Author Topic: Neanderthals in the News  (Read 6662 times)

Recusant

  • Miscreant Erendrake
  • Administrator
  • Guardian of Reason
  • *****
  • Posts: 5945
  • Gender: Male
  • infidel barbarian
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2017, 02:27:37 AM »
There are a couple of new papers about newly sequenced Neanderthal genes.

"New Clues to How Neanderthal Genes Affect Your Health" | National Geographic

Quote

This reconstruction of a Neanderthal female unveiled in 2008
was the first made using ancient DNA evidence.
Image credit: Joe McNally

If your arthritis is bad today or you’re slathering on aloe for an early autumn sunburn, Neanderthals may be partly to blame.

Scientists announced today the second complete, high-quality sequencing of a Neanderthal genome, made using the 52,000-year-old bones of a female found in the Vindija cave in Croatia.

Together with the genomes from another Neanderthal woman and a host of modern humans, a suite of analyses is yielding new clues about how DNA from Neanderthals contributed to our genetic makeup and might still be affecting us today.

For instance, one new study appearing in the journal Science [full paper available with a free AAAS account] suggests that Neanderthal genes contribute 1.8 to 2.6 percent of the total genetic makeup for people of Eurasian ancestry. . . .

But don’t go blaming Neanderthals for all your medical woes, cautions study leader Kay Prüfer at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. After all, hundreds if not thousands of factors influence gene expression.

“These are just associations, so that doesn’t mean if you have a particular variant of a gene, you either will or won’t have a disease. It means sometimes you might,” Prüfer says.

What’s more, some of the Neanderthal contributions are potentially helpful.

“When we looked, there was one variant that was more certain, for LDL cholesterol, and the gene the Vindija individual carried is protective,” Prüfer says. Low-density lipoprotein, commonly called “bad” cholesterol, is associated with fatty buildups in arteries, so genetic protections would help guard against issues such as heart disease.

“A common misconception is the things that come from Neanderthals are generally bad,” Prüfer says, “but that’s not entirely true.”

[. . .]

In a separate study released today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, two of Prüfer’s colleagues, Michael Dannemann and Janet Kelso, took a slightly different tack. Rather than look at disease-related genes, they looked at how ancient genes might account for physical appearance and even some behaviors.

This team compared the Altai Neanderthal’s genes with genetic and—for the first time—physiological data from 112,000 individuals of northern European descent who contributed their information to the UK Biobank.

Dannemann and Kelso found 15 regions in the Altai Neanderthal genome that frequently overlap with sections of the Biobank group’s genomes. These genes determine hair and eye color, how badly you sunburn, and even sleep time preference, or whether you’re a morning person or a night owl.

Again, just having the gene isn’t a guarantee for anything—the Neanderthal genes are just as likely as modern genes to have an effect. But it’s intriguing to know that they remain firmly lodged in our makeup.

Dannemann says he and Kelso plan on repeating the research using the new Vindija genome and an expanded Biobank cohort of 500,000 people, hoping to reveal even more hidden associations.

[Continues . . .]

A briefer but altogether less satisfactory pop-science article about the Dannemann, Kelso paper is available here.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 02:42:43 AM by Recusant »
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Recusant

  • Miscreant Erendrake
  • Administrator
  • Guardian of Reason
  • *****
  • Posts: 5945
  • Gender: Male
  • infidel barbarian
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #31 on: February 26, 2018, 07:21:17 PM »
I've read discussions of supposed differences between Neanderthal and anatomically modern humans (AMH) in which it was asserted that since Neanderthals didn't create recognizable art, they must have thought differently than AMH, including a lack of symbolic thought. Those who believe that might have been too hasty.

"Neanderthals were artistic like modern humans" | ScienceDaily

Quote
Scientists have found the first major evidence that Neanderthals, rather than modern humans, created the world's oldest known cave paintings -- suggesting they may have had an artistic sense similar to our own.

A new study led by the University of Southampton and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology shows that paintings in three caves in Spain were created more than 64,000 years ago -- 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe.

This means that the Palaeolithic (Ice Age) cave art -- including pictures of animals, dots and geometric signs -- must have been made by Neanderthals, a 'sister' species to Homo sapiens, and Europe's sole human inhabitants at the time.

