Print Page | Close Window

Anthropology news updates

Printed From: History Community ~ All Empires
Category: General History
Forum Name: Archaeology & Anthropology
Forum Discription: Topics on archaeology and anthropology
Printed Date: 28-Nov-2021 at 19:13
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 9.56a -

Topic: Anthropology news updates
Posted By: Don Quixote
Subject: Anthropology news updates
Date Posted: 13-Mar-2012 at 17:40 -
"..."...ScienceDaily (Mar. 6, 2012) — A professor of classics is translating and analyzing ancient inscriptions from columns, stones, tombs, floors, and mosaics of ancient Israel to uncover the life of the common men -- and women -- of antiquity....
...Graffiti, which comprise a significant amount of the collected inscriptions, are a common phenomenon throughout the ancient world. Famously, the walls of the city of Pompeii were covered with graffiti, including advertisements, poetry, and lewd sketches. In ancient Israel, people also left behind small traces of their lives -- although discussion of belief systems, personal appeals to God, and hopes for the future are more prevalent than the sexual innuendo that adorns the walls of Pompeii.

"These are the only remains of real people. Thousands whose voices have disappeared into the oblivion of history," notes Prof. Price. These writings are, and have always been, a way for people to perpetuate their memory and mark their existence.

Of course, our world has its graffiti too. It's not hard to find, from subway doors and bathroom stalls to protected archaeological sites. Although it may be considered bothersome and disrespectful now, "in two thousand years, it'll be interesting to scholars," Prof. Price says with a smile..." ..."

An ancient Greek graffito from Beth She'arim. (Credit: Image courtesy of Am

Posted By: Arab
Date Posted: 14-Mar-2012 at 13:46 -

Scientists stumped by prehistoric human whose face doesn't fit

THEY have been dubbed the Red Deer Cave people and they are a big mystery.

Fossils of this previously unknown group of prehistoric humans, who lived as recently as 11,500 years ago, have been discovered in south-west China by a team including Melbourne researchers.

Their highly unusual mix of archaic and modern features raises the possibility they represent a new species of human.

Team co-leader Darren Curnoe, of the University of NSW, said the physical appearance of these extinct people was unique.

''They look very different to all modern humans, whether alive today or in Africa 150,000 years ago.''

He said one possibility was that they were modern humans who left Africa very early on and reached China, but then did not contribute genetically to people alive in East Asia today.

Alternatively, they could be a previously unknown species of human, an explanation he cautiously favours. ''While finely balanced, I think the evidence is slightly weighted towards the Red Deer Cave people representing a new evolutionary line,'' Professor Curnoe said.

The find follows the discoveries of two new human species in Asia, dubbed the Hobbit and the Denisovans, in the past eight years.

The research describing the Red Deer Cave people is published today in the journal PLoS One.

The discovery team, co-led by Professor Curnoe and Professor Ji Xueping, of Yunnan University in Kunming, includes researchers from five Australian and six Chinese institutions.

The fossils, dated between 14,500 and 11,500 years old, were found in Maludong, or Red Deer Cave, in Yunnan Province and in Longlin Cave in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The prehistoric people had short, flat faces with archaic features such as big teeth and thick skulls, but brains with modern-looking frontal lobes.

They cooked and ate lots of venison, including a giant red deer now extinct.

They may have survived in isolation from the modern-looking people who lived around them and were beginning to develop a farming culture.

Professor Colin Groves, of the Australian National University, who was not involved in the find, said: ''I think it is potentially very important, telling us something about species close to us but not quite 'us'.''

The Red Deer Cave population are the youngest people to have been found in the world who do not look like modern humans.

In 2004 it was announced that the remains of a tiny species, Homo floresiensis, who lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until about 17,000 years ago, had been unearthed.

Then, in 2010, a mysterious group of humans who lived about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago were identified from DNA extracted from a little finger found in Denisova Cave in Siberia.

"Prayer is when you talk to God. Insanity is when you talk to God and he answers back."

Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 14-Mar-2012 at 13:54
That's a very interesting info, Arab, thank you for posting itSmile. I've been digging on the Denisovans and other possible human sub-species and this comes just on time.
Here a picture from the article you posted, I'll take the liberty to post it here, /I hope you don't mind/ just for illustration /I love pictures/
The highly unusual mix of archaic and modern features raises the possibility they represent a new species of human.

The highly unusual mix of archaic and modern features raises the possibility they represent a new species of human. Photo: Peter Schouten



Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 14-Mar-2012 at 14:01
This is kinda old, and may have been posted somewhere else on the threads /even though I haven't encounter it/, but it's relevant to the Denisovans:
"...ScienceDaily (Feb. 7, 2012) — The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, has completed the genome sequence of a Denisovan, a representative of an Asian group of extinct humans related to Neandertals....
..."The genome is of very high quality," says Matthias Meyer, who developed the techniques that made this technical feat possible. "We cover all non-repetitive DNA sequences in the Denisovan genome so many times that it has fewer errors than most genomes from present-day humans that have been determined to date."

The genome represents the first high-coverage, complete genome sequence of an archaic human group -- a leap in the study of extinct forms of humans. "We hope that biologists will be able to use this genome to discover genetic changes that were important for the development of modern human culture and technology, and enabled modern humans to leave Africa and rapidly spread around the world, starting around 100,000 years ago" says Pääbo. The genome is also expected to reveal new aspects of the history of Denisovans and Neandertals...." -

I'd love to find if there is some connection between the Denisovans and the Red Deer Cave people.


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 16-Mar-2012 at 17:59
Interesting research on the effect of the climatic changes ovef the development of human cultures - the Agricultural Revolution in this case:
"...ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2012) — A fundamental shift in the Indian monsoon has occurred over the last few millennia, from a steady humid monsoon that favored lush vegetation to extended periods of drought, reports a new study led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The study has implications for our understanding of the monsoon’s response to climate change....
The Indian peninsula sustains over a billion people, yet it lies at the same latitude as the Sahara Desert. Without a monsoon, most of India would be dry and uninhabitable. The ability to predict the timing and amount of the next year’s monsoon is vital, yet even our knowledge of the monsoon’s past variability remains incomplete....

...“What the new paleo-climatic information makes clear is that the shift towards more arid conditions around 4,000 years ago corresponds to the time when agricultural populations expanded and settled village life began,” says Fuller of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. “Arid-adapted food production is an old cultural tradition in the region, with cultivation of drought-tolerant millets and soil-restoring bean species. There may be lessons to learn here, as these drought-tolerant agricultural traditions have eroded over the past century, with shift towards more water and chemical intensive forms of modern agriculture.”

Together, the geological record and the archaeological evidence tell a story of the possible fate of India’s earliest civilizations. Cultural changes occurred across the Indian subcontinent as the climate became more arid after ~4,000 years. In the already dry Indus basin, the urban Harappan civilization failed to adapt to even harsher conditions and slowly collapsed. But aridity favored an increase in sophistication in the central and south India where tropical forest decreased in extent and people began to settle and do more agriculture. Human resourcefulness proved again crucial in the rapid proliferation of rain-collecting water tanks across the Indian peninsula, just as the long series of droughts settled in over the last 1,700 years...." -">

Map of the Indian peninsula, showing where the monsoon winds blow (white arrows) and how the salinity (white lines) is lower in Bay of Bengal due to monsoon rain over the Bay and rivers draining into the it. (The black arrow represents non-monsoon wind.) The study's sediment core (red dot) was extracted from a “sweet spot” in the Bay of Bengal where the Godavari River drains the central Indian peninsula and over which monsoon winds carry the most precipitation. (Credit: Courtesy of C. Ponton and L. Giosan)


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 23-Mar-2012 at 02:13
More on the connection between climate changes are human evolution:
"...ScienceDaily (Mar. 15, 2012) — According to a paper published in Science, models of how animal and plant distributions are affected by climate change may also explain aspects of human evolution....

The approach takes existing knowledge of the geographical spread of other species through the warming and cooling of the ice ages to provide a model that can be applied to human origins.

"No one has applied this knowledge to humans before," said Dr John Stewart, lead author on the paper and researcher at Bournemouth University.

"We have tried to explain much of what we know about humans, including the evolution and extinction of Neanderthals and the Denisovans (a newly discovered group from Siberia), as well as how they interbred with the earliest modern populations who had just left Africa. All these phenomena have been put into the context of how animals and plants react to climate change. We're thinking about humans from the perspective of what we know about other species."...

...Climate is believed to be the driving force behind most of these evolutionary processes, including geographical range change. It dictates which species are where at what time, driving their geographical spread or contraction.Dr Stewart continued: "Ultimately, this model explains why Homo sapiens as a species are here and the archaic humans are not."

The research also leads to interesting conclusions as to how and why Neanderthals, and indeed the Denisovans, evolved in the first place."One of the models we've formulated is that the adoption of a new refugium (an area of refuge from the harsh climatic conditions of the Ice Age) by a subgroup of a species may lead to important evolutionary changes, ultimately leading to the origins of a new species. In fact this could apply to all continental species, whether animals or plants" said Dr Stewart..." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 28-Mar-2012 at 11:42
The Neolithic Revolution may have started some 8 milllenia earlier than thought:
"...Excavation of 19,000-year-old hunter-gatherer remains, including a vast camp site, is fuelling a reinterpretation of the greatest fundamental shift in human civilisation – the origins of agriculture...."

"...The moment when the hunter-gatherers laid down their spears and began farming around 11,000 years ago is often interpreted as one of the most rapid and significant transitions in human history – the ‘Neolithic Revolution’.

By producing and storing food, Homo sapiens both mastered the natural world and took the first significant steps towards thousands of years of runaway technological development. The advent of specialist craftsmen, an increase in fertility and the construction of permanent architecture are just some of the profound changes that followed.

Of course, the transition to agriculture was far from rapid. The period around 14,500 years ago has been regarded as the point at which the first indications appear of cultural change associated with agriculture: the exploitation of wild grains and the construction of stone buildings. Farming is believed to have begun in what is known as the Fertile Crescent in the Levant region, which stretches from northern Egypt through Israel and Jordan to the shores of the Persian Gulf, and then occurred independently in other regions of the world at different times from 11,000 years ago.

Recent evidence, however, has suggested that the first stirrings of the revolution began even earlier, perhaps as far back as 19,000 years ago. Stimulating this reinterpretation of human prehistory are discoveries by the Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project (EFAP), a group of archaeologists and bioarchaeologists working in the Jordanian desert comprising University of Cambridge’s Dr. Jay Stock, Dr. Lisa Maher (University of California, Berkeley) and Dr. Tobias Richter (University of Copenhagen).

Over the past four years, their research has uncovered dramatic evidence of changes in the behaviour of hunter-gatherers that casts new light on agriculture’s origins, as Dr. Stock described: “Our work suggests that these hunter-gatherer communities were starting to congregate in large numbers in specific places, build architecture and show more-complex ritual and symbolic burial practices – signs of a greater attachment to a location and a changing pattern of social complexity that imply they were on the trajectory toward agriculture.”..." - -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 28-Mar-2012 at 17:33
A nice example of ecological thinking and careful resource-usage in ancient native cultures - Hawaian, in this case.

Ancient Hawaiians Caught More By Fishing Less

"...Centuries ago, Hawaiians caught three times more fish annually than scientists generally consider to be sustainable in modern times — and maintained this level of harvest for more than 400 years, researchers report in a new study in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

The findings could be instructive for agencies that enforce fishing limits in overfished waters around the globe.

Native Hawaiians caught about 50 percent more fish than modern fleets catch today in both Hawaii and the Florida Keys, the two largest reef ecosystems in the United States, said a co-author of the study, - Loren McClenachan , a fisheries researcher at - Colby College in Waterville, Me.

Hawaiians harvested about 15 metric tons of fish per square kilometer of reef annually from the years 1400 to 1800, the study found. That’s five times the median harvest in island nations worldwide today.

Dr. McClenachan and her co-author, - John Kittinger , a researcher at the - Center for Ocean Solutions in Monterey, Calif., drew on a variety of historical records and a method called catch reconstruction to estimate historical harvests in the Hawaiian Islands and the Florida Keys.

The Hawaiians used many techniques similar to those employed today, like temporary or permanent bans from fishing in certain areas, restrictions on certain species and gear, and catch limits. But they enforced the rules strictly; breaking them could mean corporal punishment or even death...." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 28-Mar-2012 at 17:58
Interesting perspective on gender roles and the impact the social values on the them in different cultures:

"...For economic and social reasons, many Afghan parents want to have a son. This preference has led to some of them practising the long-standing tradition of Bacha Posh - disguising girls as boys.

When Azita Rafhat, a former member of the Afghan parliament, gets her daughters ready for school, she dresses one of the girls differently.Three of her daughters are clothed in white garments and their heads covered with white scarves, but a fourth girl, Mehrnoush, is dressed in a suit and tie. When they get outside, Mehrnoush is no longer a girl but a boy named Mehran.

Azita Rafhat didn't have a son, and to fill the gap and avoid people's taunts for not having a son, she opted for this radical decision. It was very simple, thanks to a haircut and some boyish clothes.There is even a name for this tradition in Afghanistan - Bacha Posh, or disguising girls as boys."When you have a good position in Afghanistan and are well off, people look at you differently. They say your life becomes complete only if you have a son," she says....

Mehran with her father This child has been temporarily transformed from Mehrnoush the girl to Mehran the boy

....Many girls disguised as boys can be found in Afghan markets. Some families disguise their daughters as boys so that they can easily work on the streets to feed their families. - Elaha

If my parents force me to get married, I will compensate for the sorrows of Afghan women and beat my husband so badly ”Elaha Girl who lived as a boy

Some of these girls who introduce themselves as boys sell things like water and chewing gum. They appear to be aged anywhere between about five and 12. None of them would talk to me about their lives as boys.Girls brought up as boys do not stay like this all their lives. When they turn 17 or 18 they live life as a girl once again - but the change is not so simple....

Elaha lives in Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. She lived as a boy for 20 years because her family didn't have a son and reverted only two years ago when she had to go to university.However, she does not feel fully female: she says her habits are not girlish and she does not want to get married."When I was a kid my parents disguised me as a boy because I didn't have a brother. Until very recently, as a boy, I would go out, play with other boys and have more freedom."She has returned reluctantly to her gender and says she has done it only because of the social traditions....

...The tradition has existed in Afghanistan for centuries. According to Daud Rawish, a sociologist in Kabul, it may have started when Afghans had to fight their invaders and for this women needed to be disguised as men.But Qazi Sayed Mohammad Sami, head of the Balkh Human Rights Commission, calls it a breach of human rights.

"We cannot change someone's gender for a while. You cannot change a girl to a boy for a short period of time. It's against humanity," he says.The tradition has had a damaging effect on some girls who feel they have missed out on essential childhood memories as well as losing their identity.For others it has been good experiencing freedoms they would never have had if they had lived as girls.

But for many the key question is: will there be a day when Afghan girls get as much freedom and respect as boys?..." -

I can understand that - who would like to be a woman in sexist society with rigid gender roles? Even in proclaimed gender-equal society it's hard enough to be a woman /women are far more frequently abused, psychologically, physically and sexually than men are - only in the US 600 women are raped or sexually assaulted every day /2006 data/, one can imagine what this number is worldwide/, let alone in societies that proclaim rigid traditional gender roles.


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 31-Mar-2012 at 12:35
I have the sense that you wanted to post this one in the "Archeology News" thread, CV.


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 31-Mar-2012 at 12:39
Modern Bedouin customs and their connection to ancient ones:

Bedouin Animal Sacrifice Rituals Provide Clues to Archaeological Remains

"...Miami, FL -- ( - SBWIRE ) -- 03/28/2012 -- Harvard University educated archaeologist and president of the Paleontological Research Corporation, Dr. Joel Klenck, conducted an ethnoarchaeological study of modern Bedouin sacrificial practices in the Levant to provide insight on the deposition of remains at ancient cult sites. Ethnoarchaeology comprises the analysis of modern behaviors and the remains left over from these activities. These studies are linked with a concept in archaeology called middle range theory where observations of natural processes or human behaviors are used to explain the deposition of archaeological finds. Deriving his theories from the sociologist Robert Merton, the American archaeologist Lewis Binford strongly encouraged middle range theory and completed ethnographic studies of Australian aborigines, Nunamiut Eskimo and other groups. Binford then compared his data to remains from archaeological sites.

