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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Anthropology news updates
    Posted: 30-May-2014 at 13:57

Rock-Shelter in Spain Evidences Early Human Use of Fire

In a report co-authored by Michael Walker and colleagues of Spain's Murcia University, scientists suggest that early humans who lived in the Cueva Negra (Black Cave) rock-shelter of southeastern Spain about 800,000 years ago used fire, and that they exhibited behaviors that indicated a cognitively sophisticated late early Pleistocene use of resources and tools in their environment. The detailed report is published in the upcoming Volume 15 of Popular Archaeology Magazine.

The rock-shelter, located in the face of a cliff overlooking the Quipar river and the small village of La Encarnación, became the subject of initial exploration by archaeologists in 1981. But full systematic excavations didn't begin until 1990, when an archaeological team led by Walker and colleagues with the Murcia University Experimental Sciences Research Group undertook detailed investigation that continued for another 25 field seasons. What they uncovered were 5 meters of sediment containing late Pleistocene (somewhat before 780,000 years ago) finds, including hominin (early human, possibly H. heidelbergensis) teeth, a rich artifact assemblage, and an array of ancient flora and fauna remains that bespoke an ancient climate of warm, moist environmental conditions. Their analysis and interpretation of the finds may have, they maintain, important implications  for early human behavior.

"The most important findings at Cueva Negra concern human activity," write Walker and colleagues in their report. "Undoubted evidence of fire has been uncovered."* They point to the evidence of sediment combustion, thermally altered chert and burnt animal bone found in a layer measured at 4.5 meters in depth.

But they qualify their interpretation.

"A fire-place is not a hearth," the authors continue. "The Cueva Negra could have brought glowing brands left by a forest fire into the cave to establish and tend a fire where rain and wind would not put it out. They may well have been less afraid of fire outside than other animals they saw fleeing from it (which could have led them to play with fire in order to drive animals towards natural death traps, such as swamps, enabling dismemberment and roasting). This does not mean they could reproduce or control fire: there is a dearth of archaeological evidence for hearths or fire-pits before 0.5 Ma."

Cueva Negra is not the only site that has evidenced early use of fire by early humans. For example, the site of Bnot Ya'akov Bridge in Israel has been claimed to show human control of fire some time between 790,000 and 690,000 years ago, and evidence has emerged at Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa for the use of fire by around 1 million years ago. There are also other sites showing this possibility in Africa and China. But Cueva Negra could be the earliest, if not one of the earliest, sites in Europe demonstrating this development.

Other findings suggested a clear mastery of material resources for survival. The assemblage of stone tool artifacts recovered (classified by the authors as "Acheulo-Levalloiso-Mousteroid") showed evidence of the use of three different core reduction methodologies or sequences, and that natural stone resources were exploited as much as 40 km downstream from the site and 30 km upstream.

Concludes Walker, et al., "Research at Cueva Negra throws new light, including fire-light, on the cognitive versatility, manual dexterity, and technical aptitude of early humans ca. 0.8 Ma in S.E. Spain. They exploited their surroundings in a competent fashion that implies precise knowledge and accurate awareness of what was available for survival."

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/03012014/article/rock-shelter-in-spain-evidences-early-human-use-of-fire



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 30-May-2014 at 13:58
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2014 at 04:20
Prehistoric tipples revealed: Ancient Eurasians drank wines brewed from pine resin and fruit beers 9,000 years ago

We might think of quirky fruit beers made in small, independent breweries as a modern trend.

But in fact the practice goes back 9,000 years when high-ranking cavemen drank brews which included fruit and strange ingredients such as pine resin.

Unlike in modern times, alcohol was considered to be sacred and was used in ritual ceremonies, new research suggests.

Fossils and skeletons revealed evidence that elite people drank fruit wines and beer.

Elisa Guerra-Doce, a prehistory expert at the University of Valladolid in Spain told Live Science that the archaeological record of prehistoric Europe shows that people used mind-altering substances.

As well as historical accounts by ancient Greek writers, archaeologists have found macrofossil remains with mind-altering properties and some designs in tombs could have been inspired by altered states of consciousness.

Dr Guerra-Doce looked at macrofossil remains of psychoactive plants, residue from fermented alcoholic drinks, chemical compounds left on skeletons and artwork showing drinking scenes in a bid to piece together how alcohol and drugs were used in Eurasian prehistory.

Alcoholic residues suggest that ancient Eurasians drank fruity wines, beer made from barley and wheat and mead. 

They also consumed fermented drinks made from dairy products.

While the making of alcohol seems to originate in China in around 7,000BC, 2,000 years later, people living in the Zagros Mountains of north-western Iran were drinking wine made with pine resin.

And scientists have discovered a professional winery in south-eastern Armenia dating from 4,000BC.

Experts think that the wine was made for mortuary practices as there were 20 graves and a number of cups unearthed nearby.

Some pottery fragments contained residues of beer and wine from burial sites and settlements.

Dr Guerra-Doce said: ‘Many tombs have provided traces of alcoholic drinks and drugs. I think these substances were used to aid in communication with the spirit world.’

Some artworks, such as a figurine known as the ‘Poppy Goddess’ show that drugs were also used ceremonially.

The figurine was found in a chamber in Crete thought to have been used by cult members. She has three moveable hairpins shaped like poppy capsules, which hint at how opium might have been extracted by people.

Her serene expression suggests the trance-like state ancient people may have entered into by inhaling opium fumes.

Dr Guerra-Doce thinks that alcohol and drugs were only used by people of high social standing in the vast region.

‘The main evidence to support that idea is the archaeological contexts where they have been found: tombs of high-status individuals and restricted ceremonial places,’ she said.

‘I think that prior to a large-scale production, alcoholic drinks were reserved for special events and they played a similar role as drug plants.’

But as larger scale wineries and breweries became more common, alcohol found its way into the hands of average people, who largely used it for hedonistic rather than ritualistic purposes.



