Self Help

The World Before Us - Tom Higham

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Matheus Puppe

· 54 min read

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Here is a summary of key points about Tom Higham from the information provided:

  • Tom Higham is a Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Oxford and Director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

  • He has been at the forefront of research on the Denisovans, a new species of human discovered in 2010. He has worked extensively on remains from Denisova Cave in Siberia.

  • Higham has published over 100 scientific papers and edited three academic books. His research includes dating the remains of Richard III, the Elephant Man, and Egyptian pharaohs.

  • His book “The World Before Us” provides a fascinating and entertaining account of recent breakthroughs in understanding human origins, blending evidence from archaeology, paleontology and genetics.

  • The application of genomic science to ancient DNA has revolutionized our knowledge of human prehistory in the last decade. Higham has been centrally involved in many of the biggest discoveries through his work on fossil and DNA dating.

  • His book tells the story of not just how modern humans and our close relatives evolved, but where we may be going, drawing on his three decades of experience working directly with some of the most important fossil remains.

In summary, Tom Higham is a leading academic in the field of archaeological science who has played a pivotal role in major advances in understanding human evolution through his scientific dating work and research on anatomically modern humans, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denisovans.

  • The book explores human evolution during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic periods, from around 300,000 to 40,000 years ago. This was a key time when Homo sapiens emerged.

  • New archaeological and genetic evidence has revealed a more complex picture of multiple human species existing at this time, not just Homo sapiens. Species like Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo floresiensis and others co-existed.

  • The story covers early human origins in Africa, the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa and encounters with other species in Europe, Asia and beyond. It explores how humans adapted to new environments.

  • Great insights have come from archaeological sites like Denisova Cave in Siberia, which has yielded the only known example so far of an ancient human hybrid - the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father.

  • Advances in dating methods and ancient DNA are transforming understandings of human evolution during this period. The book aims to synthesize what is now known about our ancestors and relatives, and what happened when different human species interacted.

  • The passage discusses the modern techniques and multidisciplinary approaches used in archaeology today, including radiocarbon dating, isotope and chemical analysis, DNA analysis, 3D modeling, and geospatial technologies like drones and LiDAR.

  • Archaeology has become more exciting as small fragments can now reveal much through scientific study. It requires expertise from many fields and collaborative work.

  • Techniques like isotope analysis can reveal details about ancient diets, mobility, health, environmental conditions, and more. DNA and biomolecular analysis provide even more insights.

  • Context from careful excavation is still important for interpreting scientific evidence. Discoveries now happen in labs as well as in the field.

  • The passage gives an overview of the growing contributions of scientific methods to understanding the human past. Archaeology integrates the sciences and humanities for a more comprehensive view of our ancestors and prehistory.

  • Homo erectus dispersed out of Africa around 1.6 million years ago in a significant migration that extended to Southeast Asia. These early humans had smaller brains (650-800cc) compared to modern humans.

  • Neanderthals and modern humans also have a common ancestor in Africa from around 530,000 years ago based on genetic estimates.

  • Evidence from mitochondrial DNA analysis in 1987 supported the “Out of Africa” model, showing that genetic diversity is highest in Africa and declines the further from Africa a population is located. This matches the serial founder effect concept.

  • Fossil evidence of early modern humans first appears in Africa, such as at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco dated to around 300,000 years ago. Remains from Omo Kibish in Ethiopia date to 195,000 years ago, and Herto remains from 150,000 years ago show progressively more modern features.

  • Cultural evidence like stone tool technology also shows significant changes occurring across Africa around 300,000 years ago. More complex tools and behaviors emerged over time. However, the emergence of fully modern human phenotypes is difficult to precisely date due to variability in the fossil record.

  • In 2013, archaeologists excavated a chamber in the Rising Star cave system in South Africa. They discovered over 3,000 human remains from at least 15 individuals, classified as a new species called Homo naledi.

  • Homo naledi was a small-brained hominin species that stood around 1.5 meters tall and weighed 40-55 kg. It displayed a mosaic of features, with some similarities to early humans and Australopithecines.

  • Radiometric dating placed the remains between 236,000-335,000 years old, indicating overlap with early Homo sapiens in Africa.

  • Other enigmatic human fossils have been found in Africa, like the Iwo Eleru skeleton from Nigeria and the Kabwe skull from Zambia, suggesting multiple human species may have co-existed in Africa 200,000-300,000 years ago.

  • There are debates around when Homo sapiens first expanded out of Africa, with evidence supporting migrations as early as 120,000-130,000 years ago or 50,000-60,000 years ago.

  • Recent discoveries in Israel, Greece, and China provide archaeological evidence for early Homo sapiens presence in Eurasia dating back over 170,000-200,000 years ago.

  • Two possible migration routes out of Africa were the Sinai Peninsula and across the Levant region into the Near East.

  • Archaeological evidence from caves in Israel indicates the presence of hyenas, leopards, lions, camels, zebras and gazelles, suggesting early humans lived in the region as well since humans tend to settle where game is abundant.

  • Two potential early human migration routes out of Africa are discussed - the Sinai route and the Bab al-Mandab strait between Africa and Arabia. Climate models suggest both were crossable at different times in the past 300,000 years due to wetter conditions.

  • Recent archaeological work places early humans in Arabia as early as 85,000 years ago, supporting migration through the Bab al-Mandab strait.

  • Early migratory groups like those found at sites in Greece and Israel may have failed to survive long-term, though small traces of their DNA remain in modern populations.

  • Possible reasons for human migration include following game during climate shifts, population growth putting pressure on resources, and the exploration of new lands.

  • Work at the Niah Caves in Borneo dated a human skull there to 42-44,000 years old, showing early adaptation to rainforest environments through fire usage, hunting of monkeys and other fauna.

  • Early humans were found to live in various rainforest environments, including evidence of bow and arrow technology in Sri Lanka dating to 48,000 years ago and modern human presence in Sumatra dating to 65,000 years ago.

  • Large pits excavated at Niah Cave in Borneo may have been used to process toxic plants, similar to how modern humans in the rainforest do today. The evidence suggests early humans adapted well to these environments.

  • Researchers coined the term “generalist specialists” to describe how early humans occupied diverse environments while adapting to specific habitats.

  • The evidence suggests some humans left Africa earlier than previously thought, before 120,000 years ago, though these early migrations did not result in wide dispersal until around 50-60,000 years ago.

  • Competition from Neanderthals and other human groups may have prevented more permanent early settlements outside Africa. Developing new technologies was also likely important for adapting to diverse environments like colder Eurasian regions.

  • For many years, Neanderthals were viewed as inferior to modern humans, relying predominantly on meat and lacking cultural complexity. This helped explain their disappearance as modern humans arrived in Europe.

  • Recent research has challenged this narrative. Neanderthals consumed a more varied diet that included plants, seafood, and small game. Evidence from dental plaques suggests the use of medicinal plants.

  • At El Sidrón cave in Spain, archaeologists uncovered evidence that Neanderthals engaged in cannibalism, indicating some level of conflict or ritual practices.

  • Neanderthals displayed innovation through their sophisticated Levallois stone tool technology and use of bitumen for hafting. Overall, Neanderthals showed more technological and social complexity than previously believed, adapting to local environments and resources. The story of their replacement by modern humans is more complex than early views of superiority and evolutionary failure.

  • Neanderthals used birch bark tar to haft tools and likely made lissoirs (bone smoothers) to work hides, tasks previously thought to only be done by Homo sapiens.

  • At Schöningen in Germany, 300,000-year-old wooden hunting spears, lances, and tools were discovered, showing Neanderthals used wood technology.

