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ANU Honours student Clare McFadden said that being able to identify the sex of human skeletal remains is crucial to avoid creating a distorted version of history: Image: Michael Coglhan, Flickr.

ANU Honours student Clare McFadden said that being able to identify the sex of human skeletal remains is crucial to avoid creating a distorted version of history: Image: Michael Coglhan, Flickr.

 

If your sex identification method is flawed it would mean that you’re not accurately representing the history of either the individual or the population. You’re going to end up with something skewed.

 

Archaeologists at The Australian National University (ANU) have weighed into a long-running controversy surrounding one of the best methods of determining the sex of human skeletal remains.

 

ANU Honours student Clare McFadden said that being able to identify the sex of human skeletal remains is crucial to avoid creating a distorted version of history.

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Dr Tim Denham in Papua New Guinea: Image TIm Denham

 

Archaeologists have unearthed the oldest known pottery from Papua New Guinea in a surprisingly remote location in the rugged highlands.

 

The piece of red glossy pottery with designs cut into it is 3,000 years old, several hundred years older than the previous oldest known pottery in New Guinea.

 

It was found in the highlands region, well away from the coast where there was regular contact with other seafaring pottery making cultures such as the Lapita people.

 

“It’s an example of how technology spread among cultures,” said Dr Tim Denham, from the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology in the College of Arts and Social Sciences.

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(L to R): Amelia Zaraftis, Heike Qualitz, Amanda Stuart and John Blay. Photo by Edwina Wright, ANU.

 

A new exhibition at ANU gives fresh insight into the history and heritage values of the Indigenous heritage trail which runs from the Snowy Mountains to Australia’s east coast.

 

Known as the Bundian Way, the historic 380-kilometre pathway runs from Mt Kosciuszko to Twofold Bay on the New South Wales far south coast.

 

It mostly follows wild country via local roads and tracks and was used by the first Australians, who showed European settlers the pathway to help them to get supplies from the Monaro region to the coast at Eden.

 

The exhibition Beyond Balawan: Visual Arts responses to the Bundian Way at the ANU School of Art coincides with the launch of a new book about the track by naturalist John Blay, On Track: Searching Out the Bundian Way.

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BINGHAMTON, NY – Research into 430,000-year-old fossils collected in northern Spain found that the evolution of the human body’s size and shape has gone through four main stages, according to a paper published this week.

 

A large international research team including Binghamton University anthropologist Rolf Quam studied the body size and shape in the human fossil collection from the site of the Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain. Dated to around 430,000 years ago, this site preserves the largest collection of human fossils found to date anywhere in the world. The researchers found that the Atapuerca individuals were relatively tall, with wide, muscular bodies and less brain mass relative to body mass compared to Neanderthals. The Atapuerca humans shared many anatomical features with the later Neanderthals not present in modern humans, and analysis of their postcranial skeletons (the bones of the body other than the skull) indicated that they are closely related evolutionarily to Neanderthals.

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One of the most pressing issues in modern biological conservation is “invasion biology”. Due to unprecedented contacts between peoples and culture in today’s “global village” certain animal and plant species are spreading widely throughout the world, often causing enormous damage to local species.

 

Recent studies have shown that alien species have had a substantial impact not only in recent times but also in antiquity. This is exemplified in a study published in the August 25th issue of Scientific Reports by a team led by archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University’s Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology (Suembikya (Sue) Frumin, Prof. Ehud Weiss and Prof. Aren Maeir) and the Hebrew University (Dr. Liora Kolska Horwitz), describing the bio-archaeological remains of the

 

Philistine culture during the Iron Age (12th century to 7th century BCE). The team compiled a database of plant remains extracted from Bronze and Iron Ages sites in the southern Levant, both Philistine and non-Philistine. By analyzing this database, the researchers concluded that the Philistines brought to Israel not just themselves but also their plants.

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Chapman University’s research on aging and skill development appears as the lead article in the latest issue of American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The study, called “Skill Ontogeny Among Tsimane Forager-Horticulturalists,” provides the most complete analysis to date of skill development in a traditional society. The results show that most skills essential to Tsimane survival are acquired prior to first reproduction, and then develop further to meet the increasing demands of offspring. As adults continue to age beyond their reproductive years, despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts – such as in music and storytelling.

 

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The research was conducted on the Tsimane—an indigenous population of about 15,000, who live in the Bolivian Amazon and depend on hunting, fishing, and gardening for their survival.

