Monthly Archives: January 2011

Neanderthal as sprinters?

This is what some researchers from Moscow State University are proposing, according to Russia-InfoCenter. Neanderthals would have been actually specialist sprinters and that was what (allegedly) allowed them to hunt with heavy spears:

The ancient hunter could have crawled towards an animal as close as possible, and then had run as fast as he could, throwing a javelin, while running. However, a heavy spear is much more effective at small distances, than a light javelin. Calculations show that Neanderthal men had been able to cover 15-20 meters within 1-2 seconds, which is enough for a unexpected and successful attack. This means that Homo neanderthalensis were fast and accurate hunters, not clumsy snails as some may think.

Other details of their physiognomy are that they surely preferred to squat above sitting, because they lacked an intermediate layer of fat and muscle on their butts. They also got easily tired of long term standing, the researchers suggest.

Originally from Stone Pages’ Archaeo News.


Posted by on January 31, 2011 in human evolution, Middle Paleolithic, Neanderthal


Fox as pet 16 Ka ago?

This is more a curiosity than anything else but it’d seem a fox was a pet some 16,000 years ago in Jordan, being buried with its human symbiont. 
Full story at Past Horizons (originally from AiE).

Posted by on January 29, 2011 in archaeology, fox, Upper Paleolithic


Coastal route through Arabia 130,000 years ago confirmed?

A new paper on Arabian archaeological sites is making that claim. So far (Petraglia 2010) we had a limitation with dates only reaching in Arabia Peninsula as early as 90 Ka, while in South Asia and maybe other places these were probably quite older. Not anymore.

The timing of the dispersal of anatomically modern humans (AMH) out of Africa is a fundamental question in human evolutionary studies. Existing data suggest a rapid coastal exodus via the Indian Ocean rim around 60,000 years ago. We present evidence from Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates, demonstrating human presence in eastern Arabia during the last interglacial. The tool kit found at Jebel Faya has affinities to the late Middle Stone Age in northeast Africa, indicating that technological innovation was not necessary to facilitate migration into Arabia. Instead, we propose that low eustatic sea level and increased rainfall during the transition between marine isotope stages 6 and 5 allowed humans to populate Arabia. This evidence implies that AMH may have been present in South Asia before the Toba eruption (1).

The actual dates collected from the site are of as early as 123-127 Ka (supp. material is freely available).

Location of Jebel Faya and other key sites (dotted line: Pleistocene coast)

Other sources: Eureka Alert, Science Daily.

Related in this blog: Some key archaeological papers on the ‘coastal route’.


Orangutans and us

There is a couple of genetic stories on those our red-haired cousins from Indonesia and their genomes, and ours…

On one side A. Hobolth and colleagues call our attention to the fact that parts of our genome are closer to orangutans than to chimpanzees or bonobos, our closest relatives. This does not change anything in regards to our degree of relatedness just tells us of some genes that have evolved in the Pan genus and not in the Homo one.

Refs.: Science Daily story, paper at Genome Research (pay per view).

Meanwhile D. P. Locke and colleagues argue that Orangutan genome has evolved much less than ours or that of our Pan cousins. This is particularly true in regards to Alu elements, which have accumulated very fast in our species, at half that rhythm in Chimpanzees and almost not at all in Orangutans.

Refs. Science Daily story, article at Nature (open).

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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in biology, human evolution, human genetics, orangutan


On strike

January 27th is a struggle journey in the Southern Basque Country against the attempts by the Spanish state and the Euro-banksters to demolish the system of pensions… just because… because they will make no money out of this reform: it is just a sign of bowing before the masters of International Capital without any purpose at all.
If they are so needy of budget cuts (lies!), first they should lower the salaries of the king, the ministers, the state councilors, parliament members, generals, subsecretaries, judges, etc. The next one is to cut the military budget: bring the troops from Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Ceuta and Melilla, then police budget, and so on.
Ultimately it will be unavoidable to declare bankruptcy, just not to bear the burden of loans, but first of all is to cut the salary of the king, of the prime minister, of the generals and the judges. They can afford a little haircut or a dozen, believe me.
The strike has been extended to other parts of Spain as anarcho-syndicalist, Catalan and Galician unions have joined this call.
But the strike begins now and this blog joins it.
General strike – closed
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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in blogging


Is X-DNA lineage Neanderthal?

Upon the recent discoveries of Neanderthal and other archaic admixture in modern humans, it arose in the debates occasionally this almost forgotten matter of an X-linked haplotype that looked very much non-African. However Africa had only been sampled poorly back in that time and we lacked any confirmation on this haplotype being present or not in the Neanderthal genetic pool.
According to a new paper this X-DNA haplotype, known as B006, fits well with Neanderthal genetic data and is therefore a likely case of Neanderthal lineage among us.

Frequency of B006 worldwide

It was previously known that the lineage was most common among Europeans and Native Americans, though maybe most diverse in Central-NE Asia. Almost nothing was known then about its presence among South Asians or Australian Aborigines and the little knowledge of the African scatter (mostly among Burkinabe peoples, with one Ethiopian individual as well) has been confirmed, it seems.

