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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Anthropology news updates
    Posted: 19-Oct-2013 at 21:58

1.8M-year-old skull gives glimpse of our evolution, suggests early man was single species

The discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old skull of a human ancestor
 buried under a medieval Georgian village provides a vivid picture of early evolution and indicates 
our family tree may have fewer branches than some believe, scientists say.

The fossil is the most complete pre-human skull uncovered. With other 

partial remains previously found at the rural site, it gives researchers the 

earliest evidence of human ancestors moving out of Africa and spreading north to the rest of the world,

 according to a study

 published Thursday in the journal Science.

The skull and other remains offer a glimpse of a population of pre-humans of

 various sizes living at the same time—something that scientists had not seen

 before for such an ancient era. This diversity bolsters one of two competing 

theories about the way our early ancestors evolved, spreading out more like a 

tree than a bush.

Nearly all of the previous pre-human discoveries have been fragmented bones, 

scattered over time and locations—like a smattering of random tweets of our 

evolutionary history. The findings at Dmanisi are more complete, weaving more 

of a short story. Before the site was found, the movement from Africa was put at

 about 1 million years ago.

When examined with the earlier Georgian finds, the skull "shows that this special 

immigration out of Africa happened much earlier than we thought and a much 

more primitive group did it," said study lead author David Lordkipanidze, director 

of the Georgia National Museum. "This is important to understanding human evolution."

For years, some scientists have said humans evolved from only one or two species

much like a tree branches out from a trunk, while others say the process was more 

like a bush with several offshoots that went nowhere.

1.8M-year-old skull gives glimpse of our evolution
This photo taken Oct. 2, 2013, in Tbilisi, Georgia, shows a pre-human skull, that was 
found in 2005 in the ground at the medieval village Dmanisi, Georgia. The discovery of 
the 1.8 million-year-old human ancestor captures early human …more

Even bush-favoring scientists say these findings show one single species nearly

 2 million years ago at the former Soviet republic site. But they disagree that the 

same conclusion can be said for bones found elsewhere, such as Africa. However,

 Lordkipanidze and colleagues point out that the skulls found in Georgia are different

sizes but considered to be are the same species. So, they reason, it's likely the various

 skulls found in different places and times in Africa may not be different species, but

 variations in one species................

http://phys.org/news/2013-10-18m-year-old-skull-glimpse-evolution.html





Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 19-Oct-2013 at 22:01
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Nov-2013 at 22:37

Genetic Study Reveals New Insight into Origins of Our Species

New genetic research has revealed the existence of certain regions in the human genome that have changed or mutated more rapidly than most others, resulting in differences that make us human among our primate cousins.

By using the latest sequencing and bioinformatics tools, scientists at the Gadstone Institutes were able to identify certain genomic regions that guide the development of human-specific characteristics. 

"Advances in DNA sequencing and supercomputing have given us the power to understand evolution at a level of detail that just a few years ago would have been impossible," said Gladstone Laboratory Investigator Katherine Pollard, who is also a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco's (UCSF's) Institute for Human Genetics. "In this study, we found stretches of DNA that evolved much more quickly than others. We believe that these fast-evolving stretches were crucial to our human ancestors becoming distinct from our closest primate relatives."

Called "human accelerated regions", or HARs, they were found to mutate at a relatively fast rate. Specifically, HARs act as "enhancers," controlling when and for how long certain genes are "switched on" or activated during embryonic development. This was revealed through experiments in embryonic animal models and the use of supercomputers to conduct powerful computational genomics analyses. The research team identified more than 2,600 HARs. Then, using a machine-learning algorithm called EnhancerFinder and genetic information input they were able to reduce the list to those HARs they predicted to be likely enhancers.  "We predicted that nearly eight hundred HARs act as enhancers at a specific point during embryonic development," explained Tony Capra, PhD, the study's lead author. "Confirming this prediction for several dozen HARs, our next goal was to see whether any of these HARs enhanced patterns of gene activation that were uniquely human."

Five such HARs were identified, active in both human and chimpanzee genomes, but which activated genes in different embryonic regions. For example, the human versions of HARs 2xHAR.164 and 2xHAR.170 are active in a region of the brain between the midbrain and hindbrain, while the chimp versions are not. This so-called "gain of function" of these two HARs in human embryos may point to differences in the development of key brain regions such as the cerebellum, which is known to regulate not only motor control but may also regulate higher cognitive functions, such as language, fear and pleasure.

"These results, while preliminary, offer an unprecedented glimpse into how very recent changes to the human genome have modified the genetic programs that control embryonic development to potentially yield different results," said Capra. "We anticipate that if we were to look at the activity of HARs that are enhancers during later developmental stages, we would see even more differences between humans and chimpanzees."

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/09012013/article/genetic-study-reveals-new-insight-into-origins-of-our-species



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 12-Nov-2013 at 22:38
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Nov-2013 at 23:20
http://www.medievalists.net/2009/06/19/market-towns-and-the-countryside-in-late-medieval-england/
"...If we are apply these ideas to our medieval market towns we must firstly seek to define their "sphere of influence," for which we can use two approaches ..."

