"The Barefoot Professor", a behind-the-scenes look at the new Nature paper.
Humans that had to escape from saber-toothed cats, giant hyenas, and charging mammoths did not wear Nike or Adidas sneakers. They ran barefoot, but don't feel too bad that they did not have good running shoes to help them. As suggested by a team of researchers led by Daniel Lieberman in the latest issue of Nature, habitually shoeless runners have a unique step that may be better for our feet than even the most expe........ Read more »
Lieberman, D., Venkadesan, M., Werbel, W., Daoud, A., D’Andrea, S., Davis, I., Mang’Eni, R., & Pitsiladis, Y. (2010) Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 463(7280), 531-535. DOI: 10.1038/nature08723
Ten days ago, the Sunday Times - Britain's "newspaper of record" - recorded thatBlonde women born to be warrior princessesWomen with fair hair are more aggressive and determined to get their own way than brunettes or redheads, according to a study by the University of California... “We expected blondes to feel more entitled than other young women — this is southern California, the natural habitat of the privileged blonde,” said Aaron Sell, who led the study...Well who'da thought it. Ot........ Read more »
BMC Biology has recently published a paper (It’s Open Access!) which explores trends in brain size in the Primates. A trend toward a larger brain is usually considered one of the “hallmarks” of the Primates, but Stephen Montgomery and his colleagues have shown that in many lineages, there is a trend towards secondarily “shrunken” brains.
The [...]... Read more »
Montgomery, S., Capellini, I., Barton, R., & Mundy, N. (2010) Reconstructing the ups and downs of primate brain evolution: implications for adaptive hypotheses and Homo floresiensis. BMC Biology, 8(1), 9. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-8-9
The paper I discussed earlier about evidence that corn was imported to Chaco was interesting, but while it provided important information about the poorly understood “Mesa Verdean” period after the fall of the Chaco system it didn’t address the question of food imports during the operation of that system. This has been a topic of [...]... Read more »
BENSON, L., STEIN, J., & TAYLOR, H. (2009) Possible sources of archaeological maize found in Chaco Canyon and Aztec Ruin, New Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36(2), 387-407. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2008.09.023
A new study in PLoS Biology suggests one of the most common Western European Y halplogroups, R1b1b2, might have originated in Turkey and radiated into Europe with the spread of agriculture during the Neolithic. This is significant because this haplogroup is the most frequent in Western Europe, and has been posited as a signal from [...]... Read more »
Balaresque P, Bowden GR, Adams SM, Leung HY, King TE, Rosser ZH, Goodwin J, Moisan JP, Richard C, Millward A.... (2010) A predominantly neolithic origin for European paternal lineages. PLoS biology, 8(1). PMID: 20087410
Cinnioğlu C, King R, Kivisild T, Kalfoğlu E, Atasoy S, Cavalleri GL, Lillie AS, Roseman CC, Lin AA, Prince K.... (2004) Excavating Y-chromosome haplotype strata in Anatolia. Human genetics, 114(2), 127-48. PMID: 14586639
Somewhere between 700 and 900 AD, the Maya civilisation in Central America seemed to collapse. Why? For some time, the conventional explanation has been deforestation. They were so efficient at chopping down trees for timber and for farmland that they got rid of the forest, and without it, the fertile soil was eroded. It’s not [...]... Read more »
McNeil, C., Burney, D., & Burney, L. (2009) Evidence disputing deforestation as the cause for the collapse of the ancient Maya polity of Copan, Honduras. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(3), 1017-1022. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0904760107
Ford, A., & Nigh, R. (2009) Origins of the Maya Forest Garden: Maya Resource Management. Journal of Ethnobiology, 29(2), 213-236. DOI: 10.2993/0278-0771-29.2.213
Since it seems to be Linguistics Week here at Gambler’s House, here’s another post on Jane Hill’s theory that the spread of agriculture into the Southwest was associated with a migration of speakers of Proto-Northern-Uto-Aztecan (PNUA) from somewhere in Mexico. Previously I discussed an article of hers from 2001 in which she tried to show [...]... Read more »
