)?
Surface finds from last interglacial-terraces in the area of Elaea in the Mani (Reisch 1982) include some “Charentoid” elements that are thought to resemble technological features seen in Epirus (e.g., at Asprochaliko), in Anatolia (e.g., at Karain), in the Zagros Mousterian and at sites in the Balkans (e.g., Krapina, Creva Stijena, Mala Balanica, Velika Balanica) (Kozłowski 1992; Mihailovic´ 2009; Mihailovic´ and Bogic´evic´ in press). How do we interpret such similarities and differences in, for example, the use of elongated versus non-laminar blanks, the intensity in the utilization of lithic resources, or the synchronic and diachronic shifts in the use of Levallois to non-Levallois techniques and vice versa, at the local, regional, and interregional levels?
Materials from Mavri Spilia, Lakonis, Kalamakia, Apidima and Elaea should be compared to each other and with material from Klisoura in the Argolid. The record from the Mani should then be compared with that of Thessaly, Epirus or, even further, the central Balkans. Did the Mani peninsula serve as a refugium for hominins during cold periods (Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004) and, if so, could it be stated that Neanderthals survived here longer than in other areas of Greece/southeastern Europe; or, alternatively, were they displaced here from northern locations by the advancement of modern humans (Runnels 1995)?

Survey projects that focus exclusively on Palaeolithic remains are comparatively rare in the Balkans and the Mediterranean, whereas those specifically investigating the use of caves and rockshelters in the Pleistocene are also relatively limited (e.g., Cherry and Parkinson 2003). Diversities in research agendas, coupled by the high heterogeneity of the investigated regions, have resulted in different fieldwork strategies among projects (Alcock and Cherry 2004). The research methodology in the Mani was designed to suit the particular objectives of the investigation, in terms of a period- and landscape-specific survey. The field strategies followed guidelines of the wider methodological framework of the PaGE Project, which adopts a geoarchaeological perspective and considers landscape biographies as critical in interpreting archaeological patterning (Tourloukis 2010). Additionally, our site detection and documentation methods partly drew on analytical tools that have been successfully applied in previous relevant research in Greece (Runnels and van Andel 2003; Runnels et al. 2005; Strasser et al. 2010).
In general, the research design combined methodological approaches from both the “extensive” and the “intensive” survey traditions (Banning 2002). It was extensive in the sense that it examined period- and type-specific sites across a relatively large area, while it was intensive in pursuing a near-complete coverage of the area under study, putting an equal emphasis on “off-site” or “non-site” data collection. In line with previous perceptions about the overall character of the Palaeolithic records of Greece (Harvati et al.2009; Tourloukis and Karkanas 2012), it was deemed necessary to assess differential degrees of preservability and account for geological, geomorphological and palaeogeographic parameters that may have biased the nature and extent of site distributions.
In the broader Mani peninsula, the highest density of karstic features occurs along the coastline and at relatively low altitudes (Giannopoulos 1993–1994), while most of the known Paleolithic cave-sites are situated below 200 masl (Darlas 2012). Therefore, we limited the intensive survey to the coastal zone below the altitudinal level of 200 masl, covering the coastal area from Prosilio (north of Kardamyli) to the peninsula of Trachila in the south (FIG. 1). The accessibility to these karstic features was the next important criterion that largely directed our field strategies and ultimately constrained the type and number of localities inspected. In some instances, the density of the vegetation, the steepness of the topography and/or the location relative to sea level rendered potential sites inaccessible.
A total collection strategy was preferred for the surface finds at and in the immediate vicinity of the sites, e.g., at cave entrances or directly in front of rockshelters.
With regard to lithic and faunal material embedded in a sedimentary matrix (usually highly lithified deposits; see below), only representative samples were collected, in accordance with our research permits and the non-destructive character of the research design. At open-air artifact scatters we conducted systematic sampling with field walkers lined up at 5 m intervals, surveying along parallel transects to evaluate the depositional nature and density of the finds. However, due to poor surface visibility and disturbance from agricultural activities, any patterning was found to be biased; therefore, in these cases, we took a representative sample of the surface material.