But most importantly B006 shares both mutations divergent from the ancestral (Chimpanzee) form among all those analyzed in the Neanderthal genome. One is common to most modern human lineages but the other transition is unique to B006 and the Neanderthal lineage:

In the available Neandertal sequence (Green et al. 2010), there is information on 20 out of 35 dys44 polymorphic sites. These represent eighteen ancestral and two derived alleles, fully matching the corresponding sites of B006 (Table 1). One of the derived alleles, C of  rs6631517, is also shared with other dys44 haplotypes, whereas the second one, G of  rs11795471, is unique to B006 (the information on two remaining B006-polymorphisms is not available).
While not yet fully demonstrated (further B006 haplotypes should be considered along further Neanderthal ones as well), the idea, until now purely speculative, of this lineage being a Neanderthal one, clearly gains strength with this paper’s work.

Basque History open course

If you are by Bilbao in February you may want to take part in the course of Basque History that will be offered by the veteran People’s Institute of Social Studies (GITES-IPES), access to which will be free. 
As Bilboko Branka reports, all conferences will be open access at the Old Quarter’s Civic Center (“La Bolsa” building) and are scheduled as follow:
Otsailak 5, larunbata. 9:30etan (Sat. Feb. 5 – 9:30)
“Vascones y sus vecinos en la Antiguedad” (Basques and their neighbors in Antiquity)
  • “El contexto preromano” (The pre-Roman context) Xabier Peñalver arkeologoa
  • “Presencia romana: arqueologia” (Roman presence: archaeology) Mertxe Urteaga arkeologoa
  • “Vascones, visigodos y francos” (Vascones, Visigoths and Frankish) Javier Arce irakaslea
Otsailak 8, asteartea. 19:00etan (Tue. Feb. 8 – 19:00)
“Relaciones y conflictos sociales en los territorios vascos en el marco del feudalismo” (Social relationships and conflicts in the Basque lands in the context of Feudalism), Jon Andoni Fernandez de Larrea irakaslea
Otsailak 10, osteguna. 19:00etan (Thu. Feb. 10 – 19:00)
“Euskal Herriaren Historia merkantilismoaren garaian” (Basque History in the age of Mercantilism), Joseba Zuazo, Historia Modernoaren irakaslea Letren Fakultatean. EHU
Otsailak 15, asteartea. 19:00etan (Tue. Feb. 15 – 19:00)
“Frantziako iraultzatik industria iraultzara Euskal herrian” (From the French Revolution to the Industrial Revolution in the Basque Country), Txema Uriarte Historian doktorea
Otsailak 19, larunbata. 9:30etan (Sat. Feb 19 – 9:30)
“Euskal XX. mendeari buruz: erronkak, itxaropenak eta lorpenak”,  (On the Basque 20th century: conflicts, hopes and achievements) Eneko Bidegain euskal idazle eta kazetaria, eta Josu Txueka Historia Garaikidearen irakaslea Gizarte eta Komunikazio Zientzien Fakultatean. EHU
I understand that the operative language of each conference (Basque or Spanish) is defined by the language used in the original title.
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Basque history, Bilbao, education


Wiki created

Waiting to be filled with content…

A lot of debates take place here and elsewhere but often I feel the lack of a more solid and encyclopedic goal-oriented repository. Blog posts seldom get any attention for more than a few days (and when they do there’s a huge risk that they have become obsolete). So I think a more stable repository is needed.
Feel free to add to it, within the basic criteria of objectivity and neutral point of view. If you need to write subjectively (opinion article), make a subpage on the main subject and describe it as opinion article and sign it (on top).
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in population genetics, Prehistory, wiki


Meditation changes the brain

A new study has confirmed that meditation, reported to increase awareness and calmness, actually does alter the brain. 
Participants in an 8 week meditation program practiced some 30 minutes of the exercises (similar to yoga) every day. As result their brains showed increase of grey matter in the hippocampus (learning and memory) and decrease of grey matter in the amygdala (fear and stress). No change was detected in the insula (self-awareness), reported to have changed in previous studies. The authors suspect that longer practice is needed for this last.
No such changes were detected in the control group, showing that the plastic changes in the brain were caused by the meditation exercises. 
Full story at Science Daily.

Ref. (pay per view): Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazar. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in mind, psychology


Grape domesticated West Asia

Kambiz mentions today this paper at
Archaeological evidence suggests that grape domestication took place in the South Caucasus between the Caspian and Black Seas and that cultivated vinifera then spread south to the western side of the Fertile Crescent, the Jordan Valley, and Egypt by 5,000 y ago (1, 21). Our analyses of relatedness between vinifera and sylvestris populations are consistent with archaeological data and support a geographical origin of grape domestication in the Near East (Fig. 4 and Table 1).
He also mentions that the oldest known wine barrel is from Armenia
I understand that the data of fig. 4 suggest a domestication area between Turkey and Pakistan, with emphasis in the Caucasus region: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Daghestan specially. However Pakistani wild varieties cluster well also and I’d say it cannot be discarded that at least part of the development of this delicatessen crop happened maybe in the context of South Asian Neolithic.

Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Caucasus, Neolithic, South Asia, West Asia