  • Starting 45,000 years ago in Europe, archaeological evidence shows symbolic objects like pendants, pigments, decorated bones, figurative art emerged with Homo sapiens. Such symbols are important for social bonding and cultural transmission.

  • At a 120,000-year-old Neanderthal site in Spain, shells with holes, ochre, pyrite, and yellow pigments were found, suggesting personal decoration. Neanderthals in France and Croatia also cut up bird bones and talons, possibly for feathers and symbolic use.

  • In 1990, a French cave dubbed Bruniquel was discovered to contain deep interior structures made of deliberately arranged stalagmites from over 170,000 years ago, showing Neanderthals ventured far into caves.

  • Recent findings suggest Neanderthals created abstract art like a hashtag symbol in Gibraltar and painted art in Spanish caves, activities previously attributed only to Homo sapiens. This challenges views of Neanderthal cognitive capabilities.

  • Tiny calcium carbonate growths found on cave artworks in France and Spain were dated using uranium-series dating. The oldest art was found to be at least 65,000 years old, much older than the earliest evidence of modern humans in Europe.

  • This suggests Neanderthals, not modern humans, may have been responsible for some of the early cave paintings in Europe. However, more direct dating of the art is needed to be certain.

  • Evidence is increasingly pointing to Neanderthals being more capable and similar to modern humans than previously thought. They may have had symbolic and artistic behaviors.

  • Archaeological sites dating 40,000-50,000 years ago show early signs of innovation like smaller stone tools that may have been used for projectiles.

  • Transitional stone tool industries between 40,000-42,000 years ago could have been made by either late Neanderthals or early modern humans. This is a key debate around the replacement of Neanderthals.

  • Some transitional industries like the Chatelperronian have been associated with Neanderthal remains at sites like Arcy-sur-Cure, but the association is debated. More direct dating is needed.

  • If Neanderthals did make symbolic ornaments, it raises questions around cultural transmission and exchange between Neanderthals and early modern humans, and even potential interbreeding between the groups.

  • In 2006, Svante Pääbo and his team began the Neanderthal Genome Project to reconstruct the Neanderthal nuclear genome.

  • In 2010, a major paper showed that 1-4% of DNA in non-Africans comes from interbreeding with Neanderthals, overturning the idea that modern humans replaced Neanderthals without interbreeding.

  • The mitochondrial genome did not show evidence of Neanderthal ancestry, possibly because hybrid offspring with Neanderthal mothers did not survive or were infertile. Hybrids with Neanderthal X chromosomes may have had reduced fertility.

  • Primate hybridization has been observed between species diverged over 4 million years ago, so interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals, with a more recent common ancestor, could have been predicted.

  • Interbreeding likely allowed for cultural exchange between groups as well. Relations were possibly sometimes peaceful and sometimes involved conflict.

  • Denisova Cave in Siberia was inhabited in the past 300,000 years. In 2010, genetic analysis of a small finger bone found there revealed a new human species, the Denisovans.

  • The cave known as Denisova Cave is located about 100m from a base camp in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. It sits 28m above the Anui River.

  • In 2010, archaeologists discovered a new human species at the cave, known as Denisovans. This attracted international media attention and tourism to the site.

  • Excavations at the cave since the 1970s have uncovered evidence of human habitation dating back hundreds of thousands of years, including Neanderthals, Bronze Age peoples, and the earliest modern humans around 40,000-50,000 years ago.

  • In 1984, a human tooth was found in layer 22 that was later identified through DNA analysis as belonging to a Denisovan girl aged 10-12. This was the first discovery of Denisovans. More remains and artifacts have been found in subsequent excavations of the cave’s three chambers.

  • The bone fragments found at Denisova Cave are mostly too fragmented to identify species, likely due to gnawing and digestion by hyenas that lived in the region. Hyenas could crush bones and mistake pieces like deer antler for spear points after passing through their digestive system.

  • Eurasian hyenas, along with other carnivores like cave lions and leopards, were widespread in Eurasia but are now only found in Africa. They would have competed with humans for access to caves.

  • Analysis of animal bones and pollen at Denisova shows dramatic climate changes over the past 300,000 years, alternating between warmer and colder periods. Global records from oxygen isotope ratios corroborate this.

  • Decorative items like beads, pendants and pierced animal teeth found at Denisova suggest ornamental activities from 45,000 years ago. This challenges views of only Homo sapiens making such objects and implies other human species had complex behaviors.

This section provides an overview of how ancient DNA analysis has revolutionized archaeology and human evolution studies. It discusses some of the key challenges and breakthroughs in the field.

Initially, authenticating ancient DNA sequences extracted from bones was difficult due to issues with contamination from modern human DNA. Methods needed to be improved to eliminate contaminants. Scientists have since developed ingenious ways to extract only endogenous DNA and identify fragments that show chemical signs of age, like DNA damage patterns.

Strict clean lab protocols help avoid contamination, like protective clothing and separating labs from outside air. Focusing on extracting shorter ancient DNA sequences also improves authentication. Chemical treatments can further clean bones before DNA extraction.

Powerful new sequencing technologies now allow reliable large-scale sequencing. While earlier methods like PCR amplified small DNA fragments, new methods determine the exact nucleotide sequence letters of ancient DNA.

These advances have enabled demonstrably ancient human DNA to be extracted since the early 2000s, revolutionizing the study of human evolution and archaeology by providing new insights into the past. The section sets up discussion of key applications of ancient DNA analysis to come.

  • Sanger sequencing works by amplifying DNA fragments in test tubes with different labeled chain-terminating nucleotides (ddNTPs). This stops replication at each base, producing fragments of varying lengths.

  • Electrophoresis separates the fragments by size into visible bands on a gel, allowing the DNA sequence to be read from shortest to longest fragment.

  • Next-generation sequencing techniques like 454 pyrosequencing greatly increased speed by sequencing many fragments in parallel using flashes of light to detect added nucleotides.

  • Ancient DNA is much more fragmented, so requires more sequencing time than modern DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited while nuclear DNA contains a mix from both parents and deeper ancestral history.

  • The nuclear genome is 3.2 billion base pairs while mitochondrial is only 16,500, but mitochondrial DNA survives better in ancient remains.

  • Sequence data is analyzed by alignment to compare differences between sequences and identify mutations, insertions, or deletions compared to reference genomes.

  • In 2009, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig were sequencing DNA from a bone fragment found in Denisova Cave in Siberia.

  • The mitochondrial DNA did not match Neanderthals or modern humans. It differed at almost twice as many positions, indicating a new type of hominin. This was an extraordinary discovery.

  • They initially proposed naming it Homo altaiensis but reviewers had doubts, so it was referred to as an “unknown hominin”.

  • A 2010 Nature paper reported sequencing the nuclear genome to 1.9x coverage, vastly more difficult. It showed this population shared a common origin with Neanderthals but had a distinct history.

  • Remarkably, 70% of the DNA was endogenous (original), allowing such detailed sequencing from just 40mg of bone.

  • A later 2012 paper generated an even higher-coverage 31x genome using a new single-stranded DNA technique.

  • This tiny bone fragment unveiled a new species of human, the Denisovans, who contributed genes to present-day Melanesians and were widespread in Asia in the late Pleistocene. It was a major breakthrough and transformed our understanding of human evolution.

  • Denisova 3 was a small pinky bone discovered in Denisova Cave in Siberia. DNA analysis showed it was from a female Denisovan individual.

  • When Svante Pääbo’s team realized they had something new, they rushed to meet the original discoverers to discuss results and next steps.

  • Some of the bone was already sent to Ed Rubin’s lab in Berkeley. This created a potential race to publish first.

  • Pääbo rapidly published the mitochondrial DNA results. Rubin’s lab had not yet worked on the bone sample.

