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Friday, May 29, 2009

Kelp Highway to America

Larry Pynn
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Pacific Coast of the Americas was settled starting about 15,000
years ago during the last glacial retreat by seafaring peoples
following a "kelp highway" rich in marine resources, a noted professor
of anthropology theorized Wednesday.

Jon Erlandson, director of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History
at the University of Oregon, suggested that especially productive
"sweet spots," such as the estuaries of B.C.'s Fraser and Stikine
rivers, served as corridors by which people settled the Interior of
the province.

Erlandson said in an interview these migrating peoples were already
sophisticated in harvesting from the sea and would have worked their
way down the coast in search of new sites.

"I think as much as anything it was an exploratory urge," he said at
an international conference on the history of marine mammals at the
University of B.C. "Populations were gradually growing and people kept
moving. What's around the next bend? If there were no people there, it
must have been a really powerful draw to keep exploring."

The kelp highway theory runs up against the long-held belief that the
first humans entered the Americas on a land bridge that spanned the
Bering Strait.

Erlandson said the kelp highway represented a diverse ecosystem and
would have extended from what is today Japan past Russia's Kamchatka
Peninsula and Alaska's Aleutian Islands all the way down the west
coast of North America to Mexico's Baja peninsula and then continuing
again in the waters off Peru, Ecuador, and Chile in South America.

"These kelp forests would have provided a migration corridor near
shore with no major barriers," he said. "It would have been a very
similar ecological zone to follow and a rich one."

It's hard to know what kind of vessels carried these early seafarers,
although dugouts (perhaps carved from driftwood) and skin boats are
possible, he said.

The world's first evidence of human harvesting of marine life is found
at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania dated to about 2.3 million years ago.
Simple shoreline ponds were likely employed to catch fish.

The first evidence of sophisticated fishing technology dates back
90,000 years to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire,
where harpoons were crafted from stone points with bone barbs to catch
Nile perch.

Evidence of seaweed recovered from hearths at the Monte Verde II
archeological site in southern Chile has been dated to about 14,000
years ago.

The first seafarers would have over-exploited resources initially
amidst a windfall of marine life, but over time would have learned to
live sustainably off the ocean, Erlandson said.

"There is a general human tendency, when you come into great
abundance, to waste it. In B.C, in California and other parts of the
world there is evidence early they did impact resources.

"But I think they learned lessons from it, just as we're trying to
learn lessons from the overfishing of recent decades."

Of aboriginal involvement in the elimination of sea otters from B.C.'s
West Coast during the European fur trade starting in the late 1700s,
he said: "That was part of a globalized economy, a cash economy that
was fundamentally different."

Erlandson is part of research on California's Channel Islands that has
found evidence of human occupation -- the Chumash people -- spanning
13,000 years, evidence that they must have found a way to live
sustainably from the ocean around them.

"When Europeans got there, within 150 years all sorts of animals were
devastated. When you compare the two records, they are dramatically
different." he said.
The Sun

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

H. heidelbergensis teeth may show handedness

Ancient bones suggest "lefties" have been coping with a right-handed world
for more than half a million years. A study of Homo heidelbergensis, an
ancestor of Neanderthals, seems to show that the ancient humans were
predominately right-handed.

"Finding that a hominin species as old as Homo heidelbergensis is already
right-handed helps to trace back the chain of modernity concerning hand
laterality," says Marina Mosquera, a paleoanthropologist at Universitat
Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, who was involved in the study.
In search of a less ambiguous indicator of handedness, Mosquera's team looked
to teeth, of all things. Ancient humans probably used their teeth like a third
hand, she says, clenching onto meat and other objects to cut them with stone
tools. And in the process, ancient humans might have grazed their incisors,
creating diagonal marks.

To avoid cutting their noses off, ancient humans probably moved their blade
in a downward motion, causing right-handers to make tooth marks in one
direction, left-handers in another. Mosquera's team confirmed this bias by
asking left and right-handed assistants to simulate the process while wearing
mouth guards.

Next, her team analyzed 592 cut marks on 163 teeth found at Sima de los Huesos
cave in northern Spain, which has produced a trove of Homo heidelbergensis
remains. The vast majority of the marks looked to be made by right-handers,
Mosquera's team found.