Hill, J. (2008) Northern Uto‐Aztecan and Kiowa‐Tanoan: Evidence of Contact between the Proto‐Languages?. International Journal of American Linguistics, 74(2), 155-188. DOI: 10.1086/587703
Well, what do you know... it looks as though Neanderthals in Mediterranean Spain were up to all sorts of interesting stuff ca. 55-50kya! Hot on the heels of the news that ornaments and coloring materials were found in Mousterian deposits at Cueva Anton and Cueva de los Aviones, we get news that Neanderthals at Abric Romaní (Spain, near Barcelona) appear to have had well defined sleeping areas that bear striking resemblance to those found in rockshelters used by extant hunter-gatherers (Vallverd........ Read more »
Vallverdú, J., Vaquero, M., Cáceres, I., Allué, E., Rosell, J., Saladié, P., Chacón, G., Ollé, A., Canals, A., Sala, R.... (2010) Sleeping Activity Area within the Site Structure of Archaic Human Groups. Current Anthropology, 51(1), 137-145. DOI: 10.1086/649499
For a brief change of topic, let's take a look at language evolution! I wrote up the following novel review paper blog post for a non-biological evolution seminar course I'm involved with. We're essentially first examining various key topics in evolutionary biology (alas too briefly!), exploring how the by-now well-established field of evolutionary linguistics successfully applies evolutionary theory to languages (technically much of it before biology came along...linguists invented phylogeny!),........ Read more »
Lupyan, G., & Dale, R. (2010) Language Structure Is Partly Determined by Social Structure. PLoS ONE, 5(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008559
The prehistoric peoples of the American Southwest were agriculturalists. Different societies may have calibrated their mix of farming, hunting, and gathering differently, but they all seem to have done all three eventually, and for most it’s quite apparent in the archaeological record that farming was the predominant method of subsistence. The crops they grew were [...]... Read more »
Hill, J. (2001) Proto-Uto-Aztecan: A Community of Cultivators in Central Mexico?. American Anthropologist, 103(4), 913-934. DOI: 10.1525/aa.2001.103.4.913
Although it can be rather difficult to define what it means to be Navajo, it is quite clear from a variety of lines of evidence that speakers of Athapaskan languages, including Navajo and the various Apache languages, have not been in the Southwest for very long compared to most of the other language groups there, [...]... Read more »
Sapir, E. (1936) Internal Linguistic Evidence Suggestive of the Northern Origin of the Navaho. American Anthropologist, 38(2), 224-235. DOI: 10.1525/aa.1936.38.2.02a00040
The last three issues of the 2009 volume of L'Anthropologie are dedicated to prehistoric art, and one the papers contained in that special volume concerns five vault fragments from Fumane Cave (Veneto region, Italy) that were recovered during excavation and that bear designs made in red ochre. The art itself is already well known and has been published in great detail as part of a monograph a few years ago (Broglio and Dalmieri 2005), but this study presents some new data on the likely age of t........ Read more »
Broglio, A., De Stefani, M., Gurioli, F., Pallecchi, P., Giachi, G., Higham, T., & Brock, F. (2009) L’art aurignacien dans la décoration de la Grotte de Fumane. L'Anthropologie, 113(5), 753-761. DOI: 10.1016/j.anthro.2009.09.016
There are a lot of oddities about the burials found at Chaco. For one thing, there are remarkably few of them. This seemed particularly strange to archaeologists in the early twentieth century who thought that the great houses all held large resident populations and that the canyon population must have been very high, and they [...]... Read more »
Kohler, T., & Turner, K. (2006) Raiding for Women in the Pre‐Hispanic Northern Pueblo Southwest? A Pilot Examination. Current Anthropology, 47(6), 1035-1045. DOI: 10.1086/508697
One of the most interesting and potentially productive lines of research in Southwestern archaeology these days involves the use of chemical analyses of various archaeological materials to extract more information about the societies that used them than is apparent just from looking at them. The oldest and most established type of research like this is [...]... Read more »
