Anthropology news

Language from the Ice Age

A paper in PNAS by an evolutionary theorist from Reading University, Mark Pagel, claims words from a long extinct language prevalent across Europe and western Asia at the end of the Ice Age has survived by our use of certain words in a multitude of modern languages. A similar sort of exercise has been done with the Indo European language group - but at a much more recent date. See

Agriculture in China

At ..the first evidence of agriculture, the domestication of plants and animals, is dated to the early Holocene - around 10,000 years ago. However, such skills were probably not learnt overnight, so to speak, and scientists have been able to trace tools used to grind seeds back to 23,000 years ago - so far. The same kind of tools were being used to process seeds and tubers in northern China at the same time as grinding was a fact of life in western Asia.

First Australians

At .. we have news of a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12865) that has used C14 methodology to seek a better understanding of the peopling of Australia. Computer simulation of various strands of evidence have been put into the mincing machine and it is now claimed some 1000 people made landfall around 50,000 years ago, numbers that are thought to indicate intentional migration rather than accidental stranding of a few people washed up on the coast.

Humans in South America

At the height of the Late Glacial Maximum, 22,000 years ago, humans were living in NE Brazil, according to a new evaluation of the disputed evidence. Of course, a lot of resistance is to be expected but Christelle Lahaye (French) and colleagues have reached this decision after excavating a rock shelter that was clearly of great age. However, the dates are derived from the sediments in which the stone tools were found, leaving the controversy open to criticism. This has began already - questioning the ability of the team to do their job properly (but only in so many words).

American Roots

At ... some new work on the early settlement of the Americas by the University of Barcelona (with an emphasis on South America) which has been published by PLOS Genetics. The study of DNA has shown that indigenous Americans, as opposed to more recent immigrants, people the Americas in several waves - with long periods of separation between each episode.

Sami Rock Art

At ... we have a lovely piece, several pages of printout, on Sami rock art, by Inga-Marie Mulk, an archaeologist from northern Sweden. It is a interpretation of images scratched, etched and engraved, or even painted on rocks in northern Fenno-Scandia, some of which is thought to represent an earth mother goddess.

Neanderthals and Rabbits

A rather strange story at ... and concerns the absence of rabbits and similar small animals in the diet of Neanderthals. It seems a very big assumption is being made here and it is taken further by the claim they failed to hunt rabbits, or were unable to hunt them because their technology was inadequate, and this led to their decline. I'm sure if Neanderthals were hungry they would eat anything they could catch, including our small furry friends with the long ears.

European genes --- where might they have travelled to or from?

Chiefio has turned his mind to genes and has a spiffing post on Native Americans and European roots, all nicely speculative but interesting never the less, not so much science as observation by the eye - see In a distribution map of Haplogroup R Y-DNA one can see a close connection between western Europe, on the one hand, and the Great Lakes region, on the other. He also notes the use of long houses among the Iroquois peoples, and others such as the Cherokee.

Out of Africa - revised version now on the conveyor belt

The Out of Africa hypothesis - humans are said to have migrated out of Africa around 60,000 years ago, has remained remarkably robust in spite of a lot of contradictory evidence in recent times. It has achieved consensus status and therefore a lot of shove is required for a relook at the basics of what has become an article of faith rather than a purely scientific model. At ...

Native Americans and Northern Europeans are closely related

This story pops up at ... and at (and various other sites). To a certain extent this amounts to a recycling of old news as it has been recognised that one strand of Palaeolithic people entered Europe from the NE direction (see for example Clive Finlayson, The Humans that went Extinct, Oxford University Press: 2009).