Early modern human from Romania had recent Neanderthal ancestor

Ancient DNA from Peştera cu Oase demonstrates inbreeding no more than four to six generations previously

The cave site of Peştera cu Oase (‘Cave with Bones’) in Romania has yielded some of the earliest fossil remains of modern humans in Europe. The remains of three individuals recovered from the site include a largely-complete lower jawbone (Oase 1), the near-complete skull of a 15-year-old adolescent, and a left temporal bone. The remains are around 40,000 years old and exhibit a mosaic of modern and archaic features. Modern features include the absence of browridges, a narrow nasal aperture, and a prominent chin; but there are also archaic features such as a wide dental arcade and very large molars. There is little doubt that they are modern humans and not Neanderthals, but some aspects of the morphology are consistent with Neanderthal ancestry. Continue reading

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Did Aboriginal Australians rediscover boats after over 20,000 years?

Evidence for human activity on island in ancient mega-lake

Lake Mungo is the largest of a series of 19 now dried up lakes making up the Willandra Lakes system. The region is a World Heritage Site covering 2,400 sq. km (925 sq. miles) in southwest New South Wales, about 1,000 km (620 miles) west of Sydney. The water levels in the lakes remained high until 45,000 years ago and then began to decline. They dried up completely 22,000 years ago, and have remained dry ever since. However, a recent survey has shown that 24,000 years ago, Lake Mungo underwent a sudden massive filling episode, increasing its depth by 5 m (16 ft.) and its volume by 250 percent. Lake Mungo became linked to its neighbour, Lake Leaghur, at two overflow points, so creating an island in between. Continue reading

Neanderthals and Humans

This phrase, unqualified, needs to disappear. It is particularly disappointing to see it in scientific journals. We know it means ‘Neanderthals and modern humans’ but as it reads the implication is that Neanderthals are not human, or at very least, less human than Homo sapiens. So please – it’s an extra word, but it makes all the difference – ‘Neanderthals and modern humans’ from now on.