Human Diseases May Have Contributed to the Fate of Neanderthals

Stomach ulcers, herpes, ringworm and other tropical diseases may have all contributed to the Neanderthal demise. By Jason Daley In the last decade, researchers have realized that the interactions between ancient humans and Neanderthals were much more complicated than previously believed. Not only did Homo sapiens compete with Neanderthals for resources, we extensively interbred with[…]

Prehistoric Bird Skull Found in Amber Was Tiny Predator in Time of Giant Dinosaurs

The skull of Oculudentavis provides new clues into the transition from dinosaurs to birds and may be smallest of either ever found. Introduction In 2016, our colleague Xing Lida held up a small piece of polished, deeply yellow amber. As sunlight shone through the ancient resin, Lida saw the outline of a pristinely preserved, amazingly[…]

Phantasmagoria Dinosauria: An Overview of Earth’s Mesozoic Rulers

The taxon Dinosauria was formally named by the English palaeontologist Richard Owen in 1842. Introduction Dinosaurs are an extinct, diverse, largely terrestrial group of vertebrate animals of the Sauropsid orders Saurischia (lizard-hipped) and Ornithischia (bird-hipped) and were the dominant land reptiles for over 160 million years, during the Mesozoic era. Dinosaurs first appeared approximately 230[…]

The Geological History of Earth

The geological history of the Earth can be broadly classified into two periods: the Precambrian supereon and the Phanerozoic eon. Introduction The geological history of Earth began 4.567 billion years ago, when the planets of the Solar System were formed out of the solar nebula, a disk-shaped mass of dust and gas left over from the formation[…]

The Age of the Earth

The Earth has been through many changes during its existence. Introduction Modern geologists and geophysicists consider the age of Earth to be around 4.54 billion years (4.54×109 years).[1] This age has been determined by radiometric age dating of meteorite material[2] and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples. Following the[…]

New Dinosaur Relative Was ‘King’ of Antarctica

The discovery of a new species related to dinosaurs, an iguana-sized reptile whose genus name, Antarctanax, means “Antarctic king.” Introduction Antarctica wasn’t always a frozen wasteland. About 250 million years ago, it was covered in forests and rivers, and the temperature rarely dipped below freezing. It was also home to diverse wildlife, including early relatives[…]

Examining the Fossil Record and Prehistoric Life in Antarctica

It is clear that a major extinction event occurred around Antarctica in the period 2–3 million years ago. Introduction Life has been on earth for about 3.5 billion years. Until about 575 million years ago, all life was microscopic plant life. Before that time, life in the Antarctic was very different from the way it[…]

A Brief Overview of the Neolithic Age

People were becoming more aware of their inter-dependence, of social obligations, and of loyalties beyond the immediate family. Introduction The Neolithic (or “New” Stone Age) was a period in the development of human technology that is traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. The name was invented by John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury (1834-1913)[…]

A Brief Overview of the Paleolithic Age

During this period major climatic and other changes occurred, affecting the evolution of humans. Introduction The Paleolithic Age, also known as the Stone Age, encompasses the first widespread use of technology—as humans progressed from simpler to more complex developmental stages—and the spread of humanity from the savannas of East Africa to the rest of the[…]

Human Origins and ‘Ghost’ DNA in West Africans

Our own species — Homo sapiens — lived alongside other groups that split off from the same genetic family tree at different times. About 50,000 years ago, ancient humans in what is now West Africa apparently procreated with another group of ancient humans that scientists didn’t know existed. There aren’t any bones or ancient DNA[…]

Investigating Homo Floresiensis and the Myth of the Ebu Gogo

According to folklore, such tiny, hairy people as her once roamed the tropical forests alongside modern humans. An ancient legend from the Indonesian island of Flores speaks of a mysterious, wild grandmother of the forest who eats everything: the ‘ebu gogo’. According to folklore, such tiny, hairy people as her once roamed the tropical forests[…]

Ditsong’s Dioramas: Putting a Body on a Fossil and a Fossil in a Narrative

Dioramas have a powerful explanatory power as tangible reconstructions. Introduction His eyes were vacant—glassy, even. Blood flowed from his head and his hands dragged next to him, fingers rolling lifelessly in the brown African dirt. His mouth was frozen open in terror, his head firmly clenched between a leopard’s jaws. The cat’s snarl was practically[…]

Primate Activity with Stones Hints at How Human Tool Use Evolved

Studying animal tooling can provide clues to the mysteries of human evolution. Human beings used to be defined as “the tool-maker” species. But the uniqueness of this description was challenged in the 1960s when Dr. Jane Goodall discovered that chimpanzees will pick and modify grass stems to use to collect termites. Her observations called into[…]

