May 26, 2011

Clovis impact theory: scam?

That is what seems to be all that noise in the end, reports John Hawks following Miller-McCune.

It is a long story but essentially there seem to be a key person who deceived them all, including his colleagues: someone by the name of Allen West, formerly Allen Whitt, a former convict for pretending to be a geologist and scamming municipal authorities out of that. 

After getting out on probation he began working on the comet theory and changed his name legally. Then somehow he managed to be part of both teams that have published anything defending the Clovis impact theory (mentioned by me here and here).

In the second case I thought it was a different team working in a different part of the World. And it was indeed but one person at least was part of both teams: Allen West.

His carbon spherules, sometimes called nanodiamonds, appear to be just graphite and not older than 200 years old.

Sudanese autosomal genetics

Location of the samples
There is a new paper dealing with Sudanese genetics, which is  of some interest, in my opinion:

Most interestingly they spot a cline and divide (both) between Egypt and Tropical Africa and differential genetics for Somalis, one of three outgroups (the other two being Egyptians and Ugandans from Karamoja region (Nilotic ethnicities).

Fig. 5 (blue: my annotations)

The structure shows (as much as a mere three components allow) a duality of some clinal value (i.e. not absolute but relative) with a divide cutting across Sudan: not just between North and South according to the latest political split but also placing Darfur, Kordofan and the Nuba along with Tropical Africa as well. 

Instead Central, North and Eastern Sudanese look much like Egyptians. Somalis are clearly different however but you'd never know based only on K=2. That's why it is important to explore these analysis to some depth, greater than K=3 in any case, a very shallow depth for such a diverse region. 

PC Analysis:
Fig. 6A
Fig. 6B

Notice that PC2 and PC3 are of similar values. PC1 however is more than double in importance and marks a cline between Egypt (and the Sudanese Copts) and the Nuba. PC2 and PC3 only show distinctions between Copts and Egyptians and Copts and Somalis respectively. 

I wonder if this last is caused because of random peculiarities of the 15 ancestry informative markers used in this study, which seem a bit too few not to cause random distortions, specially in such a poorly understood region as is East Africa.

May 25, 2011

Neolithic of Nerja and the "almagra" pottery mystery

I take this occasion to introduce this excellent Spanish-language academic blog dedicated to the Iberian Neolithic: Neolítico de la Península Ibérica. You may have already spotted it in the blogroll (they recently discussed Northern Moroccan Neolithic for example) but I imagine they will feature more and more in entries like this one.

location of Nerja cave

Today they discuss García Borja 2010 (Zephyrus), which deals with the important Andalusian site of Nerja cave. According to García, the reference C14 dates (uncalibrated) are:
  • 10860 ± 160 BP and 10040 ± 40 for Epipaleolithic (microlaminar or Azilian, NV-4)
  • 7610 ± 90 and 7240 BP for a transitional phase (NV-3), dominated by a hunter economy
  • 6590±40 BP in a sheep bone from NV-2 (but intruding by means of digging into the NV-3 zone) 

Of particular interest is the lack of Cardial pottery as such and the existence instead of an impressed one with burnished decoration known in Spanish as "a la almagra". There has been a lot of confusion on this matter of non-Cardial, notably because the ages appear to be at least several centuries older than the earliest Cardial Neolithic and there is no known precedent. 

In this particular case of Nerja at least, the pottery displays very variable patterns of impressions and incisions (none with the Cardium edulis shell) with strong importance of red coloring (Cardial is usually colorless) both in incrustations as in burnishing (almagra).

The ages, as already mentioned, do not allow for this, as other earliest Iberian Neolithic sites to be part of the expansive process of Cardial culture. In another case (Mas d'Is, Alacant, Valencian Country), they argue for a Ligurian Neolithic arrival (and then: what did this Ligurian Neolithic arose from?) but in the case of Nerja, they know of no precedent, so they speculate about an arrival from North Africa and Sicily (with weak typological basis). 

They are anyhow trapped in the idea of "colonization", when numerous caves from the area have clear continuity sequences from Epipaleolithic, showing how lithic industries are retained from that period. A good example is La Pileta cave, discussed here.

Still, the paper has interest in that it totally dilutes the meaning of Mediterranean Neolithic: from a more or less monolithic Cardial culture as only vector to a much more plural and diverse array of cultures as illustrated in this map:

However the full understanding of what these diverse cultures mean may have to wait a bit.

