November 30, 2011

Echoes from the Past (Nov 30) - The oldest rock art and other stuff

Again, in short notice, a lot of interesting stuff. Most notably the portrait of the largest bird ever but also a lot of new info on Neanderthal (and Erectus!) Europe, the Iruña-Veleia archaeological scandal, etc.

First of all the giant duck:

Australian Aboriginal Rock Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct for 40,000 Years : Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) - hat tip to David. The giant bird depicted at Niwarla Gabarnmung is not an emu but a Genyornis newtoni, the largest bird that ever existed. Its extinction date, c. 40,000 years ago, is the most recent possible date for the artwork therefore.



Middle Paleolithic

The origins of Neanderthals could be in Atapuerca

Pileta de Prehistoria: Atapuerca hominins could be a sister species to Neanderthals[es]. Actually much more is claimed in fact: that they are more related to Neanderthals than any other fossil known and that, for that reason and because of chronology, they are the best candidate to be the direct ancestors of Homo neanderthalensis.


A possible issue is that the site of Atapuerca has provided such a huge number of hominin bones that it is very difficult to compare with even the whole collection of all other European sites.


Serbian Homo erectus in the age of Neanderthals


They have found a Homo ergaster or H. erectus dated to before 110,000 (preliminary dating suggested 130-250,000 years). In this period it was believed that only Neanderthals lived in Europe already. Are these 'erectus' related to the equally mysterious occupation of Crete also before 130,000 years ago?

Update: the reference paper is this one (hat tip to Neanderthalerin):


Mirjana Roksandic et al., A human mandible (BH-1) from the Pleistocene deposits of Mala Balanica cave (Sićevo Gorge, Niš, Serbia). Journal of Human Evolution 2011. Pay per view.


Other MP:

BBC News - Moreton-in-Marsh Stone Age axe find leads to seaside theory - a Mousterian axe in England with a whole theory on the environment it was once used.


Upper Paleolithic


Beautifully preserved bulls of Qurta

Franchthi Cave revisited: the age of the Aurignacian in south-eastern Europe << Antiquity. The Aurignacian of Greece overlaps at both sides of the Campanian Ignimbrite Eruption c. 41,000 years ago.

Shell ornaments from Franchthi





Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age


Pileta de Prehistoria: "Guide to Galician Petroglyphs" presented[es] - the book (in Galician language) can be found here. It is notable that the authors emphasize the similitudes with petroglyphs from other areas, be them in the Iberian Plateau or in Ireland. Faro de Vigo[es] titles: 4000 years ago there was a single language that linked the British Islands and Galicia.


Iron Age

Iruña-Veleia scandal

New step in the legal and scholarly controversy on the exceptional findings at the Vasco-Roman site of Iruña-Veleia: state attorney demands physical tests to Basque Autonomous Police. Previously the defense had asked for them to be made by the Guardia Civil (Spanish military police corps, similar to the French gendarmerie or Italian carabinieri).

Various mentions in Spanish:

Also  in relation to the Iruña-Veleia scandal Iruina blog tells us[es] (with video reports) that some scientists have exhausted their patience with the local politicians and tribunals and the abuses that they are inflicting on this most important archaeological site (not just for the history of Basques but also for that of the late provincial Roman Empire, including the origins of Romance languages and new religions like Christianity and Isianism) and have decided to bring the matter to the international arena, so the finger of shame would point to those guilty of unforgivable archaeological destruction.  


Human genetics and biology

Maluku people are one genetically regardless of language:


1-China (Han), 2-Austronesian speakers (Maluku), 3-Papuan speakers (Maluku), 4-Highland New Guinea


Other:

Sandwalk: What William the Conqueror's Companions Teach Us about Effective Population Size - An interesting meditation on key concepts of population genetics, using the well known historical incident of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 that almost turned the Brits into provincial French:
Let's assume that there are 20 well-documented companions [of William the Conqueror]. Only one of these (William Mallet) has possibly passed on his Y chromosome to the present time and even that male line of descent is disputed. This is fully consistent with our understanding of genetics when you consider that most male lines are likely to die out in a few generations. Those that survive ten generations or so are unlikely to become extinct since there will likely be several male lines at that time.
So what were you saying about Genghis Khan?