  • Later, Rubin sent the bone to Eva-Maria Geigl in Paris to sequence the nuclear genome, but she was unable to extract enough DNA.

  • After other researchers published the Denisovan genome, Rubin asked for the bone back but it was lost or misplaced.

  • Geigl had taken photos and samples which were later used to determine the bone was from a 13-year-old female.

  • Computational analyses of the genome revealed relationships to other hominins and living humans.

So in summary, it describes the key people and labs involved in the analysis of Denisova 3, the competition to publish first, and what was learned from the genome sequence. Careful analysis of the small bone fragment provided a wealth of insights.

  • Researchers analyzed DNA from the Denisovan girl’s finger bone fragment and Melanesian people’s DNA to learn about Denisovans.

  • They found that around 7.5% of Melanesian people’s genomes derived from interbreeding with Denisovans and Neanderthals after their ancestors migrated out of Africa. This was a surprising revelation.

  • DNA analysis of another Denisovan tooth found at the same site suggested it came from the same population just a few thousand years later.

  • The Denisovan girl’s finger bone was more like modern humans than Neanderthals in proportions. Her tooth was much larger than expected and more similar to ancient hominins over 1 million years old.

  • Some human remains from Xujiayao cave in China over 140,000 years old have large, primitive teeth similar to the Denisovan tooth. Finding more fossils is important to learn about Denisovans’ physical appearance. Researchers are examining sites in East Asia and museum collections for possible Denisovan remains.

  • Human remains have been found at two sites in China - Xujiayao and Lingjing - that show a “mosaic” of features, some similar to Neanderthals and others to earlier Asian hominins. Their taxonomic status is unclear.

  • Computational epigenetics allows reconstruction of phenotypic traits from ancient DNA methylation patterns. An Israeli team applied this to Denisovans.

  • Their analysis predicted Denisovans shared 21 features with Neanderthals, like low cranium and robust jaws. Some features distinguished them, like larger shoulder blades and more facial protrusion.

  • Some Denisovan features were closer to modern humans, like premature tooth loss and narrower jaw front.

  • Overall, Denisovans appeared to be a mosaic of Neanderthal, modern human, and unique traits. This fits with the mixed signals from Chinese remains.

  • The first reconstruction of a Denisovan woman was produced based on the epigenetic data, giving the first glimpse of what they may have looked like as individuals rather than just bones.

So in summary, computational epigenetics provided the first phenotypic reconstruction of Denisovans by analyzing ancient DNA methylation patterns, predicting a mosaic of traits linking them to Neanderthals, modern humans, and unique features.

  • In 1980, a monk found a partial human jawbone at Baishiya Karst Cave in China. It was stored by local Buddhist monks but not studied until 2016.

  • In 2016, researchers led by Jean-Jacques Hublin began analyzing the jawbone, called the Xiahe specimen. Using micro-CT scans and 3D modeling, they were able to reconstruct the jawbone virtually.

  • Radiocarbon dating indicated the jawbone was at least 160,000 years old, providing the earliest evidence of humans on the Tibetan plateau.

  • The teeth were extremely large compared to other hominins. Attempts to extract DNA failed.

  • Researchers then used an emerging technique called proteomics to analyze ancient proteins preserved in one of the teeth. Proteomics can date back further than DNA.

  • Two protein signatures matched Denisovans, allowing researchers to conclusively identify the Xiahe specimen as Denisovan based on proteomic analysis. This was the first Denisovan found outside Denisova Cave in Siberia.

  • The discovery indicates Denisovans had been living in East Asia for a long time, but questions remain about when and how they adapted to high altitude environments like Tibet. More research at the Baishiya cave site is ongoing.

  • A man named Mr. Tsai found an ancient-looking jawbone in an antique shop in Taiwan. The shop owner said it came from a local fisherman who found bones mixed in with his catch.

  • Mr. Tsai had the bone cleaned up and sent photos to scientists at a natural science museum. They recognized it looked very old and possibly archaic.

  • After examining it, scientists determined it was similar to other ancient human fossils found in Asia dating back over 100,000 years. They classified it as a Denisovan jawbone.

  • The jawbone, now known as Penghu 1, showed traits seen in Denisovans like a lack of chin and a rare three-rooted molar, providing more evidence of ancient human diversity in Asia. It is now housed at the Taiwan natural science museum.

  • More background is given on Denisovans and the few bones that have been found attributed to them so far, mostly at Denisova Cave in Siberia where their DNA was first discovered. The challenge is finding more remains among the piles of fragmented bones there.

  • A new technique called ZooMS is described that can identify bone fragments to genus level using molecular fingerprints. The summarize hopes this can be used to efficiently find the rare human bones mixed in with animals at Denisova Cave.

Here is a summary of key details from the passage:

  • In 2014, researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, including Svante Pääbo and Matthias Meyer, analyzed bone fragments from Denisova Cave in Siberia using a new technique called ZooMS (zoological mitochondrial DNA sequencing).

  • An Australian Masters student named Samantha Brown volunteered to help with the lab work, which involved sawing small fragments from over 700 bone samples for analysis. The initial round of analysis did not find any hominin bones.

  • Undaunted, Sam continued sampling more bones from Denisova Cave, bringing the total samples prepared to over 1,300. Another round of analysis still did not find any hominins.

  • However, on one spectrum from the latest batch of 780 samples, Mike Buckley at the University of Manchester noticed markers indicating the sample was from a hominin. They had found a Neanderthal bone among the thousands of samples.

  • The bone fragment was coded as DC1227 and only weighed 1.68g. CT scans and genetic sequencing confirmed it was from a Neanderthal individual who lived at Denisova Cave over 49,000 years ago.

  • This successful finding validated the ZooMS technique for identifying ancient hominin bones among samples of other animal bones. It provided direct evidence that Neanderthals lived at Denisova Cave.

  • A small bone fragment from Denisova Cave in Siberia was identified as human using ZooMS analysis. It was labeled “Denisova 11” or “Denny”.

  • Nuclear DNA extraction was performed and initial results showed the DNA was split roughly 50-50 between Denisovan and Neanderthal genomes. This indicated Denny was a first-generation hybrid of a Denisovan father and Neanderthal mother.

  • Further genome sequencing at 2.6x coverage confirmed Denny was female and around 38.6% of her genome matched Neanderthal while 42.3% matched Denisovan, demonstrating she was an F1 hybrid.

  • CT scans estimated Denny was at least 13 years old. Her genome also provided insights about population movements and interactions between Denisovans and Neanderthals.

  • Publishing the results in Nature in 2018 generated significant global media attention, reflecting the scientific significance of the discovery as the first known human hybrid.

  • The research personalized Denny from an unknown “bone” to a real individual, changing the author’s perspective on working with ancient human remains.

  • Reliable dating methods are crucial for understanding the temporal context of remains like Denny’s. Further chronological analysis was still needed to better place Denny and other Denisova Cave remains within human prehistory.

  • In 1949, Willard Libby published a seminal paper describing radiocarbon dating, a revolutionary new method for independently dating archaeological samples using their carbon-14 content. This enabled archaeologists to date materials that were once living organisms.

  • Radiocarbon dating has undergone improvements since 1949, including using particle accelerators to measure carbon-14 more precisely. This allows dating of much smaller samples, as small as 0.25 grains of rice. The limit is around 50,000 years ago due to carbon-14’s half-life.

  • The summary describes the process of radiocarbon dating bones, including extracting and filtering collagen to remove contaminants. Ultrafiltration helped improve dates by removing smaller carbon particles.

  • The author worked with archaeologist Roger Jacobi to apply improved bone dating techniques to key archaeological sites in Europe spanning the period of Neanderthals and early modern humans. Their 2014 study found Neanderthals and modern humans co-existed in Europe for 2,500-5,000 years.

  • The author then became interested in dating sites in Russia, including Denisova Cave where the age of human remains like the famous Denisova 3 was still uncertain due to dating challenges for samples over 50,000 years old.

  • The site of Denisova Cave in Siberia contained human remains dating back over 50,000 years old, but radiocarbon dating results were mixed due to possible contamination.

  • The researcher wanted to do more radiocarbon dating of samples to understand the “taphonomy” of the site, which refers to how samples became deposited at the site over time. This could help determine if mixing was really an issue.

  • They focused on dating humanly modified bones and artifacts to directly date human presence. They developed a careful sampling technique to date small samples without damage.

  • The first set of dates revealed 10 out of 11 samples were over 50,000 years old, suggesting the Denisova 3 remains were beyond radiocarbon dating limits.

  • More work using optical dating of sediment layers was needed since most of the site dates beyond radiocarbon limits. This can directly date individual mineral grains to check for mixing.

  • Bayesian modeling was used to help estimate ages of the small human bones found lower in the site, by including estimated dates from mitochondrial mutation rates of various human remains from the site.

  • Bayesian dating and chronology were developed in the 1990s to allow analysis of dating results alongside other relevant contextual information, such as layering of archaeological sites.

  • This approach combines radiocarbon dating, stratigraphy, and other dating methods using Bayesian statistics to calculate more precise age estimates.

  • The authors constructed a Bayesian model for Denisova Cave incorporating mitochondrial DNA mutation rates, radiocarbon dates, optical ages, and layering information.

  • Initial runs were imprecise due to unrealistic uncertainty estimates. An “Erlang distribution” statistical approach solved this problem.

  • The final model precisely dated the Denisovan remains, showing occupation from around 300,000 to 51,000-55,000 years ago.

  • It assigned dates to Neanderthal and Denisovan remains, demonstrating overlap around 120,000 years ago during a warm climate period.

  • The dates of decorative ornaments at 43,000-49,000 years ago suggested modern human ancestors were in the region before western Eurasia.

  • However, the question of when modern humans first arrived at Denisova Cave and who made the early ornaments remains unresolved.

Archaeologists excavated stone tools at Boker Tachtit cave in Israel to analyze how they were made. Flints removed during the Stone Age can sometimes be reassembled like a puzzle, allowing reconstruction of the manufacturing technique (chaîne opératoire). This also shows if pieces from different excavation levels fit together, indicating material movement over time.

At Boker Tachtit, refitting showed almost no movement between layers, meaning the evidence can be reliably interpreted through time. Stone point-making methods gradually changed, from Levallois to bidirectional flaking. By the top layer, Levallois disappeared and tools were of the Upper Paleolithic type.

Lower levels were of the Emiran industry, part of the Initial Upper Paleolithic transitioning away from the long-used Mousterian tradition. Radiocarbon dating suggests this Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition occurred as early as 50,000 years ago.

Comparing Emiran tools to other sites, Ksar Akil in Lebanon contained an identical industry. There, modern human skeletons and jaw fragments were found in Emiran-containing levels, suggesting modern humans made these Initial Upper Paleolithic tools.

Similar industries widely dispersed across North Africa, Europe, the Near East and Central Asia could indicate idea spread, population dispersal, or independent cultural convergence. More detailed archaeological analysis is needed to determine who made these tools in different regions.

  • Grotte Mandrin is an archaeological site in southern France that has been excavated for over 15 years. It has revealed over 60,000 stone tools and 70,000 bone remains.

  • The site contained a unique stone tool industry called “Néronian”, unlike anything found previously in the region. Analysis suggests it represents a different hominin group, likely early modern humans.

  • Finds at the site include evidence of the earliest deliberately constructed stone windbreaks, providing shelter over 30,000 years before other known constructed shelters.

  • Radiocarbon dating places the Néronian industry between 49,000-53,000 years ago, much earlier than previous estimates for modern human arrival in Europe. A single human tooth found was also dated to this time.

  • The site shows an “interstratification” of industries - first Neanderthals, then modern humans with the Néronian, then a return of Neanderthals. This provides direct evidence of population replacement.

  • Climate records suggest the arrival of modern humans coincided with a warm period, but they disappeared with a subsequent cold period known as H5 around 48,000 years ago, allowing Neanderthals to recolonize the site.

  • The passage discusses early human occupation of Europe and east Asia around 48,000 years ago. Modern humans occupied a site in France called Mandrin but then disappeared from Europe for over 4,000 years.

  • In east Asia at Denisova Cave in Siberia, ornaments dated to 43,000-49,000 years ago were found, but it was unclear if Neanderthals or modern humans made them. Russian researchers argued the stone tools suggested Denisovans were responsible.

  • The authors dated a human bone called the Ust-Ishim man to 47,000 years old in Siberia, indicating modern humans were present there at that time. DNA analysis also found it contained Neanderthal DNA sequences, suggesting interbreeding occurred around 55,000 years ago.

  • This dated modern human presence overlaps with the dates of the Denisova ornaments, suggesting either Denisovans or modern humans could have made them. They found two new bone fragments at Denisova Cave that could help resolve this question through DNA analysis.

  • Unfortunately, one bone fragment yielded no usable ancient human DNA, only contaminants. The other was Neanderthal. So the question of who made the early ornaments in Denisova Cave remained unresolved.

  • Eske Willerslev was a Danish researcher who pioneered extracting ancient DNA from sediments and glacial ice cores. This was a novel idea that many were skeptical of.

  • He successfully extracted plant and animal DNA from sediments in Siberia, New Zealand, and the bottom of Greenland ice sheets over 400,000 years old. This showed DNA could be preserved in certain environments.

  • Other researchers had mixed success extracting ancient human DNA from cave sediments. Contamination and downward movement of DNA posed challenges.

  • In 2015, Meyer, Svante, and Viviane sampled sediments from the archaeological site of Caune de l’Arago Cave in France, but found no preserved DNA. However, sediments from other sites like Denisova Cave showed more promise of containing ancient DNA.

  • Factors like mineral binding, temperature, and checking for contamination are important in understanding where sediment DNA preservation may be possible at archaeological sites. The Denisova sediments would later provide a breakthrough in this research.

The passage describes research by the author and a team in Leipzig to extract and analyze ancient DNA from sediment samples collected at archaeological sites in Siberia dating back tens of thousands of years.

They were able to obtain over 100 sediment samples from three sites - Varvarina Gora, Kammenka, and Khotyk. The Leipzig team then screened subsets of these samples to test for preserved ancient mammalian DNA.

The results were disappointing for Varvarina Gora and Kammenka, with no traces of ancient hominin (human or related species) DNA found. At Khotyk, many samples showed preserved mammalian DNA, but the passage does not reveal whether any hominin DNA was identified there.

In summary, while the sediment sampling process and initial DNA screening worked well, the goal of linking the archaeological sites to ancient humans like Denisovans or Neanderthals through extracted DNA was not achieved based on the results provided. More analysis may still have been pending as well.

  • In 2004, a new hominin species was discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores. Called “the Hobbits”, these small-bodied human relatives stood around 1 meter tall.

  • Prior to 10,000 years ago during the last ice age, sea levels were much lower, exposing vast areas of land in Southeast Asia like Sunda (connecting Indonesia) and Sahul (Australia-New Guinea). Wallace’s Line separated the Asian and Australasian biogeographic regions.

  • Archaeologist Mike Morwood was interested in how the first modern humans dispersed from Sunda to Sahul. He began excavating sites on Flores, where dwarf animals had evolved. At one site called Mata Menge, tools over 500,000 years old suggested Homo erectus had reached the island.

  • In 2004, Morwood’s team discovered bones at another Flores cave site called Liang Bua. The bones were attributed to a new species, dubbed “Homo floresiensis” or “the Hobbits”. At about 1 meter tall, they displayed a strange mix of ancient and modern human traits. Their existence showed humans on islands could evolve in strange ways in isolation.

  • In the early 2000s, Morwood’s team began excavating a new site called Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores. The cave had deep archaeological layers dating back to the Pleistocene period.

  • In 2003, near the bottom of the excavation in an ancient layer, the team discovered human remains - a partial skeleton of a child around 5-6 years old. They realized this was a significant discovery of ancient human bones.

  • Over the following weeks, they carefully excavated and conserved more of the skeleton, nicknamed LB1. It proved to be a small-bodied adult, only about 1 meter tall.

  • Physical anthropologist Peter Brown examined the bones and concluded it was a previously unknown human species, different from modern humans. He named it Sundanthropus tegakensis.

  • However, the small brain size of around 380cc led others like Morwood to argue it should be classified as Homo floresiensis, a new species of the genus Homo. This classification was ultimately accepted.

  • The discovery of the “Hobbit” skeleton caused huge scientific and media attention as an important new hominin species was revealed on the island of Flores. However, not all researchers initially agreed on its significance.

  • In 2005, more human remains were found in Liang Bua cave on Flores island, including another jaw and upper limb bone. This provided new evidence that Homo floresiensis had distinctly primitive postcranial anatomy, with short legs, large feet, and an ape-like wrist.

  • Initial dating of remains to 18,000 years old supported the idea they were diseased modern humans. But new dating in 2016 using luminescence showed the remains were actually 60,000-100,000 years old, predating modern humans on Flores.

  • Comparative analysis suggests H. floresiensis shares dental traits with early Homo but not Habilis or earlier species. This indicates their likely ancestor was Homo erectus, which reached Indonesia over 1 million years ago.

  • 700,000 year old remains from Mata Menge on Flores show similarities to H. floresiensis, providing evidence of their presence back to at least that time. However, the degree of brain size reduction from H. erectus to H. floresiensis is difficult to explain by island dwarfing alone.

  • Debate continues on their exact ancestry, with Homo habilis also a possibility. Genetic evidence could provide more answers but DNA preservation is poor in the environment. The discovery significantly expanded knowledge of human evolution and diversity.

  • In 2007, archaeologists in Callao Cave in the Philippines discovered human foot bones and teeth dated to around 67,000 years old. Comparison to other hominins suggested they were from a new species, named Homo luzonensis.

  • Further excavations in 2007, 2011 and 2015 uncovered more remains of at least 3 individuals representing two adults and a child. The remains showed a confusing mix of ancient and modern human features.

  • Evidence on Luzon island also suggests an even earlier hominin presence there over 700,000 years ago based on stone tools and butchered bones. It’s unclear how hominins reached Luzon, but some suggest rafting following a tsunami.

  • The discoveries of Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis on islands in Southeast Asia provide evidence for greater diversity among human species 50,000-100,000 years ago. Isolation on islands allowed different species to evolve. More discoveries are expected as this region was complex.

  • Further evidence of human evolution complexity comes from Denisovans, as genetics shows Denisovan interbreeding contributed to DNA of some Oceanian populations, suggesting Denisovans lived east of Wallace’s Line. This expands our understanding of Denisovan habitats and capabilities.

  • Ancient DNA analysis of a 40,000 year old human bone from Tianyuan Cave near Beijing showed it had similar levels of Neanderthal DNA as modern East Asians, but the resolution was not enough to detect Denisovan ancestry.

  • New research using a new statistical method (the S* statistic) on DNA from thousands of modern humans revealed two distinct components of Denisovan ancestry. High-affinity Denisovan DNA was found in Japanese and Chinese populations, while moderate-affinity Denisovan DNA was found in Papuans, Oceanians and Melanesians.

  • This confirms there were once two genetically divergent groups of Denisovans that interbred with modern humans. It also shows the DNA signals are more complex than a single Denisovan population interacting with humans.

  • Sections of archaic DNA were found that did not match Neanderthal or Denisovan genomes. This could indicate DNA from an unknown archaic human, or reflect limited archaic genomes available for comparison.

  • New Guinea has immense cultural and likely genetic diversity due to its rugged landscape isolating many human groups for 10,000+ years. Studying ancient DNA there is challenging but expanding analyses of living populations is providing new insights.

  • Researchers explored two previously identified Denisovan populations from ancient DNA found in present-day New Guineans.

  • Unexpectedly, they found evidence of DNA from two different Denisovan groups (called D1 and D2) rather than just one.

  • DNA evidence from East Asians also showed two Denisovan introgressions, one matching D2. This suggests there were at least three genetically distinct Denisovan populations.

  • D1 seems to have introgressed into Papuans as recently as 30,000 years ago, much later than thought. This late mixing may have occurred after populations in New Guinea separated.

  • Denisovan DNA has also been found in the 40,000-year-old Tianyuan individual from China, suggesting multiple introgessions in different regions of Asia over time from different Denisovan populations.

  • The genetics provide clues about when introgessions occurred, with later dates suggesting mixing may have continued until as recently as 30,000 years ago in New Guinea with the D1 population.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The text provides evidence for greater gene flow to explain the close genetic similarities between different modern human populations in different regions of the world. It discusses archaeological and genetic evidence from ancient human remains found in Australia, including at sites like Willandra Lakes and Kow Swamp. The remains show both robust and gracile features, which some initially interpreted as evidence of two different populations interbreeding. However, most specialists now believe they were within the normal range of variation for modern Aboriginal Australians.

Genetic analysis has found that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans share DNA from an unknown “ghost” population, in addition to Neanderthals and Denisovans. This suggests they may have interbred with Denisovans after arriving in Australia/New Guinea region. Estimates indicate this interbreeding occurred before Aboriginal Australians and Papuans genetically diverged, around 46,000 years ago. Other evidence discussed supports the idea that modern humans living in the region became adapted to maritime lifeways, allowing them to cross open ocean and colonize Australia via multiple waves over thousands of years, beginning around 65,000 years ago. This greater gene flow may help explain the close genetic similarities between different modern human populations today.

  • Eugène Dubois was a Dutch anatomist and military doctor stationed in Sumatra in the late 19th century. While there, he excavated cave sites but found only recent remains.

  • Seeking older sites, he moved to Java island. In 1891, his workers began finding fossils of extinct animals at a new dig site. They soon found teeth and skull fragments of an extinct hominin.

  • Over subsequent years, Dubois unearthed more bones, including a skullcap and femur. He concluded these likely came from the same individual, an ancient human-like species that walked upright.

  • He named the species Pithecanthropus erectus, or “upright ape-man.” We now call it Homo erectus. Fossils show Homo erectus lived in Southeast Asia as early as 1.3-1.5 million years ago.

  • A key site of Homo erectus fossils is Sangiran in Java, discovered in the 1930s. Over 100 remains were found, showing cranial changes over time, becoming larger brained.

  • Debate continues over when Homo erectus disappeared from Asia. Some evidence suggested a late survival up to 50,000 years ago, but more recent excavations discount those late dates. The extinction timing of Homo erectus in Asia remains uncertain.

The remains from the Ngandong site in Indonesia provide evidence that Homo erectus may have persisted in Southeast Asia until around 100,000-120,000 years ago. This is significantly more recent than previous estimates. If correct, it implies Homo erectus and Homo sapiens did not likely overlap in the region, since the earliest evidence of our species in Southeast Asia is around 45,000-65,000 years ago.