May 22, 2011

Complexity arose from protein "weakness"

I find this twist on our understanding of evolution as quite interesting. It may still be true that only the fittest survive but fit means whatever actually works, not strongest or otherwise simplistically, linearly more.

If the weakest works best for whatever reason, then the weakest survive.

In this case we are before a case of proteins that work worse... and by working worse, they begin to interact and therefore create complexity.

That is what, for researchers Ariel Fernández and Michael Lynch, caused the rise of biological complexity: the evolution from prokaryote to eukaryote and so on: errors in proteins, weaker proteins... which eventually caused protein binding and compelxity.

Ariel Fernández and Michael Lynch, Non-adaptive origins of interactome complexity. Nature 2011. Freely accessible.

Oldest mine in America

The oldest known mine in America was, it seems, a iron oxide mine from Chile, dated to as early as 12,000 years ago. 

The mine in Taltal, in today's Northern Chile, was used first between 12,000 and 10,500 years ago and then again since 4300 years ago. More than 500 hammerstones dating to the first use of the mine reveal an unusual interest for such an early exploitation. 

Source: Science Daily. (Paper to be published in Current Anthropology next month).

The mine was previously mentioned, in greater extent, here.

Update (May 26): in the comments' section it was mentioned that another, no so old, quarry is known to have existed in Virginia, where the first inhabitants extracted red jasper. The site is dated to c. 10 Ka BP and you can read about it here and (if you have a Science subscription) also here.

May 20, 2011

News May 20

A hyper quick review of some news that I may not have time (or even knowledge) to discuss in further depth:

Biology and genetics
  • Human RNA often does not match DNA to the letter. Why? We do not know yet. -> SD
  • Packing and unpacking DNA -> SD
  • Did smell lead to larger brains in mammals -> SD

Archaeology and prehistory

Major upheaval of human Y-DNA phylogeny: we are all 'A' now

Fascinating: reality never stops surprising us. All the basal phylogeny of human Y-DNA has been revised quite radically.

Now super-haplogroup BT, Y(xA) or (my personal favored name) B'CDEF is just a branch, a sublineage of A. And not just of A but of a fraction of a fraction of it:

Fig. 1
To the left we have the new basal phylogeny of the human Y-DNA. Please ignore the "time" axis. I'll get to that later.

We can well ignore the proposed nomenclature and begin talking of A as the pan-human lineage or "Y-DNA Adam". This primeval lineage split then into A1b (found at 8.3% among Bakola Pygmies and 1.5% among Mozabites) and A1a-T (or  Y(xA1b) or A1a'2'B'CDEF, using mtDNA's "superglue" nomenclature's fix-it-all method), which includes all the rest of the World's population. 

Don't worry too much about the nomenclature because it will obviously cause an upheaval in the naming conventions of at least A. All these names are surely just provisional.

Anyhow, this second lineage is yet split between A1a and A2'3'B'CDEF (A2-T in the graph). A1a is found mostly in Niger: among the Fulbe (14.9%) and their Tuareg neighbors (4.5%), as well as among Middle Atlas Berbers of NE Morocco (2.9%).  

Importantly Sudan and other large areas of Africa SE Africa, much of Middle Africa, were not sampled. But I'd say that this distribution is suggestive of an origin near Chad Lake in relation with the expansion of mtDNA L1. But I'd wait until we have results from Sudan because Sudan, notably the South, hosts huge Y-DNA diversity and a lot of Y-DNA A, so it cannot be ignored so easily. 

Using Wikipedia as quick reference, we can see that Y-DNA A1a has also been reported among several peoples of Guinea-Bissau (2.8-5.1%), notably the Mankanha speakers (7.8%). Also 5% of Mandinka from Senegal and Gambia, 2% of Dogon from Mali, 3% of Moroccan Berbers and 2% of unspecified Malians. Basically we can say that A1a is somewhat common (always at low frequencies) through West Africa. 

Frequency of Y-DNA A per Chiaroni 2009
However no further data on the crucially basal A1b lineage is found in this article at least. Anyone?

Besides, the next division is between A2, A3 and the remainder: B'CDEF (or Y(xA) or B-T). A2 is exclusively a Khoisan lineage, while A3 is split between Khoisans and the peoples of the Upper Nile (Sudan, Ethiopia...), having greater basal diversity in this last region (A3a and A3b2 are both Sudanese/Ethiopian, while only A3b1 is a Khoisan lineage).

