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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Anthropology news updates
    Posted: 10-Aug-2012 at 03:23
"...Left to right. Táin Bó Cúailnge, Beowulf, Iliad. Wikimedia Commons

Physicists study famous historical myths for hidden truths

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The truth behind some of the world’s most famous historical myths, including Homer’s epic, the Iliad, has been bolstered by two researchers who have analysed the relationships between the myths’ characters and compared them to real-life social networks.

In a study published in the journal EPL (Europhysics Letters), Pádraig Mac Carron and Ralph Kenna from Coventry University performed detailed text analyses of the Iliad, the English poem, Beowulf, and the Irish epic, the Táin Bó Cuailnge.

Comparing well known myths with works of fiction

They found that the interactions between the characters in all three myths were consistent with those seen in real-life social networks. Taking this further, the researchers compared the myths to four known works of fiction — Les Misérables, Richard III, Fellowship of the Ring, and Harry Potter — and found clear differences.

We can’t really comment so much on particular events. We’re not saying that this or that actually happened, or even that the individual people portrayed in the stories are real; we are saying that the overall society and interactions between characters seem realistic,” said Mac Carron.

Mapping character interaction

To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers created a database for each of the three stories and mapped out the characters’ interactions. There were 74 characters identified in Beowulf, 404 in the Táin and 716 in the Iliad.

Each character was assigned a number, or degree, based on how popular they were, or how many links they had to other characters. The researchers then measured how these degrees were distributed throughout the whole network.

The types of relationships that existed between the characters were also analysed using two specific criteria: friendliness and hostility....

Friendly links were made if characters were related, spoke to each other, spoke about one another or it is otherwise clear that they know each other amicably. Hostile links were made if two characters met in a conflict, or when a character clearly displayed animosity against somebody they know.

Similar to real-life networks

The three myths were shown to be similar to real-life networks as they had similar degree distributions, were assortative and vulnerable to targeted attack. Assortativity is the tendency of a character of a certain degree to interact with a character of similar popularity; being vulnerable to targeted attack means that if you remove one of the most popular characters, it leads to a breakdown of the whole network – neither of these appears to happen in fiction.

Of the three myths, the Táin is the least believed. But Mac Carron and Kenna found that its apparent artificiality can be traced back to only 6 of the 404 characters.

In terms of degree distributions, all three myths were like real social networks; this wasn’t the case for the fictional networks. Removing the eponymous protagonist from Beowulf also made that network assortative, like real networks.

“For the Táin we removed the ‘weak links’ associated with the top six most connected characters which had previously offset the degree distribution, this adjustment made the network assortative,” continued Mac Carron.

The researchers hypothesise that if the society of the Táin is to be believed, the top six characters are likely to have been fused together from other characters as the story passed orally through the generations.

The researchers acknowledge that there are elements of each of the myths that are clearly fantasy, such as the character Beowulf slaying a dragon; however, they stress they are looking at the society rather than specific events. Historical archaeological evidence has been interpreted as indicating that some elements of the myths, such as specific locations, landmarks and characters, are likely to have existed."..."http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/08/2012/physicists-study-famous-historical-myths-for-hidden-truths

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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 03:18

Flat-Faced Early Humans Confirmed—Lived Among Other Human Species

"...

New fossils recast a flat-faced oddity as a star species in the first chapter of the human storyperhaps even as our oldest known truly human ancestor.

At the least, the fossils confirm that at least three different human species inhabited the same Kenyan neighborhood at the dawn of humanity, according to a new study led by paleontologists Meave and Louise Leakey.

(Related: "Human Ancestor May Put Twist in Origin Story, New Studies Say.")

Consisting of a face, a complete lower jaw, and part of a second jaw, the new fossils were found east of Kenya's Lake Turkana between 2007 and 2009. The products of a 40-year search, they provide the needed evidence to confirm that a disputed skull found in 1972 does in fact represent a new species, the team says.

Dated to between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years ago, the remains were uncovered within six miles (ten kilometers) of the 1972 skull, which was discovered by Meave Leakey's husband, paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey...."http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/08/120808-human-evolution-fossils-homo-nature-science-meave-leakey-flat/

A hominid&amp;#x27;s jaw.

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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 17:52

Evidence The Sophisticated Carpentry Developed Alongside Agriculture During Neolithic Period


"...A new study from Tel Aviv University reveals that the transition from hunting to agricultural societies parallels development of woodworking tools.

Early man evolved from hunter-gather to farmer and agriculturalist during the Neolithic Age, from approximately 10,000 – 6,000 BCE. Neolithic man also began living in larger settlements with a variety of domesticated animals and plant life. This transition brought about significant changes in the economy, architecture, man’s relationship to the environment, and more.

Dr. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations, along with a team of colleagues, has shed new light on this milestone in human evolution. The study demonstrates a direct connection between the development of woodworking tools and an agricultural society.

Prior to the Neolithic period, no evidence has been found to suggest that tools were powerful enough to cut and carve wood, let alone fell trees. New evidence suggests that as the Neolithic age progressed, sophisticated carpentry developed alongside agriculture.

