Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Meet Denny, The Only Human Hybrid Remains Ever Unearthed

A few finger bone fragments are all that is left of Denny.
Image credit: Brown et al., Scientific Reports, 2016 (CC BY 4.0)

The bones of “Denny” are the only known physical remains of a first-generation human hybrid, born as a result of a Neanderthal breeding with a Denisovan. As exceptional as her remains might be, a deep dive into the genome of modern-day Homo sapiens shows there were once plenty more hominin hybrid individuals around.

The finger bones were unearthed in 2012 within the Denisova Cave, a cave in the Altai mountains of Siberia that has yielded an immense amount of remains belonging to Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens. Estimated to be around 90,000 years old, the researchers named the remains "Denisova 11", or Denny for short. 

As reported in the journal Nature in August 2018, scientists carried out a DNA analysis of the bone and revealed it was even more fascinating than they initially realized: it belonged to a teenage female who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. 

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Monday, October 23, 2023

Scientists reveal the cause of Earth's last ice age

At the beginning of the last ice, local mountain glaciers grew and formed large ice sheets, like the one seen here. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

For quite some time, paleo-climate specialists have been perplexed by two enigmas: What was the origin of the ice sheets that defined the final ice age, and how could they expand so rapidly?

Fresh research conducted by University of Arizona's experts suggests a plausible explanation for the swift expansion of the ice sheets that coated a considerable portion of the Northern Hemisphere during the last ice age. Furthermore, the study's findings may be applicable to other glacial periods in the Earth's past.

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‘A Neolithic feat of engineering’: Orkney dig reveals ruins of huge tomb

Fourteen skeletons were found in one of six rooms surrounding the main chambeer at the site. Photograph: National Museums Scotland

‘A Neolithic feat of engineering’: Orkney dig reveals ruins of huge tomb
Clues unearthed more than 100 years ago inspired archeologists to locate the 5,000-year-old site

The ruins of a 5,000-year-old tomb in a construction that reflects the pinnacle of neolithic engineering in northern Britain has been unearthed in Orkney.

Fourteen articulated skeletons of men, women and children – two positioned as if they were embracing – have been found inside one of six cells or side rooms.

The tomb measures more than 15m in diameter and contains a stone structure accessed through a long passage of around seven metres. The excavation was headed by Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark, senior curator of prehistory (neolithic) at the National Museums Scotland, and Prof Vicki Cummings, professor of neolithic archaeology at Cardiff University.

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‘Orkney dig reveals ruins of huge tomb’

Staff and students from the UHI Archaeology Institute with Professor Vicki Cummings during a visit to the excavation site in September 2023. (📷 Sigurd Towrie)

In August and September, excavation in the East Mainland parish of Holm revealed the remains of a Maeshowe-type chambered cairn.

At the helm of the three-week dig were Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark and Professor Vicki Cummings.

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Saturday, October 14, 2023

Neanderthals Hunted Lions with Spears, and New Research Reveals How They Might Have Done It

A 48,000-year-old lion skeleton found in a cave in modern-day Germany has provided researchers with new evidence of early predator hunting by hominids, according to new evidence outlined in a study published by Scientific Reports Thursday. The same study reports potential evidence of hominids turning cave lion skins into pelts based on new analysis of different, much older remains. These findings represent the earliest known proof that Neanderthals were effective hunters of large carnivores rather than just scavengers trying to avoid them.

A skeleton of a cave lion with a significant puncture wound in its rib was discovered in 1985 near Siegsdorf in southeastern Germany, at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. The puncture wound and surrounding cracks are located on the interior side of the rib, indicating that a spear likely struck it from the inside after passing through the lion’s vitals. Other “lesions,” probably the result of butchering, mark other bones.

“The hunting lesions include a partial puncture and possible drag marks,” the study reads. “The partial puncture was observed on the [rear] side … of rib III … It is oval-shaped in outline, exhibits circumferential and radial cracking on the impact … side, and lacks an exit wound.”

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A Horse Is a Horse?

Nearly 25 years ago, a team working in Hohle Fels Cave in southern Germany’s Swabia region unearthed a small piece of carved ivory they believed represented a horse’s head. Even as three more small ivory pieces that were part of the same figurine were found subsequently, their judgment didn’t change. A fifth piece of the Ice Age sculpture has recently been discovered, and researchers now believe it depicts an entirely different animal. “As soon as the pieces were fit together, it was clear from the shape of the shoulder and body that they couldn’t belong to a horse,” says archaeologist Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen.

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