In any case, the pattern found now in Y-DNA seems to suggest a flow from West or Central Africa to East Africa and then to Southern Africa (Khoisan peoples). This is somewhat contradictory with the pattern revealed by mtDNA (suggesting an origin in East Africa around where the oldest fossil H. sapiens are known to have existed, by the Omo river) or the pattern suggested by some autosomal diversity measures performed recently that proposed Southern or Central-SW Africa instead.

Typically they forget to (or could not) take samples in crucial areas like Angola (other than Khoisans), Mozambique, Tanzania (not even the Haza and Sandawe) or Sudan:

Fig. S1 (see: supp. materials).  
Red: A1b, green: A1a, black asterisks locations of A1a from other papers.

The technical differences between the old phylogeny and the new one are explained in detail and best perceived in fig. 2 (below). Besides of finding a large list of new SNPs, Cruciani et al. suggest that M91 is an unstable (and hence unreliable) location, while P108 and P97 are stable but were interpreted wrongly when first described, being the polymorphisms the ancestral ones, i.e. those identical to what is found among Chimpanzees. 

Fig. 2

Time-line absurdities

The authors propose a time-line for the human Y-DNA that makes no sense. Notably CDEF (CT) is proposed to have only 39 Ka, being more recent even that Aurignacian and several findings of Eurasian remains of H. sapiens (not even considering Skhul and Qahfez). It is also contradictory with so many proposals of Y-DNA timelines that suggest a CDEF age of c. 70 or 80 Ka. (Karafet 2008 for example), which I still consider a bit too recent - mind you. 

At the moment there two possible archaeologically consistent scenarios for the Out of Africa migration, one would have happened c. 90 Ka ago, reaching South Asia by c. 80 Ka (Petraglia 2010). The other one, proposed by Armitage this year (discussed here, see also here), would have the coastal migration by South Arabia happening c. 125 Ka ago and could have reached South Asia soon after. There could even have been two successive migrations.

As Y-DNA CDEF is central to the Out of Africa migration, it must have coalesced before this one happened. Unless one would argue for a back-migration of DE into Africa, what I find hard to sustain. Even if you'd do that, CDEF would have need to be consolidated c. 80 Ka ago at the latest.

That is double than suggested in this paper. It could be triple or even more. That would make "Y-DNA Adam" (everything else equal) at least as old as 285 Ka, surely more.

Of course, I am not believing a word on Y-DNA age estimates, because the hunches are so wildly different and so poorly argued (not to mention that no scientific proof was ever provided supporting such statistical methods) that it's a total waste of time.

The phylogeny however stands and is an invaluable piece of information.

Important update (May 27): Other possible populations with A1b

Argiedude believes that he had identified A1b lineages in a number of populations (based on other studies and using mostly STR haplotype sequences). He included this spreadsheet (should be available for a year) where the likely A1b individuals were identified by him as "A4". See the commentaries for further details.

The populations with possible A1b are therefore expanded from just two (Bakola Pygmies and Mozabites) to several, with a peak of frequency in Southern Ghana. Also in Gabon, SE Nigeria and Cameroon, and as isolated individuals in Zambia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso  (and then, of course, across the Atlantic in America).

Update (May 2 2012):

Marnie reports at her blog that A1b (the earliest splitting-branch) is now being renamed A0 and that it has been detected in an African-American man previously matched to modern Cameroonians from near Bouea.

Also the Family Tree Y-DNA A project has detected two branches of A0 (former A1b), although one is still a private lineage (too rare to be accepted as a distinct haplogroup).

The Chaos paradigm

A must watch: a high quality BBC documentary on the great paradigm shift that happened through the second half of the 20th century from the Newtonian paradigm of a clockwork universe, not to Relativity or Quantum Uncertainty, but straight into Chaos.

It lasts exactly 1 hour.

Found at In Defense of Marxism, which has an article on it, with a few punctual criticisms and some of its politico-economical implications.

I understand that the film has an spiritual (emotional) and intellectual value and is worth watching even for those in the know, so to say, of Chaos science. Because it is not so easy to comprehend this new unavoidable paradigm and the film certainly aids to that in many ways. Understanding Chaos may be even more important than understanding Relativity, because Einstein's theory only applies to some aspects of reality, while Chaos applies to everything.

