Tag Archives | Neanderthals

Neanderthals Created Cave Art

A new discovery at Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar suggests that Neanderthals were, contrary to their poor reputation, cave artists (and created the hashtag). Report via Chicago Tribune:

Belying their reputation as the dumb cousins of early modern humans, Neanderthals created cave art, an activity regarded as a major cognitive step in the evolution of humankind, scientists reported Monday in a paper describing the first discovery of artwork by this extinct species.

Gorham's Cave.jpg

Gorham’s Cave. Photo by Gibmetal77 (CC)

The discovery is “a major contribution to the redefinition of our perception of Neanderthal culture,” said prehistorian William Rendu of the French National Center for Scientific Research, who was not involved in the work. “It is a new and even stronger evidence of the Neanderthal capacity for developing complex symbolic thought” and “abstract expression,” abilities long believed exclusive to early modern humans.

In recent years researchers have discovered that Neanderthals buried their dead, adorned themselves with black and red pigments, wore shell and feather jewelry and cared for the elderly and infirm, all evidence of complex thought.

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‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage Revealed in Ancient Skulls

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

Nobody wants third-hand teeth…

A key first step in Neanderthal evolution may have been the development of front teeth that could act like a “third hand,” researchers now say.

These new findings are based on 17 hominin skulls showing a mix of traits from Neanderthals and more primitive human lineages, dating back some 430,000 years. The specimens likely belonged to a hominin group within the Neanderthal lineage but perhaps not direct Neanderthal ancestors. (Hominins include modern humans and extinct ancestors and close relatives of the human lineage.)

The mix of traits suggests the defining features of the Neanderthal body may have evolved separately in stages instead of evolving together gradually, scientists added.

via Ancient Skulls Reveal ‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage.

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You’re A Neanderthal

Neanderthal childWell at least you are part Neanderthal, reports Reuters:

It’s getting harder and harder to take umbrage if someone calls you a Neanderthal.

According to two studies published on Wednesday, DNA from these pre-modern humans may play a role in the appearance of hair and skin as well as the risk of certain diseases.

Although Neanderthals became extinct 28,000 years ago in Europe, as much as one-fifth of their DNA has survived in human genomes due to interbreeding tens of thousands of years ago, one of the studies found, although any one individual has only about 2 percent of caveman DNA.

“The 2 percent of your Neanderthal DNA might be different than my 2 percent of Neanderthal DNA, and it’s found at different places in the genome,” said geneticist Joshua Akey, who led one of the studies. Put it all together in a study of hundreds of people, and “you can recover a substantial proportion of the Neanderthal genome.”

Both studies confirmed earlier findings that the genomes of east Asians harbor more Neanderthal DNA than those of Europeans.

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Neanderthal Bone May Push Back Development of Complex Speech

Pic: Yulia S. (CC)

Pic: Yulia S. (CC)

New research seems to suggest that the Neanderthals could speak as well as modern humans.

Via BBC News:

An analysis of a Neanderthal’s fossilised hyoid bone – a horseshoe-shaped structure in the neck – suggests the species had the ability to speak.

This has been suspected since the 1989 discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid that looks just like a modern human’s.

But now computer modelling of how it works has shown this bone was also used in a very similar way.

Writing in journal Plos One, scientists say its study is “highly suggestive” of complex speech in Neanderthals.

The hyoid bone is crucial for speaking as it supports the root of the tongue. In non-human primates, it is not placed in the right position to vocalise like humans.

Read the rest of this story at BBC News.

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Genetic Analysis Suggests Ancient Humans Interbred Extensively Neanderthals, Denisovans And An “Unknown Population”

neanderthalNature hints that modern humans have a mysterious X factor ancestor:

Genome analysis suggests there was interbreeding between modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and an unknown archaic population. Updated genome sequences from two extinct relatives of modern humans suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.

The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a member of an archaic human group called the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting on ancient DNA at the Royal Society in London. The results suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet-unknown human ancestor from Asia.

All modern humans whose ancestry originates outside of Africa owe about 2% of their genome to Neanderthals. Certain populations living in Oceania, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, share about 4% of their DNA with Denisovans.

