martes, 3 de enero de 2017

New study sheds light on mystery of Aberdeenshire's Beaker people

the Upper Mains of Catterline cist

THEY lived at the dawn of time and take their names from objects uncovered in their graves by archaeologists thousands of years later.

And new a fresh study of the artefacts left behind by the Beaker people has shed new light on how their ideas and customs spread among ancient Scots living in the north east 4,500 years ago.

The Beaker people are said to be part of a cultural and technological explosion which swept over northern Europe, identified by the distinctive decorated pottery beakers which were placed in their graves.

Authors Neil Curtis, head of museums at the University of Aberdeen, and Neil Wilkin, curator of the British and European Bronze Age collections at the British Museum, looked at earlier work which examined the "unusual" concentration of Beaker graves clustered between Inverness and Aberdeen and down the east coast and the items they contained.

They found that the Beaker period was shorter than that elsewhere in Europe, and that beakers found in many of the graves were decorated with a white powder made from ground up bones - something that appears to be unique to the north east.

The appearance of beakers at burial sites was also tied to the building of distinct stone circles which can be found in the area, and which were revealed to date from the same period.

The authors state: "Much to people's surprise, these megalithic monuments were not neolithic, but a younger and local development contemporary with the region's Beaker burials [...] HeraldScotland

Human Evolution: Our Brains and Behavior

Book: Human Evolution: Our Brains and Behavior
Robin Dunbar
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 28, 2016)
Language: English

The story of human evolution has fascinated us like no other: we seem to have an insatiable curiosity about who we are and where we have come from. Yet studying the "stones and bones" skirts around what is perhaps the realest, and most relatable, story of human evolution - the social and cognitive changes that gave rise to modern humans...

Related: Why Only Humans Know How to Party - WSJ
Although cognizant of the stones and bones, Robin Dunbar’s “Human Evolution” is concerned with something more consequential: how and why Homo sapiens became what we are...

Harvard students, meet the Stone Age

Ver en PaleoVídeos > L.R.2.12 nº 4.

They learn to respect Neanderthals’ skills by making stone tools from scratch

Though they’ve long been portrayed as unintelligent brutes, Neanderthals were far more sophisticated than popular culture — and car insurance commercials — might suggest.

To prove it, Christian Tryon asks his students to break rocks.

Tryon, an assistant professor of anthropology, is the creator of a freshman seminar called “Finding Your Inner Neanderthal,” in which — among other activities — students attempt to manufacture their own Stone Age tools from scratch.

“Caveman is usually this derogatory term, like the commercials say, ‘So easy a caveman could do it,’” Tryon said. “[But] that’s not true. It’s not very easy at all to make these stone tools. I want students to learn to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making these tools tens of thousands of years ago, and … by immersing themselves in making what, in many ways, is the oldest technology, I think that’s a really powerful way to appreciate the past.” [...] Harvard Gazette

¿Eres tan hábil como un hombre de las cavernas? Un profesor de Harvard reta a sus alumnos
El hombre de Neandertal es una especie extinta del género Homo que habitó Europa y regiones de Asia occidental desde hace 230 000 hasta 28.000 años atrás, durante el Pleistoceno medio y superior y que probablemente convivió con el hombre de Cromañón, los que son los primeros hombres modernos en Europa.

Para demostrar esta afirmación de que los neandertales eran más refinados de lo que pensábamos, Christian Tryon, un profesor asistente de antropología en la Universidad de Harvard (Estados Unidos) y creador de un seminario de primer curso denominado “Finding your neanderthal inner” (buscando a tu Neandertal interior) le pidió a sus estudiantes que hicieran una serie de actividades; entre otras, les pidió que rompieran piedras y fabricaran sus propias herramientas de la Edad de Piedra desde cero...

Open sourcing Lucy, the world’s most famous fossil

What happens when you can download the world's most famous fossil?

Forty years after she was discovered, Lucy, the world’s most famous fossil australopithecine, just might have a cause of death. In August of this year, a team of paleoanthropologists led by John Kappelman argued in Nature that Lucy died 3.2 million years ago by falling out of a tree. Their conclusion has been met with skepticism among fellow researchers, and Lucy's death-by-tree-fall hypothesis has generated no shortage of debate within the scientific community of paleoanthropology.

But there's a takeaway here that's more significant than the study’s conclusion—this study's approach to sharing data with the scientific community and the public at large. In a move that is in keeping with the growing trend across paleoanthropology and other sciences to open up access to data, the study’s scientists have published CT scans of Lucy’s tibia, femur, humerus, and scapula—all bones they analyzed in their study. Now, they invite colleagues, detractors, educators, and ardent fossil enthusiasts to download and print Lucy’s scans, encouraging audiences to “evaluate the hypothesis for themselves.”

Why was publishing Lucy’s scans so significant? This paleoanthropology initiative does in some way tie into to the broader movement for open access, transparency, and reproducibility in science. But does publishing fossil data actually  help create knowledge within the paleoanthropological community? [...] Ars Technica

The first Americans: How and when were the Americas populated?

Earliest evidence of humans in the Americas. Credit: K. Cantner.

Archaeologists used to have a tidy story to explain the earliest peopling of the Americas: During the last ice age, when sea levels were much lower, a band of intrepid travelers walked from East Asia, over the Bering land bridge, and into Alaska. From there, they followed an ice-free corridor east of the Canadian Rockies south onto the megafauna-rich plains, eventually spreading throughout North and South America by 11,000 years ago and leaving a trail of finely shaped “Clovis” spear points in their wake.

But the story is not so simple. The once-dominant “Clovis First” Hypothesis has been overturned in recent years by discoveries of an array of pre-Clovis tools and campsites throughout North and South America that date to as early as 16,000 years ago. But how is it that people colonized the Americas so much earlier than once thought? From where did they come? And what routes did they take?

Recent work investigating the eastern slope of the Rockies suggests that an ice-free corridor in this area may not have opened until about 13,000 years ago, thousands of years later than the earliest settlement sites now known in North and South America. That leaves a coastal route as the most likely passage, but which coast the earliest settlers followed is up for debate. [...] EARTH Magazine

La evolución de los dientes y del cerebro no fueron de la mano

Reconstrucción 3D del cráneo de un humano moderno mostrando los dientes y la morfología craneal / George Washington University
Un nuevo estudio de la Universidad George Washington (EE UU) desafía las teorías clásicas que señalan que la evolución dental y la cerebral en nuestros antepasados más remotos ocurrió de forma paralela. Los datos de la investigación, liderada por la española Aida Gómez-Robles, muestran que no existe ningún vínculo entre la evolución del tamaño del cerebro y el de los dientes en los homininos.

Tradicionalmente los estudios antropológicos establecían la existencia de una relación entre la evolución del tamaño y forma del cerebro y de los dientes en los homininos. Las teorías clásicas explicaban este vínculo como la consecuencia de que la mayor capacidad craneal de los los antepasados más lejanos del Homo sapiens les permitió crear herramientas de piedra. El uso de esas herramientas redujo la necesidad de unos dientes más preparados para masticar en los homininos.

Ahora, un estudio de la Universidad George Washington (EE UU), liderado por la española Aida Gómez-Robles, desafía este dogma y muestra que no existe ningún vínculo entre la evolución del tamaño del cerebro y el de los dientes en los homininos. [...] SINC

Scientists debunk myth: Human brain evolution didn't cause our teeth to shrink -  / Link 2
Once it was thought that as we humans grew smarter, our diet improved and we learned to cook, so we didn’t need big teeth to chew raw food. Nice theory, but brain and teeth didn’t co-evolve...