It is this overwhelming influence of Chaos mathematics and physics what makes this understanding so crucial, whichever one's field or fields of interest: it applies to evolution and human prehistory surely and it also is in the economy, in social organization and even in the intimacy of our souls (psyche).

Self organization, feedback, fractality (the part and the whole are usually similar), unpredictability of even very simple systems, orders as forms of chaos and not anymore its opponents and critically the real option for a small incident to precipitate a major reaction if the conditions are adequate albeit unpredictably so (the butterfly effect).

We have no choice but to embrace Chaos if we are to do something in it.

May 17, 2011

Origin of Neolithic crops

There is a new and quite interesting paper the reviews the domestication of the key Neolithic crops:

Worth a good read but I'll mention here the most relevant conclusions:


Wheat close-up
Einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum) is native as wild from Anatolia or the Zagros area, most probably it was domesticated in modern Kurdistan (aka SE Turkey), in Çayönü or Cafer Höyük. Frome there it spread, along with PPNB to Syria and Palestine.

Emmer and Durum wheat (Triticum turgidum) is native from the Levant and the Zagros but not Anatolia peninsula. It was also domesticated (most probably) in the early PPNB of Kurdistan (Çayönü), spreading soon after the Damascus basin of Syria, where the Emmer variant may have been selected for (Tell Aswad). Cypriot evidence is declared unconvincing by the authors but not totally rejected.

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a sturdier cereal even if also less valued than wheat. In its wild form it has a similar principal distribution as T. turgidum (Levant and Zagros but not Anatolia), although it also scatters through the Iranian plateau. The earliest clear domesticated variants are from Syria (Tell Aswad) and Cyprus, but soon also expanded to Southern Kurdistan (Jarmo), Iraq (Ali Kosh) and Palestine (Jericho).


Bitter vecht (Vicia ervilia): it is not really studied in this paper. It has an ample wild origin area and was maybe domesticated in Anatolia or Levant.

Lentil (Lens culinaris): the wild variant is scattered through much of West Asia but it is relatively rare with preference for stony and disturbed soils. It appears along with early cereals in wild form but the first clearly domesticated case is from Yiftah’el, North Palestine (aka Israel), within a middle PPNB context.

Pea (Pisum sativum): there are two wild forms, one scattered through the Mediterranean and the other more specific of West Asia. This one (P. humile) is the one proposed here to be the main ancestor of cultivated peas (but with weak support). The earliest finds are from Syria, Kurdistan and Palestine but the first large amounts are from Southern Anatolia: Çatalhöyük and Erbaba. The discerning of wild and domesticated type is no easy in this case but the available evidence seems to support Çatalhöyük or nearby areas for the domestication of this pulse in the middle or late PPNB.

Potaje de garbanzos y collejas5
Chickpea soup Castilian style
Chickpea (Cicer arietinum): ever wanted to know what Cicero means? It mens chickpea indeed. Anecdotes apart, the wild chickpea is almost exclusive of the Northern Kurdistan (SE Turkey). Naturally the first consumption findings are also from that area (Çayönü, Tell Abu Hureyra, Aşıklı Höyük - all from early PPNB). It is however impossible to tell from sure if theyw were already domesticated of wild. Contemporary remains from Jerciho however must be domesticated (as the wild form is not found in the region).

Other early crops:

Flax flowers
Flax flowers
Flax (Linum usitatissimum): flax can be used for fibers (surely at the origin of textile crafts) and for oil. Wild flax is widespread across the Mediterranean basin and even as far North as South England or Crimea.

Genetic data indicates that the first agricultural use of flax was not fiber but oil, even if flax fibers were already used before Neolithic (30 Ka. ago in Georgia). The earliest finds come from Çanönü and Tell Aswad. However the earliest reasonably safe case of a domesticated variant is from Jericho, just a few centuries later. Some time later (9th millennium BP) the first known fiber clothes are known (Nahal Hemar cave, Palestine), however this kind of evidence is highly subject to climatic conditions (extreme dryness here).

