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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Anthropology news updates
    Posted: 17-Oct-2012 at 23:18

Neanderthals ... They're Just Like Us?

The Neanderthals are both the most familiar and the least understood of all our fossil kin.

For decades after the initial discovery of their bones in a cave in Germany in 1856 Homo neanderthalensis was viewed as a hairy brute who stumbled around Ice Age Eurasia on bent knees, eventually to be replaced by elegant, upright Cro-Magnon, the true ancestor of modern Europeans.

Science has long since killed off the notion of that witless caveman, but Neanderthals have still been regarded as quintessential losers—a large-brained, well-adapted species of human that went extinct nevertheless, yielding the Eurasian continent to anatomically modern humans, who began to migrate out of Africa some 60,000 years ago.

Lately, the relationship between Neanderthals and modern humans has gotten spicier.

According to a new study that analyzed traces of Neanderthal DNA in present-day humans, Neanderthals may have been interbreeding with some of the ancestors of modern Eurasians as recently as 37,000 years ago. And another recent study found that Asian and South American people possess an even greater percentage of Neanderthal genes.

"These are complexities in the out-of-Africa story that certainly I would not have anticipated two or three years ago," said Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London and author of Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth.

(See pictures of a reconstructed Neanderthal and take a Neanderthals quiz.)

Blurring the Line

In their original incarnation, Neanderthals were viewed as the primitive, backward cave dwellers of Eurasia, far less complex than the sophisticatedHomo sapiens who used language and developed sophisticated art as they migrated out of Africa and conquered the world.

But new studies are making it much harder to draw a clean line between us and them.

"It's increasingly difficult to point to any one thing that Neanderthals did andHomo sapiens didn't do and vice versa," said John Shea, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University in New York.

"These Ice Age people, both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, survived, thrived, and increased their numbers under conditions that would probably kill people nowadays, even ones that are equipped with modern survival technology."

No Hanky-Panky Necessary?

The draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome, published in the journalScience in 2010, provided the first compelling genetic evidence that Neanderthals and H. sapiens had more in common than just an ancestor in Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The researchers, under the direction of Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, found that 2.5 percent of the genome of an average human living outside Africa today is made up of Neanderthal DNA. The average modern African has none.

This suggested that some interbreeding had taken place between the two kinds of human, probably in the Middle East, where the early modern humans migrating out of Africa would have encountered Neanderthals already living there.

The even larger percentage of Neanderthal DNA found in Asians and South Americans, announced in Science in August, could indicate additional interbreeding in Asia long ago, or could mean that the percentage of Neanderthal DNA in Europeans was diluted by later encounters.

Not everyone is convinced that interbreeding was responsible for similarities in the Neanderthal and H. sapiens genomes. "The similarities they're seeing may be ancient," Shea noted.

Another recent study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August, calculated that the shared DNA could have come from an earlier, common ancestor of Neanderthals and H. sapiens—no hanky-panky necessary.

new study by Pääbo's team, published last week in PLOS Genetics, also considered the possibility that the presence of Neanderthal DNA in people living outside Africa today could be traced far back, to the common ancestor of both Neanderthals and modern humans in Africa.

Perhaps the early modern humans who left Africa 60,000 years ago werealready genetically more similar to the Neanderthals—who had left hundreds of thousands of years before—than were the modern human populations that stayed behind in Africa. In that case, no interbreeding would have needed to occur to account for the trace of Neanderthal DNA in non-Africans today.

To test the two hypotheses, Pääbo's group analyzed the lengths of segments of Neanderthal DNA in modern Europeans to determine when Neanderthal genes may have mixed with those of modern humans. The date they came up with for the gene flow was 37,000 to 86,000 years ago, and most likely 47,000 to 65,000 years ago.

This date strongly suggests there was indeed interbreeding between "us and them," when H. sapiens was moving into the Middle East from Africa and would have encountered populations of Neanderthals already settled there.

"This [interbreeding] could have been a really powerful mechanism for humans to adapt as they moved into Eurasia," said Sriram Sankararaman, a statistical geneticist at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the PLOS Geneticsstudy.

Another group, publishing last year in Science, for example, determined that modern humans gained from Neanderthals a family of genes that helps the immune system fight off viruses. Breeding with the locals could have unwittingly given H. sapiens a survival advantage in a new land.

"[Neanderthals] are not just some extinct group of related hominids," Pääbo said. "They are partially ancestors to people who live today."

Take any two unrelated humans today, Pääbo noted, and they'll differ in millions of places in their genetic code. But the Neanderthal genome varies on average from that of H. sapiens in only about a hundred thousand positions. Pääbo and his colleagues are now trying to figure out the consequences of those differences.

(Related: "Sex With Humans Made Neanderthals Extinct?")

Act Like a Man?

Regardless of the similarities to our DNA, how "human" were Neanderthals in their sensibilities?

Last month a study led by the Gibraltar Museum and published in PLOS ONEdocumented a multitude of fossil remains of bird wings, particularly from big black raptors, at Neanderthal sites in southern Europe. The team suggested that Neanderthals could have been plucking feathers from the wings for personal use or even for ritual ornaments.

"We have other evidence for Neanderthals preferring mineral pigments that are dark, blackish color," Stony Brook's Shea said. "There may be something for them with the color black just as there seems to be something for us with the color red."

(Related: "Neanderthals' Last Stand Was in Gibraltar, Study Suggests.")

Sophisticated art, however, still appears to remain in the realm of H. sapiens.

The ancestors of modern humans left behind images of animals and other objects in caves around the world, most famously at Lascaux cave and Chauvet Cave (pictures) in southern France. Paintings in the latter cave could be as ancient as 37,000 years old. (See a prehistoric time line.)

Images found in a cave called El Castillo on the Spanish coast were recently dated at more than 40,800 years old: a time before Neanderthals disappeared, raising the tantalizing possibility that they were indeed the artists. However, "it hasn't been demonstrated that Neanderthals produced any of that cave art," the Natural History Museum's Stringer said.

The simpler answer is that H. sapiens, who had also reached Europe by that time and are known to have produced later but similar art, were responsible.

Neanderthals, though, have proven advanced in other ways.

They used pigments and may have made jewelry; some made complex tools. "We know they buried their dead," Stringer said. In 2010, researchers from the Smithsonian Institution even found evidence that the Neanderthal diet included a diverse mixture of plants, and that they cooked some of the grains. (Related:"Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies, Tooth Study Shows.")

"Cooking something like oatmeal is not what we would have imagined," saidJohn Hawks, paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With no pots, Neanderthals may have cooked inside leaves, Hawks suggested. "That starts to sound like cuisine."