In other words, if you've got a market - you've got a town.

Edited by Don Quixote - 13-Nov-2013 at 23:25
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Nov-2013 at 21:47

LIGHT SKIN GENE MIRRORS SOCIO-CULTURAL BOUNDARIES IN INDIAN POPULATION

The genetic mutation in SLC24A5 is known to be pivotal in the evolution of light skin, and is responsible for a significant part of the skin colour differences between Europeans and Africans.

Now, a new study has examined for the first time a large, uniform genetic sample collected directly in south India, and suggests that natural selection is not the sole factor in skin tone variation across the Indian sub-continent, and that cultural and linguistic traits still delineate this skin pigment genetic mutation.

The results show that the gene is found with much higher frequency in Indo-European speaking groups that are more prevalent in the north-west of the country.

But the mutation is also high in populations groups known to have migrated north to south, such as the Saurashtrians, who – while native to Gujarat in north-west India – are now predominantly found in the Madurai district in its southernmost tip.

An intriguing interplay

Researchers say that the study, published last week in the journal PLoS Genetics, shows that the genetic mutation in SLC24A5 has a common origin between Europeans and Indians.

But while the complete dominance of the gene in Europeans is likely to be solely down to natural selection, they say, the rich diversity of this genetic variant in India – high in some populations while non-existent in others, even neighbouring ones – has some correlation with factors of language, ancestral migration and distinct social practices such as limiting marriage partners to those with specific criteria.

The researchers say the findings display an “intriguing interplay” between natural selection and the “unique history and structure” of populations inhabiting the Indian subcontinent.

Not just about natural selection

In India, this genetic variant doesn’t just follow a ‘classical’ theory of natural selection – that it’s lower in the south where darker skin protects against fiercer sunlight,” said study co-author Mircea Iliescu from Cambridge’s Biological Anthropology Division.

The distribution of the SLC24A5 genetic variant in India follows patterns very much influenced by population. Understanding the genetic architecture behind the remarkable skin colour variation found today in the populations of India has the potential to shed light on the wider mechanisms responsible for creating diversity throughout human evolution,” Iliescu said.

Lack of archaeological evidence

In the 1950s it was proposed that there was a massive wave of European migration into northern India a few thousand years ago, described as the ‘Aryan invasion’, which led to the collapse of the Harappans – a Bronze-Age Civilisation.

This theory, now considered widely discredited by many researchers due to the lack of archaeological evidence, is still a hugely debated issue in contemporary Indian politics – invoked by political parties in the southern states of India who claim that the southern populations, described by some as the ‘Dravidians’, are the truly indigenous people of India.

Hard to imagine

The researchers say that, while speculative, they find it “hard to imagine” a large-scale population migration at a single point in history based on this study – since the presence of this genetic mutation is too widespread, with an average frequency of 53%, including the Austroasiatic language groups thought to have originated in southeast Asia.

They say the wide variation and complex pattern hints at the possibility of multiple “gene flows” into the sub-continent over a much longer period of time, some of which might be linked to the spread of agriculture; although the study does show higher frequencies of SLC24A5 in Indo-European speaking groups compared to so-called Dravidian populations.

The researchers suggest that aspects of ‘social selection’, such as high levels of ‘endogamy’ – marriage within a particular group in accordance with custom – as a result of the caste system, has created a “mosaic pattern” for this skin pigmentation mutation across Indian populations.

This study helps us to understand various other mechanisms that could have contributed or shaped the existing biological spectrum of human skin colour besides natural selection – driven by ultraviolet rays – and further understanding of this complex phenotypic trait,” said Chandana Basu Mallick, a co-author on the study from the University of Tartu in Estonia.

We are taking gradual steps towards understanding the evolutionary history of this adaptive trait, and the journey of our ancestors from fur to the diverse skin tones of the present day.

Our work addresses human diversity, diversity which should be celebrated,” added Iliescu. “It tries to explain the origins and history of this diversity – opening up a window into a different kind of history, not just a history of places and objects, but a living history which helps us to better understand ourselves.”

Studies on Indian populations have been under-represented in the genomic era, and the understanding of Indian genetics is still at a very early stage. With this study, we hope we’ve brought valuable new understanding to the evolutionary genetics of Indian populations.”

