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Modern Human Origins
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PostPosted: 26-02-2006 09:56    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun
Roger Dobson and Abul Taher

THE modern gentleman may prefer blondes. But new research has found that it was cavemen who were the first to be lured by flaxen locks.
According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.

The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

Lighter hair colours, which started as rare mutations, became popular for breeding and numbers increased dramatically, according to the research, published under the aegis of the University of St Andrews.

“Human hair and eye colour are unusually diverse in northern and eastern Europe (and their) origin over a short span of evolutionary time indicates some kind of selection,” says the study by Peter Frost, a Canadian anthropologist. Frost adds that the high death rate among male hunters “increased the pressures of sexual selection on early European women, one possible outcome being an unusual complex of colour traits.”

Frost’s theory, to be published this week in Evolution and Human Behavior, the academic journal, was supported by Professor John Manning, a specialist in evolutionary psychology at the University of Central Lancashire. “Hair and eye colour tend to be uniform in many parts of the world, but in Europe there is a welter of variants,” he said. “The mate choice explanation now being put forward is, in my mind, close to being correct.”

Frost’s theory is also backed up by a separate scientific analysis of north European genes carried out at three Japanese universities, which has isolated the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair to about 11,000 years ago.

The hair colour gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe and the continent has an unusually wide range of hair and eye shades. In the rest of the world, dark hair and eyes are overwhelmingly dominant.

Just how such variety emerged over such a short period of time in one part of the world has long been a mystery. According to the new research, if the changes had occurred by the usual processes of evolution, they would have taken about 850,000 years. But modern humans, emigrating from Africa, reached Europe only 35,000-40,000 years ago.

Instead, Frost attributes the rapid evolution to how they gathered food. In Africa there was less dependence on animals and women were able to collect fruit for themselves. In Europe, by contrast, food gathering was almost exclusively a male hunter’s preserve. The retreating ice sheets left behind a landscape of fertile soil with plenty of grass and moss for herbivorous animals to eat, but few plants edible for humans. Women therefore took on jobs such as building shelters and making clothes while the men went on hunting trips, where the death rate was high.

The increase in competition for males led to rapid change as women struggled to evolve the most alluring qualities. Frost believes his theory is supported by studies which show blonde hair is an indicator for high oestrogen levels in women.

Jilly Cooper, 69, the author, described how in her blonde youth she had “certainly got more glances. I remember when I went to Majorca when I was 20, my bum was sore from getting pinched”.

However, Jodie Kidd, 27, the blonde model, disagrees with the theory: “I don’t think being blonde makes you more ripe for sexual activity. It’s much more to do with personality than what you look like. Beauty is much deeper than the colour of your hair.”

Film star blondes such as Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Sharon Stone and Scarlett Johansson are held up as ideals of feminine allure. However, the future of the blonde is uncertain.

A study by the World Health Organisation found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene. According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.,,2087-2058688,00.html
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PostPosted: 25-03-2006 21:03    Post subject: Homo missing linkus? Gawis cranium Reply with quote

Could Ethiopian skull be missing link?
Scientists believe find could link homo erectus and modern man

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Scientists in northeastern Ethiopia said Saturday that they have discovered the skull of a small human ancestor that could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man.

The hominid cranium -- found in two pieces and believed to be between 250,000 and 500,000 years old -- "comes from a very significant period and is very close to the appearance of the anatomically modern human," said Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project in Ethiopia.

Archaeologists found the early human cranium five weeks ago at Gawis in Ethiopia's northeastern Afar region, Sileshi said.

Sileshi, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist based at Indiana University, said most fossil hominids are found in pieces but the near-complete skull -- a rare find -- provided a wealth of information.

"The Gawis cranium provides us with the opportunity to look at the face of one of our ancestors," the archaeology project said in a statement. "Additionally, this fossil links us with the past by showing a face that is recognizably different and more primitive than ours."

Homo erectus, which many believe was an ancestor of modern Homo sapiens, is thought to have died out 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.

The cranium dates to a time about which little is known -- the transition from African Homo erectus to modern humans. The fossil record from Africa for this period is sparse and most of the specimens poorly dated, project archaeologists said.