"Neanderthals have gone from being different from us to being like us," Hawks noted. "They're looking like [Homo sapiens] hunter-gatherers look."

But while modern humans continued to develop cultural complexity and spread across the globe, the Neanderthals vanished. Why remains a mystery.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/121012-neanderthals-science-paabo-dna-sex-breeding-humans/

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Oct-2012 at 00:34

Fuller Picture of Human Expansion from Africa

A new, comprehensive review of humans' anthropological and genetic records gives the most up-to-date story of the "Out of Africa" expansion that occurred about 45,000 to 60,000 years ago.

This expansion, detailed by three Stanford geneticists, had a dramatic effect on human genetic diversity, which persists in present-day populations. As a small group of modern humans migrated out of Africa into Eurasia and the Americas, their genetic diversity was substantially reduced.

In studying these migrations, genomic projects haven't fully taken into account the rich archaeological and anthropological data available, and vice versa. This review integrates both sides of the story and provides a foundation that could lead to better understanding of ancient humans and, possibly, genomic and medical advances.

"People are doing amazing genome sequencing, but they don't always understand human demographic history" that can help inform an investigation, said review co-author Brenna Henn, a postdoctoral fellow in genetics at the Stanford School of Medicine who has a PhD in anthropology from Stanford. "We wanted to write this as a primer on pre-human history for people who are not anthropologists."

This model of the Out of Africa expansion provides the framework for testing other anthropological and genetic models, Henn said, and will allow researchers to constrain various parameters on computer simulations, which will ultimately improve their accuracy.

"The basic notion is that all of these disciplines have to be considered simultaneously when thinking about movements of ancient populations," said Marcus Feldman, a professor of biology at Stanford andthe senior author of the paper. "What we're proposing is a story that has potential to explain any of the fossil record that subsequently becomes available, and to be able to tell what was the size of the population in that place at that time."

The anthropological information can inform geneticists when they investigate certain genetic changes that emerge over time. For example, geneticists have found that genes for lactose intolerance and gluten sensitivity began to emerge in populations expanding into Europe around 10,000 years ago.

The anthropological record helps explain this: It was around this time that humans embraced agriculture, including milk and wheat production. The populations that prospered -- and thus those who survived to pass on these mutations -- were those who embraced these unnatural food sources. This, said Feldman, is an example of how human movements drove a new form of natural selection.

Populations that expand from a small founding group can also exhibit reduced genetic diversity -- known as a "bottleneck" -- a classic example being the Ashkenazi Jewish population, which has a fairly large number of genetic diseases that can be attributed to its small number of founders. When this small group moved from the Rhineland to Eastern Europe, reproduction occurred mainly within the group, eventually leading to situations in which mothers and fathers were related. This meant that offspring often received the same deleterious gene from each parent and, as this process continued, ultimately resulted in a population in which certain diseases and cancers are more prevalent.

"If you know something about the demographic history of populations, you may be able to learn something about the reasons why a group today has a certain genetic abnormality -- either good or bad," Feldman said. "That's one of the reasons why in our work we focus on the importance of migration and history of mixing in human populations. It helps you assess the kinds of things you might be looking for in a first clinical assessment. It doesn't have the immediacy of prescribing chemotherapy -- it's a more general look at what's the status of human variability in DNA, and how might that inform a clinician."

The study is published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was co-authored by Feldman's longtime collaborator, population geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford and the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Italy.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022145445.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Oct-2012 at 19:05

Possible Key Human Ancestor was Both Upright Walker and Tree Climber



Australopithecus sediba, the pivotal 3.3 million-year-old ancient hominid species made famous by the landmark discovery of the "Lucy" skeleton by Donald Johanson in 1974, has been thought by many scientists to be a strong candidate for the ancestor of Homo, or humans. Its fossil features suggested that it, like humans, walked upright, one of the capabilities that set it apart from other primates.

But the question of whether it also spent much of its time in trees has been the subject of much debate, partly because a complete set of A. afarensis shoulder blades, a diagnostic part of the skeletal anatomy, has never before been available for study. For the first time, Midwestern University Professor David Green and Curator of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, Zeresenay Alemseged, have thoroughly examined the two complete shoulder blades of the fossil "Selam," an exceptionally well-preserved skeleton of an A. afarensis child from Dikika, Ethiopia, discovered in 2000 by Dr. Alemseged. Further preparation and extensive analyses of these rare bones showed them to be quite apelike, suggesting that this species was adapted to climbing trees in addition to walking bipedally when on the ground. "The question as to whether Australopithecus afarensis was strictly bipedal or if they also climbed trees has been intensely debated for more than thirty years," said Dr. Green. "These remarkable fossils provide strong evidence that these individuals were still climbing at this stage in human evolution." The new findings are published in the October 26 issue of the journalScience.

Dr. Alemseged, assisted by Kenyan lab technician Christopher Kiarie, spent 11 years carefully extracting the two shoulder blades from the rest of the skeleton, which was encased in a sandstone block. "Because shoulder blades are paper-thin, they rarely fossilize--and when they do, they are almost always fragmentary," said Dr. Alemseged. "So finding both shoulder blades completely intact and attached to a skeleton of a known and pivotal species was like hitting the jackpot. This study moves us a step closer toward answering the question 'When did our ancestors abandon climbing behavior?' It appears that this happened much later than many researchers have previously suggested.".............

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/september-2012/article/possible-key-human-ancestor-was-both-upright-walker-and-tree-climber



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 26-Oct-2012 at 19:09
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Dec-2012 at 21:36
Archaeologists find prehistoric humans cared for sick and disabled
A handout photo shows the skeleton of a young man, found in northern Vietnam, who lived 4,000 years ago and suffered severe paralysis. His paralysis and age at death indicate others cared for him for years before he died.

While it is a painful truism that brutality and violence are at least as old as humanity, so, it seems, is caring for the sick and disabled. And some archaeologists are suggesting a closer, more systematic look at how prehistoric people — who may have left only their bones — treated illness, injury and incapacitation. Call it the archaeology of health care.

The case that led Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University in Canberra to this idea is that of a profoundly ill young man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam and was buried, as were others in his culture, at a site known as Man Bac.

Almost all the other skeletons at the site, south of Hanoi and about 15 miles from the coast, lie straight. Burial 9, as both the remains and the once living person are known, was laid to rest curled in the fetal position. When Tilley, a graduate student in archaeology, and Oxenham, a professor, excavated and examined the skeleton in 2007 it became clear why. His fused vertebrae, weak bones and other evidence suggested that he lies in death as he did in life, bent and crippled by disease.