Indeed, out of the 19 individuals to whom the teeth belonged, 15 appeared to be
right-handed and none left-handed. Teeth from four individuals contained mostly
vertical marks and, therefore, could not be interpreted.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A 31-year-old Chinese man whose body is 96 per cent coated in hair has an
extra chunk of DNA that could explain his condition – called congenital
generalized hypertrichosis terminalis (CGHT).

A new study of the patient known as "KK" – one of the world's hairiest men –
and three families with a history of CGHT suggests that the disease is caused
by vast genomic changes on chromosome 17.

CGHT is exceedingly rare, with fewer than 100 cases documented in news reports
and the scientific literature, says Xue Zhang, a geneticist at Peking Union
Medical College in Beijing, who led the new study.

The disease is one of at least several forms of hypertrichosis – all
characterised by overgrowth of hair. [...]

To find the genetic changes responsible for CGHT, Zhang's team first scanned
the genomes of 16 people with the disease and their unaffected relatives,
looking for obvious differences.

A region on chromosome 17 jumped out, and after further study, Zhang's team
showed that family members with CGHT were missing between 500,000 and 900,000
DNA letters on that chromosome. Patient KK, on the other hand, had 1.4 million
extra nucleotides at the same place on the genome.

Exactly how these changes cause the disease is unclear, says Zhang. One of the
several genes in this region, MAP2K6, could be involved in hair growth. But
mice missing lacking this gene have normal hair, and a 12-year-old girl
missing this gene shows no signs of CGHT. More likely, the changes on chromosome
17 affect the expression of distant genes, Zhang's team suggests.

More on Ancient Fishing

On May 24, 5:11 pm, Jack Linthicum

I have a book (Tales of Old Florida) which describes fishing trips in
the 1890s where tarpon 6 feet long and 100 pounds weight are taken in
numbers and 150 pounders in 1903.Twenty-pound snapper out of Pensacola
in 1904 to the point the fisherman for fun got tired of the action.
Real commercial fishermen kept hauling.

Ocean life in olden days: Researchers upend modern notions of
'natural' animal sizes, abundance

Census of Marine Life historians reconstruct images of past sea life
that boggle today's imagination

IMAGE: This Byzantine image from the 11th century shows night fishing
with a lamp and a net.

Before oil hunters in the early 1800s harpooned whales by the score,
the ocean around New Zealand teemed with about 27,000 southern right
whales - roughly 30 times as many as today - according to one of
several astonishing reconstructions of ocean life in olden days to be
presented at a Census of Marine Life conference May 26-28.

At about the same time, UK researchers say large pods of blue whales
and orcas, blue sharks and thresher sharks darkened the waters off
Cornwall, England, herds of harbour porpoise pursued fish upriver, and
dolphins regularly played in waters inshore.

Using such diverse sources as old ship logs, literary texts, tax
accounts, newly translated legal documents and even mounted trophies,
Census researchers are piecing together images - some flickering,
others in high definition - of fish of such sizes, abundance and
distribution in ages past that they stagger modern imaginations.

They are also documenting the timelines over which those giant marine
life populations declined.

For example, Census scientists say the size of freshwater fish caught
by Europeans started shrinking in medieval times.

Researchers James Barrett and Jen Harland (Cambridge University, UK),
Cluny Johnstone (York University, UK) and Mike Richards (Max Planck
Institute, Germany) say a shift from eating locally-caught freshwater
to marine fish species occurred around 1000 AD.

That's consistent with analyses of scientifically-dated fish remains
and historical data from England and northwestern Europe showing
smaller freshwater fish and fewer species availability in early
medieval times, likely caused by increased exploitation and pollution.

Maria Lucia De Nicolò of the Università di Bologna, meanwhile, has
established that new fishing boats and equipment invented in the 1500s
made it possible to venture from coastal to deep sea fishing. The real
revolution in marine fishing, she says, happened in the mid-1600s when
pairs of boats began dragging a net.

IMAGE: This composite photo illustrats the decline in size, species
diversity and abundance of gamefish in the Florida Keys.

Appraising modern marine life through the narrow window of
observations during recent decades "skews perceptions," says Andy
Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire, a leader of the Census'
History of Marine Animal Population (HMAP) project and chair of the

He says new insights allowed by centuries of information are upending
modern notions of "natural" marine life sizes, abundance, habitats and
vulnerability, and causing authorities to revisit marine baselines.

