New German Bones Complete Neanderthal 'Family' September 2002 - Reuters
Archaeologists have discovered the bones of a Neanderthal woman and child in the German valley where the original "Neanderthal Man" was found about 150 years ago.

Early humans smart but forgetful September 2002 - New Scientist

First humans 'small brained'' July 2002 - BBC

Early hominids - the ancestors of humans Larger brain size was probably not the only driving force behind the exodus of early humans from Africa. A third skull found at the camp of some of the the first humans to leave the continent is much smaller than the others.

Ice Age Find Sheds Light on Enigmatic Neanderthals June 2002 - Archaeology

The 50,000-year-old remains in a gravel pit in eastern England may provide the scientific evidence needed to back up the age-old popular depiction of Neanderthals hunting mammoths and other large animals for food.

Neanderthal Man 'Attacked' April 2002 - Reuters - A 36,000-year-old Neanderthal whose skull was cracked by a blow on the head was attacked with a sharp implement. The discovery provides only the second clear clue that Neanderthals, a prehistoric people who vanished about 27,000 years ago, fought each other with weapons

Walking in our footsteps BBC - Nov. 2001

When We Arrived October 2001 - Biblical Archaeological Review
Around 90,000 years ago, modern humans appeared in the Near East.

Archaeologists unearth oldest traces of humans in Polynesia September 2001 - Nature Magazine


January 2002

A subspecies of Homo sapiens, the species to which contemporary humans belong, known as H. sapiens neandertalensis after the Neander Valley, Germany, where the first specimen was found. Continued

  • Neanderthal superglue 'was world's first chewing gum'
  • Neanderthals Meet Modern Humans
  • Neanderthals And Modern Humans - Different Regions on the Planet
  • What Ailed Old Neanderthal Man?
  • Types of Neanderthal Man
  • Was Neanderthal Man the Nephilim? (Gods)
  • The Strange Case of the Piltdown Man

    Scientists Find Fossils of Man's Earliest Relative

    July 11, 2001 - Reuters

    An international team of scientists said Wednesday they had dug up bones and teeth of an early pre-human that could help fill the gaps in mankind's evolutionary tree.

    The fossils of a new subspecies of an early relative of humans were found 140 miles northeast of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. They are about 5.4 to 5.7 million years old, about a million years older the previous oldest known hominid, according to the researchers.

    ``It is the earliest hominid. We are pushing back the hominid record by more than a million years,'' Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley who discovered the fossils, told Reuters.

    Before the latest discovery, the earliest known fossils definitively placed on the human side of the evolutionary tree were 4.4 million years old.

    Hominids are creatures more closely related to humans than chimpanzees. Scientists suspect the evolutionary line that led to humans diverged from the line leading to our closest ape relatives about five to six million years ago.

    The jaw, collar, feet and arm bones are from about five individuals of the new subspecies of Ardipithecus. They were found among fossils of other mammals including elephants, horses and rats and come from creatures the size of a chimpanzee.

    ``We now know that the split with chimpanzees did not happen five million years ago because we have hominids that are 5.5 or 5.6 million years old,'' Haile-Selassie explained.


    The specimens are about 2.5 million years older than Lucy, the most famous fossil remains of an early hominid, but slightly younger than so-called ``Millennium Man,'' or Orrorin, which French and Kenyan scientists unearthed in Kenya last year and claimed were mankind's earliest known relative.

    But Haile-Selassie said that until more fossils were found and further analysis was completed it would be unclear whether ''Millennium Man'' was the earliest hominid, the last common relative of humans and chimpanzees, the earliest chimpanzee or an ape that become extinct.

    He and his colleagues found the fossil remains of Ardipithecus in the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia which is today a harsh desert. It would have been a wooded habitat when the creatures roamed the area.

    They say their findings, which are published in the science journal Nature, suggest the earliest hominids lived in wooded, wet environments and did not venture into more wide-open spaces until about 4.4 million years ago.

    A toe bone indicates the Ardipithecus subspecies walked on two feet when on the ground.

    In a commentary on the research Henry Gee, a senior editor at Nature, said both ``Millennium Man'' and Ardipithecus are thought to lie close to the point in the family tree at which the ancestries of chimpanzees and humans diverged.