They gathered that he became paralyzed from the waist down before adolescence, the result of a congenital disease known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. He had little, if any, use of his arms and could not have fed himself or kept himself clean. But he lived another 10 years or so.

They concluded that the people around him who had no metal and lived by fishing, hunting and raising barely domesticated pigs, took the time and care to tend to his every need.

"There's an emotional experience in excavating any human being, a feeling of awe," Tilley said, and a responsibility "to tell the story with as much accuracy and humanity as we can."

This case, and other similar, if less extreme examples of illness and disability, have prompted Tilley and Oxenham to ask what the dimensions of such a story are, what care for the sick and injured says about the culture that provided it.

The archaeologists described the extent of Burial 9's disability in a paper in Anthropological Science in 2009. Two years later, they returned to the case to address the issue of health care head on.

"The provision and receipt of health care may therefore reflect some of the most fundamental aspects of a culture," the two archaeologists wrote in The International Journal of Paleopathology.

In the case of Burial 9, Tilley says, not only does his care indicate tolerance and cooperation in his culture but suggests that he himself had a sense of his own worth and a strong will to live. Without that, she says, he could not have stayed alive.

"I'm obviously not the first archaeologist" to notice evidence of people who needed help to survive in stone age or other early cultures, she said. Nor does her method "come out of the blue." It is based on and extends previous work.

Among archaeological finds, she said, she knows "about 30 cases in which the disease or pathology was so severe, they must have had care in order to survive."

http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_22212020/archaeologists-find-prehistoric-humans-cared-sick-and-disabled






Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 18-Dec-2012 at 21:39
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Dec-2012 at 00:01

Fluctuating Environment May Have Driven Human Evolution

The researchers examined lake sediments from Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania, looking for biomarkers -- fossil molecules -- from ancient trees and grasses.

A series of rapid environmental changes in East Africa roughly 2 million years ago may be responsible for driving human evolution, according to researchers at Penn State and Rutgers University.

"The landscape early humans were inhabiting transitioned rapidly back and forth between a closed woodland and an open grassland about five to six times during a period of 200,000 years," said Clayton Magill, graduate student in geosciences at Penn State. "These changes happened very abruptly, with each transition occurring over hundreds to just a few thousand years."

According to Katherine Freeman, professor of geosciences, Penn State, the current leading hypothesis suggests that evolutionary changes among humans during the period the team investigated were related to a long, steady environmental change or even one big change in climate.

"There is a view this time in Africa was the 'Great Drying,' when the environment slowly dried out over 3 million years," she said. "But our data show that it was not a grand progression towards dry; the environment was highly variable."

According to Magill, many anthropologists believe that variability of experience can trigger cognitive development.

"Early humans went from having trees available to having only grasses available in just 10 to 100 generations, and their diets would have had to change in response," he said. "Changes in food availability, food type, or the way you get food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those changes. The result can be increased brain size and cognition, changes in locomotion and even social changes -- how you interact with others in a group. Our data are consistent with these hypotheses. We show that the environment changed dramatically over a short time, and this variability coincides with an important period in our human evolution when the genus Homo was first established and when there was first evidence of tool use."

The researchers -- including Gail Ashley, professor of earth and planetary sciences, Rutgers University -- examined lake sediments from Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. They removed the organic matter that had either washed or was blown into the lake from the surrounding vegetation, microbes and other organisms 2 million years ago from the sediments. In particular, they looked at biomarkers -- fossil molecules from ancient organisms -- from the waxy coating on plant leaves.

"We looked at leaf waxes because they're tough, they survive well in the sediment," said Freeman.......

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121226080906.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Dec-2012 at 22:52

Did Lucy Walk On the Ground or Stay in the Trees?

Much has been made of our ancestors "coming down out of the trees," and many researchers view terrestrial bipedalism as the hallmark of "humanness." After all, most of our living primate relatives -- the great apes, specifically -- still spend their time in the trees. Humans are the only member of the family devoted to the ground, living terrestrial rather than arboreal lives, but that wasn't always the case.

The fossil record shows that our predecessors were arboreal habitués, that is, until Lucy arrived on the scene. About 3.5 million years ago in Africa, this new creature, Australopithecus afarensis, appeared; Lucy was the first specimen discovered. Anthropologists agree that A. afarensis was bipedal, but had Lucy and her legions totally forsaken the trees? The question is at the root of a controversy that still rages.

"Australopithecus afarensispossessed a rigid ankle and an arched, nongrasping foot," write Nathaniel Dominy and his co-authors in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "These traits are widely interpreted as being functionally incompatible with climbing and thus definitive markers of terrestriality," says Dominy, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth.

But not so fast; this interpretation may be a rush to judgment in light of new evidence brought to light by Dominy and his colleagues. They did what anthropologists do. They went out and looked at modern humans who, like Lucy, have feet adapted to terrestrial bipedalism, and found these people can still function as effective treeclimbers.

Co-authors Vivek Venkataraman and Thomas Kraft collaborated with Dominy on field studies in the Philippines and Africa that inform their PNAS paper. Venkataraman and Kraft are Dartmouth graduate students in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD program in the Department of Biological Sciences, and are supported by National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships.

The studies in Uganda compared Twa hunter-gatherers to their agriculturalist neighbors, the Bakiga. In the Philippines, the researchers studied Agta hunter-gatherers and Manobo agriculturalists. Both the Twa and the Agta habitually climb trees in pursuit of honey, a highly nutritious component of their diets. They climb in a fashion that has been described as "walking" up small-diameter trees. The climbers apply the soles of their feet directly to the trunk and "walk" upward, with their arms and legs advancing alternately.

Among the climbers, Dominy and his team documented extreme dorsiflexion -- bending the foot upward toward the shin to an extraordinary degree -- beyond the range of modern "industrialized" humans. Assuming their leg bones and ankle joints were normal, "we hypothesized that a soft-tissue mechanism might enable such extreme dorsiflexion," the authors write.

They tested their hypothesis using ultrasound imaging to measure and compare the lengths of gastrocnemius muscle fibers -- the large calf muscles -- in all four groups -- the Agta, Manobo, Twa and Bakiga. The climbing Agta and Twa were found to have significantly longer muscle fibers.

"These results suggest that habitual climbing by Twa and Agta men changes the muscle architecture associated with ankle dorsiflexion," write the scientists, demonstrating that a terrestrially adapted foot and ankle do not exclude climbing from the behavioral repertoire of human hunter- gatherers, or Lucy.

In their conclusions, the Dartmouth team highlights the value of modern humans as models for studying the anatomical correlates of behavior, both in the present and in the dim past of our fossil ancestors.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121231161043.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2013 at 14:29

Stone Age hunters liked their carbs

Analyses of Stone Age settlements reveal that the hunters were healthy and would gladly eat anything they could get their hands on, including carbohydrates – contrary to the modern definition of the Paleolithic, or Stone Age diet.

The Stone Age hunter’s food contained large amounts of protein from fish, lean mean, herbs and coarse vegetables and has formed the basis of one of today’s hottest health trends: the paleo diet.

The modern version of the Stone Age diet excludes foods rich in carbohydrates. This exclusion of carbs is based on the idea that Stone Age hunters didn’t have access to bread, rice or pasta.

But is it true that Stone Age hunters and gatherers didn’t eat any carbohydrates at all?

Sabine Karg, an external lecturer at Copenhagen University’s Saxo Institute, specialises in archaeobotany. She says that Stone Age hunters, unlike many followers of the modern Stone Age diet, joyfully munched away at carbs when the opportunity presented itself.

“Carbohydrates have been part of their diet. In flooded settlements from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, traces of roots and seeds from various aquatic plants and wild grasses have been found.”

Stone Age hunters were not picky

The modern version of the paleo diet forsakes everything that’s reminiscent of bread, rice, pasta, legumes and milk.

But according to Karg, the Stone Age hunters were nowhere near that fastidious about their food.

Easily digestible food with high energy content is a welcome feature if you have to make the effort of finding the next meal yourself, and traces of foods containing carbohydrates have also been found in the old settlements.

“What archaeologists find in their excavations is dependent on both the preservation conditions and how the people had prepared their food,” says Karg. “For us, the conditions are particularly good in flooded settlements where organic material is well preserved, or in burn layers or fireplaces where we can find charred plant residues,” she says, giving an example:

“We have found seeds of wild grasses, aquatic plants and root vegetables, all of which have formed part of the hunters’ diet. Especially after an unsuccessful hunt, they had to go out and dig up roots.”

Paleo diet for 9,000 years

The Stone Age menu was widely different depending on the region, climate and season. In Denmark, people lived by hunting and gathering for more than 9,000 years until they changed their ways and became farmers.

During the course of these 9,000 years, Denmark presented the hunters with terrains ranging from frozen landscapes similar to today’s Greenland to warm islands with temperatures like those in today’s Southern European holiday destinations.

The starch sources that the archaeologists have so far found include acorns and sea beet, the latter of which is the ancestor of both the beetroot and the sugar beet.

Compared to today, the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic diets included lots of proteins, less fat and fewer, though some, carbohydrates........

http://sciencenordic.com/stone-age-hunters-liked-their-carbs

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jan-2013 at 23:51
Body Shape Preferences: Associations with Rater Body Shape and Sociosexuality
There is accumulating evidence of condition-dependent mate choice in many species, that is, individual preferences varying in strength according to the condition of the chooser. In humans, for example, people with more attractive faces/bodies, and who are higher in sociosexuality, exhibit stronger preferences for attractive traits in opposite-sex faces/bodies. However, previous studies have tended to use only relatively simple, isolated measures of rater attractiveness. Here we use 3D body scanning technology to examine associations between strength of rater preferences for attractive traits in opposite-sex bodies, and raters’ body shape, self-perceived attractiveness, and sociosexuality. For 118 raters and 80 stimuli models, we used a 3D scanner to extract body measurements associated with attractiveness (male waist-chest ratio [WCR], female waist-hip ratio [WHR], and volume-height index [VHI] in both sexes) and also measured rater self-perceived attractiveness and sociosexuality. As expected, WHR and VHI were important predictors of female body attractiveness, while WCR and VHI were important predictors of male body attractiveness. Results indicated that male rater sociosexuality scores were positively associated with strength of preference for attractive (low) VHI and attractive (low) WHR in female bodies. Moreover, male rater self-perceived attractiveness was positively associated with strength of preference for low VHI in female bodies. The only evidence of condition-dependent preferences in females was a positive association between attractive VHI in female raters and preferences for attractive (low) WCR in male bodies. No other significant associations were observed in either sex between aspects of rater body shape and strength of preferences for attractive opposite-sex body traits. These results suggest that among male raters, rater self-perceived attractiveness and sociosexuality are important predictors of preference strength for attractive opposite-sex body shapes, and that rater body traits –with the exception of VHI in female raters– may not be good predictors of these preferences in either sex.............
http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0052532
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Jan-2013 at 00:46

Gene Flow from India to Australia About 4,000 Years Ago

Four-thousand years ago, Australia was no longer connected to the mainland as it had been during the ice age. The immigrants thus crossed the ocean, arriving by boat.

Australia is thought to have remained largely isolated between its initial colonisation around 40,000 years ago and the arrival of Europeans in the late 1800s. A study led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, now finds evidence of substantial gene flow between Indian populations and Australia about 4,000 years ago. In addition, the researchers found a common origin for Australian, New Guinean and the Philippine Mamanwa populations. These populations followed an early southern migration route out of Africa, while other populations settled in the region only at a later date.

Australia holds some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the presence of modern humans outside Africa, with the earliest sites dated to at least 45,000 years ago, making Australian aboriginals one of the oldest continuous populations outside Africa. It is commonly assumed that following the initial dispersal of people into Sahul (joint Australia-New Guinea landmass) and until the arrival of the Europeans late in the 18th Century, there was no contact between Australia and the rest of the world.

Researcher Irina Pugach and colleagues now analysed genetic variation from across the genome from aboriginal Australians, New Guineans, island Southeast Asians, and Indians. Their findings suggest substantial gene flow from India to Australia 4,230 years ago, i.e. during the Holocene and well before European contact. "Interestingly," says Pugach, "this date also coincides with many changes in the archaeological record of Australia, which include a sudden change in plant processing and stone tool technologies, with microliths appearing for the first time, and the first appearance of the dingo in the fossil record. Since we detect inflow of genes from India into Australia at around the same time, it is likely that these changes were related to this migration."

Their analyses also reveal a common origin for populations from Australia, New Guinea and the Mamanwa – a Negrito group from the Philippines – and they estimated that these groups split from each other about 36,000 years ago. Mark Stoneking says: "This finding supports the view that these populations represent the descendants of an early ‘southern route’ migration out of Africa, while other populations in the region arrived later by a separate dispersal." This also indicates that Australians and New Guineans diverged early in the history of Sahul, and not when the lands were separated by rising sea waters around 8,000 years ago.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130114152952.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jan-2013 at 00:51

MESOLITHIC PEOPLE ADAPTED THEIR ENVIRONMENT IN SEVERN ESTUARY

New and exciting evidence has been found at a threatened archaeological site on the Severn Estuary that seems to show Mesolithic  people knew how to adapt their environment to suit their needs.