The concept of “site” has long been debated among practitioners of archaeological survey in Mediterranean landscapes (e.g., Cherry 1983; Tartaron 2003). Ultimately, the site as a unit of observation varies greatly according to the aims of each project, the targeted period(s) and/or site types, the overall methodological framework, as well as the landscape where the survey is conducted. We applied a combination of both relative and absolute terms to define a site: survey units with more than 10 lithic artifacts per 50 sq m, regardless of whether or not these were surface or stratified finds; and survey units with≥10 stratified lithic artifacts and faunal remains (e.g., 6 lithics and 4 bones) per 50 sq m, provided that they occurred in close stratigraphic association. “Findspots” are survey units with isolated single finds or those with less than 10 lithic artifacts per 50 sq m. The distinction between sites and findspots was deemed necessary in order to limit and not exaggerate our site inventory with localities that yielded only a couple of isolated finds. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that this distinction does not remedy the problem of how to objectively evaluate find densities: an artifact density can be said to be high or lowin relation to the density of artifacts in the immediate vicinity, i.e., relative to the background distribution. However, surface scatters are usually palimpsests of material from different periods -a fact that hampers comparisons of artifact densities between a potential site and the locations around it with regard to one specific period (Cherry et al. 1988).
A survey form was used to record data at all surveyed units. Information entered in the form included: date; location and locality name; site code number and name; GPS coordinates; elevation; type of map where the site was plotted; orientation; metrical data (length/ width/height); geological context (deposit type, sedimentary characteristics, estimated depth and horizontal extent, and main occurrence of deposit in the site); tectonic features at or near the site; geomorphological setting and topography; coastline position; active vs. inactive karstic system; anthropogenic disturbance; erosion; archaeological visibility (percentage of vegetation vs. ground cover); and finds (preservation, typo-technological traits, cultural period). A specialized form was adapted for the preliminary study of the lithic material, which was carried out in the laboratory. Survey logs and photographic catalogues were kept daily, and the data from the survey forms were transferred to a digital database. All finds are stored in the facilities of the Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology of Southern Greece, at Athens.

Results Survey (2012)
In total, 46 caves, rockshelters and open-air sites were systematically surveyed and recorded. Palaeolithic evidence was found in 25 localities, 12 of which (nine sites and three findspots) yielded stratified material, while 13 (four sites and nine findspots) produced surface finds (TABLE 1). Notably, all sites with stratified finds include faunal remains contextually associated with the lithic artifacts; of these, Mavri Spilia, Kripia 1, 3 and 6, and Katafygi 3 and 5 preserve the thickest and/or most extensive archaeological deposits (FIG. 2).
Most of the documented caves and rockshelters, as well as the majority of those with stratified Palaeolithic material, were formed in marine Pliocene bedrock (TABLE 2). Caves and rockshelters formed in this type of bedrock are littoral features that have been shaped by successive transgressional episodes during the Plio-Pleistocene. Hence, they denote palaeo-coastlines, where sea level highstands created morphological notches inside the substrate; these notches were subsequently widened locally into larger concavities as a result of preferential erosion acting on the less consolidated sedimentary components.
Visible from the flat coastal plain, many cave systems were formed by these notches and appear as tiers or steps on the landscape at the transition to the limestone bedrock. In other instances, e.g., the cave/rockshelter complex at Kripia, the caves formed as a result of physical and chemical weathering of the bedrock by karstic processes.

Nevertheless, the karstic networks appear to be relatively underdeveloped in the areas with Pliocene bedrock. The next most frequent type of bedrock consists of white-grey, micro-brecciated limestones of Upper Senonian/Upper Eocene age. This is the bedrock type of the caves Katafygi 2 and Katafygi 5, caves, whose formation probably involved marine erosional processes. In brief, two main types of bedrock can be distinguished: the Senonian/Eocene platy limestone, which is very common in the caves of the Mani; and the Pliocene arenaceous/marly limestone, which belongs to the Neogene sequence of the Mani geotectonic unit. Regarding the manner in which the caves/ rockshelters were formed and developed, we identified three main processes: marine; karstic; and a combination of the two.