Klenck remarks, “During my excavations and research in the Levant, I observed many foot bones of sheep, goats and cattle near ancient sanctuaries particularly at the Middle Bronze IIB/C period (1800-1550 B.C.) cult site at Tel Haror. At the same time, I learned that modern Bedouin communities sacrificed sheep, goats, cattle and an occasional camel to a “weli” or a revered person at their sepulchers.” Sponsored by a grant from the Joe Alon Museum, Klenck conducted an ethnoarchaeological study of Bedouin sacrificial rituals taking photographs and recordings of his observations. He then analyzed the animal bone remains strewn around the venerated areas after the rituals. An analysis was completed in 2012 of the butchery and preservation processes affecting these bones for a forthcoming manuscript. Klenck comments, “It was quickly apparent that the bones with meat on them such as upper limb bones, ribs and vertebrae were subjected to more intensive butchery processes, were boiled and eaten by the families and then targeted by dogs and other scavengers after the Bedouin left the cult areas. At two of the sacrificial areas, the Bedouin burned the bones. Without any hides covering them, the meat bones disintegrated in the fires.”
The archaeologist notes that the foot bones were treated in a different manner. Klenck states, “Bedouin removed the hooves from the carcass at the beginning stages of butchery. The foot bones remained encased in animal skins and were discarded around the cult sites and not eaten. The sparse meat and marrow in these bones made them less attractive to scavengers and the skin surrounding these bones protected foot bones when Bedouin burned animal bones at the conclusion of the sacrificial meals.” The researcher then compared activities around the venerated tombs to the types of animal bones brought into Bedouin homes. The latter brought mostly meat bones into their homes while foot bones were removed in butcher shops at considerable distances from their domestic dwellings. Conversely, at the cult sites the entire butchery process was conducted near the venerated sepulcher. Klenck concludes, “The study of Bedouin sacrificial rituals provides archaeologists with valuable insight as to behaviors that might explain the enhanced preservation of foot bones at ancient cult sites in the Near East.”..." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 12-Apr-2012 at 13:01
"...A research team of archaeologists and paleoecologists have concluded that a group of pre-Columbian farmers living in the savannas surrounding the Amazonian rainforest in French Guiana, South America, practiced an agricultural and land-use technique that can serve as an example of sustainability for the future.

The research, published in the April 9, 2012 issue of the journal - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , shows that an indigenous people living in a savanna environment near the Amazon forest farmed without using fire, otherwise called "slash and burn" agriculture. By analysing pollen, charcoal and other plant remains across a period of more than 2,000 years, they determined that the early inhabitants of these savannas practiced 'raised-field' farming, which required the construction of cultivated agricultural mounds using wooden implements. This method resulted in improved drainage, soil aeration and moisture retention. Increased fertility was obtained by removing nutrient-rich muck from the flooded basin of the area and then depositing it on the mounds. The total system limited or eliminated the need to use fire, conserved soil nutrients and organic matter, and preserved critical soil structure. This is in contrast to the wide use of "slash-and-burn" agriculture and the use of fire for deforestation to achieve needed levels of production to sustain growing populations in the past and present, a major reason underlying the disappearance of environmentally critical ecosystems in today's world.   

The study results contradict the long-standing belief that the arrival of Europeans after 1492, and the ensuing collapse of as much as 95 percent of the native populations due to disease and other means brought by European conquerors and settlers, led to decreased forest clearance and agricultural burning by the indigenous population. The prolific use of fire as an agricultural technique in these Amazonian savannas is thus actually a post-1492, as opposed to the generally accepted pre-1492, phenomenon. In fact, the research suggested a sharp increase in fires with the arrival of the first Europeans..."

...This ancient, time-tested, fire-free land use could pave the way for the modern implementation of raised-field agriculture in rural areas of Amazonia," says lead author Dr José Iriarte of the University of Exeter. "Intensive raised-field agriculture can become an alternative to burning down tropical forest for slash and burn agriculture by reclaiming otherwise abandoned and new savanna ecosystems created by deforestation. It has the capability of helping curb carbon emissions and at the same time provide food security for the more vulnerable and poorest rural populations."..." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 14-Apr-2012 at 17:45
Rarely revealed by Western researchers, Arab pastoral nomads practice several types of sacrificial rituals other than the main feast of sacrifice or “Id al ‘Adha” that occurs the tenth day of the Hadj or “Dhul Hijjah” and is practiced by all observing Muslims. Three other rituals include sacrifices to spirits or “ginn”, ritual slaughters to ward off curses and bless newly married couples, and commemorations to deceased family members. Another type of sacrifice practiced by Bedouin in the Levant comprises sacrifices to a “weli” or revered person. Klenck states, “Bedouin sacrifice sheep, goats, cattle and occasionally a camel to a weli to redeem vows, incur healing, give thanks or insure fertility. Individuals performing the sacrifices believe the weli will act as a mediator between them and Allah to facilitate their requests.” Around 1771, Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, a cleric who traveled throughout Saudi Arabia and Iraq, began to influence the ruler of Dara’iya, Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud, whose tribe created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. The religious leader al-Wahhab formed a movement that denounced Bedouin believing in the special powers of a weli, punished individuals performing sacrificial rituals to these revered persons and largely eradicated these practices. Although sacrifices to Bedouin saints are mostly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, these rituals continue to be practiced by Muslim pastoral nomads in the Levant and North Africa. Klenck states, “I was able to observe Bedouin venerating the tombs of Sheikh Abu-Hurreira, Ibrahim, Hussein, Falougie, Nebi Musa, and the adjacent sepulchers of Al-Azzam and Al-Nabari. The sheikhs’ tombs vary in their size, care and decoration. The tombs often feature sticks of wood mostly of palm with white or green cloth tied to each structure. According to the Bedouin, the white cloth represents peace and goodwill and is a beneficial omen for those petitioning Allah through a weli. The Bedouin consider the color green to be very holy as its significance stems from their traditions and because they allege the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad and the Kabbah in Saudi Arabia are covered with green tapestries. At the tombs the Bedouin often light candles and sometimes leave salt, sugar, matches, and coins in the sacred area.” While Bedouin women perform prayers and light candles at the tombs, the men perform animal sacrifices near the sepulchers. At the tombs of Al-Azzam and Al-Nabari, the trees surrounding the sacred areas exhibit slash marks where Bedouin hang animal carcasses during butchery activities. After the sacrifice, the meat is boiled and everyone participates in the subsequent feast, especially the poor. Several Bedouin stated that in past centuries, individuals left valuable possessions at the sheikh’s tombs knowing that no Bedouin would dare steal from the tomb for fear of being cursed. Klenck concludes, “Studies of Bedouin animal sacrifices reveal a diversity of beliefs and are important in understanding cultures and ritual activities in the Levant.”

More Information: -[/url]
Copyright ©


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 16-Apr-2012 at 19:45

Chimpanzee Ground Nests Offer New Insight Into Our Ancestors' Descent from the Trees

"...ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2012) — The first study into rarely documented ground-nest building by wild chimpanzees offers new clues about the ancient transition of early hominins from sleeping in trees to sleeping on the ground. While most apes build nests in trees, this study, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, focused on a group of wild West African chimpanzees that often shows ground-nesting behaviour....

..."We believe that, like modern apes, the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans also slept in the trees 6 million years ago," said Dr Koops. "However, these nests are not preserved in the fossil or archaeological record, so it is impossible to study directly the ancient transition from sleeping in trees to building shelters on the ground. Recording this rare behaviour in the chimpanzee, our closest relative, may provide vital clues." As the Nimba chimpanzees do not yet tolerate human presence at close range, the team used new molecular genetic techniques to analyse hairs collected from the nests. This allowed the team to establish the sex of chimpanzees displaying the behaviour and to identify individuals in the group..." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 08-May-2012 at 13:50

Anthropologists Discover New Research Use for Dental Plaque: Examining Diets of Ancient Peoples

"...Scott obtained samples of dental calculus from 58 skeletons buried in the Cathedral of Santa Maria in northern Spain dating from the 11th to 19th centuries to conduct research on the diet of this ancient population. After his first methodology met with mixed results, he decided to send five samples of dental calculus to Poulson at the University's Stable Isotope Lab, in the off chance they might contain enough carbon and nitrogen to allow them to estimate stable isotope ratios.

"It's chemistry and is pretty complex," Scott explained. "But basically, since only protein has nitrogen, the more nitrogen that is present, the more animal products were consumed as part of the diet. Carbon provides information on the types of plants consumed."..." -">
Centuries ago, dental calculus would build up through the years, layer after layer, like a stalagmite, sometimes reaching impressive proportions. University of Nevada, Reno researchers have discovered that analysis of tiny fragments of this material can be used effectively in paleodietary research – the study of diets of earlier ancient and populations – without the need to destroy bone, as other methods do. 


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 08-May-2012 at 13:58

Mystery of the Domestication of the Horse Solved: Competing Theories Reconciled

"...ScienceDaily (May 7, 2012) — New research indicates that domestic horses originated in the steppes of modern-day Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan, mixing with local wild stocks as they spread throughout Europe and Asia...

For several decades scientists puzzled over the origin of domesticated horses. Based on archaeological evidence, it had long been thought that horse domestication originated in the western part of the Eurasian Steppe (Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan); however, a single origin in a geographically restricted area appeared at odds with the large number of female lineages in the domestic horse gene pool, commonly thought to reflect multiple domestication "events" across a wide geographic area.

In order to solve the perplexing history of the domestic horse, scientists from the University of Cambridge used a genetic database of more than 300 horses sampled from across the Eurasian Steppe to run a number of different modelling scenarios.

Their research shows that the extinct wild ancestor of domestic horses, Equus ferus, expanded out of East Asia approximately 160,000 years ago. They were also able to demonstrate that Equus ferus was domesticated in the western Eurasian Steppe, and that herds were repeatedly restocked with wild horses as they spread across Eurasia...." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 09-May-2012 at 17:51

George Washington University Professor’s Research on Ancient Ballgame Reveals More about Early Mesoamerican Society

"...While early games used a hard rubber ball, the ballgames Dr. Blomster researches bear little resemblance to today’s Major League Baseball. The games and the costumes or uniforms participants wore were tied to themes of life and death, mortals and underworld deities or symbolizing the sun and the moon. In some instances, the ballcourt itself represented a portal to the underworld.

According to Dr. Blomster, “Because the ballgame is associated with the rise of complex societies, understanding its origins also illuminates the evolution of socio-politically complex societies.”

During the Early Horizon period, or roughly between 1400 BCE (Before the Common Era) and 1700 BCE, there was little evidence of ballgame activity in the way of artifacts in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Dr. Blomster’s findings of a clay figurine garbed in distinctive ballgame costume, similar to both Olmec figurines and monumental sculptures from the Gulf Coast, indicate such engagement did take place in the area.

“Exploring the origins and spread of the ballgame is central to understanding the development of the Mesoamerican civilization,” he said. “We know there were earlier versions of a ballgame prior to the Early Horizon with both a ballcourt and rubber balls found in coastal Chiapas and the Gulf Coast, but the institutionalized version of the ballgame, a hallmark of Mesoamerican civilizations, developed during the Early Horizon. While there has been some limited evidence about the participation of the nearby Valley of Oaxaca in the ballgame, the Mixteca has largely been written off in terms of involvement in the origins of complex society in ancient Mexico. This discovery reemphasizes how the ancient Mixtecs were active participants in larger Mesoamerican phenomenon.”..." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 24-May-2012 at 22:00
"...Study reveals trade patterns for crucial substance played key role in Maya collapse

Shifts in exchange patterns provide a new perspective on the fall of inland Maya centers in Mesoamerica approximately 1,000 years ago. This major historical process, sometimes referred to as the "Maya collapse" has puzzled archaeologists, history buffs, and the news media for decades. The new research was published online today in the journal Antiquity.

"Our research strongly suggests that changing patterns of trade were instrumental in prompting the 'Maya collapse,'" said Gary Feinman, curator of anthropology at The Field Museum, which collaborated with the University of Illinois at Chicago on the study.

The new research casts doubt on the idea that climate change was the sole or principal cause, Feinman said, noting that some Maya centers, which flourished after the collapse, were located in the driest parts of the Maya region. Feinman said that climate change, along with breakdowns in leadership, warfare, and other factors, contributed to the collapse, but the shifting exchange networks may have been a key factor.

For the Maya, who did not have metal tools, obsidian (or volcanic glass) was highly valued because of its sharp edges for use as cutting instruments. Maya lords and other elites derived power from controlling access to obsidian, which could be traded for important goods or sent as gifts to foster important relationships with other Mayan leaders.

The Field Museum researchers found that prior to the fall of the Maya inland centers, obsidian tended to flow along inland riverine networks. But over time, this material began to be transported through coastal trade networks instead, with a corresponding increase in coastal centers' prominence as inland centers declined.The shift in trade might have involved more than obsidian. Field researcher Mark Golitko said, "The implication is that other valuable goods important to these inland centers were also slowly being cut off." Golitko led the Social Network Analysis that graphically depicts the change in trade patterns.

Researchers compiled information on obsidian collected at Maya sites, and used chemical analysis to identify the source(s) that produced obsidian found through archaeological studies at each location. Obsidian from three sources in Guatemala and several sources in central Mexico and Honduras were identified. The researchers generated data for each of four time periods: Classic (approximately 250-800 AD),Terminal classic (approximately 800-1050 AD), Early Postclassic (approximately 1050-1300 AD), and Late Postclassic (approximately 1300-1520AD). Using Social Network Analysis (SNA) software, the researchers developed maps illustrating which sites had the same or similar percentages of each type of obsidian, in each of the four time periods. These percentages were then utilized to infer the likely network structure through which obsidian was transported

A comparison of the resulting SNA maps show that Classic period networks were located in inland, lowland areas along rivers, mostly in what is today the northern part of Guatemala, the Mexican state of Chiapas, the southern Yucatan, and western Belize. However, maps bearing data from later time periods show that inland networks diminished in importance and coastal networks were thriving, in what today is the northern Yucatan and coastal Belize.

The SNA data "is a very visual way to let us infer the general layout of the networks that transported obsidian, and the likely paths it took," Golitko said.Feinman termed the study results significant. "The use of SNA to display and analyze the obsidian data graphically gives us a new perspective on these data, some of which has been present for years."

The study did not explore the question of why the transport networks began to shift. Feinman said there may have been military animosities that made the inland, river routes less safe or easy to use, and added that during this period the seagoing transport may have become more efficient with larger canoes. He noted that scientists simply don't have the definitive answers to some of these questions...." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 30-May-2012 at 01:20 -
"...More than ten thousands of bone fragments were recovered from the Lingjing site, Henan Province during 2005 and 2006. By taking statistical analyses of the skeletal elements of the two predominant species in this assemblage, aurochs (Bos primigenius) and horse (Equus caballus), scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, found that hominids at this site have already practiced sophisticated hunting techniques and subsistence strategies and may be quite familiar with the ecological and anatomical characteristics and nutritional values of the large-sized prey animals and can accordingly take different processing and handling strategies at the hunting site..."


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 30-May-2012 at 01:47 -
"...Archaeological excavations have provided the first substantiation that a farmland estate in Sicily boasts a history which reaches back over a thousand years. Numerous finds demonstrate the continuous use of the land complex as a nexus of settlement and economic and religious life between the 5th and 16th century. The findings are the result of two projects of the Austrian Science Fund FWF which comprise the first in-depth archaeological exploration of Sicily's Byzantine period. The projects' findings are now accessible to the public in the Krahuletz Museum in Eggenburg, Austria...."


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 30-May-2012 at 01:49 -
"...Using archaeological data and geoscience technology, an international team of scientists has concluded a study that shows that the great Indus Valley civilization, otherwise known as the Harappan civilization, declined and disappeared in large measure due to climatic and landscape changes. The study results suggest that a major, gradual decline in monsoon rains led to a weakened river system, adversely affecting the Harappan culture and leading to its collapse. The ancient culture relied on river floods to sustain its system of agriculture.

"We reconstructed the dynamic landscape of the plain where the Indus civilization developed 5200 years ago, built its cities, and slowly disintegrated between 3900 and 3000 years ago," said geologist Liviu Giosan of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).  "Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers." Giosan is also the lead author of the study report now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

The Harappan civilization was the largest of the "big three" early urban cultures of the world (the others being ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia), but less is known about it.  Archaeological exploration over the past century has shed much more light on the culture. Its remains extend more than 1 million square kilometers across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges River, over what is now Pakistan, northwest India and eastern Afghanistan. Much like ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Harappan people built and sustained their urban society along the recurring highs and lows of flowing rivers that provided the basis for the production of agricultural surpluses, vitally important for the development and sustenance of great urban centers...."">Climate Change Contributed to Ancient Indus Civilization Demise, Researchers Say


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 19-Jun-2012 at 07:10
"...The spread of indigenous pre-Columbian settlements in the Amazon Basin was not an even one, according to an analysis of the results of a recent study conducted by researchers from four research institutions. 

