Anthropology news

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).

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.