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/11/2013/light-skin-gene-mirrors-socio-cultural-boundaries-indian-population



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 14-Nov-2013 at 21:48
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Nov-2013 at 00:20
http://www.medievalists.net/2013/11/14/love-and-marriage-medieval-style/
"...What may be even more surprising about medieval marriage is that it was (at least officially) very much based on mutual consent. Both partners had to consent to the union at the outset, and both partners had rights and expectations within the marriage itself. Although wives were in the care and under the control of their husbands, there was a very real expectation that the husbands should be fair to their wives (within cultural constraints). Wives also had the same conjugal rights as their husbands. That is, either spouse could demand sex, as part of the marriage contract...."
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Nov-2013 at 16:21
A dissertation on relationships between the Papacy and Jews in 12 century Rome. The link gives a PDF with the full text.
"...Relationships are based on opinions and attitudes, beliefs and perceptions. These facets of the relationship between Christians and Jews have varied in character, value, and intensity over the centuries since the inception of the movement within Judaism by followers of Jesus Christ. As Christianity grew and developed doctrinally into a religious system separate from Judaism, attitudes voiced by Church leaders, and particularly by the papacy, often determined the nature of the relationship between Christians and Jews, reinforcing or promoting popular perceptions and beliefs...."
http://www.medievalists.net/2010/08/16/the-relationship-between-the-papacy-and-the-jews-in-twelfth-century-rome-papal-attitudes-toward-biblical-judaism-and-contemporary-european-jewry/

Edited by Don Quixote - 16-Nov-2013 at 16:23
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Nov-2013 at 11:28

Ancient, Modern DNA Tell Story of First Humans in the Americas

Anthropology professor Ripan Malhi works with Native Americans to collect and analyze their DNA and that of their ancestors.

University of Illinois anthropology professor Ripan Malhi looks to DNA to tell the story of how ancient humans first came to the Americas and what happened to them once they were here.

He will share some of his findings at the meeting, "Ancient DNA: The First Three Decades," at The Royal Society in London on Nov. 18 and 19.

Malhi, an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois, will describe his collaborative approach, which includes working with present-day Native Americans on studies of their genetic history.

He and a group of collaborators from the Tsimshian Nation on the northwest coast of British Columbia, for example, recently found a direct ancestral link between ancient human remains in the Prince Rupert Island area and the native peoples living in the region today. That study looked at changes in the mitochondrial genome, which children inherit only from their mothers.

Other studies from Malhi's lab analyze changes in the Y chromosome or the protein-coding regions of the genome.

"The best opportunity to infer the evolutionary history of Native Americans and to assess the effects of European colonization is to analyze genomes of ancient Native Americans and those of their living descendants," Malhi said.

"I think what makes my lab unique is that we focus not only on the initial peopling of the Americas but also what happened after the initial peopling. How did these groups move to new environments and adapt to their local settings over 15,000 years?"

While continuing his work in British Columbia, Malhi also is setting up study sites in California, Guatemala, Mexico and Illinois.

"What's interesting about the northwest coast and California is that these communities were complex hunter-gatherer societies, whereas in Mexico and Guatemala, it's more communities that transitioned to farming and then experienced the effects of European colonization," he said.

Genomic studies can fill in the blanks on studies that seek to tell the story of life in the Americas before and after European colonization, Malhi said. Researchers may draw the wrong conclusions about human history when looking only at artifacts and language, he said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131118081251.htm



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 18-Nov-2013 at 11:30
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Nov-2013 at 23:28
So, human evolution happened in Africa because of the drastic climate changes caused by the plate tectonics, that hit most dramatically in North/West Africa

How Climate Change and Plate Tectonics Shaped Human Evolution
"...We have now started to put together a coherent picture of how the changing East African landscape has driven human evolution over the last ten million years. The region has altered beyond all recognition, from flat and forested to one filled with spectacular, two-mile-high mountains, savannahs and tropical forests. By priming the land to form lake basins that were sensitive to small changes in rainfall, extreme climate pulses of alternately arid and wet period occurred and had a profound effect on all the animals living in East Africa. The powerful forces of plate tectonics and climate variability ultimately led to our hominid ancestors' development and their dispersal from Africa, to the Caucasus, the Fertile Crescent, and ultimately the rest of the world...."
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-climate-change-and-plate-tectonics-shaped-human-evolution&page=2
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Nov-2013 at 22:32

Fossil Fragments of Unknown Early Human Come Together

Scientists at a cave site in South Africa are kicking into high gear as they continue to uncover more fossil bones of what is suspected to be an early human ancestral ("hominid") species.

The location is known as the "Rising Star" Cave site in South Africa's Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, about 40 kilometers north of Johannesburg, and although it is far too soon to determine the classification and age of the fossil finds, the site could turn out to yield the richest collection of hominid fossil finds at any one site in South Africa, a country that has made history in the chronicles of human evolution research. More than 300 fossil fragments of multiple individuals have been recovered, with potentially much more to come. In the world of early human fossil hunting, this is a rare occurrence.

“Even [for] the best known species of early hominid, there are pieces missing,” said University of the Witwatersrand paleoanthropologist Lee Berger in a blog report from National Geographic reporter Andrew Howley. “What is exceptional about these fossils is we already have parts of the anatomy that have almost never been seen before in any species, and certainly not in this kind of abundance.”*

And now, one of the most critical tasks of the expedition begins to unfold -- the assembly and examination of key fragments of the expedition's first-recovered fossil cranium, an exercise that will lend some of the first important clues to the identity of the early human who inhabited the area of the cave eons ago. Back in the tent lab near the site, Darryl de Ruiter of Texas A & M University and the Evolutionary Studies Institute will do the honors. According to de Ruiter, it is arguably the cranium that retains the most overall consistency among early human species, as other parts, such as the mandible (jaw bone), may vary considerably in size and shape, even within a species. 

The fragile cranium fragments had to be slowly and carefully excavated and then removed from their cave context before much further work could be done to excavate what could lie beneath. Now that they have been removed, excavations will progress full-speed ahead to recover what could be many more finds.

The trove of bones were first discovered in October by a pair of recreational cavers, who alerted Lee Berger, a well-known paleoanthropologist with the University of Witwatersrand, who has been at the forefront of major hominid fossil discoveries in South Africa, such as the recent Australopithecus sedibafinds at the Malapa cave site. To investigate the cave and its contents, Berger spearheaded the assembly of an expeditionary group (called the "Rising Star Expedition") of scientists. Along with chief scientists, the group included six researchers who were hand-picked to actually enter the cave system to excavate and remove the fossil bones. To qualify for this job, these team members had to have a master's degree or Ph.D. in paleontology, archaeology or a related field; they had to be experienced spelunkers, or cavers; and they had to be small enough to successfully and safely negotiate an 18-centimeter-wide opening leading to the targeted cave chamber. The effort has to date proven to be a great success.

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/09012013/article/fossil-fragments-of-unknown-early-human-come-together



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 19-Nov-2013 at 22:33
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Nov-2013 at 22:36

NEANDERTHAL STRING THEORY

In a further study of Neanderthal occupation at Abri du Maras, Ardèche in France, the evidence is stacking up to support the view that this group was behaviourally flexible and capable of creating a variety of sophisticated tools including projectile points and more importantly, cord and string.

Fibrous materials that can be used to create cords are difficult to find in the archaeological record and have usually rotted away, so the oldest known string dated back only 30,000 years.  However, perforations in small stone and tooth artefacts as well as shells from other Neanderthal sites in France suggested the pieces had once been threaded on string and worn as pendants.

Bruce Hardy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, explains that “The wear patterns provide circumstantial evidence of early use of string, but the evidence is not definitive.”  These items could also have been threaded onto animal sinew.

90,000 years ago

A new article in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews examines much of the material recovered from the Abri du Maras site and appears to provide compelling evidence that twisted fibres were being created by Neanderthals at least 90,000 years ago.

At this site, Neanderthals also exploited a wide range of resources including large mammals, fish, ducks, raptors, rabbits, mushrooms, plants and wood.

However, Hardy and his colleagues have found slender, 0.7-millimetre-long plant fibres that are twisted together and were found near to some stone artefacts. Such fibres are not twisted together in nature, says the team, suggesting that the Neanderthals were responsible.

Experiments

As these fibres are not twisted in their natural state experiments were carried out involving incising, planing, whittling, scraping and boring. In all cases, no twisted fibres resulted.

Further experiments conducted by Bruce Hardy involved the scraping, cutting and slicing of a variety of non-woody plants (roots, tubers, reeds, etc.), and again these also produced no twisted fibres such as those observed.

While not definitive, the lack of twisted fibres in these experiments lends some credence to the hypothesis that these derive from cordage.

“If they are indeed remnants of string or cordage, then they would be the earliest direct evidence of string,” says Hardy. “Albeit very fragmentary evidence.”

Pre-dates arrival of  Homo sapiens

The date of 90,000 years is important, as the material that the researchers are suggesting is string predates the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe by at least 45,000 years.

This in turn suggests that the Neanderthals occupying the Abri du Maras site had learned the complex act of making and using cordage, rather than imitating modern humans.  The uses and potential of this material has greater implications for understanding Neanderthal behaviour.

A number of sophisticated behaviours

In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests Neanderthals developed a number of sophisticated behaviours.

Stone tools created by Neanderthals have also been found on the Greek islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Zakynthos, hinting that the species may have made and used boats to cross the sea – although no direct evidence of boats has been found so far.

To carry out such voyages sturdy ropes would have been required to build and use rafts or boats. “The ability of Neanderthals to manufacture string and cordage certainly does make the idea of Neanderthal seafaring more plausible,” Bruce Hardy says.

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/11/2013/neanderthal-string-theory




Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 19-Nov-2013 at 22:37
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Nov-2013 at 00:25

Ancient Siberian genome reveals genetic origins of Native-Americans

The genome sequence of a 24,000-year-old Siberian individual has provided a key piece of the puzzle in the quest for Native American origins. The ancient Siberian demonstrates genomic signatures that are basal to present-day western Eurasians and close to modern Native Americans. This surprising finding has great consequences for our understanding of how and from where ancestral Native Americans descended, and also of the genetic landscape of Eurasia 24,000 years ago. The breakthrough is reported in this week's Nature (Advance Online Publication) by an international team of scientists, led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark (University of Copenhagen).