“Intensive woodworking and tree-felling was a phenomenon that only appeared with the onset of the major changes in human life, including the transition to agriculture and permanent villages,” says Dr. Barkai, whose research was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Working at the archeological site Motza, in the Judean hills, Dr. Barkai and his fellow researchers, Professor Rick Yerkes of Ohio State University and Dr. Hamudi Khalaily of the Israeli Antiquity Authority, unearthed evidence that increasing sophistication in terms of carpentry tools corresponds with increased agriculture and permanent settlements. This is the first time the use of functional tools in relation to woodworking in the Neolithic age has been studied in detail..."

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112673605/neolithic-carpentry-081012/

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2012 at 03:58

Evolution of Humans in Europe More Complex Than Previously Thought


Nothing is as simple as it looks, as the saying goes. And it seems to apply as well to the picture of how humans evolved in present-day Europe, if recent studies and advances in genetic research have any say. In a report just published in the Cell Press journal, Trends in Genetics, the authors maintain that advances in analytical techniques and genetic applications are up-ending long-held, simplistic views about European human evolutionary history. Findings and analyses are indicating that there were actually many climatic, demographic and cultural events and a diverse group of mechanisms that worked together over time to shape the genetic variation we see today among modern Europeans.

"We are currently at a stage in which next-generation sequencing technologies, ancient DNA analyses, and computer simulation modeling allow us to obtain a much more accurate and detailed perspective on the nature and timing of major prehistoric processes such as the colonization of Europe by modern humans, the survival of human populations during the Ice Age, the Neolithic transition, and the rise and fall of complex societies and empires," says author Dr. Ron Pinhasi of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. "These methods and technologies hold great potential to shed new light on past genetic variation, the onset of major cultural and technological changes that left their imprint on past and present genomes, and potentially on the impact of changes in lifestyle and demography on the appearance of certain diseases and genetic disorders." 

Following the height of the Ice Age (from 27,000 to 16,000 years ago), hunter-gatherer groups began to re-populate most parts of Europe. Then, about 8,000 years ago, farming populations began to make their presence on the continent during the "Neolithic transition". For several thousand years, two distinctly different modes of life coexisted across Europe: hunter-gatherer populations, relying on food resources obtained in the wild, and farming populations, practicing domesticated crops, livestock, pottery-making, housing, and storage techniques.

It has long been theorized that European human genetic diversity formed during the Neolithic transition; But now, scientists (at least those involved in this report) suggest that it was also shaped before and after the transition. In addition, they write, the expansion of farming is likely to have varied by region, resulting in a more complex mix of farmers' and local hunter-gatherers' genetic contributions to European populations.........

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/june-2012/article/evolution-of-humans-in-europe-more-complex-than-previously-thought




Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 15-Aug-2012 at 04:02
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Aug-2012 at 20:11

Renaissance Women Fought Men, and Won

A three-year study into a set of manuscripts compiled and written by one of Britain's earliest feminist figures has revealed new insights into how women challenged male authority in the 17th century.

Dr Jessica Malay has painstakingly transcribed Lady Anne Clifford's 600,000-word Great Books of Record, which documents the trials and triumphs of the female aristocrat's family dynasty over six centuries and her bitter battle to inherit castles and villages across northern England.

Lady Anne, who lived from 1590 to 1676, was, in her childhood, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. Her father died when she was 15 but contrary to an agreement that stretched back to the time of Edward II -- that the Clifford's vast estates in Cumbria and Yorkshire should pass to the eldest heir whether male or female ­- the lands were handed over to her uncle.

Following an epic legal struggle in which she defied her father, both her husbands, King James I and Oliver Cromwell, Lady Anne finally took possession of the estates, which included the five castles of Skipton, where she was born, Brougham, Brough, Pendragon and Appleby, aged 53.

Malay, a Reader in English Literature at the University of Huddersfield, is set to publish a new, complete edition of Lady Anne's Great Books of Record, which contains rich narrative evidence of how women circumvented male authority in order to participate more fully in society.

Malay said: "Lady Anne's Great Books of Record challenge the notion that women in the 16th and 17th centuries lacked any power or control over their own lives.

"There is this misplaced idea that the feminist movement is predominantly a 1960s invention but debates and campaigns over women's rights and equality stretch back to the Middle Ages."

The Great Books of Record comprise three volumes, the last of which came up for auction in 2003. The Cumbria Archives bought the third set and now house all three. In 2010, Malay secured a £158,000 grant from the Leverhulme Trust to study the texts........

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120814130059.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2012 at 18:31

SKULL RESETS HUMAN MIGRATION CLOCK

Fragments of a human skull found in Laos suggest humans had a single, rapid migration to Asia.


A reconstruction of the human skull discovered in Tam Pa Ling.

THE GIST
  • A skull found in Laos suggests human migrated to southern Asia 20,000 years earlier than thought.
  • The discovery suggests that the first modern humans to leave Africa spread around the world much earlier.


Newfound pieces of human skull from "the Cave of the Monkeys" in Laos are the earliest skeletal evidence yet that humans once had an ancient, rapid migration to Asia.

Anatomically modern humans first arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa. When and how our lineage then dispersed out of Africa has long proven controversial.