The face and cranium of the fossil are recognizably different from that of modern humans, but it bears unmistakable anatomical evidence that it belongs to the modern human's ancestry, Sileshi said.

"The form of the face and the brain are among the best means for exploring the evolutionary path of humans, and the Gawis cranium preserves both areas," according to the statement.
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PostPosted: 25-03-2006 21:08    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scientists find early human cranium in Ethiopia
Mar 24, 2006, 19:00 GMT

Addis Ababa - Ethiopian and US scientists engaged in palaeo- anthropological field research announced Friday the discovery of a human cranium in Gona, in Ethiopia's north-eastern Afar region.

The 'significantly complete cranium' was believed to have stemmed from the Middle Pleistocene stage, making it 200,000 to 500,000 years old, said Dr Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Project.

The find consisted of a new hominid fossil. Semaw, who is based at CRAFT Stone Age Institute of Indiana University in the United States, said the discovery in Gawis near Gona, 'appears to be intermediate between earlier Homo erectus and later Homo sapiens and may be sampling a single lineage.'

'I'm thrilled to have a complete cranium discovered from Gona that can provide key information for understanding the variation that existed during the Middle Pleistocene period,' Semaw said.

The cranium was found on February 16 by Asahmed Humet, an Afari pastoralist working with the project scientists on archaeological reconnaissance survey.

'The Gawis cranium comes from a time of transition to modern humans from African Homo erectus that is poorly known. The fossil record from Africa for this period is sparse and most of the specimens are poorly dated,' he said.

Semaw, who is attached to the state Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage in Addis Ababa, told reporters that the Gona Project area has sediments spanning the last 5.6 million years.

Significant archaeological collections of Late Acheulean stone tool-making tradition and numerous fossil animals were found in the area, 'opening a widow into intriguing and important period in the development of modern humans.'

The Gona archaeological sites are known for the discovery of the oldest excavated stone tools in the world dating back 2.6 million years. Early in 2005, members of the Gona Project also announced the discovery of hominids assigned to Ardipithecus ramidus, among the earliest hominid genus in Africa dating between 4.3 million to 4.5 million years ago.
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PostPosted: 28-09-2006 12:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neanderthal 'butcher shop' found in France

French and Belgian archaeologists say they have proof Neanderthals lived in near-tropical conditions near France's Channel coast about 125,000 years ago.

In a dig at Caours, near Abbeville, France, archeologists found evidence of a Neanderthal "butcher's shop" to which animals as large as rhinoceros, elephant and aurochs, the forerunner of the cow, were dragged and butchered, The Independent reported Wednesday.

Jean-Luc Locht, a Belgian expert in prehistory at the French government's archaeological service, told the newspaper: "This is a very important site, a unique site. It proves 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."

Scientists said the animal bones showed signs of having been sawn, crushed or stripped of their meat by flint tools.

Patrick Auguste, an expert on archaeozoology at the French Center for National Scientific Research said: "You have to wonder at the artistry, the exceptional skill, with which the flint tools have been shaped. The Neanderthals may have had thicker fingers than us but they were certainly not clumsy."
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PostPosted: 14-02-2007 13:50    Post subject: Reply with quote

Double Cropping the Earliest Agriculture
By Michael Balter
ScienceNOW Daily News
13 February 2007

A new study suggests that barley may have undergone domestication twice, a finding with important implications for understanding the spread of farming.
Archaeologists have long debated whether the so-called founder crops of the agricultural revolution--including wheat and barley--were domesticated once or multiple times. The record is ambiguous. Over the past decades, they have unearthed the earliest remains of domesticated barley at sites in the Fertile Crescent that date back 10,500 years. But there is also evidence for barley cultivation about 9000 years ago at sites further east in Central Asia. Today, the wild progenitors of domesticated wheat and other founder crops grow only in the Fertile Crescent, but wild barley is found in the western and eastern regions. As a result, archaeologists haven't been sure whether the cultivated barley in the east came from the Fertile Crescent or was domesticated directly from local wild plants.

