March 31, 2016

Homo hobbittus update

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 8:52 am

New Homo Floresiensis Dates May Quash Cryptozoology Theories About ‘Hobbits’

When the “hobbit” remains were thought to date to as recently as 12,000 years ago, these legends about Ebu Gogo started sounding like they could refer to H. floresiensis. The new Nature paper, however, uses cutting-edge analysis of geology to push the date of disappearance of the “hobbits” back to 50,000 years ago. Or, at least, this is the date that the “hobbits” left the cave at Liang Bua. Research authors Thomas Sutikna and colleagues write that, “Whether H. floresiensis survived after 50 kyr ago — potentially encountering modern humans on Flores or other hominins dispersing through southeast Asia, such as Denisovans — is an open question.”

I’ve been mostly on the fence about this. A whole bunch of microcephalics running around didn’t seem plausible to me, nor did such a recent holdover of mini Homo erecti(ish) guys. This doesn’t push the latter back all that far, but it seems a little more plausible to me.

November 18, 2015

When I don’t know, I link.

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:47 pm

And I don’t know squat about the new Denisovian tooth DNA. Hence, go read Hawks.

October 8, 2015

So we’re all Eurasians. Or Africans. Whatever.

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 5:09 pm

Scientists Sequence First Ancient Human Genome From AfricaI

n recent years, scientists have found segments of DNA in Ethiopians and other Africans that bear a striking resemblance to those found in people from Europe and Asia. They proposed that there was a “backflow” of genes into Africa roughly 3,000 years ago.

Dr. Pinhasi and his colleagues found that Mota, who lived 1,500 years before that time, had no trace of Eurasian DNA in his genome. “It’s an African without this backflow,” he said.

Armed with this early genome, Dr. Pinhasi and his colleagues took a new look at the spread of Eurasian genes into Africa. They pinpointed the source of the DNA to ancient farmers in the Near East. Once those people spread into Africa, their DNA traveled across the continent over the generations.

Short summary: We travel around and mate with anything that moves.

September 14, 2015

Now this might be cool

Filed under: Amateur, Paleoanth, Remote Sensing — acagle @ 3:06 pm

Fossil Finder wants amateur archaeologists for online sleuthing

Ever dream of pulling an ancient jawbone from a hidden cave somewhere? A new interactive website could help you realize your archaeological aspirations.

The site, Fossil Finder, seeks volunteers to comb through its database of images from Kenya’s Turkana Basin, where numerous fossils of our human ancestors, as well as a range of other animals dating back millions of years, have been found.

I think this is an excellent use of the power of the Interwebs.

September 11, 2015

I have yet to comment on the new species of hominid.

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 6:49 pm

And I won’t now either. But here is Homo naledi explained.

May 28, 2015

Lucy has a cousin?

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 2:17 pm


Scientists have long argued that there was only one pre-human species at any given time between 3 and 4 million years ago, subsequently giving rise to another new species through time. This was what the fossil record appeared to indicate until the end of the 20th century. However, the naming of Australopithecus bahrelghazali from Chad and Kenyanthropus platyops from Kenya, both from the same time period as Lucy’s species, challenged this long-held idea. Although a number of researchers were skeptical about the validity of these species, the announcement by Haile-Selassie of the 3.4 million-year-old Burtele partial foot in 2012 cleared some of the skepticism on the likelihood of multiple early hominin species in the 3 to 4 million-year range.

The Burtele partial fossil foot did not belong to a member of Lucy’s species. However, despite the similarity in geological age and close geographic proximity, the researchers have not assigned the partial foot to the new species due to lack of clear association. Regardless, the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda incontrovertibly confirms that multiple species did indeed co-exist during this time period.

There ya go.

May 27, 2015

CSI: Sima de los Huesos

Filed under: Forensic archaeology, Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Scientists Find Evidence For 430,000-year-old Murder

A wound on a 430,000-year-old skull may be the brutal evidence of one of the first cases of murder in the hominin fossil record. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, analyzed the remains of 28 individuals in a Spanish cave site and found further evidence for early funereal practices.

The site—known as Sima de los Huesos—has puzzled archeologists for many years. No one really knows how the remains of the 28 individuals, which belong to a Neanderthal clade, got there in the first place. The remains of the individuals date back to the Middle Pleistocene. Researchers went to the Sima de los Huesos, found within an underground cave system, to investigate the mystery and were ‘surprised’ by the results.

It certainly is a funny one, if they’re right about the same object whacking him twice. Certainly suggestive of a weapon, unless there’s something occurring naturally that’s bilaterally similar like that. The idea of a half-million-year-old hit doesn’t really surprise me, I’m really sure that the second someone decided they could knock off an antelope with a rock they probably decided they could also do the same to their buddy Thak.

May 20, 2015

New old tools

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:21 pm

Really old: Archaeologists Find Earliest Stone Tools in Kenya

Archaeologists working in the desert badlands of Kenya have uncovered dozens of stone tools crafted 3.3 million years ago, the earliest evidence of technology on Earth.

For a long time, many scholars believed the first stone tools were devised by the genus Homo—a line that leads directly to modern humans—and it was the mental leap of smashing stones together to form rudimentary cutting tools that proved crucial for our evolutionary success. A species armed with such tools, for example, would find it easier to acquire food by cutting meat from animal carcasses.

In recent years, other clues have suggested that another group of proto-humans that lived much earlier figured out stone-tool technology first. The new study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, bolsters that view.

Maker unknown, though possibly Kenyanthropus platytops.

April 15, 2015

I like this

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 7:02 pm

Study Suggests Chins Evolved as Faces Shrank

Scientists have debated for more than a century why modern humans are the only primates to sport chins. Young modern human children have nearly imperceptible chins, similar to Neanderthals, but they grow chins as they mature.
. . .
Team member Robert Franciscus, an anthropologist, suggests that as modern humans formed increasingly cooperative groups, and were less likely to fight over territory and belongings, reduced levels of hormones such as testosterone resulted in noticeable changes in the male craniofacial region—as the face became smaller, the chin became a bony prominence as a matter of geometry.

I’m not sure I go along with the whole hormonal/behavioral thing — I don’t know why our faces shrank and flattened out, apart from having something to do with our brains — but I like the non-functional approach; I suspect a lot of our anatomy has more to do with simple physics than any real “fitness” thing.

(Rock) Breaking news:

Filed under: Paleoanth — acagle @ 6:59 pm

World’s oldest stone tools discovered in Kenya

Researchers at a meeting here say they have found the oldest tools made by human ancestors—stone flakes dated to 3.3 million years ago. That’s 700,000 years older than the oldest-known tools to date, suggesting that our ancestors were crafting tools several hundred thousand years before our genus Homo arrived on the scene. If correct, the new evidence could confirm disputed claims for very early tool use, and it suggests that ancient australopithecines like the famed “Lucy” may have fashioned stone tools, too.

They don’t mention anything about any controversy regarding the actual tool status of the objects or the dating, so one assumes both are fairly secure. That would put another supposed hallmark of Homo back back into our ancestors.

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