No preamble this week; we’re straight down to business with this weeks biggest discoveries about our ancestors.
- Does everyone remember Atapuerca? No? Click here. Finished clicking? Good, so now you know there appears to have been a second wave of migration (possibly the ancestors of Neanderthals) characterized by the appearance of new stone tools. Except now archaeologists have found said stone tools at a site almost twice the age they are supposed to be. What on earth is going on? Stay tunes for future updates (source).
- Speaking of re-dating things; fossils from China may force us to re-evaluate when out ancestors left Africa. It was thought this migration occurred 60 – 100,000 years ago (although most scientists opted for the younger end of the spectrum). However, an analysis of these fossils suggests humans may have been in China by 100,000 years ago; meaning they had to have left Africa even earlier (source; or if you’re interested in a great review of this research James Lumbard has a tippy-top post on the subject).
- The Younger Dryas was a brief “ice age” that started about 12,000 years ago. Some scientists had hypothesized that a cosmic event, perhaps a meteor impact, may have been responsible. However a new study disproves this idea quite conclusively and is quite scathing in the process. The authors note that this hypothesis is inconsistent “with the basic laws of physics” (source).
- It seems like every week we learn something about how Neanderthals were more intelligent and capable than we gave them credit for; and this week was no exception. Their latest ability? Turns out they hunted and ate pigeons (source)!
And of course there’s also the news stories covered in more detail here at EvoAnth. We’ve got…
- Some researchers claim that the hobbit (technically called Homo floresiensis) isn’t actually a new species but just a modern human with Down syndrome. I disagreed.
- Many people thought leaders began to arise in society in response to increased food production; using those resources to “buy” power. However, a simulation has revealed they probably contributed more to the generation of those resources in the first place.
Edit for a late breaking news.
That hobbit story I mentioned? Well it turns out that not only was the science somewhat dubious but there may have been some nefarious work going on behind the scenes as well. Other researchers have alleged that the authors used their position at the National Academy of Sciences to ensure they would be peer reviewed by people unfamiliar with the topic, ensuring they would find no fault with it and it would be published. However, the original authors have not taken these claims lightly and are even going into blog comments to defend their work.