The researchers, from the Florida Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution, Wake Forest University and the University of Florida, led by Florida Tech's Crystal McMichael and Mark Bush, were attempting to determine the impact of human population in Amazonia before the Europeans arrived. Their hypothesis: If the Pre-Columbian Amazon was a landscape highly altered by humans, then most of the Amazon's current biodiversity could be the result of human impact. Because the Amazon Basin represents one of the planet's most significant areas of biodiversity, the question of how Amazonia was modified by humans in the past contributes to our understanding of rainforest ecology and informs us in our conservation efforts. 

The team collected 247 soil cores from 55 locations in the central and western Amazon, sites like river banks and locations that archeological evidence had indicated were occupied by people. They also collected cores farther from the rivers, where historical and archaeological data were lacking. By using markers set in the cores, they were able to track the chronology of fire, vegetation and human alterations in the soil. No samples were collected form the eastern Amazon, as it has already been thoroughly studied. ..." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 29-Jun-2012 at 02:21 -
"...distinguished from ordinary bread in its form, preparation and decorative elements. It was made from the largest and purest wheat grains. The flour was sieved three times and the dough was mixed with "silent" water - one brought by a maiden in absolute silence - in which flowers and herbs had been soaked. The ritual bread used to be worked up by a young girl or a recently married young woman. The form of the ritual bread was round, but in some cases it could be oval or elongated. Different objects were represented on top - images ranging from suns to pens or gardens. Ritual breads were consecrated by incensing and were broken cross-wise. Several pieces were usually left as offering to God. People also used to bury pieces of the ritual bread near their pens or cornfields hoping that the year would be fruitful and rich. Nowadays the Bulgarian people are not accustomed to preparing ritual breads in their everyday life, but home-made round loaves are still widespread.

The kneading of ritual bread is specific for each - folkThe bread prepared for Christmas is known as Bogova pita (Lord's bread); it is decorated with varied representations such as pens full of sheep, wine casks, etc. depending on the occupation of the master of the house. 

Wedding breads are abundantly decorated with spirals, rosettes and figures of doves meant to symbolize good luck and blessings.

By way of wishing good health, the - koledari  are given specially made rolls of bread which they string up on the tops of their shepherd's crooks.

In North-West Bulgaria, on the holiday of Mladentsi (the Day of the Holy Infants) the saint is venerated with a small loaf of bread shaped to represent a human figure.


St. Andrews Day ritual bread


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 01-Jul-2012 at 01:55 -

Pine bark has been used in times of famine by all the peoples of the High North. Norwegian farmers would chop down the trees and then scrape off all the bark, or simply scrape the bark off trees in continuous rings.

The pines with the strange scars in Dividalen haven’t been so brutally handled. The cuts in the bark are on just one side of the trees, which enables them to survive the injury.

Arve Elvebakk poses next to one of the marked pines at Dividalen. (Photo: UiT)

The local Sami, who did not have tools for chopping down large trees, were more careful when they reaped bark.

“The harvesting was done in the spring. We think it was a job for women and children,” says Elvebakk.

Researchers have found five different tools made of bone that were used to harvest bark. The inner bark was the prize they were after.

Buried and toasted

After the pine bark was scraped away from the trees it was packed in birch bark and buried.

“A bonfire was lit on the ground above the buried bark and allowed to burn for up to four days,” says Elvebakk.

The heat slowly toasted strips of the bark and removed the bitter taste.

“The bark flour was mild and tasty. It was considered a delicacy when mixed with other food, such as porridge or a stew with animal fat.”


Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 05:35

Classic Maya "Collapse" Did Not Happen, Say Researchers

The Classic period Maya civilization did not really collapse, say some scholar-researchers. It was essentially transformed through societal reorganization, much of which manifests itself to this day through the modern Maya population. This suggestion challenges some long-held views by a broad spectrum of scientists and scholars who have theorized that the ancient Classic Maya civilization experienced a dramatic collapse between about 800 and 1,100 C.E.  

In the paper, The Last Gasp: Demystifying the "Collapse" of the Terminal Classic Lowland Maya, published in the premier issue of - AnthroJournal , author Elizabeth Votruba presents the arguments against collapse, suggesting that a different, more contextualized and holistic approach needs to be taken in researching, analyzing and interpreting the evidence of the ancient Maya existence and environment.

"The Classic Maya collapse did not happen, as has been exaggerated to the general public by a handful of particularly boastful scholars," she maintains.  "Dramatic and decontextualized versions of Mesoamerican pasts can no longer perpetuate discourse and need to be reconsidered as a series of societal reorganizations rather than a momentous and all-encompassing systemic failure."[1]

Scholars have traditionally and variously pointed to three major causes --  "ecological overload" (resulting from activities such as unsustainable agricultural practices), endemic warfare, and climatic catastrophe (such as widespread drought), for the collapse, which has been defined by dramatic changes such as the termination of temple construction and stone monument production, the end of kingships, and abandonment of settlements due to population decline.  Some scholars have suggested a combination of two or more of the causes as the basis, and a significant body of scientific evidence has been advanced to support the various suggested causes........ -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 05:46

Searching for an Ancient Syphilis DNA in Newborns

Left femur, two right humerus and a right hemifrontal bone belonging to at least two newborns found at "La Ermita de la Soledad" in Huelva. All show signs of bone lesions diagnosed as congenital syphilis.

Ancient DNA of the bacteria causing syphilis, the Treponema pallidum pallidum, can be recovered from the ancient bones of newborns. This is the conclusion reached by a study led by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), which was able to obtain the genetic material from the bacteria in more than one individual, in what is considered to be the oldest case known to date. Several previous attempots had only yielded this material in one occasion and from only one individual.

Studying syphilis represents a challenge for researchers, in part because of the impossibility of using or genetically manipulating cell cultures, given that the subspecies of T. pallidum cannot be differentiated morphologically using immunofluorescence or electron microscopes. This makes diagnosis extremely difficult and complicates epidemiological and phylogenetic analyses. In contrast, molecular typification has be shown to be a useful method with which to detect some of these subspecies, such as the one affecting humans, T.pallidum pallidum.

Palaeopathology - the science that studies diseases in ancient human remains - benefits from these molecular techniques to identify specific varieties of ancient syphilis and generate information that is useful for the phylogenetic reconstruction of modern varieties. They additionally can help to discover the historical development of the disease and its moment of origin in the continent -- a highly debated issue amongst scientists -- and its geographic distribution and epidemiology.

In this study, published in PLoS ONE and led by Assumpció Malgosa, professor of Physical Anthropology at UAB, researchers extracted the bacteria's DNA from four bone fragments of two newborns showing clear signs of having suffered from congenital syphilis. The remains were recovered from the crypt of “La Ermita de la Soledad” (16th–17th centuries), located in the province of Huelva in the northwest of Spain......... -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 06:14

The ginger gene revealed

Chris Evans

Red hair, often associated with a fiery temper, not to mention the bad behaviour of media millionaire Chris Evans, may be the legacy of Neanderthal man.

Oxford University scientists think the 'ginger gene', which is responsible for red hair, fair skin and freckles, could be up to 100,000 years old.

They say their discovery points to the gene having originated in Neanderthal man, who lived in Europe for 260,000 years before the ancestors of modern man arrived from Africa about 40,000 years ago.

Research leader Dr Rosalind Harding said: 'It is certainly possible that red hair comes from the Neanderthals.'

The Neanderthals are generally thought to have been a less intelligent species than modern man, Homo sapiens.

They were taller and stockier, but with shorter limbs, bigger faces and noses, receding chins and low foreheads.

They had a basic, guttural vocabulary of around 70 words, probably at the level of today's two-year-old, and they never developed a full language, art or culture.

They settled in Europe about 300,000 years ago, but 40,000 years ago a wave of immigrants - our fore-bears, Cro-Magnon Man - emerged from Africa and the two species coexisted for 10,000 years.

Dr Harding's research - which she is presenting at a conference of the Human Genome Organisation later this week - suggests the two species interbred for the ginger gene to survive.

But Dr Harding said Chris Evans and other redheads should not be offended by being linked to the primitive Neanderthals.

She said: 'If it's possible that we had ancestry from Neanderthals then it says that Neanderthals were more similar to us than we previously thought.

'No one should take offence from the research.'

Scientists at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, at Oxford University, compared the human ginger gene - known in scientific terms as the melanocortin-1 receptor - with the equivalent in chimpanzees.

They found 16 differences, or mutations, between the two genes.

Since an early version of the gene developed in chimps roughly ten million years ago, the scientists estimated there has been one mutation every 625,000 years.

They used a computer to calculate how long it must have taken for one particular mutation - the one responsible for ginger hair - to have passed down through the generations and become so common among people in Britain.

They concluded the mutation was older than 50,000 years and could be as old as 100,000 years.

A Channel 4 drama last year explored new evidence that Neanderthals were actually 'ultrahumans' - able to adapt to extremes of climate and surviving for 272,000 years, compared with modern man's 40 ,000 years and 'civilised ' man's 7,000.

But they finally became extinct - about 28,000 years ago - because Cro-Magnon Man was more socially advanced and able to develop communities and a language.

In the end, Neanderthals were outwitted for territory and food. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 07-Jul-2012 at 06:28

Turning History's 'Lost' Into 'Found': Pictorial History-Map of Santa Catarina Ixtepeji, a Village in Mexico Rediscovered

Detail of the codice. In a 1917 letter to the AGS, the seller, California mining engineer A. E. Place, wrote: “Were it not for the fact that I am forging into business here, after having lost nearly all my property in Mexico, I would not sell the map at any price.”

A rare 17th-century Latin American document that was "lost" for nearly a century resurfaced earlier this year. The kicker: It was right where it should have been all along -- in the American Geographical Society (AGS) Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

But it's a wonder that the document -- a pictorial history-map of Santa Catarina Ixtepeji, a village in Mexico -- was rediscovered at all.

The 7-foot-long painted scroll is one of the few known pictorial documents that contain text in the indigenous Zapotec language. It had been in the hands of private collectors early in the 20th century, including California mining engineer A.E. Place, who sold it to the AGS in 1917 for $350.

Fast forward to 1978. The AGS collection moved from New York to UWM, where archivists have been piecing together the stories of the more than 1 million items in the collection bit by bit over the last 34 years. The contents include maps, globes, diaries and other memorabilia gathered by the society's member-explorers, from Charles Lindbergh to Teddy Roosevelt.

In 1995, AGSL curator Christopher Baruth came across a tattered scroll containing both writing and pictures. There were no markings on it to link it to a card in the collection's catalog. "I had asked someone about it at that time," he remembers, "but that person didn't think it was anything of significance."

That could have been the end of the story. Baruth formally retired in 2011 after 31 years with the AGSL, 16 as curator. After fielding a staff member's question about the scroll while organizing his office, Baruth decided to get a second opinion.

He called Aims McGuinness, UWM associate professor of history, who could tell that the scroll was written in both Spanish and an indigenous language. To home in on its origin, McGuinness consulted with someone who specializes in colonial Latin America -- and she was just downtown at Marquette University.

It takes a community

Laura Matthew, an assistant professor of history, remembers being psyched to see the "mystery document," which, she says, recounts the history of leadership and land ownership in a specific town in Mexico. "It continued an older tradition of documents kept by royal houses that were intended to accompany an oral presentation, like a visual aid."

The document was written in both the native and Spanish languages because it would have been used to legitimize land ownership in a bureaucratic process involving Spanish officials. Two dates inscribed on it -- 1691 and 1709 -- were probably the dates it was used, Matthew surmises.

Matthew is not an expert in Zapotec, but she knows someone who is. Michel Oudijk at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México knew exactly what the scroll was from looking at emailed photos -- and he knew because he had been looking for it for more than a decade.

"That's when we knew we had something valuable," says Matthew. "And luck played a part, because he had already studied this type of document and that made for a fast identification."

Oudijk and colleague Sebastián van Doesburg had found scholarly reports from the 1960s indicating two documents from Santa Catarina Ixtepeji had been sold in the early 20th century. One was sold by a British consular official in Oaxaca named Rickards, a Mexican of Scottish descent. But the research did not reveal that mining engineer Place was the buyer, or that it had ended up at the AGS.

Mystery solved

That information came some 50 years later when UWM's Baruth consulted the last batch of archival material -- 10,000 pounds of it -- that arrived in Milwaukee from New York in 2010. He unearthed a letter from Place, dated 1917, stating the price he wanted for his piece of antiquity. It provided the final piece in the puzzle of how the rare scroll had found its way from Mexico to Milwaukee.

Baruth believes that Place probably secured the artifact from Rickards, as the two were both in the mining community around Oaxaca.

By the time Place wanted to sell the artifact, the AGS was preoccupied with boundary disputes in Europe as World War I drew to a close. Baruth suspects that's why the document entered the collection with little notice. It was mostly likely shelved without sufficient identification and forgotten.

The discovery and identification of this piece illustrates the value of the work by librarians, archivists and the global community of scholars, says McGuinness.

"This is more than just a curiosity," he says. "This document tells us in the present something about Mexico that we would not otherwise have known. So UWM and Marquette are part of a circuit that creates and disseminates information of worldwide significance."

Collaboration extended beyond the academic. Jim DeYoung, senior conservator at the Milwaukee Art Museum, advised that the scroll never be rolled again. He designed and constructed the frame that it is now displayed in.

Through it all, McGuinness' and Matthew's students witnessed the mystery unfold. "This has been invaluable to teach students about the impact of research," says McGuinness. "My students could see knowledge being produced and the cooperation among institutions that made it happen." -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 10-Jul-2012 at 04:28

Ancient Hunter-Gatherers Kept in Touch

Far-flung cousin? This 8000-year-old skeleton of a hunter-gatherer, found in a Spanish cave, is genetically similar to skeletons found in central and Eastern Europe.

Until about 8500 years ago, Europe was populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers who hunted, fished, and ate wild plants. Then, the farming way of life swept into the continent from its origins in the Near East, including modern-day Turkey. Within 3000 years most of the hunter-gatherers had disappeared. Little is known about these early Europeans. But a new genetic analysis of two 8000-year-old skeletons from Spain suggests that they might have been a remarkably cohesive population both genetically and culturally—a conclusion that other researchers find intriguing but possibly premature.

The - first modern human hunter-gatherers occupied Europe  at least 40,000 years ago. But their fortunes waxed and waned with fluctuations in climate, and during the height of the last ice age—between about 25,000 and 20,000 years ago—they were forced to take refuge in southern European regions such as modern-day Spain, Portugal, and southern France. Only after 12,000 years ago, when a permanent warming trend set in, were they able to spread across all of Europe again, marking the beginning of a period called the Mesolithic.

Yet, while researchers have intensively studied the ancient farmers who followed them, relatively little is known about Europe's Mesolithic people. Scientists have extracted - ancient DNA from dozens of farmer skeletons , but from fewer than 30 Mesolithic skeletons. Nearly all of these are from central and Eastern Europe......... -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 26-Jul-2012 at 10:30

Archaeologists uncover Palaeolithic ceramic art

Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia.

Evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who “invented” ceramics during the last Ice Age – thousands of years before pottery became commonplace – has been found in modern-day Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. - Archaeologists  believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared. 

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago. 

Now it is becoming clear that the story was much more complex. Over thousands of years, ceramics were invented, lost, reinvented and lost again. The earliest producers did not make crockery, but seem to have had more artistic inclinations. 

The Vela Spila finds have been the subject of intensive investigation by researchers at the University of Cambridge and colleagues in Croatia since 2010. Their report, published this week, suggests that although earlier ceramic remnants have been found elsewhere, they had no connection with the site, where the ability to make these artefacts appears to have been independently rediscovered by the people who lived there. 

“It is extremely unusual to find ceramic art this early in prehistory,” Dr. Preston Miracle, from the University of Cambridge, said. 

“The finds at Vela Spila seem to represent the first evidence of Palaeolithic ceramic art at the end of the last Ice Age. They appear to have been developed independently of anything that had come before. We are starting to see that several distinct Palaeolithic societies made art from ceramic materials long before the Neolithic era, when ceramics became more common and were usually used for more functional purposes.” 

