Tag Archives | Neanderthals

Were Neanderthals Original Cave Painting Artists?

Danny Vendramini (CC)

In his novel Entangled, Graham Hancock spun a tale suggesting that Neanderthals were way more creative than the violent homo sapiens who wiped them out. New research suggests that Hancock may have been right, reported by James Noble Wilford in the New York Times:

Stone Age artists were painting red disks, handprints, clublike symbols and geometric patterns on European cave walls long before previously thought, in some cases more than 40,000 years ago, scientists reported on Thursday, after completing more reliable dating tests that raised a possibility that Neanderthals were the artists.

A more likely situation, the researchers said, is that the art — 50 samples from 11 caves in northwestern Spain — was created by anatomically modern humans fairly soon after their arrival in Europe.

The findings seem to put an exclamation point to a run of recent discoveries: direct evidence from fossils that Homo sapiens populations were living in England 41,500 to 44,200 years ago and in Italy 43,000 to 45,000 years ago, and that they were making flutes in German caves about 42,000 years ago.

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Was Human Evolution Caused by Climate Change?

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Via ScienceDaily:

According to a paper published in Science, models of how animal and plant distributions are affected by climate change may also explain aspects of human evolution.The approach takes existing knowledge of the geographical spread of other species through the warming and cooling of the ice ages to provide a model that can be applied to human origins.

“No one has applied this knowledge to humans before,” said Dr John Stewart, lead author on the paper and researcher at Bournemouth University.

“We have tried to explain much of what we know about humans, including the evolution and extinction of Neanderthals and the Denisovans (a newly discovered group from Siberia), as well as how they interbred with the earliest modern populations who had just left Africa. All these phenomena have been put into the context of how animals and plants react to climate change.

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Archaeologists Reveal Neanderthals to Have Been Even More Badass Than Previously Thought

mezhirichIt turns out they built ornate homes out of bone. This from Richard Gray of The Telegraph:

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 44,000 year old Neanderthal building that was constructed using the bones from mammoths. The circular building, which was up to 26 feet across at its widest point, is believed to be earliest example of domestic dwelling built from bone. Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago, were initially thought to have been relatively primitive nomads that lived in natural caves for shelter.

The new findings, however, suggest these ancient human ancestors had settled in areas to the degree that they built structures where they lived for extended periods of time. Analysis by researchers from the Muséum National d’Histories Naturelle in Paris also found that many of the bones had been decorated with carvings and ochre pigments…

[Continues at The Telegraph]

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Sex With Neanderthals Boosted Human Immunity

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

So that’s how they justified it … Matt McGrath reports for BBC News:

Sexual relations between ancient humans and their evolutionary cousins are critical for our modern immune systems, researchers report in Science journal.

Mating with Neanderthals and another ancient group called Denisovans introduced genes that help us cope with viruses to this day, they conclude.

Previous research had indicated that prehistoric interbreeding led to up to 4% of the modern human genome.

The new work identifies stretches of DNA derived from our distant relatives.

In the human immune system, the HLA (human leucocyte antigen) family of genes plays an important role in defending against foreign invaders such as viruses.

The authors say that the origins of some HLA class 1 genes are proof that our ancient relatives interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans for a period.

At least one variety of HLA gene occurs frequently in present day populations from West Asia, but is rare in Africans.

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All Non-African People Are Part Neanderthal

Neanderthal child

Reconstruction of a Neanderthal child.

Interesting article from Alasdair Wilkins on io9.com:

The evidence has been mounting for years that early humans and Neanderthals interbred, but now it’s pretty much a certainty. Part of the X chromosome found in people from outside Africa originally comes from our Neanderthal cousins.

It’s kind of amazing to think that, as recently as just a few years ago, the scientific consensus was that humans and Neanderthals were completely separate species and probably didn’t interbreed. Since then, a ton of new evidence has come to light to change that position, and now new research from Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal more or less completes this big reversal.

Neanderthals, one of the last extant hominid species other than our own, left Africa somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 years ago and settled mostly in Europe until they went extinct 30,000 years ago. Early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago, meaning they overlapped with Neanderthals in time and place for at least 20,000 years.

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New Species Of Human Discovered

Photo: David Reich, et al./Nature

Denisovan tooth. Photo: David Reich, et al./Nature

Unraveling ancient human DNA must be like crack for anthropologists — they just can’t stop! Joe Palca reports for NPR:

DNA taken from a pinkie bone at least 30,000 years old is hinting at the existence of a previously unknown population of ancient humans. It’s just the latest example of how modern genetic techniques are transforming the world of anthropology.

The pinkie bone in question was unearthed in 2008 from what’s called the Denisova Cave.

“The Denisova Cave is in southern Siberia in the Altai Mountains in central Asia,” says David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “This bone is the bone of a 6- to 7-year-old girl.”

Reich and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig were able to extract DNA from the pinkie bone and sequence all 3 billion letters of DNA that made up this girl’s genome.

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Are Redheads Descended From Neanderthals?

Source: 120 (CC)

Source: 120 (CC)

In Entangled, Graham Hancock’s debut novel, an essential part of the story involves the so-called “Neanderthal Enigma,” a raging academic debate over what caused Homo neanderthalensis to die out some 35,000 years ago. Hancock’s Neanderthals, called the “Uglies,” play an important role in Entangled. They are depicted as gentle, sensitive, telepathic, creative: They did not make cave paintings but they did use makeup.

Shocking new scientific research suggests that Hancock’s depiction of Neanderthals may be far closer to the truth than even he may have thought. Jennifer Viegas reports for Discovery News via MSNBC:

Neanderthals are often depicted as brutish club wielders, but a new book suggests Neanderthals had a sensitive side, displaying “a deep seated sense of compassion.”

The findings, also published in the journal Time & Mind, are part of a larger study charting how empathy and other related feelings evolved in early humans.

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Neanderthals May Have Been Destroyed By Climate, Not Homo Sapiens

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

In Graham Hancock’s new book, Entangled, one of the intriguing themes is the so-called “Neanderthal Enigma.” But, while much of the latest research on Homo neanderthalensis is reflected in Entangled, a new study reported in the New York Times suggests that this extinct member of the Homo genus may have met its demise from climate change, not from Homo sapiens:

Homo sapiens may not have pushed Neanderthals to extinction, as some scientists have hypothesized; it may have been the weather that did them in.

Volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago devastated Neanderthals in Western Asia and in Europe, anthropologists report in Current Anthropology.

Naomi Cleghorn, an anthropologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, and colleagues studied a Neanderthal site in the Caucasus Mountains of southwestern Russia. They were able to identify volcanic ash from two separate eruptions that occurred in the area between 45,000 and 40,000 years ago.

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Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

From the recent March/April issue of Archaeology. Zach Zorich writes:

If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.

The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia’s Vindija cave 30,000 years ago.

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Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Homo_sapiens_neanderthalensisZach Zorich examines the scientific, legal, and ethical obstacles for Archaelogy:

If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.

The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia’s Vindija cave 30,000 years ago.

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