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Author Topic: Neanderthal DNA: related to us?  (Read 3105 times)
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« on: August 22, 2006, 10:25:45 PM »

It has been claimed often, for years now, that we modern humans do not carry any DNA from the Neanderthals. However, I have always considered this position to be improbable. In my view, our understanding of DNA is not sufficiently advanced to make this claim, especially as it contradicts what appears to me to be common sense.

Neanderthals lived successfully in Europe for longer than we have. After we entered Europe, modern man and Neanderthals shared the same space for well over 10,000 years. There has never been any evidence that modern man, our ancestors, waged a war of extinction against the Neanderthals.

This has therefore raised a genuinely puzzling question: what caused the Neanderthals to die off? Well, I don't know and neither does anyone else. But I do know one thing: man will mate with anything, and I mean anything.

Reconstruction of a Neanderthal female

Scientists are trying to tell us that, despite their knowing next to nothing about the subject, man and Neanderthal did not mate. I could give you a string of such preposterous scientific claims such as that, but here, let's stick to this one.

In Portugal, the  skeletal remains have been found of a boy who is part modern man and part Neanderthal. So there we have it: they did mix.

Still scientists said the data had to be wrong, because their understanding of DNA analysis made cross-breeding impossible. Well, they were right: data was wrong, but it was theirs, not the archaeologists.

If you follow the DNA story, then you may be aware that we don't know nearly as much about it as the media likes to portray. It has always been possible that the evidence of cross-breeding was there, but that the scientists just could not recognise it.

This ignorance is supported by a study of DNA of modern people in Lisbon, Portugal. This found no traces of an African population that is fully and reliably reported to have existed in that city. This was proof that ancestry could be invisible at our level of understanding. Still the scientists said cross-breeding didn't happen, merely because they couldn't see it.

Neanderthals were smart. They had to be to survive for as long as they did, in such hard conditions, against fierce competitors, many of which were bigger, stronger, faster. We know they were smart, too, because, for example, they made musical instruments.

Neanderthal flute, from the cave of Divje babe I, in the Idrijca valley in western Slovenia

Neanderthal brains were bigger than ours and their bodies smaller, giving them the vital brain:body ratio advantage that denotes intelligence.

I cannot imagine circumstances in which we would not have mated with them.

Now, the news.

Neanderthals: Still in Our Genes?
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Aug. 22, 2006 ? Individuals of European descent may be 5 percent Neanderthal, while West Africans could be related to an archaic human population, according to a recent study of genes of people from Yoruba and individuals living in Utah with ancestry from Northern and Western Europe. Since both groups spread, the find suggests we all have a bit of archaic DNA in our genes. This counters the view that modern humans left Africa and replaced all other existing hominid populations.

"Instead of a population that left Africa 100,000 years ago and replaced all other archaic human groups, we propose that this population interacted with another population that had been in Europe for much longer, maybe 400,000 years," co-author Vincent Plagnol told Discovery News.

Plagnol, a researcher in the Department of Molecular and Computational Biology at the University of Southern California, and colleague Jeffrey Wall analyzed patterns of ancestral linkage in 135 modern individuals.

Using statistics and computer modeling, they focused on linkage disequilibriums, or sections within genes that did not make sense if only modern human matings were considered. The missing genetic links only fit if some other hominid population was introduced into the model, according to the paper, which was published in PLoS Genetics.

"We considered the data from modern human DNA and fitted a model to explain what we see," explained Plagnol. "We found that a simple model cannot explain the data if we do not add an ?ancestral population.? If this population did not cross with modern humans ? or almost did not ?  the effect is too small to explain the data. We find that a rate of 5 percent is what is needed to explain what we see."

The researchers agree with recent studies that concluded Neanderthals did not contribute any mitochondrial DNA ? genetic material that is passed from mothers to children. However, they say other portions of the European genome, such as those associated with nuclear DNA, may still harbor the Neanderthal imprint.
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2006, 12:47:19 AM »

Mirabile Dictu

What can someone add to something as astounding as that?

« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2006, 09:59:45 AM »

We must be related to Neanderthals - that's my great grandma's picture you posted above  Wink
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« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2006, 02:32:27 AM »

Blood Will Tell.

De thuirt I mun deidhinn?


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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2006, 01:28:08 AM »

Scientist looks to Wales for Neanderthal blood

Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at Oxford University, says the last of the real Neanderthal bloodline could have been carried by a pair of Mid Wales twins who died in the 1980s. It could make the brothers the missing link between ancient and modern man.

     In his new book Blood of the Isles, which traces the ancestry of the British, Prof Sykes says he first heard of the Tregaron Neanderthals while visiting the 13th Century Talbot Hotel in Mid Wales during a research trip. The twin bachelors lived behind the ruins of a Cistercian monastery at nearby Strata Florida, where they were apparently visited every year by school pupils eager to learn about human evolution.

     The boffin spent 10 years taking samples from 10,000 people around Britain and Ireland and he found people in parts of Mid Wales whose bloodlines stretch back 10,000 or even 12,000 years, to when man first began repopulating Britain after the last Ice Age. He said: "In Mid Wales, around Tregaron, I found the oldest ancestry. We were looking at modern descendants of the oldest ancestors in Britain. There are pockets of people in Mid Wales whose ancestors go right back 10,000 years. They would have been hunter-gatherers. The fact that Wales and Mid Wales is hilly and mountainous is one of the reasons it has been undisturbed and we can see some of the oldest DNA here."

     While some may accuse his claims as crackpot, Prof Sykes is a respected academic, whose book also reveals the Welsh have the oldest DNA in Britain and Ireland.

Source:  icWales (24 september 2006)

See also:
Neanderthal DNA: related to us?
Colourful beginning for humanity


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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2006, 08:43:51 AM »

I have no idea how true that story is, Bart, but it is true that Sykes knows of what he speaks.

Oxford Ancestors
Professor Bryan Sykes Chairman & Founder
Bryan is the Founder of Oxford Ancestors and is a Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford. His work in the field of mitochondrial DNA analysis allowed him and his co-workers to produce the most complete DNA family tree of our species yet constructed; the basis of our MatriLine? service. Using his own surname, Bryan was the first to show the astonishingly close connection between surnames and Y-chromosomes, which became the basis for our Y-Line? service. Bryan lives in Oxford and on the Isle of Skye.

My own view is that DNA is not fully understood and that it is not possible with today's understanding to know our ancestry fully. It is therefore possible that Neanderthals did not die out, but through inter-breeding, became part of modern man.

I once saw a facial reconstruction of a Neanderthal and the result could have been a bloke walking around today. Their differences were not as apparent as illustrators make out. OK, so they were shorter and more solidly built, but there are plenty of people now who fit that description.

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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2006, 07:07:13 PM »

Some folk concluded years ago that were you to take away Neanderthal's  oft depicted club and skin clothing, dress him in a Brooks Brothers suit, and have him walk up Fifth Avenue, no one would take a bit of notice.  I agreed with them then, and even more so now.

Neanderthal bodies were much more robust ("big-boned" or "muscle-bound" in popular terms) than ours and their lower legs and arms were proportionally shorter, both of which are adaptations to cold climates.  Males were on average about 5'6" and females were about 5'3", comparable to many modern populations (modern European males and females are 5'7" and 5'3" respectively).  Neanderthal skulls were long and low (ours are high and round) and housed a large brain.  Both sexes had prominent brow ridges and large muscle attachments of the jaw and neck.  Their faces projected forward with a long, large protruding nose, "swept-back" cheeks, and a "weak" chin.  Males and females had large teeth that show a lot of wear caused by using the mouth as a vice to hold hides, meat, and plant materials for processing.  Both sexes had robust skeletons with large muscle attachments and powerful yet flexible hands.  Their legs, ankles, and feet were designed to withstand heavy muscular stress, implying that their lifestyle was quite vigorous.  The best word to describe Neanderthal anatomy is "powerful".

