Anthropology, Genetics, News

First ancient African genome sequenced

The site from the Mota cave where the 4,500 Ethiopian man was found. Image: Kathryn and John Arthur

The complete genetic code book of a person who lived 4,500 years ago in Ethiopia was completed by US researchers. Although much older genomes have been sequenced, like those of 38,000 year-old Neanderthals, samples from African forefathers have proven difficult to sequence as the DNA is often destroyed by accelerated decay, driven by tropical conditions. As such, this is the first time a complete genome retrieval was performed from an ancient human in Africa. In this light, the findings are very important: they suggest even older DNA could be retrieved – maybe even millions of years back to the age of other species of the homo genus.

Anthropology, News, Psychology, Science, Studies

Innovation 101 – migratory study offers insight into how humans develop new technology and ideas

Image via whitecoatblacksheep

The human inovation process is more of a slow, steady climb than a sum of great leaps, a new University of Reading study shows. Our minds tend to innovate by adding small improvements through trial and error report the scientists, who studied one of the most important cultural events in human history – the migration of the Bantu-speaking farmers in Africa some 5,000 years ago. Mark Pagel, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University, led the study.

Anthropology, News

New human ancestor, Homo naledi, discovered in a hidden pit, deep inside a South African cave

An artist impression of how Homo naledi must have looked like based on skull scans. Image: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic

A daring team of researchers squeezed themselves through a long vertical chute and descended some 40 meters beneath the surface. It was here inside the Rising Star cave, located in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Johannesburg in South Africa, that the researchers discovered one of the most important collection of hominins in the world – 1,500 bone fragments belonging to 15 skeletons. The remains clearly belonged to a human ancestor, and the team involved claims we’re talking, in fact, about a totally new hominin.

Anthropology, News

Basque people, who to this day speak a prehistoric language, came from early Iberic farmers

basque country

Basques – an ethnic group from modern day Spain – were thought to be direct descendants of hunter-gatherers who had managed to remain isolated during the initial wave of migration of early farmers in Western Europe. A comprehensive genetic analysis performed by scientists at Uppsala University suggests the Basques are more related to early farmers than hunter gatherers. Instead, what likely happens is that these early farmers kept to themselves and resisted breeding with later migratory waves.

Anthropology, Biology, News

Ancient shoulders point to our ape past

A hypothesized model of shoulder shape evolution from African ape-like (top left) to modern human (bottom right) including predicted ancestral forms (grey) and hominin fossils: Australopithecus afarensis (DIK 1-1 developmental simulation, top right), Australopithecus sediba (MH2, middle left), Homo ergaster (KNM WT15000, middle right), Homo neanderthalensis (Kebara 2, bottom middle). Credits: Nathan Young.

A new study shows that evolution’s burden is distinctly visible on our shoulders – literally. Our shoulders are surprisingly similar to those of orangutans, as opposed to those of our closest relatives, chimp. This may have an important significance on our evolution.

Anthropology, Archaeology, News

Mysterious Russian idol is the oldest wooden object in the world


More than twice the age of the Stonehenge, the Shigit Idol has been recently dated to 11,000 years ago, which makes it the oldest wooden object in existence by far. The idol is also covered with some drawings which may actually be a written language that no one understands. The idol was originally discovered in 1897, and the first carbon

Anthropology, News

Earliest baboon found in a cave littered with hominid fossils

Olive baboon

A beautifully preserved skull fragment belonging to the earliest baboon species was found in a South African cave. The site in Malapa has constantly offered archaeologists and anthropologists plenty of work, since it was populated by various hominid species across millions of years. In fact, it is here that scientists discovered a distinct hominid species, Australopithecus sediba, for the first time. Apart from the ancient baboon, no other non-hominid animal was found in the cave.

Anthropology, Archaeology, News

Scientists find 1.85 million year old human-like bone

The hand is one of the critical features distinguishing humans, and even a 3.6 cm(1.5-inch), two-million-year-old fragment provides valuable clues. Image credits: M. Domínguez-Rodrigo.

Anthropologists have discovered the oldest known fossil of a bone resembling that of humans; the 1.85 million year old bone is the oldest evidence of a ‘modern’ hand and suggests that ancient humans may have been much larger than previously thought. A key feature that distinguishes humans from other species is the ability to create and use tools. But in order to

Anthropology, Biology, News

Bonobos use flexible “baby communication”

Bonobo (Pan paniscus) mother and infant at Lola ya Bonobo

Researchers have found that just like babies, bonobos exhibit a type of communication in which they use the same sound with different intonations to say different things. They use these high pitch “peeps” to express their emotions.

Anthropology, Archaeology, News

Amateur archaeologists find 560,000 year old human tooth

Volunteer archaeologists Camille and Valentin pose for the cameras in the Arago cave. Camille, 16, found the adult tooth, which dates back 565,000 years

A half a million year old human tooth was discovered in France in a place called Tautavel, one of Europe’s most important prehistoric caves. Anthropologists hailed the discovery as an extremely important one, with chief researcher Tony Chevalier calling it a “major discovery”.