To find out, evolutionary biologists Peter Morrell and Michael Clegg of the University of California, Irvine, sequenced genes of wild and domesticated barley from the two regions. They focused on seven genes that differ slightly according to the plants' geographic origins. The genetic variations in the eastern domesticated samples much more closely resembled those in the wild plants from the east than those in wild plants from the Fertile Crescent, they report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Morrell and Clegg conclude that barley was domesticated at least twice, first in the Fertile Crescent and then between 1500 to 3000 kilometers further east in Central Asia.

Archaeobotanist George Willcox of the National Center for Scientific Research in Lyons, France, says that the paper demonstrates that the origins of agriculture "are far more complex than the simplistic view of a single event." Willcox adds that there might have been more than two domestications of barley and other crops, but that the evidence for them has been lost: "Archaeology tells us that sites were abandoned, cultures came to a dead end, and with them their crops."
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PostPosted: 15-03-2007 17:22    Post subject: Reply with quote

160,000-Year-Old Child Suggests Modern Humans Got Early Start
Kelly Hearn
for National Geographic News

March 14, 2007
Bucking conventional wisdom, a new study says early members of our species, Homo sapiens, may have known what it was like to be a kid.

A long childhood is considered one of things that separate so-called modern humans from the first Homo sapiens and older human species, such as Homo erectus.

A Study With Teeth

European researchers used x-ray imaging to study the growth patterns of teeth in the juvenile fossil found in Morocco. Similar to tree rings, the patterns are a record of aging.

What they revealed is that this fossil is the earliest known human with a long childhood, according to Tanya Smith, an anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

In the teeth the scientists found signs of modern-human development patterns—that is, relatively long periods of slow development and growth. A prolonged childhood is seen as necessary for the type of learning that leads to culture and complex society.

The juvenile fossil "showed an equivalent degree of tooth development to living [modern] human children at the same age," the report authors write.

According to the researchers, the study challenges theories about when and where humans acquired modern bodies and behaviors.

The findings also may help prove that "modern biological, behavioral, and cultural characteristics" were relative latecomers in the past six million years of human evolution.

(Related: "Adolescence Came Late in Human Evolution, Study Shows" [December 5, 2001].)

"These findings are in contrast to studies that suggest that earlier fossil hominins [humans and our ancestral species] possessed short growth periods, which were more similar to chimpanzees than to living humans," the study authors write in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study co-author Smith said her research team knew that human ancestors living several million years ago grew up differently from modern children.

"What we didn't know was when the modern human condition of a long childhood and slow period of growth and development evolved," she said.

The study suggests that developmentally modern humans existed at least 160,000 years ago, which Smith says is just slightly younger than the earliest fossil Homo sapiens from East Africa.

Promising New Method

"It is a great result that today we can really measure growth rates of teeth due to CT [and] x-ray technology," said Professor Ottmar Kullmer, a paleoanthropologist at the Research Institute Senckenberg in Germany.

"These new possibilities of modern analysis methods augment the understanding of early Homo sapiens development and human evolution in general."

Kullmer, who was not a participant in the study, said that the discovery of a relatively long human childhood about 160,000 years ago points to "a complex social system in early Homo sapiens groups."

"Probably, social behavior was one of the important survival strategies of early humans."
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PostPosted: 19-03-2007 18:59    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why Aren't Humans Furry? Stone-Age Moms Could Be The Answer
19 Mar 2007

A prize-winning paper suggests that humans are hairless apes because Stone-Age mothers regarded furry babies as unattractive

Medical Hypotheses, an Elsevier publication, has announced the winner of the 2006 David Horrobin Prize for medical theory. Written by Judith Rich-Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption and No Two Alike, the article, "Parental selection: a third selection process in the evolution of human hairlessness and skin color" was judged to best embody the spirit of the journal. The £1,000 prize, launched in 2004, is awarded annually and named in honour of Dr. David Horrobin, the renowned researcher, biotechnology expert and founder of Medical Hypotheses, who died in 2003.

Harris' paper describes Stone Age societies in which the mother of a newborn had to decide whether she had the resources to nurture her baby. The newborn's appearance probably influenced whether the mother kept or abandoned it. An attractive baby was more likely to be kept and reared.