Vela Spila is a large, limestone cave on Korčula Island, in the central Dalmatian archipelago. Excavations have taken place there sporadically since 1951, and there is evidence of occupation on the site during the Upper Palaeolithic period, roughly 20,000 years ago, through to the Bronze Age about 3,000 years ago......... -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 27-Jul-2012 at 09:12

Genomic Study of Africa's Hunter-Gatherers Elucidates Human Variation and Ancient Interbreeding

Human diversity in Africa is greater than any place else on Earth. Differing food sources, geographies, diseases and climates offered many targets for natural selection to exert powerful forces on Africans to change and adapt to their local environments. The individuals who adapted best were the most likely to reproduce and pass on their genomes to the generations who followed....... -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: red clay
Date Posted: 27-Jul-2012 at 12:33
Originally posted by TheAlaniDragonRising

Archaeologists uncover Palaeolithic ceramic art

Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia.

Evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who “invented” ceramics during the last Ice Age – thousands of years before pottery became commonplace – has been found in modern-day Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. - Archaeologists  believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared. 

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago. 

Now it is becoming clear that the story was much more complex. Over thousands of years, ceramics were invented, lost, reinvented and lost again. The earliest producers did not make crockery, but seem to have had more artistic inclinations. 

The Vela Spila finds have been the subject of intensive investigation by researchers at the University of Cambridge and colleagues in Croatia since 2010. Their report, published this week, suggests that although earlier ceramic remnants have been found elsewhere, they had no connection with the site, where the ability to make these artefacts appears to have been independently rediscovered by the people who lived there. 

“It is extremely unusual to find ceramic art this early in prehistory,” Dr. Preston Miracle, from the University of Cambridge, said. 

“The finds at Vela Spila seem to represent the first evidence of Palaeolithic ceramic art at the end of the last Ice Age. They appear to have been developed independently of anything that had come before. We are starting to see that several distinct Palaeolithic societies made art from ceramic materials long before the Neolithic era, when ceramics became more common and were usually used for more functional purposes.” 

Vela Spila is a large, limestone cave on Korčula Island, in the central Dalmatian archipelago. Excavations have taken place there sporadically since 1951, and there is evidence of occupation on the site during the Upper Palaeolithic period, roughly 20,000 years ago, through to the Bronze Age about 3,000 years ago......... -

I wonder when they will finally do away with the designation "Pre-Ceramic".  On a global scale, there really isn't such. 

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 29-Jul-2012 at 00:13

Study Reveals New Clues to Human Diversity and Environmental Adaptability in Evolutionary History

Research also found evidence of ancient interbreeding between ancestors of modern Africans and another hominin lineage.

A genetic study of African hunter-gatherers has revealed important new insights to how human populations of the distant past have evolved to adapt to their environments, a key component of change in human evolution that has led to the genetic diversity we see today in modern human populations. 

The research, published on July 26th in the journal Cell and led by Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, involved sequencing whole genomes of 15 individuals, five each from three different hunter-gatherer population groups in Africa. "We sequenced the genomes of five males from each of three African hunter-gatherer populations (Western Pygmy, Hadza, and Sandawe) at high coverage", she said. "We then compared these genome sequences to a previously published genome sequence from a San hunter-gatherer and to publicly available whole-sequence data from other ethnically, linguistically, and geographically diverse African populations.....These genomes were compared to publicly available high-coverage genomes sequenced and analyzed using the same technology and software in a diverse panel of 53 unrelated individuals (including 4 Luhya from Kenya, 4 Maasai from Kenya, 10 Yoruba from Nigeria, and 51 non-Africans), allowing the genomes of African hunter-gatherers to be placed within a global context". [1] 

The researchers identified more than 13 million variations in DNA sequences in the tested genomes, and more than 3 million of them have not been found in existing databases. "This is the first population genomics analysis using high-coverage whole-genome sequencing," Tishkoff says. "Many of the variants we found would not have been identified without this kind of analysis."  Until now, scientists have analyzed only six African genomes that had been sequenced at high coverage, which involves sequencing regions numerous times to achieve high accuracy.

Africa is considered to be the ancestral homeland of all modern humans and contains the highest level of genetic diversity among all of the continents. But, says Tishkoff, "even though African populations have played an important role in human evolutionary history, relatively little is known about variation in African genomes".

The study has shed more light on the genetic signs of natural selection. As compared to agricultural and pastoral populations, the hunter-gatherer populations showed distinctly different DNA patterns related to immunity, metabolism, smell, and taste, suggesting that the populations adapted to specific pathogens, food sources, and other factors of the local environments they inhabited. In addition, they identified several candidate genes that could be responsible for the short stature of the Western Pygmies, and perhaps, by extension, pygmies in general.

The study also revealed evidence of ancient interbreeding between the ancestors of modern Africans and another hominin (possible archaic form of humans)* lineage.  "A striking finding in our data set", writes Tishkoff, et. al.,  "is that compelling evidence exists that extant hunter-gatherer genomes contain introgressed archaic sequences, consistent with previous studies.......In short, we find that low levels of introgression from an unknown archaic population or populations occurred in the three African hunter-gatherer samples examined, consistent with findings of archaic admixture in non-Africans." [1]

In other words, just as previous studies have suggested interbreeding between ancenstral modern humans and Neanderthals in Europe, this study shows evidence that the same had occurred between the ancestors of modern Africans and an archaic form of human or other hominin. Exactly what archaic population it might have been is still unknown.

The researchers hope that the study will provide an additional foundation for other scientists moving forward with similar genetic research. 

"Our study has not only vastly increased knowledge about human genomic variation," said Tishkoff, "but also shed light on human evolutionary history and the origins of traits that make each of us unique". -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 31-Jul-2012 at 13:27

Religion in Human Evolution, part 1: the co-evolution of gods and humanity

I am not fully recovered yet from my heart attack, but have been occupying my convalescence with Robert Bellah's book - Religion in Human Evolution , and it's so powerful that I am going to write about it anyway. It is an account of some of the ways in which human beings have made religions and religions have made us. The process continues, of course. If there are two faculties that make us into people, they are narration and contemplation. Religions unite them, and stimulate both. But it does much more than that.

The book makes a change for - this series : it only came out this year, and the author, a distinguished US sociologist, is still very much alive. But I think it is as important here as any of the classic authors we have dealt with before. That's a large claim. But Bellah offers a perspective on the various phenomena we call religion that unites history (in so far as we have it) with psychology and sociology. Any overarching theory must be this ambitious, because religion is complicated. It is something that people do to themselves, and to their societies, and at the same time something that whole societies do to themselves, to each other and to their constituent individuals. It has – sometimes – theoretical aspects. It has ritual aspects too. Even within Christianity, which is what most of us in the west know best, there are elements of dance, of play, of the exercise of power, of logic, poetry and morality; there are hermits and popes, inquisitors and housewives: all of these can be found without even mentioning myths.

Such an enormous diversity of roles is, of course, dependent on a diverse and complex society. You don't find popes, priests or inquisitors among the Bushmen, nor anywhere in prehistory. If we're looking for something common to all expressions of religion, it will not be sufficient to describe any single one. So Bellah starts with the common experience of everyday life – an endless round of purpose-driven problem-solving in which our wants can never be completely satisfied. The first, and almost the most important, point he makes is that everyday life is quite literally intolerable if there is nothing else and no other way to live.

But, as he goes on to point out, no one has to live like that. It's certainly not the world we live in all the time:

" - Among language-using humans , however, the world of daily life is never all there is, and the other realities that human culture gives rise to cannot fail to overlap with the world of daily life, whose relentless utilitarianism can never be absolute.

"In spite of its 'apparent actuality', the world of daily life is a culturally, symbolically constructed world, not the world as it actually is. As such, it varies in terms of time and space, with much in common across the historical and cultural landscape, but with occasional sharp differences."

This is important. Not only are religions profoundly different from one another, but so are the worlds that they provide escape from and meaning to. There may be – and, in fact, there probably are – psychological or cognitive mechanisms underlying the different ways in which all cultures deal with the world. But these are differently expressed and elaborated, just as languages are, so that you simply can't translate entirely between them.

The evolution of language is necessarily closed off from us. With the possible exception of - Pirahã , all the languages spoken today seem to be on a similar level of complexity, and we can't reconstruct how they got there. Religions are different. The big ones have histories, more or less partial and incomplete. Preliterate societies are still to be found and studied. Even though none of them have been untouched by modern industrial culture (if only by the fact of being studied), we can still see how they differ from one another, and from us. This is where he starts, in worlds where there are neither gods nor people as we know them.

A great part of the story of this book is the co-evolution of gods and humanity. Although he finishes in the " - axial age ", when modern religious and philosophical thought first appeared, and with it universalist ethics, he avoids the slithery optimism of - Karen Armstrong . What we have are numerous universalist ethics, not just one. What got us here was not progress:

"No serious reader of this book can think it is a paean to any kind of religious triumphalism."

He writes:

" - That religious evolution is simply the rise , onward and upward, of ever more compassionate, more righteous, more enlightened religions could hardly be farther from the truth." -

Religion in Human Evolution, part 2: faith, language, music and play. -

Religion in Human Evolution, part 3: the primacy of ritual over language. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 02-Aug-2012 at 01:11
DNA hints at African cousin to humans
Expeditions to Africa may have brought back evidence of a hitherto unknown branch in the human family tree. But this time the evidence wasn’t unearthed by digging in the dirt. It was found in the DNA of hunter-gatherer people living in Cameroon and Tanzania.

Buried in the genetic blueprints of 15 people, researchers found the genetic signature of a sister species that branched off the human family tree at about the same time that Neandertals did. This lineage probably remained isolated from the one that produced modern humans for a long time, but its DNA jumped into the Homo sapiens gene pool through interbreeding with modern humans during the same era that other modern humans and Neandertals were mixing in the Middle East, researchers report in the August 3 Cell.

The evidence for ancient interbreeding is surprisingly convincing, says Richard “Ed” Green, a genome biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “There is a signal that demands explanation, and archaic admixture seems to be the most reasonable one at this point,” he says........ -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 06-Aug-2012 at 22:48

The Roots of Jewishness

Scholars of all kinds have long debated one seemingly simple question: What is "Jewishness?" Is it defined by genetics, culture, or religion? Recent findings have revealed genetic ties that suggest a biological basis for Jewishness, but this research didn’t include data from North African, Ethiopian, or other Jewish communities. Now a new study fills in the genetic map—and paints a more complex picture of what it means to be Jewish.

Modern Jews, who number more than 13 million worldwide, are traditionally divided into various groups. They include Middle Eastern Jews, who live in Iraq, Iran, and other places in the Levant; Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal; Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, who comprise 90% of American Jews; North African Jews from Morocco, Algeria, and other countries north of the Sahara; Ethiopian Jews; and many other communities scattered across the globe. In the Bible, the roots of Jewishness reach back 4000 years to Abraham and his descendants. But historians have suggested the story of Jewishness is more complicated, and may not include a single ancestor. Some have even argued that most modern Jews are descended from converts to Judaism and don’t share genetic ties at all.

Recent studies have turned to DNA for answers. In 2010, human geneticist Harry Ostrer of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and colleagues found that - three of the major Jewish groups—the Middle Eastern, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi Jews—share a genetic connection going back more than 2000 years , and are more closely related to each other than to nearby non-Jewish groups. Genetic ties within each of the groups were even closer, about the equivalent of fourth or fifth cousins. But that study didn't include North African Jews, who represent the world's second largest Jewish population, or any groups whose claim to Jewishness has been controversial, such as Ethiopian Jews.

So Ostrer and his colleagues gathered new DNA samples from Jews living everywhere from Morocco to Yemen. Using three distinct strategies for identifying genetic similarities, including a method called identity by descent (IBD) that can determine how closely related two individuals are, the team compared these DNA samples to each other, to the samples from their 2010 study, and to samples from non-Jews. - Most of the sampled groups shared genetic features, indicating a common heritage dating back to before Roman times , the team reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. North African Jews—and Moroccan/Algerian Jews in particular—showed a close genetic connection to Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, and little evidence of interbreeding with contemporary non-Jewish populations in North Africa. Georgian Jews shared genetic features with Middle Eastern Jews, instead. Yemenite Jews were distantly related to Middle Eastern Jews, while Ethiopian Jews formed their own cluster and shared little IDB with other Jewish populations. Each group showed little interbreeding with local non-Jewish groups. Moroccan/Algerian Jews, for example, were about as close genetically as third or fourth cousins; Jews from the Tunisian Island of Djerba were as close as first cousins once removed.

"I didn’t know what to expect," Ostrer says. "I've been surprised to learn there's such a shared biological basis for Jewishness." The team's results suggest that while most Jewish groups are genetically related, some are not and instead arose from converts to Judaism. But regardless of their origins, Jewish groups remained genetically isolated once formed.

The results complement historical accounts of multiple Jewish migrations and expulsions. The genetic ties between North African Jews and Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews may reflect the expulsion of European Jews from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s, and their limited breeding with local North African populations in the centuries that followed. Distinct populations, such as Ethiopian Jews, likely arose from Jewish founders who converted the local population by proselytizing but did not intermarry. "This is certainly the most extensive genomic study of Jewish populations to date," says geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the work. "And it shows there's both a genetic and a cultural component to being Jewish."

Identifying the genetic component of Jewishness—though controversial because the Holocaust was predicated on the idea that Jewishness was a genetic trait that could be eliminated from the German population—could have medical as well as historical value, Tishkoff adds, because many Jewish populations have high incidences of genetic disease. Knowing more about the groups' biological makeup could enable doctors to provide more informed genetic counseling to Jewish couples, or better personalize courses of treatment. Tishkoff notes that the little-studied Jewish populations of India, sub-Saharan Africa, China, and Burma weren’t examined in the latest analysis. Ostrer says his team plans to include their DNA in a future study to complete what he calls "the tapestry of Jewishness." -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 08-Aug-2012 at 21:48

Early Human Ancestors Had More Variable Diet

Scientists conducted an analysis of the fossil teeth, indicating that Australopithecus, a predecessor of early Homo, had a more varied diet than early Homo.

New research sheds more light on the diet and home ranges of early hominins belonging to three different genera, notablyAustralopithecusParanthropus and Homo -- that were discovered at sites such as Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai in the Cradle of Humankind, about 50 kilometres from Johannesburg. Australopithecus existed before the other two genera evolved about 2 million years ago.

Scientists conducted an analysis of the fossil teeth, indicating that Australopithecus, a predecessor of early Homo, had a more varied diet than early Homo. Its diet was also more variable than the diet of another distant human relative known as Paranthropus.

An international team of researchers, including Professor Francis Thackeray, Director of the Institute for Human Evolution at Wits University, will be publishing their latest research on what our early ancestors ate, online in the journal,Nature, on August 8, 2012. The paper titled 'Evidence for diet but not landscape use in South African early hominins' was authored by Vincent Balter from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France; Jose´ Braga from the Université de Toulouse Paul Sabatier in Toulouse in France; Philippe Te´louk from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon in France; and Thackeray from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in South Africa.

According to Thackeray, the results of the study show that Paranthropus had a primarily herbivorous-like diet, while Homo included a greater consumption of meat........ -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 09-Aug-2012 at 09:43

New Kenyan Fossils Shed Light On Early Human Evolution

Kenyan fossil find: The KNM-ER 1470 cranium, discovered in 1972, combined with the new lower jaw KNM-ER 60000; both are thought to belong to the same species. The lower jaw is shown as a photographic reconstruction, and the cranium is based on a computed tomography scan.

Exciting new fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana confirm that there were two additional species of our genus -- Homo -- living alongside our direct human ancestral species,Homo erectus, almost two million years ago. The finds, announced in the scientific journal Nature on August 9th, include a face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw.

They were uncovered between 2007 and 2009 by the Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP), led by Meave and Louise Leakey. KFRP's fieldwork was facilitated by the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), and supported by the National Geographic Society, which has funded the KFRP since 1968.

Four decades ago, the KFRP discovered the enigmatic fossil known as KNM-ER 1470 (or "1470" for short). This skull, readily distinguished by its large brain size and long flat face, ignited a longstanding debate about just how many different species of early Homolived alongside Homo erectus during the Pleistocene epoch. 1470's unusual morphology was attributed by some scientists to sexual differences and natural degrees of variation within a single species, whereas others interpreted the fossil as evidence of a separate species.

This decades-old dilemma has endured for two reasons. First, comparisons with other fossils have been limited due to the fact that 1470's remains do not include its teeth or lower jaw. Second, no other fossil skull has mirrored 1470's flat and long face, leaving in doubt just how representative these characteristics are. The new fossils address both issues...... -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: red clay
Date Posted: 09-Aug-2012 at 12:50
This sort of puts the last nail in the coffin for the concept of linear evolution. 

Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 10-Aug-2012 at 03:16

Pre-Columbian Cahokia Mound Builders Consumed "Black Drink", Say Researchers

"...Like other pre-Columbian Native Americans in the southeastern U.S., people living 700 to 900 years ago in Cahokia, a large settlement distinquished by its massive earthenwork mounds in south-western Illinoise, consumed a "black drink", a caffeinated drink made from the leaves of a holly tree that grew hundreds of miles away from the Cahokia site, according to a recent study. Consumption of the brew, according to the researchers, had a ritualistic or religious significance.