 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2641484/Prehistoric-tipples-revealed-Ancient-Eurasians-drank-wines-brewed-pine-resin-fruit-beers.html#ixzz3429q4Dnn 

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Jun-2014 at 21:43

Fossil Human Skulls Unearthed in Spanish Cave Shed Light on Neandertal Evolution

The recent recovery and analysis of 17 early human fossil skulls from the Sima de los Huesos ("Pit of Bones") cave pit site in the Sierra de Atapuerca cave system of northern Spain have illuminated our understanding of how Neandertals, a more ancient, extinct sister species of Homo sapiens (modern humans), actually evolved, according to a study report published this week in Science.

Currently led by Juan Luis Arsuaga of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, archaeological teams have been excavating at the site for four decades, and have recovered the largest assemblage of early human fossils ever discovered at any one site in the world. 

"After thirty years, we have recovered nearly 7,000 human fossils corresponding to all skeletal regions of at least 28 individuals," says study co-author Ignacio Martinez, Professor of Paleontology at the University of Alcalá. "This extraordinary collection includes 17 fragmentary skulls, many of which are very complete."

The 17 skulls, according to the researchers, represent a single population of a hominin (early human) species. Although some of have been studied before, seven are presented anew here, and six are more complete than ever before, after many hours of painstaking assemblage in the lab. Now, with the mostly intact samples for study, the researchers have been able to more clearly define the common features of what they believe to be a single population. 

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simasite

The Sima de los Huesos site. Image courtesy Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films

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The fossils exhibited a mosaic of physical characteristics that could not be wholly attributed to any single, recognized human species to date. The skull samples showed clear Neandertal features in the face and teeth. The researchers suggest these 'Neandertal-derived' features were functionally related to mastication, or chewing. "It seems these modifications had to do with an intensive use of the frontal teeth," Arsuaga said. "The incisors show a great wear as if they had been used as a 'third hand," typical of Neanderthals." But elsewhere, the skulls showed characteristics that diverted from the Neandertal model. The braincase itself, for example, still showed features associated with more primitive hominins.

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simaskull17

Skull 17 from the Sima de los Huesos site in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain. Image courtesy Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films

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simaskull15

Skull 15. Image courtesy Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films

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simaskull9

Skull 9. Image courtesy Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films

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Observations like these led the researchers to suggest support for the 'accretion model' of Neandertal evolution, or something similar to cladogenesis, wherein evolution takes place through a splitting of species into branches or "clades", leading to the development of a greater variety of sisterspecies.

However, according to Arsuaga,"we think based on the morphology that the Sima people were part of the Neanderthal clade, although not necessarily direct ancestors to the classic Neanderthals."

"One thing that surprised me about the skulls we analyzed," Arsuaga continued, "is how similar the different individuals were. The other fossils of the same geological period are different and don't fit in the Sima pattern. This means that there was a lot of diversity among different populations in the Middle Pleistocene."

In other words, because other European Middle Pleistocene fossil specimens found in Europe do not exhibit the suite of features seen in this fossil group, the researchers suggest that more than one evolutionary lineage appears to have coexisted during the European Middle Pleistocene, with that represented by the Sima sample being closer to the Neandertals. The work of Arsuaga et al. suggests that facial modification was the first step in Neandertal evolution, a mosaic pattern fitting the prediction of the accretion model.

Key to the study findings was the homogeneity of the Sima samples. "All of the individuals recovered at the site represent the same biological population which makes it possible for anthropologists to study individual variation as well as sexual differences in the skeleton and patterns of growth and development, among other aspects," report Arsuaga, et al. in a press release of the Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humano. "While considerable differences in size are apparent within the collection, with some larger skulls and some smaller ones, the anatomical features that anthropologists study to examine evolutionary relationships do not vary much within the Sima population. This combination of mosaic evolution and anatomical homogeneity led the authors to favor a branching pattern of evolution, known as cladogenesis in evolutionary studies, in the European Middle Pleistocene."

So what species do these Sima fossils represent? The study authors do not assign the fossils to any specific species. But mitochondrial DNA was recently extracted and analyzed from one of the Sima fossils. The results suggest that this population was not a group of "early Neandertals". Nor, as has been previously suggested, were they representatives of another early human species called Homo heidelbergensis, thought to be ancestral to the Neandertals. The Sima jawbones (mandibles) were observed to be anatomically distinct from that of heidelbergensis. 

But there is much more to come from the Pit of Bones.

"With excavations continuing and new fossils being discovered each field season," report Arsuaga, et al., "there is certainly reason to believe that the Sima de los Huesos will yield more surprising findings in the future."

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/06052014/article/fossil-human-skulls-unearthed-in-spanish-cave-shed-light-on-neandertal-evolution




Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 20-Jun-2014 at 21:46
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jul-2014 at 23:44

Extinct human cousin gave Tibetans advantage at high elevation

Tibetans were able to adapt to high altitudes thanks to a gene picked up when their ancestors mated with a species of human they helped push to extinction, according to a new report by University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

An unusual variant of a gene involved in regulating the body's production of hemoglobin -- the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood -- became widespread in Tibetans after they moved onto the high-altitude plateau several thousand years ago. This variant allowed them to survive despite low oxygen levels at elevations of 15,000 feet or more, whereas most people develop thick blood at high altitudes, leading to cardiovascular problems.

"We have very clear evidence that this version of the gene came from Denisovans," a mysterious human relative that went extinct 40,000-50,000 years ago, around the same time as the more well-known Neanderthals, under pressure from modern humans, said principal author Rasmus Nielsen, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. "This shows very clearly and directly that humans evolved and adapted to new environments by getting their genes from another species."

This is the first time a gene from another species of human has been shown unequivocally to have helped modern humans adapt to their environment, he said.

Nielsen and his colleagues at BGI-Shenzhen in China will report their findings online July 2 in advance of publication in the journal Nature.

The gene, called EPAS1, is activated when oxygen levels in the blood drop, triggering production of more hemoglobin. The gene has been referred to as the superathlete gene because at low elevations, some variants of it help athletes quickly boost hemoglobin and thus the oxygen-carrying capacity of their blood, upping endurance. At high altitude, however, the common variants of the gene boost hemoglobin and its carrier, red blood cells, too much, increasing the thickness of the blood and leading to hypertension and heart attacks as well as low-birth-weight babies and increased infant mortality. The variant or allele found in Tibetans raises hemoglobin and red blood cell levels only slightly at high elevation, avoiding the side-effects seen in most people who relocate to elevations above 13,000 feet.