Harris' theory is that this kind of parental selection may have been an important force in evolution. If Stone Age people believed that hairless babies were more attractive than hairy ones, this could explain why humans are the only apes lacking a coat of fur. Harris suggests that Neanderthals must have been furry in order to survive the Ice Age. Our species would have seen them as "animals" and potential prey. Harris' hypothesis continues that Neanderthals went extinct because human ancestors ate them.

This year's prize judge was Professor Jonathan Rees FMedSci of Edinburgh University, Scotland - co-discoverer of the 'red hair gene'. Professor Rees said: "This paper is an excellent example of the kind of bold thinking and theorizing which David Horrobin intended to encourage when he began Medical Hypotheses. I hope that Judith Rich Harris' idea provokes debate and further investigation of this topic."


The full article reference is: Harris JR. Parental selection: a third selection process in the evolution of human hairlessness and skin color.

Medical Hypotheses. 2006; 66: 1053-1059.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. Working in partnership with the global science and health communities, Elsevier's 7,000 employees in over 70 offices worldwide publish more than 2,000 journals and 1,900 new books per year, in addition to offering a suite of innovative electronic products, such as ScienceDirect (, MD Consult (, Scopus (, bibliographic databases, and online reference works.

Elsevier ( is a global business headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and has offices worldwide. Elsevier is part of Reed Elsevier Group plc (, a world-leading publisher and information provider. Operating in the science and medical, legal, education and business-to-business sectors, Reed Elsevier provides high-quality and flexible information solutions to users, with increasing emphasis on the Internet as a means of delivery. Reed Elsevier's ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Contact: Tanya Wheatley

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PostPosted: 03-04-2007 06:54    Post subject: Asia? Africa? Asia? Africa? Reply with quote


Skeleton holds key to origin of man
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 2:24am BST 03/04/2007

A skeleton of a possible hybrid between modern and more ancient humans has been found in China, which challenges the theory that modern man originated in Africa.

Most experts believe that our ancestors emerged in Africa more than 150,000 years ago and then migrated around the world.

However, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Prof Erik Trinkaus and colleagues provide details of a skeleton found in 2003 from Tianyuan Cave near Beijing.

The skeleton is 42,000 to 38,500 years old, making it the oldest modern human skeleton from eastern Eurasia, and one of the oldest modern humans from the region.

Most of its features match those of modern man, though some are more like late archaic humans, including the Neanderthals. The authors conclude that, as our ancestors spread, they interbred with local, more ancient, types of human.

The researchers say it is unlikely that a simple spread of modern humans occurred east of Africa, especially because slightly younger skeletons have been found in eastern Eurasia with similar features.

"The partial skeleton from Tianyuan is an important find, since there is a dearth of material from east Asia to document how modern humans became established there," said Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum.

"Radiocarbon dates place the find close in age to the earliest Homo sapiens fossils so far discovered in Europe, Lebanon, Malaysia and Australia.

"Outside of Africa, only the early modern finds from Skhul and Qafzeh [in Israel], and possibly Liujiang from southern China, are of much greater antiquity."
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PostPosted: 03-04-2007 10:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ancient human unearthed in China

The remains include a lower jaw as well as leg bones
The remains of one of the earliest modern humans to inhabit eastern Asia have been unearthed in a cave in China.
The find could shed light on how our ancestors colonised the East, a movement that is only poorly understood by anthropologists.

Researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual at the Tianyuan Cave, near Beijing.

Details of the discovery appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Radiocarbon dates, obtained directly from the bones, show the person lived between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago.

"For this time period, which is critical for understanding the spread of modern humans around the world, we have two well-dated human fossils from eastern Asia," said co-author Professor Erik Trinkaus, from Washington University in St Louis, US.

"We have remains from the Niah Cave from Sarawak on Borneo, and now this specimen from China. As you go west, the next specimens are from Lebanon. There's nothing in between."

Interbreeding theory

According to the "Out of Africa" theory, modern humans (Homo sapiens) evolved in East Africa and then spread out across the globe about 70,000 years ago, replacing earlier, or archaic, human populations, such as the Neanderthals, with very little, if any, interbreeding.

The Tianyuan remains display diagnostic features of modern H. sapiens. But co-author Erik Trinkaus and his colleagues argue, controversially, that the bones also display features characteristic of earlier human species, such as relatively large front teeth.

