Anthropology, News

Early modern humans were culturally diverse before leaving Africa

Stone tools from Kharga Oasis, Egypt, one of the archaeological sites used in the study. Photograph reproduced with kind permission from The British Museum

Early modern human populations were culturally diverse and sometimes exchanged tools helped by river networks in a then savanna rich Sahara, according to the biggest ever comparative study of stone tools dating to between 130,000 and 75,000 years ago. At least fourdistinct populations, each relatively isolated from each other, have been identified as possessing distinct cultural practices….

Anthropology, Climate, Environment, Green Living, News

Aboriginals boost kangaroo populations when hunting with fire

While they hunt kangaroos, aborigines in remote areas of Australia help boost marsupial populations by lighting bush fires. Image:

The Aboriginal Martu people have been hunting kangaroos and sand monitor lizards for over 2,000 years. During this time, the natives have not only lived sustainably, but also became unwilling conservationists helping kangaroo populations grow by sparking wild fires that help them catch lizards, a study by researchers at University of Utah found. In other remote areas where this subsistence practice ceased, the researchers recorded rapid declines in threatened species, which also might be due to increased predation by invasive predators. [ALSO READ] Kangaroos use their tail as an extra leg when walking Kangaroos and fires, who would’ve thought? “We have uncovered a framework that allows us to predict when human subsistence practices…


The hobbits may not be real – Flores bones show features of Down syndrome, not new species


In 2004, anthropologists and archaeologists working in Indonesia uncovered what was named “the biggest anthropological finding for 100 years” – fragmentary skeletal remains from the island of Flores were uncovered, appearing to be a new species: Homo floresiensis. But now, new research challenges that find, claiming that the uncovered skeletons were in fact just an abnormal human, most consistent with Down syndrome. We’ve written several articles describing studies on Homo floresiensis – in 2007, an international team of researchers led by the Smithsonian Institution described it as a 3-foot-tall, 18,000-year-old hominin skeleton with no chin, and less than one year later, Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand…

Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, News

Transition to civilization led to drop in testosterone


A study suggests that humanity’s transition to civilization coincided with a drop in testosterone. Less of the hormone is associated with less aggressive behavior and showing tolerance – both essential qualities to a thriving community. …

Anthropology, Diseases, News

Members of a previously uncontacted Amazonian tribe become infected with influenza

Three members of a recently contacted tribe walk with weapons in hand in Brazil. (c) FUNAI

A few months ago, I reported how Google is using its drones and Google Earth technology to monitor an uncontacted Amazonian tribe. Now, there’s convincing evidence that the same tribe has come in contact with non-indigenous locals, then with western researchers in the most unfortunate of circumstances. One, the contact was initiated by criminals operating illegal narcotrafficking whose routes apparently pass through the tribe’s territory. Allegedly they’ve been threatened and might be forced to relocate, something inconceivable for the locals. Second, the contact might result in dramatic consequences as some members were infected with influenza, a potentially fatal disease for the indigenous population since their immune system lacks non-native adaptation. Third degree…

Animals, Anthropology, News, Research

Chimp gesture language translated – they’re the only ones besides humans to intentionally communicate


If you’ve ever watched chimps during a nature program and became startled by your own empathy towards them, you’re not alone. It’s no secret that chimps are our closest relatives out of all primates, having 98% similar DNA. It goes further than genetics – it’s enough to look a chimp in the eye. The reflection is more than a physical mirror; there’s a connection, and a recent study shows yet again how ‘human’ chimps can be. After closely following chimps for thousands of hours, British researchers finally cracked chimps’ communication code. The result: we now have a dictionary of 66 chimp gestures, often and dynamically used by the primates to intentionally convey meaning to…

Anthropology, Discoveries, Genetics, News

Unique gene passed by extinct human species makes Tibetans superhuman

Tibetans acquired a unique gene by interbreeding with a now-extinct human species. Photo:

Advancements in genetic sequencing has allowed genomic research to flourish. DNA sequencing is now much faster, cheaper and accurate than ever before, and we’re only now beginning to reap the rewards. It’s the first step to a complete understanding of our bodies. The Human Genome Project, once finally completed, mapped and identified all the genes of the human genome. This helps us get an idea of where are, but to understand how we got here, we also need to peek into ancient DNA. For instance, a recent study found that Tibetans share at least one gene with the ancient Denisovans, an ancient human species that interbred with the Tibetan homo sapiens…

Anthropology, Environment, News

What countries do the most good for the planet? The results are surprising


It’s kind of strange that we often think about what countries are doing the most harm to the planet, but we rarely think which countries are doing the most good. Announced at the TEDSalon in Berlin, the Good Country Index measures just that, and the winners are quite surprising; the losers, not so much (sorry USA). What, Ireland ?! Yep, according to Simon Anholt, who’s spent the past two years compiling an index to determine which of the 125 countries do the most good. Even though it doesn’t really rank that good in terms of security and “greenness”, Ireland takes the top spot, followed closely by Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and New Zealand….

Anthropology, News

Oldest most complete skeleton found in the New World


In what is quite an exciting study, a mixed team of researchers and cave divers announced the discovery of a near-complete early American human skeleton with an intact cranium and preserved DNA. Over 40 meters (130 feet) below sea level, in the Hoyo Negro area in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, there lies an intricate cave system which was once above the sea. There, the divers found not only the bones from a teenage female, but also bones from extinct animals. “These discoveries are extremely significant,” said Pilar Luna, INAH’s director of underwater archaeology. “Not only do they shed light on the origins of modern Americans, they clearly demonstrate the paleontological potential…

Anthropology, Archaeology, News

Mysterious lines in Peru that predate the Nazca lines are directions to major fairs

The Paracas people built lines centuries before the Nazca people, but for a different purpose. Via Proceedings of National Academy of Science.

Rock lines discovered in Peru predate the famous Nazca lines by over 300 years, a new study concludes. However, the purpose of these lines was very different – to direct people to big trading sites and fairs. The lines were developed by the Paracas culture, which inhabited the Andes area around 800 B.C. – 100 B.C. The Nazca culture emerged shortly after their downfall, leaving behind the wonderful and huge geoglyphs, shaped like animals. However, there are few similarities between the two cultures, as researchers explain. “They used the lines in a different way than the Nazca,” Charles Stanish, the director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of…