"We found part of the EPAS1 gene in Tibetans is almost identical to the gene in Denisovans and very different from all other humans," Nielsen said. "We can do a statistical analysis to show that this must have come from Denisovans. There is no other way of explaining the data."

Harsh conditions on Tibetan plateau

The researchers first reported the prevalence of a high-altitude version of EPAS1 in Tibetans in 2010, based on sequencing of the genomes of numerous Han Chinese and Tibetans. Nielsen and his colleagues argued that this was the result of natural selection to adapt to about 40 percent lower oxygen levels on the Tibetan plateau. That is, people without the variant died before reproducing at a much higher rate than those with it. About 87 percent of Tibetans now have the high-altitude version, compared to only 9 percent of Han Chinese, who have the same common ancestor as Tibetans.

Nielsen and his colleagues subsequently sequenced the EPAS1 gene in an additional 40 Tibetans and 40 Han Chinese. The data revealed that the high-altitude variant of EPAS1 is so unusual that it could only have come from Denisovans. Aside from its low frequency in Han Chinese, it occurs in no other known humans, not even Melanesians, whose genomes are nearly 5 percent Denisovan. A high quality sequence of the Denisovan genome was published in 2012.

Nielsen sketched out a possible scenario leading to this result: modern humans coming out of Africa interbred with Denisovan populations in Eurasia as they passed through that area into China, and their descendants still retain a small percentage -- perhaps 0.1 percent -- Denisovan DNA. The group that invaded China eventually split, with one population moving into Tibet and the other, now known as Han Chinese, dominating the lower elevations.

He and his colleagues are analyzing other genomes to pin down the time of Denisovan interbreeding, which probably happened over a rather short period of time.

"There might be many other species from which we also got DNA, but we don't know because we don't have the genomes," Nielsen said. "The only reason we can say that this bit of DNA is Denisovan is because of this lucky accident of sequencing DNA from a little bone found in a cave in Siberia. We found the Denisovan species at the DNA level, but how many other species are out there that we haven't sequenced?"

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140702131738.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Jul-2014 at 13:33

Tooth plaque provides unique insights into our prehistoric ancestors' diet

 

An international team of researchers has found new evidence that our prehistoric ancestors had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.

By extracting chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from ancient teeth, the researchers were able to provide an entirely new perspective on our ancestors' diets. Their research suggests that purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus) -- today regarded as a nuisance weed -- formed an important part of the prehistoric diet.

Crucially, the research, published in PLOS ONE and led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, suggests that prehistoric people living in Central Sudan may have understood both the nutritional and medicinal qualities of this and other plants.

The research was carried out at Al Khiday, a pre-historic site on the White Nile in Central Sudan. It demonstrates that for at least 7,000 years, beginning before the development of agriculture and continuing after agricultural plants were also available the people of Al Khiday ate the plant purple nut sedge. The plant is a good source of carbohydrates and has many useful medicinal and aromatic qualities.

Lead author Karen Hardy, a Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of York, said: "Purple nut sedge is today considered to be a scourge in tropical and sub-tropical regions and has been called the world's most expensive weed due to the difficulties and high costs of eradication from agricultural areas. By extracting material from samples of ancient dental calculus we have found that rather than being a nuisance in the past, its value as a food, and possibly its abundant medicinal qualities were known. More recently, it was also used by the ancient Egyptians as perfume and as medicine.

"We also discovered that these people ate several other plants and we found traces of smoke, evidence for cooking, and for chewing plant fibres to prepare raw materials. These small biographical details add to the growing evidence that prehistoric people had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture."

Al Khiday is a complex of five archaeological sites which lie 25km south of Omdurman; one of the sites is predominantly a burial ground of pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic and Later Meroitic age. As a multi-period cemetery, it gave the researchers a useful long-term perspective on the material recovered.

The researchers found ingestion of the purple nut sedge in both pre-agricultural and agricultural periods. They suggest that the plant's ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium which contributes to tooth decay, may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of cavaties found in the agricultural population.

Dr Stephen Buckley, a Research Fellow at the University of York's BioArCh research facility, conducted the chemical analyses. He said: "The evidence for purple nut sedge was very clear in samples from all the time periods we looked at. This plant was evidently important to the people of Al Khiday, even after agricultural plants had been introduced."

Dr Donatella Usai, from the Instituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente in Rome led the excavation and Dr Tina Jakob from Durham University's Department of Archaeology, performed the analysis of the human remains at Al Khiday. Anita Radini, an Archaeobotanist at the University of Leicester Archaeological Service (ULAS) and a PhD candidate at BioArCh, University of York, contributed to the analysis of microfossils found in the dental calculus samples.

Dr Usai said: "Al Khiday is a unique site in the Nile valley, where a large population lived for many thousands of years. This study demonstrates that they made good use of the locally available wild plant as food, as raw materials, and possibly even as medicine."

Dr Hardy added: "The development of studies on chemical compounds and microfossils extracted from dental calculus will help to counterbalance the dominant focus on meat and protein that has been a feature of pre-agricultural dietary interpretation, up until now. The new access to plants ingested, which is provided by dental calculus analysis, will increase, if not revolutionise, the perception of ecological knowledge and use of plants among earlier prehistoric and pre-agrarian populations."

Fieldwork was funded by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente, Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani, and the Universities of Milano, Padova and Parma. The research was endorsed by the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) of Sudan.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140716141047.htm

Further information to be found on the following: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0100808

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Aug-2014 at 23:13

Society bloomed with gentler personalities and more feminine faces: Technology boom 50,000 years ago correlated with less testosterone

A composite image shows the facial differences between an ancient modern human with heavy brows and a large upper face and the more recent modern human who has rounder features and a much less prominent brow. The prominence of these features can be directly traced to the influence of the hormone testosterone.

Modern humans appear in the fossil record about 200,000 years ago, but it was only about 50,000 years ago that making art and advanced tools became widespread.

A new study appearing Aug. 1 in the journal Current Anthropology finds that human skulls changed in ways that indicate a lowering of testosterone levels at around the same time that culture was blossoming.

"The modern human behaviors of technological innovation, making art and rapid cultural exchange probably came at the same time that we developed a more cooperative temperament," said lead author Robert Cieri, a biology graduate student at the University of Utah who began this work as a senior at Duke University.