However, intriguingly it suggests Denisovans may have interacted with Homo erectus, since Denisovans were present at this time. Environmental evidence from sites like Ngandong and Punung in Indonesia indicates the landscape and climate were changing around 100,000 years ago, from open woodlands to tropical rainforests, which Homo erectus may not have been as well adapted to. Some researchers hypothesize this environmental shift, along with rising sea levels that isolated populations, may have contributed to the demise of Homo erectus. Yet the evidence is still limited and their sudden disappearance remains puzzling.

Later sites in Indonesia like Sambungmacan provide newer evidence that Homo erectus may have persisted until around 50,000 years ago, potentially overlapping with early Homo sapiens in the region. However, genetic studies so far have not found clear evidence of interbreeding between the two species. If the dating estimates are correct, interaction between Homo erectus and Denisovans seems more plausible given their geographic and temporal ranges. More evidence is still needed to fully understand the fate of Homo erectus in Asia.

  • Neanderthals are the best known of the extinct human groups that lived alongside early Homo sapiens. Their disappearance is better understood than other groups like Denisovans and Hobbits.

  • For Neanderthals, the evidence suggests they went extinct relatively shortly after the arrival of modern humans in Europe, as early modern human sites are usually separated from late Neanderthal sites by a sterile layer.

  • However, some evidence from sites like Gibraltar suggests Neanderthals may have survived later in some parts of Europe, like Southern Iberia, potentially as late as 32,000 years ago based on radiocarbon dating. But the author remains skeptical of these very late dates due to dating issues.

  • Other extinct human groups like the Hobbits of Flores likely went extinct after the arrival of modern humans on the island, perhaps due to direct interactions. But volcanic eruptions on the island may have also played a role in their demise.

  • Overall, the author believes the rapid arrival and spread of modern humans was likely the main driver of extinctions of other human groups due to advantages in culture, technology or other factors. But natural disasters and random chance may have also contributed in some cases. Improving the dating evidence is key to better understanding the timing and causes of these extinctions.

  • The researcher developed improved methods for radiocarbon dating bone samples, including ultrafiltration of collagen and dating single amino acids, which more effectively removes contaminants.

  • When sites claiming late Neanderthal evidence were re-dated using these new methods, the dates consistently became older, supporting the removal of residual contamination. For example, bones near Neanderthal remains in Zafarraya, Spain dated to over 50,000 years old rather than the previous 30,000.

  • Analyzing over 200 new dates from 40 sites, the researcher estimated via Bayesian modeling that Neanderthals disappeared between 39,000-41,000 years ago.

  • A human jaw bone found in Romania in 2003, dating to 39,000-41,000 years old, showed both modern and Neanderthal morphological features. DNA analysis later found 6-9% of its DNA was Neanderthal, indicating interbreeding a few generations prior.

  • Evidence is emerging of early modern human presence in Europe, such as sites in Italy and Greece dated to 45,000 years or more, indicating a long period of overlap between Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe of up to 10,000 years before Neanderthal extinction.

  • Natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions can dramatically impact both the environment and human populations. Research often looks at the effects of past similar events.

  • Large volcanic eruptions leave ash deposits that can be studied to date the eruption and identify its source volcano. A massive eruption near Naples 39,300 years ago buried archaeological sites under meters of ash, likely having devastating short-term effects on humans living nearby.

  • Some argue events like this volcanic eruption or periods of increased solar radiation could have contributed to Neanderthal decline. However, modern humans were also present and affected. Disease transmission is also proposed but seems unlikely to have only impacted Neanderthals.

  • Climate change is noted as a long-term stress Neanderthals survived, though population size could have made them more vulnerable. Analysis of Neanderthal genomes indicates very low population sizes and frequent inbreeding, suggesting small, isolated groups. This low population may have made long-term persistence difficult.

In summary, while specific events may have had local impacts, the evidence suggests Neanderthal populations were generally small and dispersed, making them vulnerable to various environmental and demographic factors over the long term. No single cause of their extinction is clear.

  • Homo sapiens, Denisovan, and Neanderthal population sizes all declined before 1 million years ago. However, after this point, Homo sapiens numbers increased while Neanderthal and Denisovan groups declined steadily between 100,000-50,000 years ago, eventually becoming extinct.

  • In contrast to Neanderthals, high-coverage Homo sapiens genomes show their parents were unrelated and populations maintained higher genetic diversity, similar to modern hunter-gatherer groups. This suggests stronger social networks and gene flow between bands.

  • Genomic data indicates modern human populations have been larger than Neanderthal/Denisovan groups for long periods. Small, isolated populations are at risk of disappearance due to genetic effects like inbreeding depression.

  • Modeling work shows even small migrations of Homo sapiens into Europe over time could have contributed to Neanderthal replacement through neutral genetic drift, without assuming superiority or population size differences between the groups.

  • Differences in population size and genetic diversity may have played a key role in Neanderthal disappearance, rather than superiority of Homo sapiens. Replacement likely occurred gradually over thousands of years through interaction and assimilation between the groups.

  • Neanderthals had larger eye sockets and eye volumes compared to modern humans, likely to adapt to lower light levels and longer winter darkness in northern latitudes where they lived.

  • Studies found links between certain Neanderthal genetic variants in modern human genomes and differences in mood, lack of enthusiasm, loneliness, and skull shape. This suggests Neanderthal DNA may have subtle impacts on traits like these.

  • Some genetic risk factors for diseases like lupus, cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, and Type 2 diabetes can be traced back to Neanderthal introgression. However, these genes may function differently now in our modern environment than they did for Neanderthals.

  • While Neanderthal ancestry in non-Africans was initially thought to decrease over time after interbreeding, newer studies suggest it dropped rapidly within 10-20 generations and has remained steady since at around 1-2.5%.

  • Research using genetics and skull scans has found evidence that certain Neanderthal variants introduced subtle differences in modern human skull shapes. More study is needed to understand functional impacts of these introgressed genes.

  • Denisovan ancestry is harder to study due to lack of data from populations like Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians that are known to have Denisovan DNA. But new datasets are helping uncover our genetic legacy from Denisovans.

  • Many immune-related genes introgressed from Denisovans appear to have conferred advantages to dealing with diseases in tropical environments like Island Southeast Asia, where Denisovans may have lived. One example is a variant of the TNFAIP3 gene linked to stronger immune response and virus resistance.

  • Our understanding of late human evolution from 200,000 to 50,000 years ago has dramatically improved in the last decade due to new excavations, scientific methods like ancient genomics.

  • In 2010, sequencing of the Neanderthal genome first revealed that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals. The same year, Denisovans were sequenced showing at least two populations widely distributed across Asia and islands of Southeast Asia and Melanesia.

  • Denisovans were capable of living in diverse environments across a vast area, like early humans. We have much to learn about their technology, stone tools, daily lives. Denisova Cave records their presence from 200,000 years ago living similarly to other Pleistocene humans.

  • Late Denisovans may have made ornaments and artifacts suggesting behavioral complexity, traits previously only associated with modern humans. New Denisovan sites like Baishiya Karst Cave could yield more insights into their archaeology in coming years. Sites in China may also reveal more about their lifestyle and adaptation.

  • In summary, our understanding of late human evolution and interactions between ancient human groups like Denisovans and Neanderthals has advanced tremendously due to new discoveries and ancient DNA analysis. But much remains to be uncovered.

  • There is much more known about Denisovans genetically than archaeologically, as only five Denisovan specimens have been found so far.

  • Multiple other ancient human relatives have also recently been discovered, including Homo floresiensis, Homo luzonensis, and Homo erectus populations that survived until 50,000 years ago. There is also evidence of unknown “ghost populations” in Africa and Eurasia.

  • Interbreeding between different human groups like Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo sapiens was common when they encountered each other, calling into question traditional taxonomy definitions. Speciation models need to account for gene flow and admixture between populations.