Archaeological evidence and genetic data suggest thatmodern humans rapidly migrated out of Africa and into Southeast Asia by at least 60,000 years ago. However, complicating this notion is the notable absence of fossil evidence for modern human occupation in mainland Southeast Asia, likely because those bones do not survive well in the warm, tropical region.......

http://news.discovery.com/human/skull-human-migration-asia-120820.html#mkcpgn=rssnws1



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 20-Aug-2012 at 18:37
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Aug-2012 at 19:14

Generation Gaps Suggest Ancient Human-Ape Split

We aren’t the only primates with a big generation gap. Human parents are, on average, a whopping 29 years older than their kids. That had been considered unusually long for a primate, but a new study reveals that chimpanzees and gorillas have their own large generation gaps, about 25 years and 19 years, respectively. The findings also indicate that our ancestors split from those of chimpanzees at least 7 million to 8 million years ago, more than 1 million years earlier than previously thought.

For the past 45 years, geneticists have suggested that the ancestors of today's humans and chimps went their separate ways about 4 million to 6 million years ago, and the ancestors of gorillas diverged about 7 million to 9 million years ago. There are almost no fossils of chimps and gorillas, however, so these dates were calculated by counting the number of DNA sequence differences between the three species and dividing that number by an estimated "mutation rate" for primates—or how fast mutations arise over time. The problem is that scientists often calculate the mutation rate using dates from fossils of other primate species, then applying this rate to the African apes and humans. The approach is subject to error because it relies on the accuracy of the ages of fossils and assumes that mutation rates are similar across ape species.

There is a better way, says molecular anthropologist Linda Vigilant of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Instead of looking at fossils and other primates, she says, researchers can use data from recent genome sequencing in humans, which estimates more precisely the average number of mutations that arise per generation in human families. Then, scientists can use the new generation time estimates to derive the yearly mutation rates in humans and apes to calculate how long ago the lineages split. Until recently, however, researchers didn’t have DNA samples from enough chimps and other primates in the wild to prove paternity so that they could calculate average generation times accurately........

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/08/generation-gaps-suggest-ancient.html?ref=hp

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2012 at 11:45

Research verifies a Neandertal's right-handedness, hinting at language capacity

There are precious few Neandertal skeletons available to science. One of the more complete was discovered in 1957 in France, roughly 900 yards away from the famous Lascaux Cave. That skeleton was dubbed "Regourdou." Then, about two decades ago, researchers examined Regourdou's arm bones and theorized that he had been right-handed.
"This skeleton had a mandible and parts of the skeleton below the neck," said David Frayer, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas. "Twenty-plus years ago, some people studied the skeleton and argued that it was a right-handed individual based on the muscularity of the right arm versus the left arm." Handedness, a uniquely human trait, signals brain lateralization, where each of the brain's two hemispheres is specialized. The left brain controls the right side of the body and in a human plays a primary role for language. So, if Neandertals were primarily right-handed, like modern humans, that fact could suggest a capacity for language. Now, a new investigation by Frayer and an international team led by Virginie Volpato of the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, has confirmed Regourdou's right-handedness by looking more closely at the robustness of the arms and shoulders, and comparing it with scratches on his teeth. Their findings are published today in the journal PLOS ONE. "We've been studying scratch marks on Neandertal teeth, but in all cases they were isolated teeth, or teeth in mandibles not directly associated with skeletal material," said Frayer. "This is the first time we can check the pattern that's seen in the teeth with the pattern that's seen in the arms. We did more sophisticated analysis of the arms—the collarbone, the humerus, the radius and the ulna—because we have them on both sides. And we looked at cortical thickness and other biomechanical measurements. All of them confirmed that everything was more robust on the right side then the left." Frayer said Neandertals used their mouths like a "third hand" and that produced more wear and tear on the front teeth than their back ones. "It's long been known the Neandertals had been heavily processing things with their incisors and canines," he said. Frayer's research on Regourdou's teeth confirmed the individual's right-handedness. "We looked at the cut marks on the lower incisors and canines," said the KU researcher. "The marks that are on the lip side of the incisor teeth are oblique, or angled in such away that it indicates they were gripping with the left hand and cutting with the right, and every now and then they'd hit the teeth and leave these scratch marks that were there for the life of the individual." Frayer said that the research on Regourdou shows that 89 percent of European Neandertal fossils (16 of 18) showed clear preference for their right hands. This is very similar to the prevalence of right-handers in modern human populations—about 90 percent of people alive today favor their right hands. Frayer and his co-authors conclude that such ratios suggest a Neandertal capacity for language. "The long-known connection between brain asymmetry, handedness and language in living populations serves as a proxy for estimating brain lateralization in the fossil record and the likelihood of language capacity in fossils," they write.
http://phys.org/news/2012-08-neandertal-right-handedness-hinting-language-capacity.html
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Aug-2012 at 09:20

Peer Pressure Starts Early

This may come as painful news to parents: toddlers are more likely to copy the actions of a crowd than those performed by one person, according to new research in Current Biology.

“When we think of peer pressure, we think of teenagers and the reasons they startsmoking or drinking,” says Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Institute for EvolutionaryAnthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “We don't necessarily think of two-year-olds as being under peer pressure. But it turns out they are.”