The study, which is based on measurements of more than 1,400 ancient and modern skulls, makes the argument that human society advanced when people started being nicer to each other, which entails having a little less testosterone in action.

Heavy brows were out, rounder heads were in, and those changes can be traced directly to testosterone levels acting on the skeleton, according to Duke anthropologist Steven Churchill, who supervised Cieri's work on a senior honors thesis that grew to become this 24-page journal article three years later.

What they can't tell from the bones is whether these humans had less testosterone in circulation, or fewer receptors for the hormone.

The research team also included Duke animal cognition researchers Brian Hare and Jingzhi Tan, who say this argument is in line with what has been established in non-human species.

In a classic study of Siberian foxes, animals that were less wary and less aggressive toward humans took on a different, more juvenile appearance and behavior after several generations of selective breeding.

"If we're seeing a process that leads to these changes in other animals, it might help explain who we are and how we got to be this way," said Hare, who also studies differences between our closest ape relatives -- aggressive chimpanzees and mellow, free-loving bonobos.

Those two apes develop differently, Hare said, and they respond to social stress differently. Chimpanzee males experience a strong rise in testosterone during puberty, but bonobos do not. When stressed, the bonobos don't produce more testosterone, as chimps do, but they do produce more cortisol, the stress hormone.

Their social interactions are profoundly different and, relevant to this finding, their faces are different, too. "It's very hard to find a brow-ridge in a bonobo," Hare said.

Cieri compared the brow ridge, facial shape and interior volume of 13 modern human skulls older than 80,000 years, 41 skulls from 10,000 to 38,000 years ago, and a global sample of 1,367 20th century skulls from 30 different ethnic populations.

The trend that emerged was toward a reduction in the brow ridge and a shortening of the upper face, traits which generally reflect a reduction in the action of testosterone.

There are a lot of theories about why, after 150,000 years of existence, humans suddenly leapt forward in technology. Around 50,000 years ago, there is widespread evidence of producing bone and antler tools, heat-treated and flaked flint, projectile weapons, grindstones, fishing and birding equipment and a command of fire. Was this driven by a brain mutation, cooked foods, the advent of language or just population density?

The Duke study argues that living together and cooperating put a premium on agreeableness and lowered aggression and that, in turn, led to changed faces and more cultural exchange.

"If prehistoric people began living closer together and passing down new technologies, they'd have to be tolerant of each other," Cieri said. "The key to our success is the ability to cooperate and get along and learn from one another."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140801171114.htm

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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2014 at 16:54
How long ago was the toilet seat invented? It may not look like some heroic invention, but my body is definitely happy that someone had thought about it.

"...NORTHUMBERLAND, ENGLAND—A 2,000-year-old wooden toilet seat has been discovered in a muddy garbage trench at Vindolanda, a Roman fort located at Hadrian’s Wall...."
http://www.archaeology.org/news/2472-140828-england-vindolanda-seat
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Dec-2014 at 19:41
Check it out! The Vikings were taking their girlfriend to a trip to Scotland and the Orkneys, instead of only relying on seducing of local maids :).
"...OSLO, NORWAY—Analysis of mitochondrial DNA obtained from 80 Viking skeletons in Norway suggests that Norse women participated in the colonization of the Scottish mainland, Shetland, Orkney, and Iceland 1,000 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA is only inherited through the female line. “It seems to support the view that a significant number of women were involved in the settlement of the smaller isles, which overrules the idea that it just involved raping and pillaging by males going out on a rampage,” Erika Hagelberg of the University of Oslo told The Independent. ..."
http://www.archaeology.org/news/2763-141208-norway-viking-women
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jan-2015 at 06:36

Hunter-gatherer past shows our fragile bones result from inactivity since invention of farming

New research across thousands of years of human evolution shows that our skeletons have become much lighter and more fragile since the invention of agriculture -- a result of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles as we shifted from foraging to farming.
The new study, published today in the journal PNAS, shows that, while human hunter-gatherers from around 7,000 years ago had bones comparable in strength to modern orangutans, farmers from the same area over 6,000 years later had significantly lighter and weaker bones that would have been more susceptible to breaking.

Bone mass was around 20% higher in the foragers -- the equivalent to what an average person would lose after three months of weightlessness in space.

After ruling out diet differences and changes in body size as possible causes, researchers have concluded that reductions in physical activity are the root cause of degradation in human bone strength across millennia. It is a trend that is reaching dangerous levels, they say, as people do less with their bodies today than ever before.

Researchers believe the findings support the idea that exercise rather than diet is the key to preventing heightened fracture risk and conditions such as osteoporosis in later life: more exercise in early life results in a higher peak of bone strength around the age of 30, meaning the inevitable weakening of bones with age is less detrimental.

There is, in fact, no anatomical reason why a person born today could not achieve the bone strength of an orangutan or early human forager, say researchers; but even the most physically active people alive are unlikely to be loading bones with enough frequent and intense stress to allow for the increased bone strength seen in the 'peak point' of traditional hunter-gatherers and non-human primate bones.

"Contemporary humans live in a cultural and technological milieu incompatible with our evolutionary adaptations. There's seven million years of hominid evolution geared towards action and physical activity for survival, but it's only in the last say 50 to 100 years that we've been so sedentary -- dangerously so," said co-author Dr Colin Shaw from the University of Cambridge's Phenotypic Adaptability, Variation and Evolution (PAVE) Research Group.

"Sitting in a car or in front of a desk is not what we have evolved to do."

The researchers x-rayed samples of human femur bones from the archaeological record, along with femora from other primate species, focusing on the inside of the femoral head: the ball at the top of the femur which fits into the pelvis to form the hip joint, one of the most load-bearing bone connections in the body.

Two types of tissue form bone: the cortical or 'hard' bone shell coating the outside, and the trabecular or 'spongy' bone: the honeycomb-like mesh encased within cortical shell that allows flexibility but is also vulnerable to fracture.

The researchers analysed the trabecular bone from the femoral head of four distinct archaeological human populations representing mobile hunter-gatherers and sedentary agriculturalists, all found in the same area of the US state of Illinois (and likely to be genetically similar as a consequence).