In most places human-caused changes to marine ecosystems occurred over
millennia while reliable information is often available for just the
last few centuries at best. In New Zealand, however, which was first
settled by fewer than 300 eastern Pacific islanders around 1280 AD,
there is a comparatively short and continuous record of human impacts
on the marine environment, including whaling for southern right

This short and well-documented history allows researchers to quantify
the full scope of change in at least this one marine ecosystem, from
before human presence to the present day, and makes the findings more
relevant to policy makers, who plan to use the results as a realistic
baseline against which the current and future status of the marine
ecosystem can be gauged.

The estimated historic size of New Zealand's southern right whale
(Eubalaena australis, population, for
example, is already being incorporated into models of the New Zealand
coastal ecosystem to help guide conservation and management.

The Census HMAP team, Jennifer Jackson and Scott Baker (Oregon State
University, US), Emma Carroll and Nathalie Patenaude (University of
Auckland, New Zealand), and Tim Smith (US National Marine Fisheries
Service), estimated the original population through analysis of over
150 whaling logbooks and other records.

And they say with 95% statistical confidence that southern right
whales numbered between 22,000 and 32,000 in the early 1800s,
declining rapidly once whaling began. By 1925, perhaps as few as 25
reproductive females survived. Today a remnant -- and hopefully
recovering - of 1,000 animals is being studied around sub-Antarctic
islands south of New Zealand.

Says Alison MacDiarmid, a New Zealand government scientist who
organized the work: "These findings point up the need to re-examine
the role southern right whales once played both as a grazer of
zooplankton and prey, especially during calving close inshore, for
killer whales and great white sharks."

Oceans Past II Conference, 2009

International scientists arriving in Vancouver for the second Oceans
Past conference (, May 26-28, hosted by the
University of British Columbia), will share such other surprises as

* Human fishing and impacts on near-shore and island marine life -
including the catching of shellfish, finfish and other marine mammals
- apparently began in many parts in the Middle Stone Age - 300,000 to
30,000 years ago - 10 times earlier than previously believed;
* Passages of Latin and Greek verse written in 2nd century CE
suggest Romans began trawling with nets;
* In the early to mid 1800s, years of overfishing followed by
extreme weather collapsed a European herring fishery. Then, the
jellyfish that herring had preyed upon flourished, seriously altering
the food web;
* In the mid 1800s, periwinkle snails and rockweed migrated from
England to Nova Scotia on the rocks ships carried as ballast - the tip
of an "invasion iceberg" of species brought to North America;
* In less than 40 years, Philippine seahorses plunged to just 10%
of their original abundance, reckoned in part through fishers' reports
of each having caught up to 200 in a night in the early days of that

A new context for contemporary ocean management

Says Ian Poiner, Chair of the Census Scientific Steering Committee:
"Joni Mitchell once famously sang that 'you don't know what you've got
'til it's gone.' But when it comes to marine life, in many cases we're
only just starting to fully realize what the planet once had."

IMAGE: This reproduction from an 1887 paper by A. Howard Clark shows
the processing of a right whale carcass.
Click here for more information.

"The insights emerging from this research of the past provide a new
context for contemporary ocean management. Understanding the magnitude
and drivers of change long ago is essential to accurately interpret
today's trends and to make future projections."

Dr. Poiner adds that establishing environmental history in mainstream
marine science will be one of the Census' enduring legacies.

Scientists involved in the research hail from many disciplines,
including palaeontology, archaeology, history, fisheries and ecology.

Using creativity to reveal marine change

Demonstrating one of many novel research techniques, HMAP Caribbean
researcher Loren McClenachan of the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, compared photos of 13 groups of "trophy" reef fish
landed by Key West-area sport fishermen between 1956 and 2007.

They revealed that average fish size shrank from an estimated 20 kg to
2.3 kg and that the mix of species changed greatly.

From 1956 to 1960, large groupers and other large predatory fish
dominated the catches, including sharks that averaged nearly two
meters long.

By contrast, small snappers with an average length of 34.4 cm
dominated catches in 2007.

A special focus on changing coastal biodiversity

HMAP researchers are also looking closely into the history near
Atlantic shores, assessing changes in coastal biodiversity over time.

To illuminate patterns of change by seeing what used to be, project
scientists are subjecting rich historical data from five countries to
modern sampling and analysis methods, testing the hypothesis that
biodiversity has suffered more at sea than on land.