Artifact densities varied by the degree of archaeological visibility (i.e., mainly the density of vegetation cover), intensity of erosion and geomorphological setting. In many instances, the majority of artifacts were concentrated in low-gradient topographic depressions directly adjacent to caves, commonly in secondary positions after down-slope movement.
These scatters, usually located in olive groves, were situated immediately below limestone tiers where caves had formed; here, artifacts were found both widely scattered and in the form of high density clusters, but recent disturbance from agricultural practices and terracing of the coastal plain precluded the application of spatial analysis. Stratified artifacts and associated faunal remains were in most cases embedded in highly lithified and/or brecciated red clayey sediments; the latter were usually preserved discontinuously as sedimentary pockets adhering to the walls or the floors of the caves (FIG. 3).

From a total of 1046 lithic artifacts, 1010 were collected as surface finds from inside and directly in front of caves, as well as from the adjacent slopes and scarps located immediately below them. Thirty-six artifacts were collected either from within sections or were removed from the surface of lithified sediments.
Overall, the artifacts range in size from 0.5 to 6 cm long. The predominant raw material is a fine-grained black flint, followed by grey translucent flint, red radiolarite, quartzite, andesitic lava and quartz. On the basis of the typological and technological traits of the diagnostic pieces (TABLE 3, FIG. 4), the vast majority of the collected material can be attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic. Along with Levallois blanks and cores, Middle Palaeolithic retouched tools are mainly represented by side scrapers, end scrapers, piercers, denticulates and notches. Possible Upper Palaeolithic artifacts were found in most of the surveyed localities and include retouched blades and blade fragments, blade cores and end scrapers.
Bladelet cores and thumbnail scrapers may date to any period from the late Upper Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age, but some of the geometric microliths can be tentatively assigned to the late Upper Palaeolithic and to the Mesolithic. Neolithic artifacts are mostly represented by hafted pieces (e.g., sickle elements and tanged projectile points), while Bronze Age specimens are usually made on obsidian.

The sites with stratified Palaeolithic remains are located at elevations ≤ 50 masl and usually less than 500 m from the current coastline, if not directly on the coast (0–3 masl) (TABLE 2). This topographic distribution follows the general pattern described for the Mani, where most known sites are located at or near the coast (Darlas 2012). Caves and rockshelters with surface finds, or those that did not yield any cultural remains, do not show any significant correlation with topographic attributes, such as altitude or gradient.
The lack of archaeological evidence in low-lying areas is most likely the result of marine inundations, such as those that occurred during MIS 5 or during the Holocene. Likewise, karstic features situated at the middle reaches of rivers or adjacent to streambeds are highly susceptible to fluvial lateral erosion. Geomorphological indicators of the MIS 5e marine terrace (Eutyrrhenian) have been identified at ca. 40 masl (Kelletat and Gassert 1975), suggesting that most caves currently situated at ≤ 40 masl would have been affected by sea level rise, unless they were protected by talus cones sealing their entrances (as with the case of Kalamakia Cave) (Darlas 2012). This has important implications for the chronology of the preserved material. Darlas (2012) reports that all examined caves on the southern part of the western Mani (around the Oitilo Bay) (FIG. 1), especially those at 0–20 masl, were inundated by the Eutyrrhenian transgression, which washed out sediments; as a result, any preserved archaeological deposits most likely postdate the last interglacial (but see Harvati et al. 2011).
