Using novel techniques to extract and study ancient DNA researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have determined an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-old representative of the genus Homo from Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain, and found that it is related to the mitochondrial genome of Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neandertals in Asia. DNA this old has until recently been retrieved only from the permafrost.
Sima de los Huesos (SH), the “bone pit”, is a cave site in Northern Spain that has yielded the world’s largest assembly of Middle Pleistocene hominin fossils, consisting of at least 28 skeletons, which have been excavated and pieced together over the course of more than two decades by a Spanish team of paleontologists led by Juan-Luis Arsuaga. The fossils are classified as Homo heidelbergensis but also carry traits typical of Neandertals. Until now it had not been possible to study the DNA of these unique hominins. Read more.
An international team of researchers have announced the discovery of the oldest hominin (early or archaic human) fossil ever found in Western Europe, pushing back the clock on when early humans first colonized Western Europe after their exodus from Africa.
The find, a fossil tooth (molar) uncovered through excavations at the site of Barranco León in the Orce region of southeastern Spain, was dated to about 1.4 million years ago using several combined dating techniques, including Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) in combination with paleomagnetic and biochronological data.
"While the range of dates obtained from these various methods overlaps with those published for the Sima del Elefante hominin locality (1.2 Ma), the overwhelming majority of evidence points to an older age," reports study author Dr. Isidro-Moyano and colleagues. Read more.
Atapuerca: Excavation work at an archaeological complex in northwestern Spain has unearthed a small flint knife that was made 1.4 million years ago and is the oldest evidence of the presence of hominids at the site.
A small, three-cm stone fragment with a very defined edge lends weight to the hypothesis that hominids have maintained a permanent presence in Europe for nearly 1.5 million years, Eudald Carbonell, one of the three excavation directors, said.
That would contradict the generally accepted theory that Europe was populated in waves and was devoid of hominids for long periods of time, he added. Read more.
AFP - A 16th century religious tapestry stolen from a Spanish cathedral in 1979 and sold at auction three years ago for $369,000 was returned to Spain on Wednesday by the US customs service.
In a statement, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said special agents from its Homeland Security Investigations unit seized the artifact last November from the unidentified Texas business that had bought it.
The wool and silk tapestry, depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, had been stolen in December 1979 from the Cathedral of Saint Vincent, Martyr of Roda de Isabena in the Aragon region of northeastern Spain.
After it turned up in a Brussels art fair catalog in 2010, Belgian, Spanish and US investigators established it had been acquired in 2008 by a gallery owner in Belgium along with two partners from Milan and Paris. Read more.
Neanderthals may have died out earlier than before thought, researchers say.
These findings hint that Neanderthals did not coexist with modern humans as long as previously suggested, investigators added.
Modern humans once shared the planet with now-departed human lineages, including the Neanderthals, our closest known extinct relatives. However, there has been heated debate over just how much time and interaction, or interbreeding, Neanderthals had with modern humans.
To help solve the mystery, an international team of researchers investigated 215 bones previously excavated from 11 sites in southern Iberia, in an area known as Spain today. Read more.
La Roca dels Bous, a Paleolithic site located near the southeastern Pyrenees of Spain, has been cited by archaeologists as a key location with Neanderthal-related remains that may shed light on the changes that may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals in Europe. Now, a team led by Dr. Rafael Mora of the University Autonomous of Barcelona will be returning to the site in 2013 to excavate and explore lithic assemblages, fossil bone, and other remains that may date as far back as 50,000 BP.
The excavations may help research efforts focused on constructing a better understanding of the factors that may have contributed to the decline and eventual disappearance of humanity’s most closely related extinct human species. Read more.
In a necropolis in Spain, archaeologists have found the remains of a Roman woman who died in her 30s with a calcified tumor in her pelvis, a bone and four deformed teeth embedded within it.
Two of the teeth are still attached to the wall of the tumor researchers say.
The woman, who died some 1,600 years ago, had a condition known today as an ovarian teratoma which, as its name indicates, occurs in the ovaries . The word Teratoma comes from the Greek words “teras” and “onkoma” which translate to “monster” and “swelling,” respectively. The tumor is about 1.7 inches (44 millimeters) in diameter at its largest point.
"Ovarian teratomas are bizarre, but benign tumors," writes lead researcher Núria Armentano, of the ANTROPÒLEGS.LAB company and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, in an email to LiveScience. Read more.
MADRID - The owner of an antique shop in Spain was arrested after police investigators found a vase there dating back to the late second century B.C., officials said Saturday.
The antiquity had been illegally plundered from an Iberian era archaeological site in the province of Alicante, an Interior Ministry statement said.
Inspectors found it in a cardboard box during a routine search of the shop in the eastern town of El Campello.
"We are not yet aware of the full importance of this discovery, but in 20 years’ time we will still be talking about this vase," said Jose Luis Simon, an expert from the cultural heritage service of the Ministry of Culture.
Simon said the piece showed decorative paintwork from the Iberian era that tells the story of a hunter who had managed to kill a wild boar, one of the rituals of the time that proved a youth had attained the status of manhood. Read more.