Lessons also from past recoveries

"Most histories of successful marine recoveries are found among
mammals and birds, but cases involving marine reptiles and fish also
exist. Only in a few cases, however, did they fully recover their
former abundance," says researcher Heike Lotze of Canada's Dalhousie

Lotze points to hopeful examples of recoveries - sea otters of western
North America, elephant seals of Guadalupe, an island off the coast of
Baja California, and the Pacific gray whales that roam the American
coast, for example - and the causes behind them.

"In the past, some combination of reduced or banned exploitation,
pollution controls or habitat protection, especially of breeding
colonies and feeding grounds, propelled recovery" she says.

Recovery potential can depend on the magnitude of depletion, the life
history of the animals, and the time since collapse. Long-lived marine
animals rebound more slowly than short-lived species. Species
diversity and food webs have also been identified as important drivers
for recovery. And where species have disappeared, their reintroduction
by humans can help, says Lotze.

Seeing important patterns over time

"Forecasting and backcasting are two sides of the same coin," says
Jesse Ausubel, Program Director of the Census at the Alfred P. Sloan
Foundation. "Analytic tools developed by ecologists to predict future
abundance have been adapted to reconstruct histories of marine life."

"HMAP's evidence includes a variety of items such as old restaurant
menus, whalebone buttons, logbooks and lore, paintings and pavements,
isotopes and ice. HMAP researchers keep extending the limits of
knowledge by finding new ways to make the past visible. They help us
to lift self-imposed blinders on what constitutes useful source
material," he adds.

He notes a text written in Sicily in 1153 describing the seas of the
North Atlantic as having "animals of such great size that the
inhabitants of the islands use their bones and vertebrae in place of
wood to build houses. They make hammers, arrows, spears, knives,
seats, steps, and in general every sort of thing elsewhere made of

"The History of Marine Animal Populations project gives a head start
of decades and even centuries in anticipating trends - both good and
bad. Integration of this information will extend databases to help
perceive important patterns over larger areas, longer eras and
covering more forms of life more reliably."

Concludes Poul Holm, Professor at Trinity College Dublin and global
chair of the HMAP project: "While the history of marine animal
populations has been one of the great unknowns, recent advances in
scientific and historical methodology have enabled HMAP to expand the
realm of the known and the knowable."

"We now know that the distribution and abundance of marine animal
populations change dramatically over time. Climate and humanity forces
changes and while few marine species have gone extinct, entire marine
ecosystems may have been depleted beyond recovery. Understanding
historical patterns of resource exploitation and identifying what has
actually been lost in the habitat is essential to develop and
implement recovery plans for depleted marine ecosystems."


Vancouver conference themes include:

* Historical patterns of change in marine ecosystems;
* The social and economic drivers and consequences of the changes;
* Historical examples of ecosystem recoveries and prospects for
future recoveries; and
* The Sea Ahead: the Future of Marine Ecosystems (sponsored by the
Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, University of British

Census of Marine Life

Started in the year 2000, the Census of Marine Life is an
international science research program uniting thousands of
researchers worldwide with the goal of assessing and explaining the
diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life. It is supported
by private sources and government agencies the world over, listed
online at

The Census of Marine Life 2010: A Decade of Discovery, to be released
in London in October 2010, will address three questions:

* What lived in the ocean?
* What lives in the ocean?
* What will live in the ocean?

The Census' History of Marine Animal Populations project was created
to address these questions:

* How have marine animal diversity, distribution, and abundance
changed in the last 2,000 years?
* Which factors forced or influenced those changes?
* What has been the significance of those changes to humans and
the environment? and
* By what processes have marine ecosystems interacted with human

Since the project began, some 205 books and papers have been
published. And the HMAP database ( today holds
approximately 350,000 records, with a goal of 1,000,000 records by the
end of 2010.

The preservation of data will be ensured through the creation of a
World Repository for Marine Environmental History Data.

In 2010, HMAP will publish a general environmental history of marine
animal populations, an image gallery, a series of maps of historical
exploitations and impacts, and papers that synthesize information on
historical declines and recoveries.