Discussion notes:

PPNA people did not make pottery but stone vessels (source)
It is interesting that no evidence of early domestication is found for PPNA. Does this suggest that this culture of Palestine and Syria was maybe not Neolithic after all? The main attribute of this culture of the Levant is their granaries but what did they store in them if all the crops were domesticated further North or in a later date? Only barley and maybe peas are from the Levant first according to this paper but from PPNB dates anyhow. So, are we missing something or were PPNA "farmers" actually mere large-scale semisedentary gatherers, i.e. Mesolithic instead of truly Neolithic? Your call.
On the other hand it is also interesting that nearly all early domesticates seem to be from the area of Kurdistan, which in my understanding, illuminates the mystery of Göbekli Tepe, which looks like the spiritual center of early Neolithic or at least the consolidated Neolithic of PPNB (notice that while the early village is from PPNA, the enclosure is from PPNB dates).

Göbekli Tepe - I always see a plow here - call me crazy if you wish

May 16, 2011

Middle Paleolithic of Nefud (Arabia)

Yellow lines outline the deserts of Arabia, Nefud being at the North
Just a brief mention of a potentially important archaeological discovery of Middle Paleolithic deposits in the Nefud Desert, north of Arabia Peninsula.

Found via Neanderfollia[cat].


Major hydrological variations associated with glacial and interglacial climates in North Africa and the Levant have been related to Middle Paleolithic occupations and dispersals, but suitable archaeological sites to explore such relationships are rare on the Arabian Peninsula. Here we report the discovery of Middle Paleolithic assemblages in the Nefud Desert of northern Arabia associated with stratified deposits dated to 75,000 years ago. The site is located in close proximity to a substantial relict lake and indicates that Middle Paleolithic hominins penetrated deeply into the Arabian Peninsula to inhabit landscapes vegetated by grasses and some trees. Our discovery supports the hypothesis of range expansion by Middle Paleolithic populations into Arabia during the final humid phase of Marine Isotope Stage 5, when environmental conditions were still favorable.

Being pay per view I have little more to say. However this paper should be put in context with the following:

  • Armitage 2011 (PPV, discussed here), which proposed a coastal migration c. 125 Ka. ago via South Arabia
  • Petraglia 2010 (accessible at Scribd) which extensively analyzes occupations Middle Paleolithic occupations in Arabia and South Asia
  • Bailey 2009 (Lower and Middle Paleolithic in Arabia peninsula) and Rose 2010 (Persian Gulf, then firm or swampy land, oasis). Both discussed here along with Fields 2007 on modeling migrations across South Asia.

A debate is left open on whether these findings of Nefud belong to our species or that of Neanderthals (or whatever). It is known that c. 70 Ka. Neanderthals were in parts of West Asia, at least in Syria, Palestine and Iraq... 

But it is also considered most plausible nowadays that our own species was expanded by then along the arch around the Indian Ocean, from Arabia to SE Asia. 

And this pesky desert of the Nefud is right in the middle... your call.

May 15, 2011

The Arctic Neanderthals

Byzovaya tools
There's been a bit of noise with the confirmation of the vanishing of Neanderthals from the Caucasus c. 40,000 years ago (but this was something we already knew, right?) but specially with the demonstration that the artifacts found in one of the most northernly sites of the time (Byzovaya, in today's Komi Republic) are typical Mousterian as others from Central and Eastern Europe of the time and hence most probably of Neanderthal making.

It is interesting to notice that this site is not really new, and that there is another even more northernly site, Mamontovaya Kurya, further north, above the Arctic Circle. However when Svensen and Pavlov reviewed the site (see below) they argued for modern H. sapiens based only in the prejudice that no other Neanderthal sites were known so far North.

"Neanderthal finds" refers to skeletal ones only and they have forgotten Palestine anyhow

It is important to emphasize that no skeletal remains have been found and that the adscription of these Mousterian findings to the species H. neanderthalensis is founded on the fact that only Neanderthals are known to have used that kind of Mousterian technology in that area. One could make a knee-jerk not Neanderthals case but it seems quite futile after considering the general context.

This finding seems to reinforce the idea of a penetration of our ancestors of the H. sapiens species in all Western Eurasia c. 40,000 years ago (50-30 Ka. roughly) fragmenting the pre-existent Neanderthal populations into a handful of isolated pockets (Komi Republic, Southern Iberia, Croatia, Southern Italy...), which would be made up of very few people each, eventually succumbing anyhow either to further expansions of our ancestors, ecological pressures or mere lack of genetic diversity caused by fragmentation itself.

On the other hand it emphasizes the striking intelligence and adaptability of Neanderthals, able to colonize such an extreme habitat.