It also indicates that they thought symbolically, like modern humans.

Published today in the journal Science, the study reveals how an international team of scientists used a state-of-the-art technique called uranium-thorium dating to fix the age of the paintings as more than 64,000 years.

[Continues . . .]
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Dave

  • Formerly known as Gloucester
  • Has Finally Learned to Not Feed The Trolls
  • *****
  • Posts: 6852
  • Gender: Male
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #32 on: February 26, 2018, 08:09:48 PM »
Yes, heard this on the radio. The old inage of the "noble ssvage" is still being chipped away!

I remember the series where a TV presenter was made up to look like a Neanderthal, except for the obviously different sketetal proportions, and when dressed in a suit got no back-looks stares or comments in crowded streets. He was just a shortish, heavy set man with, er, rugged features. This also supports the idea that they were not that much less intelligent than the average HS.

In the version I heard it was mainly the dots, geogemetrical patterns and hand stencils that had been attributed to them. In the back of my copy of "Secrets of the Ice Age" (cringe) (Evan Hadingham, 1979 (bought by me in 1982)), I found a note that I had made on an index card, "Chronicle, BBC2, 19/4/89: Geometric forms and shapes, spots etc in prehistoric (and later) art may be entopic images created within the nervous system during trance or states of altered conciousness. Entopic vision in these states are common to all races of man, including prehistoric man."

I think the use of, er, ceremonial substances goes back a long way!

There are various geological and environmental time lines, stats of image types, similarity links etc in that book. A quick scan seems to indicate that at the time of writing all images were thought to be of the younger, <40ky, vintage. But pigment analysis and other techniques would have been in their infancy then. The book mentions La Pasiega with Altamira and Castillo and their animal paintings but offers no dates.

Later:

Quote
New Analysis Reveals Neanderthal Drug Use
Though this mainly refers to medicinal uses betcha they found recreational herbs as well!
« Last Edit: February 26, 2018, 08:25:13 PM by Dave »
Tomorrow is precious, don't ruin it by fouling up today.

Recusant

  • Miscreant Erendrake
  • Administrator
  • Guardian of Reason
  • *****
  • Posts: 5945
  • Gender: Male
  • infidel barbarian
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #33 on: May 01, 2018, 12:24:39 AM »
It's possible that Neanderthals did some exploration via watercraft (likely using rafts, I'd think).

"Neandertals, Stone Age people may have voyaged the Mediterranean" Science

Quote
Odysseus, who voyaged across the wine-dark seas of the Mediterranean in Homer’s epic, may have had some astonishingly ancient forerunners. A decade ago, when excavators claimed to have found stone tools on the Greek island of Crete dating back at least 130,000 years, other archaeologists were stunned—and skeptical. But since then, at that site and others, researchers have quietly built up a convincing case for Stone Age seafarers—and for the even more remarkable possibility that they were Neandertals, the extinct cousins of modern humans.

The finds strongly suggest that the urge to go to sea, and the cognitive and technological means to do so, predates modern humans, says Alan Simmons, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas who gave an overview of recent finds at a meeting here last week of the Society for American Archaeology. “The orthodoxy until pretty recently was that you don’t have seafarers until the early Bronze Age,” adds archaeologist John Cherry of Brown University, an initial skeptic. “Now we are talking about seafaring Neandertals. It’s a pretty stunning change.”

[. . .]

[R]ecent evidence from the Mediterranean suggests purposeful navigation. Archaeologists had long noted ancient-looking stone tools on several Mediterranean islands including Crete, which has been an island for more than 5 million years, but they were dismissed as oddities.

Then in 2008 and 2009, Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island co-led a Greek-U.S. team with archaeologist Curtis Runnels of Boston University and discovered hundreds of stone tools near the southern coastal village of Plakias. The picks, cleavers, scrapers, and bifaces were so plentiful that a one-off accidental stranding seems unlikely, Strasser says. The tools also offered a clue to the identity of the early seafarers: The artifacts resemble Acheulean tools developed more than a million years ago by H. erectus and used until about 130,000 years ago by Neandertals as well.