To investigate peer pressure's origins, Haun observed human toddlers and chimpanzees as they learned a simple task: placing a ball into one of three boxes. First the subjects watched other members of their species do it—both as one individual placed a ball three times into one box and as three individuals placed one ball each into a second box.

When it was the observer's turn, both humans and chimps tended to choose the box that was used by the majority. The chimps were even more prone than the children to copy the group. This tendency to conform might have provided an evolutionary benefit that helped humans learn new skills and avoid dangers. “If you know nothing, following the majority isn't a bad strategy,” Haun says.

Haun now wants to see if chimps and toddlers, when performing a familiar task, might switch their behavior to fit with the majority, even if they know that the group is wrong. Such behavior has been observed in older children, although whether it serves any evolutionary advantage is less obvious.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=peer-pressure-starts-early


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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2012 at 07:34

Alexandria dig uncovers graves, traces of African-American community

ALEXANDRIA -- If you come to Fort Ward Park in Alexandria, you'll see people running or walking their dogs and taking advantage of this open space.

Fort Ward was built by the Union Army to protect Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. Now it's a historic site. But an archaeological dig at the park identified the location of 43 graves, confirming that a portion of the grounds was once used as a cemetery.

The dig also found the site of what was once the "Fort Community," a post-Civil War, African-American community that was occupied until the 1960s.

"We've been working since 2009 after it was brought to the city's attention that there may be some unmarked graves in the park, "says Lance Mallemo, the Historic Alexandra Office director.

He says a shovel test survey was done across the park on the 30 to 35 acres that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

About 1,300 small holes were dug. They were each about two to four feet in diameter and up to four feet deep and they were dug every 30 feet, says Mallemo.

The small holes acted like windows into the past. He says the holes gave archaeologists an idea if they could identify an area of significance.

He says the 43 graves that were found in the park will be fenced off and all the graves, for now, will have blank markers. He says when, and if, the remains are identified, the person's name will be added along with any other information that is discovered.

Mallemo says the dig is considered finished but more work could be done as part of a park management plan that's being prepared.

The plan will protect resources for the future. He says the plan is needed to avoid putting a picnic table in a burial area, for example.

He says there's a policy in place that prevents digging in the park unless an additional survey or review is done in that area first.

http://www.wtop.com/134/3017653/Alexandria-dig-uncovers-historic-graves

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Sep-2012 at 01:14

Study: Peking Man an isolated population


3D laser scanning and the accurate measurement of parietal area (ZKD 3).

Paleoanthropologists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, used both traditional metrics and recently developed 3D scanning techniques to explore the morphological variations of Peking Man's skulls at Zhoukoudian Locality 1, and found that the skull of the latest inhabitant did increase in every direction as compared to the earliest inhabitant, but the shape remained relatively stable. The slow evolutionary rates derived from11 cranial measurements indicate Peking Man is an isolated population. Researchers reported in the latest issue of Acta Anthropologica Sinica 2012 (3). Peking Man is a collective name given to a group of hominid fossils found at Zhoukoudian in the suburbs of Beijing. Six skulls from Peking Man were discovered at Zhoukoudian Locality 1 since the official excavation in 1927. In 1941, Pere Teilhard de Chardin emphasized the morphological stability of Homo erectus from Zhoukoudian throughout the 50 meters of sediments of Locality 1. He believed that not a single anatomical difference could be detected between the skull remains found at the very bottom of the deposit and those collected at the very top. This morphological stability was evidence of a slowness that characterized biological evolution whenever not obscured, disturbed or accelerated by the intrusive immigration of foreign elements. This morphological stability was challenged when skull ZKD 5 was described which was estimated about 300,000 years younger than the skull ZKD 3 from the bottom deposits. The morphological variations of skulls between the probable first and last inhabitants, represented by ZKD 3 and ZKD 5, were scaled by those between NJ 1 and NJ 2 skulls from Nanjing, whose owners probably spent the same duration as ZKD 3 and 5. After comparison, researchers found that the skull of the latest (or top) inhabitant at Zhoukoudian Locality 1 increased in every direction as compared to the earliest (or bottom) inhabitant, while the shape somehow remained relatively stable after hundreds of thousand years of evolution. "We used 11 cranial measurements to determine evolutionary rates of Homo erectus from Zhoukoudian and Nanjing. The results show that biological evolutionary rate is very slow, compared with that of hominid from Nanjing. The Homo erectus crania from Zhoukoudian may represent an isolated population, and as a result, lacked evidence of gene flow from outside populations", said first author XING Song of the IVPP.
http://phys.org/news/2012-09-peking-isolated-population.html


Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 13-Sep-2012 at 01:17
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 11:37
This certainly goes against what was earlier believed to have happened, and readjusted the time line by a good few thousands of years.

Extensive DNA Study Sheds Light on Modern Human Origins


DNA analysis of southern African groups shows an early diversification with implications for the evolution of early modern humans.

A new study of human genetic variation in sub-Saharan Africa, where modern Homo sapiens are believed to have originated, helps to reveal the region's rich genetic history, with implications for understanding the complexity of early modern human evolution.

