Ancient engravings rewrite human history

4 December 2014

An international team of scientists has discovered the earliest known engravings from human ancestors on a 400,000 year-old fossilised shell from Java.

The discovery is the earliest known example of ancient humans deliberately creating pattern.

“It rewrites human history,” said Dr Stephen Munro from the School of Archaeology and Anthropology.

“This is the first time we have found evidence for Homo erectus behaving this way,” he said.

The newly discovered engravings resemble the previously oldest-known engravings, which are associated with either Neanderthals or modern humans from around 100,000 years ago.

The early date and the location of the discovery in Java discount the possibility that the engravings could have been the work of Neanderthals or modern humans.

“It puts these large bivalve shells and the tools used to engrave them, into the hands of Homo erectus, and will change the way we think about this early human species,” Dr Munro said.

It is unclear whether the pattern was intended as art or served some practical purpose.

The zig-zag pattern engravings were only recently discovered on fossilised mussel shells, which had been collected 100 years ago.

Dr Munro visited the Netherlands to study the collection, gathered by the discoverer of Homo erectus, Eugene Dubois, in Java in the late 19th Century.

However, he did not notice the markings on the fossils until he examined photographs he had taken, once back at ANU.

“It was a eureka moment. I could see immediately that they were man-made engravings. There was no other explanation,” Dr Munro said.

Following the discovery, an international team worked to establish the exact date of the shell, using two different methods to arrive at the final result of between 430,000 and 540,000 years old.

The team found that Homo erectus opened the shells by drilling a hole through the shell with a shark’s tooth, exactly at the point where the muscle is attached. Damaging muscles this way causes the valves of the shell to open, so that the contents can be eaten.

“It’s evidence that Homo erectus exploited these aquatic food resources, and fits with other evidence that they probably foraged in and around water,” Dr Munro said.

The discovery is published in Nature.

Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no

Disappearance of Neanderthals likely the result of competition from Homo sapiens, and not from poor adaptation to cold

In an extensive, multi-institution study led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center, researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans.

The study looked at the entire nasal complex of Neanderthals and involved researchers with diverse academic backgrounds. Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the research also indicates that the Neanderthal nasal complex was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans, and that the Neanderthals’ extinction was likely due to competition from modern humans and not an inability of the Neanderthal nose to process a colder and drier climate.

Samuel Márquez, PhD, associate professor and co-discipline director of gross anatomy in SUNY Downstate’s Department of Cell Biology, and his team of specialists published their findings on the Neanderthal nasal complex in the November issue of The Anatomical Record, which is part of a special issue on The Vertebrate Nose: Evolution, Structure, and Function (now online).

They argue that studies of the Neanderthal nose, which have spanned over a century and a half, have been approaching this anatomical enigma from the wrong perspective. Previous work has compared Neanderthal nasal dimensions to modern human populations such as the Inuit and modern Europeans, whose nasal complexes are adapted to cold and temperate climates.

However, the current study joins a growing body of evidence that the upper respiratory tracts of this extinct group functioned via a different set of rules as a result of a separate evolutionary history and overall cranial bauplan (bodyplan), resulting in a mosaic of features not found among any population of Homo sapiens. Thus Dr. Márquez and his team of paleoanthropologists, comparative anatomists, and an otolaryngologist have contributed to the understanding of two of the most controversial topics in paleoanthropology – were Neanderthals a different species from modern humans and which aspects of their cranial morphology evolved as adaptations to cold stress. Continue reading “Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no”

World’s oldest DNA is recovered from a 400,000-year-old thigh bone – and provides a new jigsaw piece in the history of evolution

  • Scientist reconstructed the mitochondrial genome from two grams of bone
  • They found early humans shared a common ancestor with the Denisovans
  • This was suprising as early humans were thought to share a common ancestor with Neanderthals due to similar skeletal features

By  Ellie Zolfagharifard

PUBLISHED: 13:09 EST, 4 December 2013 |  UPDATED: 13:47 EST, 4 December 2013

The world’s oldest human DNA has been recovered from the thigh bone of an ancestor that walked the Earth 400,000 years ago.

It belonged to a hominin, or early human, known as Homo heidelbergensis and provides a new vital piece of the jigsaw in the story of evolution.

Using a technique for retrieving and sequencing highly degraded ancient DNA, scientists were able to reconstruct the almost complete mitochondrial (mt) genome from just two grams of bone powder.

The thigh bone of a 400,000-year-old hominin 

The world’s oldest human DNA has been recovered from the thigh bone of an ancestor that walked the Earth 400,000 years ago

Continue reading “World’s oldest DNA is recovered from a 400,000-year-old thigh bone – and provides a new jigsaw piece in the history of evolution”

The big male nose


New study explains why men’s noses are bigger than women’s
By:
Richard C. Lewis | 2013.11.18 | 11:26 AM
nasal comparison
Male noses grow disproportionately larger than female noses beginning at puberty, a University of Iowa study has found. The reason: Males need to breathe in more oxygen to feed muscle mass than females. Image courtesy of the College of Dentistry.

Human noses come in all shapes and sizes. But one feature seems to hold true: Men’s noses are bigger than women’s.

Continue reading “The big male nose”

Ancient humans ‘rampantly interbred’ with Neanderthals and a mystery species in Lord Of The Rings-style world of different creatures

  • Genome  analysis of Neanderthal and human-like group called  Denisovans
  • It reveals  ancient bedfellows may have included  ‘mystery human ancestor’
  • Has been  likened to Lord Of The Rings world of creatures which  interbred

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 17:13 EST, 19  November 2013 |  UPDATED: 09:55 EST, 20 November 2013

Ancient humans rampantly indulged in  interspecies sex in a Lord Of The Rings-type world of different  human  groups, new DNA analysis has revealed.