Of particular note, the World Whaling HMAP project is in the process
of creating colorful, large-format world maps showing the distribution
of 19th century whaling ships and their prey, providing simple, high-
impact visual representations of the times and places of whaling in
that era. Based on records of 70,000 whale encounters over 450,000
days at sea, the maps invite comparisons of past and current whale
distribution patterns, allowing resource managers to identify where
populations have and have not recovered.

HMAP Sponsors

The History of Marine Animal Populations project receives funding from
sources around the world.

Contributors to research specified in this release include:

* The Danish Council for Independent Research, Humanities
* Leverhulme Trust;
* Lenfest Ocean Program;
* Alfred P. Sloan Foundation;
* National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd.;
* New Zealand Biodiversity Fund administered by the New Zealand
Ministry of Fisheries; US Environmental Protection Agency STAR
Fellowship Program, and
* The Future of Marine Animal Populations, a fellow Census of
Marine Life project.

Many divisions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
provided support, including:

* The Office of Ocean Exploration;
* Northeast Fisheries Science Center;
* NOAA Preserve America Initiative;
* Marine Sanctuaries Program;
* Reef Conservation Program;
* National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science;
* National Marine Fisheries Service; and
* OAR Cooperative Institute.
Primary Source

Basques Explored Atlantic first

Basques played an important role in early European ventures into the
Atlantic Ocean. The earliest document to mention the use of whale oil
or blubber by the Basques dates from 670. In 1059, whalers from
Lapurdi are recorded to have presented the oil of the first whale they
captured to the viscount. Apparently the Basques were averse to the
taste of whale meat themselves, but did successful business selling
it, and the blubber, to the French, Castilians and Flemings. Basque
whalers used longboats or traineras which they rowed in the vicinity
of the coast or from a larger ship.

Study unlocks history of the seas
By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News

Medieval fishermen first took to the open seas in about AD1,000 as a
result of a sharp decline in large freshwater fish, scientists have

They say the decline was probably the result of rising population and
pollution levels.

The study forms part of a series that examines the impact of humans on
life beneath the waves throughout history.

The findings will be presented at a Census of Marine Life (CoML)
conference in Canada, which begins on Tuesday.

"Fish bones are found in archaeological sites... all around the north-
western part of Europe," said co-author James Barrett, from Cambridge
University's McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

"What we have done is to start to piece together some of the
information that has been gathered."

This involved looking at the fish bones to determine what species they
came from, and from what time period.
“ One of the straightforward hypotheses is that freshwater fish were
no longer sufficient to satisfy demand ”
Dr James Barratt, University of Cambridge

Dr Barrett observed: "At the end of the first millennium AD there is
this wholesale shift in emphasis from reliance on freshwater fish
towards marine species."

"It is not rocket science, it is just literally looking at the
proportion of species that are obligatory freshwater ones, such as
pike... and which ones are obligatory sea fish, such as cod and

As for understanding what caused the shift, Dr Barratt said that it
would be inappropriate to attempt to identify a single cause.

"But when you look very carefully at the freshwater fish bones from
the York site, where a big collection was gathered, you can see that
the length of the fish are decreasing through time," he told BBC News.

"Certainly, one of the straightforward hypotheses is that freshwater
fish were no longer sufficient to satisfy demand.

"This was likely to have been for two reasons; one was because there
had been a reduction in the availability of freshwater fish as a
result of overfishing, or from things such as people building dams for
water mills.

"The second thing would have been that there would have simply been
more people."

Dr Barrett added that around this period there was a rapid expansion
of towns and cities in north-western Europe.

"So this meant that there was an increased pressure on freshwater
fish, and there was an increase in demand that probably could not have
been satisfied even if the supply had remained stable."

Dr Barrett's team's study will be one of a number of research projects
that formed part of the CoML's History of Marine Animal Populations

The project aims to address a number of questions, including how the
diversity and distribution of marine animals have changed over the
past 2,000 years, and what factors forced or influenced these changes.

Professor Poul Holm, the global chairman of the HMAP project, said
that the history of marine animals had been one of the great unknowns.

But recent scientific advances was allowing researchers to gain a
better understanding, he added.

"We now know that the distribution and abundance of marine animal
populations change dramatically over time," he explained.

"Climate and humanity forces changes and while few marine species have
gone extinct, entire marine ecosystems have been depleted beyond

"Understanding historical patterns of resources exploitation and
identifying what has actually been lost in the habitat is essential to
develop and implement recovery plans for depleted marine ecosystems."