(Thanks to Tim, by the way).

May 14, 2011

Grammar fundamental found?

Noam Chomsky
An experiment with English speakers with low or no exposure to other languages found what may be some support for Chomsky's theory of grammar innateness, which has been questioned as of late. 

The experiment performed by linguists of Johns Hopkins University found that, when taught an "alien" (artificial) language, humans found several word orders valid but others very hard to assume. So they would accept the following kind of constructions (all meaning three blue cups):
  • Three blue cups
  • Three cups blue
  • Cups blue three
But not blue cups three. This kind of construction in which the adjective precedes the noun but the numeral is after it is extremely rare in real human languages and the experiment's subjects found it also very awkward, having increased difficulty in learning it.

Source: Science Daily.

May 9, 2011

More ancient mtDNA maps of Europe: the Neolithic and Chalcolithic

With these two maps of the Neolithic/Chalcolithic period, I will consider my mapping project more or less complete. It can still be improved with a map from the Bronze Age, I guess, specially as this is the time when mtDNA H seems to advance to Northern Europe, but by the moment I consider the collection quite complete.

As with my previous maps of the Paleolithic period, I have not just taken for granted the haplogroups reported by the authors (sometimes quite surprisingly) but I have checked myself which haplogroup they should belong to with the help of PhyloTree

The only exception are the peripheral Basque samples from Izagirre and De la Rúa, which I could not manage to find out which markers were detected, so I have mentioned them in a separate inset - because they are under the strict identification standards I have followed for all the rest.

The Neolithic and Chalcolithic ancient mtDNA maps are as follow:

The time-frame descriptive tags correspond to pan-European chronological frames, regardless of local development. 

Previously I posted (in November) three maps for the Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic (this last one including a contemporary sample from Syria/Kurdistan, which is already Neolithic). They were:

All the data I used came via the Ancient DNA pages of Jean Manco, though in some cases I had to browse the relevant papers as well. 

For the record, the first clear appearances of the following large haplogroups are as follow:
  • U2: 30 Ka BP: Kostenki, Russia
  • H: 25 Ka BP: Sunghir, Russia (H17'27). 
    • If you don't like this one, then Epipaleolithic Portugal (H1b)
  • U5 and JT (JT*): 18 Ka BP: Nerja, Andalusia, Spain 
  • U4: 12 Ka BP: Taforalt, Morocco
  • HV0 (probably V): Neolithic Portugal and East Germany
  • K: 11 Ka BP: Tell Halula (Neolithic Syria/Kurdistan)
  • N1, W, J and T: Neolithic Central Europe 
  • X: Neolithic West France 
I also spotted an "Oriental" lineage in Chalcolithic Castelló: either D1 or G1a1 (one of the five L3(xR) in the map).
    Disclaimer: I carefully checked all reported sequences against the most recent builds of PhyloTree, trying to assume nothing. Surely most sequences have been correctly identified as far as the data and scientific knowledge allow, however if you spot any mistake, please let me know. I hate mistakes.

    PS- Spreadsheet (ods format) that I used in this work is uploaded here (for one year).

    May 7, 2011

    ArchaeoNews May 7

    Yesterday the latest ArchaeoNews bulletin (from Stone Pages) arrived to my mailbox. Here there are some of the news items that I found more interesting:

    Cave bear remains argued to be clue to Grotte Chauvet paintings' age

    Radiocarbon dating demonstrates quite convincingly that the famous Paleolithic artwork, starring in the latest Herzog's film, is from some 30-32,000 years BP, what would be well in the Aurignacian period but some archaeologists from California had trouble accepting such old dates.

    To further confirm the date of the Chauvet rock art, another archaeologist, J.M. Elalouf used as reference the remains of cave bears found in the site, which have been dated with C14 to 37,000 to 29,000 years BP, roughly coincident with the previous data. 

    There is little doubt that the bears painted in Chauvet are the extinct cave bear species and not the surviving brown bear because their skulls are quite different. 

    Additionally Elalouf analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of the cave bears, concluding that they were all closely related and hence were probably already endangered before they final extinction. 

    Full story at New Scientist

    See also in this blog: Paleolithic rock art found in Mañaria (Biscay), which may be not that old but still old enough to support obliquely the Chauvet datings. 

