Tooth, Leprosy, troglodites

27 Oct 2017

At ... a single tooth found in a former river bed of the River Rhine in Germany is causing a bit of a headache to scientists. The strata in which it was found has been dated back almost 10 million years ago - 4 million years older than its African relatives (such as Lucy) from Ethiopia and the Rift Valley. The local mayor upset the applecart by saying, 'I don't want to over dramatise but I would hypothesise that we shall have to start re-writing the history of mankind from today ...'. This illustrates the limited nature of research into early hominems quite well as previously there has been an over emphasis on the African Rift Valley - where it is easy for excavators to get down into lower levels gouged out by the geological rifting. New finds in South Africa, Morocco, and southern Europe, let alone in China, are throwing into confusion the old museum models of stages of evolution of humanity. A more complicated line of evolution is developing with some ancient hominems surviving almost into the modern world (a few hundred thousand years ago) and now we have evidence that they may even be more ancient than previously imagined. Of course, the line of attack by mainstream will be the dating of the river sediments in Germany. Are they really as old as claimed. Whatever, the fact that a Lucy type of hominem was living in Europe rather than Africa widens the whole debate - and scientists may now seek alternative sites to the Rift Valley. For example, in Britain, generally too cool for early hominems, we have plenty of ancient river terraces - especially in the Thames valley. These have been the target of fossil hunters for years - but you never know.

At ... which is about medieval leprosy in England. It may have been brought to East Anglia by Scandinavian fur traders we are told - possibly the fur of red squirrels. Mind you, red squirrels were common across southern Britain in those days but I suppose the Scandinavian bit comes from the assumption East Anglia was full of Anglo Saxons, and later, Danish settlers, and the indigenous population had been driven out. This is of course not as mainstream as it once was - but still apparently taught in education establishments. Red squirrels were kept as pets. Is this a better source of leprosy as it is known Brownsea Island squirrels in the modern world carry the leprosy disease, and they suffer the same effects as humans. Is this another case of diseases jumping from domesticated animals to humans?

Gary sent in this one - a perennial (keeps on popping up) - go to ...



   ... no wonder it is a perennial. These people were hiding, perhaps, from invaders - or from natural phenomena. Or was it just too easy to carve out a place to live out of what looks like soft and easily worked geology. There are some underground homes in Yorkshire if I remember rightly - inhabited even in the Middle Ages.