            While we may wonder about Neanderthal eye, skin, and hair color, such traits are not preserved in the archaeological record.  Most archaeologists believe that Neanderthals probably had pale skin since they (like modern Swedes for instance) lived in conditions of low sunlight.  Cartoonists draw Neanderthals with a lot of body hair, but there is no archaeological evidence to support such a view.  Other than on mummies (Neanderthals did not use this burial practice), hair is generally not preserved in the archaeological record.


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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2006, 07:44:51 PM »

The reconstruction I saw showed a face that was a little different from our 'average' face today, but, of course, our average is composed of not only many types, but extremes also. Even allowing for some 'typical' Neanderthal features, the face would not seem exceptional today.

I am a fan of these early people. Living in Europe for about ten times longer than we have, they were immensely successful in adapting to and living in their climate and terrain. I applaud then for that alone.

Their brain was considerably larger than ours and by today's reckoning, that means something. Intelligence needs both size and a high brain:body ratio. They were superior to us in both regards. That they used their intelligence is proven by both their long survival as a species and the tools they made, including the flute that was found. Music makers have my esteem.

There is no evidence of conflict between them and us. Our world then was full of threat, so it must have been quite pleasant to have found cousins and who were not a threat. Our only advantage was that - we think - we would have been able to run faster.

They appear to have held spiritual beliefs and practised medecine. There has been much debate on their capacity for speech and my view is that they did speak. In fact, the evidence I have seen - which is quite comprehensive - is that they did speak and maybe sung, too.

What weapons they had were for hunting. Here is a reconstruction based on what we know now.

This is a list of archeological sites where remains and/or tools of Neanderthals were found.

    * Europe north of the Alps
          o Ehringsdorf (Germany) Protoneanderthals
          o Engis (Belgium) Protoneanderthals
          o La Naulette (Belgium) Classic Neanderthals
          o Neandertal (Germany) Classic Neanderthals
          o Salzgitter-Lebenstedt (Germany) Classic Neanderthals
          o Sclayn (Belgium) Protoneanderthals
          o Spy-sur-l'Orneau (Belgium) Classic Neanderthals
          o Veldwezelt-Hezerwater (Belgium) ProtoNeanderthals

    * Western Europe north of the Pyrenees
          o Arcy-sur-Cure (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o Bau de l'Aubesier (France) ProtoNeanderthals
          o Biache-Saint-Vaast (France) ProtoNeanderthals
          o Combe Grenal (France) ProtoNeanderthals
          o La Chaise (France) ProtoNeanderthals
          o La Chapelle-aux-Saints (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o La Ferrassie (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o La Quina (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o Le Moustier (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o Les Rochers-de-Villeneuve (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o Moula-Guercy (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o Regourdou (France) Classic Neanderthals
          o St-C?saire (France) Classic Neanderthals

    * Iberian Peninsula
          o L'Arbreda (Spain) Classic Neanderthals
          o Banolas (Spain) Classic Neanderthals
          o Carihuela (Andalucia) Classic Neanderthals
          o Figueira Brava (Catalu?a) Classic Neanderthals
          o Foz Coa Valley (Portugal) Classic Neanderthals
          o Zafarraya (Granada) Classic Neanderthals
          o Gibraltar (Spain) Classic Neanderthals
          o Cueva Negra (Regi?n de Murcia) ProtoNeanderthals
          o Sima de las Palomas (Regi?n de Murcia) ProtoNeanderthals

    * Apennine Peninsula
          o Monte Circeo (Italy) ProtoNeanderthals
          o Quattari (Italy) ProtoNeanderthals
          o Saccopastore (Italy) Classic Neanderthals

    * Balkan Peninsula
          o Divje Babe (Slovenia) Classic Neanderthals
          o Krapina (Croatia) Transition Neanderthals

    * Central and Eastern Europe
          o Ganovce (Slovakia) ProtoNeanderthals
          o Kulna (Slovakia) Transition Neanderthals
          o Mezmaiskaya Cave (Russia) Classic Neanderthals
          o Ochoz (Slovakia) Transition Neanderthals
          o Sala (Slovakia) Transition Neanderthals
          o Sipka (Slovakia) Transition Neanderthals