Strasser argued that the tools may represent a sea-borne migration of Neandertals from the Near East to Europe. The team used a variety of techniques to date the soil around the tools to at least 130,000 years old, but they could not pinpoint a more exact date. And the stratigraphy at the site is unclear, raising questions about whether the artifacts are as old as the soil they were embedded in. So other archaeologists were skeptical.

But the surprise discovery prompted researchers to scour the region for additional  sites, an effort that is now bearing fruit. Possible Neandertal artifacts have turned up on a number of islands, including at Stelida on the island of Naxos. Naxos sits 250 kilometers north of Crete in the Aegean Sea; even during glacial times, when sea levels were lower, it was likely accessible only by watercraft.

[Continues . . .]
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Davin

  • Don't Pray in My School, and I Won't Think in Your Church
  • *****
  • Posts: 7111
  • Gender: Male
  • (o°-°)=o o(o*-°)
    • DevPirates
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #34 on: May 01, 2018, 03:43:36 PM »
It's kind of exciting to see all this new stuff about neanderthals, because when I was a kid, they were just another species that we were related to. I remember people talking about them like they were just dumb but strong. This new stuff destroys my bad conceptions of them and that's awesome.

Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.

Dave

  • Formerly known as Gloucester
  • Has Finally Learned to Not Feed The Trolls
  • *****
  • Posts: 6852
  • Gender: Male
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #35 on: May 01, 2018, 03:51:55 PM »
It's kind of exciting to see all this new stuff about neanderthals, because when I was a kid, they were just another species that we were related to. I remember people talking about them like they were just dumb but strong. This new stuff destroys my bad conceptions of them and that's awesome.

That more or less applied to me too.
Tomorrow is precious, don't ruin it by fouling up today.

Dave

  • Formerly known as Gloucester
  • Has Finally Learned to Not Feed The Trolls
  • *****
  • Posts: 6852
  • Gender: Male
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #36 on: May 01, 2018, 04:07:44 PM »
Seems this story goes back to at least 2012

Quote
The stone “mousterian” tools are unique to Neanderthals and have been found on the islands of Zakynthos, Lefkada and Kefalonia, which range from five to twelve kilometers from mainland Greece. Some, such as Paul Pettitt from the University of Sheffield, suggest they could have swum that far. But that doesn’t explain how similar tools found on the island of Crete got there. That would have meant swimming forty kilometers, which seems extremely unlikely, especially since such swimmers wouldn’t have known beforehand that Crete was there to find.

https://phys.org/news/2012-03-evidence-neanderthals-boats-modern-humans.html

Though this does leave a question in my mind about how fsr the could see from and moutain tops on the other islands. It also reopens the wuestion in my mind about how ancient maribers navigated. The Polynesians may have used stars to get back home after being blown, by a storm, to a previously unknown island to let others know it existed. How far did Neanderthal atronomy go one wonders? What other methods could they have used?
Tomorrow is precious, don't ruin it by fouling up today.

Recusant

  • Miscreant Erendrake
  • Administrator
  • Guardian of Reason
  • *****
  • Posts: 5945
  • Gender: Male
  • infidel barbarian
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #37 on: May 19, 2018, 04:22:25 PM »
Thanks for that link, Dave. Ties in nicely with the story above!

* * *

About 40,000 years too late, little treats for Neanderthal zombies:

"Scientists to grow 'mini-brains' using Neanderthal DNA" | The Guardian

Quote
Scientists are preparing to create “miniature brains” that have been genetically engineered to contain Neanderthal DNA, in an unprecedented attempt to understand how humans differ from our closest relatives.

In the next few months the small blobs of tissue, known as brain organoids, will be grown from human stem cells that have been edited to contain “Neanderthalised” versions of several genes.

The lentil-sized organoids, which are incapable of thoughts or feelings, replicate some of the basic structures of an adult brain. They could demonstrate for the first time if there were meaningful differences between human and Neanderthal brain biology.

“Neanderthals are the closest relatives to everyday humans, so if we should define ourselves as a group or a species it is really them that we should compare ourselves to,” said Prof Svante Pääbo, director of the genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where the experiments are being performed.