Many of the findings by HMAP researchers will be presented at the
Oceans Past II Conference, which is begins on Tuesday at the
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

COML, which began back in 2000, is an international research programme
involving thousands of scientists from around the world.

The goal of the decade-long endeavour is to assess and explain the
diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the world's
seas and oceans.

The publication of the first complete global Census of Marine Life is
scheduled for October 2010.
Story from BBC NEWS:On BBC
Archie News

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Do Prehistoric Monsters Still Exist?

Do Prehistoric Monsters Still Exist?

Future explorers may find themselves battling “extinct” creatures which lurk in the remote corners of the world.

By Willy Ley
Author of The Lungfish, the Dodo and the Unicorn*

DINOSAURS may roam the unexplored jungles of Africa!

Native tribes near the Congo River call the creatures Mokele Mbembe. They say they’re enormous and live in caves washed out by the river at sharp turns. Some startled tribesmen have described them as having long necks, small heads and one long tusk. Others have told of a three-horned monster like that shown above, with ferocious teeth and a massive comb. All agree that the creatures kill both humans and elephants. But they never eat the flesh. Farther east in Africa, near Lake Ban-gweolo, the natives tell of a weird animal which they call Chipekwe. Because it kills hippopotamuses, not one hippo can be found in the lake. One tribe claims it hunted and killed a Chipekwe forty years ago. The strongest hunters had to jab it with their spears for days before the animal finally succumbed.

There have been many other reports of strange creatures stilln uncatalogued. They have not been officially described and not yet pinned down with a Latin label. But in all corners of the earth there are people who, will swear to what they have seen.

Of all the unknown animals, the one for which the best evidence has been offered is the apeman of the South American jungles. In 1929, a French geologist, Monsieur de Loys, made a trip into the interior of Venezuela. One day he camped on the banks of the Catatumbo River.

Suddenly, two hairy creatures approached the camp in fury. As they attacked him he fired. One of the attackers fell dead, the other fled. When de Loys examined the body, he found it was not a man as he had thought—it was an ape!

He knew he had really discovered something because it had always been thought that there were no apes native to the Western Hemisphere. He propped the body up on a crate and took pictures. It was five feet tall, had 32 teeth, a nose like that of South American monkeys, and no tail at all. Then he cut off the head in order to bring home the skull. But a later accident to the expedition resulted in the loss of the skull although the photos were saved.

So far, this strange apeman of Venezuela has never been found again.

Tales of natives and explorers cannot be discounted. The famous African explorer, Stanley, and other early hunters were told about an animal living in the Congo which had stripes. It sounded like a zebra but since zebras live in open plains, the white men were doubtful. Later the animal was actually “discovered”—it was the okapi.

The natives also wore feathers in their headdresses which did not come from any bird known to science. Then this bird was “discovered”—the Congo peacock.

And in Liberia, German hunters heard stories about a very large black pig with treacherous teeth. They didn’t believe them until one day a hunter was actually attacked by the animal—the pigmy hippo.

And the fishermen along Norway’s coast have insisted for hundreds of years that two sea monsters exist. One, they say, looks like a long snake. The other has a head like the roots of a big uprooted tree. But the roots are alive and squirming— with two gigantic eyes. The first monster the fishermen call the Sea Worm and the second, Kraken.

Way back in 1861 the commander of a French man-of-war came back and told of an encounter with an 18-foot octopus of brick-red color. The crew shot cannon balls at it. When they hoisted it aboard, the creature decayed so rapidly it was thrown overboard.

The largest octopus ever taken had a ten-foot body, two long arms about 30-feet long and two short arms about seven feet long. Some varieties of toothed whales like to eat octopus—and they don’t seem to care about the size so long as they can swallow the creatures.

One such whale, on being harpooned, vomited recently-eaten food during its death struggle. In that mess, the men found a piece of octopus tentacle six feet long with a diameter of two feet. The diameter of tentacles of the biggest specimen previously seen had been only eight inches!

On the skin of another toothed whale, fishermen found the mark of a sucking disk two feet in diameter. The tentacle to which it was attached must have been even thicker. The octopus to which tentacles and sucking disks of this size belong, must be of enormous dimensions.