    * Europe
          o Jersey (Great Britain)

    * Southwest Asia
          o Amud (Israel) Transition Neanderthals
          o Behistun (Iran) Transition Neanderthals
          o Dederiyeh (Syria) ProtoNeanderthals
          o Galilea (Israel) Transition Neanderthals
          o Jagca Koy (Turkey) Transition Neanderthals
          o Kebara (Israel) Classic Neanderthals
          o Mugharet et-Skhul (Palestinian National Authority) Transition Neanderthals
          o Shanidar (Iraq) Transition Neanderthals
          o Tabun (Israel) ProtoNeanderthals

    * Central Asia
          o Teshik-Tash (Uzbekistan) Transition Neanderthals
          o Kiik-Koba (Ukraine) Transition Neanderthals
          o Aman-Kutan (Uzbekistan) Transition Neanderthals
          o Staroselje (Ukraine) Transition Neanderthals

    * Western Asia
          o Ngandong (Indonesia) Tropical Neanderthals

    * Africa
          o Broken Hill (Zambia) Tropical Neanderthals
          o Makapan (South Africa) Tropical Neanderthals
          o Saldanha (South Africa) Tropical Neanderthals
          o Haua Fteah (Libya) Transition Neanderthals
          o Sidi Abderrhaman (Morocco) Transition Neanderthals
          o Dir? Dawa (Ethiopia) Transition Neanderthals
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2006, 10:52:00 AM »

French dig up Neanderthal 'butcher's shop'
Saturday September 30, 2006
By John Lichfield
CAOURS, Somme - French and Belgian archaeologists have found conclusive proof that Neanderthals - mankind's closest relatives - were living in near tropical conditions, hunting rhinoceros and elephant, close to what is now the French Channel coast 125,000 years ago.
No traces of Neanderthal activity have been found before in northwest Europe during this period - a 15,000 year gap between two ice ages.
Historians thought that Neanderthals, who thrived in cold conditions, had failed to adapt to the warmer weather and had retreated to the east or to the north. The new site at Caours, near Abbeville, close to the mouth of the river Somme, proves that this was not so.
A two-year dig by two French Government research bodies has uncovered evidence of a Neanderthal "butcher's shop" on an ancient river-bank - a site where family or tribal groups worked for a period of a few decades or maybe centuries.
To this place, now a maize field, beside an open barn and a group of bungalows, they dragged animals as large as rhinoceros, elephant and aurochs, the forerunner of the cow. The Neanderthals - known to be squat, powerful people, who had language and fire and buried their dead - sliced up the animals with flint tools for their meat and pounded their bones for their marrow.
This is the second announcement of an important Neanderthal discovery in two weeks. This month, British archaeologists reported that they had found evidence that a few members of the species (Homo neanderthalis) may have survived in caves in Gibraltar much later than was previously thought - until about 28,000 years ago, or maybe even 24,000 years ago. It was thought that they vanished about 30,000 years ago.
Both finds are potentially vital new pieces in the incomplete jig-saw of modern understanding of our near-human, European predecessors. The problem is that the two discoveries seem to be part of different puzzles.
Jean-Luc Locht, a Belgian expert in pre-history at the French Government's archaeological service Inrap, was one of the three principal researchers at Caours in the Somme.
He said: "This is a very important site, a unique site. It proves that Neanderthals thrived in a warm northwest Europe and hunted animals like the rhinoceros and the aurochs, just as they previously, and later, hunted ice-age species like the mammoth and the reindeer." No Neanderthal remains have been found so far on the new site on the Somme or among the new finds in Gibraltar. In both cases, their presence has been revealed by other discoveries: flint tools in Gibraltar; a trove of flint tools and fossilised animal bones in the Somme.
The bones, found in a geological layer laid down about 125,000 years ago, show signs of having been sawn through, crushed or stripped of meat by flint tools. The animal species identified include a small fragment of elephant bone, several rhinoceros teeth, and many remnants of aurochs, wild boar and several kinds of deer.
The dig - which will continue next summer - has also unearthed flint scraping or cutting tools and a flint pounding implement, used for crushing bones or splitting other pieces of flint.
The back-to-back French and British announcements create a pre-historical conundrum.
The Gibraltar discovery suggests that Neanderthals survived for as much as 8000 years after a two-legged rival first appeared in Europe out of Africa - Homo sapiens sapiens or mankind. An 8000-year period of Neanderthal/ sapiens co-habitation suggests that mankind was not responsible for wiping out the Neanderthals.
The find in the Somme suggests that if Neanderthals were able to survive the ending of an earlier ice age, they were presumably capable of surviving the fluctuations in climate long before the ice sheet finally withdrew from Europe about 15,000 years ago.

