Analysis of 60,000 – 45,000 year old coprolites provides insight into Neanderthal diet
Neanderthal dietary reconstructions have, to date, been based on archaeological evidence, stable isotope data and studies of dental calculus. These suggest that they were predominantly meat eaters, although plant foods made a contribution to their diet. Hitherto, there has been no direct evidence for an omnivorous diet.
New study supports ‘accretion’ model
A new study, published in the journal Science, has provided support for the ‘accretion’ model of Neanderthal evolution. ‘Classic’ Neanderthals, i.e. humans possessing the full suite of Neanderthal characteristics, do not appear in the fossil record until 130,000 years ago. However, French palaeoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin has proposed that Neanderthal characteristics appeared gradually over time, in a piecemeal fashion. Continue reading
Plato (circa 427-347 BC) made contributions to practically every field of human interest and is undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers of all times. However it is just as well that his political ideas didn’t catch on (except possibly in North Korea); additionally Platonic Realism bogged down biological science until Darwin and Wallace’s time.
What we know now
A topic of perennial interest to scholars and lay people alike is did Neanderthals and modern humans interbreed? Until recently, there was no strong evidence one way or another, although there was no reason to suppose that they did not. While Neanderthals would certainly have appeared strange to modern humans and vice versa, they would not necessarily have seemed unattractive to each other. For a present-day human, having sex with a Neanderthal could be a somewhat hazardous affair, given the considerably superior physical strength of the latter. To the rather more powerfully-built Homo sapiens of that era, it might have been less of an issue. There is no reason to suppose that such a union would not have led to viable and probably fertile offspring, as is often the case among closely-related species.
Ancient and modern mitochondrial DNA study links PPNB to modern populations of Cyprus and Crete
In recent years, ancient DNA has been obtained from Neolithic human remains, and this has provided a more reliable picture of the genetic impact of the European Neolithic than was possible with genetic studies of living populations. However, researchers have been hampered by the lack of data from the original farmers of Southwest Asia.
Post-Howieson’s Poort Sibudan tradition was not ‘unstructured and unsophisticated’
Archaeologists have long believed that the later part of the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) was characterised by conservative technologies punctuated by the appearance of technologically-sophisticated but short-lived technocomplexes such as the Stillbay and Howieson’s Poort traditions of South Africa. These traditions are noted for finely-worked stone points, microliths, tools made from bone, and innovative technologies including pressure flaking and compound adhesives. Various theories involving population collapses have been put forward to account for their disappearance and the reversion to comparatively unsophisticated prepared-core industries.