The geomorphology of our study area, which is a sub-basin formed on the footwall of a major fault that bounds the eastern margins of the Kalamata tectonic half-graben (Mariolakos et al. 1994), is more complicated. In contrast to the sub-basins of Oitilo and Mezapos further to the south, the Kardamyli sub-basin is relatively wide, formed parallel to the horst of the Taygetos Mountains and controlled mainly by north to northwest-trending major synthetic faults (Zelilidis and Kontopoulos 1999). Vertical tectonic movements throughout the Pliocene and Pleistocene promoted the deposition of marine sediments and braided deltas in subsided blocks, while subsequent uplift enabled the preservation of marine terrace sequences. In contrast to the southern Mani, where the narrow shelf and steep coastal cliffs did not allow the sea to intrude far inland during interglacials, the relatively wide shape of the Kardamyli subbasin resulted in transgressions reaching further onshore. Consequently, caves that are now situated inland might have been much closer to the shoreline and/or submerged during past interglacials, while others that are currently close to the coast would have been farther inland during glacials. The complexity of the area’s Pleistocene geodynamics is emphasized by the fact that the western edge of the Taygetos Mountains has been uplifted at a mean rate of 55 m/100 ka since the Middle Pleistocene (Fountoulis et al. in press), while the northernmost part of the Messenian Gulf was probably an emerged landmass during the Middle-Late Pleistocene (Mariolakos et al. 2001). Hence, the relief of our study-area would have been morphologically much different and topographically much smoother than that of today. Reconstructing the paleotopography of the area requires a thorough study of the complex relationships between semi-continuous tectonic movements and eustatic sea level changes (Kelletat and Gassert 1975; Kowalczyk et al. 1975; Mariolakos et al. 1994).

Test Excavations (2013)
The cave of Mavri Spilia (MS) yielded the greatest number of stratified finds and was therefore the site chosen for test excavations. Situated at ca. 800 m from the current coastline, MS is a shallow cavern in the breccio-conglomeratic bedrock of Pliocene arenaceous limestone (FIG. 5). It is part of an extended cave/ rockshelter complex along a morphological notch, which was most likely created by Plio-Pleistocene marine transgressions. At the cave’s entrance, over 200 lithic artifacts and faunal remains (many of them burned) were identified embedded in a 1.5 m thick lithified deposit. During the 2013 field season, four excavation areas were opened. The sediments were excavated with hammers and chisels by stratigraphic unit and in arbitrary 5 cm spits. Three-dimensional coordinates, inclination and orientation were recorded for finds > 2 cm, teeth and charcoal remains. Sediments were subsequently watersieved (2 mm mesh) and sorted, while the finds were conserved in the lab. Samples were also collected for palaeobotanical, micromorphological and dating analyses.
In all excavation sectors, Pleistocene anthropogenic deposits were found underlying the uppermost ca. 20–30 cm of loose overburden. The Pleistocene strata are composed of highly lithified, calcite-cemented and rubified clayey sediments, displaying clear bedding and at places even very fine stratification, which altogether confirms their undisturbed character. At Excavation Area C and Area A-North, highly-compacted layers rich in recrystallized ash and burned bones contained lithic artifacts and occasionally charcoal fragments, and can be interpreted as combustion features or hearth remains (FIG. 6). They are found not only as inter-layered facies sandwiched between other less-ashy anthropogenic units, but also as superimposed sequences; in either case, their presence further assures the stratigraphic integrity of the site.

Preliminary analysis of the MS lithics support the main conclusions drawn by the study of the surface collection: the excavated assemblages are assigned to the Middle Palaeolithic (FIG. 7); the lithic raw materials used are mainly black and grey translucent flint, and less frequently radiolarite, andesite and quartz. The black and the grey flint occurs in primary sources bedded on limestone bedrock that belongs to the Pindus nappe, but are also found as small to large pebbles inside the Viros Gorge near Kardamyli. Overall, the tool component is mainly produced on flake blanks which consistently appear in a form that indicates the use of small to mediumsized flint pebbles as raw materials. Both the Levallois and discoidal flaking techniques can be identified in the scar patterns of cores and debitage.
The Levallois component is represented by Levallois laminar, Levallois centripetal, bipolar recurrent and preferential methods. Scrapers predominate in the class of retouched tools and occasionally include examples with Quina retouch. In the current sample, most stages of the chaîne opératoire are represented, including flake and blade blanks, cores and retouched tools, cortical flakes, core rejuvenation flakes and micro-debitage (< 2 cm). So far, the lithic assemblage is still too limited to allow for meaningful comparisons with the Middle Palaeolithic assemblages from the Lakonis and Kalamakia cave sites. At this initial stage of research, all that can be stated with certainty is that the MS lithics fall well within the range of typological and technological variability that characterizes the Levallois-Mousterian industries of the Mani (Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004; Darlas and de Lumley 2004).
Noteworthy is the presence of a small number of tools manufactured on a porphyritic andesite known as “lapis lakedaemonius,” and which were carried to the site in finished form (FIG. 7: 4 and 13). This type of raw material, also collected during our survey at the Katafigi 3, Turkospilia and Riglia 2 sites, is also found at Kalamakia and, overwhelmingly, at Lakonis Cave on the eastern coast of the Mani.

Primary outcrops have been identified near the modern village of Krokees (FIG. 1), ca. 25 km from MS. However, since MS is separated from the primary sources by the Taygetos Mountains, the crossing of the mountains doubles the distance between the two (minimum ca. 50 km via modern asphalt roads crossing over the mountains), a relatively long distance by Middle Palaeolithic standards (Féblot-Augustins 1999). Nevertheless, at present we cannot rule out the possibility of raw material provisioning from other, nearby sources of volcanic rocks that have yet to be identified. Lithic specimens manufactured on non-local raw materials suggest links among the different regions of the Mani through lithic raw material transfers and provisioning strategies, processes directly related to mobility patterns.
The faunal remains from MS consist of 394 macrofaunal elements (>2 cm) that were plotted and recorded three-dimensionally. The analyzed sample includes a total of 338 bone and bone fragments and 56 teeth and tooth fragments. Of these, 57 specimens (14.5%) could be attributed to a specific skeletal or dental element, while the remaining fragments were unidentifiable. The most important characteristics of the faunal assemblage are the high degree of fragmentation and the high frequency of burned remains (FIG. 8).
Fragmentation decreases the percentage of the identifiable bones but it helps to determine the agencies responsible for bone collection and modification (Stiner 1994). The length of the bone elements from MS ranges from 0.3 cm to 7.5 cm, with a mean value of 3.2 cm. Furthermore, of the 338 bone elements the majority are splinters or shaft fragments, and only 15 (4.4%) are attributable to a specific skeletal element. Complete elements are rare and include a carpal of a carnivore, and a tarsal and a first phalanx of an artiodactyle, clearly demonstrating the highly fragmented nature of the bone assemblage.
Regarding the dental elements, although they are also fragmented, the diagnostic features permit a more precise determination. Of the 56 isolated tooth elements, 46 belong to medium-sized artiodactyles (5 complete ones), one canine of a canid and one molar of an ursid (FIG. 8).

Another significant feature of the faunal assemblage is the high frequency of burned elements. Of the 338 studied remains, 230 (68%) show signs of burning, while the percentage of the identifiable bones decreases to 40%. In contrast, the percentage of burned dental elements is rather low (12.5%). In general, the high degree of fragmentation (and resulting low percentage of identifiable bones), in combination with a high frequency of burned bones, is a common attribute of Middle Palaeolithic assemblages from the Mani and those from Klisoura cave in the Argolid (Darlas and de Lumley 1999; Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004; Darlas and Psathi 2008; Starkovich 2012). The faunal assemblage from MS fits this picture and we attribute the accumulation and modification of faunal remains to hominin activities.
Several remaining preliminary observations from the macroscopic analysis of the bones support this hypothesis. In total, 8 burned bone fragments have striations that probably represent cut-marks (FIG. 8: U), but further microscopic analyses are necessary to confirm this. Moreover, there are bone fragments with flaking scars and other morphological characteristics that strongly suggest deliberate breakages and modifications by Middle Palaeolithic hominins. Specifically, one specimen clearly displays unifacial detachments similar to flake scars, which are positioned at regular intervals along one of the lateral margins (FIG. 8: V). Detailed microscopic analysis is needed to confirm the anthropogenic character of the flake scars and whether or not this is actually the first bone tool to be reported from a Greek Middle Palaeolithic context.
Also, of interest are two burned artiodactyle mandibles (FIG. 8:S,T): the split base of the horizontal ramus from the tooth row exhibits a typical type of breakage pattern practiced by Mousterian hominins on ungulate mandibles for marrow extraction (Stiner 1994). Additionally, a burned and split artiodactyle astragalus is also indicative of hominin exploitation (FIG. 8:X,Y).