The largest genomic study ever conducted among the Khoe and San population groups in southern Africa reveals that these groups are descendants of the earliest diversification event in the history of all humans - some 100,000 years ago, well before the largely accepted  'out-of-Africa' migration date range of modern humans.

Some 220 individuals from different regions in southern Africa participated in the research, leading to the analysis of around 2.3 million DNA variants per individual – the largest such study ever conducted.

The research was conducted by a group of international scientists, including Dr. Carina Schlebusch and Assistant Professor Mattias Jakobsson from Uppsala University in Sweden and Professor Himla Soodyall from the Human Genomic Diversity and Disease Research Unit in the Health Faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

"The deepest divergence of all living people occurred some 100,000 years ago, well before modern humans migrated out of Africa and about twice as old as the divergences of central African Pygmies and East African hunter-gatherers and from other African groups," says lead author Dr Carina Schlebusch, a Wits University PhD-graduate now conducting post-doctoral research at Uppsala University in Sweden.

According to her colleague Matthias Jakobsson, these deep divergences among African populations have important implications and consequences when the history of all humankind is deciphered. The deep structure and patterns of genetic variation suggest a complex population history of the peoples of Africa. "The human population has been structured for a long time," says Jakobsson, "and it is possible that modern humans emerged from a non-homogeneous group.".......

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/september-2012/article/extensive-dna-study-sheds-light-on-modern-human-origins


 


Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 22-Sep-2012 at 11:48
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 12:43
Does the adorning of oneself show self awareness? I cannot readily think of a good reason for Neanderthals to have done so without this ability.

Neanderthals Wore Feathers As Ornamentation, Bird Fossil Study Suggests


Artist's impression of a Neanderthal with feathers

A new analysis of bird bones at Neanderthal sites suggests our extinct human cousins adorned themselves with dark feathers plucked from vultures, jackdaws, eagles and other species.

The study is the latest to challenge the notion that symbolic behavior, like creating art and body decorations, was exclusive to modern humans.

A team of scientists led by researchers at the Gibraltar Museum examined 1,699 sites across Eurasia for evidence of birds and Neanderthals living side-by-side. There was a clear association between Neanderthal occupation and the remains of raptor and corvid species, the researchers reported Monday (Sept. 17) in the journal PLoS ONE.

The team then looked at 604 bird bones from three different Neanderthal sites in Gibraltar (Gorham's Cave, Vanguard Cave and Ibex Cave). Several of the bones showed clear cut-marks made by Neanderthal stone tools, and more than half (337) were wing bones — a finding that the researchers say isn't random.

Wing bones are low in meat compared with other parts of the birds, which suggests the Neanderthals weren't collecting these animals for food, but rather intentionally harvesting them for their feathers.

"This activity was clearly related to the extraction of the largest, most durable, and arguably most visually striking, elements of a bird's plumage," the researchers wrote.

Previous research at another Neanderthal site, Grotta di Fumane in Italy, found peeling and scraping marks on bird bones that would have been useless for food purposes; as such the researchers suggested in their 2011 paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that Neanderthals were using the colorful feathers from various bird species for symbolic reasons, such as wearing them for decoration.

The new PLoS ONE study also could shed light on the feather fashion preferences of the Neanderthals. The researchers found a "clear over-representation" of birds with dark feathers in sites where there was evidence of ancient humans.

Use of ornaments suggests complex thinking, and the authors of the paper write that their findings assign "unprecedented cognitive abilities to these hominins."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/neanderthals-feathers-ornamentation-bird-fossil_n_1897509.html?utm_hp_ref=archaeology



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 22-Sep-2012 at 12:46
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 19:30

Humans hunted for meat 2 million years ago

Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought

Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest and other large animals at least two million years ago. The discovery – made by anthropologist Professor Henry Bunn of Wisconsin University – pushes back the definitive date for the beginning of systematic human hunting by hundreds of thousands of years.

Two million years ago, our human ancestors were small-brained apemen and in the past many scientists have assumed the meat they ate had been gathered from animals that had died from natural causes or had been left behind by lions, leopards and other carnivores.

But Bunn argues that our apemen ancestors, although primitive and fairly puny, were capable of ambushing herds of large animals after carefully selecting individuals for slaughter. The appearance of this skill so early in our evolutionary past has key implications for the development of human intellect.

"We know that humans ate meat two million years ago," said Bunn, who was speaking in Bordeaux at the annual meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). "What was not clear was the source of that meat. However, we have compared the type of prey killed by lions and leopards today with the type of prey selected by humans in those days. This has shown that men and women could not have been taking kill from other animals or eating those that had died of natural causes. They were selecting and killing what they wanted."

That finding has major implications, he added. "Until now the oldest, unambiguous evidence of human hunting has come from a 400,000-year-old site in Germany where horses were clearly being speared and their flesh eaten. We have now pushed that date back to around two million years ago."

