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New human fossil from the latest Pleistocene levels of Grotta Romanelli (Apulia, southern Italy)

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Grotta Romanelli can be counted among the most interesting sites for the late Upper Palaeolithic of the Mediterranean area, since returned a consistent record of lithic artefacts, faunal remains, mobiliary and parietal art, and human fossils which represent the least-known materials from the context. The resumption of the investigations in 2015, after 40 years of inactivity in the cave, provided relevant results. During the 2019 campaign, a distal phalanx of the hand was recovered in the so-called terre brune levels, providing for the first time a clear stratigraphic and chronological reference for the human fossils record of Grotta Romanelli. In addition to morphological description and age estimation, the new finding is here analyzed using 3D Micro-CT scans. The new human fossil confirms the exceptional richness of the paleoanthropological record of Grotta Romanelli, opening new avenues of investigation and posing crucial questions on the use of the cave and cultural practices at the Late Pleistocene-Holocene boundary.

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Fig. 1

from Forti et al. 2020); sedimentary succession of SS3 (c) and its stratigraphic log (d). Superior view of the digital model of the human phalanx RR1127 (center), reconstructed from microCT-scan. In different colors are reported two coronal sections, one near de distal end (upper left, green) and the other at the proximal end (lower left, yellow). In red is reported a mid-sagittal section (right) (e). RR1127 from Grotta Romanelli (f) in proximal (1), distal (2), anterior (3), dorsal (4), lateral (5), and medial (6) views

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The authors are thankful to the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio delle province di Brindisi, Lecce e Taranto (Maria Piccarreta, Laura Masiello and Serena Strafella) for authorizing the research and field activities (2015–2017 and 2018–2020, resp. R. Sardella). We are grateful to Castro municipality, the Capitanerie di Porto di Castro e di Otranto and Parco Naturale Regionale Costa Otranto S.M. di Leuca—Bosco di Tricase. We thank Rossella Bedini e Raffaella Pecci (Centro Nazionale di Tecnologie Innovative in Sanità Pubblica—Istituto Superiore di Sanità) for the digital acquisition of the human phalanx. We want to thank Ninì Ciccarese, Toto De Santis, Don Piero Frisullo, Luigi Fersini, Antonio Capraro, and Michele Rizzo for their continuous and precious logistic support. We are grateful to many colleagues that helped during the new fieldwork activities.


This work was supported by Grandi Scavi 2016 (ref. SA116154CD9592F3), Grandi Scavi 2017 (ref. SA11715C81468801), Grandi Scavi 2018 (ref. SA1181642D3B3C58), Grandi Scavi 2019 (ref. SA11916B513E7C4B), and Grandi Scavi 2020 (ref. SA120172B2C05E68) of Sapienza, University of Rome, resp. Raffaele Sardella.

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Correspondence to Alessio Iannucci.

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Mecozzi, B., Buzi, C., Iannucci, A. et al. New human fossil from the latest Pleistocene levels of Grotta Romanelli (Apulia, southern Italy). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 14, 27 (2022).

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