The discovery was made as the research team, consisting of scientists at the University of Illinois, the University of New Mexico, Millsaps College in Mississippi and Hershey Technical Center in Pennsylvania, were sampling plant residue found within distinct and relatively rare ancient cylindrical Cahokian beakers. They found key biochemical markers, which included theobromine, caffeine and ursolic acid, proportioned much like that found within drinking vessels at other sites in the southeastern U.S. The beakers, dating from A.D. 1050 to 1250, were found at ritual sites in and around Cahokia.

Anthropologist Patricia Crowan of the University of New Mexico and chemist Jeffrey Hunt of the Hershey Technical Center conducted the chemical analyses. The study was in part an outgrowth of a similar project where they performed tests on ceramic vessels found at the Chaco Canyon archaeological site in New Mexico. In A.D. 1100-1125, the inhabitants of Chaco consumed liquid chocolate from special ceramic vessels found there, as the ancient Maya did in Mexico and Central America centuries before...." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 10-Aug-2012 at 03:23
"...Left to right. Táin Bó Cúailnge, Beowulf, Iliad. Wikimedia Commons

Physicists study famous historical myths for hidden truths">Print

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

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

Comparing well known myths with works of fiction

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

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

Mapping character interaction

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

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

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

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

Similar to real-life networks

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

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

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

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

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

The researchers acknowledge that there are elements of each of the myths that are clearly fantasy, such as the character Beowulf slaying a dragon; however, they stress they are looking at the society rather than specific events. Historical archaeological evidence has been interpreted as indicating that some elements of the myths, such as specific locations, landmarks and characters, are likely to have existed."..." -


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 03:18

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


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

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

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

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

Dated to between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years ago, the remains were uncovered within six miles (ten kilometers) of the 1972 skull, which was discovered by Meave Leakey's husband, paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey...." -">A hominid's jaw.


Posted By: Don Quixote
Date Posted: 11-Aug-2012 at 17:52

Evidence The Sophisticated Carpentry Developed Alongside Agriculture During Neolithic Period

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 15-Aug-2012 at 03:58

Evolution of Humans in Europe More Complex Than Previously Thought

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

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

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 15-Aug-2012 at 20:11

Renaissance Women Fought Men, and Won

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 20-Aug-2012 at 18:31


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

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

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

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

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 24-Aug-2012 at 19:14

Generation Gaps Suggest Ancient Human-Ape Split

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

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 26-Aug-2012 at 11:45

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 31-Aug-2012 at 09:20

Peer Pressure Starts Early

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

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

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

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 02-Sep-2012 at 07:34

Alexandria dig uncovers graves, traces of African-American community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 13-Sep-2012 at 01:14

Study: Peking Man an isolated population

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

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

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 11:37
This certainly goes against what was earlier believed to have happened, and readjusted the time line by a good few thousands of years.

Extensive DNA Study Sheds Light on Modern Human Origins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 12:43
Does the adorning of oneself show self awareness? I cannot readily think of a good reason for Neanderthals to have done so without this ability.

Neanderthals Wore Feathers As Ornamentation, Bird Fossil Study Suggests

Artist's impression of a Neanderthal with feathers

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

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

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

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

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

"This activity was clearly related to the extraction of the largest, most durable, and arguably most visually striking, elements of a bird's plumage," the researchers wrote. - Previous research  at another Neanderthal site, Grotta di Fumane in Italy, found peeling and scraping marks on bird bones that would have been useless for food purposes; as such the researchers suggested in their 2011 paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that Neanderthals were using the colorful feathers from various bird species for symbolic reasons, such as wearing them for decoration.

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

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

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 19:30

Humans hunted for meat 2 million years ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 22-Sep-2012 at 20:34

Why humans have evolved so fast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radical shift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Inter-group conflict would certainly have placed a premium on such correlates of neural function as planning and throwing," Prof Tattersall explained.......... -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 24-Sep-2012 at 07:52

Tracing the development of play in Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 25-Sep-2012 at 06:43

A Neanderthal trove in Madrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 25-Sep-2012 at 09:03 -

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

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

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

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

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

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 02-Oct-2012 at 14:32

Oldest prosthetic helped Egyptian mummy to walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 05-Oct-2012 at 01:26 -
In the tribal societies of the Amazon forest, violent conflict accounted for 30 percent of all deaths before contact with Europeans, according to a recent study by University of Missouri anthropologist Robert Walker. Understanding the reasons behind those altercations in the Amazon sheds light on the instinctual motivations that continue to drive human groups to violence, as well as the ways culture influences the intensity and frequency of violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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," said - John 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. -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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. -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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 journal - Science .

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."............. -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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." -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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....... -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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. -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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........ -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 05-Jan-2013 at 23:51 - Body Shape Preferences: Associations with Rater Body Shape and Sociosexuality

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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. -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 16-Jan-2013 at 00:51


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.” -

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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......... -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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 erectus and 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 to - butcher 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. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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."........... -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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................ -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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.............. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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 have - argued , 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 to - domesticate 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 anxiety or - 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. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date 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. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 12-Apr-2013 at 01:41

How 2-Million-Year-Old Ancestor Moved: Sediba's Ribcage and Feet Were Not Suitable for Running

Reconstruction of Au. sediba.

Researchers at Wits University in South Africa, including Peter Schmid from the University of Zurich, have described the anatomy of a single early hominin in six new studies.Australopithecus sediba was discovered near Johannesburg in 2008. The studies in Sciencedemonstrate how our 2-million-year-old ancestor walked, chewed and moved.

The fossils discovered four years ago in Malapa near Johannesburg show a mixture of primitive features of australopiths and advanced features of later human species. The researchers led by Prof Lee Berger of Wits University are therefore of the opinion that the new species is currently the best candidate for a direct ancestor of our own genusHomo. Researchers are now presenting new studies, including those of Peter Schmid, who taught and did research at the University of Zurich until he retired. Also involved were UZH students Nakita Frater, Sandra Mathews and Eveline Weissen.

Schmid has described the remains ofAu. sediba's thorax. "They show a narrow upper ribcage, as the large apes have such as orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas," says Peter Schmid. The human thorax on the other hand is uniformly cylindrical. Along with the largely complete remnants of the pectoral girdle, we see the morphological picture of a conical ribcage with a raised shoulder joint, which looks like a permanent shrug. The less well-preserved elements of the lower thorax on the other hand indicate a slim waist, similar to that of a human being.

Conical ribcage makes it difficult to swing arms when walking

The narrow upper thorax of apes enables them to move the shoulder blade, which is important for climbing and brachiation in trees. Its conical shape makes it difficult, however, to swing their arms when walking upright or running, plus they were a similar length to an ape's. This is why Schmid assumes thatAu. sediba was not able to walk or run on both feet as well as humans. "They probably couldn't run over longer distances, especially as they were unable to swing their arms, which saves energy," says Schmid.

An examination of the lower extremities shows a heel, metatarsus, knee, hips and back, which are unique and unprecedented. Sediba must have walked with feet turned sharply inwards. This inward turn distinguishes it from other australopiths. The conclusion to be drawn is that our early ancestors were able to move around in a different way................ -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 07-May-2013 at 20:10

Earliest Archaeological Evidence of Sustained Carnivory by Human Ancestors

Located on the southern shores of the Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria in southwestern Kenya, the Kanjera Southarchaeological site has now yielded finds that, according to a recent study published May 1, 2013 in the open-access scientific journal PLOS ONE, provide strong material evidence that hominins (early human ancestors) practiced "persistent carnivory", or acquired, transported, processed and presumably consumed animals on a regular basis, about 2 million years ago. The finding helps to address the dearth of available data or evidence that would bridge the gap between 2.6 mya, when the earliest stone tools are thought to have emerged, and 1.8 mya, the date after which the faunal evidence becomes more plentiful.  

The team of scientists studied three large, well-preserved, and stratified ancient faunal assemblages (a collection of associated animal remains) that date to ~2.0 Ma, assemblages that formed on an ancient grassy plain located between a freshwater lake and wooded slopes of nearby hills and mountains on the Homa peninsula, a landmass distinguished by the Homa volcano. In three select excavations of 1m ×1m squares, they recovered several thousand well-preserved faunal specimens using lightweight hammers and awls. The faunal remains consisted of fossilized bone remnants of numerous small bovids [ - cloven-hoofed , - ruminant - mammals  such as gazelles] and a smaller number of medium-sized bovids. What they found was clear evidence of "bone modification", meaning fossil bones bearing cut marks and/or hammerstone percussion damage made presumably by tool-bearing hominins. All remains were located within a stratified sequence of 3 separate archaeofaunal-bearing deposits, or beds, labeled KS (Kanjera South)-1 through KS-3. Report the researchers, "These specimens provide unambiguous evidence of hominin processing of bovid remains, and indicate a functional relationship between artifactual and faunal materials".[1]


Location of Kanjera along the modern shoreline of Lake Victoria, East Africa. (A) Kanjera lies to the immediate northeast of Homa Mountain, a volcanic complex active from the middle Miocene to the Pleistocene. The Winam Gulf fills the western end of the Nyanza Rift, an E-W graben with origins in the early Miocene. (B) Beds KS-1 through KS-3 of the Kanjera Formation (Southern Member) sample floodplain and low-aspect channel contexts originally deposited between the mountain and the nearby shores of a shallow lake. Satellite imagery from USGS and NASA. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062174.g001 Source: Ferraro JV, Plummer TW, Pobiner BL, Oliver JS, Bishop LC, et al. (2013) Earliest Archaeological Evidence of Persistent Hominin Carnivory. PLoS ONE 8(4): e62174. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062174


Bone surface modifications. (A) KJS 7472, a small bovid metatarsal from KS-2 bearing cut marks; (B) KJS 7379, a medium-sized bovid humerus from KS3 bearing pair of hammerstone notches, the specimen is also cut-marked (not figured); (C) KJS 5447, a mammal limb bone shaft fragment from KS-2 with percussion pit and striae, the specimen is also cut-marked (not figured); (D) KJS 2565, a small bovid femur from KS-2 with numerous cut marks. Scale is 1 cm in panels (A-D); 1 mm in the panel (D) close-up. Specimen numbers are field designations, not KNM accession numbers. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062174.g002  Source: Ferraro JV, Plummer TW, Pobiner BL, Oliver JS, Bishop LC, et al. (2013) Earliest Archaeological Evidence of Persistent Hominin Carnivory. PLoS ONE 8(4): e62174. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062174


The findings are important because, although the earliest known flaked lithic technology (dated to around ~2.6 Ma), found at such sites as Gona in Ethiopia, has been thought to suggest early hominin involvement with animals in the form of scavenging or hunting and consumption, the associated faunal evidence, or "smoking gun", has been lacking prior to about 1.8 Ma, making it difficult to test this suggestion and related hypotheses using the zooarchaeological record.

The study has also provided tantalizing clues to the nature of the hominin activity. "Surface modification studies and skeletal element analyses indicate that hominins acquired most or all of these remains relatively early in their resource lives (i.e., in a complete or relatively complete state)", report the researchers, "providing foragers with access to meat, organ, and within-bone food resources. Given their overall abundance and skeletal representation, unambiguous evidence of their butchery, and their presumed limited availability as potentially-scavengable resources in a grassland setting, the small bovid remains at KJS [Kanjera South] may reflect the earliest archaeological evidence of hominin hunting activities".[1]

The nature of the foraging activity was not confined to hunting, according to the researchers. Scavenging, long thought by scientists to be a possible carnivorous food-gathering practice by early human ancestors, was also a part of their repertoire. "......There is clear evidence that hominins acquired the postcranial remains of at least some medium-sized individuals relatively early in their resource lives (i.e., with at least some adhering flesh)........The disproportionate abundance of medium-sized heads, however, likely reflects a separate but complementary foraging activity, one specifically focused on scavenging these remains for their internal food resources (e.g., brain tissues). This latter portion of the record may represent the earliest archaeological evidence of a distinct hominin scavenging strategy". [1]

The acquirement, processing and consumption of meat from animals is theorized by many evolutionists as a critical element in the requirement for high-protein, high-fat, high-energy foods necessary to support the growth or evolution of the distinctive qualities of humans as compared to other animals, such as the larger brain. The development of systematic and sustained carnivory by early humans (hominins) at an early stage in the evolution of humans has been considered a central element in models of human evolution. Conclude the authors of the study: ".......Our findings are directly relevant to a number of interrelated debates within Oldowan hominin paleobiology. These include many of the formative issues of the field, including those that explore the possible relationship(s) between the emergence of persistent hominin carnivory and the evolution of novel social and foraging ecologies, brain expansion, range extension, life history adaptations, and, potentially, the interplay of some or all of these topics as they relate to the emergence and early evolutionary history of the genus Homo". [1]

Excavations at Kanjera South, which have been co-directed by Tom Plummer, an Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department at Queens College, City University of New York, along with Dr. Richard Potts of the Human Origins Program of the Smithsonian Institution, have yielded one of the largest collectons of Oldowan artifacts with associated faunal remains. The artifacts are suggested to have been produced and used by early members of the genus Homo (a hominin genus more directly related to and ancestral to modern humans), such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 11-May-2013 at 00:13


Small antelope leg bone with cut marks, indicative of early human butchery practices.

Beginning around two million years ago, early stone tool-making humans, known scientifically as Oldowan hominin, started to exhibit a number of physiological and ecological adaptations that required greater daily energy expenditures, including an increase in brain and body size, heavier investment in their offspring and significant home-range expansion.

Demonstrating how these early humans acquired the extra energy they needed to sustain these shifts has been the subject of much debate among researchers.

A recent study led by Joseph Ferraro, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at Baylor, offers new insight in this debate with a wealth of archaeological evidence from the two million-year-old site of Kanjera South (KJS), Kenya. The study’s findings were recently published in PLOS One.

Facilitated brain expansion

Considered in total, this study provides important early archaeological evidence for meat eating, hunting and scavenging behaviour -cornerstone adaptations that likely facilitated brain expansion in human evolution, movement of hominins out of Africa and into Eurasia, as well as important shifts in our social behaviour, anatomy and physiology,” Ferraro said.">Aerial view of the archaeological site Kanjera South, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Thomas Plummer.

Aerial view of the archaeological site Kanjera South, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Thomas Plummer.

Located on the shores of Lake Victoria, KJS contains “three large, well-preserved, stratified” layers of animal remains. The research team worked at the site for more than a decade, recovering thousands of animal bones and rudimentary stone tools.

Increased reliance on meat eating

According to researchers, hominins at KJS met their new energy requirements through an increased reliance on meat eating. Specifically, the archaeological record at KJS shows that hominins acquired an abundance of nutritious animal remains through a combination of both hunting and scavenging behaviours. The KJS site is the earliest known archaeological evidence of these behaviours.

Our study helps inform the ‘hunting vs. scavenging’ debate in Palaeolithic archaeology. The record at KJS shows that it isn’t a case of either/or for Oldowan hominins two million years ago. Rather hominins at KJS were clearly doing both,” Ferraro said.

Transported as whole carcasses

The fossil evidence for hominin hunting is particularly compelling. The record shows that Oldowan hominins acquired and butchered numerous small antelope carcasses. These animals are well represented at the site by most or all of their bones from the tops of their head to the tips of their hooves, indicating to researchers that they were transported to the site as whole carcasses.

Many of the bones also show evidence of cut marks made when hominins used simple stone tools to remove animal flesh. Some bones also bear evidence that hominins used fist-sized stones to break them open to acquire bone marrow.

In addition, modern studies in the Serengeti–an environment similar to KJS two million years ago–have also shown that predators completely devour antelopes of this size within minutes of their deaths. As a result, hominins could only have acquired these valuable remains on the savanna through active hunting.

Wildebeest-sized antelopes

The site also contains a large number of isolated heads of wildebeest-sized antelopes. In contrast to small antelope carcasses, the heads of these somewhat larger individuals are able to be consumed several days after death and could be scavenged, as even the largest African predators like lions and hyenas were unable to break them open to access their nutrient-rich brains.