Encouraging specific plants

Researchers from the University of Reading found 7500 year-old worked flint tools, bones, charcoal and hazelnut shells while working at Goldcliff, near Newport, south Wales, in September 2012.

Charcoal remains discovered on the site suggest these people used fire to encourage the growth of particular plants, such as hazelnuts, crab apples and raspberries. This evidence may indicate that Mesolithic people were deliberately manipulating the environment to increase their resources, thousands of years before farming began.

Brambles. Image: Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0

A natural harvest. Image: Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0

A missing diet

Most evidence  for hunter-gatherer diet relates to the meat gained by hunting.  This is easier to recognise and study than plant based foodstuffs, due to the greater survival of bone in the archaeological record. The Severn Estuary sites are however exceptional in providing evidence for a wide range of plant resources.

A complete environmental picture

Professor Martin Bell, Head of the University of Reading’s Department of Archaeology, who is leading the Severn Estuary project, said: “Previously it was thought that these people were mainly hunting deer and simply responding to the spectacular environmental changes around them, such as sea level rise. Now there is increasing evidence that they were adept at manipulating their environment to increase valued plant resources.

“Combining our finds with the trees, pollen and insects from the area we can build a picture of the environmental relationships of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. These people were highly adaptable and continued using the same site as the environment changed dramatically from old woodland to reedswamp, to saltmarsh and back to fen woodland.”

Mesolithic Footprint from Goldcliff. Image: Reading University

Mesolithic footprint from Goldcliff. Image: Reading University

Ancient footprints in the sand

Over the last two summers researchers from the University of Reading have found Mesolithic footprints at Goldcliff.  New finds, including the tracks of animals and birds, are frequently being made in the Severn Estuary.

Professor Bell continued: “The 7500 year old footprint trails show how the activity areas represented by flint tools and bones articulated together as parts of a living prehistoric landscape. The footprints include those made by children, which is extremely exciting as the role of children tends not to be visible in the archaeological record. They show children as young as four were actively engaged in the productive activities of the community.”

Severn Tidal Barrage may impact on unique archaeology

The UK House of Commons Select Committee on Climate Change is once again considering a Severn Tidal Barrage. This scheme would have a major impact on the rich archaeological resource of the Severn Estuary.

“From an archaeological point of view construction of a Severn Tidal Barrage would have very serious consequences alongside the more widely recognised ecological risks to fish, birds and many other organisms,”continued Professor Bell. “The tidal range will be reduced, sites will be permanently submerged, sedimentation will increase in some areas and, as patterns of erosion change, some site, including those with exceptional preservation of organic artefacts, may be rapidly destroyed.”

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/01/2013/mesolithic-people-adapted-their-environment-in-severn-estuary



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 16-Jan-2013 at 00:52
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jan-2013 at 09:01

A Relative from the Tianyuan Cave: Humans Living 40,000 Years Ago Likely Related to Many Present-Day Asians and Native Americans

The leg of the early modern human from Tianyuan Cave was used for the genetic analysis as well as for carbon dating.

Ancient DNA has revealed that humans living some 40,000 years ago in the area near Beijing were likely related to many present-day Asians and Native Americans.

An international team of researchers including Svante Pääbo and Qiaomei Fu of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, sequenced nuclear and mitochondrial DNA that had been extracted from the leg of an early modern human from Tianyuan Cave near Beijing, China. Analyses of this individual's DNA showed that the Tianyuan human shared a common origin with the ancestors of many present-day Asians and Native Americans. In addition, the researchers found that the proportion of Neanderthal and Denisovan-DNA in this early modern human is not higher than in people living in this region nowadays.

Humans with morphology similar to present-day humans appear in the fossil record across Eurasia between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. The genetic relationships between these early modern humans and present-day human populations had not yet been established. Qiaomei Fu, Matthias Meyer and colleagues of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, extracted nuclear and mitochondrial DNA from a 40,000 year old leg bone found in 2003 at the Tianyuan Cave site located outside Beijing. For their study the researchers were using new techniques that can identify ancient genetic material from an archaeological find even when large quantities of DNA from soil bacteria are present.........

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130121161802.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Jan-2013 at 21:45

Oldest stone hand axes unearthed

Scientists have unearthed more than 350 ancient tools in Konso, Ethiopia that were used by humans' ancient ancestors. The tools, which span roughly 1 million years of evolution, show a gradual progression to more refined shaping.

Scientists have unearthed and dated some of the oldest stone hand axes on Earth. The ancient tools, unearthed in Ethiopia in the last two decades, date to 1.75 million years ago.

The tools roughly coincided with the emergence of an ancient human ancestor called Homo erectusand fossilized H. erectus remains were also found at the same site, said study author Yonas Beyene, an archaeologist at the Association for Research and Conservation of Culture in Ethiopia. Collectively, the finding suggests an ancient tool-making technique may have arisen with the evolution of the new species.

"This discovery shows that the technology began with the appearance of Homo erectus," Beyene told LiveScience. "We think it might be related to the change of species."

The findings were described Jan. 28 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Ancient tools 
Human ancestors used primitive tools as far back as 2.6 million years ago, when Homo habilis roamed the Earth. But those tools, called Oldowan tools, weren't much more than rock flakes knapped in a slapdash manner to have a sharp edge.

But nearly a million years later, more sophisticated two-sided hand axes or cleavers emerged. These Aucheulean tools could be up to 7.8 inches (20 centimeters) long and were probably used tobutcher meat. Scientists recently discovered tools of this type a few hundred miles away near Lake Turkana in Kenya, dating to 1.76 million years ago. [Image Gallery: New Human Ancestors from Kenya]

Because of its coincidence with the appearance of Homo erectus, scientists believed the sophisticated tools were made by the newer species of Homo, but proving that was tricky, because the dating of fossils and tools wasn't precise enough, said study co-author Paul Renne, a geochronologist and director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in Berkeley, Calif.

Creating a timeline 
Beyene, Renne and their colleagues, however, have found Aucheulean tools that are indistinguishable in age from those found in Kenya, suggesting the symmetric hand axes were widespread in the region by that time. And the Konso, Ethiopia, site also harbors Homo erectus fossils, increasing the likelihood that this species was responsible for making the new tools.

What's more, they have unearthed more than 350 of these two-faced stone tools in Konso, in different geologic layers that span about a million years of human evolution. The tool-making techniques stayed similar until 800,000 years ago, when the edges on the tools became more refined, the researchers found.

That the timing of this tool-making emerges at the same time as Homo erectus is intriguing, and allows for the possibility that the tools were made by this ancient lineage, said Leah Morgan, a geochronologist at the University of Glasgow, who was not involved in the study.

But while the new study is suggestive that Homo erectus made these tools, it's not a smoking gun.

"It's tempting to say, 'Well, Homo erectus was making these tools at Konso,' and that's very difficult to prove," Morgan said.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/50620121/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.UQiI-R1MLlu

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Feb-2013 at 22:00

The Last Neanderthals and Modern Humans Were Not Neighbors, Says Study

By the time modern humans arrived on the scene in southern Iberia (Spain), the last of the Neanderthals were already long gone. That is the conclusion of a recent study* by an international scientific team, the detailed results of which have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Led by Jesús F. Jordá, researcher of the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the UNED (Madrid) and co-author of the study, these researchers have now challenged the popular long-held hypothesis that the last Neanderthals persisted in southern Iberia and were therefore contemporaneous with modern human counterparts who had just arrived from the more southerly parts of the globe. 

"It is improbable that the last Neanderthals of central and southern Iberia would have persisted until such a late date, approximately 30,000 years ago, as we thought before the new dates appeared" says Jordá. Instead, they actually died out some time around 45,000 years ago, according to new radiocarbon dating results.

The researchers applied a new dating technique to bone samples taken from numerous sites in southern Iberia. Only two of the sites, however, had samples that could be reliably dated based on their higher collagen content. Those sites were Jarama VI (Guadalajara) and Zafarraya (Malaga), considered up to now two of the last refuges of the Iberian Neanderthals. In addition to the usual radiocarbon dating method, ultrafiltration was conducted, which purifies the collagen of bone samples from contaminants, or other substances that have intruded into the bone collagen over time. By purifying the collagen from all contaminants, researchers can obtain more accurate dates. Moreover, bones bearing clear signs of human manipulation (cut marks, marks of percussion or intentional breakage) were selected in order to rule out possible intrusions by carnivores. 

Based on this new data and analysis, "prehistory books would need revision", says Jordá. "Although it is still controversial to change the theory in force, the new concept, which presents new data indicating that Neanderthals and H. sapiens did not co-exist in Iberia, is becoming accepted."...........

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/december-2012/article/the-last-neanderthals-and-modern-humans-were-not-neighbors-says-study



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 06-Feb-2013 at 22:02
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Feb-2013 at 20:00

New Radiometric Ages for the BH-1 Hominin from Balanica (Serbia): Implications for Understanding the Role of the Balkans in Middle Pleistocene Human Evolution
Newly obtained ages, based on electron spin resonance combined with uranium series isotopic analysis, and infrared/post-infrared luminescence dating, provide a minimum age that lies between 397 and 525 ka for the hominin mandible BH-1 from Mala Balanica cave, Serbia. This confirms it as the easternmost hominin specimen in Europe dated to the Middle Pleistocene. Inferences drawn from the morphology of the mandible BH-1 place it outside currently observed variation of European Homo heidelbergensis. The lack of derived Neandertal traits in BH-1 and its contemporary specimens in Southeast Europe, such as Kocabaş, Vasogliano and Ceprano, coupled with Middle Pleistocene synapomorphies, suggests different evolutionary forces acting in the east of the continent where isolation did not play such an important role during glaciations................
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0054608
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Mar-2013 at 20:58

Human Ancestors Were Fashion Conscious

Keeping up with fashions. A close examination of shell beads from Blombos Cave (top) suggests that ancient humans there started off with one style of jewelry (bottom) and then shifted to another (middle) over the course of 3000 years.

The 2013 Academy Awards were, as always, as much about making appearances as about making films, as red carpet watchers noted fashion trends and faux pas. Both Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts wore Armani, although fortunately not the same dress. And Best Supporting Actress Anne Hathaway switched from Valentino to a controversial pale pink Prada at the last minute because her original dress looked too much like someone else's. Of course, no actress would be caught dead wearing the same style 2 years in a row. A new study of ancient beaded jewelry from a South African cave finds that ancient humans were no different, avoiding outdated styles as early as 75,000 years ago.

Personal ornaments, often in the form of beads worn as necklaces or bracelets, are considered by archaeologists as a key sign of sophisticated symbolic behavior, communicating either membership in a group or individual identity. Such ornaments are ubiquitous in so-called Upper Paleolithic sites in Europe beginning about 40,000 years ago, where they were made from many different materials—animal and human teeth, bone and ivory, stone, and mollusk shells—and often varied widely among regions and sites.

Even more ancient personal ornaments go back to at least 100,000 years ago in Africa and the Near East. But this earlier jewelry seems less variable and was nearly always made from mollusk shells. So some archaeologists have questioned whether these earlier ornaments played the same symbolic roles as the later ones, or even whether they were made by humans at all.

In a new study in press at the Journal of Human Evolution, a team led by archaeologist Marian Vanhaeren of the University of Bordeaux in France claims to have found evidence of a relatively sudden shift in the way that shell beads were strung. The beads were found at Blombos Cave in South Africa in archaeological layers dated between 75,000 and 72,000 years ago, during a time period marked by four distinct layers of artifacts called the Still Bay tradition. This tradition includes bone awls and sophisticated stone spear points and knives, as well as beads from jewelry: sixty-eight specimens of the southern African tick shell, Nassarius kraussianus, most found clustered together and thought to be part of individual necklaces or bracelets. All the shells are perforated with a single hole, and the team's microscopic studies—as well as experiments with shells of the same species collected near the site—have suggested that they were punctured with a finely tipped bone point..............

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/03/human-ancestors-were-fashion-con.html?ref=hp

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Mar-2013 at 22:57
Ancient people and Neandertals were extreme travelers
The Stone Age could just as easily be called the Roam Age.

Two new studies published February 27 in theJournal of Human Evolution advance the idea that ancient people and Neandertals walked or ran far greater distances than any human groups that followed, including more recent hunter-gatherers and today’s long-distance runners. Fossils of humans and their beetle-browed evolutionary cousins display signs of extremely extended travel that occurred between roughly 120,000 and 10,000 years ago, Colin Shaw and Jay Stock, biological anthropologists at the University of Cambridge in England report in one of the studies.

Shaw and Stock conclude that the Stone Age crowd moved around considerably more than southern Africans from a few thousand years ago who hunted over an area of 5,200 to 7,800 square kilometers. Highly trained athletes today who run 130 to 160 kilometers every week come in third in this mobility comparison.

Human ancestors started wandering long distances around 1.7 million years ago (SN: 8/25/12, p. 22). The extent to which particular Stone Age species and groups roamed the landscape has been difficult to establish.

Shaw and Stock’s findings support an argument for extreme mobility among ancient people and Neandertals that has been championed over the last 15 years by Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis and Christopher Ruff of Johns Hopkins University. Clues come from exceptionally robust leg bones, a dearth of older individuals in fossil samples suggesting that life spans were limited due to the rigors of constant travel, and an absence of skeletal injuries in excavated fossils that would have prevented vigorous movement, Trinkaus says.

Shaw and Stock used a calculation of the lower leg’s ability to withstand twisting and other forces to compare Stone Age hominids’ leg strength with that of human groups with known activity levels: varsity distance runners, varsity swimmers, non-athletic college students, Andaman Island foragers from the 1800s who swam constantly in pursuit of food, and southern African hunter-gatherers who hunted over a vast territory between 11,000 and 2,000 years ago.

Ancient human and Neandertal legs substantially overpowered those of the hunter-gatherers, who had stronger legs than the other groups. Regular swimmers brought up the rear, perhaps partly because swimming emphasizes upper- over lower-body strength, the researchers suggest.

Anthropologists don’t know what kept ancient people and Neandertals in constant motion. It could have been the hunt for spear-worthy rock, the second new study suggests. Chemical analyses of stone spear points from one southern African site indicate that silcrete spear points from 54,000 to 94,000 years ago chemically matched silcrete outcrops located more than 220 kilometers away, but not others situated only 70 kilometers away,

Rock reconnaissance missions began near the northwestern shore of an inland delta in what’s now Botswana, propose physical geographer David Nash of the University of Brighton in England and his colleagues. Journeyers headed to several rock sources just beyond the delta’s southernmost reaches.

Travel of that extent must have involved collecting both rock for spear points and game and fish possibly not available in the northern delta, Nash suggests. Or middleman groups could have collected blocks of stone and transported them partway north for trade. “We cannot say for certain what happened,” Nash says.
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/348856/description/Ancient_people_and_Neandertals_were_extreme_travelers


Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 09-Mar-2013 at 22:58
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Mar-2013 at 23:23

The way we weren't: U of Minnesota biologist debunks myth that humans peaked in Paleolithic era

Have agriculture, technology, diet and lifestyle changes put humans out of touch with the way we evolved? And would we be healthier and happier if we lived, at least to some extent, the way our Paleolithic ancestors did? The abundance of Paleo diet and lifestyle recommendations suggests the answer is yes. But University of Minnesota evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk is skeptical. The Paleo ideal is a myth based on speculation rather than science, she says. As a skilled writer with an engaging sense of humor, she does an informative and entertaining job of debunking this myth in her new book, "Paleofantasy: "What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live," to be published by W.W. Norton on March 11. Paleo proponents claim that humans fully evolved as hunter-gatherers and that the development of agriculture triggered a downward spiral, causing disease and social conflicts. But that, Zuk says, is a paleofantasy without scientific basis. "There's widespread misunderstanding about how evolution works, particularly how fast it happens," Zuk says. "To think of ourselves as misfits in our own time and of our own making flatly contradicts what science has revealed about the way evolution works; namely, that we can adapt over just a few generations." Genes continuously appear in and disappear from the human genome. Some remain for millions of years, others for much shorter periods, Zuk says. Evolution is a series of compromises and tradeoffs because genes have more than one function, and interact in complicated ways. "By focusing on how we were in Paleolithic times, we overlook the ways we've changed since then. New tools in evolutionary biology and genetics are helping us understand how change happens, and which parts of the genome change quickly vs. slowly. Understanding that difference in people as well as other organisms is much more interesting to me than trying to hew to a version of how our ancestors might have lived." Some of the work Zuk and her students have been doing on crickets found in Hawaii shows that a completely new trait, a wing mutation that renders males silent, spread in just five years, fewer than 20 generations. If we want to learn from evolution, Zuk says, we should study rapid evolution rather than "holding up our flabby selves against a vision – accurate or not – of our well-muscled and harmoniously adapted ancestors" to understand how we have adapted to relatively recent changes in our environment and how we may continue to adapt as our environment changes.
http://phys.org/news/2013-03-werent-minnesota-biologist-debunks-myth.html
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Mar-2013 at 00:20

Now for the sake of civilization don't you want to drink alcohol all of the time now? No 


How Beer Gave Us Civilization


HUMAN beings are social animals. But just as important, we are socially constrained as well.

We can probably thank the latter trait for keeping our fledgling species alive at the dawn of man. Five core social instincts, I haveargued, gave structure and strength to our primeval herds. They kept us safely codependent with our fellow clan members, assigned us a rank in the pecking order, made sure we all did our chores, discouraged us from offending others, and removed us from this social coil when we became a drag on shared resources.

Thus could our ancient forebears cooperate, prosper, multiply — and pass along their DNA to later generations.

But then, these same lifesaving social instincts didn’t readily lend themselves to exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation — the other human drives that make for a vibrant civilization.

To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative — or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.

We needed beer.

Luckily, from time to time, our ancestors, like other animals, would run across fermented fruit or grain and sample it. How this accidental discovery evolved into the first keg party, of course, is still unknown. But evolve it did, perhaps as early as 10,000 years ago.

Current theory has it that grain was first domesticated for food. But since the 1950s, many scholars have found circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that some early humans grew and stored grain for beer, even before they cultivated it for bread.

Brian Hayden and colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Canada provide new support for this theory in an article published this month (and online last year) in the Journal of Archeological Method and Theory. Examining potential beer-brewing tools in archaeological remains from the Natufian culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, the team concludes that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic” era.

Anthropological studies in Mexico suggest a similar conclusion: there, the ancestral grass of modern maize, teosinte, was well suited for making beer — but was much less so for making corn flour for bread or tortillas. It took generations for Mexican farmers todomesticate this grass into maize, which then became a staple of the local diet.

Once the effects of these early brews were discovered, the value of beer (as well as wine and other fermented potions) must have become immediately apparent. With the help of the new psychopharmacological brew, humans could quell the angst of defying those herd instincts. Conversations around the campfire, no doubt, took on a new dimension: the painfully shy, their angst suddenly quelled, could now speak their minds.

But the alcohol would have had more far-ranging effects, too, reducing the strong herd instincts to maintain a rigid social structure. In time, humans became more expansive in their thinking, as well as more collaborative and creative. A night of modest tippling may have ushered in these feelings of freedom — though, the morning after, instincts to conform and submit would have kicked back in to restore the social order.

Some evidence suggests that these early brews (or wines) were also considered aids in deliberation. In long ago Germany and Persia, collective decisions of state were made after a few warm ones, then double-checked when sober. Elsewhere, they did it the other way around.