 

14 comments:

  1. Coincidentally, it is believed that I descend from William Mallet, the companion of William the Conqueror, but as they say it's disputed.

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  2. Aha, very curious. I did not expect any reader to be affected by that anecdote, much less for him to know.

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  3. "They have found a Homo ergaster or H. erectus dated to before 110,000 (preliminary dating suggested 130-250,000 years). In this period it was believed that only Neanderthals lived in Europe already. Are these 'erectus' related to the equally mysterious occupation of Crete also before 130,000 years ago?"

    Isn't this finding the same as that:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047248411000674

    In the case of being true, what were they doing (erectus) in Serbia, if that was a neandertal area? Any thoughts?

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  4. Looks like that is the paper, yes. Thanks for the finding.

    ... "what were they doing (erectus) in Serbia, if that was a neandertal area? Any thoughts?"

    Honestly not many but let me digress a bit randomly brainstorm style, ok.

    We may want to clarify what was "Neanderthal area" in each period. When I posted the human evolution maps more than a year ago (notwithstanding that they may have some errors or arguable aspects) I marked Neanderthals (before 60 Ka ago) in Perigord, the Low Countries, Italy and Croatia and then in the Levant and Caucasus but the Balcans and Anatolia show no individuals.

    Is might be possible that a pocket of H. heidelbergensis remained in that area or that a group of Homo ergaster from Africa or the Levant arrived (I say Africa because the quartz axes from Crete were described as African-like Acheulean) and took over that region more or less intermittently (notice that we're talking of long time brackets of many many thousands of years and of small mobile populations).

    There may have been an advance of H. ergaster with coastal economy prior to the advance of Neanderthals towards West Asia (I understand that the Levantine Neanderthal sites are not too old).

    But I'm digressing, hunching at various possibilities. Notice that the date is not too precise anyhow, so caution is quite adequate.

    But still I can't but remember that when I read on the Cretan axes I speculated on non-Neanderthals non-Sapiens (because of the technology) and some people asked me to renounce to such kind of heretic ideas... It is funny to recall when, so unexpectedly, further indications point into that same direction that appeared as so extremely unlikely just a couple of years ago.

    I think this is just another reason to keep the mind wide open and not to dismiss paths that remain half-open as if they'd be totally closed.

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  5. "The origins of Neanderthals could be in Atapuerca"

    Actually makes sense. Neanderthals are more 'European' than anything else.

    "There may have been an advance of H. ergaster with coastal economy prior to the advance of Neanderthals towards West Asia (I understand that the Levantine Neanderthal sites are not too old)".

    So Neanderthals are probably not too old in Iran either. Wouldn't that mean that 'modern' humans faced no inhabitants there when they first emerged from Africa some 100,000 years ago?

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  6. Maju: I remember a discussion between you and David from Prehistoria al Dia about this mandible. You said something like that only with one fragmented mandible it's impossible to create a new species.

    Actually, the Banyoles mandible, dated about 70.000 BP shows some "modern human" non-neandertal traits for many, yet we know there were no HAM in the region.

    And, if there were H. erectus in Serbia by 113.000 BP, what happened with them? We know that by 40.000 BP, there were only neandertals in the region, thought not all neandertals look the same, specially those from the Middle East.

    And, if this represent a migration from Africa, does this mean there were archaic hominids in Africa less than 200.000 years ago? If that's the case, they were completely assimilated by neandertals and/or HAM.

    It's all very confusing, because even the true date is unknown.

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  7. It's very confusing indeed. Whatever the case there are no known Neanderthal remains nor Mousterian sites in the Balcans (other than Croatia, which is a bit peripheral). I could find no map saying otherwise: map1, map2. Even this odd map which seems to show Mousterian sites, shows not a single one south of the banks of the Danube (from Don's maps).

    "If that's the case, they were completely assimilated by neandertals and/or HAM".