As for “ordinary” sea serpents—they have been seen on almost all shores at least 200 times. The latest case is that of the SS Santa Clara. This ship literally ran into one in the Gulf Stream at about noon on December 30, 1947. There was lots of blood in the sea and the captain of the vessel thinks his ship may have cut the animal in half.

There are other unrecognized creatures of the sea, too. A turtle-like monster has been reported on Easter Island and in Queensland. It’s called Nuihi on Easter Island and Mohamoha in Queensland but it has never been seen in this country. Yet last winter a mammoth animal tried to climb a Florida sea wall. The next morning, early swimmers found great Nuihi-like tracks in the sand!

Scientists who have studied reports about serpents, have decided that there must definitely exist some unknown sea creature which vaguely answers the descriptions given down through the ages. It seems to come to the surface in warm weather and it is probably not a snake. More likely, it is a warm-blooded mammal like the whale. One of these scientists said, “If you compare the whale to the elephant, the unknown animal should be compared to a giraffe; not much larger than the whale but of a stranger shape.”

A few years ago, fishermen in South America caught a latimeria—a large fish that was supposed to be extinct 60 million years ago. It caused many to wonder if we have fully explored the fringes of our animal world.

Reliable sources have been hinting to us for generations that there are creatures existing which we have never seen. Will they be dreadful throwbacks to another age or inconceivable monsters of the future?

Blog Source

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New 47 myp "Missing Link" Found!!

Here's the Link!

How Neanderthals met a grisly fate: devoured by humans

How Neanderthals met a grisly fate: devoured by humans

A fossil discovery bears marks of butchering similar to those made
when cutting up a deer

* Robin McKie, science editor
* The Observer, Sunday 17 May 2009

One of science's most puzzling mysteries - the disappearance of the
Neanderthals - may have been solved. Modern humans ate them, says a
leading fossil expert.

The controversial suggestion follows publication of a study in the
Journal of Anthropological Sciences about a Neanderthal jawbone
apparently butchered by modern humans. Now the leader of the research
team says he believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its
teeth may have been used to make a necklace.

Fernando Rozzi, of Paris's Centre National de la Récherche
Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove
flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to
that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age.
"Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate
them," Rozzi said.

The idea will provoke considerable opposition from scientists who
believe Neanderthals disappeared for reasons that did not involve
violence. Neanderthals were a sturdy species who evolved in Europe
300,000 years ago, made complex stone tools and survived several ice
ages before they disappeared 30,000 years ago - just as modern human
beings arrived in Europe from Africa.

Some researchers believe Neanderthals may have failed to compete
effectively with Homo sapiens for resources, or were more susceptible
to the impact of climate change. But others believe our interactions
were violent and terminal for the Neanderthals. According to Rozzi,
the discovery at Les Rois in south-west France provides compelling
support for that argument.

Previous excavations revealed bones that were thought to be
exclusively human. But Rozzi's team re-examined them and found one
they concluded was Neanderthal. Importantly, it was covered in cut
marks similar to those left behind when flesh is stripped from deer
and other animals using stone tools.

Rozzi believes the jawbone provides crucial evidence that humans
attacked Neanderthals, and sometimes killed them, bringing back their
bodies to caves to eat or to use their skulls or teeth as trophies.
"For years, people have tried to hide away from the evidence of
cannibalism, but I think we have to accept it took place," he added.

But not every team member agrees. "One set of cut marks does not make
a complete case for cannibalism," said Francesco d'Errico, of the
Institute of Prehistory in Bordeaux. It was also possible that the
jawbone had been found by humans and its teeth used to make a
necklace, he said.

"This is a very important investigation," said Professor Chris
Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London. "We do need more
evidence, but this could indicate modern humans and Neanderthals were
living in the same area of Europe at the same time, that they were
interacting, and that some of these interactions may have been

"This does not prove we systematically eradicated the Neanderthals or
that we regularly ate their flesh. But it does add to the evidence
that competition from modern humans probably contributed to
Neanderthal extinction."

Then again, it is The Guardian

Friday, May 15, 2009

Evolutionary trends of stature in Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Europe

Evolutionary trends of stature in Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Europe

References and further reading may be available for this article. To view references and further reading you must purchase this article.

Vincenzo Formicola and Monica Giannecchini

Dip. di Etologia, Ecologia ed Evoluzione, University of Pisa, via A. Volta 6, I-56126, Pisa, Italy

Received 1 October 1997; revised 18 March 1998; accepted 29 September 1998. ; Available online 27 March 2002.