I am not so sure we were rivals: we would have used our speed to hunt the Savannah and the Neanderthal would have used his superior strength in the forests.
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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2006, 02:18:03 PM »

Well, this news should roust the academicians from their armchairs, wouldn't you say?
A whole new way to look at the development of humankind. I expect a lot of resistance from those who have already "decided" this issue and it should be fun to follow the debates that are sure to follow.

« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2006, 02:36:18 PM »

Yes, Doc, it challenges the suggestion that Neanderthals died out because of a post-Ice Age temperate climate. I would have imagined that they would have really enjoyed a break from snow and ice. Just because they survived Ice Ages cannot mean that they found a spell of sunshine unbearable.
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2006, 10:35:52 AM »

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and 454 Life Sciences Corporation unveil plan to sequence the Neandertal Genome

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and 454 Life Sciences Corporation, in Branford, Connecticut, have announced an ambitious plan to complete a first draft of the Neandertal genome within the next two years. Prof Svante P??bo, Director of the Institute?s Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, and Dr. Michael Egholm, Vice-President of Molecular Biology for 454 Life Sciences will jointly direct the project, made possible by financing from the Max Planck Society. 454 Life Sciences? newly developed sequencing technology has made it possible to extract and sequence nuclear DNA from Neandertal fossils, a hopeless task using traditional techniques. As a trial, the collaborators have already sequenced approximately one million base pairs of nuclear Neandertal DNA from a 38,000-year-old Croatian fossil.

 This August marks the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the first Neandertal fossil in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany. Ever since that time, paleontologists and anthropologists have been striving to uncover the role of these stockily-built early humans in modern human evolution who lived in Europe and parts of Asia until they disappeared about 30,000 years ago. P??bo, a pioneer in the field of ancient DNA research, brought the world closer to understanding our relationship to Neandertals when he sequenced Neandertal mitochondrial DNA in 1997. This breakthrough suggested that Neandertals did not make a substantial contribution to the modern human gene pool, even though the Neandertals and modern humans coexisted for thousands of years. Together with 454 Life Sciences, P??bo is now gearing up to take the next leap in Neandertal research and sequence the entire 3 billion base pairs that made up their genome. They will then compare the Neandertal genome to the already sequenced human and chimpanzee genomes. This will clarify the evolutionary relationship between humans and Neandertals as well as help identify those genetic changes that enabled modern humans to leave Africa and rapidly spread around the world starting around 100,000 years ago.

Extracting, identifying and sequencing ancient DNA from fossils is a technically challenging task. When an organism dies, its tissues are overrun by bacteria and fungi. Much of the DNA is simply destroyed, and the small amount remaining is broken into short pieces and chemically modified during the long period of fossil formation. This means that when scientists mine tiny samples of ancient bones for DNA, much of the DNA obtained is actually from contaminants such as bacteria, fungi, and even scientists who have previously handled the bones. Over the last twenty years, P??bo?s research group has developed methods for demonstrating the authenticity of ancient DNA results, as well as technical solutions to the problems of working with short, chemically-modified DNA fragments. Together with 454 Life Sciences they will now combine these methods with a novel high-throughput DNA sequencing that is ideally suited to analyze ancient DNA.