Pääbo previously led the successful international effort to crack the Neanderthal genome, and his lab is now focused on bringing Neanderthal traits back to life in the laboratory through sophisticated gene-editing techniques.

The lab has already inserted Neanderthal genes for craniofacial development into mice (heavy-browed rodents are not anticipated), and Neanderthal pain perception genes into frogs’ eggs, which could hint at whether they had a different pain threshold to humans. Now the lab is turning its attention to the brain.

“We’re seeing if we can find basic differences in how nerve cells function that may be a basis for why humans seem to be cognitively so special,” said Pääbo.

The research comes as the longstanding stereotype of Neanderthals as gormless and thuggish is being rewritten by emerging evidence that they buried their dead, produced cave art and had brains that were larger than our own.

[Continues . . .]

Pääbo's work seems a little reminiscent of the stereotypical mad scientist, so two silly horror movie tropes in one post.  :lol:



« Last Edit: May 19, 2018, 09:33:30 PM by Recusant »
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Dave

  • Formerly known as Gloucester
  • Has Finally Learned to Not Feed The Trolls
  • *****
  • Posts: 6852
  • Gender: Male
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #38 on: May 19, 2018, 05:05:04 PM »
^

I liked the comment about "hesvy browed ridrnts"!

There was a bloke on the bus this week, short legs, long arms, heavy brown ridges and a sloping cranium. 

I did wonder . . . But his nose was quite small.
Tomorrow is precious, don't ruin it by fouling up today.

Recusant

  • Miscreant Erendrake
  • Administrator
  • Guardian of Reason
  • *****
  • Posts: 5945
  • Gender: Male
  • infidel barbarian
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #39 on: July 20, 2018, 05:21:02 PM »
It is already well established that Neanderthals used fire. A new paper describes a combination of experimental archaeology and microscopic examination of ancient hand axes used by a team of scientists lead by Andrew Sorensen; it is proposed that Neanderthals also regularly kindled their own fires.

"The Mystery of How Neanderthals Got Fire" | The Atlantic

Quote
The first step to re-creating 50,000-year-old technology is to collect a bunch of rocks. So began Andrew Sorensen’s plan to study a great mystery in archaeology: how Neanderthals controlled fire.

Sorensen, an archeologist at Leiden University, collected a special kind of rock called flint off the beaches of England. If you hit it in just the right ways, flint will break to expose sharp edges that can be used to butcher meat, scrape hides, and cut wood. And if you strike it against a mineral called pyrite, sparks will fly. Flint plus pyrite plus tinder equals fire.

Archeologists have found evidence of Neanderthal fire pits. They have even found tar that Neanderthals likely made by deliberately heating birch bark. What they have never found are tools that Neanderthals could have used to start fires on demand. Without it, Neanderthals would have needed to collect fire from natural sources such as lightning strikes, which would have required walking long distances to find fuel to keep fires going and enduring cold spells with raw food when they went out. The mastery of fire would have made life much easier. Many think it was a key turning point in human evolution.

Sorensen suspected that flint tools called bifaces may hold the answer. Bifaces are essentially hand axes used in all sorts of cutting—a “Neanderthal Swiss army knife,” as Sorensen put it. So he took a bunch of flint home, shaped it into bifaces, and tried to create fires in an indoor lab. Through trial and error, he found that striking pyrite against the flat side of the biface produced sparks that could ignite tinder. “I wasn’t setting off any fire alarms or anything,” he says. He extinguished the tinder instead of blowing on it and feeding it progressively larger pieces of fuel.

Now Sorensen had a hypothesis to test. When he repeatedly struck the pyrite against the bifaces, the scraping left marks on the rocks. If Neanderthals did this, presumably their pyrite left marks on their bifaces, too. So he and his co-authors went looking for Neanderthal bifaces in museums to study marks called microwear. In a new paper in Scientific Reports, Sorensen and his co-authors suggest that Neanderthals used bifaces and pyrite to start fires, based on the similar microwear patterns on real Neanderthal stone tools and on the tools he re-created in a lab. Sarah Hlubik, an anthropologist at Rutgers University who also studies the early origins of fire and was not involved in the study, says the paper is “really exciting.” It’s the first physical evidence of Neanderthals starting fires.

