Anthropology

In recent years, DNA evidence has added important new tools for scientists studying the human past, and a collection of reviews published in a recent issue of Current Biology offers a timely update on how new genetic evidence, together with archaeological and linguistic evidence, has enriched our understanding of human history.

The journey started around 60 to 70 thousand years ago in Africa, where modern humans evolved more than 150 thousand years ago, and where human diversity is still the highest among all continents in terms of genetic variation and languages. From there, humans settled Europe and South Asia and reached Oceania. The Americas (apart from the remote Oceanian islands) were settled last.
An analysis of the skeletal remains found in Carthaginian burial urns could finally lay to rest the millennia-old conjecture that the ancient empire of Carthage regularly sacrificed its youngest citizens. An examination of the remains of Carthaginian children revealed that most infants perished prenatally or very shortly after birth and were unlikely to have lived long enough to be sacrificed.

The findings, published this week in PLoS ONE, refute claims from as early as the 3rd century BCE of systematic infant sacrifice at Carthage that remain a subject of debate among biblical scholars and archaeologists. Authors of the new study say it's more likely that very young Punic children were cremated and interred in burial urns regardless of how they died.
Based on new radiocarbon dating evidence for the Late Aurignacian of Portugal, an archaeological culture unquestionably associated with modern humans,  an international team of researchers claims that the last Neanderthals in Europe died out approximately 37,000 years ago.

The new paper, published in PLoS ONE builds on earlier research which proposed that, south of the Cantabro-Pyrenean mountain chain, Neanderthals survived for several millennia after being replaced or assimilated by anatomically modern humans everywhere else in Europe.
Conservation efforts aimed at protecting Gorillas And Elephants in African parks and reserves  are well intentioned but are often based on incorrect assumptions about the local culture, say Purdue University anthropologists. In a new Conservation Biology paper, the team says that understanding local human communities is key to protecting the wildlife they live alongside.
Researchers from the University of Bristol have analyzed the teeth of a 30,000-year-old child originally found in the Abrigo do Lagar Velho, Portugal in 1998. Classified as a modern human with Neanderthal ancestry, the child raises controversial questions about how extensively Neanderthals and modern human groups of African descent interbred when they came into contact in Europe
December 8 SPIEGEL ONLINE has two articles posted on skulls. The former covers a stone age mystery in a town called Herxheim in Germany. We read a graphic description of cannibalism during the demise of a small settlement 7 millennia ago. Yet nearby Speyer celebrates this year its 2,000-year anniversary with a postage stamp. There were surely mass migrations long before the arrival of the Romans in the area 2,000 years ago as the neolithic map (below) marks them as well as two-way trips between Africa and Sicily not shown on the map. Many bones and skulls were located in two shallow ditches that surround ten buildings.
What do you think is the number one reason men gave for cheating on their long term partner?

a) Primarily Sexual Dissatisfaction
b) Other/no dissatisfaction
c) Equal Emotional and Sexual Dissatisfaction
d) Primarily Emotional Dissatisfaction

To find out the answer listen to the audio blog.

[ Men and Infidelity ]
Hormones called androgens are considered important in the development of masculine characteristics like aggression and strength and some believe that prenatal androgens affect finger length during development in the womb.

High levels of androgens, such as testosterone, increase the length of the fourth finger in comparison to the second finger. Some archaeologists and anthropologists are using finger ratios as an indicator of the levels of exposure to the hormone and recently compared this data with social behavior in primate groups. 
By studying the Y chromosome from human dental remains from the Canary Islands, researchers have determined the origin and evolution of paternal lineages from the pre-Hispanic era to the present day. To date, only mitochondrial DNA had been studied, which merely reflects the evolution of maternal lineages, but a team of Spanish and Portuguese researchers carried out molecular genetic analysis of the Y chromosome (transmitted only by males) of the aboriginal population of the Canary Islands to determine their origin and the extent to which they have survived in the current population.

The results suggest a North African origin for these paternal lineages which, unlike maternal lineages, have declined to the point of being practically replaced today by European lineages.


The enormous difference between high and low tide in Haida Gwaii – up to twenty three vertical feet – means that twice a day, vast swathes of shellfish are unveiled, free for the taking.

An ancient Haida saying is still often heard today, “When the tide is out, the table is set.”