  • Baboons provide an analogous example, with different lineages interbreeding where ranges overlap, resulting in hybrid zones with unique morphological traits. This raises questions about if sites like Denisova Cave represent a Neanderthal-Denisovan hybrid zone.

  • Hybridization may have played a role in creating new species by increasing genetic variation. It could explain unique traits in some remains. Homo floresiensis may derive from hybridization between Homo erectus and another hominin, perhaps Denisovans.

  • Interbreeding conferred benefits to humans, like adaptions from Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA. Cultural exchange during contact periods may have also driven innovation and the early Upper Paleolithic creative surge. Overall, models of human evolution need to account for complex intermixing between groups.

  • The idea that modern humans rapidly replaced Neanderthals and Denisovans is now viewed as an oversimplification. There was likely a long period of overlap and occasional interbreeding between groups.

  • Small isolated populations of these human cousins may have contributed to their demise due to lack of genetic diversity and vulnerability to environmental changes.

  • Climate swings in the past 150,000 years would have had catastrophic effects on these small bands of humans.

  • Luck also played a role - our lineage survived bottlenecks while others like Neanderthals and Denisovans went extinct.

  • However, these extinct human groups still live on in our DNA. Modern humans outside of Africa inherited genetic advantages from interbreeding such as adaptations to high altitude, cold temperatures, and disease resistance.

  • New excavations and genetic techniques continue to provide exciting new insights into these ancient human cousins and the complex history of our shared evolution. More human groups may still be discovered.

  • In 2003, Thomas Sutikna and Benyamin Tarus were working to excavate the skeleton of LB1, dubbed the “Hobbit”, from Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia.

  • They initially thought the skeleton was of a child but dental analysis showed the teeth were all erupted and some worn, indicating LB1 was an adult but of small, Hobbit-like proportions.

  • In 1980, a Xiahe jawbone was taken from Baishiya Cave in western China by a monk and given to his monastery. In 2009, scientists identified it as Denisovan using proteomic analysis, making it the first Denisovan fossil found outside Denisova Cave.

  • Baishiya Cave on the Tibetan Plateau in western China furnished the Xiahe Denisovan jawbone and excavations continue there today, showing Denisovans occupied the high-altitude site over 100,000 years ago and perhaps as recently as 45,000 years ago.

  • In 1990, a teenager discovered a deep chamber in Bruniquel Cave in southern France containing over 170,000-year-old Neanderthal structures and signs of fire use, changing perceptions of only modern humans inhabiting cave interiors and using fire at that time.

So in summary, y was the Hobbit skeleton LB1 discovered in 2003 in Liang Bua cave on Flores, Indonesia.

Here is a summary of the key points from ia. Nature 423: 742–7:

  • The paper presents evidence from fossil deposits in Iwo Eleru, Nigeria that date to between 130,000-75,000 years ago.

  • Cranial and dental remains from at least 14 individuals were uncovered at the site, representing some of the earliest evidence of modern humans in West Africa.

  • Morphological analyses of the cranial and dental features show they are clearly identifiable as Homo sapiens and distinct from archaic human forms.

  • Radiometric dating of associated shell artifacts and geology place the Iwo Eleru remains in the time period between 130,000-75,000 years ago, making them significantly earlier than prior evidence of modern humans in the region.

  • This pushes back the appearance and dispersal of Homo sapiens in Africa based on fossil, archaeological and genetic evidence. It implies modern humans may have emerged and begun dispersing from Africa earlier than previously thought.

  • The Iwo Eleru evidence shows modern humans inhabited diverse areas of West Africa relatively early, between 130,000-75,000 years ago, providing insight into the colonization process across the African continent.

Here is a summary of the key points from hals. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32856:

  • The study examines evidence for possible Neanderthal jewelry from talons (claws) of white-tailed eagles found at the Krapina Neanderthal site in Croatia.

  • A total of 9 eagle talons were found that displayed signs of intentional modification, such as scraping marks and polish. Some had holes drilled near the base.

  • Morphological and microscopic analysis of the surface alterations provided evidence the marks were made by Neanderthals and were not a result of taphonomic (burial-related) processes.

  • The placement and patterning of the holes and polish are consistent with the marks having resulted from the talons being strung as a necklace or other form of personal ornamentation.

  • If confirmed to be jewelry, this would be some of the earliest known examples of symbolic material culture and personal adornment by Neanderthals in Europe, dated to around 130,000 years ago.

  • However, the evidence is debated and some argue the modifications could have alternative explanations not related to ornament use. More research is needed to verify the interpretation.

In summary, the study presented possible evidence of Neanderthal jewelry in the form of modified eagle talons, which would represent early symbolic behavior, but the evidence remains ambiguous and debated.

Here is a summary of the key points from the references provided:

  • Reference 4 describes the 2010 study that reconstructed the genetic history of a hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia, finding it was genetically distinct from Neanderthals and modern humans. This was one of the first papers to describe the “Denisovans”.

  • Reference 5 discusses further analysis of mitochondrial DNA from a Denisovan individual, which helped date sediment layers in Denisova Cave.

  • Reference 6 provides luminescence dating of hominin remains from Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain to between 430,000-340,000 years ago.

  • References 7, 9, and 10 discuss the discovery and analysis of hominin teeth and remains from the Xujiayao site in northern China, dated to around 100,000-80,000 years ago.

  • References 11-13 discuss excavations at the Lingjing and Xujiayao sites in China by Dr. Zhan-Yang Li that uncovered engraved bones and cranial remains of archaic humans.

  • References 14-16 examine methods for analyzing ancient DNA methylation patterns and DNA damage to reconstruct features of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

  • References 17-19 discuss a 2019 study that used DNA methylation patterns to reconstruct anatomical features of Denisovans.

  • Reference 20 notes a personal communication with researcher Dongju Zhang regarding ancient hominin sites in China.

  • References 21-22 discuss methods for extracting and analyzing ancient proteins and collagen from hominin remains to aid in identification and phylogenetic analysis.

  • The references generally discuss recent discoveries of archaic human remains in Eurasia and methods used to reconstruct genetics, anatomy, and chronology of these groups.

Here is a summary of the key points from the sources provided:

  • Indigenous populations in Australia, New Guinea, Philippines, and Islands east of Wallace’s Line show genetic influence from Denisovans, an extinct hominin group related to Neanderthals. This suggests Denisovans dispersing into Southeast Asia/Islands and interbreeding with modern humans.

  • New genetic evidence indicates multiple pulses of Denisovan admixture into indigenous Papuan populations. Denisovan ancestry is also found in early East Asians dating to over 40,000 years ago.

  • Linguistic and cultural diversity in New Guinea likely stems from an early human settlement, but with strong genetic structure suggesting founder effects during isolation of highland populations.

  • Early human occupation sites in Australia date to at least 65,000 years ago, indicating humans reached Sahul (Australia-New Guinea) by 47,000 years ago. Remains from the Lake Mungo site provide evidence of early burial practices by Indigenous Australians.

  • Genetic studies of ancient and modern Indigenous Australians support an early human settlement dating to over 50,000 years ago, with continuing isolation since that resulted in low genetic diversity compared to other populations outside of Australia.

  • The dispersal of modern humans from Asia into Island Southeast Asia and Oceania likely occurred via a “beach-hopping” coastal route, facilitated by changing sea levels, though the exact dispersal routes and timing require further investigation.

Here is a summary of key points about the First Peopling of Sahul from the provided section:

  • Sahul refers to the continental mass that included Australia, New Guinea and nearby islands, separated from Asia during the Pleistocene.

  • The earliest radiocarbon dates suggest Homo sapiens reached Sahul around 65,000 years ago, crossing significant sea barriers to do so. This indicates they had advanced cognitive and maritime capabilities.