The trabecular structure is very similar in all populations, with one notable exception: within the mesh, hunter-gatherers have a much higher amount of actual bone relative to air.

"Trabecular bone has much greater plasticity than other bone, changing shape and direction depending on the loads imposed on it; it can change structure from being pin or rod-like to much thicker, almost plate-like. In the hunter-gatherer bones, everything was thickened," said Shaw.

This thickening is the result of constant loading on the bone from physical activity as hunter-gatherers roamed the landscape seeking sustenance. This fierce exertion would result in minor damage that caused the bone mesh to grow back ever stronger and thicker throughout life -- building to a 'peak point' of bone strength which counter-balanced the deterioration of bones with age.

Shaw believes there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the skeletons of our prehistoric predecessors. "You can absolutely morph even your bones so that they deal with stress and strain more effectively. Hip fractures, for example, don't have to happen simply because you get older if you build your bone strength up earlier in life, so that as you age it never drops below that level where fractures can easily occur."

Other theories for humans evolving a lighter, more fragile skeleton include changes in diet or selection for a more efficient, lighter skeleton, which was never reversed.

While the initial switch to farming did cause a dip in human health due to monoculture diets that lacked variety, the populations tested were unaffected by this window in history. "Of course we need a level of calcium to maintain bone heath, but beyond that level excess calcium isn't necessary," said Shaw.

The research also counters the theory that, at some point in human evolution, our bones just became lighter -- perhaps because there wasn't enough food to support a denser skeleton. "If that was true, human skeletons would be entirely distinct from other living primates. We've shown that hunter-gatherers fall right in line with primates of a similar body size. Modern human skeletons are not systemically fragile; we are not constrained by our anatomy."

"The fact is, we're human, we can be as strong as an orangutan -- we're just not, because we are not challenging our bones with enough loading, predisposing us to have weaker bones so that, as we age, situations arise where bones are breaking when, previously, they would not have" Shaw said.

While the 7,000-year-old foragers had vastly stronger bones than the 700-year-old farmers, Shaw says that neither competes with even earlier hominids from around 150,000 years ago. "Something is going on in the distant past to create bone strength that outguns anything in the last 10,000 years."

The next step for Shaw's research team will be to look at how different types of loading and mobility shape bodies and bones by cross-referencing archaeological records with testing on modern ultra-marathon runners, who cover punishing distances over a range of terrains -- from the Himalayas to the Namibian desert. He hopes this future work will provide insight into the kind of mobility that gave our ancient ancestors such powerful physical strength.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222165033.htm

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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jan-2015 at 17:48
Amulet for protection of evil with the image of a god on it from 6 cent. AD has been found in Cyprus. At this time Cyrpus was s apart of the Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire, with Chrsitianity as official religion. However, the god/s presented and mentioned on the amulet are Ra and Harpocrates, a Greek god of science.
http://www.archaeology.org/news/2867-150105-cyprus-palindrome-amulet-unearthed

In time Christianity adopted the idea of such amulets, and in Bulgaria small amulets with the images of Christ or saints, made to be worn around the neck for protection, are still sold.

Edited by Don Quixote - 05-Jan-2015 at 17:51
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Mar-2015 at 22:59

East African Fossil Finds Show Early Human Diversity

Modern scholarship on human evolution has generally accepted the suggestion that there were some key changes in the skeletal anatomy of early humans sometime between the two genuses,Australopithecus, and Homo. Australopithecus, the proto-human thought to be ancestral to the more direct human line of Homo, is considered to have featured more primitive, ape-like characteristics.Homo, by contrasthas been thought to feature new, derived characteristics approaching the morphology more typically associated with human-like physical traits. 

But given the relative scarcity of early Homo fossil remains, comparatively less is known about the earliest Homo postcranial morphologies. A recent study by an international team ofHomo fossil remains uncovered in Kenya, however, has provided a few more clues reflecting on the diversity and complexity of early Homo differentiation during the earliest periods of the emergence of humans from the still obscure primordial mix of a time when some species of Australopithecus are thought to have coexisted with their 'more advanced' Homo counterparts. The team examined a partial ilium (the uppermost and largest bone of thepelvis), and a femur (thigh bone) found at the famous hominin fossil site of Koobi Fora, Kenya, dating to 1.9 Ma (millions of years ago). They found that the specimens featured attributes commonly associated with the genus Homo. But they also found morphological characteristics not typically seen in eastern African early Homo erectus fossils:  "The geometry of the femoral midshaft and contour of the pelvic inlet do not resemble that of any specimens attributed to H. erectus from eastern Africa," summarized the study authors in their report, which will soon be published in the Journal of Human Evolution. "This new fossil confirms the presence of at least two postcranial morphotypes within early Homo, and documents diversity in postcranial morphology among early Homo species that may reflect underlying body form and/or adaptive differences."*

Koobi Fora has long been known as a key region containing hominin fossils that have shed light on human evolution over the last 4.2 million years. It is described as a ridge or outcrop of Pliocene/Pleistocene sediments that preserve a prolific record of mammal fossils, including early hominin species. The ridge is being eroded into a badlands terrain by rivers draining into modern Lake Turkana. Anciently, Lake Turkana provided a good habitable lake environment for a variety of mammals, including early humans. In 1968, Richard Leakey, the son of famous paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey, established the Koobi Fora Base Campa field center for hominin studies, at Lake Turkana.

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/spring-2015/article/east-african-fossil-find-shows-early-human-diversity

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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Mar-2015 at 14:29
Public Buildings or Maya Society - which came first? Kind of like the old saying about the hen and the egg...

"(Takeshi Inomata)
TUCSON, ARIZONA—Excavations at the Maya site of Ceibal in Guatemala have revealed a public plaza that dates to about 950 B.C., and ceremonial buildings surrounding the plaza that grew to monumental sizes by about 800 B.C. Yet there is little evidence of permanent residential dwellings in the area during the same time period. “Our study presents the first relatively concrete evidence that mobile and sedentary people came together to build a ceremonial center,” Takeshi Inomata of the University of Arizona said in a press release. Most people at this time were living a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle, moving throughout the rainforest. These different groups of people may have come together at Ceibal to construct the buildings and to participate in public ceremonies over a period of several hundred years before making the transition to a fully sedentary society. “This tells us something about the importance of ritual and construction. People tend to think that you have a developed society and then building comes. I think in many cases it’s the other way around,” Inomata explained."
http://www.archaeology.org/news/3112-150324-maya-melting-pot
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Apr-2015 at 16:06
Medieval medicines, according to this article weren't only mumbo-jumbo - most of the recipes cited in this article show mixtures of quite useful herbs; of course, I would avoid adding cormorant blood, bull gall and the patient urine to the potions...