Until now, ancient DNA researchers have targeted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), a small circle of DNA found in the cell?s energy-producing mitochondria. Each mitochondrion contains multiple copies of mtDNA, so it tends to persist in fossils and bits can be retrieved by a technique called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). P??bo and other experts in ancient DNA research have therefore focused on sequencing the mtDNA of ancient organisms such as the woolly mammoth and cave bears. However, mtDNA comprises only about 0.001% of a mammal?s entire genome and is inherited exclusively through the female line. It therefore provides only limited insights into how ancient organism differed from those living today.

In order to sequence an entire mammalian nuclear genome, millions of PCR reactions would have to be performed requiring kilograms of Neandertal bones. Until 454 Life Sciences? development of the Genome Sequencer 20 System, sequencing the entire nuclear genome of ancient organisms therefore seemed impossible. This technology makes such an endeavor feasible by allowing about a quarter of a million single DNA strands to be amplified individually by PCR from small amounts of bone and sequenced in only about four hours by a single machine. The DNA sequences determined by the Genome Sequencer 20 System are 100-200 base pairs in length, which coincides neatly with the length of ancient DNA fragments. Over the next two years, the Neandertal sequencing team will determine about 60 billion bases from Neandertal fossils in order to reconstruct a draft of the 3 billion bases that made up the genome of Neandertals. The team will use samples from several well-preserved Neandertals. The Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn and Dr. Ralf W. Schmitz have generously agreed to provide a sample from the original Neandertal type specimen, discovered 150 years ago.

On July 20th scientists from the Institute together with representatives from 454 will be available at a press conference to present further details of the project and answer questions. You can follow the press conference live over the Internet beginning at 15:00 CET [1]. Questions can be submitted via email to both before and during the conference.


Sandra Jacob
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

* genPDF.pdf (102.1 KB - downloaded 37 times.)
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2006, 10:43:51 AM »

The skull of the 75,000 year old Neanderthal from the Shanidar cave in Iraq.
Image: Erik Trinkaus

Oldest Fossil Protein Sequenced
Protein sequence from Neanderthal extracted and sequenced

An international team, led by researchers at the Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, have extracted and sequenced protein from a Neanderthal from Shanidar Cave, Iraq dating to approximately 75,000 years old. It is rare to recover protein of this age, and remarkable to be able to determine the constituent amino acid sequence. This is the oldest fossil protein ever sequenced. Protein sequences may be used in a similar way to DNA, to provide information on the genetic relationships between extinct and living species. As ancient DNA rarely survives, this new method opens up the possibility of determining these relationships in much older fossils which no longer contain DNA (PNAS Online Early Edition, March 8, 2005).

 The research, published in PNAS, presents the sequence for the bone protein osteocalcin from a Neanderthal from Shanidar Cave, Iraq, as well as osteocalcin sequences from living primates (humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans). The team found that the Neanderthal sequence was the same as modern humans. In addition, the team found a marked difference in the sequences of Neanderthals, human, chimpanzee and orangutan from that of gorillas, and most other mammals. This sequence difference is at position nine, where the crystalline amino acid hydroxyproline is replaced by proline (an amino acid that is found in many proteins). The authors suggest that this is a dietary response, as the formation of hydroxyproline requires vitamin C, which is ample in the diets of herbivores like gorillas, but may be absent from the diets of the omnivorous primates such as humans and Neanderthals, orangutans and chimpanzees. Therefore, the ability to form proteins without the presence of vitamin C may have been an advantage to these primates if this nutrient was missing from the diets regularly, or from time to time.

This research opens up the exciting possibility of extracting and sequencing protein from other fossils, including earlier humans, as a means of determining the relationships between extinct and living species, and to better understand the phylogenetic relationships.


