Anthropology news

Genetic Diversity

One paper comes out saying one thing and a few weeks later there is a paper demonstrating the opposite - and genetics has been a bit like that. Are we getting some realism into the genetics of our human forebears - who knows, it's all a bit of a lottery. The journal Trends in Genetics, see ... is taking a relook into the evolution of humans in Europe, trying to fit the pieces together in what is a complex picture book of data, no easy task.

Neanderthal genes

It didn't take long for the consensus to shoot down in flames the idea that 4 per cent of Neanderthal genes have survived in modern European and Western Asian populations. They are now saying this is due to modern humans and Neanderthals having a common ancestor and it is therefore a remnant of even earlier peoples, presumably Homo erectus or related, where the 4 per cent is derived - anything but upset the idea of a pristine purist strain of humanity with an origin somewhere in Africa.

Neanderthals, the End Times

What wiped out the Neanderthals continues to fascinate anthropologists and others but unfortunately they do not wish to embrace the idea of catastrophism - in any shape or form. At ... it seems a layer of crypto-tephra, described as a fine volcanic glass that is erupted out of volcanoes, has been found at around 40,000 years ago, carpeting a massive area of central and eastern Europe. It is thought to have come from an Italian volcano - the Camparian Ignimbrite.

Human Origins

At ... the New York Times reports on the study in the journal Cell (see a couple of days ago) and they fill out some of the detail. Palaeo-anthropologists, using bone fossils, have established modern humans arose in Africa 200,000 years ago. In Africa, it is then supposed in the consensus model, all archaic species of humans died out. They survived only outside Africa - such as the Neanderthals in Western Asia and Europe.

genetic mystery

A post at (20th July 2012) is about a new paper published in the journal Cell, 'Evolutionary History and Adaptation from High Coverage Whole-Genome Sequencing of Diverse African Hunter Gatherers' - focussed on Pygmies from Cameroon and Khoesan Hadza and Sadawe (Tanzania). Their genetic diversity is surprising. The researchers were led to believe an otherwise unknown hominid or early human group has left a mark on the genetic history of these peoples. This led to Richard Klein saing the conclusions were irresponsible.

Neanderthals ... another assumption bites the dust

At ... the unique arm morphology of Neanderthals, thought to be due to coming up close to their prey and thrusting with their spears, is now found to be due to scraping activities, such as hide preparation. So, the idea of Neanderthals as big strong spear thrusters has taken a tumble - what evidence is there for close quarters hunting activity now? The article is in PLsS ONE 2012 7(7)ie40349 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0040349

Paisley Caves in Oregon

To begin with, George Howard has set up a series of You Tube videos on his web site that will interest catastrophists in general. They are mostly to do with the Younger Dryas boundary event - with some panel discussion at different conferences - see and

Clever Neanderthals ... until this is dusted down in flames

At is an argument that revolves around the viability of dating techniques and whether methodologies different to C14 are singing from the same hymn sheet. In that respect, a new paper might very well debunk this one very quickly. In the meantime we have a paper in Science that wonders if Neanderthals rather than modern humans were responsible for some of the cave art - in this instance, in Spain.

Pit of Bones ... controversy

Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in Kensington is at loggerheads with Spanish fellow palaeontologists over the dating of human fossils at Atapuerco in northern Spain - see the controversy as reported in The Observer at

Asian Roots

An article in the Australian science magazine, Cosmos - see is a funny kind of piece that has been published in the journal PNAS. Is it biased? Does it extrapolate a theory out of thin air? It seems that some anthropologists would be happy if early primates and hominids had an origin in Asia rather than Africa - but does any of this matter to anyone?