"....Supposedly invented by St Paul, this potion was to be drunk. The extensive list of ingredients included liquorice, sage, willow, roses, fennel, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cormorant blood, mandrake, dragon’s blood and three kinds of pepper.Although this sounds like a real witch’s brew, most of the ingredients do have some medicinal value: liquorice is good for the chest – it was and continues to be used to treat coughs and bronchitis; sage is thought to improve blood flow to the brain and help one’s memory, and willow contains salicylic acid, a component of aspirin. Fennel, cinnamon and ginger are all carminatives (which relieve gas in the intestines), and would relieve a colicky stomach...."

http://www.historyextra.com/article/medieval/9-weird-medieval-medicines?utm_source=Facebook+referral&utm_medium=Facebook.com&utm_campaign=Bitly

Edited by Don Quixote - 21-Apr-2015 at 16:07
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jun-2015 at 21:02
"...Indigenous people that lived in southeastern Brazil in the late 1800s shared some genetic sequences with Polynesians, an analysis of their remains shows. The finding offers some support for the possibility that Pacific islanders traded with South America thousands of years ago, but researchers say that the distinctive DNA sequences, or haplogroups, may have entered the genomes of the native Brazilians through the slave trade during the nineteenth century...."
http://www.nature.com/news/dna-study-links-indigenous-brazilians-to-polynesians-1.12710?utm_content=buffer31410&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

I wasn't aware that Polynesians were enslaved together with people from West Africa. It seems to me that the genetic connection would be older, via some Polynesian crossings of the Pacific...Kon Tiki and so on.
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jul-2015 at 14:25
Prosthetics in Ancient Egypt? The picture shows they did a good job.

"...Egyptians appear to have taken great pains to have the bodies of their dead buried intact. Some mummified remains are found with makeshift limbs and false eyes to replace missing parts. This artificial toe, attached to the right foot of a priest's daughter, is so well made, however, it's unlikely it was only intended to prepare her for the afterlife.

The dense hardwood used in the toe's construction is robust enough to withstand bodily forces—while walking, a big toe must bear up to 40 percent of a person's body weight. It also has a beveled edge at its attachment point, indicating it was deliberately designed to maximize comfort, says Jacqueline Finch, a visiting scientist at the University of Manchester's KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology. She recruited two volunteers who are missing their right big toes to wear a reproduction of this device along with replica Egyptian sandals. Both reported that it was comfortable and assisted them in walking.

Until now, an artificial leg made of bronze and wood and found buried with a Roman aristocrat in southern Italy dating to 300 B.C. was thought to be the first prosthesis. Finch's work suggests, however, that the Egyptians be credited with pioneering prosthetic medicine..."
http://archive.archaeology.org/1105/artifact/egyptian_mummy_artificial_toe.html
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  Quote red clay Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Jul-2015 at 09:22
I don't know why we are always surprised by findings such as this. Humans are problem solvers. Missing a body part such as a toe or leg etc. is a problem, replace it with something else, problem solved.

What I find amazing is the fact that Romans were doing cataract removal [Eye surgery] BCE.
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jul-2015 at 12:45
A DNA Search for the First Americans Links Amazon Groups to Indigenous Australians
The new genetic analysis takes aim at the theory that just one founding group settled the Americas.

More than 15,000 years ago, humans began crossing a land bridge called Beringia that connected their native home in Eurasia to modern-day Alaska. Who knows what the journey entailed or what motivated them to leave, but once they arrived, they spread southward across the Americas

The prevailing theory is that the first Americans arrived in a single wave, and all Native American populations today descend from this one group of adventurous founders. But now there’s a kink in that theory. The latest genetic analyses back up skeletal studies suggesting that some groups in the Amazon share a common ancestor with indigenous Australians and New Guineans. The find hints at the possibility that not one but two groups migrated across these continents to give rise to the first Americans.

“Our results suggest this working model that we had is not correct. There’s another early population that founded modern Native American populations,” says study coauthor David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard University.  

The origin of the first Americans has been hotly debated for decades, and the questions of how many migratory groups crossed the land bridge, as well as how people dispersed after the crossing, continue to spark controversy. In 2008, a team studying DNA from 10,800-year-old poop concluded that a group of ancient humans in Oregon has ancestral ties to modern Native Americans. And in 2014, genetic analysis linked a 12,000-year-old skeleton found in an underwater cave in Mexico to modern Native Americans.

Genetic studies have since connected both these ancient and modern humans to ancestral populations in Eurasia, adding to the case that a single migratory surge produced the first human settlers in the Americas. Aleutian Islanders are a notable exception. They descend from a smaller second influx of Eurasians 6,000 years ago that bear a stronger resemblance to modern populations, and some Canadian tribes have been linked to a third wave.

Reich’s group had also previously found genetic evidence for a single founding migration. But while sifting through genomes from cultures in Central and South America, Pontus Skoglund, a researcher in Reich’s lab, noticed that the Suruí and Karitiana people of the Amazon had stronger ties to indigenous groups in Australasia—Australians, New Guineans and Andaman Islanders—than to Eurasians.

Other analyses haven’t looked at Amazonian populations in depth, and genetic samples are hard to come by. So the Harvard lab teamed up with researchers in Brazil to collect more samples from Amazonian groups to investigate the matter. Together they scrutinized the genomes of 30 Native American groups in Central and South America. Using four statistical strategies, they compared the genomes to each other and to those of 197 populations from around the world. The signal persisted. Three Amazonian groups—Suruí, Karitiana and Xavante—all had more in common with Australasians than any group in Siberia.

Researchers mapped similarities in genes, mutations and random pieces of DNA of Central and South American tribes with other groups. Warmer colors indicate the strongest affinities. (Pontus Skoglund, Harvard Medical School)

The DNA that links these groups had to come from somewhere. Because the groups have about as much in common with Australians as they do with New Guineans, the researchers think that they all share a common ancestor that lived tens of thousands of years ago in Asia but that doesn’t otherwise persist today. One branch of this family tree moved north to Siberia, while the other spread south to New Guinea and Australia. The northern branch likely migrated across the land bridge in a separate surge from the Eurasian founders. The researchers have dubbed this hypothetical second group “Population y” for ypykuéra, or “ancestor” in Tupi, a language spoken by the Suruí and Karitiana.

When exactly Population y arrived in the Americans remains unclear—before, after or simultaneously with the first wave of Eurasians are all possibilities. Reich and his colleagues suspect the line is fairly old, and at some point along the way, Population y probably mixed with the lineage of Eurasian settlers. Amazonian tribes remain isolated from many other South American groups, so that’s probably why the signal remains strong in their DNA.  

The results line up with studies of ancient skulls unearthed in Brazil and Colombia that bear stronger resemblance to those of Australasians than the skulls of other Native Americans. Based on the skeletal remains, some anthropologists had previously pointed to more than one founding group, but others had brushed off the similarities as a byproduct of these groups living and working in similar environments. Bones can only be measured and interpreted so many ways, while genes usually make a more concrete case.

“The problem so far was that there has never been strong genetic evidence to support this notion,” says Mark Hubbe, an anthropologist at Ohio State University who was not affiliated with the latest study.

But even genetic evidence is subject to skepticism and scrutiny. Cecil Lewis Jr., an anthropological geneticist at the University of Oklahoma, cautions that Amazonian groups are low on genetic diversity and are more susceptible to genetic drift. “This raises very serious questions about the role of chance … in creating this Australasian affinity,” he says.

Another group led by Eske Willerslev and Maanasa Raghavan at the University if Copenhagen reports in Science today that Native Americans descend from just one line that crossed the land bridge no earlier than 23,000 years ago. While they didn’t look at Amazonian groups in-depth, the team did find a weak link between Australasians and some South American populations, which they chalk up to gene flow from Eskimos. 

There’s just one problem: Evidence of Population y doesn’t persist in modern Eurasian groups, nor does it seem to show up in other Native Americans. If Aleutian Islanders or their ancestors had somehow mixed with an Australasian group up north or made their way south to the Amazon, they'd leave genetic clues along the way. “It’s not a clear alternative,” argues Reich. 

Both studies therefore suggest that the ancestry of the first Americans is a lot more complicated than scientists had envisioned. “There is a greater diversity of Native American founding populations than previously thought,” says Skoglund. “And these founding populations connect indigenous groups in far apart places of the world.”

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dna-search-first-americans-links-amazon-indigenous-australians-180955976/?utm_source=facebook.com&no-ist



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 22-Jul-2015 at 12:52
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Dec-2015 at 08:35

NYU-led research differentiates facial growth in Neanderthals and modern humans

New York University—international research team, led by Rodrigo Lacruz, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology at New York University's College of Dentistry (NYUCD), has just published a study describing for the first time the developmental processes that differentiate Neanderthal facial skeletons from those of modern humans.

Lacruz's research team showed that the Neanderthals, who appeared about 200,000 years ago, are quite distinct from Homo sapiens (humans) in the manner in which their faces grow, adding to an old but important debate concerning the separation of these two groups. The paper, "Ontogeny of the Maxilla in Neanderthals and their Ancestors," appears in Nature Communications

"This is an important piece of the puzzle of evolution," says Lacruz, a paleoanthropologist and enamel biologist. "Some have thought that Neanderthals and humans should not be considered distinct branches of the human family tree. However, our findings, based upon facial growth patterns, indicate they are indeed sufficiently distinct from one another.

In conducting the research, the team set out to understand the morphological processes that distinguish Neanderthals' faces from modern humans'--a potentially important factor in understanding the process of evolution from archaic to modern humans.

Bone is formed through a process of bone deposition by osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) and resorption by osteoclast (bone-absorbing) cells, which break down bone. In humans, the outermost layer of bone in the face consists of large resorptive fields, but in Neanderthals, the opposite is true: In the outermost layer of bone, there is extensive bone deposition.

The team used an electron microscope and a portable confocal microscope, developed by co-author Dr. Timothy Bromage of NYUCD's Department of Biomaterials, himself a pioneer in the study of facial growth remodeling in fossil hominins, to map for the first time the bone-cell growth processes (resorption and deposition) that had taken place in the outer layer of the facial skeletons of young Neanderthals.

"Cellular processes relating to growth are preserved on the bones," says Bromage. "Resorption can be seen as crater-like structures--called lacunae--on the bone surface, whereas layers of osteoblast deposits have a relatively smooth appearance."

The study found that in Neanderthals, facial bone-growth remodeling--the process by which bone is deposited and reabsorbed, forming and shaping the adult skeleton--contributed to the development of a projecting (prognathic) maxilla (upper jawbone) because of extensive deposits by osteoblasts without a compensatory resorption--a process they shared with ancient hominins. This process is in stark contrast to that in human children, whose faces grow with a counter-balance action mediated by resorption taking place especially in the lower part of the face, leading to a flatter jaw relative to Neanderthals.

The team studied several well-preserved Neanderthal child skulls unearthed in 1926 in the British territory of Gibraltar and from the La Quina site in southwestern France, also excavated in the early 1900s. They also compared Neanderthal facial-growth remodeling with that of four Middle Pleistocene (about 400,000 years ago) hominin faces of teenagers from the fossil collection of the Sima de los Huesos in north-central Spain. The Sima fossils are considered likely Neanderthal ancestors based on both anatomical features and genomic DNA analysis....

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/fall-2015/article/nyu-led-research-differentiates-facial-growth-in-neanderthals-and-modern-humans

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Feb-2016 at 10:40

DNA evidence uncovers major upheaval in Europe near end of last Ice Age

DNA evidence lifted from the ancient bones and teeth of people who lived in Europe from the Late Pleistocene to the early Holocene -- spanning almost 30,000 years of European prehistory -- has offered some surprises, according to researchers who report their findings in the Cell Press journalCurrent Biology on Feb. 4, 2016. Perhaps most notably, the evidence shows a major shift in the population around 14,500 years ago, during a period of severe climatic instability.