    Parts of lion-man sculpture found

    In another case of very old artwork, as the age of the lion-man of Stadel, estimated to be c. 32,000 years old, also from the Aurigñacian period, has seen missing parts found in new digs at this Bavarian cave. 

    The lack of context of this finding has suggested some that it was some sort of votive offering at an otherwise unused, taboo, cave.

    It is hoped that the ancient sculpture will be complete in few years, as the dig is finished.

    Full story at M&C.

    Neolithic to Gupta era remains found in Uttar Pradesh 

    Not much info is provided but at DNA anyhow. 

    Bronze Age findings in North China may be from Xizhou dynasty

    Again not much info provided but at The Hindu

    Does Hoffecker attempt to rescue 'modern behavior' theories from the junk yard?

    John Hoffecker working at Kostenki
    I hope not because I do respect this archaeologist for what I have read of his work but that is what I gather from this press release at Eureka Alert.

    The use of terms like collective mind may suggest otherwise but it seems to me a new attempt to justify the biological intellectual superiority of H. sapiens on slippery grounds.

    However one may need to read his book Landscape of the Mind: Human Evolution and the Archaeology of Thought, which is what all this noise seems to be about.

    May 5, 2011

    Genetic reason...

    This is today's thoughtful cartoon by Zach Weiner on the relevance of genetics in our motivations:

    The main fallacy is that inbreeding, at least some inbreeding, does happen.

    The other fallacy is that some 99.5% (exact figure anyone?) of the base pairs are identical among all humans and highly conservative (they won't change on risk of death or otherwise extreme crippling), so the time to your total genetic dilution (notwithstanding inbreeding) is a lot shorter that Weiner assumes.

    Actually I estimate 150,000 variable base pairs, so following the cartoon's logic, only 18 generations would be needed to total dilution, so only 450 years are needed for (theoretical) total dilution. 

    I was going to illustrate this talking about some random person from Columbus' times... but in that time Earth's human population was low enough to allow some of that almost necessary inbreeding of the sort suggested in the cartoon. But now? Now there's more people on Earth than all the base pairs in our genome! Now such necessary inbreeding cannot be taken for granted and will probably not happen in most cases.

    Carpe diem (live the day) or just discuss?

    May 4, 2011

    Paleolithic rock art found in Mañaria (Biscay)

    Horse head (digitally enhanced)
    Pileta de Prehistoria[es], citing El Correo[es], informs of the finding of a number of mural artworks in very poor state in the cave of Askondo (Mañaria, Biscay, Basque Country - locator map below). 

    The artwork has been dated to c. 28-18,000 BP, most likely around 25,000 years ago, at the end of the Aurignacian (the article says Gravettian but this culture is much delayed in SW Europe than in Central Europe or Italy, with dates of c. 23 Ka. BP in the Cantabrian strip, almost overlapping with Solutrean [see update below]). It would be therefore older than Santimamiñe's art, which is of Magdalenian age. 

    Hand prints (not enhanced)
    The paintings are in very poor state, almost erased. While the cave is known since 1912, nobody had until now been able to identify these paintings because they did not know how to look

    Biscay hosts four other caves known to have rock art: Santimamiñe, Arenaza, Venta Laperra and El Rincón.

    Mañaria is located near the larger town of Durango (the original one), in the road to the mythical peak of Anboto, said to be one of the homes of Goddess Mari and her consort Sugaar.

    Very important update:  most probably Gravettian.

    Every day you learn something new. And today is no exception: Joseba explained to me at Pileta de Prehistoria, that my understanding of the Gravettian matter in Iberia is a bit obsolete and that there is nowadays a much improved understanding, pushing the dates far to the past until the pan-European earliest dates of c. 28 Ka. BP (which calibrated may be 34,000 real years).

    He was so kind as to point me to the following papers:
    Also he mentions the upcoming congress on this matter at Altamira Museum, on October 2011.

    So it seems I was wrong on this matter and the paintings will in the end be Gravettian. I will probably post something more specific on this matter of Gravettian in the Iberian peninsula when I digest all these materials.

    May 1, 2011

    Rock art from Uyghuristan may be older than 12,000 years

    Just a quick heads up: Pileta de Prehistoria[es] echoes a TeleSur news report[es] on rock art from Northwest China (the region of Uyghur, they say), consisting mostly on hand impressions and also representations of nomadic lifestyle. The paintings are said to be older than 12,000 years ago.

    I have no further info right now.