During the first two weeks of July, I had the opportunity to visit the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) to microCT some Pleistocene human fossils from the sites of Gruta da Aroeira and Galeria de Cisterna. Both archaeological sites are located in the Almonda karstic system in Torres Novas, Portugal. My research stay was hosted by Prof. Manuel F. C. Pereira and Prof. António Maurício in the Laboratório de Mineralogia e Petrologia (LAMPIST) in the Centro de Recursos Naturais e Ambiente (CERENA) at IST where the microCT is housed.
Above: MicroCT we used to scan the fossils. Yes, that is a rubber chicken in the background.
Gruta da Aroeira is probably best known for the recent discovery of a ~400,000 year old (Middle Pleistocene) human cranium (Aroeira 3), but there are also two teeth (Aroeira 1 and 2) from older excavations that were published back in 2003. New analyses will focus on virtual approaches using the microCT scans we just produced. Analyses of internal tooth morphology will supplement what is already known from the earlier study of external morphology of these two teeth.
Above: Entrance to the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia where the fossils from Aroeira and Cisterna are curated. The temporary exhibit on "Idols" is fantastic.
There are very few Pleistocene human fossils from Portugal, and only some of them have been examined using virtual anthropological approaches so far. Relevant comparative data from Portugal is a Neandertal tooth from Gruta da Oliveira (also part of the Almonda karstic system) and the dentition from the Gravettian 'Lapedo Child' (Lagar Velho 1). The VAPP Project will also include analyses of human fossils from the Gruta do Caldeirão (Tomar) dated to the Solutrean and Magdalenian.
Above: A photo of the Museu Décio Thadeu—one of the geosciences museums at IST curated by Prof. Pereira.
References and further reading:
Gruta da Aroeira
John C. Willman
A place to find updates about my research.