Beer was thought to be so important in many bygone civilizations that the Code of Urukagina, often cited as the first legal code, even prescribed it as a central unit of payment and penance.

Part of beer’s virtue in ancient times was that its alcohol content would have been sharply limited. As far as the research has shown, distillation of alcohol to higher concentrations began only about 2,000 years ago.

Today, many people drink too much because they have more than average social anxietyor panic anxiety to quell — disorders that may result, in fact, from those primeval herd instincts kicking into overdrive. But getting drunk, unfortunately, only compounds the problem: it can lead to decivilizing behaviors and encounters, and harm the body over time. For those with anxiety and depressive disorders, indeed, there are much safer and more effective drugs than alcohol — and together with psychotherapy, these newfangled improvements on beer can ease the angst.

But beer’s place in the development of civilization deserves at least a raising of the glass. As the ever rational Ben Franklin supposedly said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Several thousand years before Franklin, I’m guessing, some Neolithic fellow probably made the same toast.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/opinion/sunday/how-beer-gave-us-civilization.html?ref=opinion&_r=1&

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Mar-2013 at 03:09

First Migration from Africa Less Than 95,000 Years Ago: Ancient Hunter-Gatherer DNA Challenges Theory of Early Out-Of-Africa Migrations

The oldest modern human skeletons found in Germany from the site of Oberkassel close to Bonn.

Recent measurements of the rate at which children show DNA changes not seen in their parents -- the "mutation rate" -- have challenged views about major dates in human evolution.

In particular these measurements have made geneticists think again about key dates in human evolution, like when modern non-Africans split from modern Africans. The recent measurements push back the best estimates of these dates by up to a factor of two. Now, however an international team led by researchers at the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, present results that point again to the more recent dates. The new study is published in Current Biology.

The team, led by Johannes Krause from Tübingen University, was able to reconstruct more than ten mitochondrial genomes (mtDNAs) from modern humans from Eurasia that span 40,000 years of prehistory. The samples include some of the oldest modern human fossils from Europe such as the triple burial from Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic, as well as the oldest modern human skeletons found in Germany from the site of Oberkassel close to Bonn.

The researchers show that pre-ice age hunter-gatherers from Europe carry mtDNA that is related to that seen in post-ice age modern humans such as the Oberkassel fossils. This suggests that there was population continuity throughout the last major glaciation event in Europe around 20,000 years ago. Two of the Dolni Vestonice hunter-gatherers also carry identical mtDNAs, suggesting a close maternal relationship among these individuals who were buried together.

The researchers also used the radiocarbon age of the fossils to estimate human mutation rates over tens of thousands of year back in time. This was done by calculating the number of mutations in modern groups that are absent in the ancient groups, since they had not yet existed in the ancient population. The mutation rate was estimated by counting the number of mutations accumulated along descendent lineages since the radiocarbon dated fossils.

Using those novel mutation rates -- capitalizing on information from ancient DNA -- the authors cal-culate the last common ancestor for human mitochondrial lineages to around 160,000 years ago. In other words, all present-day humans have as one of their ancestors a single woman who lived around that time.

The authors also estimate the time since the most recent common ancestor of Africans and non-Africans to between 62,000-95,000 years ago, providing a maximum date for the mass migration of modern humans out of Africa. Those results are in agreement with previous mitochondrial dates based on archaeological and anthropological work but are at the extreme low end of the dates sug-gested from de-novo studies that suggest a split of non-Africans from Africans about thirty thousand years earlier.

"The results from modern family studies and our ancient human DNA studies are in conflict" says Krause. "One possibility is that mutations were missed in the modern family studies, which could lead to underestimated mutation rates." The authors argue that nuclear genomes from ancient mod-ern humans may help to explain the discrepancies.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130322114856.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Mar-2013 at 13:28

First love child of human, Neanderthal believed found

The skeletal remains of an individual living in northern Italy 40,000-30,000 years ago are believed to be that of a human/Neanderthal hybrid, according to a paper in PLoS ONE.

If further analysis proves the theory correct, the remains belonged to the first known such hybrid, providing direct evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Prior genetic research determined the DNA of people with European and Asian ancestry is 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal.

The present study focuses on the individual’s jaw, which was unearthed at a rock-shelter called Riparo di Mezzena in the Monti Lessini region of Italy. Both Neanderthals and modern humans inhabited Europe at the time.

PHOTOS: Faces of Our Ancestors

“From the morphology of the lower jaw, the face of the Mezzena individual would have looked somehow intermediate between classic Neanderthals, who had a rather receding lower jaw (no chin), and the modern humans, who present a projecting lower jaw with a strongly developed chin,” co-author Silvana Condemi, an anthropologist, told Discovery News.

Condemi is the CNRS research director at the University of Ai-Marseille. She and her colleagues studied the remains via DNA analysis and 3-D imaging. They then compared those results with the same features from Homo sapiens.

The genetic analysis shows that the individual’s mitochondrial DNA is Neanderthal. Since this DNA is transmitted from a mother to her child, the researchers conclude that it was a “female Neanderthal who mated with male Homo sapiens.”

NEWS: Neanderthals Lacked Social Skills

By the time modern humans arrived in the area, the Neanderthals had already established their own culture, Mousterian, which lasted some 200,000 years. Numerous flint tools, such as axes and spear points, have been associated with the Mousterian. The artifacts are typically found in rock shelters, such as the Riparo di Mezzena, and caves throughout Europe.

The researchers found that, although the hybridization between the two hominid species likely took place, the Neanderthals continued to uphold their own cultural traditions.

That's an intriguing clue, because it suggests that the two populations did not simply meet, mate and merge into a single group.

NEWS: Neanderthals Died Out Earlier Than Thought 

As Condemi and her colleagues wrote, the mandible supports the theory of "a slow process of replacement of Neanderthals by the invading modern human populations, as well as additional evidence of the upholding of the Neanderthals' cultural identity.”

Prior fossil finds indicate that modern humans were living in a southern Italy cave as early as 45,000 years ago. Modern humans and Neanderthals therefore lived in roughly the same regions for thousands of years, but the new human arrivals, from the Neanderthal perspective, might not have been welcome, and for good reason. The research team hints that the modern humans may have raped female Neanderthals, bringing to mind modern cases of "ethnic cleansing."

Ian Tattersall is one of the world’s leading experts on Neanderthals and the human fossil record. He is a paleoanthropologist and a curator emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History.

Tattersall told Discovery News that the hypothesis, presented in the new paper, “is very intriguing and one that invites more research.”

Neanderthal culture and purebred Neanderthals all died out 35,000-30,000 years ago.

http://science.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/28/17502859-first-love-child-of-human-neanderthal-believed-found?lite

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