    Assimilated as in "digested"? :p

    We do not know. I know that before 200 Ka there were populations of Homo sp. (other) in North Africa and West Asia, and that they should have not been displaced by H. sapiens before 160 Ka in Morocco or 130 Ka in the Levant, what offers quite a window of opportunity for them migrating, maybe under Sapiens pressure towards Anatolia and the Balcans. Alternatively they could be non-Neandarthalized H. heidelbergensis from Europe/West Asia or even immigrants from East Asia (less likely but who knows?)

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  8. "It's very confusing indeed. Whatever the case there are no known Neanderthal remains nor Mousterian sites in the Balcans (other than Croatia, which is a bit peripheral). I could find no map saying otherwise: map1, map2. Even this odd map which seems to show Mousterian sites, shows not a single one south of the banks of the Danube (from Don's maps)."

    Yes, it's a bit confusing, yet DNA recuperated from Vindija seems neandertal, not erectus or any other species... and there were neandertals in W and central. Asia as well, maybe they were expanding towards east? Who knows, it's difficult to tell with a single mandible and a few tools.

    I vote for the option "non-neandertalized H.heidelbergensis".

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  9. Vindija is Neanderthal. But Vindija is in Croatia, many kms NW of Serbia.

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  10. I think this fits the common picture that Neanderthal is a cold-adaptation of heidelbergensis that slowly developed ~300,000 to 150,000 ya (fully formed at the latter date), firstly primarily in the western and central parts of Europe. At the same time, heidelbergensis remained important in the East, and actually expanded its range eastward - perhaps all the way to China by ~200,000 ya.

    Neanderthals, on the other hand, are newcomers to the Levant and Iran some time between 70,000 and 45,000 ya - likely responding to the Toba-induced cooling and vacating of the region by both heidelbergensis and AMHs. (BTW, HAM = bacon must be from an adjective-after-noun language... ;))

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  11. What you say makes some sense, Eurologist.

    I disagree with the idea of Neanderthals being adaption to anything: I guess that they were more or less adapted (what is more than just slightly different) but we do not really know how well adapted they were to cold (for example: were they furry?) or how many of their biological and psycho-cultural traits were just random or trivial (as opposed to "perfectly fit for cold").

    But otherwise it does seem for real, based on the archaeological record I know of that Neanderthals emigrated from parts of Europe in Eastward direction reaching the Caucasus, Central Asia and West Asia more or less in the dates you say: 70 Ka (with error margin of maybe up to 100Ka) seems to be the date of Neanderthal arrival to all that area.

    This raises the question of why did not Homo sapiens, which seems to have been in the warmest regions of West Asia since earlier (c. 130 Ka ago or a bit later) migrated northwards. Did the H. ergaster/heidelbergensis (?) living there act as barrier?, was it the wintry snow that even today falls occasionally on the Levant?

    Also, if there were no Neanderthals in the area when our species migrated towards South Asia c. 80 Ka (per Petraglia), what was the species we hybridated with? Hathnora hominins? Were these H. heidelbergensis (and hence relatives of Neanderthals)?

    Many questions. XD

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  12. "Neanderthals, on the other hand, are newcomers to the Levant and Iran some time between 70,000 and 45,000 ya"

    Which leaves the region wide open for the entry of 'modern' humans into the region before 70,000 years ago.

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  13. "This raises the question of why did not Homo sapiens, which seems to have been in the warmest regions of West Asia since earlier (c. 130 Ka ago or a bit later) migrated northwards. Did the H. ergaster/heidelbergensis (?) living there act as barrier?"

    Perhaps they did migrate northwards. We know that most modern humans contain genes from earlier humans in the Altai.

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  14. "Perhaps they did migrate northwards".

    Perhaps we have even less evidence for Homo sapiens than for Neanderthals. Again trying to bring the water to your mill without any factual support? Not surprised, sincerely.

    "We know that most modern humans contain genes from earlier humans [= 'Denisovans'] in the Altai".

    Actually we do not know that: we know that the aboriginal people of Wallacea and Near Australasia do (at least at larger unquestionable levels), what is best explained by local admixture with a local SE Asian relative like Homo erectus.

    Even "Neanderthal admixture" may well be a proxy for some other related species like Hathnora hominins. Just that nobody as got DNA from Tropical archaic humans yet (probably because of preservation issues).

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