    But he added that the early evolutionary relationship between chimpanzees and early hominids will remain murky because bones and teeth are all scientists have to go on.

    Flat-faced man is puzzle

    March 21, 2001 - BBC

    Scientists have unearthed the remains of what they say is yet another new hominid, or human-like creature, in Kenya.

    The discovery by Meave Leakey, of the National Museums of Kenya, and colleagues threatens to blur still further the already murky picture of man's evolution.

    The find, made at Lomekwi on the western shore of Lake Turkana, includes the battered but almost complete skull and face of the hominid. The fossils were dug up from deposits which have been reliably dated to between 3.2 and 3.5 million years ago.

    Leakey and her fellow researchers have called the creature Kenyanthropus platyops - the Flat-Faced Man of Kenya - and claim in the journal Nature that it represents an entirely new branch on our family tree.

    Confusing picture

    Scientists are struggling to sort the relationships between their diverse collection of hominids (species of bipeds that are more closely related to humans than to apes).

    Until fairly recently, there were only three known groups. Two of these, Homo (the genus from which modern man eventually evolved) and Paranthropus, were presumed to have descended from an early species in the third group, or genus, called Australopethicus; the most likely candidate being A. afarensis, the famous 3.2-million-year-old Lucy specimen unearthed in 1974.

    But the picture has since been complicated, not least by the French discovery last year of a hominid now called Orrorin tugenensis.

    This creature, which could represent an entirely new group of hominids, is claimed to be the oldest human-like creature known to science, taking the our lineage back to around six million years ago.

    Scientific challenge

    The flat-faced man unearthed by Leakey is also said to come from a completely new genus. Indeed, this new group may already have two members.

    The features seen in Kenyanthropus platyops look very similar to those in a skull discovered by Meave Leakey's husband, Richard, on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana in the 1970s. That skull, formerly attributed to Homo rudolfensis, may now have to be reassigned.

    Commenting on K. platyops, Daniel E. Lieberman, of the George Washington University, Washington DC, US, said the new creature would act "as a sort of party spoiler" as science attempted to determine its precise position in the human evolutionary tree.

    He added: "A challenge for the next decade will be for skeletal biologists, palaeontologists and molecular biologists to work together, to devise new analytical methods with which to tease trustworthy signals from these data [information from skull and teeth fossils]."

    'Oldest ever man' revealed

    Scientists say the femur is the key to their discovery

    February 8, 2001 - BBC

    A French lead team of anthropologists has unveiled what it claims is the oldest ever man. The creature is said to be six million years old, double the age of the previous record holder, a skeleton called Lucy.

    But the finding has proved controversial for more than scientific reasons.

    He consists of 13 pieces and has a name that hardly trips off the tongue.

    His remains were unveiled at a ceremony in Paris - a piece of jaw with some teeth, a fingertip and an arm and, most importantly of all, a femur.

    'Criminal act'

    It is this side bone that the scientists say is the key to the discovery, proof that Millennium Ancestor is more human than Lucy.

    What cannot be disputed is that the bones have already sparked off a very human row.

    Rival academics describe as a criminal act the decision to export them from Kenya where they were found.

    The British scientist on the team, Doctor Martin Pickford has even spent time in a Nairobi jail and had his name dragged through the academic mud.

    So far, the wider scientific world has been sceptical but according to the team it is simply a case of anti-French bias.

    Ape-man ate termites

    They are the world's oldest-known bone tools

    January 18, 2001 - BBC

    An ape-man who lived more than a million years ago had a taste for termites, scientists have revealed.

    South African and French researchers have demonstrated how the human-like species known as Australopithecus robustus used long, sharp bones to forage for insects. It is said to be the oldest, direct evidence for a particular food resource in hominids.

    A. robustus was thought to have been a vegetarian, using tools to dig only for tubers. But telltale markings on the bones suggest they were really employed to open up termite mounds.

    The new findings may solve the puzzle of why remains of the ape-man contain significant amounts of a type of carbon associated with eating protein. They also support the idea that the creature was far more sophisticated than science has so far acknowledged.

