Anthropology news

How real is the DNA evidence?

At www.semioticon.com/frontline/bednarik.htm there is another article by Robert Bednarik, on beads and symbolism and the fact that Homo erectus in all likelihood had the capability to make them and make use of them (the same article or something very similar was published in Time and Mind two years ago). In doing so he outlines his opposition to the Out of Africa hypothesis - the idea of an African 'Eve' that gave birth to modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens. They duly spread around the world in the Late Pleistocene - a wholly unsound idea he thinks.

Homo erectus - boats (update)

In a follow-up to the story of a few days ago on Homo erectus reaching Crete by using boats (see for instance www.physorg.com/print232812463.html). I have come across an article at http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/epistem/web/meta.html where Homo erectus in boats is accepted as a means by which early humans colonised islands off the mainland in various parts of the world - such as Australia and New Guinea, the Solomons, Japan etc.

Dating Rock Art

At http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/epistem/web/crisis.html there is a revealing article on dating rock art. In Europe it is the Late Pleistocene cave art of Iberia and southern France that dominates university course and it has created a euro-centric view that is causing some chagrin in other parts of the world - such as Australia, India and South Africa. This is no trifling matter as from a euro-centric view rock art is securely within the Upper Palaeolithic - post 40,000BC.

Homo erectus - and boats

The Boston Herald had an interesting story, possibly a rehash of something from last year, on Homo erectus and discovery of stone tools on Crete, the large island in the middle of the Mediterranean/Aegean (see www.bostonherald.com/news/international/general/view.bg?articleid=135915...). Researchers say human ancestors were crossing the Mediterranean Sea at least 130,000 years ago, a claim based on stone tools found on Crete. This island, it is alleged, has been cut off from the mainland for 'eons' - whatever the reporter concerned may mean.

Homo erectus ... clues and counter clues

At www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/nyu-fsh062811.php there is a report from PLoS One (online journal) on Homo erectus in Indonesia, widely regarded as a human ancestor as they resemble Homo sapiens in a variety of ways. It is standard theory that Homo erectus also migrated Out of Africa - but some 1.8 million years ago. Now, we all read these dates but they are pretty meaningless except in a geological context, as geochronology has a pattern.

Aborigines are the whipping boys again

At http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/06/did-australian-aborigines-... there is a report on a paper in Geophysical Research Letters that claims Aborigines burnt old vegetation from the landscape in the hot dry season in order to help stimulate regrowth during the upcoming rainy season (the monsoon rains of northern Australia and the Darwin peninsular).

A hominid tooth that is 17 million years of age

Bones found in Wasden cave, a few miles west of Idaho Falls (in the State of Idaho) (see www.idahopress.com/news/state/scientist-fights-for-research-at-e-idaho-c...). Archaeologists, or palaeontologists, have never explored the caves systematically and this is a plea for funds - which are unlikely to be forthcoming. There are bones from all kinds of animals, from the size of mice to that of mammoth - and lots of bison. Mixed in with the bones are prehistoric spear and arrow points and fragments of pottery.

Ice Age humans

A story at www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13846262?print=true seems to indicate the first modern humans, the Gravettian culture, entered Europe from the Russian plains rather than through the Balkans. Why this might be so is not discussed, as such, as the evidence comes from a cave in the Ukraine - and presumably no such early evidence yet exists in the Balkans. Still, it does give weight to the idea the steppe zone, which in the Ice Age was a band running from Iberia to NE Siberia, was an idea location for human hunters to thrive. 

A northern odyssey

In the far north of Eurasia, at Byzovaya in the Ural Mountains, some kind of a Neanderthal mystery has emerged- and an explanation is hampered by C14 methodology. Stone implements said to date from between 34,000 and 31,000 years ago resemble scraping and cutting tools associated with Neanderthals - but the dating implies they belong to modern humans. In fact, the period between 40,000 and 30,000 years is problematic as far as C14 reliability is concerned - and it is the period when Neanderthals disappeared and modern humans emerged in their place. The question is why?

Lots on Neanderthals

For example, at http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/april-2011/article/caves-in-spain-y... there is a fascinating story about a Spanish cave that at some point during the Pleistocene became filled with soil, rocks, plant and animal remains and over time hardened into what is known as a breccia deposit. The breccia was found to be rich in fossils and Paleolithic artifacts and the deposit has been dated between 75,000 and 60,000 years ago.