The hunting instinct of early humans is a controversial subject. In the first half of the 20th century, many scientists argued that our ancestors' urge to hunt and kill drove us to develop spears and axes and to evolve bigger and bigger brains in order to handle these increasingly complex weapons. Extreme violence is in our nature, it was argued by fossil experts such as Raymond Dart and writers like Robert Ardrey, whose book African Genesis on the subject was particularly influential. By the 80s, the idea had run out of favour, and scientists argued that our larger brains evolved mainly to help us co-operate with each other. We developed language and other skills that helped us maintain complex societies.

"I don't disagree with this scenario," said Bunn. "But it has led us to downplay the hunting abilities of our early ancestors. People have dismissed them as mere scavengers and I don't think that looks right any more."

In his study, Bunn and his colleagues looked at a huge butchery site in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The carcasses of wildebeest, antelopes and gazelles were brought there by ancient humans, most probably members of the species Homo habilis, more than 1.8 million years ago. The meat was then stripped from the animals' bones and eaten.........

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/sep/23/human-hunting-evolution-2million-years?CMP=twt_fd


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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 20:34

Why humans have evolved so fast

What explains the extraordinarily fast rate of evolution in the human lineage over the past two million years?

A leading human origins researcher has come up with an idea that involves aggression between groups and the boom-bust cycles that have punctuated our spread into new environments.

Prof Ian Tattersall said there were few examples to rival the accelerated evolution that led to our species.

He was speaking at this year's Calpe conference in Gibraltar.

"However you slice it, evolution within this [human family] has been very rapid indeed," Prof Tattersall, from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, told the conference.

"I think it's fair to say that our species Homo sapiens and its antecedents have come much farther, much faster than any other mammalian group that has been documented in this very tight time-frame."

This phenomenon of accelerated evolution is known as "tachytely".

Among our ancestors, brain size doubled between two million and one million years ago. Then it has almost doubled again between one million years and the present day.

Along with the increase in brain size came a reduction in the size of the teeth and face along with other changes in the skull.

The increase in brain size seems to have coincided with a modern physique characterised by a linear shape, long legs and relatively narrow hips. These features can already be seen in the skeleton of the "Turkana boy" from Kenya, who lived about two million years ago.

This contrasts sharply with the short legs and long arms of the Turkana boy's antecedent "Lucy" (Australopithecus afarensis), who lived in Ethiopia about one million years earlier.

Radical shift

Such fast change is not seen among apes, and while Prof Tattersall acknowledges the importance of the move our ancestors made from a tree-dwelling, to a ground-dwelling existence - something which has not affected our primate cousins - he says it is not enough to explain what is observed.

"Clearly the definitive abandonment of dependence on trees... has to count as one of the most radical shifts in adaptive zone ever made by any vertebrate since the very first tetrapod heaved itself out of water and on to terra firma," he said.

"Under natural conditions, it is very hard to see how the initial invasion of a new ecozone by hominids could have so consistently driven rapid change over the long period of time that we're talking about."

Human culture was probably the special, consistently present ingredient that drove the continuing fast pace of change in our lineage after we left the forests, said Prof Tattersall, but not in the way that some other researchers have proposed.

Certain evolutionary psychologists have popularised a model in which culture and brain complexity spurred each other on to greater heights in humans.

But Prof Tattersall said the way our technology transformed in fits and starts, along with the way these changes were often separated from biological evolution, meant this idea was not as good a fit for what is seen in the archaeological and fossil records.

Aggression between small, distinct human groups in the past is one of the major remaining agents of such changes, he said.

"Inter-group conflict would certainly have placed a premium on such correlates of neural function as planning and throwing," Prof Tattersall explained..........
http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/why-humans-have-evolved-so-fast.html#.UF5YN7JlTA0
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Sep-2012 at 07:52

Tracing the development of play in Scotland

An ideal childhood is generally considered to be a carefree one, full of play. The Scottish Parliament recently heard a call from a campaign group for there to be a legal right to play.

But when did the idea of play, as opposed to children just playing, become so important?

"I like playing outdoor games lots," says nine-year-old Kate. "And I also like playing imaginary games, just with a few toys or animals or dolls, or something like that.

"If you have lots of work and no play, you're going to be very dull and you won't have any fun."

But when did an idea of play as being important in itself come to the fore?

Professor Robert Davis of Glasgow University says that while children have always played wherever and whenever they are living, there was a real change in thinking towards the end of the 18th Century.

"The concept of children's play as being something defining about childhood itself receives far greater attention," he said.

"We started to prize childhood in a special way, as a phase in the development of human beings it was vital to protect for the future wellbeing of every individual."

These ideas were influential in the embryonic early-education movement, and were famously put into practice in a small settlement in South Lanarkshire.

New Lanark may be busy with tourists and a couple of chattering school parties on the day of my visit, but 200 years ago it was a cotton mill and village.

It is now a World Heritage Site in recognition of the huge influence it had on ideas about how people should be treated at work and what a decent childhood involved.

Under the management of the social pioneer Robert Owen, children were not allowed to work in the mill until they were 10 years old - quite a contrast to what was happening elsewhere in the 19th Century. He believed everyone had the right to education and recreation.

Lorna Davidson, the director of the New Lanark Trust, said the regime was much more concerned with children as little human beings rather seeing them as being "like any other machines".