And our ancient bedfellows appear to have  included a ‘mystery human ancestor’, which has not yet been identified.

Genome analysis from a Neanderthal and  another group of ancient humans, the Denisovans, was presented to a meeting of  the Royal Society in London, and it included ‘snippets’ of  the mystery  DNA  – neither human nor Neanderthal.

It suggests that interbreeding was rampant  and more widespread between the human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more  than 30,000 years ago than previously thought, scientists say.

Researchers compared DNA from Neanderthals (skull, pictured) and another group of ancient humans called Denisovans 

Researchers compared DNA from Neanderthals (skull,  pictured) and another group of ancient humans called Denisovans

Continue reading “Ancient humans ‘rampantly interbred’ with Neanderthals and a mystery species in Lord Of The Rings-style world of different creatures”

Wanted: ‘Adventurous woman’ to give birth to Neanderthal man – Harvard professor seeks mother for cloned cave baby

EEV: Update: Professor Claims his was misunderstood, and is not looking for a Neanderthal Mother:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/im-no-dr-moreau-harvard-professor-says-he-is-not-looking-for-a-woman-to-give-birth-to-a-neanderthal-blaming-reports-on-a-poor-translation-8461707.html

By  Allan Hall

PUBLISHED: 10:36 EST, 20  January 2013 |  UPDATED: 12:49 EST, 20 January 2013

Back to life: This model of Neanderthal Man shows what the extinct species may have once looked like
Back to life: This model of Neanderthal Man shows what  the extinct species may have once looked like

A leading geneticist is on the hunt for an  ‘adventurous woman’ to help turn back the hands of time – and give birth to a  Neanderthal baby.

George Church, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical  School, believes he can bring back the extinct ancestor of modern man after more  than 33,000 years.

Contrary to popular belief, Neanderthals were  in fact a highly intelligent race and  Prof Church believes they could be recreated through modern medicine.

He told German magazine, Der  Spiegel: ‘I  have already managed to  attract enough DNA from fossil bones to  reconstruct the DNA of the human  species largely extinct. Now I need an  adventurous female human.

‘It depends on a lot of things, but I think  it can be done. The reason I would  consider it a  possibility is that a bunch of technologies are developing faster  than  ever before.

‘In particular, reading and writing DNA is  now about a  million times faster than seven or eight years ago.

‘Another technology that the  de-extinction  of a Neanderthal would require is human cloning.

‘We can  clone all kinds of mammals, so it’s  very likely that we could clone a  human. Why shouldn’t we be able to do so?”

Prof Church, 58, is a pioneer in synthetic  biology, which aims is to create synthetic DNA and organisms in the  laboratory.

During the 1980s, he helped initiate the  Human Genome Project that created a map of the human genome.

Cloning the caveman: Geneticist Professor George Church
Cloning the caveman: Geneticist Professor George  Church

He admits his project may have shades of  Frankenstein about it, but he believes recreating Neanderthals would benefit  mankind.

Prof Church added: ‘Neanderthals might think  differently than we do. We know that they had a larger cranial size. They could  even be more intelligent than us.

‘When the time comes to deal with an epidemic  or getting off the planet or whatever, it’s conceivable that their way of  thinking could be beneficial.

‘They could maybe even create a new  neo-Neanderthal culture and become a political force. The main goal is to  increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity.

‘This is true for culture or evolution, for  species and also for whole societies. If you become a monoculture, you are at  great risk of perishing.

‘Therefore the recreation of Neanderthals  would be mainly a question of societal risk avoidance.’

The geneticist also explains how the process  could theoretically be carried out.

‘The first thing you have to do is to  sequence the Neanderthal genome, and that has actually been done.

‘The next step would be to chop this genome  up into, say, 10,000 chunks and then synthesize these. Finally, you would  introduce these chunks into a human stem cell.

Big ideas: Contrary to belief, Neanderthals had a larger brain size and may have been more intelligent than humans
Big ideas: Contrary to belief, Neanderthals had a larger  brain size and may have been more intelligent than humans

‘If we do that often enough, then we would  generate a stem cell line that would get closer and closer to the corresponding  sequence of the Neanderthal.

‘We developed the semi-automated procedure  required to do that in my lab.

‘Finally, we assemble all the chunks in a  human stem cell, which would enable you to finally create a Neanderthal  clone.’

Bringing the past alive: A scene from the film Jurassic Park, which suggested dinosaurs could be recreated through DNA trapped in amber
Bringing the past alive: A scene from the film Jurassic  Park, which suggested dinosaurs could be recreated through DNA trapped in  amber

The missing puzzle in his plan is a surrogate  mother for the project, who would be a human female.

According to experts, Prof Church’s plan is  technically possible.

Many of his suggestions formed the central  plot-line of the 1993 Steven Spielberg film Jurassic Park, in which dinosaur DNA  that had been embedded in chunks of amber was extracted to recreate the monsters  that once dominated Earth.

Neanderthals are named after the site in the  Neander Valley, Germany, where archaeologists first discovered the species in  1856 – three years before Charles Darwin published his On The Origin Of  Species.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2265402/Wanted-Adventurous-woman-birth-Neanderthal-man–Harvard-professor-seeks-mother-cloned-cave-baby.html#ixzz2IY5dBIlh Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook