Maxwell_Neanderthal

Image by hairymuseummatt via Flickr

This appears to be a very interesting new theory that comes with a bold (and controversial) study: 40,000 years ago the volcanoes in Europe blew the final whistle for our close relatives, the Neanderthals. The picture provided by the researchers seem consistent with the chronology, though some scholars remain unconvinced. Other theories suggest that modern humans played an important role in the demise of the Neanderthals in a variety of ways including warfare. This is, as far as I know, the first plausible theory on a “catastrophic explanation”. The study is published in the October issue of the journal “Current Anthropology”. Probably a wave of controversy will follow soon by the “orthodox academicians”.

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Amazon Rainforest, the largest tropical forest...

Image via Wikipedia

Zahra Hirji of Discovery News, presents a brief analysis on the hot subject which has been discussed for some time. Is the “ancient civilization in Amazonian forests” story, an “incredible cover-up of Mother Nature” as Hirji herself stated on the title of the article, or rather an exaggerated speculation that grew in some archaeologists’ minds? Augusto Oyuela Caycedo from University of Florida believes a past existence of a complex society in the depths of the rain forests. Many anthropologists support this view after researching the environment and examining the evidence. On the other hand, conservatives seem reluctant to be convinced. As Hirji stated, it appears as a controversy between the “old way of thinking” and the “new wave of thought”. A good read.

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When genetics and anthropology walk hand-in-hand, the results can be amazing. Cross relations and cooperation between different scientific disciplines almost always have the potential of biringing exciting results; like the LiveScience story below: Scientists finished sequencing the Iceman’s genome, who’s mummified remains were discovered in the Eastern Alps nine years ago, and now they are comparing his mitochondrial DNA with samples from living people. Could he have any relatives, living today?

Amplify’d from www.livescience.com

Iceman, the Neolithic mummy found accidentally in the Eastern
Alps by German hikers in 1991, has offered researchers all sorts of clues to
life 5,200 years ago, from his goat-hide coat to the meat and unleavened bread
in his stomach to the arrow wound in his shoulder.

Researchers have sequenced the Iceman

Now, scientists stand poised to find out a whole lot more
about Iceman, who also goes by Ötzi, Frozen Fritz and Similaun Man.

They recently finished sequencing the Iceman’s genome,
which took about three months – a feat made possible by whole genome sequencing
technology. With that map of his genes in hand, researchers are moving onto to
a whole new array of questions, according to Albert Zink, head of the European
Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano
(EURAC) in Italy.

“Some are very simple, like so ‘What was really the eye color of
the Iceman? What was really his hair color?'” Zink said. There are more
complicated questions, too. Zink and others are curious about any genetic
evidence of disease in the Iceman and the composition of his immune system.

And there’s the big one, he told LiveScience: “Are
there any living relatives of the Iceman still around?”

Scientists have already taken a stab at this question when
they analyzed DNA from Iceman’s
mitochondria
– energy-producing centers of cells – and compared the results
with groups of living individuals. They did not find any matches, suggesting his
maternal lineage is either very rare or died out. (Mitochondrial DNA is passed
down from mothers to their children and so would only provide relatives on
Iceman’s mom’s side of the family.)

“We have to take into account this is only the maternal
lineage,” he said, referring to the mitochondrial study. “And not all
people are tested.”

Until now, scientists hadn’t mapped the DNA within the
nuclei of his cells. For humans, nuclear DNA contains 6 billion base pairs,
while mitochondrial DNA only includes 15,000 to 17,000, according to Zink.

Read more at www.livescience.com