Tool-wielding hominins at KJS, on the other hand, could access this tissue and likely did so by scavenging these heads after the initial non-human hunters had consumed the rest of the carcass,” Ferraro said. “KJS hominins not only scavenged these head remains, they also transported them some distance to the archaeological site before breaking them open and consuming the brains. This is important because it provides the earliest archaeological evidence of this type of resource transport behaviour in the human lineage.” -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 11-May-2013 at 22:28

Race IQ – Game Over: It was always all about wealth

At The American Conservative in July 2012, Ron Unz published - Race, IQ, and Wealth , and after some responses put up - Unz on Race/IQ: Response to Lynn and Nyborg  on his blog. Unz’s position, which came from analyzing the very data most cited to support the racialist position on Race IQ linkages:

Essentially, I am proposing that the enormously large differences in population IQ . . . are primarily due to factors of social environment–poverty, education, rural deprivation.

If Unz sticks to his guns–and every indication is that racialist rebuttals are only hardening his position–this is game over for Race IQ. Finally.

Of course, Ron Unz is hardly a household name in anthropology, and I’m grateful to Henry Harpending for continuing a - conversation about race  (taking off from my post on - teaching race anthropologically ) which led me to this material.

So why does Ron Unz on Race IQ matter? First, Unz has money, and he uses it to publish and promote. Unz apparently gave out at least $500,000 to Gregory Cochran, co-author with Harpending on - The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution  and with John Hawks on - Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution . I haven’t been able to follow all the back-and-forth, but there is one rather pointed exchange of - Unz firing back at Cochran . Razib Khan is also an - Unz Foundation Junior Fellow .

Second, Ron Unz matters on Race IQ because he is using the numbers from people who had been elaborating the Bell Curve argument that IQ is causal to social and class differences rather than a related consequence of those differences. Of course most of anthropology and mainstream academics probably did not even know this work was proceeding. However, it should be noted–as I did in - Jared Diamond won’t beat Mitt Romney –that for the people who wanted to see Race IQ connections, Jared Diamond and Stephen Jay Gould were extremely weak rebuttals. One could even say that those who cited Diamond or Gould would be dismissed, in a kind of “that’s all you have?” sort of way. But this is obviously different.

Third, Ron Unz signals game over for Race IQ because he seems to be getting so attacked from his own. In addition to the Cochran exchange above, Unz ends his blog-post with this:

Finally, I do regret the nasty personal attacks and misrepresentations which Nyborg, Lynn, and many of their allies have endured. But given the many hundreds of caustic insults and harsh denunciations I have recently received from Lynn’s energetic admirers, I would suggest that there might be two sides to this story.

As I said at the beginning, I’m not sure whether Unz will stick to his guns on this one–there are a number of rebuttals circulating. But the rebuttals seem mostly to be on the more extreme racialist blogs, and Unz doesn’t seem to be buying them. Without Unz’s support, these writings can only become the most marginalized of the already marginal.

Now this doesn’t mean Unz is going to pop over here and give me a fellowship. In his writings, he praises the racialists for being the only ones who are combing through the data and providing a serious response. He also is obliged to take a few whacks at Gould and his ilk. But let’s get real–the only reason the racialists are combing the quantitative data is to try and poke holes and mount a rebuttal. For the rest of us–who already knew that what we measure as IQ is in large part due to “factors of social environment–poverty, education, rural deprivation,” we can declare game over on Race IQ–see Unz 2012.

Of course, this also doesn’t mean it’s over for inequality and racism. Ending the hardline race IQ argument doesn’t at all change the facts-on-the-ground where things are as unequal as ever. One of the racialist lines has always been to observe how the average white/black IQ differential has hardly budged in 50 years. With Unz’s article safely in hand, this is obviously and easily explained: the average white/black wealth differential has also hardly budged in 50 years. The sociological data–an update by one of the authors of - Black Wealth / White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality  and from before the Great Recession–indicate - The Racial Wealth Gap Increases Fourfold :

New evidence reveals that the wealth gap between white and African American families has more than quadrupled over the course of a generation. Using economic data collected from the same set of families over 23 years (1984-2007), we find that the real wealth gains and losses of families over that time period demonstrate the stampede toward an escalating racial wealth gap.

[For an update, see - Social Construction of Race = Conservative Goldmine .]

Finally, we should also be aware that national IQ averages and white/black IQ averages in the U.S. are certainly obscuring inequality dynamics within these groups. We may already be seeing the effects of inequality in the U.S.:

“We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites. (Tavernise 2012, - Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor )

I would predict that we will in not too long start to see such a divergence between rich white and poor white IQ scores that it will make a mockery of race IQ calculations. Similarly, on an international level there is the rise of Brazil, India, and China–and very intriguingly, even Africa– - The Next Asia Is Africa: Inside the Continent’s Rapid Economic Growth . All developments which will further confound the usual race IQ predictions. Maybe not all good developments, to be sure, but at least we should finally be able to bid goodbye to the hardline race IQ peddlers. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 14-May-2013 at 23:23

Prehistoric ear bones could lead to evolutionary answers

Tiny ear bones (from left) the incus, stapes, and malleus could provide big clues to human evolution.

The tiniest bones in the human body – the bones of the middle ear – could provide huge clues about our evolution and the development of modern-day humans, according to a study by a team of researchers that include a Texas A&M University anthropologist.

Darryl de Ruiter, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M, and colleagues from Binghamton University (the State University of New York) and researchers from Spain and Italy have published their work in the current issue ofPNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science).

The team examined the skull of a hominin believed to be about 1.9 million years old and found in a cave called Swartkrans, in South Africa. Of particular interest to the team were bones found in the middle ear, especially one called the malleus. It and the other ear bones – the incus and the stapes – together show a mixture of ape-like and human-like features, and represent the first time all three bones have been found together in one skull.

The malleus appears to be very human-like, the findings show, while the incus and stapes resemble those of a more chimpanzee-like, or ape-like creature. Since both modern humans and our early ancestors share this human-like malleus, the changes in this - bone  must have occurred very early in our evolutionary history.

"The discovery is important for two reasons," de Ruiter explains.

"First, ear ossicles are fully formed and adult-sized at birth, and they do not undergo any type of anatomical change in an individual lifetime. Thus, they are a very close representation of genetic expression. Second, these bones show that their hearing ability was different from that of humans – not necessarily better or worse, but certainly different.

"They are among the rarest of fossils that can be recovered," de Ruiter adds.

"Bipedalism (walking on two feet) and a reduction in the size of the canine teeth have long been held to be 'hallmarks of humanity' since they seem to be present in the earliest human fossils recovered to date. Our study suggests that the list may need to be updated to include changes in the malleus as well."

de Ruiter recently authored a series of papers in Science magazine that demonstrate the intermediate nature of the closely related species, Australopithecus sediba, and provide strong support that this species lies rather close to the ancestry of Homo sapiens. The current study could yield additional new clues to human development and answer key questions of the - evolution  of the human lineage. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 16-May-2013 at 23:56

Neanderthal culture: Old masters

The earliest known cave paintings fuel arguments about whether Neanderthals were the mental equals of modern humans.">
Spots and stencils in El Castillo cave, Spain — one at least 40,800 years old — might be the handiwork of Neanderthals.

In a damp Spanish cave, Alistair Pike applies a small grinder to the world's oldest known paintings. Every few minutes, the dentist-drill sound stops and Pike, an archaeologist from the University of Southampton, UK, stands aside so that a party of tourists can admire the simple artwork — hazy red disks, stencilled handprints, the outlines of bison — daubed on the cave wall tens of thousands of years ago. He hopes that the visitors won't notice the small scuff marks he has left.

In fact, Pike's grinder — and the scalpel that he wields to scrape off tiny samples — is doing no harm to the actual paintings, and he is working with the full approval of the Spanish authorities. Pike is after the crust of calcite that has built up over the millennia from groundwater dripping down the wall. The white flecks that he dislodges hold a smattering of uranium atoms, whose decay acts as a radioactive clock. A clock that has been ticking ever since the calcite formed on top of the art.

The results of an earlier round of sampling in El Castillo cave, published last June - 1 , showed that the oldest of the paintings, a simple red spot, dates to at least 40,800 years ago, roughly when the first modern humans reached western Europe. Pike and his colleagues think that when they analyse the latest samples, the paintings may turn out to be older still, perhaps by thousands of years — too old to have been made by modern humans. If so, the artists must have been Neanderthals, the brawny, archaic people who were already living in Europe.

The answer won't be known for at least a year, but if it favours the Neanderthals, it could tip — if not resolve — a debate that has rumbled for decades: did the Neanderthals, once caricatured as brute cavemen, have minds like our own, capable of abstract thinking, symbolism and even art? It is one of the most haunting questions about the people who once shared a continent with us, then mysteriously vanished.

An early date for the paintings would also be a vindication for the slight, dark-haired man watching as Pike works: João Zilhão, who has emerged as the leading advocate for Neanderthals, relentlessly pressing the case that these ice-age Europeans were our cognitive equals. Zilhão, an archaeologist at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies at the University of Barcelona in Spain, believes that other signs of sophisticated Neanderthal culture have already proved his point. But he is willing to debate on his opponents' terms. “To my mind, we don't need that evidence,” he says of the paintings. “But I guess for many of my colleagues this would be the smoking gun.”

The front line in the Neanderthal wars runs through another cave: Grotte du Renne, 1,000 kilometres away in central France. As early as the 1950s, excavations there unearthed a collection of puzzling artefacts. Among them were bone awls, distinctive stone blades and palaeolithic baubles — the teeth of animals such as foxes or marmots, grooved or pierced so that they could be worn on a string. They were buried beneath artefacts typical of the first modern humans in Europe, suggesting that these objects were older. A startling possibility loomed: that artefacts of this style, collectively known as the Châtelperronian industry, were made by Neanderthals.

Close cousins of modern humans, Neanderthals evolved in western Eurasia and had Europe to themselves for more than 200,000 years, enduring several ice ages. In spite of their survival skills and big brains — comparable to our own — they had never been linked to sophisticated tools of this kind, or to ornaments. Yet in 1980, archaeologists reported finding a Neanderthal skeleton among Châtelperronian tools at another site in France - 2 . And in 1996, French palaeoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin and his colleagues reported that a skull fragment from the ornament layer in the Grotte du Renne was unmistakably Neanderthal - 3 .

Ever since then, the Grotte du Renne has been exhibit A in the case that Neanderthals, like ourselves, trafficked in symbols, using ornaments as badges of identity for individuals or groups.

Hublin himself did not go that far. He suggested that the Neanderthals had fallen under the spell of strange new neighbours: modern humans, who were thought to have reached Europe around the time of the Châtelperronian industry. Neanderthals might have acquired the ice-age bling from modern humans, or made the pendants themselves under the influence of the new arrivals.

That conclusion infuriated Zilhão, turning him into the passionate advocate he is today. He questioned the evidence that modern humans were already on the scene and detected a bias against our extinct cousins. “Why was the equally if not more legitimate hypothesis — that the Neanderthals themselves had been the authors of this stuff and made it for their own use — not even considered?” asks Zilhão.

On a visit to rock-art sites in Portugal, he discussed the paper with Francesco d'Errico, an archaeologist who is now at the University of Bordeaux in France. D'Errico had the same reaction, Zilhão recalls. “And he said: 'OK, let's do something about it.'” Since then, the pair has fought a two-front war, advancing evidence for Neanderthal capabilities while challenging studies that reserve symbolism and abstract thinking for modern humans.

Unknown artists

More than 15 years later, the Grotte du Renne continues to be a battleground. Since 2010, three papers have given duelling interpretations of the artefact-bearing layers. In the first, a group led by dating expert Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford, UK, used new carbon dates to argue that the layers were scrambled, mixing older remains with younger - 4 . If that was correct, said Higham's team, the relics adjacent to the telltale skull fragment might not have belonged to Neanderthals after all.

Within months, Zilhão, d'Errico and their colleagues fired back with an analysis - 5  of how artefacts of different types were distributed in the Grotte du Renne, concluding that the layers were undisturbed and that the Neanderthal link could be trusted. A group led by Hublin (now at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany) presented its own dates last year, backing Zilhão's claim - 6 . But Hublin still denied the Neanderthals full credit. Neanderthals did make the objects, now dated to between 45,000 and 40,000 years ago, he said — but only after they encountered modern humans. And this time he had fresh evidence to draw on.

Carbon dates measured by Higham and others at caves in Italy, Britain and Germany suggest that modern humans began expanding into Europe as early as 45,000 years ago, several thousand years earlier than was thought (see - Hublin, however, has no doubt that our ancestors had already entered the picture when Neanderthals in France began making bone awls and animal-tooth pendants. To assume that Neanderthals invented these technologies on their own is to accept “an incredible coincidence”, he says. “Just as modern humans arrive with these things in their pocket — bingo!”

Like minds

Despite the stalemate, Zilhão says that the record of Neanderthal behaviour tens of thousands of years before modern humans arrived in Europe proves his point (see - 'Minds at work' ). Neanderthals are believed to have buried their dead, suggesting that they had some kind of spirituality. They made glue for securing spear points by heating birch sap while protecting it from the air, a feat that even modern experimental archaeologists have trouble replicating. Many Neanderthal sites include lumps of pigment — red ochre and black manganese — that sometimes seem to be worn down like stone-age crayons. Zilhão and others think that the Neanderthals painted themselves, creating striking patterns on their pale, northern skin that were every bit as symbolic as the art and ornaments of modern humans.

“You don't need to have shell beads, you don't need to have artefacts with graphical representation to have behaviour that can be defined archaeologically as symbolic,” he says. “Burying your dead is symbolic behaviour. Making sophisticated chemical compounds in order to haft your stone tools implies a capacity to think in abstract ways, a capacity to plan ahead, that's fundamentally similar to ours.”.............. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 03-Jun-2013 at 23:25

A Grassy Trend in Human Ancestors' Diets

A set of new studies from the University of Utah and elsewhere found that human ancestors and relatives started eating an increasingly grassy diet 3.5 million years ago. The studies included analysis of tooth enamel from fossils of several early African humans, their ancestors and extinct relatives, some of which are shown here. Top left: Paranthropus bosei, 1.7 million years ago. Top right: Homo sapiens, 10,000 years ago. Center left: Paranthropus aethiopicus, 2.3 million years ago. Center right: Homo ergaster, 1.6 million years ago. Bottom left: Kenyanthropus platyops, 3.3 million years ago. Bottom center: lower jaw from Australopithecus anamensis, 4 million years ago. Bottom right: Homo rudolfensis, 1.9 million years ago.

Most apes eat leaves and fruits from trees and shrubs. New studies spearheaded by the University of Utah show that human ancestors expanded their menu 3.5 million years ago, adding tropical grasses and sedges to an ape-like diet and setting the stage for our modern diet of grains, grasses, and meat and dairy from grazing animals.

In four new studies of carbon isotopes in fossilized tooth enamel from scores of human ancestors and baboons in Africa from 4 million to 10,000 years ago, a team of two dozen researchers found a surprise increase in the consumption of grasses and sedges -- plants that resemble grasses and rushes but have stems and triangular cross sections.

"At last, we have a look at 4 million years of the dietary evolution of humans and their ancestors," says University of Utah geochemist Thure Cerling, principal author of two of the four new studies published online June 3 by the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Most funding was from the National Science Foundation.

"For a long time, primates stuck by the old restaurants -- leaves and fruits -- and by 3.5 million years ago, they started exploring new diet possibilities -- tropical grasses and sedges -- that grazing animals discovered a long time before, about 10 million years ago" when African savanna began expanding, Cerling says. "Tropical grasses provided a new set of restaurants. We see an increasing reliance on this new resource by human ancestors that most primates still don't use today."

Grassy savannas and grassy woodlands in East Africa were widespread by 6 million to 7 million years ago. It is a major question why human ancestors didn't seriously start exploiting savanna grasses until less than 4 million years ago.

The isotope method cannot distinguish what parts of grasses and sedges human ancestors ate -- leaves, stems, seeds and-or underground storage organs such as roots or rhizomes. The method also can't determine when human ancestors began getting much of their grass by eating grass-eating insects or meat from grazing animals. Direct evidence of human ancestors scavenging meat doesn't appear until 2.5 million years ago, and definitive evidence of hunting dates to only about 500,000 years ago.

With the new findings, "we know much better what they were eating, but mystery does remain," says Cerling, a distinguished professor of geology and geophysics, and biology. "We don't know exactly what they ate. We don't know if they were pure herbivores or carnivores, if they were eating fish [which leave a tooth signal that looks like grass-eating], if they were eating insects or if they were eating mixes of all of these."

Why Our Ancestor's Diets Matter

The earliest human ancestor to consume substantial amounts of grassy foods from dry, more open savannas "may signal a major and ecological and adaptive divergence from the last common ancestor we shared with African great apes, which occupy closed, wooded habitats," writes University of South Florida geologist Jonathan Wynn, chief author of one of the new studies and a former University of Utah master's student.