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Neanderthals Ate Stomach Contents Of Dead Animals (Tastes Like Cream Cheese)

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Apparently the stomach contents of dead animals tastes like cream cheese. I may have to seek something else to spread on my bagels from now on… Robin McKie reports on the real diet of Neanderthals for The Observer:

It was the tell-tale tartar on the teeth that told the truth. Or at least, that is what it appeared to do. Researchers – after studying calcified plaque on Neanderthal fossil teeth found in El Sidrón cave in Spain – last year concluded that members of this extinct human species cooked vegetables and consumed bitter-tasting medicinal plants such as chamomile and yarrow.

These were not brainless carnivores, in other words. These were smart and sensitive people capable of providing themselves with balanced diets and of treating themselves with health-restoring herbs, concluded the researchers, led by Karen Hardy at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona.

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Surrogate Mother Needed For World’s First Cloned Neanderthal Baby

Would you be willing to give birth to a cloned Neanderthal (soon to be a possibility)? And could you love him/her? Gawker writes:

Are you an adventurous human woman? Adventurous enough to be a surrogate mother for the first Neanderthal baby to be born in 30,000 years? Harvard geneticist George Church recently [said] he’s close to developing the necessary technology to clone a Neanderthal, at which point all he’d need is an “adventurous human woman” to act as a surrogate mother.

What would that entail? Neanderthal birth was simpler than human birth, because Neanderthal infants didn’t have to rotate to get to the birth canal, but otherwise the processes were very similar. Once the baby’s out, you’re in good shape — Neanderthal babies are thought to have grown much more quickly than their human counterparts.

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Neanderthals May Have Been Sailors

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

It’s amazing to me to see how our perceptions of the Neanderthals have changed over the last 200 years, give or take. Once thought to be brutish, slow creatures, we now know that they had art, burial rituals, language and possibly even religion. Now, some scientists think that they may have been sailors as well – thousands of years before such things were thought to have occurred:

Via Live Science:

Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

This prehistoric seafaring could shed light on the mental capabilities of these lost relatives of modern humans, researchers say.

Scientists had thought the Mediterranean islands were first settled about 9,000 years ago by Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers and shepherds.

“On a lot of Mediterranean islands, you have these amazing remains from classical antiquity to study, so for many years people didn’t even look for older sites,” said archaeologist Alan Simmons at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

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Weapons Made Us Human

San Bushman rock art Perdekop Farm North of Mossel bayThis might just explain why we all can’t get along. Lewis Page writes at The Register:

Boffins investigating a find of ancient stone blades over 70 thousand years old argue that it was possession of advanced ranged weapons – and the organisation to make and use them – which allowed humanity to defeat its early rivals and spread out to conquer the world.

The small stone microlith blades in question were found at a site named Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, South Africa. They were complicated to make, with the stone having to be heat treated with fire so that it would flake properly and could then be fashioned to give a sharp edge down one side and a blunt back on the other. This allowed them to be glued onto a wooden shaft, creating a deadly yet lightweight spear.

The investigating boffins believe that such spears would have been hurled by their cunning human creators using atlatls – spear-thrower devices which extend the reach of the human arm and permit a javelin-style weapon to be flung with much greater force than is possible with the unaided limb.

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This Is What Neanderthals Really Looked Like

BBC

Have you seen this man? Last spotted 70,000 years ago in France. From BBC News:

A team of international experts has been rebuilding our most iconic ancient ancestors from the bones up – starting with a Neanderthal

A team of scientists has created what it believes is the first really accurate reconstruction of Neanderthal man, from a skeleton that was discovered in France over a century ago.

In 1909, excavations at La Ferrassie cave in the Dordogne unearthed the remains of a group of Neanderthals. One of the skeletons in that group was that of an adult male, given the name La Ferrassie 1.

These remains have helped scientists create a detailed reconstruction of our closest prehistoric relative for a new BBC series, Prehistoric Autopsy.

La Ferrassie 1 is one of the most important discoveries made in the field of Neanderthal research.

His skull is the largest and most complete ever found.

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