Sunday, September 29, 2019

Did a common childhood illness take down the Neanderthals?


BROOKLYN, NY - It is one of the great unsolved mysteries of anthropology. What killed off the Neanderthals, and why did Homo sapiens thrive even as Neanderthals withered to extinction? Was it some sort of plague specific only to Neanderthals? Was there some sort of cataclysmic event in their homelands of Eurasia that lead to their disappearance?

A new study from a team of physical anthropologists and head & neck anatomists suggests a less dramatic but equally deadly cause.

Published online by the journal, The Anatomical Record, the study, "Reconstructing the Neanderthal Eustachian Tube: New Insights on Disease Susceptibility, Fitness Cost, and Extinction"1 suggests that the real culprit in the demise of the Neanderthals was not some exotic pathogen.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Somerset human remains 'as old as Cheddar Man'

The human remains were found to be as old as Britain's oldest complete skeleton, the Cheddar Man

Two boxes of human remains rediscovered after 55 years have been found to be as old as the Cheddar Man - Britain's oldest complete skeleton.

The bones were discovered in a cave in Cannington Park Quarry near Bridgwater, Somerset, in the 1960s.

Soon after they "disappeared", and were recently found at Somerset Heritage Centre near Taunton, Cotswold Archaeology said.

Radiocarbon dating has shown them to be more than 9,000 years old.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Historic find suggests bottle-feeding not a modern phenomenon

A reconstruction of a baby being fed using a vessel. 
Photograph: Helena Seidl da Fonseca/PA

Babies from prehistoric cultures were fed animal milk in small ceramic pots, according to a study that suggests bottle-feeding is not a modern phenomenon.

The drinking vessels, which were excavated from children’s graves in Bavaria, date to between 450 and 1,200BC. They have teat-shaped spouts, appear designed to be easily held by an older baby or toddler and one is shaped as an imaginary animal, suggesting it may have doubled as a toy.

Julie Dunne, a chemist at the University of Bristol and lead author, said: “These very small, evocative, vessels give us valuable information on how and what babies were fed thousands of years ago, providing a real connection to mothers and infants in the past.”

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Prehistoric babies fed animal milk in bottles

Prehistoric family scene ARCHOLOGIEDERSCHWEIZ

Prehistoric babies were bottle-fed with animal milk more than 3,000 years ago, according to new evidence.

Archaeologists found traces of animal fats inside ancient clay vessels, giving a rare insight into the diets of Bronze and Iron Age infants.

The discovery suggests milk was given to infants to supplement breast feeding and could have contributed to a baby boom.

The type of milk is unknown, but goats or cows are likely suspects.

This is the first direct evidence for how prehistoric infants were fed, said Dr Julie Dunne of the University of Bristol, adding that the practice could have boosted fertility.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Neanderthal footprints found in France offer snapshot of their lives

The excavation site of the footprint layer in Le Rozel, France. 
Photograph: Dominique Cliquet/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists find 257 prints that were preserved in wind-driven sand 80,000 years ago

Scientists have found hundreds of perfectly preserved footprints, providing evidence that Neanderthals walked the Normandy coast in France.

The prints suggest a group of 10-13 individuals, mostly children and adolescents, were on the shoreline 80,000 years ago.

Neanderthals, the closest evolutionary cousins to present-day humans and primates, have long been thought to have lived in social groups, but details have been hard to establish.

The 257 footprints discovered at Le Rozel in western France give a snapshot of how Neanderthals lived and suggest they may have been taller than previously thought.

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Giving birth two million years ago was 'relatively easy'

Human childbirth can be a long, painful, drawn-out process, needing assistance 
and sometimes taking days. GETTY IMAGES

Human childbirth can be a long, painful, drawn-out process, needing assistance and sometimes taking days.

So why do close living relatives like chimps have an easier labour, giving birth in hours and on their own?

In an attempt to answer this evolutionary question, scientists have been looking at how ancient members of the human family tree gave birth.

Human-like relatives two million years ago had it "pretty easy", according to birth reconstruction in a fossil.

For Australopithecus sediba, which lived 1.95 million years ago in South Africa, we see "a relatively easy birth process", says study researcher Dr Natalie Laudicina.

"The foetal head and shoulder breadth have ample space to pass through even the tightest dimensions of the maternal birth canal," she says.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Earliest direct evidence of milk consumption

The evidence comes from dental plaque from Neolithic remains

Scientists have discovered the earliest direct evidence of milk consumption by humans.

The team identified milk protein entombed in calcified dental plaque (calculus) on the teeth of prehistoric farmers from Britain.

It shows that humans were consuming dairy products as early as 6,000 years ago - despite being lactose intolerant.

This could suggest they processed the raw milk into cheese, yoghurt or some other fermented product.

This would have reduced its lactose content, making it more palatable.

The team members scraped samples of plaque off the teeth, separated the different components within it and analysed them using mass spectrometry.

They detected a milk protein called beta-lactoglobulin (BLG) in the tartar of seven individuals spanning early to middle Neolithic times.

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