"Diet has long been implicated as a driving force in human evolution," says Matt Sponheimer, a University of Colorado, Boulder anthropologist, former University of Utah postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the fourth study................ -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 05-Jun-2013 at 00:05


Evolutionary theories regarding development of our earliest ancestors from tree dwelling quadrupeds to upright bipeds capable of walking and scrambling have been challenged by a new study at the University of York.

Why did humans walk upright?  This is one of the fundamental discussions regarding our evolutionary development and previous models were based on adaptations to forest or savannah.  This new research examines a process that favoured a series of physical incentives presented by steep rugged terrain similar to that presented by Romano’s (2006) hypothesis of uphill clambering carrying moderately heavy weights as a selective pressure on the development of hominin bipedality, which also focuses on topography as a key variable.

The kind varied landscape shaped during the Pliocene epoch by volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates remains complicated and presents an option to present what is called  “Scrambler man” who pursued prey up hill and down gullies and in so doing became that agile, sprinting, enduring, grasping, jumping two-legged athlete that we know today.

Hominins, our early forebears, would have been attracted to the terrain of rocky outcrops and gorges because it offered shelter and opportunities to trap prey. But it also required more upright scrambling and climbing gaits, prompting the emergence of bipedalism.

Challenges to traditional views

The York research challenges traditional hypotheses which suggest our early forebears were forced out of the trees and onto two feet when climate change reduced tree cover.

The study, ‘Complex Topography and Human Evolution: the Missing Link’, was developed in conjunction with researchers from the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris. It is published in the journal Antiquity.

Dr Isabelle Winder, from the Department of Archaeology at York and one of the paper’s authors, said:

“Our research shows that bipedalism may have developed as a response to the terrain, rather than a response to climatically-driven vegetation changes.

“The broken, disrupted terrain offered benefits for hominins in terms of security and food, but it also proved a motivation to improve their locomotor skills by climbing, balancing, scrambling and moving swiftly over broken ground – types of movement encouraging a more upright gait.”

The research suggests that the hands and arms of upright hominins were then left free to develop increased manual dexterity and tool use, supporting a further key stage in the evolutionary story.

The development of running adaptations to the skeleton and foot may have resulted from later excursions onto the surrounding flat plains in search of prey and new home ranges.">ster

Varied terrain analysis

Dr Winder added “The varied terrain may also have contributed to improved cognitive skills such as navigation and communication abilities, accounting for the continued evolution of our brains and social functions such as co-operation and team work. Our hypothesis offers a new, viable alternative to traditional vegetation or climate change hypotheses. It explains all the key processes in hominin evolution and offers a more convincing scenario than traditional hypotheses.”

Clearly, one of the most important requirements in testing the above hypotheses is the ability to reconstruct ancient physical landscapes. These reconstructions face formidable issues: the degree and complexity of geological change that has occurred on Plio-Pleistocene time scales in actively tectonic and volcanic regions such as the East African Rift.

Extrapolating from present-day conditions to the ancient topography, and the emphasis on searching for locations that are most likely to expose new and early discoveries of human fossils, has caused a bias towards a restricted spatial perspective.  Only by field testing will these ideas expand through more detailed investigation of fossil and archaeological sites in their wider landscape setting and will offer a realistic possibility of strengthening the theoretical aspect of the work.   This will form an essential element in future research agendas if we are to understand the role of environmental,ecological and climatic changes in human evolution. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 09-Jun-2013 at 00:17

Ape-like feet 'found in study of museum visitors'

Scientists have discovered that about one in thirteen people have flexible ape-like feet.

A team studied the feet of 398 visitors to the Boston Museum of Science.

The results show differences in foot bone structure similar to those seen in fossils of a member of the human lineage from two million years ago.

It is hoped the research, - published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology , will establish how that creature moved.

Apes like the chimpanzee spend a lot of their time in trees, so their flexible feet are essential to grip branches and allow them to move around quickly - but how most of us ended up with more rigid feet remains unclear.

Jeremy DeSilva from Boston University and a colleague asked the museum visitors to walk barefoot and observed how they walked by using a mechanised carpet that was able to analyse several components of the foot.

Floppy foot

Most of us have very rigid feet, helpful for stability, with stiff ligaments holding the bones in the foot together.

When primates lift their heels off the ground, however, they have a floppy foot with nothing holding their bones together.

This is known as a midtarsal break and is similar to what the Boston team identified in some of their participants.

This makes the middle part of the foot bend more easily as the subject pushes off to propel themselves on to their next step.

Dr DeSilva told BBC News how we might be able to observe whether we have this flexibility: "The best way to see this is if you're walking on the beach and leaving footprints, the middle portion of your footprint would have a big ridge that might show your foot is actually folding in that area."

Comparisons of Australopithecus sediba to a human and a chimpHere A. sediba is compared with a modern human (L) and a chimp (R)

Another way, he added, was to set up a video camera and record yourself walking, to observe the bones responsible for this folding motion.

Most with this flexibility did not realise they had it and there was no observable difference in the speed of their stride.

In addition, Dr DeSilva found that people with a flexible fold in their feet also roll to the inside of their foot as they walk.

The bone structure of a two-million-year old fossil human relative,Australopithecus sediba, suggests it also had this mobility.

"We are using variation in humans today as a model for understanding what this human creature two million years ago was doing," added Prof De Silva.

Tracy Kivell, a palaeoanthropologist from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said: "The research has implications for how we interpret the fossil record and the evolution of these features.

"It's good to understand the normal variation among humans before we go figure out what it means in the fossil record," Dr Kivell told BBC News. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 22-Jun-2013 at 21:05


Artefacts from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA; ∼200 to ∼50 ka), provide us with the first glimpses of modern human art and culture. Approximately 50 ka, one or more subgroups of modern humans expanded from Africa to populate the rest of the world.

Significant behavioural change accompanied this expansion, and archaeologists commonly seek its roots during this period. Recognizable art objects and “jewellery” become common only in sites that postdate the MSA in Africa and Eurasia, but some MSA sites contain possible precursors, including abstractly incised fragments of ochre and perforated mollusc shells interpreted as beads.

Was population growth the driver of change?

Researchers had previously theorised that it was an increase in population that drove behavioural innovations which in turn led to the creation of these artefacts and eventually, the expansion out of Africa. However, by examining mollusc shells from Stone Age sites, Richard Klein of Stanford University and Teresa Steele of University of California, Davis, have determined that a significant population increase did not occur until the Later Stone Age (LSA), after the out of Africa migration had already begun. Their research appears in the June 2013 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Archaeologists have found precursors of modern human artwork and jewellery, including fragments of ochre with abstract incisions and shells with perforations, in MSA sites and it is therefore concluded that the humans who made them, between 85,000 and 65,000 years ago, must have had modern cognitive abilities and behaviours. During the LSA, these abilities and behaviours allowed humans to create objects as recognizable art and spurred the migration to Eurasia.

Population growth has been the popular explanation for the innovations of the MSA. As population increases, the opportunity for innovation increases, while concurrently, the probability that an idea will be lost decreases.

Symbolic thought in the form of decorative art appears in excavations at Blombos Cave on the southern Cape coast from about 75 ka, associated with small perforated shells that retain traces of red ochre. This suggests that they had been collected and strung together as a necklace. In the underlying level dated to about 80 ka, two pieces of ochre were found, engraved with a pattern of lines that formed diamond shapes. The question to be asked is how and when this transformation to modern human behaviour began.............. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 09-Jul-2013 at 14:10

Neandertals Shared Speech and Language With Modern Humans, Study Suggests

Fast-accumulating data seem to indicate that our close cousins, the Neandertals, were much more similar to us than imagined even a decade ago. But did they have anything like modern speech and language? And if so, what are the implications for understanding present-day linguistic diversity? The MPI for Psycholinguistics researchers Dan Dediu and Stephen C. Levinson argue in their paper in Frontiers in Language Sciences that modern language and speech can be traced back to the last common ancestor we shared with the Neandertals roughly half a million years ago.

The Neandertals have fascinated both the academic world and the general public ever since their discovery almost 200 years ago. Initially thought to be subhuman brutes incapable of anything but the most primitive of grunts, they were a successful form of humanity inhabiting vast swathes of western Eurasia for several hundreds of thousands of years, during harsh ages and milder interglacial periods. We knew that they were our closest cousins, sharing a common ancestor with us around half a million years ago (probably Homo heidelbergensis), but it was unclear what their cognitive capacities were like, or why modern humans succeeded in replacing them after thousands of years of cohabitation. Recently, due to new palaeoanthropological and archaeological discoveries and the reassessment of older data, but especially to the availability of ancient DNA, we have started to realize that their fate was much more intertwined with ours and that, far from being slow brutes, their cognitive capacities and culture were comparable to ours.

Dediu and Levinson review all these strands of literature and argue that essentially modern language and speech are an ancient feature of our lineage dating back at least to the most recent ancestor we shared with the Neandertals and the Denisovans (another form of humanity known mostly from their genome). Their interpretation of the intrinsically ambiguous and scant evidence goes against the scenario usually assumed by most language scientists, namely that of a sudden and recent emergence of modernity, presumably due to a single -- or very few -- genetic mutations. This pushes back the origins of modern language by a factor of 10 from the often-cited 50 or so thousand years, to around a million years ago -- somewhere between the origins of our genus, Homo, some 1.8 million years ago, and the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis. This reassessment of the evidence goes against a saltationist scenario where a single catastrophic mutation in a single individual would suddenly give rise to language, and suggests that a gradual accumulation of biological and cultural innovations is much more plausible.

Interestingly, given that we know from the archaeological record and recent genetic data that the modern humans spreading out of Africa interacted both genetically and culturally with the Neandertals and Denisovans, then just as our bodies carry around some of their genes, maybe our languages preserve traces of their languages too. This would mean that at least some of the observed linguistic diversity is due to these ancient encounters, an idea testable by comparing the structural properties of the African and non-African languages, and by detailed computer simulations of language spread. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 11-Jul-2013 at 02:48

One More Homo Species? 3D-Comparative Analysis Confirms Status of Homo Floresiensis as Fossil Human Species

The Liang Bua 1 (LB1) cranium, shown in right side view.

Ever since the discovery of the remains in 2003, scientists have been debating whether Homo floresiensis represents a distinct Homo species, possibly originating from a dwarfed island Homo erectus population, or a pathological modern human. The small size of its brain has been argued to result from a number of diseases, most importantly from the condition known as microcephaly.

Based on the analysis of 3-D landmark data from skull surfaces, scientists from Stony Brook University New York, the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen, and the University of Minnesota provide compelling support for the hypothesis that Homo floresiensis was a distinct Homo species.

The study, titled "Homo floresiensiscontextualized: a geometric morphometric comparative analysis of fossil and pathological human samples," is published in the July 10 edition of PLOS ONE.

The ancestry of the Homo floresiensis remains is much disputed. The critical questions are: Did it represent an extinct hominin species? Could it be a Homo erectus population, whose small stature was caused by island dwarfism?

Or, did the LB1 skull belong to a modern human with a disorder that resulted in an abnormally small brain and skull? Proposed possible explanations include microcephaly, Laron Syndrome or endemic hypothyroidism ("cretinism").

The scientists applied the powerful methods of 3-D geometric morphometrics to compare the shape of the LB1 cranium (the skull minus the lower jaw) to many fossil humans, as well as a large sample of modern human crania suffering from microcephaly and other pathological conditions. Geometric morphometrics methods use 3D coordinates of cranial surface anatomical landmarks, computer imaging, and statistics to achieve a detailed analysis of shape.

This was the most comprehensive study to date to simultaneously evaluate the two competing hypotheses about the status of Homo floresiensis.

The study found that the LB1 cranium shows greater affinities to the fossil human sample than it does to pathological modern humans. Although some superficial similarities were found between fossil, LB1, and pathological modern human crania, additional features linked LB1exclusively with fossil Homo. The team could therefore refute the hypothesis of pathology.

"Our findings provide the most comprehensive evidence to date linking the Homo floresiensis skull with extinct fossil human species rather than with pathological modern humans. Our study therefore refutes the hypothesis that this specimen represents a modern human with a pathological condition, such as microcephaly," stated the scientists. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 19-Jul-2013 at 09:44

Human Nature May Not Be So Warlike After All

Given the long, awful history of violence between groups of people, it’s easy to think that humans are predisposed to war. But a new study of violence in modern hunter-gatherer societies, which may hold clues to prehistoric human life, suggests that warlike behavior is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Sure, humans are violent, the researchers say — but most hunter-gatherer killing results from flared tempers and personal feuds rather than group conflicts.

The findings contradict the notion “that humans have an evolved tendency to form coalitions to kill members of neighboring groups,” wrote anthropologists Douglas Fry and Patrik Soderberg - in their July 18 

“The vast majority of us assume that war is ancient, that it’s part and parcel of human nature,” said Fry. “These types of perceptions have very strong influences on what goes on in current-day society.”

Fry and Soderberg hope to illuminate an era stretching from roughly 10,000 years ago, when metal tools appear in the archaeological record, to about 2.5 million years ago, when stone tool use became widespread. This period looms in our anthropological self-regard as humanity’s adolescence, an evolutionary crucible that would shape our species.

One view, reinforced by studies of - conflict in chimpanzees  and - scattered archaeological evidence of violent deaths in prehistoric humans , holds that group-on-group violence was common and constant, both reflecting and influencing human nature.

A few other researchers consider that view unjustifiably dark, a sort of scientific version of original sin. They say collective human violence was an aberration, not a basic feature of life. In this camp is Fry, who in 2007′s - In most foraging societies, said Fry, lethal aggression was infrequent, and in the archaeological record violence didn’t take regular group-on-group character until relatively recently, when people settled down in ever-larger, more complex and hierarchical societies.

In the new paper, Fry and Soderberg looked at ethnographic histories of 21 nomadic forager societies, compiling a database of every well-documented incidence of lethal aggression that could be found in reputable accounts spanning the last two centuries.

They counted 148 incidents in all, of which more than half involved a single person killing another. Only 22 percent involved multiple aggressors and multiple victims, and only one-third involved conflicts between groups.

Most killings were motivated by sexual jealousy, revenge for a previous murder, insults or other interpersonal quarrels. Collective, between-group violence was the exception, not the rule. To Fry, the weight of evidence suggests that humanity’s origins were, if not exactly peaceful, then not warlike, either.

“When you look at these foraging groups, you see a great deal of cooperation. There are homicides on occasion, but generally people get along very well,” said Fry. “Humans have a capacity for warfare — nobody’s denying that. But to make it a central part of human nature is grossly out of contact with the data.”

Fry’s take on the history of conflict has prompted some conflict itself. Sam Bowles, a Santa Fe Institute economist and behavioral theorist who posits that - human cooperative tendencies were shaped by warfare , said the new work “does not support the broader implications that it claims.”

The new dataset is limited, said Bowles, because it excludes less-nomadic, pastoral societies — and even if warfare wasn’t ubiquitous, modest levels would suffice to shape our social evolution, he said.

Anthropologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, who has studied chimpanzee conflicts, wasn’t concerned by the pastoralist omission, but said that accounts from modern hunter-gatherers are not reliable guides to the past.

These societies are now scattered, often living beside other, more powerful agricultural societies, said Wrangham. In the past, living along other foraging societies, with less imbalance of power, they’d have been more warlike.

Fry agreed that modern foragers are imperfect windows into humanity’s origins, but said the data do suggest a trend that fits with a paucity of archaeological evidence of warfare from before 10,000 years ago, when complex, settled societies arose.

Anthropologist George Chaplin of Penn State University, who hasn’t been as directly involved in the debate, agrees that “the earliest human ancestors must have been more peaceable than a chimpanzee model would predict.”

Chaplin, who recently wrote about the - emergence of group conflict in eastern North America  — which appears to have been fueled by increasing human populations and the advent of bows — said the key to peaceability is in large foraging areas and low population densities.

Given the difficulty of reconstructing early history, the debate over warfare and human nature might not ever be settled. But the simple possibility that humans are not innately warlike has immediate implications, said Fry.

Assumptions like these shape the questions that researchers ask. “There’s so much discussion of killing and raiding,” he said, which inadvertently downplays other aspects of forager life, such as the conflict mediation mechanisms that every early society had.

“Perhaps the main selection pressure was on not killing,” said Fry. And in explaining war, we might not look to human nature so much as human environments, social structures and technologies. Perhaps the tendency to war is not in our biology, but our sociology.