Finally, while carnivore remains are limited, carnivore modifications and gnaw marks are totally absent from the faunal specimens.
Preliminary taxonomic analysis indicates that most of the faunal material represents the remains of small to medium-sized bovids and cervids; among them Caprinae indet. and cf. Dama dama were identified. Carnivores are represented by the wolf Canis lupus, identified from isolated teeth and a few postcranial remains, while one isolated molar belongs to the bear Ursus sp. (FIG. 8). Of the identifiable specimens 93% belong to artiodactyles, while carnivores represent a mere 7% of the fauna.
In sum, the preliminary zooarchaeological analysis indicates a strong hominin involvement in the accumulation of bones and points to hominins as the primary agents in the obtainment, exploitation and modification of the faunal remains. The overall high degree of fragmentation and high density of burned elements, as well as the species representation at MS follow the general patterns that characterize the known faunal assemblages from excavated caves in the Mani, and further complements the general picture of animal exploitation in Middle Palaeolithic sites across the southeastern Mediterranean region.

Mavri Spilia is located at 38 masl and was in all likelihood inundated during MIS 5e, to which the marine terrace at ca. 40 masl has been attributed (Kelletat and Gassert 1975). Nevertheless, relatively thick Pleistocene deposits have been preserved at the cave entrance and inside the main chamber, even though a major erosional phase has dissected the sequence leaving a hanging remnant of it on the back wall of the cave (FIG. 9). It remains to be assessed which of these deposits post-date the MIS 5e and which, if any, might date to before the last interglacial. If the hanging remnant of artifact-bearing sediments at MS dates to, or pre-dates, the last interglacial, it can yield-for the first time in the Mani-invaluable information about early Mousterian lithic technologies, which are overall very rare in Greece. Lithic implements from those latter deposits could then be compared with assemblages from caves situated above ca. 40 masl that would potentially have been unaffected by the last interglacial marine transgression (e.g., Kardamyli 1 cave and Riglia 2 rockshelter).
Following Darlas (2012), it is reasonable to infer that most caves of the western Mani located at altitudes below ca. 40 masl preserve archaeological material younger than MIS 5e. In principle, however, earlier material may have been preserved embedded in highly cemented deposits, such as those at Mavri Spilia or at Apidima, which were able to withstand wave erosion and/or total inundation. As attested by our survey, wherever lithified deposits are encountered, they tend to contain lithic artifacts and/or fossils; conversely, caves and rockshelters without finds are commonly those devoid of lithified sediments. Therefore, the distribution of caves with archaeological remains is determined by the preservation of the relevant deposits, which in turn is largely controlled by the degree of sediment consolidation and resistance to erosion.
As a working hypothesis for future research, we suggest that the degree of lithification of artifactbearing sediments is influenced by the type of bedrock and the processes involved in cave formation.
The mechanical behavior of the parent material influences the type of karstification and the degree of sediment particle cohesion is in all likelihood controlled by the ratio of sand, clay and carbonate minerals. Other important factors that potentially affect (artifactbearing) sediment preservation involve the following: whether the cave is active or not (“active” is considered a cave with running water and/or growing speleothems); the type of deposit (e.g., breccia, conglomerate, mud-flow); the position and amount of groundwater flow, which in turn influences the depth of dissolution and karstification.
The aforementioned factors determine the preservation of artifact-bearing sediments not only at the sites, but also in the landscape as a whole, where longer-term and higher-magnitude processes, most prominently tectonic activity and eustatic changes, operate. For instance, tectonic activity creates faults and fractures that serve as zones of weakness, permitting dissolution and intensifying karstification.
Consequently, the evolution of karst systems and the depositional characteristics of individual caves or cave complexes depend on the relationships among tectonic movements, sea level changes, the geological substrate and paleotopography. These parameters control the extent to which artifact-yielding sediments have survived to the present. They also determine the areas that would have been available for exploitation and habitation. For instance, the regression of the sea during MIS 4 and 3 would have revealed new karstic features suitable for occupation, as well as a broader coastal belt with newly-emerged resources.
