Archaeologists at the University of York are challenging the traditional view that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short and dangerous.
A research team from PALAEO (Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins) and the Department of Archaeology at York offer a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society.
The traditional perception of the toughness of Neanderthal childhood is based largely on biological evidence, but the archaeologists, led by Dr Penny Spikins, also studied cultural and social evidence to explore the experience of Neanderthal children. Read more.
Technical objections to the idea that Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal Genetics. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.
"Our approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios that could explain the genetic similarities shared by Neanderthals and modern humans from Europe and Asia," said study co-author Konrad Lohse, a population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh.
The first scenario is that Neanderthals occasionally interbred with modern humans after they migrated out of Africa. The alternative scenario is that the humans who left Africa evolved from the same ancestral subpopulation that had previously given rise to the Neanderthals. Read more.
We humans like to think of ourselves as unique for many reasons, not least of which being our ability to communicate with words. But ground-breaking research by an expert from the University of New England shows that our ‘misunderstood cousins,’ the Neanderthals, may well have spoken in languages not dissimilar to the ones we use today.
Pinpointing the origin and evolution of speech and human language is one of the longest running and most hotly debated topics in the scientific world. It has long been believed that other beings, including the Neanderthals with whom our ancestors shared Earth for thousands of years, simply lacked the necessary cognitive capacity and vocal hardware for speech. Read more.
For half a century, archaeologists have been puzzling over a mass of woolly rhino and mammoth bones found at the base of a cliff on the island of Jersey in the English Channel—most have assumed they were the result of a mass execution by Neanderthals driving them over the cliff. Now a new team of British researchers has found evidence to suggest the bones were carried there instead. In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, the researchers claim their investigation shows that it would have been nearly impossible for Neanderthals to drive them to the cliff, much less get them to run off of it.
Today, Jersey is a British Crown dependency—an island off the coast of Normandy. But 200,000 years ago, ocean levels were lower—so low that parts of the site, now known as LaCotte de St Brelade were above the water line. Read more.
An ice age site said to be one of the last known places Neanderthals lived is being studied to assess storm damage.
La Cotte in St Brelade, Jersey, was hit by south-westerly storms including winds of up to 100mph in February.
A British archaeological team commissioned by the Societe Jersiaise will examine the storm damage.
Dr Matt Pope, from the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, said it needed to consider the best solution for long-term preservation.
La Cotte has been investigated since the late 19th Century and has produced a number of finds including hundreds of thousands of Neanderthal tools, piles of butchered mammoth bones and fossilised human remains. Read more.
Western Europe has long been held to be the “cradle” of Neanderthal evolution, and anthropologists have theorized that climatic factors or competition from modern humans were the likely causes when Neanderthals started disappearing around 30,000 years ago. But new research suggests that Western European Neanderthals were on the verge of extinction long before modern humans showed up.
This perspective comes from a study of ancient DNA carried out by an international research team. Rolf Quam, a Binghamton University anthropologist, was a co-author of the study led by Anders Götherström at Uppsala University and Love Dalén at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. Read more.
A gene variant that seems to increase the risk of diabetes in Latin Americans appears to have been inherited from Neanderthals, a study suggests.
We now know that modern humans interbred with a population of Neanderthals shortly after leaving Africa 60,000-70,000 years ago.
This means that Neanderthal genes are now scattered across the genomes of all non-Africans living today.
Details of the study appear in the journal Nature.
The gene variant was detected in a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) of more than 8,000 Mexicans and other Latin Americans. Read more.
High-resolution 3D analyses of a fossilized hyoid bone support the hypothesis that the Neanderthals communicated with the use of complex language. The study was published yesterday in Plos One.
Could Neanderthals talk? The latest X-ray analysis conducted at the Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste research center (Italy) on the hyoid bone of a Neanderthal Man found in 1989 on the archaeological site of Kebara (Israel), strongly supports this hypothesis. The paper was published in the international journal Plos One, and presents the results of a comparison between the biomechanical properties of the Kebara hyoid and those of the same bone in Homo sapiens. The study was conducted by an international research team with members from Elettra, the University of Chieti and ICTP (Unesco) in Italy, the University of New England and of New South Wales in Australia, and the University of Toronto in Canada. Read more.