The Human Cranium from the Peştera Cioclovina Uscată, Romania: Context, Age, Taphonomy, Morphology, and Paleopathology
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Reanalysis and direct dating of an early modern human neurocranium from the Peştera Cioclovina Uscată (Cioclovina 1), in combination with excavation and reanalysis of the remaining deposits in the cave, establish Cioclovina 1 as one of a small number of European early modern humans securely dated prior to ca. 28,000 14C BP (ca. 32,500 cal BP). The original stratigraphic context and archeological association of Cioclovina 1 are unknown (and probably unknowable), but sedimentological analysis and dating of cave bear remains suggests substantial Late Pleistocene geological reworking of deposits within the cave, which probably altered its context prior to the mining operations which unearthed the neurocranium. The otherwise excellent (if incomplete) preservation of Cioclovina 1 raises questions as to what, if any, human behaviors resulted in its burial within the Peştera Cioclovina Uscată. Lesions are limited to the minor exocranial traumatic changes common among Late Pleistocene humans. Morphologically, Cioclovina 1 presents a suite of distinctive, derived modern human neurocranial features, associated with aspects of the superior nuchal morphology best known for European Neandertals, a mosaic pattern increasingly in evidence among early modern humans in Europe.