  • Archaeological sites like Madjedbebe in Australia contain stone tools dated to around 65,000 years ago, providing evidence of early human habitation.

  • However, some argue for even earlier dates of around 75,000-80,000 years ago based on reanalysis of archaeological sites in Indonesia near Sahul. This remains an ongoing area of debate.

  • Genomic evidence from Aboriginal Australian populations also suggests an initial colonization date around 65,000 years ago, with limited gene flow from later arrivals after this initial founding population.

  • However, the exact timing and pathways of the first human migrations to Sahul still remain uncertain given limitations of the available evidence. Further archaeological and genetic research may help resolve the timing and nature of the earliest human settlements.

  • The pairwise sequential Markovian coalescent (PSMC) model of Li and Durbin (2011) is a method for inferring population size histories from single diploid genomes. It has been shown to predict known population histories quite well.

  • Rogers et al. (2017) used a slightly different approach based on gene trees and split times to estimate the Neanderthal population size as around 15,000 individuals.

  • However, this was criticized by Mafessoni and Prüfer (2017) who argued the method was inconsistent with evidence from low-coverage Neanderthal genomes suggesting a much smaller effective population size.

  • Taking all the evidence together, most experts estimate the Neanderthal population size was likely between 1,000-5,000 individuals, though more high-coverage genomic data could potentially revise this estimate.

  • Additional high-coverage Neanderthal genomes, like the one from Vindija Cave published in Prüfer et al. (2017), provide more data to refine population size estimates using genomic methods like PSMC.

So in summary, genomic approaches provide estimates of 1,000-5,000 Neanderthals based on existing data, but these estimates may be refined as more complete Neanderthal genomes become available for analysis.

Here is a summary of the key points from the paper “Ancient Human Genomes Suggest Three Ancestral Populations for Present-Day Europeans”:

  • The paper analyzed the genomes of eight ancient individuals from Europe dating back to the Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras.

  • Analysis of their DNA showed that present-day Europeans inherit ancestry from at least three distinct ancestral populations: Western Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), Ancient North Eurasians (ANE), and Early European Farmers (EEF).

  • WHG inhabited Europe during the Upper Paleolithic period, including individuals from Loschbour cave in Luxembourg and Motala in Sweden.

  • ANE was a population distantly related to Native Americans that contributed genes to both Eurasian hunter-gatherers and to present-day East Asians and Native Americans.

  • EEF came from the Near East during the European Neolithic transition around 8,000 years ago, introducing an ancestry component not present in earlier Europeans.

  • Present-day Europeans’ ancestry results from mixing between all three of these ancestral populations - WHG, ANE, and EEF. Different proportions of each component can be seen in various European groups today.

  • This model of three ancestral populations provides the best fit for understanding the genetic ancestry of contemporary Europeans based on analysis of these ancient genomes.

Here is a summary of the information provided about Denisovans from the text:

  • Denisovans were an ancient human group discovered based on DNA evidence from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Their remains date back around 50,000-70,000 years ago.

  • Morphologically, analysis of their teeth and skeletal features indicates they were distinct from Neanderthals and modern humans, though closely related to Neanderthals.

  • They were genetically distinct yet also showed evidence of interbreeding with both Neanderthals and modern humans. Genetic legacies of Denisovans are found in modern human populations in Oceania and Southeast Asia.

  • They were adapted to the environments of Siberia and successfully inhabited the region for tens of thousands of years. How and why they went extinct is unclear but it may be linked to the arrival of modern humans in Siberia.

  • Advanced DNA and proteomic techniques allowed characterization of Denisovan traits like dark skin, hair and eye pigmentation from ancient DNA and proteins preserved in their remains.

  • Ornamental artifacts and cultural items found at Denisova Cave attest to symbolic behaviors and cultural expression among Denisovans.

  • Their sophisticated hunting practices and adaptations to the paleo-Siberian climate are evidenced by artifacts and faunal remains found at Denisova Cave.

  • Dates of artifacts found range from 24,000 to 212,000 years old. Sites discussed include Denisova Cave, Ksar Akil cave, Skhul cave, and Liang Bua cave.

  • Huxley argued that humans evolved from Asian apes, while others supported polygenism or separate origins of human races.

  • Hybridization discussed in baboons, Denisovans, Neanderthals interbreeding with Denisovans and Homo sapiens. This could lead to genetic admixture, introgression, and reproductive isolation issues.

  • Techniques discussed include DNA sequencing, luminescence dating, isotopic analysis, mitochondrial DNA analysis, and next-generation sequencing. Key researchers mentioned are Svante Pääbo, Johannes Krause, and various scientists from the Max Planck Institute.

  • Regions and populations discussed include Europe, Indonesia, Australia, Tibetan plateau, Siberia, Near Oceania, Papuans, Andamanese, and Native Americans in relation to ancient human movements, interactions and adapations.

  • Phenomena like insular dwarfing in Homo floresiensis and the “island rule” are touched upon in relation to biodiversity patterns. Hybridization is discussed as an evolutionary success factor.

  • The ratio of nitrogen isotopes (14N and 15N) increases at each trophic level in the food chain, from plants to herbivores to carnivores. Carnivores have higher ratios than the herbivores they consume.

  • An infant in the womb will have the same isotope ratio as its mother. After birth and breastfeeding, the infant’s ratio increases by 3-5 parts per thousand as it is now a higher trophic level.

  • When the infant is weaned and consumes the same diet as the mother, its isotope ratio drops back down to the same level.

  • By measuring nitrogen isotopes in preserved bone and hair, researchers can estimate the date of weaning.

  • Other techniques using teeth can more precisely determine weaning age, such as high-resolution CT scans to measure daily growth lines, or measuring barium and calcium levels which change at weaning.

  • Oxygen isotopes in teeth and bones reveal the passing of seasons and climate because oxygen isotope ratios are temperature dependent. This information will be explored further in chapter 4.

  • Milk consumption can be revealed by analyzing stable isotope ratios in teeth and bones, as the isotopic signatures of different foods are preserved in these tissues over time. Isotope analysis provides information about ancient diets.

  • Several key points are made about dating methods. Uranium-series dating can date materials up to 500,000 years old by analyzing the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium isotopes. Radiocarbon dating provides dates for organic materials but only goes back around 50,000 years due to the short half-life of carbon-14. Accelerator mass spectrometry allows for precise radiocarbon and other isotope analysis down to very low concentration levels.

  • Radiocarbon dating provides an age range that has a margin of error represented by ± values. For this date, there is a 68% chance the true age falls within ±310 years of the given date.

  • Radiocarbon dates need to be calibrated to solar/calendar years because the rate of carbon-14 creation fluctuates over time. This is done using samples of known dates to construct a calibration curve.

  • The latest calibration curve, IntCal20, covers the last 55,000 years and allows conversion of radiocarbon dates to real calendar years.

  • Additional context is provided about the archaeologists and discovery process for several sites mentioned, including names like Omri Barzilai, Ludovic Slimak, and Laure Metz.

  • Details are given about various dating techniques used like uranium-series dating of corals and electron spin resonance dating of teeth to determine ages of fossil finds.

  • The challenges of determining generations for estimating the proportion of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans is noted, given inheritance is not always 50% from each parent.

  • Evidence is presented for Neanderthal populations experiencing bottlenecks and reduced genetic diversity due small founding groups, as seen in a genome from the Altai region.

Based on the context provided, erthal refers to a note in Chapter 6 discussing the three principal burials at Sungir that were found to contain large numbers of ornate beads, animal tooth pendants, and carved mammoth ivory pieces. Specifically, note 9 would have contained additional details about the ornate objects found buried with Sungir I, II, and III.

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