[Continues . . .]

The full paper is available for free:

"Neandertal fire-making technology inferred from microwear analysis" | Scientific Reports

Quote
Abstract:

Fire use appears to have been relatively common among Neandertals in the Middle Palaeolithic. However, the means by which Neandertals procured their fire—either through the collection of natural fire, or by producing it themselves using tools—is still a matter of debate. We present here the first direct artefactual evidence for regular, systematic fire production by Neandertals. From archaeological layers attributed to late Mousterian industries at multiple sites throughout France, primarily to the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA) technoculture (ca. 50,000 years BP), we identify using microwear analysis dozens of late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tools that exhibit macroscopic and microscopic traces suggesting repeated percussion and/or forceful abrasion with a hard mineral material. Both the locations and nature of the polish and associated striations are comparable to those obtained experimentally by obliquely percussing fragments of pyrite (FeS2) against the flat/convex sides of a biface to make fire. The striations within these discrete use zones are always oriented roughly parallel to the longitudinal axis of the tool, allowing us to rule out taphonomic origins for these traces. We therefore suggest that the occasional use of bifaces as ‘strike-a-lights’ was a technocultural feature shared among the late Neandertals in France.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 05:33:51 PM by Recusant »
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Recusant

  • Miscreant Erendrake
  • Administrator
  • Guardian of Reason
  • *****
  • Posts: 5945
  • Gender: Male
  • infidel barbarian
Re: Neanderthals in the News
« Reply #40 on: August 22, 2018, 08:07:21 PM »
This one could go in the "Cousins" thread but, slighting the patriarchy, I'm putting it here.  ;)

"Hybrid Hominin: This Girl’s Mother and Father Came From Two Different Species" | Discover

Quote
Humans think of themselves as exceptional among the creatures inhabiting Earth. But it wasn’t always so.

Multiple groups of humans once co-existed with Homo sapiens, including Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans. And we did more than simply live alongside them — traces in our DNA reveal that our ancestors also interbred with other human species.

Now, for the first time, researchers have found direct evidence of this interbreeding in the form of a 13-year-old girl from Russia’s Altai Mountains. Her mother was a Neanderthal and her father was a Denisovan, making her a first-generation hybrid of human species.

Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and elsewhere uncovered the unique specimen among a trove of bones excavated from Denisova Cave in Siberia. The cave is the only place where archaeologists have found bones belonging to the Denisovans, a species of ancient human who we still know very little about. Thousands of bones have been retrieved from the cave since digging began on 2005, yet many remain unanalyzed. Researchers are working through the backlog now to uncover more information about those who inhabited the cave over the course of tens of thousands of years.

One of those cave inhabitants was a girl who died around the age of 13 more than 50,000 years ago. Today, we know her from just a fragment of one of her long bones, a specimen called “Denisova 11.” Researchers at Max Planck extracted samples from the bone to retrieve genetic information. Their first attempt pegged her as being pure Neanderthal, based on data from her mitchondrial DNA, inherited only from the mother. But the sample was so well-preserved, they decided to conduct more in-depth tests of her whole genome.

“And we were very surprised when the data started coming in to see that it was actually equally close to both Neanderthals and Denisovans,” says Svante Pääbo, a co-author of the paper and director of the department of genetics at Max Planck. “I thought they had screwed up something.”

But, as they dug further, they found that the girl, let’s call her “11” for short, truly did have equal amounts of both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA.

“You can see that in each chromosome pair, one of the partners comes exclusively from the Neanderthal and the other from something that’s exclusively Denisovan,” Pääbo says.

And, because all of the genes passed on through mitochondrial DNA were Neanderthal, 11’s mother must have belonged to that species, making her father a Denisovan.

[. . .]

Digging further into 11’s genome, the researchers found that her Denisovan father also possessed Neanderthal traits, indicating that he too could count a Neanderthal in his family tree. It’s hard evidence that interbreeding occurred on at least two occasions, packed into a single find. Her mother’s genetic history yielded insights as well — she turned out to be more closely related to Neanderthals living in Western Europe than to another Neanderthal found at Denisova cave.

[Continues . . .]
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken