Congenital defect is possible further evidence of inbreeding by Neanderthals at El Sidrón

High incidence of congenital clefts of the arch of the atlas observed among remains from Spanish site

The Atlas (C1) vertebra is the first cervical vertebra of the spine, immediately below the skull. It takes its name from the Greek Titan Atlas, who is popularly (but incorrectly) supposed to have held the world on his shoulders. Congenital defects of the anterior or posterior arches are rare in modern populations, occurring at frequencies of 0.087 to 0.1 percent and 0.73 to 3.84 percent respectively. The condition does not normally lead to clinical symptoms. Continue reading

Hitherto-unknown early human species discovered deep inside Rising Star Cave, South Africa

A team led by Lee Burger has announced the discovery of a new species of early human.

Professor Berger, an American palaeoanthropologist working at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, is known for Australopithecus sediba, announced in 2010 and at the time was the first new hominin species to be discovered in South Africa for decades. The discovery was when Matthew, Lee’s nine-year-old son, discovered a hominin collar bone embedded in a rock at Malapa, part of a now-eroded cave system near to Sterkfontein and Swartkrans, where many important hominin finds have been made. Continue reading

Radiocarbon dates used to trace possible origins of domesticated rice

Seven models tested against extensive archaeological database

Rice is one of the world’s most important cereal crops, and has supported dense human populations in Asia since Neolithic times. The origin and spread of domesticated rice is understandably of great interest to students of Asian prehistory and researchers have employed a variety of methods, including genetics, phytolith studies, from the presence of charred grains in archaeological excavations, and from rice husks in Neolithic pottery. Continue reading