 

“Scientists have long wondered why our lifespans include an extended post-reproductive phase; the lifespans of our fellow primates, mammals and other species on the planet generally terminate once their reproductive business is over,” said Eric Schniter, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor, in Chapman University’s Economic Science Institute in the Argyros School of Business and Economics, and lead author on the study. “While most skill development studies have focused on subsistence skills like hunting, we wanted to examine the wider range of complementary skills that develops among aging humans.”

 

According to the findings, older adults might be the go-to providers of many important services needed in human communities. In the field, the researchers interviewed 421 Tsimane adults across eight villages in the Bolivian Amazon and found that when it comes to many of the skills requiring lots of knowledge – but not necessarily high-strength—such as music, storytelling, making bows and arrows, and textile production, seniors in the community report the most proficiency and are regarded by others as most expert.
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A team from Wits University’s Evolutionary Studies Institute has discovered a fossil monkey specimen representing the earliest baboon ever found.

 

Dating back more than 2 million years ago (between 2.026-2.36 million years ago), the partial skull was found at Malapa, in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, the same site where the partial skeletons of the new early hominin species, Australopithecus sediba, were discovered in 2010.

 

“Baboons are known to have co-existed with hominins at several fossil localities in East Africa and South Africa and they are sometimes even used as comparative models in human evolution,” says Dr Christopher Gilbert (Hunter College, CUNY), lead author of the study.

 

The skull, found during excavations for A. sediba, confirms earlier suggestions that the fossil baboon species to which it belongs, Papio angusticeps, was in fact closely related to modern baboons, and quite possibly the earliest known members of the modern baboon species Papio hamadryas.
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Violent conflicts in Neolithic Europe were held more brutally than has been known so far. This emerges from a recent anthropological analysis of the roughly 7000-year-old mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten by researcher of the Universities of Basel and Mainz. The findings, published in the journal PNAS, show that victims were murdered and deliberately mutilated.

 

It was during the time when Europeans  first began to farm. To what degree conflicts and wars featured in the early Neolithic (5600 to 4900 B.C.), and especially in the so-called Linear Pottery culture (in German, Linearbandkeramik, LBK), is a disputed theme in research. It is particularly unclear whether social tensions were responsible for the termination of this era. So far two mass graves from this period were known to stem from armed conflicts (Talheim, Germany, and Asparn/Schletz, Austria).

 

Researcher from the Universities of Basel and Mainz now report new findings after analyzing the human remains of the mass grave of Schöneck-Kilianstädten (Germany), a massacre site discovered in 2006. Their results show that the prehistoric attackers used unprecedented violence against their victims. The researchers examined and analyzed the bones and skeletons of at least 26, mainly male, adults and children – most of them exhibiting severe injuries.

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Detail of the marks on a fossilized rib bone, one of the two controversial bones. “The best match we have for the marks, using currently available data, would still be butchery with stone tools,” says anthropologist Jessica Thompson. Photo by Zeresenay Alemseged.

 

Marks on two 3.4 million-year-old animal bones found at the site of Dikika, Ethiopia, were not caused by trampling, an extensive statistical analysis confirms. The Journal of Human Evolution published the results of the study, which developed new methods of fieldwork and analysis for researchers exploring the origins of tool making and meat eating in our ancestors.

“Our analysis clearly shows that the marks on these bones are not characteristic of trampling,” says Jessica Thompson, an assistant professor of anthropology at Emory University and lead author of the study. “The best match we have for the marks, using currently available data, would still be butchery with stone tools.”
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Understanding how and why we evolved such large brains is one of the most puzzling issues in the study of human evolution. It is widely accepted that brain size increase is partly linked to changes in diet over the last 3 million years, and increases in meat consumption and the development of cooking have received particular attention from the scientific community.

In a new study published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, Dr. Karen Hardy and her team bring together archaeological, anthropological, genetic, physiological and anatomical data to argue that carbohydrate consumption, particularly in the form of starch, was critical for the accelerated expansion of the human brain over the last million years, and coevolved both with copy number variation of the salivary amylase genes and controlled fire use for cooking.

With global increase in obesity and diet-related metabolic diseases, interest has intensified in ancestral or ‘Palaeolithic’ diets, not least because – to a first order of approximation – human physiology should be optimized for the nutritional profiles we have experienced during our evolution. Up until now, there has been a heavy focus on the role of animal protein and cooking in the development of the human brain over the last 2 million years, and the importance of carbohydrate, particular in form of starch-rich plant foods, has been largely overlooked.

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