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Prehistoric humans are likely to have formed mating networks to avoid inbreeding
Early humans seem to have recognised the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found.
The study, reported in the journal Science, examined genetic information from the remains of anatomically modern humans who lived during the Upper Palaeolithic, a period when modern humans from Africa first colonised western Eurasia. The results suggest that people deliberately sought partners beyond... read more
Neanderthals didn’t give us red hair but they certainly changed the way we sleep
Geneticists have now firmly established that roughly two percent of the DNA of all living non-African people comes from our Neanderthal cousins.
It’s difficult to imagine why our early ancestors would have mated with them. Neanderthals were a different species to us after all, and the thought of it seems distasteful to us today.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, and armed with so few facts about the circumstances surrounding this interspecies dalliance, we mustn’t be too quick to j... read more
Santa Claus's tomb may have been uncovered beneath Turkish church
Turkish archaeologists have dashed the hopes of millions of children by claiming to have uncovered the likely burial place of Saint Nicholas.
Surveys have uncovered an intact temple and burial grounds below St Nicholas church in the province of Antalya, where he is believed to have been born, archaeologists told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
An extraordinary cave animal found in Eastern Turkmeni
A remote cave in Eastern Turkmenistan was found to shelter a marvelous cave-adapted inhabitant that turned out to represent a species and genus new to science. This new troglodyte is the first of its order from Central Asia and the first strictly subterranean terrestrial creature recorded in the country.
Ancient British stone circles were used for ‘Neolithic parties’, study finds
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Orkney is home to a host of Neolithic stone houses, stone circles and elaborate burial monuments, but a new study into the area has allowed experts to add a new purpose to the prehistoric communities’ use of some of these sites – partying.
New research led by Professor Alex Bayliss at Historic England has challenged the previously understood narrative for prehistoric life on the islands and painted a clearer picture of how communities farmed, gathered together at festivals and buried their de... read more
Why are fossilized hairs so rare?
When it comes to preserving body parts, fossilized hair is rare--five times rarer than feathers--despite being an important tool for understanding ancient species. This finding has researchers trying to determine if the lack of hair in the fossil record has to do with physical traits that might make it more difficult for hair to fossilize, or an issue with scientists' collection techniques that could lead to them missing important finds... read more
Shaking up the fish family tree: 'Living fossil' not as old as we thought
Polypterids are weird and puzzling African fish that have perplexed biologists since they were discovered during Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in the late 1700s.
Often called living fossils, these eel-like misfits have lungs and fleshy pectoral fins, bony plates and thick scales reminiscent of ancient fossil fish, and flag-like fins along their back that are unique.
For several decades, scientists have placed polypterids down near the base of the family tree of ray-finned fish, a large gr... read more
Famous Viking warrior burial revealed to be that of a woman
THE spectacular burial seemed to be straight out of the Norse sagas.
It held the remains of a tall Viking warrior. Carefully arrayed alongside the body was a full suite of heavy weaponry. Two expensive horses had been sacrificed as part of the internment ritual.
There was even an elaborate game set, including board and pieces, set carefully on the deceased’s lap.
The burial helped set the definition of what a Viking warrior was since it was first discovered near the Swedish town of Birk... read more
Forensic science techniques help discover new molecular fossils
Researchers in Japan and China believe they have found new molecular fossils of archaea using a method of analysis commonly used in forensic science.
According to a system designed by microbiologist Carl Woese, there are three domains of life on Earth -- Bacteria, Archaea and Eukaryota. To date, the distribution of archaea remains unclear especially for geologic periods dating back more than 2 million years. This is because except for halophilic, methanogenic and methanotrophic archaea, molec... read more
Metallurgy likely has more than one birthplace
When and where did humans invent metal smelting? Scientists have found the answer to this long-debated question in the history of technology. Metallurgy does not have a single origin but probably arose at various locations at about the same time. The experts reached this conclusion after re-examining the 8,500-year-old copper slag and analysing the chemical composition of other copper artefacts from the Stone Age settlement of Çatalhöyük in the Near East... read more