The most likely explanation, they argue, is interbreeding between early modern humans emerging from Africa and the archaic populations they encountered in Europe and Asia.

"The pattern we see across the Old World is basically a modern human in terms of its newly emerged characteristics, but also a minority of traits that are absent or lost in the earliest modern humans in East Africa," Professor Trinkaus told the BBC News website.

"The question is where did they get them from? Either they re-evolved them, which is not very likely, or, to some degree, they interbred with archaic groups.

"Sex happens. I find this neither disturbing nor surprising."

He added that evidence from the animal world suggested two closely related species, which have been separate for less than two million years, could interbreed successfully when given the opportunity to mate.

One example from the UK is the Scottish wildcat, which is being absorbed into domestic cat populations through interbreeding.

The domestic cat and the wildcat are distinct species separated by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years, and have very different body sizes. Despite this, pairings produce fertile, viable offspring.

Signs of disease

The view of interbreeding between Homo sapiens and archaic humans is controversial. Other palaeoanthropologists say that some of these features are simply retained from ancient African ancestors.

And most genetic evidence gathered from present-day humans does not appear to support significant interbreeding between modern humans from Africa and archaics.

The researchers' analysis of the bones has revealed several interesting details about the Tianyuan individual's lifestyle.

The person's age at death was estimated by how much the teeth had worn down. This put them in their late 40s or 50s.

But the lack of a pelvis among the remains means that it is not possible to say with any certainty what sex the individual was.

The Tianyuan specimen shows several signs of disease. The individual had lost a number of their teeth before death, not unusual considering their age.

The researchers also identified several lesions, or growths, on the leg bones, which appear to have been caused by a condition affecting the muscle attachments around both knees.

Whatever condition these were caused by, however, it does not appear to have disabled the person, because the remainder of the leg bones suggest the person kept active.

The single toe bone which was unearthed seems to suggest the individual wore shoes, pushing back the earliest known evidence for footwear by about 10,000 years.

An earlier study by Professor Trinkaus shows that human small toes became weaker during the stage of prehistory known as the Upper Palaeolithic, and that this can probably be attributed to the adoption of sturdy shoes.

The invention of rugged shoes reduced humans' reliance on strong, flexile toes to grip and balance.

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PostPosted: 08-05-2007 21:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stepping out of the box for just a moment, here's another take on the whole thing. Is it a possibility?
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PostPosted: 09-05-2007 11:26    Post subject: Reply with quote

It has always amazed me how much misinformation Lloyd can pack into one of his slide shows. Try the one called 'Sumer' for a slice of Sitchin-knows-what-he-is-talking-about type of humor.
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PostPosted: 27-08-2007 13:38    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lucy goes to Houston:


Lucy on Tour: Exhibit Pits Museum Against Scientific Community
Last Update: 8/24 3:12 pm

By MONICA RHOR, Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- In the Ethiopian language, she is called Dinknesh -- a name that means the wonderful, the fabulous, the precious.

But to most of the world, she is known as Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old fossil whose discovery 33 years ago yielded then-unparalleled insights to the origins of humankind.

Next week, the iconic set of bones will be the star of a much-hyped exhibit that is pitting the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Ethiopian government against the world's scientific community.

Houston museum officials say Lucy must be displayed to offer a glimpse into the history of mankind and a much-needed spotlight on Ethiopia as the cradle of humanity.

But a host of critics, including the world's most influential paleoanthropologists, say it is irresponsible to exhibit a specimen so fragile and valuable. They fear the fossil will be damaged during the exhibit and a projected six-year tour.

Famed fossil hunter Richard Leakey reproached the Houston museum for using Lucy as a "prostitute" to spur ticket sales, extraordinarily high at $20. Noted museums such as The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History in New York refused offers to exhibit Lucy.

Ethiopian immigrants in Houston are urging a boycott of the exhibit, which will run from Aug. 31 to April 20, 2008.

"There is a lot of damage you can't see with the naked eyes, caused just by touching her and handling her," said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, anthropology curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where Lucy was studied for six years after her discovery in 1974, but which has refused to exhibit her.

"I'm just sitting and praying that she comes back safe."

Bringing Lucy to the United States for a museum exhibit also disregards a 1998 UNESCO resolution, signed by scientists from 20 countries, that says such fossils should not be moved outside of the country of origin except for compelling scientific reasons.

"There are two views going around. One is that every conceivable effort to protect Lucy for six years will be done. The other view is that there is no way this fossil is not going to be damaged irreparably," said Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian's Human Origins program, and one of the scientists who objected to touring Lucy.

"If the fossil is going to be packed, unpacked, shipped again for a number of years, it is pretty likely damage will occur."

Houston museum officials had named the Denver Museum of Nature and Science as a possible stop, but spokeswoman Laura Holtman said the museum has not yet decided whether to participate. The Field Museum in Chicago said it was working out the final details for exhibition possibly as late as 2010, said spokeswoman Nancy O'Shea.

For the past 27 years, Lucy has been carefully cached in a climate-controlled safe at the National Museum of Ethiopia, taken out only for scientific research or for public exhibit on two rare occasions.

The Houston exhibit will be the first public viewing outside her homeland. The exhibit, which is being heavily advertised on television and billboards, had already sold 2,150 advance tickets by Thursday.

"The concern that people express about safeguarding Lucy is one we share. We are on the same page," said Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of anthropology at the Houston museum. "We will make sure she is kept safe, the same way we have kept safe other artifacts that have come here."

Van Tuerenhout, who would not discuss the costs involved in mounting the Lucy show, said his museum had no problem handling the Dead Sea Scrolls for a 2004-2005 exhibit, noting they were far more fragile than what he called a "robust" Lucy.

Unlike the scrolls, however, Lucy seems to evoke an emotional reaction that goes beyond her scientific import.

"Lucy is not just the property of the Ethiopian people. She belongs to everyone," said Cleveland's Haile-Selassie. "She is the beginning of humanity."

Lucy, a hominid fossil named after the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," was discovered in the remote Afar province in northeastern Ethiopia. Although not the oldest human ancestor ever found, her skeleton is among the most complete, with about 40 percent of her bones intact.

Recognizable as something human, but not quite human, she likely weighed about 60 pounds and stood about 31/2 feet tall.

Thanks to Lucy, who is classified as Australopithecus afarensis, scientists were first able to establish that human ancestors walked upright before evolving a big brain.

"People care about her. They tend to forget that she is 3 million years old. They forget she is a fossil," said Mamitu Yilma, director of the Ethiopian National Museum. "Lucy is very precious. We don't have any replacement for her. Whenever any fossil is found, they are compared to Lucy."

Even Lucy's departure from Ethiopia -- which took place without fanfare and at night -- stirred a sense of loss and mourning among scientists and many Ethiopians, who say she deserved a better send-off.

However, Lucy did not leave Ethiopia alone.

Yilma and the man who has been Lucy's personal caretaker for the past 20 years both traveled to Houston with the fossil. They flew aboard Ethiopian Airlines, with Lucy's skeleton ensconced in two climate-controlled, foam-filled suitcases that took more than a year to design.

Before Lucy was packed, her caretaker and museum conservators inspected the fossil to check for signs of damage. After her arrival in Houston, she was examined again to ensure that no harm had come on the voyage.

Until she goes on display in Houston, Lucy will be kept in a climate-controlled vault similar to the one at the Ethiopian museum. Once the exhibit opens, the world's most famous fossil will be visible inside a specially designed case.

"It was like when someone you love is getting married, both happy and sad," said Yilma, describing her conflicting emotions when Lucy left Ethiopia. "The one thing that gives me comfort is that I'm here with her."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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PostPosted: 20-09-2010 18:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stone tools 'change migration story'
By Katie Alcock Science reporter, BBC News, Birmingham

Stone tools (Petraglia et al) Dr Petraglia says robust dates can be put against the tools his group is uncovering

A research team reports new findings of stone age tools that suggest humans came "out of Africa" by land earlier than has been thought.

Geneticists estimate that migration from Africa to South-East Asia and Australia took place as recently as 60,000 years ago.

But Dr Michael Petraglia, of Oxford University, and colleagues say stone artefacts found in the Arabian Peninsula and India point to an exodus starting about 70,000 to 80,000 years ago - and perhaps even earlier.