Original work:

Christina M. Nielsen-Marsh, Michael P. Richards, Peter V. Hauschka, Jane E. Thomas-Oates, Erik Trinkaus, Paul B. Pettitt, Ivor Karavanic, Hendrik Poinar, and Matthew J. Collins
Osteocalcin protein sequences of Neanderthals and modern primates
PNAS published March 7, 2005, 10.1073/pnas.0500450102
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2006, 11:47:36 AM »

Gough's Cave adult calotte showing cutmarks indicative of skinning and scalping. Excavated in 1987, the cranium has been dated to the late glacial interstadial (12,380 +/_ 110 radiocarbon years, OXA-2796. The Cave has produced many human bones, some of which bear cutmarks and marrowbone breakage suggestive of cannibalism.

The Palaeolithic Occupation of Europe: In Memory of John J. Wymer, 1928-2006

A new volume published in Journal of Quaternary Science edited by AHOB members Simon Lewis and Nick Ashton covers new findings about the Palaeolithic of northern Europe, including many papers reporting AHOB research.

Project Information

The Ancient Human Origins of Britain (AHOB) project is a collaborative effort involving archaeologists, palaeontologists, and geologists at a number of different British Institutes, including the Natural History Museum and the British Museum.

Key questions include the environmental nature of the earliest human occupation of Britain, whether the the new Levallois technology, which appeared at the beginning of the Middle Palaeolithic, was a European import or developed from local technologies, and whether Britain was truly abandoned by humans between 22,000 and 13,000 years ago.

Project activities will include fieldwork to verify new information about old finds, geochronology (dating of sites and material), stable isotope analysis [details], new studies of the palaeoecology of human sites, archaeological studies, and geographic information systems (GIS).

Reindeer antler b?ton excavated from Gough's Cave in 1989. An AMS date of 11, 870 +/_ 110 (OXA 2797) provides the first direct date for a baton from any northwest European site. Occupation at the site covers part of the late glacial interstadial ~12,000 radiocarbon years ago; the range of dates on hominid bones and humanly modified bones suggestions accumulation was not a single event.

Mousterian Bout Coup? handaxe. Late Oxygen Isotope Stage 3.

* Key Research Questions.doc (34 KB - downloaded 27 times.)
* Stable isotope analysis for climate and palaeodietary reconstruction.doc (29.5 KB - downloaded 27 times.)
* Research Methods.doc (30.5 KB - downloaded 26 times.)
* Abstracts 2003 Workshop.pdf (403.48 KB - downloaded 59 times.)
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« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2006, 11:51:56 AM »

Neanderthals probably made this hand axe from Swanscombe in Kent

Delving deep into Britain's past
Scientists are to begin work on the second phase of a project aimed at piecing together the history of human colonisation in Britain.

Phase one of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project (AHOB) discovered people were here 200,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Phase two has now secured funds to the tune of ?1m and will run until 2010.

Team members hope to find out more about Britain's earliest settlers and perhaps unearth their fossil remains.

 They will also compare the animals and plants of Britain with those of nearby continental Europe. This will establish similarities and differences to determine how distinctive British wildlife was in the distant past.

Studies of prehistoric mammals suggest there were filters operating in the distant past that allowed some animals in from mainland Europe, but not others.

These filters may have been physical barriers such as the English Channel, or the narrowness of a land bridge that once connected Britain to Europe, or they may included climatic factors.

Dr Nick Ashton, from the British Museum, said "AHOB2" would investigate the absence of humans in Britain between 180,000 and 60,000 years ago: "The new project will test the idea that this was due to the creation of the English Channel just prior to this time," he said.

The first year of the project will include an attempt to recover DNA from a fragment of human jawbone discovered at Kents Cavern in Devon. Recent re-dating of the specimen shows it is older than previously thought.

If the jawbone is from a modern human (Homo sapiens), as it was long thought to be, it would be amongst the earliest fossils from our species known from Europe; but the early date suggests it could also be from a late Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis).

Warm periods

A see-sawing climate and the presence of intermittent land access between Britain and what is now continental Europe allowed only stuttering waves of immigration.

Humans came to try to live in Britain eight times and on at least seven occasions they failed - beaten back by freezing conditions.

Remember, that these humans were not modern man, but Neanderthal.

See also:
Neanderthal DNA: related to us?

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