The search for Native American ancestors has been focused in northeastern Eurasia. In late 2009, researchers sampled at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg the remains of a juvenile individual (MA-1) from the Upper Palaeolithic site of Mal'ta in south-central Siberia. The MA-1 individual dated to approximately 24,000 years ago. Now, the team reports genomic results from the MA-1 individual which unravel the origins of the First Americans – ancestors of modern-day Native Americans.

"Representing the oldest anatomically modern human genome reported thus far, the MA-1 individual has provided us with a unique window into the genetic landscape of Siberia some 24,000 years ago", says Dr. Maanasa Raghavan from the Centre for GeoGenetics and one of the lead authors of the study. "Interestingly, the MA-1 individual shows little to no genetic affinity to modern populations from the region from where he originated - south Siberia."

Instead, both the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes of MA-1 indicate that he was related to modern-day western Eurasians. This result paints a picture of Eurasia 24,000 years ago which is quite different from the present-day context. The genome of MA-1 indicates that prehistoric populations related to modern western Eurasians occupied a wider geographical range into northeast Eurasia than they do today.

Dual ancestry of Native Americans

The most significant finding that the MA-1 genome reveals is its relation to modern Native Americans. This relative of present-day western Eurasians shows close affinity to modern Native Americans, but surprisingly not to East Asians who are regarded as being genetically closely related to Native Americans.

Furthermore, the team finds evidence that this genetic affinity between MA-1 and Native Americans is mediated by a gene flow event from MA-1 into the First Americans, which can explain between 14-38% of the ancestry of modern Native Americans, with the remainder of the ancestry being derived from East Asians. Supported by numerous reasons against these signatures being caused by contamination from modern DNA sources or from post-Columbian admixture (post 1492 AD), the study concludes that two distinct Old World populations led to the formation of the First American gene pool: one related to modern-day East Asians, and the other a Siberian Upper Palaeolithic population related to modern-day western Eurasians.

"The result came as a complete surprise to us. Who would have thought that present-day Native Americans, who we learned in school derive from East Asians, share recent evolutionary history with contemporary western Eurasians? Even more intriguingly, this happened by gene flow from an ancient population that is so far represented only by the MA-1 individual living some 24,000 years ago", says Professor Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics who led the study.

Early cosmopolitans

Additionally, results from a second south-central Siberian from Afontova Gora-2 site are presented in order to address human occupation of the region during and after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; ca. 26,000 to 19,000 years ago), a climatically cold period when glacial ice sheets extended to their maximum range. At approximately 17,000 years ago, this post-LGM individual demonstrates similar genomic signatures as MA-1, with close affinity to modern western Eurasians and Native Americans and none to present-day East Asians. This result indicates that genetic continuity persisted in south-central Siberia throughout this climatically harsh period, which is a significant consideration for the peopling of Beringia, and eventually the Americas some 15,000 years ago.

Dr. Pontus Skoglund from Uppsala University, and one of the lead authors of the study, explains, "Most scientists have believed that Native American lineages go back about 14,000 years ago, when the first people crossed Beringia into the New World. Our results provide direct evidence that some of the ancestry that characterizes Native Americans is at least 10,000 years older than that, and was already present in Siberia before the last Ice Age."

Professor Kelly Graf from the Center for the Study of the First Americans (Texas A&M University), who together with Professor Willerslev did the sampling, adds, "Our findings are significant at two levels. First, it shows that Upper Paleolithic Siberians came from a cosmopolitan population of early modern humans that spread out of Africa to Europe and Central and South Asia. Second, Paleoindian skeletons with phenotypic traits atypical of modern-day Native Americans can be explained as having a direct historical connection to Upper Paleolithic Siberia."

As such, results from this study contribute a major leap forward for resolving the peopling of the Americas.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-11/uoc-asg112013.php



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 22-Nov-2013 at 00:26
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Dec-2013 at 23:38

DNA FROM 400,000 YEAR OLD HOMININ: A GREAT LEAP FORWARD

Homo heidelbergensis skull from Sima de los Huesos.
Using novel techniques to extract and study ancient DNA researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have determined an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-old representative of the genus Homo from Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain, and found that it is related to the mitochondrial genome of Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neanderthals in Asia. DNA this old has until recently been retrieved only from the permafrost.

Unique hominins

Sima de los Huesos, the “bone pit”, is a cave site in Northern Spain that has yielded the world’s largest assembly of Middle Pleistocene hominin fossils, consisting of at least 28 skeletons, which have been excavated and pieced together over the course of more than two decades by a Spanish team of paleontologists led by Juan-Luis Arsuaga. The fossils are classified as Homo heidelbergensis but also carry traits typical of Neanderthals. Until now it had not been possible to study the DNA of these unique hominins.

Matthias Meyer and his team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have developed new techniques for retrieving and sequencing highly degraded ancient DNA. They then joined forces with Juan-Luis Arsuaga and applied the new techniques to a cave bear from the Sima de los Huesos site. After this success, the researchers sampled two grams of bone powder from a hominin thigh bone from the cave. They extracted its DNA and sequenced the genome of the mitochondria or mtDNA, a small part of the genome that is passed down along the maternal line and occurs in many copies per cell. The researchers then compared this ancient mitochondrial DNA with Neanderthals, Denisovans, present-day humans, and apes.

Common ancestor?

From the missing mutations in the old DNA sequences the researchers calculated that the Sima hominin lived about 400,000 years ago. They also found that it shared a common ancestor with the Denisovans, an extinct archaic group from Asia related to the Neanderthals, about 700,000 years ago. “The fact that the mtDNA of the Sima de los Huesos hominin shares a common ancestor with Denisovan rather than Neanderthal mtDNAs is unexpected since its skeletal remains carry Neanderthal-derived features”, says Matthias Meyer. Considering their age and Neanderthal-like features, the Sima hominins were likely related to the population ancestral to both Neanderthals and Denisovans. Another possibility is that gene flow from yet another group of hominins brought the Denisova-like mtDNA into the Sima hominins or their ancestors.

Complex pattern

Our results show that we can now study DNA from human ancestors that are hundreds of thousands of years old. This opens prospects to study the genes of the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans. It is tremendously exciting” says Svante Pääbo, director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

“This unexpected result points to a complex pattern of evolution in the origin of Neanderthals and modern humans. I hope that more research will help clarify the genetic relationships of the hominins from Sima de los Huesos to Neanderthals and Denisovans” says Juan-Luis Arsuaga, director of the Center for Research on Human Evolution and Behaviour. The researchers are now pursuing this goal by focusing on retrieving DNA from more individuals from this site and on retrieving also nuclear DNA sequences.

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/12/2013/dna-from-400000-year-old-hominin-a-great-leap-forward



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 05-Dec-2013 at 23:39
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Dec-2013 at 23:08
The Neaderthals organized their homes like we do...
"...The findings, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, indicate that Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters.

“There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans,” said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. “But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space.”..."

http://www.heritagedaily.com/2013/12/new-evidence-suggests-neanderthals-organized-their-living-spaces/100344

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Dec-2013 at 00:15

Oldest ancestor’s DNA is sequenced.

Meaning, although PhysOrg stops short of saying so, that we could maybe someday build a hominin from scratch. As it is, though, we’ve still got a lot we can do today, now that we’ve figured out the 400,000-year-old genetic code of Homo heidelbergensis:

Matthias Meyer and his team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have developed new techniques for retrieving and sequencing highly degraded ancient DNA. They then joined forces with Juan-Luis Arsuaga and applied the new techniques to a cave bear from the Sima de los Huesos site. After this success, the researchers sampled two grams of bone powder from a hominin thigh bone from the cave. They extracted its DNA and sequenced the genome of the mitochondria or mtDNA, a small part of the genome that is passed down along the maternal line and occurs in many copies per cell. The researchers then compared this ancient mitochondrial DNA with Neandertals, Denisovans, present-day humans, and apes.

From the missing mutations in the old DNA sequences the researchers calculated that the Sima hominin lived about 400,000 years ago. They also found that it shared a common ancestor with the Denisovans, an extinct archaic group from Asia related to the Neandertals, about 700,000 years ago. “The fact that the mtDNA of the Sima de los Huesos hominin shares a common ancestor with Denisovan rather than Neandertal mtDNAs is unexpected since its skeletal remains carry Neandertal-derived features”, says Matthias Meyer. Considering their age and Neandertal-like features, the Sima hominins were likely related to the population ancestral to both Neandertals and Denisovans. Another possibility is that gene flow from yet another group of hominins brought the Denisova-like mtDNA into the Sima hominins or their ancestors.

http://guildofscientifictroubadours.com/2013/12/06/oldest-ancestors-dna-is-sequenced/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheGuildOfScientificTroubadours+%28The+Guild+of+Scientific+Troubadours%29

Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 07-Dec-2013 at 00:16
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Dec-2013 at 00:19

Partial skeleton suggests ruggedly built, tree-climbing human ancestor

A human ancestor characterized by “robust” jaw and skull bones was a muscular creature with a gorilla-like upper body and more adaptive to its environment than previously thought, scientists have discovered.

Researchers found a partial skeleton — including arm, hand, leg and foot fragments — dated to 1.34 million years old and belonging to Paranthropus boiseiat the Olduvai Gorge World Heritage fossil site in Tanzania. The find, published in the latest edition of the scientific journal PLOS ONE, represents one of the most recent occurrences of P. boisei before its extinction in East Africa.

“This is the first time we’ve found bones that suggest that this creature was more ruggedly built — combining terrestrial bipedal locomotion and some arboreal behaviors — than we’d previously thought,” said Charles Musiba, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver, part of the international research team. “It seems to have more well-formed forearm muscles that were used for climbing, fine-manipulation and all sorts of behavior.”