"We uncovered a completely unknown chapter of human history: a major population turnover in Europe at the end of the last Ice Age," says leading author Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

The researchers pieced this missing history together by reconstructing the mitochondrial genomes of 35 hunter-gatherer individuals who lived in Italy, Germany, Belgium, France, the Czech Republic, and Romania from 35,000 to 7,000 years ago. Mitochondria are organelles within cells that carry their own DNA and can be used to infer patterns of maternal ancestry.

"There has been a real lack of genetic data from this time period, so consequently we knew very little about the population structure or dynamics of the first modern humans in Europe," Krause says.

The new data show that the mitochondrial DNA of three individuals who lived in present-day Belgium and France before the coldest period in the last Ice Age -- the Last Glacial Maximum -- belonged to haplogroup M. This is remarkable because the M haplogroup is effectively absent in modern Europeans but is extremely common in modern Asian, Australasian, and Native American populations.

The absence of the M haplogroup and its presence in other parts of the world had previously led to the argument that non-African people dispersed on multiple occasions to spread across Eurasia and Australasia. The researchers say the discovery of this maternal lineage in Europe in the ancient past now suggests instead that all non-Africans dispersed rapidly from a single population, at a time they place around 50,000 years ago. Then, at some later stage, the M haplogroup was apparently lost from Europe.

"When the Last Glacial Maximum began around 25,000 years ago, hunter-gatherer populations retreated south to a number of putative refugia, and the consequent genetic bottleneck probably resulted in the loss of this haplogroup," explains first author of the study Cosimo Posth of Germany's University of Tübingen.

The researchers say their biggest surprise, however, was evidence of a major turnover of the population in Europe around 14,500 years ago, as the climate began to warm. "Our model suggests that during this period of climatic upheaval, the descendants of the hunter-gatherers who survived through the Last Glacial Maximum were largely replaced by a population from another source," says Adam Powell, another senior author at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

The researchers say the next step is to construct a more comprehensive picture of the past by analyzing the complete genomes of these ancient individuals along with additional specimens representing more times and places.

The researchers received support from the Baden-Württemberg Foundation, the DFG, the European Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences of CSUN, and the RBINS.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160204150602.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Feb-2017 at 23:14

Linguist's 'big data' research supports waves of migration into the Americas

University of Virginia linguistic anthropologist Mark A. Sicoli and colleagues are applying the latest technology to an ancient mystery: how and when early humans inhabited the New World. Their new research analyzing more than 100 linguistic features suggest more complex patterns of contact and migration among the early peoples who first settled the Americas.

The diversity of languages in the Americas is like no other continent of the world, with eight times more "isolates" than any other continent. Isolates are "languages that have no demonstrable connection to any other language with which it can be classified into a family," Sicoli said. There are 26 isolates in North America and 55 in South America, mostly strung across the western edge of the continents, compared to just one in Europe, eight in Africa and nine in Asia.

"Scientists in the past few decades have rethought the settlement of the Americas," Sicoli said, "replacing the idea that the land which connected Asia and North America during the last ice age was merely a 'bridge' with the hypothesis that during the last ice age humans lived in this refuge known as 'Beringia' for up to 15,000 years and then seeded migrations not only into North America, but also back into Asia."

In a Feb. 17 presentation to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Sicoli will join other scientists discussing "Beringia and the Dispersal of Modern Humans to the Americas." Since much of Beringia, theorized to have been located generally between northwest North America and northeastern Asia, has been under water for more than 10,000 years, it has been challenging to find archaeological and ecological evidence for this "deep history," as Sicoli calls it.

Recent ecological, genetic and archaeological data support the notion of human habitation in Beringia during the latest ice age. The new linguistic research methods, which use "big data" to compare similarities and differences between languages, suggest that such a population would have been linguistically diverse, Sicoli said.

In "Linguistic Perspectives on Early Population Migrations and Language Contact in the Americas," Sicoli shows how big data analyses point to the existence of at least three now-extinct languages of earlier migrations that influenced existing Dene and Aleut languages as they moved to the Alaska coast. The data comparing dozens of indigenous languages support phases of migration for the Dene languages and multilingual language contact systems along the Alaska coast, which potentially involved languages related to current linguistic isolates. Traces of such language contacts support that the mixing populations also mixed their languages as part of human adaptation strategies for this region and its precarious environment.

"The computational methods give us traction on questions that have been unanswered," said Sicoli, who has been working in collaboration with Anna Berge of the University of Alaska and Gary Holton of the University of Hawaii. "They help us understand how people migrated and languages diversified not simply through isolation, but through multilingual contact."

Analyzing languages of the Dene-Yeniseian macro-family, Sicoli and Holton previously found support for Dene migrations from Beringia into North America and Yeniseian migration into Siberia. The linguists' continuing research is following up on this earlier study that posited a back-migration for the Yeniseian language family.

"In new work, Holton and I also are considering typological linguistic evidence for the subgrouping of the Dene languages suggestive of multiple routes and phases for Dene migrations in North America," Sicoli said. "We find additional support for coastal and interior distributions with two interior migration chains from Alaska into Canada and a later phase of migration involving connections between Tsuut'ina Athabaskan in western Canada and the Apache and Navajo languages of the U.S. Southwest. We also find support for a series of migrations from the Alaska and Canadian interior to the Alaska coast, which raises the question of language contact with prior languages that we are exploring with Aleut specialist Anna Berge."

In his presentation, Sicoli describes several comparisons from computational work with multiple languages from the Dene family and the more recently arriving Eskimo-Aleut family of languages. He combines geographical maps with language networks from the database that show shared features. For example, they "coded Aleut and Eskimo languages, adding them to the typological database that already included Dene languages and Haida [an isolate], and have been integrating results of phylogenetic and network analysis with prior studies of vocabulary and grammatical patterns," Sicoli writes.

"Based on linguistic analysis including computational phylogenetics," Sicoli writes, "we suggest the prehistory of South Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and the Pacific Northwest Coast involved intensive language contacts, including language shifts from now extinct languages that we can infer through typological features, grammar and vocabulary found in languages documented in historic periods."

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