These sorts of geomorphological biases do not allow us at the moment to securely identify patterns of land use and site distributions in the Mani, and compare them with those attested at or suggested for other areas, such as Epirus. To this end, we need to take into account such factors in a landscape-scale model, which will potentially help us also to better comprehend patterns of lithic assemblage composition. The dating of stratified lithic material, such as that from MS, will further aid the task of evaluating intra- and inter-site lithic variability, thereby elucidating technological change in both synchronic and diachronic terms. Lithic assemblages that could prove to pre-date the last interglacial at MS are particularly interesting.
So far, there is only one excavated Middle Palaeolithic assemblage from Greece that dates to the Middle Pleistocene (Theopetra Cave in Thessaly; Karkanas et al. 2015), and the earliest part of the Greek Mousterian is virtually unknown.
Overall, based on a limited number of excavated sequences and chronologically framed with relatively few radiometric dates, the Middle Palaeolithic record of Greece remains inadequately understood. The Levallois method is omnipresent, albeit in various frequencies, but non-Levallois methods are almost equally frequently encountered (Kourtessi- Philippakis 1995; Papagianni 2000; Darlas 2007).
The most conspicuous characteristic of the Greek Middle Palaeolithic is a marked intra- and inter-site variability in lithic reduction strategies and a related morphological diversity in tool inventories (Harvati et al. 2009). This local and/or regional variability may result from time- or site-specific factors, while it may also reflect functional (task-related) variation, raw material constraints (quantity, quality, accessibility and form), different subsistence strategies, or demographic factors. Alternatively, it could be related to variations in the intensity of material procurement and maintenance or site use, which in turn rely on environmental factors and their effects on group mobility.
In this sense, some of the marked differences between the Middle Palaeolithic industries of Epirus and those of the Peloponnese (Papakonstantinou and Vasillopoulou 1997) may be mirroring a regional variability conditioned by the environmental diversity and the mosaic character of Greek landscapes (Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004). Similarly, industries from the Balkans comprise another quite variable group (Darlas and Mihailovic´ 2008; Mihailovic´ 2009). On the basis of the presence of certain Mousterian facies, such as the Charentian, the Greek Mousterian is thought to have some connections with the Balkan industries, the Levantine Mousterian, parts of the Anatolian industries and the Zagros Mousterian (Kozłowski 1992; Panagopoulou 1999; Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004). However, the exact nature of such links remains unclear, as the distribution of Middle Palaeolithic facies in space and time requires further inquiry. Comparisons between sites or regions based on the presence or absence of “fossil directeurs” are considered to be dubious, as has been demonstrated with regard to the Greek bifacial leafpoints or the “Asprochaliko flakes” (Papakonstantinou and Vassilopoulou 1997). On the other hand, technological data offer a more solid ground to assess temporal versus functional or cultural variability. Together with the available excavated lithic industries and surface collections, including new assemblages from the Mani such as those presented here, future analyses can shed light on Mousterian variability in Greece and potentially also on the broader context of Southeastern Europe.

Our recent research has nearly doubled the number of Palaeolithic sites from the region of Mani. It has confirmed that the peninsula has the strongest Neanderthal signal identified to date in Greece, suggesting a dense human presence in the region during the Middle Palaeolithic (Harvati et al. 2009, 2013; Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004; Darlas and Psathi in press). The fact that nearly all sites with stratified material identified in our survey are located in low-altitude coastal areas emerges as a persistent pattern, which suggests a hominin preference for locations close to the palaeo-shoreline. Nevertheless, emerging archaeological patterns have been filtered by landscape dynamics conditioned mainly by tectonics, topography and climate. The caves and rockshelters of the Mani are well-suited for assessing
Neanderthal subsistence strategies and mobility patterns-behavioral aspects that have been only partially investigated (Panagopoulou et al. 2002–2004; Richards et al. 2008; Darlas 2012). To explore such patterns in detail, the distribution of sites in the landscape must first be assessed. Considering the dramatic changes in relief and morphology that have occurred since the Middle Pleistocene, such an assessment requires evaluation of the combined effects of tectonic activity and sea level oscillations. The challenge of reconstructing a complex trajectory of landscape evolution is even more intriguing for sites such as Mavri Spilia, which was most likely inundated by the last interglacial transgression and yet it preserves relatively thick Pleistocene deposits. Supported by our survey results and the presence of non-local raw materials, the abundance of anthropogenic deposits at Mavri Spilia and its location in the landscape indicate that it must have played a significant role in the regional network of Palaeolithic sites. The assemblages from the Mani probably represent local behavioral responses to an array of local ecological conditions and constraints, but they also offer comparative data that can potentially elucidate patterns seen in the material culture of other areas. Unraveling the Neanderthal occupation of the Mani is expected to illuminate important aspects of Middle Palaeolithic adaptation in one of the southernmost regions of Europe.

