Anthropology news

Denisovans and India

At ... is a discussion of a paper by Sheila Mishra et al which centres on the introduction of micro blade tool assemblages in India, and their possible association with an actual human migration, focussing on one site in particular in Madhya Pradesh (and now dated around 45,000 years ago). John Hawks is his usual sceptical self and uses it to discuss the Late Pleistocene in India.

Y-Chromosomes In the News

At ... which is basically telling us the male line is as old as the female mitochondrial line - but what does it mean for earlier genetic studies into the age of migrating groups of people? Is it possible that migrations are also older than imagined - such as the genetic footprint of the first farmers. Might this mark the genetic footprint of a Palaeolithic migration - or is this pie in the sky.

Language - when did it begin?

At ... we learn that research seems to suggest Neanderthals were very similar to modern humans, in a variety of ways. The idea Neanderthals, or Homo erectus come to that, were completely different to modern humans is all down to scholarly classification - which box, or museum drawer a particularly skull might be stored away. Classification led to the idea modern humans are in some way special, rather clever creatures and therefore quite unlike their forebears.

Christianity in Egypt

On a day that a video has been published of a beheading of three Christian monks or Catholic priests in Syria by the very people some of our politicos want to get into bed with, and supply them with the arms to liberate Christian establishments by killing them all with kitchen knives, there is a story about Syrian Christians in Egypt at ... a geological depression west of the Nile delta was a cradle of Coptic monasticism going back to the 4th century AD.

How not to see reality in cave art

This story can be found at ... which once again is all in the head, and ignores alternative interpretations. The paper seems to imply they did not record what they could see but only what they believed as a result of their mythology. Perhaps they were also wearing blindfolds when they climbed up rock faces to make etchings in difficult locations.

Out of Africa kicks back

At ... well, I never, kicked into touch - now bouncing back. You can't keep a good consensus theory down - it will pop up again at any moment. New research refutes evidence produced in 2007 - early modern humans did not reach India until 60,000 years ago.

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).