While P. boisei was known for its massive jaws and cranium — anthropologist Mary Leakey discovered the first skull in 1959 in northern Tanzania — the build and skeletal adaptations of the rest of the archaic hominin’s body have been unknown until recently.

During excavations at Olduvai in 2010-2011, the team discovered the partial skeleton of a large adult individual who is represented by various teeth and skeletal parts. Other team members are Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and prehistory at Complutense University, Madrid; Audax Mabulla, Ph.D., associate professor of archaeology, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Gail Ashley, Ph.D., professor of geological sciences, Rutgers University; David Uribelarrea, Ph.D. a professor of geology at Complutense University of Madrid; Henry Bunn, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Travis Pickering, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

P. boisei was a long-lived species of archaic hominin that first evolved in East Africa about 2.3 million years ago. In the absence of evidence of other skeletal remains, it was commonly assumed that the skeleton of P. boiseiwas like that of more ancient species of the genus Australopithecus, from which P. boisei likely evolved.

“We are starting to understand the physiology of these individuals of this particular species and how it actually adapted to the kind of habitat it lived in,” Musiba said. “We knew about the kind of food it ate — it was omnivorous, leaning more toward plant material — but now we know more: how it walked around and now we know it was a tree climber.”

The size of the arm bones suggests strong forearms and a powerful upper body. “It’s a different branch on our ancestry tree,” Musiba said. “It came later than the other hominins, so the question now is ‘what happened to it?’ We’re going to do more work on biomechanics and see what else this creature was doing.”

He noted that the creature likely stood 3.5 to 4.5 feet tall and possessed a robust frame. “We know that it was very strong,” Musiba said. “It’s unprecedented to find how strong this individual was. The stronger you are the more adaptive you are.”

In summer 2014, the bones will be displayed as part of a large exhibit on human origins in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The joint-museum exhibit involves the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, the Regional Museum of Archaeology in Madrid, and the National Museum of Dar es Salaam.

With each find scientists are adding to the understanding of how humans evolved and adapted to their surroundings through time. “The more we are finding of these fossils, the more we are learning about the history of these species,” Musiba said.

http://www.heritagedaily.com/2013/12/discovery-of-partial-skeleton-suggests-ruggedly-built-tree-climbing-human-ancestor/100367



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 07-Dec-2013 at 00:20
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Dec-2013 at 23:18
Acupuncture in the Ice Age
"... Ötzi is covered with more than 50 tattoos in the form of lines and crosses made up of small incisions in his skin into which charcoal was rubbed. Because they are all found on parts of the body that show evidence of a lifetime of wear and tear—the ankles, wrists, knees, Achilles tendon, and lower back, for example—it’s thought that Ötzi’s tattoos were therapeutic, not decorative or symbolic. When Ötzi was first studied, archaeologists were shocked because they had never before seen Copper Age tattoos, and because acupuncture as a treatment for joint distress, rheumatism, and arthritis was thought to have originated in Asia more than 2,000 years later...."
http://archaeology.org/issues/109-1311/features/tattoos/1351-oetzi-copper-age-alps-iceman-tattoos
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Dec-2013 at 23:21
City living in ancient Rome
"...The higher floors, where rent was paid by the day or week, were cramped, often with only one room to a family. A family lived in constant fear of eviction. They had no access to natural light, were hot in the summer and cold in the winter with little or no running water -  this even meant a latrina or toilet. While the city’s first sewer system or Cloaca Maxima had appeared in the six century BCE, it did not benefit those on the upper floors (lower floors had access to running water and indoor toilets). Refuse, even human waste, was routinely dumped onto the streets, not only causing a terrible stench but a breeding ground for disease. For many, the only alternative was to use the public toilets. Combine the lack of street lights (there was no foot traffic at night due to the high crime rate), the decaying buildings, and the fear of fire, life on the upper floors of the tenements was not very enjoyable for many of the poor..."
http://www.ancient.eu.com/article/637/
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Dec-2013 at 23:42

Nutrients in food vital to location of early human settlements: The original 'Palaeo-diet'

Research led by the University of Southampton has found that early humans were driven by a need for nutrient-rich food to select 'special places' in northern Europe as their main habitat. Evidence of their activity at these sites comes in the form of hundreds of stone tools, including handaxes.

A study led by physical geographer at Southampton Professor Tony Brown, in collaboration with archaeologist Dr Laura Basell at Queen's University Belfast, has found that sites popular with our early human ancestors, were abundant in foods containing nutrients vital for a balanced diet. The most important sites, dating between 500,000 to 100,000 years ago were based at the lower end of river valleys, providing ideal bases for early hominins – early humans who lived before Homo sapiens (us).

