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Timing of the emergence of the Europe–Sicily bridge (40–17 cal ka BP) and its implications for the spread of modern humans

By
Fabrizio Antonioli
Fabrizio Antonioli
ENEA Casaccia Research Centre, Rome, Italy
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Valeria Lo Presti
Valeria Lo Presti
Earth and Marine Science Deptartment, Palermo University, Palermo, Italy
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Maurizio Gasparo Morticelli
Maurizio Gasparo Morticelli
Earth and Marine Science Deptartment, Palermo University, Palermo, Italy
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Laura Bonfiglio
Laura Bonfiglio
Fauna Museum, Department of Veterinary Science, Messina University, Messina, Italy
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Marcello A. Mannino
Marcello A. Mannino
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
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Maria Rita Palombo
Maria Rita Palombo
Earth Science Deptartment, Sapienza University of Roma, Rome, Italy
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Gianmaria Sannino
Gianmaria Sannino
ENEA Casaccia Research Centre, Rome, Italy
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Luigi Ferranti
Luigi Ferranti
DiSTAR, Earth Science, Environmental and Resources Department, University of Naples, Naples, Italy
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Stefano Furlani
Stefano Furlani
Mathematics and Geoscience Deptartment, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
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Kurt Lambeck
Kurt Lambeck
Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, AustraliaEcole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France
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Simonepietro Canese
Simonepietro Canese
ISPRA Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Rome, Italy
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Raimondo Catalano
Raimondo Catalano
Earth and Marine Science Deptartment, Palermo University, Palermo, Italy
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Francesco Latino Chiocci
Francesco Latino Chiocci
Earth Science Deptartment, Sapienza University of Roma, Rome, Italy
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Gabriella Mangano
Gabriella Mangano
Fauna Museum, Department of Veterinary Science, Messina University, Messina, Italy
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Giovanni Scicchitano
Giovanni Scicchitano
Studio Geologi Associati T.S.T., Catania, ItalyEarth and Marine Science Department, Catania University, Catania, Italy
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Renato Tonielli
Renato Tonielli
CNR IAMC, Calata Porta di Massa, Naples, Italy
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Published:
January 01, 2016

Abstract

The submerged sill in the Strait of Messina, which is located today at a minimum depth of 81 m below sea level (bsl), represents the only land connection between Sicily and mainland Italy (and thus Europe) during the last lowstand when the sea level locally stood at about 126 m bsl. Today, the sea crossing to Sicily, although it is less than 4 km at the narrowest point, faces hazardous sea conditions, made famous by the myth of Scylla and Charybdis. Through a multidisciplinary research project, we document the timing and mode of emergence of this land connection during the last 40 kyr. The integrated analysis takes into consideration morphobathymetric and lithological data, and relative sea-level change (both isostatic and tectonic), resulting in the hypothesis that a continental land bridge lasted for at least 500 years between 21.5 and 20 cal ka BP. The emergence may have occurred over an even longer time span if one allows for seafloor erosion by marine currents that have lowered the seabed since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Modelling of palaeotidal velocities shows that sea crossings when sea level was lower than present would have faced even stronger and more hazardous sea currents than today, supporting the hypothesis that earliest human entry into Sicily most probably took place on foot during the period when the sill emerged as dry land. This hypothesis is compared with an analysis of Pleistocene vertebrate faunas in Sicily and mainland Italy, including a new radiocarbon date on bone collagen of an Equus hydruntinus specimen from Grotta di San Teodoro (23–21 cal ka BP), the dispersal abilities of the various animal species involved, particularly their swimming abilities, and the Palaeolithic archaeological record, all of which support the hypothesis of a relatively late land-based colonization of Sicily by Homo sapiens.

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Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Geology and Archaeology: Submerged Landscapes of the Continental Shelf

J. Harff
J. Harff
University of Szczecin, Poland
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G. Bailey
G. Bailey
University of York, UK
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F. Lüth
F. Lüth
German Archaeological Institute, Germany
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Geological Society of London
Volume
411
ISBN electronic:
9781862396999
Publication date:
January 01, 2016

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