Anthropology news

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.

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 http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/more-on-neanderthal... ... 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 www.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/science/cousins-of-neanderthals-left-dna-in-a... ... 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 http://anthropology.net (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 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120718192007.htm ... 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