Ancient ‘Gum’ Reveals 5,000-Year-Old DNA

Researchers have extracted a complete ancient human genome from birch pitch, a 5,700-year-old type of ancient “chewing gum”. By Cecelie Krabbe Introduction The researchers believe it marks the first time that anyone has extracted an entire ancient human genome from anything other than human bones. “It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human[…]

44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting the History of Art

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi, but it was assumed they weren’t that old. Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the[…]

Neanderthal Bones: Signs of Their Sex Lives

Lately, much news from the field of paleoarchaeology and anthropology has centered on Neanderthal bedfellows. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist In a cave tucked into the limestone hills of the Asturias region of Spain, there lie the remains of a group of 13 Neanderthals that date to between 50,600 and 47,300 years ago. The site is[…]

Dolmens of Bronze Age Korea

They were constructed as tombs for elite members of the community. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Dolmens (in Korean: koindol or chisongmyo) are simple structures made of monolithic stones erected during the late Neolithic period or Korean Bronze Age (1st millennium BCE). In ancient Korea they appear most often near villages and the archaeological finds buried[…]

Ancient Human Migration after Out-of-Africa

How examining migration in the distant past provides new insights into human history. By Dr. Daniel Shriner, et.al.Staff ScientistCenter for Research on Genomics and Global Health Abstract The serial founder model of modern human origins predicts that the phylogeny of ancestries exhibits bifurcating, tree-like behavior. Here, we tested this prediction using three methods designed to[…]

The Neolithic Period: The ‘New’ Stone Age

Introduction The term Neolithic Period refers to the last stage of the Stone Age – a term coined in the late 19th century CE by scholars which covers three different periods: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic. The Neolithic period is significant for its megalithic architecture, the spread of agricultural practices, and the use of polished stone[…]

The Paleolithic Period: The ‘Old’ Stone Age

The Stone Age as a whole makes up around 99% of humanity’s technological calling card. By Emma GroeneveldHistorian Introduction The Palaeolithic (‘Old Stone Age’) makes up the earliest chunk of the Stone Age – the large swathe of time during which hominins used stone to make tools – and ranges from the first known tool[…]

Ancient Greece: From Indo-Europeans to Mycenaeans

There are definite sources of influence on early Greek culture to be found in the history of the second millennium. Introduction When did the people living in and around the central Mediterranean Sea in the locations that make up Greece become Greeks? No simple answer is possible, because the concept of identity includes not just[…]

The Neanderthal Throat: Did They Speak?

At the very least, in order for spoken language to be a possibility, a species has to have the right anatomical equipment. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist The first two pages of Claire Cameron’s novel The Last Neanderthal contain a glossary—a handful of words used by the family of Neanderthals at the center of the story.[…]

The Neanderthal Brain: Clues About Cognition

Was there something about the Neanderthals’ cognitive capacity that didn’t measure up? By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist One of the most tantalizing topics about Neanderthals is their cognition: how it developed and whether it was much different from patterns of thought in Homo sapiens. We know from the archaeological record that much of Neanderthal hunting, foraging,[…]

Unraveling the Mystery of Human Bipedality

Paleoanthropologist Carol Ward explains how walking upright marked a milestone in hominin history. By Dr. Tom GarlinghouseArchaeologist/Anthropologist Bipedality, the ability to walk upright on two legs, is a hallmark of human evolution. Many primates can stand up and walk around for short periods of time, but only humans use this posture for their primary mode[…]

The Neanderthal Diet—From Teeth to Guts

Some populations of Neanderthals were definitely more carnivorous than others. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist One of the more tenacious misconceptions about Neanderthals is that they were exclusively meat eaters. Sure, in some of the colder regions of Europe plant food would have been very seasonally limited, so meat was almost certainly a large part of[…]

Neanderthal Legs and Feet—Suited to Sprinting

Even genetics support the idea that Neanderthals were better sprinters than runners. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist If you’re like me, you view long-distance running as a somewhat unrealistic aspiration and see those people who do it well as remarkable creatures. The truth, though, is that Homo sapiens are well-designed for loping along for long distances[…]

The Storegga Slides of Prehistoric Norway

The three Storegga Slides of 6225-6170 BCE are considered to be amongst the largest known landslides. Introduction The three Storegga Slides are considered to be amongst the largest known submarine landslides. They occurred under water, at the edge of Norway’s continental shelf in the Norwegian Sea, approximately 6225–6170 BC. The collapse involved an estimated 290 km[…]