Anthropology news

We all speak Egyptian

We all speak Egyptian, it seems, not the Arab variety introduced by a colonialist invaders around 1400 hundred years ago, but the real Egyptian language as spoken by pharaohs and their subjects. It was known to the Greeks as the language of demes, the common people, and this has given rise to the Demotic Dictionary - see http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2012/09/17/chicago-demotic-dictionary-r... ...

Genetic mutation in Africa

At http://phys.org/print267290115.html (and now at www.geneticarchaeology.com from today, the 21st Sept) ... new research is suggesting genetic mutation explains how early humans were able to move from central Africa in what is known as the 'Great Expansion' event. I don't suppose many people outside anthropology circles were aware of this 'great expansion', which is dated to 85,000 years ago (for various interlocking and complex reasons involving Out of Africa, archaeology, genetics and geology etc).

Velly Oldie People

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917085535.htm ... eight well preserved spears have been found in Germany, 300,000 years of age. These are purported to be the world's oldest weaponry. The finds indicate the people concerned were skilled craftsmen and hunters with a capacity for abstract thought and planning comparable to modern humans, and yet they are thought to be predecessors to the Neanderthals.

Lactose tolerance in Africa

EM Smith is catching up on the discovery that cattle herders and pastoralists in the green Sahara, prior to 4000BC, led to lactose tolerance - thereby mirroring what happened in Europe at about the same point in time. Consuming dairy products led to lactose tolerance, a boon to people in the cool climate of northern Europe when crops were in short supply in winter months, but equally a boon to people in the Sahara, where it became extremely arid in the subsequent period following the Mid Holocene Warm Period.

Finger modelling

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/343399/title/DNA_unveils_enigmatic_D... ... is a piece of research on the DNA as revealed from a single finger bons and a two teeth found in Siberia a year or so ago. Not much is added to what is already known but it emerges, from the paper, that at least two Chinese individuals have more Neanderthal DNA in them than the two Europeans they sampled.

The Neanderthal inside us

Last week we had a paper saying that Neanderthal genes present in modern humans was due not to interbreeding but were a residue going back to before both species evolved, presumably Homo erectus and similar. Now, a pre-publication paper is reopening the debate - go to http://blogs.nature.com/2012/08/neanderthal-sex-debate-highlights-benefi... Scientists at Cambridge and Harvard have put their paper on the arXiv.org server but it originates from a specialist conference last year like the PNAS paper that was published last week.

Indo European Language Origins

In one of those news flash episodes, we are told by the mass media, the heavy brigade with the big floppy pages, and the BBC and assorted science correspondents, that the origins of the language are in Anatolia (basically, modern Turkey and some land further to the east but minus the bit of Turkey in Europe). The story can also be found at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120823175406.htm ... 'Indo European language originated in Anatolia, research suggests' - not 'did' as in definitely so.

Modern Humans and China

At http://phys.org/print264668408.html ... the archaeological record of Europe and Asia between 45,000 and 25,000 years ago shows a lot of changes - and movements. The Upper Palaeolithic is thought to mark the appearance of modern human. In east Asia the Chinese Palaeolithic was dominated by core and flake tool industries and Levallois Middle Stone Age stone tool assemblages appear late in the record - almost at the end of the Middle Stone Age (becoming the earliest sequence of the Upper Palaeolithic).

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 http://phys.org/print264159758.html ... 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.