She said the forecourt outside The Institute for the Formation of Character had been the world's first playground, and that time was built in for exercising and drilling during the day.

"Now if you think that it wasn't until the 1870s that they finally passed legislation to stop young children being used as chimney sweeps, you can see that Robert Owen was around half a century ahead of his time," she says.

"He very much recognised the importance of playing out in the fresh air, of children enjoying themselves."

The playgrounds of today are of course very different places. For instance, the first sand pits only appeared in the American city of Boston in the 1880s.

But does the very idea of separate places for children to play say anything about how, historically, children themselves were viewed, or what kind of mischief they might get up to?.........

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-19699768#?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Sep-2012 at 06:43

A Neanderthal trove in Madrid


Teams of up to 70 people are working on the digs at the Lozoya River Valley

The Lozoya River Valley, in the Madrid mountain range of Guadarrama, could easily be called "Neanderthal Valley," says the paleontologist Juan Luis Arsuaga.
"It is protected by two strings of mountains, it is rich in fauna, it is a privileged spot from an environmental viewpoint, and it is ideal for the Neanderthal, given that it provided the with good hunting grounds."

This is not just a hypothesis: scientists working on site in Pinilla del Valle, near the reservoir, have already found nine Neanderthal teeth, remains of bonfires and thousands of animal fossils, including some from enormous aurochs (the ancestor of cattle, each the length of two bulls), rhinoceros and fallow deer.

The Neanderthal is a human species that is well known and unknown at the same time. It is well known because numerous vestiges have been found from the time when they lived in Europe, between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago. But it is also unknown because of the many unresolved issues that keep cropping up, including, first and foremost: why did they become extinct just as our current species made an appearance on the continent?

Nobody knows for sure whether the Neanderthal was able to talk, or whether they shared territory with Homo sapiens, or whether both species ignored each other until one - ours - proliferated while the other got lost forever... Scientists in charge of the sites at Pinilla del Valle could make significant contributions to finding the answers to these and other questions about the lives of the Neanderthal people.

"There are around 15 sites in Spain: in the Cantabrian mountain range, along the eastern Mediterranean coast and in Andalusia, but none on the plateau, where there are no limestone formations and no adequate caves to preserve human remains for thousands of years," adds Arsuaga. But Pinilla del Valle is an exception to the rule. "There is limestone here. It was like a cap made of stone under which the Neanderthal presumably took refuge to prepare for the hunt, to craft their tools, to eat... It's not that they lived inside in the sense of a home; they wandered in the fields, and this was probably more like a base camp to take refuge when they needed to."

"The site, which has great potential, extends some 150 meters and we are now working in three areas: the cave of Camino, the refuge of Navalmaillo and the cave of Des-Cubierta, which cover three different time frames," says Enrique Baquedano, director of the Regional Archeology Museum in Madrid.

It was on the floor of Des-Cubierta that the Neanderthal must have placed the dead body of a small child aged two-and-a-half to three years old. They placed two slabs of stone and an aurochs horn on top, and set the body on fire. Baquedano explains that they found some of the child's teeth - they call it a little girl, although they have no scientific evidence of its gender - as well as a piece of coal that turned up just a few days ago and which will enable precise dating. "Complete burials, with a clear structure that allows [researchers] to reconstruct behaviors, is a very rare thing in any part of the world," says Arsuaga, who is also co-director of the excavations at the major prehistoric site of Atapuerca.........
http://networkedblogs.com/CB6u9


Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 25-Sep-2012 at 06:45
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Sep-2012 at 09:03

Why Humans Give Birth to Helpless Babies

Human babies enter the world utterly dependent on caregivers to tend to their every need. Although newborns of other primate species rely on caregivers, too, human infants are especially helpless because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped. Indeed, by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn. Anthropologists have long thought that the size of the pelvis has limited human gestation length. New research may challenge that view.

The traditional explanation for our nine-month gestation period and helpless newborns is that natural selection favored childbirth at an earlier stage of fetal development to accommodate selection for both large brain size and upright locomotion—defining characteristics of the human lineage. In this view, adaptations to bipedalism restricted the width of the birth canal and, hence, the size of the baby that can pass through it. Human babies are thus born when their brains are less than 30 percent of adult brain size so that they can fit through the narrow passageway. They then continue development outside of the womb, with brain size nearly doubling in the first year.

But when Holly M. Dunsworth of the University of Rhode Island and her colleagues tested this so-called obstetrical dilemma hypothesis, their findings did not match its predictions. For example, the hypothesis predicts that because the female pelvis is broader than the male pelvis, walking and running should be more energetically demanding for women than for men. Yet most studies of the energetics and mechanics of locomotion in women and men found no such penalties for having a wider pelvis, the researchers report.

Furthermore, the team asserts, to accommodate an infant at a chimplike stage of brain development—that is, a brain that is 40 percent of adult brain size, or 640 cubic centimeters—the pelvic inlet (the top of the birth canal, which is the narrowest part) would only have to expand by three centimeters on average. Some women today have pelvic inlets that wide, and those larger dimensions have no measurable effect on locomotor cost. The researchers argue that instead of fetal brain expansion being constrained by the dimensions of the pelvis, the dimensions of the human pelvis have evolved to accommodate babies, and some other factor has kept newborn size in check.