Vangelis Tourloukis, Nicholas Thompson, Charalampos Garefalakis, Panagiotis Karkanas, George E. Konidaris, Eleni Panagopoulou & Katerina Harvati (2016):
New Middle Palaeolithic sites from the Mani Peninsula, Southern Greece
Journal of Field Archaeology

Acknowledgments. We are grateful to all PaGE team members for their contributions to the project.
Funding. This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC STG 283503 awarded to KH).
Vangelis Tourloukis (Ph.D. 2010, Leiden University) currently works as a post-doctoral researcher in the ERC-funded Project “Paleoanthropology at the Gates of Europe: Human Evolution in the Southern Balkans” (PaGE). He is responsible for the organization and execution of fieldwork and he is the field director of surveys and excavations conducted in the framework of the PaGE Project. His research interests include Palaeolithic archaeology, human evolution, geoarchaeology, lithic studies and human behavioral ecology.
Nicholas Thompson (M.A. 2003, University of Cincinnati) is a Ph.D. candidate at Friedrich- Alexander University of Erlangen-Nurnberg, Department of Early History and Prehistory and is currently sourcing lithic raw materials for the Paleolithic excavation of Klissoura Cave 1 in the NE Peloponnese. Having conducted archaeological field work extensively in the US, England, Cyprus, Albania, and Greece his interests include field research methods, experimental archaeology, lithic studies and photographic documentation of lithic artifacts.
Charalampos Garefalakis (Ph.D. 2009, University of Southampton) is an archaeologist at the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Athens, currently working at the Kifissia Archaeological Collection. He specializes in the study of Neanderthal lithic assemblages and has been a collaborator of the PaGE Project since 2012. His interests include Middle Palaeolithic site function and landscape use, as well as the relation between Neanderthal demography and climatic variability.
Panagiotis Karkanas (Ph.D. 1994, University of Athens) is currently the director of The Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory for Archaeological Science of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece. He has carried out geoarchaeological research in archaeological sites of almost all cultural periods and associated landscapes in Greece and has participated in international geoarchaeological projects in several countries outside Greece. His research interests encompass all aspects of geoarchaeology including site-formation processes, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, and techniques and methods related to petrography, mineralogy, sedimentary analysis, chemical analysis, and provenance studies.
George Konidaris (Ph.D. 2013, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) is a post-doctoral researcher in the PaGE Project. He is responsible for the fossil faunal remains. His research interests include vertebrate palaeontology, Neogene and Quaternary mammal fauna, taxonomy and evolution, biostratigraphy, biogeography and palaeoecology.
Eleni Panagopoulou (Ph.D. 1985, Columbia University) is the director of the Archaeology Department at the Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology of the Greek Ministry of Culture. She specializes in the analysis of palaeolithic and mesolithic lithic assemblages and has conducted excavations and surface surveys in several areas of Greece. She currently excavates the open air Lower Palaeolithic site of Marathousa 1 in Southern Greece. Besides paleolithic archaeology and lithic technology, her research interests include human evolution and Neanderthal behavior.
Katerina Harvati (Ph.D. 2001, City University of New York) is Professor of Paleoanthropology and Vice Speaker of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironments at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. She is the PI and director of the ERC Starting Grant project “Paleoanthropology at the Gates of Europe. Human Evolution in the Southern Balkans”. Harvati works on Pleistocene Homo, Neanderthal evolution and paleobiology, and modern human origins and dispersals.
ORCID George E. Konidaris http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7041-233X

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