“These types of questions about the nature of humanity, about the nature of society, are really relevant today,” said Fry. “People have said to me, ‘We’ve always had war. We always will have war.’” Perhaps, he says, it isn’t necessarily so. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 31-Jul-2013 at 17:45
When a single genetic mutation first let ancient Europeans drink milk, it set the stage for a continental upheaval.">

In the 1970s, archaeologist Peter Bogucki was excavating a Stone Age site in the fertile plains of central Poland when he came across an assortment of odd artefacts. The people who had lived there around 7,000 years ago were among central Europe's first farmers, and they had left behind fragments of pottery dotted with tiny holes. It looked as though the coarse red clay had been baked while pierced with pieces of straw.

Looking back through the archaeological literature, Bogucki found other examples of ancient perforated pottery. “They were so unusual — people would almost always include them in publications,” says Bogucki, now at Princeton University in New Jersey. He had seen something similar at a friend's house that was used for straining cheese, so he speculated that the pottery might be connected with cheese-making. But he had no way to test his idea.

The mystery potsherds sat in storage until 2011, when Mélanie Roffet-Salque pulled them out and analysed fatty residues preserved in the clay. Roffet-Salque, a geochemist at the University of Bristol, UK, found signatures of abundant milk fats — evidence that the early farmers had used the pottery as sieves to separate fatty milk solids from liquid whey. That makes the Polish relics the oldest known evidence of cheese-making in the world - 1 .

Roffet-Salque's sleuthing is part of a wave of discoveries about the history of milk in Europe. Many of them have come from a €3.3-million (US$4.4-million) project that started in 2009 and has involved archaeologists, chemists and geneticists. The findings from this group illuminate the profound ways that dairy products have shaped human settlement on the continent.

During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed.

This two-step milk revolution may have been a prime factor in allowing bands of farmers and herders from the south to sweep through Europe and displace the hunter-gatherer cultures that had lived there for millennia. “They spread really rapidly into northern Europe from an archaeological point of view,” says Mark Thomas, a population geneticist at University College London. That wave of emigration left an enduring imprint on Europe, where, unlike in many regions of the world, most people can now tolerate milk. “It could be that a large proportion of Europeans are descended from the first lactase-persistent dairy farmers in Europe,” says Thomas.

Strong stomachs

Young children almost universally produce lactase and can digest the lactose in their mother's milk. But as they mature, most switch off the lactase gene. Only 35% of the human population can digest lactose beyond the age of about seven or eight (ref. - 2 ). “If you're lactose intolerant and you drink half a pint of milk, you're going to be really ill. Explosive diarrhoea — dysentery essentially,” says Oliver Craig, an archaeologist at the University of York, UK. “I'm not saying it's lethal, but it's quite unpleasant.”............ -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 16-Aug-2013 at 05:06

Neandertals Made the First Specialized Bone Tools in Europe">
Four views of the most complete lissoir found during excavations at the Neandertal site of Abri Peyrony.

 Modern humans replaced Neandertals in Europe about 40,000 years ago, but the Neandertals' capabilities are still greatly debated. Some argue that before they were replaced, Neandertals had cultural capabilities similar to modern humans, while others argue that these similarities only appear once modern humans came into contact with Neandertals.

"For now the bone tools from these two sites are one of the better pieces of evidence we have for Neandertals developing on their own a technology previously associated only with modern humans," explains Dr. Shannon McPherron of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He and Dr. Michel Lenoir of the University of Bordeaux have been excavating the site of Abri Peyrony where three of the bones were found.

"If Neandertals developed this type of bone tool on their own, it is possible that modern humans then acquired this technology from Neandertals. Modern humans seem to have entered Europe with pointed bone-tools only, and soon after started to make lissoir. This is the first possible evidence for transmission from Neandertals to our direct ancestors," says Dr. Soressi of Leiden University, Netherland. She and her team found the first of four bone-tools during her excavation at the classic Neandertal site of Pech-de-l'Azé I.

However, we cannot eliminate the possibility that these tools instead indicate that modern humans entered Europe and started impacting Neandertal behavior earlier than we can currently demonstrate. Resolving this problem will require sites in central Europe with better bone preservation.

How widespread this new Neandertal behavior was is a question that remains. The first three found were fragments less than a few centimeters long and might not have been recognized without experience working with later period bone tools. It is not something normally looked for in this time period. "However, when you put these small fragments together and compare them with finds from later sites, the pattern in them is clear," comments Dr. McPherron. "Then last summer we found a larger, more complete tool that is unmistakably a lissoir like those we find in later, modern human sites or even in leather workshops today."

Microwear analysis conducted by Dr. Yolaine Maigrot of the CNRS on of one of the bone tools shows traces compatible with use on soft material like hide. Modern leather workers still use similar tools today. "Lissoirs like these are a great tool for working leather, so much so that 50 thousand years after Neandertals made these, I was able to purchase a new one on the Internet from a site selling tools for traditional crafts," says Dr. Soressi. "It shows that this tool was so efficient that it had been maintained through time with almost no change. It might be one or perhaps even the only heritage from Neandertal times that our society is still using today."

These are not the first Neandertal bone tools, but up to now their bone tools looked like stone tools and were made with stone knapping percussive techniques. "Neandertals sometimes made scrapers, notched tools and even handaxes from bone. They also used bone as hammers to resharpen their stone tools," says Dr. McPherron. "But here we have an example of Neandertals taking advantage of the pliability and flexibility of bone to shape it in new ways to do things stone could not do."

The bone tools were found in deposits containing typical Neandertal stone tools and the bones of hunted animals including horses, reindeer, red deer and bison. At both Abri Peyrony and Pech-de-l'Azé I, there is no evidence of later occupations by modern humans that could have contaminated the underlying levels. Both sites have only evidence of Neandertals.

To know the age of the bone tools, Dr. Sahra Talamo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology applied radiocarbon dating to bones found near the bone tools themselves. At Pech-de-l'Azé I, Dr. Zenobia Jacobs of the University of Wollongong applied optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating to sediments from the layer with the bone tool. The results place the Pech-de-l'Azé I bone tool to approximately 50 thousand years ago. This is well before the best evidence of modern humans in Western Europe, and it is much older than any other examples of sophisticated bone tool technologies. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 04-Sep-2013 at 22:35

Modern Humans Were in China Much Earlier Than Previously Thought

The ongoing debate about when and how anatomically modern humans ("AMH") made their presence in east Asia has taken another turn with new evidence recovered from a cave in central China. The finds may push back thegenerally accepted time of their appearance in the region by as much as 50,000 years.

A team of six researchers from four institutions, using high-precision mass spectrometric U-series - dating techniques, were able to determine a reliable and constrained date range of between 81 and 101 ka (thousand years) for seven human fossil teeth recovered from the Huanglong Cave in the Hubei Province of central China. The teeth, determined to exhibit anatomically modern human characteristics, were revealed in a layer associated with stone tools and other fossilized animal remains during excavations conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2006 by a joint team from the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The excavations were followed by further fieldwork in 2010 and 2011. 

Reports Guangun Shen, et al., "the existence of localized thin flowstone formations bracketing the hominin [ancient human] fossil-bearing deposits enables us to firmly constrain the human teeth into the range between 81 ka  and 101 ka, probably the most narrow time span for any hominin fossil beyond 45 ka in China".* Flowstones are sheetlike deposits of - calcite  formed over many thousands of years, the result of water flowing down the walls or along the floors of - cave s. They are a type of - speleothem , or secondary mineral - deposit  such as a stalagtite or stalagmite, often found in ancient cave systems. 

According to the study authors, the finding comes after a series of other relatively recent excavations and reports that have produced "a growing body of evidence for the possible presence of AMH in eastern Asia as early as 100 ka ago".* They refer here to some limestone caves in southern China where scientists have come up with more ancient dates, including Liujiang (between 111 and 139 ka), Ganqian (between 94 and 220 ka), Bailiandong (more than 160 ka), and Zhirendong (more than 100 ka) in Guangxi. The Guanglong Cave results, however, are considered the most reliable because of the much narrower constraining range of 81 to 101 ka as determined by the latest U-series - dating technology.

These new findings have challenged the prevailing theory among scientists that anatomically modern humans were not present in China or east Asia until roughly around 40,000 - 50,000 years ago. This is based on earlier findings at a number of sites across China and east Asia that point to a ‘gap’ between 100 ka and 40 ka ago lacking any human fossils, more specifically between the latest archaic humans and the earliest modern humans, and genetic studies of present-day Chinese populations that have suggested a late appearance of AMH in eastern Asia.

But this previous data, maintains Shen, et al., was generated using older, less reliable - dating techniques and excluded fossils claimed to represent AMH.  "Based on our work on the sites of H. erectus (an earlier form of human) and of both archaic and modern H. sapiens over the past twenty plus years, we argue that the temporal framework in China has been artificially ‘compressed and gapped,’meaning that due to limitations in previous - dating  techniques and practices, the ages of Chinese hominin fossils have been significantly postdated (compressed), and that a temporal gap between archaic H. sapiens and AMH has been artificially created (gapped)."* 

Regarding the genetic studies, they argue that "more solid skeletal discoveries, along with parallel studies in relevant disciplines are needed to reconcile the geochronology and the molecular clock."*

Perhaps even more significant, the researchers suggest that the entire timeline for hominin (ancient human) presence in east China should be shifted back earlier in time and should be continuous (without the gap), based on updated research. This includes the advent of H. erectus at more than 400 ka old, rather than the current 230 ka; archaic H. sapiens at more than 200 ka, instead of ca. 110 ka; and the emergence of AMH at around 100 ka or earlier.

Concludes the team: "The newly established timeline for hominin fossils in China, as a result of more meticulous stratigraphic work and the advancement in dating techniques, demands a reexamination of hominin fossils and associated materials in a more coherent chronological context in China."*

Details of the study have been published in the August 2013 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution as Mass spectrometric U-series dating of Huanglong Cave in Hubei Province, central China: Evidence for early presence of modern humans in eastern Asia. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 29-Sep-2013 at 21:59
Anthropologists confirm link between cranial anatomy and two-legged walking

Comparison of the skeletons of three bipedal mammals: an Egyptian jerboa, an eastern gray kangaroo and a human.

Anthropology researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have confirmed a direct link between upright two-legged (bipedal) walking and the position of the foramen magnum, a hole in the base of the skull that transmits the spinal cord.
The study, published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Human Evolution, confirms a controversial finding made by anatomist Raymond Dart, who discovered the first known two-legged walking (bipedal) human ancestor, Australopithecus africanus. Since Dart's discovery in 1925, physical anthropologists have continued to debate whether this feature of the cranial base can serve as a direct link to bipedal fossil species.
Chris Kirk, associate professor of anthropology and co-author of the study, says the findings validate foramen magnum position as a diagnostic tool for fossil research and sheds further insight into human evolution.
"Now that we know that a forward-shifted foramen magnum is characteristic of bipedal mammals generally, we can be more confident that fossil species showing this feature were also habitual bipeds," Kirk says. "Our methods can be applied to fossil material belonging to some of the earliest potential human ancestors."
The foramen magnum in humans is centrally positioned under the braincase because the head sits atop the upright spine in bipedal postures. In contrast, the foramen magnum is located further toward the back of the skull in chimpanzees and most other mammals, as the spine is positioned more behind the head in four-legged postures.
As part of the study, the researchers measured the position of the foramen magnum in 71 species from three mammalian groups: marsupials, rodents and primates. By comparing foramen magnum position broadly across mammals, the researchers were able to rule out other potential explanations for a forward-shifted foramen magnum, such as differences in brain size.
According to the findings, a foramen magnum positioned toward the base of the skull is found not only in humans, but in other habitually bipedal mammals as well. Kangaroos, kangaroo rats and jerboas all have a more forward-shifted foramen magnum compared with their quadrupedal (four-legged walking) close relatives.
These particular mammals evolved bipedal locomotion and anteriorly positioned foramina magna independently, or as a result of convergent evolution, says Gabrielle Russo, who is a postdoctoral research fellow at Northeast Ohio Medical University and lead researcher of the study.
"As one of the few cranial features directly linked to locomotion, the position of the foramen magnum is an important feature for the study of human evolution," Russo says. "This is the case for early hominin species such as Sahelanthropus tchadensis, which shows a forward shift of the foramen magnum but has aroused some controversy as to whether it is more closely related to humans or African apes." -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: red clay
Date Posted: 29-Sep-2013 at 22:27
Hmm, wonder if anyone has thought to check out skeletons of T Rex or Velociraptor, both were essentially bipedal.

"Arguing with someone who hates you or your ideas, is like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter what move you make, your opponent will walk all over the board and scramble the pieces".

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 14-Oct-2013 at 23:01

DNA Research Sheds Light On Ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews

Many of the maternal ancestors of modern Ashkenazi Jews were European converts, according to a research project headed by a University of Huddersfield professor.

The young science of archaeogenetics has been used to settle a long-standing controversy -- the origin of Europe's Ashkenazi Jews. Are they principally descended from forbears who migrated from Palestine in the first century AD? Or were their ancestors Europeans who converted to Judaism?

A new article in the leading journalNature Communications claims to have settled the question. Analysis of DNA samples has shown that on the female line, the Ashkenazim are descended not from the Near East but from southern and western Europe.

Professor Martin Richards heads the Archaeogenetics Research Group based at the University of Huddersfield and he is a co-author of the new article, entitled "A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages."

In Hebrew, the word "Ashkenazi" means "Germans" and the term is used for Jews of eastern European origin who historically spoke the Yiddish or Judeo-German language. Professor Richards says that the new explanation for their origins was one of the most significant findings from a wider project in which he and his colleagues -- principally the Portuguese PhD students Marta Costa and Joana Pereira -- were analysing mitochondrial DNA samples (i.e. DNA that traces the maternal line) in order to investigate the prehistoric settlement of Europe by migrants from the Near East.

Ashkenazi Jewish lineages were among the large quantity of publicly available mitochondrial genomes of people from Europe, the Caucasus and the Middle East that entered the analysis. It was discovered that in the vast majority of cases, Ashkenazi lineages are most closely related to those of southern and western Europe and that they had been present in Europe for many thousands of years.

‌"This suggests that, even though Jewish men may indeed have migrated into Europe from Palestine around 2000 years ago, they seem to have married European women," states Professor Richards.

This seems to have happened first along the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, and later -- but probably to a lesser extent -- in western and central Europe. This suggests that, in the early years of the Diaspora, Judaism took in many converts from amongst the European population, but they were mainly recruited from amongst women. Thus, on the female line of descent, the Ashkenazim primarily trace their ancestry neither to Palestine nor to Khazaria in the North Caucasus -- as has also been suggested -- but to southern and western Europe.

"The origins of the Ashkenazim is one of the big questions that people have pursued again and again and never really come to a conclusive view," said Prof Richards, who has described the new data as "compelling." -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Posted By: TheAlaniDragonRising
Date Posted: 19-Oct-2013 at 21:55

Ancient Humans Crossed Ocean Barrier?

team of scientists are now suggesting that the Denisovans, an ancient human species that lived concurrent with Neanderthals and early modern humans, may have successfully crossed Wallaces Line, one of the world's largest biogeographic marine barriers in Indonesia, subsequently interbreeding with early modern humans who were on their way to Australia and New Guinea.

In 2010, a small bone fragment of a finger bone was discovered in Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains of Asia. Later genetic analysis indicated that it belonged to a heretofore unknown ancient human species, named Denisovans, and that their DNA is still present in native populations of Australia, New Guinea and surrounding regions. There is a distinct, and puzzling, absence of the DNA in Asian populations.

Now, as published in a Science opinion article, Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide in Australia and Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in the UK are suggesting that the DNA presence could be the result of the Denisovans crossing over the deep oceanic marine barrier of Wallaces Line, a biogeographic gap that is so significant that it defines the division between European and Asian mammals on its west and marsupial-dominated Australasia on its east.

"In mainland Asia, neither ancient human specimens, nor geographically isolated modern indigenous populations have Denisovan DNA of any note, indicating that there has never been a genetic signal of Denisovan interbreeding in the area," says Professor Cooper, Director of the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. "The only place where such a genetic signal exists appears to be in areas east of Wallace's Line and that is where we think interbreeding took place -- even though it means that the Denisovans must have somehow made that marine crossing."

"The conclusions we've drawn are very important for our knowledge of early human evolution and culture," says Stringer. "Knowing that the Denisovans spread beyond this significant sea barrier opens up all sorts of questions about the behaviours and capabilities of this group, and how far they could have spread."

"The key questions now are where and when the ancestors of current humans, who were on their way to colonise New Guinea and Australia around 50,000 years ago, met and interacted with the Denisovans," says Professor Cooper. -

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.

Print Page | Close Window

Bulletin Board Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 9.56a -
Copyright ©2001-2009 Web Wiz -