That other factor, they contend, is mom’s metabolic rate. “Gestation places a heavy metabolic burden (measured in calories consumed) on the mother,” Dunsworth and her co-authors explain. Data from a wide range of mammals suggest that there is a limit to how large and energetically expensive a fetus can grow before it has to check out of the womb. Once outside of the womb, the baby’s growth slows down to a more sustainable rate for the mother. Building on an idea previously put forth by study co-author Peter T. Ellison of Harvard University known as the metabolic crossover hypothesis, the team proposes that “energetic constraints of both mother and fetus are the primary determinants of gestation length and fetal growth in humans and across mammals.” By nine months or so, the metabolic demands of a human fetus threaten to exceed the mother’s ability to meet both the baby’s energy requirements and her own, so she delivers the baby.........

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/08/28/why-humans-give-birth-to-helpless-babies/



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 25-Sep-2012 at 09:04
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Oct-2012 at 14:32

Oldest prosthetic helped Egyptian mummy to walk


This artificial toe was a practical device. Pic: Dr Jacky Finch and the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

A false toe thought to be the oldest discovered prosthetic device has passed a test to see whether it could have been used as an aid for walking.

University of Manchester researchers copied wooden toes found with Egyptian mummies, buried about 3,000 years ago

A volunteer with missing toes, wearing the kind of sandals worn in ancient Egypt, tested the replicas on a pressure measurement system.

They proved to have been practical walking devices, rather than cosmetic.

Dr Jacky Finch said: "The pressure data tells us that it would have been very difficult for an ancient Egyptian missing a big toe to walk normally wearing traditional sandals.

"They could of course have remained bare foot or perhaps have worn some sort of sock or boot over the false toe, but our research suggests that wearing these false toes made walking in a sandal more comfortable."

Another artificial toe, made from plaster, linen and glue, was from a burial from about 2,500 years ago.

But the wood and leather toe, which the study found to be the more comfortable, had been buried with a woman believed to have lived some time between 950BC and 710BC.

Researchers suggest that this could make it the oldest known prosthetic device - older than a false leg taken from a Roman burial from 300BC, which was destroyed in a World War II bombing raid.

The tests were carried out at the Gait Laboratory at Salford University's Centre for Rehabilitation and Human Performance Research.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19802539



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 02-Oct-2012 at 14:39
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Oct-2012 at 01:26

Amazonian Tribal Warfare Sheds Light on Modern Violence, Says MU Anthropologist  

In the tribal societies of the Amazon forest, violent conflict accounted for 30 percent of all deaths before contact with Europeans, according to a recent study by University of Missouri anthropologist Robert Walker. Understanding the reasons behind those altercations in the Amazon sheds light on the instinctual motivations that continue to drive human groups to violence, as well as the ways culture influences the intensity and frequency of violence.

“The same reasons – revenge, honor, territory and jealousy over women – that fueled deadly conflicts in the Amazon continue to drive violence in today’s world,” said Walker, lead author and assistant professor of anthropology in MU’s College of Arts and Science. “Humans’ evolutionary history of violent conflict among rival groups goes back to our primate ancestors. It takes a great deal of social training and institutional control to resist our instincts and solve disputes with words instead of weapons. Fortunately, people have developed ways to channel those instincts away from actual deadly conflict. For example, sports and video games often involve the same impulses to defeat a rival group.”

Walker examined records of 1,145 violent deaths in 44 societies in the Amazon River basin of South America by reviewing 11 previous anthropological studies. He analyzed the deaths on a case-by-case basis to determine what cultural factors influenced the body counts. Internal raids among tribes with similar languages and cultures were found to be more frequent, but with fewer fatalities, when compared to the less frequent, but deadlier, external raids on tribes of different language groups.

“Language and other cultural differences play a role in the ‘clash of civilizations’ that resulted in recent violence, such as the deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya and the continuing war in Afghanistan,” said Walker. “Working to develop a shared sense of humanity for all the Earth’s people could help reduce major episodes of violence by encouraging people to view each other as one unified group working towards common global goals.”

Raids also sometimes involved kidnapping women. A similar number of women were kidnapped on average in both internal and external raids. Another aspect of Amazonian warfare was treachery, such as inviting a rival group to a feast and then slaughtering them after they got drunk. These attacks resulted in high levels of mortality.

“Revenge was necessary in historical intertribal warfare, just as in modern gang conflicts, because showing weakness would result in further attacks,” Walker said. “That cycle of revenge could result in tribes eradicating each other. After European contact, the dynamics of Amazonian tribal life changed dramatically. Although the spread of Christianity and imposition of national legal structures resulted in a great loss of cultural identity, it also reduced deadly raids. Today, such violence is rare. Disease and conflict with illegal loggers and miners have become the more common causes of death.”

The study “Body counts in lowland South American violence,” was published in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior. Drew Bailey, a recent doctoral graduate in psychological science from MU, was co-author.

http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2012/1002-amazonian-tribal-warfare-sheds-light-on-modern-violence-says-mu-anthropologist/





Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 05-Oct-2012 at 01:36
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