The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Renewed paleontological investigations in the Olteţ River Valley of Romania and the new paleontological locality of Râpa


1Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, 2Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, 3Geospeleology and Paleontology Department, "Emil Racovita" Institute of Speleology, 4Department of Biology & Medical Lab Technology, Bronx Community College, City University of New York

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Present evidence suggests that neither intrinsic nor extrinsic hypotheses can fully explain the initial hominin dispersal out of Africa in the early Pleistocene, although paleoenvironmental data suggest this dispersal may have been facilitated by climatic changes. Though the earliest hominins appear at Dmanisi, Georgia at ~1.85 Ma, well dated European hominins have not been recovered before 1.2 Ma (Sima del Elefante, Spain). Is this a true absence, perhaps due to ecological restrictions, or have hominins not yet been found in earlier European deposits despite their presence in this region?

To address these questions, we review existing data for early Pleistocene Romania and report the results of an initial survey of the Olteţ River Valley. This valley is the location of the richly fossiliferous early Pleistocene site of Grăunceanu. Fossils recovered at this site include the fossil papionin Paradolichopithecus arvernensis, which has been reconstructed as highly terrestrial and may have inhabited a niche similar to that of Australopithecus. Mode 1 stone tools are also reported from this area, though their validity is questionable, and interpretation of both paleontological and archaeological remains from this region is hindered by lost excavation records and poor dating. Our preliminary surveys identified a new site (Râpa) containing in situ fossils, including a partial mammoth skeleton. These remains, in addition to a new stratigraphic profile, allow us to document the context of fossil deposition in this valley, through which we assess whether hominin dispersal through this region during the early Pleistocene would have been possible.

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