    "All the school textbooks tell you that this robust ape-man was not really a tool user - that he was just a zombie who went extinct," Lucinda Backwell, from Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, told BBC News Online. "This is not the case."

    Researchers dig in

    A. robustus is not a direct ancestor of modern man but a distant cousin, arising from a different branch of the human family tree.

    Fossilised implements excavated with A. robustus remains, and thought to represent the world's oldest-known bone tools, were subjected to a reanalysis by Backwell and Francesco d'Errico, of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Talence, France.

    The team studied the pattern of scratches on the tools using sophisticated microscopic techniques and image analysis software.

    They found that the wear patterns were unlike those produced on tools used for digging up tubers, but closely matched those produced on experimentally created bone tools used by the researchers themselves to open up termite mounds.

    The fact that the ancient tools are all of a particular shape and size - they range from 13 to 19 centimetres in length - demands a reappraisal of the mental abilities of A. robustus, the team believe.

    Backwell said: "It is showing us that these robust ape-men had the cognitive ability to select for a particular type of bone. It wasn't opportunistic."

    Rich food source

    The study also helps explain the relatively high levels of a type of carbon, known as C4, which are found in A. robustus skeletons. This type of carbon is laid down in the bones of meat eaters. This would fit with the consumption of termites, which are rich in both proteins and fats. "It all gels," said Backwell.

    "It accounts for the meat, but it's not meat as we would normally perceive it - it's insects."

    The research team report their work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a major international journal. In their paper, they write: "Chimpanzees are known to 'fish' for termites by using grass stalks to perforate and dig termite mounds in a variety of ways, but never with bone implements.

    "By digging termites out of their nests, hominids would have made use of a rich food source that was otherwise accessible only after rain when the insects emerge from their nests for breeding."

    Study the similarities between image (A) and image (D). The markings are almost identical. (A) is a fossil tool more than one million years old, (B&C) are experimental tools used to dig up tubers and bulbs; (D) is an experimental termite tool.

    3.4 Million-Year-Old Skeleton Found in Ethiopia

    January 18, 2001 - Reuters

    An Ethiopian scientist has discovered the well-preserved 3.4 million-year-old partial skeleton of a child hominid, which experts say should provide valuable information in the study of human evolution.

    Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged, a palaeoanthropologist, told reporters in Addis Ababa Saturday they had found a fragment of a lower jaw and an exceptionally well-preserved partial skeleton, including the skull, of a child early hominid.

    They were discovered in the Busidina-Dikika sector of the Afar region, in an area bordering the Republic of Djibouti. Busidina-Dukika lies south of Hadar, where numerous fossils of Austrolopithecus Afarensis, including the famous Lucy, have been discovered.

    ``This is probably the earliest well-preserved young hominid so far known,'' he said, adding that the discovery would help in filling a gap between the earliest known hominids and those from later periods.

    ``The new hominid is an important addition which may fill in the gap between Lucy, which is dated to 3.2 million years, and a similar hominid species from Laetoli, Tanzania, and dated at 3.7 million years,'' he said.

    Alemseged, a post-doctoral research associate at the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, led a mission to prehistoric sites in Busidina and Dikika in 1999 and 2000.

    DNA Study Traces European Ancestors to 10 Men

    November 10, 2000 - AP

    About 80 percent of Europeans arose from primitive hunters who arrived about 40,000 years ago, endured the long ice age and then expanded rapidly to dominate the continent, a new study shows.

    Researchers analyzing the Y chromosome taken from 1,007 men from 25 different locations in Europe found a pattern that suggests four out of five of the men shared a common male ancestor about 40,000 years ago.

    Peter A. Underhill, a senior researcher at the Stanford Genome Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif., and co-author of the study, said the research supports conclusions from archaeological, linguistic and other DNA evidence about the settlement of Europe by ancient peoples.

    ``When we can get different lines of evidence that tell the same story, then we feel we are telling the true history of the species,'' said Underhill.

    The study, which involved more than a dozen researchers from Stanford and Europe, appears Friday in the journal Science.

    Underhill said the researchers used the Y chromosome in the study because its rare changes establish a pattern that can be traced back hundreds of generations, thus helping to plot the movement of ancient humans.

    The Y chromosome is inherited only by sons from their fathers. When sperm carrying the Y chromosome fertilizes an egg it directs the resulting baby to be a male. An X chromosome from the father allows a fertilized egg to be female.

    The Y chromosome has about 60 million DNA base pairs. Changes in those base pairs happen infrequently, said Underhill, but they occur often enough to establish patterns that can be used to trace the ancestry of people.

    He said researchers looking at the 1,007 chromosome samples from Europe identified 22 specific markers that formed a specific pattern of change. Underhill said the researchers found that about 80 percent of all European males shared a single pattern, suggesting they had a common ancestor thousands of generations ago.

    The basic pattern had some changes that apparently developed among people who once shared a common ancestor and then were isolated for many generations, Underhill said.

    This scenario, he said, supports other studies about the Paleolithic European groups. Those studies suggest that a primitive, stone-age human came to Europe, probably from Central Asia and the Middle East, in two waves of migration beginning about 40,000 years ago. Their numbers were small and they lived by hunting animals and gathering plant food. They used crudely sharpened stones and fire.

    About 24,000 years ago, the last ice age began, with mountain-sized glaciers moving across most of Europe. Underhill said the Paleolithic Europeans retreated before the ice, finding refuge for hundreds of generations in three areas: what is now Spain, the Balkans and the Ukraine.

    When the glaciers melted, about 16,000 years ago, the Paleolithic tribes resettled the rest of Europe. Y chromosome mutations occurred among people in each of the ice age refuges, said Underhill. He said the research shows a pattern that developed in Spain is now most common in northwest Europe, while the Ukraine pattern is mostly in Eastern Europe and the Balkan pattern is most common in Central Europe.

    About 8,000 years ago, said Underhill, a more advanced people, the Neolithic, migrated to Europe from the Middle East, bringing with them a new Y chromosome pattern and a new way of life: agriculture. About 20 percent of Europeans now have the Y chromosome pattern from this migration, he said.

    Archaeological digs in European caves clearly show that before 8,000 years ago, most humans lived by gathering and hunting, he noted. After that, there are traces of grains and other agricultural products.

    Earlier studies had traced European migration patterns using the DNA contained in the mitochondria, a key part of each cell. This type is DNA is passed down from mother to daughter.

    Antonio Torroni, a researcher at the University of Urbino, Italy, who first proposed that early humans retreated to Spain during the ice age, said in a separate Science report that the Y chromosome study ``fits completely'' with the mitochondria studies.

    Underhill said the Y chromosome studies are also consistent with genetic studies showing a broader picture of human migration.

    In general, studies show that modern humans first arose in Africa about 100,000 years ago and thousands of years later began a long series of migrations, he said. Some groups migrated eastward and humans are known to have existed in Australia about 60,000 years ago. Other groups crossed the land bridge into the Middle East. Humans appeared in Central Asia about 50,000 years ago.

    From there, the theory goes, some migrated west, arriving in Europe about 40,000 years ago. Later, some migrated east, across the Bering Straits, to the Americas.

    Genetic 'Adam never met Eve'

    October 31, 2000 - BBC

    The most recent ancestor of all males living today was a man who lived in Africa around 59,000 years ago, according to an international team of researchers.

    The scientists from eight countries have drawn up a genetic family tree of mankind by studying variations in the Y chromosome of more than a thousand men from different communities around the world. The Y chromosome is one of the two sex chromosomes (X and Y) which only men carry (women carry two X chromosomes).

    The new research confirms the Out of Africa theory that modern humans originated in Africa before slowly spreading across the world.

    But the finding raises new questions, not least because our most recent paternal ancestor would have been about 84,000 years younger than our maternal one.

    The team believes there is an explanation. They propose that the human genetic blueprint evolved as a mosaic, with different pieces of modern DNA emerging and spreading throughout the human population at different times.

    Origins of man

    Evidence from the fossil record suggests that modern man originated in Africa about 150,000 years ago, before moving steadily across the globe.

    This Out of Africa hypothesis has been confirmed by studies of mitochondrial DNA, the segment of genetic material that is inherited exclusively from the mother.

    Based on these studies, our most recent common ancestor is thought to be a woman who lived in Africa some 143,000 years ago, the so-called Mitochondrial Eve.

    To find the common paternal ancestor, the team drew up a genetic family tree of mankind. They mapped small variations in the Y chromosomes of 1,062 men in 22 geographical areas, including Pakistan, India, Cambodia, Laos, Australia, New Guinea, America, Mali, Sudan, Ethiopia and Japan.

    The new genetic family tree supports the Out of Africa scenario. But it suggests that our most recent paternal ancestor would have been about 84,000 years younger than our maternal one.

    Regions of the genome

    "You can ultimately trace every female lineage back to a single Mitochondrial Eve who lived in Africa about 150,000 years ago," said Dr Spencer Wells of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, UK, who was part of the team.

    "The Y chromosome we trace again back to Africa but the date is about 80,000 years ago.

    He told BBC News Online that the two studies could be reconciled. "There's a different evolutionary history for each region of the genome but they all are consistent in placing the ancestor of all modern humans alive today in Africa."

    The research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, gives an intriguing insight into the journey of our ancestors across the planet, from eastern Africa into the Middle East, then to southeast and southern Asia, then New Guinea and Australia, and finally to Europe and Central Asia.

    Some modern-day men living in what is now Sudan, Ethiopia and southern Africa are believed to be the closest living descendants of the first humans to set out on that great journey tens of thousands of years ago.

    DNA clues to Neanderthals

    Oct. 11, 2000 - BBC

    Scientists have analysed the DNA of a third Neanderthal in an attempt to shed light on the genetic history of early humans.

    The results suggest that, like modern humans, Neanderthals expanded from a relatively small number of individuals.

    And there is no evidence to indicate that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, something that has always been a bone of contention among experts.

    The DNA was extracted from remains of a Neanderthal found in Vindija Cave, Croatia.

    So far, only two other samples of DNA from Neanderthal bones have been analysed.

    One came from fossils found in Feldhofer Cave, western Germany, the other from a Neanderthal child found in Mezmaiskaya Cave in the northern Caucasus.

    Genetic diversity

    The researchers compared regions of the Neanderthals' DNA with those of humans, chimps and gorillas.

    "It allows us to start to say something about how much genetic variation there seems to have been among Neanderthals," said team leader Svante Paabo, Professor of Genetics and Evolutionary Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Liepzig, Germany.

    "The major question is if they were more like humans in having very little genetic differences within the group, or much variation like chimpanzees and the other apes," he told BBC News Online.

    "Although three individuals is still a very small number of individuals, the results suggest that they were more like us in having little variation rather than like the apes in having a lot.

    "This may indicate that they had expanded from a smaller population as seems to be the case for modern humans, but that they represent an earlier expansion."

    Interbreeding unlikely

    The DNA sequence of Neanderthals could also solve another age-old mystery: whether interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans may have taken place.

    Professor Paabo said: "Although we cannot exclude some degree of interbreeding, these results give no evidence that interbreeding took place.

    "We want to study more Neanderthals as well as early modern humans to begin to reconstruct the genetic history of both groups at the time when they were contemporaneous with each other."

    Neanderthals lived in Europe between about 130,000 and 30,000 years ago.

    The bones used in the new study were dated to at least 42,000 years ago.

    Last Neanderthals

    Professor Chris Stringer, Head of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, London, UK, said the three DNA studies gave scientists a glimpse of the genetic make-up of the Neanderthals.

    "Neanderthals are different from modern humans - they are as different from Europeans as they are from Africans or Australians in this DNA," he said.

    "Now with three of them you can start to build up a picture of their own variation and they are showing their own variation which is comparable to that of modern humans."

    He said the genetic diversity of Neanderthals suggested that they declined in numbers at some point in history, perhaps because of climatic change. But unlike modern humans, they never recovered fully.

    "The Neanderthals did recover too but they became extinct.

    "They were never in huge numbers. Their recovery would have been a gradual recovery from some kind of bottleneck."