Petraglia, whose co-workers include Australian and Indian researchers, presented his ideas at the British Science Festival, which is hosted this year at Aston University.

"I believe that multiple populations came out of Africa in the period between 120,000 and 70,000 years ago," he said. "Our evidence is stone tools that we can date."

Most of the tools are from far inland - hundreds of kilometres from the coasts. This means it was more likely humans migrated by land than in boats, he said.

The tools are found in areas that are often very inhospitable now, but which at the time would have been much more conducive to migration.

"During the period we're talking about, the environments were actually very hospitable," he told BBC News. "So where there are deserts today, there used to be lakes and rivers, and there was an abundance of plants and animals."

The team found the stone tools - ranging from a couple of centimetres to nearly 10cm in size - in layers of sediment that they can date using sand and volcanic material found above and below the implements. The tools were mainly either spear heads or scrapers.
Dig site (Petraglia et al) Most dig sites are inland

In particular, some tools were sandwiched in ash from the famous Toba eruption that geologists can date very accurately to 74,000 years ago.

Other species of early humans clearly left Africa before our species (Homo sapiens), but Dr Petraglia's team thinks that the tools it has found are the type made by modern humans - and not those of Neanderthals, for instance.

Previous research has leaned heavily on examining the genetics of different modern populations to find out how long ago they shared a common ancestor - their African common ancestor.

Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum in London, said this genetic data showed humans left Africa around 60,000 years ago or even more recently.

He agreed that "these tools show that people were in these regions, but the genetic data show an exit from Africa of later than 60,000 years ago. The people in India could have died out."

Dr Petraglia, however, suggested that researching these migrations using population genetics might not lead to accurate results, because all of the genetic studies were based on today's people.

The absence of ancient DNA to make additional tests made this area of investigation much less reliable, he claimed.

Dr Petraglia's team now hopes to continue its excavations in the region. "We have literally hundreds of projects in Europe and a handful in the Arabian-South Asian belt," he said.
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Vogon Poet
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PostPosted: 01-10-2010 04:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

Riddle of Aboriginal-type skull found in Brazil

HOW did a skull with features similar to those of an Aboriginal Australian wind up at the bottom of a limestone cave in Brazil, covered with 11,000 years' worth of mud, rocks and gravel?

The solution may rewrite early human history.

The owner of the skull, a female whom Professor Walter Neves, an anthropologist, named Luzia, had eyes and a nose that sat low in the skull.

Her brain case was long and narrow, and a facial reconstruction reveals a projected profile, the chin sitting out further than the forehead.

These are not the features of a South American. Instead they are consistent with the anatomy of sub-Saharan Africans, Aboriginal Australians and some early Pacific Islanders.

For years many scientists have accepted the theory that North America was colonised by a single wave of early humans who travelled from north-east Asia about 11,000 years ago and resembled Native Americans.

The full story was published in the latest issue of the magazine Cosmos. Professor Neves told the writer Jacqui Hayes that Luzia was related to Australian Aborigines through an ancestor from south-east Asia. He believes one group of early humans made their way to Australia about 50,000 years ago, and another travelled through Asia to arrive in Alaska about 15,000 years ago – thousands of years before the Clovis people.

Professor Neves hopes genetic analysis will help settle the question of where Luzia's ancestors came from, Hayes wrote.

However, an anthropologist at the University of Adelaide, Maciej Henneberg, believes the two waves of migration theory might be too simplistic. "I'd rather accept two waves than one wave, but models that assume people can migrate once, or twice, and then never repeat it are denigrating human intelligence."

Professor Henneberg said it was more likely there was a constant flow of people migrating back and forth exchanging genetic material.

I highlighted those bits as this is what I always thought - people just don't move in single waves. It's got to be a constant coming and going - it's always been like that.
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Warrior Princess
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PostPosted: 02-10-2010 23:48    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw a documentary on this topic some years ago. The thesis was that the first people to reach the Americas were related to Australian Aboriginals, and that they had been gradually wiped out by the ancestors of the American Indians. Supposedly the survivors had been pushed further and further south until they found themselves on Tierra del Fuego. DNA analysis apparently shows similarities between the Fuegians and indigenous Australians.
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