Professor Brown says: "Our research suggests that floodplain zones closer to the mouth of a river provided the ideal place for hominin activity, rather than forested slopes, plateaus or estuaries. The landscape in these locations tended to be richer in the nutrients critical for maintaining population health and maximising reproductive success."

The project was funded by English Heritage and the University of Southampton's Faculty of Social and Human Sciences. It involved academics from Geography and Environment and Medicine at Southampton, together with Archaeology at Queen's.

The researchers began by identifying Palaeolithic sites in southern England and northern France where high concentrations of handaxes had been excavated –for example at Dunbridge in Hampshire, Swanscombe near Dartford and the Somme Valley in France. They found there were fewer than 25 sites where 500 handaxes or more were discovered. The high concentration of these artefacts suggests significant activity at the sites and that they were regularly used by early hominins.

Professor Brown and his colleagues then compiled a database of plants and animals known to exist in the Pleistocene epoch (a period between 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) to establish a potential list of nutrient resources in the landscape and an estimation of the possible diet. This showed that an abundance of nutritious foods were available and suggests this was likely to have been the dominant factor driving early humans to focus on these sites in the lower reaches of river valleys, close to the upper tidal limit of rivers.

Over 50 nutrients are needed to sustain human life. In particular, it would have been essential for early humans to find sources of protein, fats, carbohydrates, folic acid and vitamin C. The researchers suggest vitamins and protein may have come from sources such as raw liver, eggs, fish and plants, including watercress (which grows year round). Fats in particular, may have come from bone marrow, beaver tails and highly nutritious eels.

The nutritional diversity of these sites allowed hominins to colonise the Atlantic fringe of north west Europe during warm periods of the Pleistocene. These sites permitted the repeated occupation of this marginal area from warmer climate zones further south

Professor Brown comments: "We can speculate that these types of locations were seen as 'healthy' or 'good' places to live which hominins revisited on a regular basis. If this is the case, the sites may have provided 'nodal points' or base camps along nutrient-rich route-ways through the Palaeolithic landscape, allowing early humans to explore northwards to more challenging environments."

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-12/uos-nif121013.php

For further details:http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0081476 or http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0081476&representation=PDF



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 11-Dec-2013 at 23:43
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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Dec-2013 at 15:03

Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of Early Dentists

"...May 18, 2009—The glittering "grills" of some hip-hop stars aren't exactly unprecedented. Sophisticated dentistry allowed Native Americans to add bling to their teeth as far back as 2,500 years ago, a new study says.

Ancient peoples of southern North America went to "dentists"—among the earliest known—to beautify their chompers with notches, grooves, and semiprecious gems, according to a recent analysis of thousands of teeth examined from collections in Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (such as the skull above, found in Chiapas, Mexico).

Scientists don't know the origin of most of the teeth in the collections, which belonged to people living throughout the region, called Mesoamerica, before the Spanish conquests of the 1500s.

But it's clear that people—mostly men—from nearly all walks of life opted for the look, noted José Concepción Jiménez, an anthropologist at the institute, which recently announced the findings..."
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/090518-jeweled-teeth-picture.html
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Dec-2013 at 22:47

Ancient hand bone dates origins of human dexterity

The discovery of an ancient bone at a burial site in Kenya puts the origin of human hand dexterity more than half a million years earlier than previously thought.

In all ways, the bone - a well-preserved metacarpal that connects to the index finger - resembles that of modern man, PNAS journal reports.

It is the earliest fossilised evidence of when humans developed a strong enough grip to start using tools.

Apes lack the same anatomical features.

The 1.42 million-year-old metacarpal from an ancient hominin displays a styloid process, a distinctively human morphological feature associated with enhanced hand function.

Its discovery provides evidence for the evolution of the modern human hand more than 600,000 years earlier than previously documented and probably in the times of the genus Homo erectussensu lato.

The styloid process helps the hand bone lock into the wrist bones, allowing for greater amounts of pressure to be applied to the wrist and hand from a grasping thumb and fingers.

Prof Carol Ward and her colleagues note that a lack of the styloid process created challenges for apes and earlier humans when they attempted to make and use tools.

This lack of a styloid process may have increased the chances of having arthritis earlier.

Prof Ward, professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia, said: "The styloid process reflects an increased dexterity that allowed early human species to use powerful yet precise grips when manipulating objects.

"This was something that their predecessors couldn't do as well due to the lack of this styloid process and its associated anatomy.

"With this discovery, we are closing the gap on the evolutionary history of the human hand. This may not be the first appearance of the modern human hand, but we believe that it is close to the origin, given that we do not see this anatomy in any human fossils older than 1.8 million years.

"Our specialised, dexterous hands have been with us for most of the evolutionary history of our genus, Homo. They are - and have been for almost 1.5 million years - fundamental to our survival," she said.

The bone was found at the Kaitio site in West Turkana, near an area where the earliest Acheulian tools have appeared. Acheulian tools are ancient, shaped stone tools that include stone hand axes more than 1.6 million years old.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25398642



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 16-Dec-2013 at 22:48
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