Benson, L. (2010) Who provided maize to Chaco Canyon after the mid-12th-century drought?. Journal of Archaeological Science, 37(3), 621-629. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.10.027
Nicole Waguespack and a bunch of others (including four of the Mythbusters gang, which leads one to wonder whether this will be the basis of a future episode) ask the question: "Given that so many hunter-gatherers use/d stone-tipped projectile, what are the advantages of a stone tip relative to one whose point is simply sharpened wood?" This is a good question to ask, since crafting an projectile point from stone consumes more time, effort and resources than simply sharpening the end of the shaf........ Read more »
Waguespack, N.M., Surovell, T.A., Denoyer, A., Dallow, A., Savage, A., Hyneman, J., & Tapster, D. (2009) Making a point: wood- versus stone-tipped projectiles. Antiquity, 786-800. info:/
As a grad student in anthropological genetics, one of the more tedious tasks I had was aligning mtDNA sequences manually, noting the mutations (differences from the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence, which belongs to haplogroup H), and determining the haplogroup (or lineage). The difficulty was compounded by a lack of comprehensive definitions. I had a stack [...]... Read more »
van Oven, M., & Kayser, M. (2009) Updated comprehensive phylogenetic tree of global human mitochondrial DNA variation. Human Mutation, 30(2). DOI: 10.1002/humu.20921
There’s been a lot of buzz about the new paper by Zilhão et al. (2010) on the use of pierced shells and pigments by Neanderthals at the sites of Cueva de los Aviones and Cueva Antón, in southern Spain some 50,000 years ago, so I thought I’d give a few comments about it here.This is a very significant study in that it strengthens the conclusions of previous research that suggests that Neanderthals habitually used pigments (e.g., Soressi and d’Errico 2007, which I discussed here). Importa........ Read more »
Zilhao, J., Angelucci, D., Badal-Garcia, E., d'Errico, F., Daniel, F., Dayet, L., Douka, K., Higham, T., Martinez-Sanchez, M., Montes-Bernardez, R.... (2010) Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914088107
We had lots of clues that this was the case before Ardi, but now that we’ve got Ardi- the palmigrade extraordinaire, we know that humans did not go through a knuckle-walking phase, and that chimpanzee knuckle-walking has evolved since the split with our last common ancestor with them. Which would also means that it [...]... Read more »
Lovejoy, C., Simpson, S., White, T., Asfaw, B., & Suwa, G. (2009) Careful Climbing in the Miocene: The Forelimbs of Ardipithecus ramidus and Humans Are Primitive. Science, 326(5949), 70-70. DOI: 10.1126/science.1175827
Svante Pääbo’s group at the Max Plank Institute have a paper coming out in the February issue of Cell Biology. In it, they describe sequencing a complete early human mitochondrial genome from the Markina Gora specimen from the Kostenki 14 site in Russia. The remains date to around 30,000 years ago, not the oldest human [...]... Read more »
Krause J, Briggs AW, Kircher M, Maricic T, Zwyns N, Derevianko A, & Pääbo S. (2009) A Complete mtDNA Genome of an Early Modern Human from Kostenki, Russia. Current biology : CB. PMID: 20045327
UPDATE - READ COMMENTS - LEAD AUTHOR HAS GOTTEN PRESS RELEASE CHANGED
A new paper just showed up on PLoS One and it has some serious potential to be important The paper (PLoS ONE: The Effects of Circumcision on the Penis Microbiome) reports on analyses that show differences in the microbiota (which they call the microbiome - basically what bacterial species were present) in men before and after circumcision. And they found some significant differences. It is a nice study of a relatively poo........ Read more »
Price, L., Liu, C., Johnson, K., Aziz, M., Lau, M., Bowers, J., Ravel, J., Keim, P., Serwadda, D., Wawer, M.... (2010) The Effects of Circumcision on the Penis Microbiome. PLoS ONE, 5(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008422
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