Long bone lengths of all available European Upper Paleolithic (41 males, 25 females) and Mesolithic (171 males, 118 females) remains have been transformed into stature estimates by means of new regression equations derived from Early Holocene skeletal samples using “Fully's anatomical stature” and the major axis regression technique (Formicola & Franceschi, 1996). Statistical analysis of the data, with reference both to time and space parameters, indicates that: (1) Early Upper Paleolithic samples (pre-Glacial Maximum) are very tall; (2) Late Upper Paleolithic groups (post-Glacial Maximum) from Western Europe, compared to their ancestors, show a marked decrease in height; (3) a further, although not significant, reduction of stature affects Western Mesolithics; (4) no regional differences have been observed during both phases of the Upper Paleolithic; (5) a high level of homogeneity has also been found in the Mesolithic, both in Western and Eastern Europe; (6) the internal homogeneity found during the Mesolithic in Western and Eastern Europe is associated with marked inter-regional variability, with populations of the latter region showing systematically significantly greater stature than their Western contemporaries.

Evaluation of possible causes for the great stature of the Early Upper Paleolithic samples points to high nutritional standards as the most important factor. Results obtained on later groups clearly indicate that the Last Glacial Maximum, rather than the Mesolithic transition, is the critical phase in the negative trend affecting Western European populations. While changes in the quality of the diet, and in particular decreased protein intake, provide a likely explanation for that trend, variations in levels of gene flow probably also played a role. Reasons for the West–East Mesolithic dichotomy remain unclear and lack of information for the Late Upper Paleolithic of Eastern Europe prevents insight into the remote origins of this phenomenon. Analysis of regional differentiation of stature, particularly well supported by data from Mesolithic sites, points to the absence of today's latitudinal gradients and suggests a relative homogeneity in dietary, cultural and biodemographic patterns for the last hunter-gatherer populations of Western Europe.

Author Keywords: Human Palaeontology, stature, Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Europe

German 'Venus' may be oldest yet

German 'Venus' may be oldest yet
By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News

The sculpture is made from mammoth ivory

A remarkable ivory carving is arguably the oldest sculpture of a human figure yet found, scientists say.

The distorted object, which portrays a woman with huge breasts, big buttocks and exaggerated genitals, is thought to be at least 35,000 years old.

The 6cm-tall figurine, reported in the journal Nature, is the latest find to come from Hohle Fels Cave in Germany.

Previous discoveries have included exquisite carvings of animals, and an object that could be a stone "sex toy".

Professor Nicholas Conard, from the department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, at Tübingen University, said is was understandable that many would also view the new discovery in a pornographic light, but he cautioned against jumping too quickly to a particular interpretation.

"We project our ideas of today on to this image from 40,000 years ago," he told the BBC.

"I think there are good reasons to emphasise sexual interpretations, but we really don't know whether it is coming from a more male or a more female perspective. We don't know very much about how the artefact was used."

Finger detail

The Venus of Hohle Fels was found in six fragments in September 2008. It is still missing its left arm and shoulder, but researchers are hopeful these will emerge in future excavations of the cave's sediments.

The figurine does not have a head. Rather, it has a carefully carved ring located off-centre above its broad shoulders.

The polished nature of the ring suggests the Venus was probably suspended as a pendant.

The hands have precisely carved fingers, with five digits clearly visible on the left hand and four on the right hand.

The pronounced breasts, buttocks and genitals familiar in later Venuses are usually interpreted to be expressions of fertility.

The Venus shows no signs of having been covered with pigments. It is, though, marked by a series of cut lines.

The artefact is presumed to have been made by modern humans (Homo sapiens) even though Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) were still present in Europe at this time.

"We find all kinds of things in our caves - musical instruments, all kinds of ornaments, mythical representations of lion-men, not to mention all the different stone tools, bone tools, ivory tools, [and] antler tools. But we have no human bones that really tell us one way or the other who made these artefacts. I assume they were made by modern humans," said Professor Conard.

The figurine is presumed to have been made by modern humans

The Hohle Fels object is of an age where radiocarbon dating techniques become somewhat uncertain. Scientists say, however, that it is unquestionably older than previous finds associated with, for example, European Gravettian culture.

These typically date from between 22,000 and 27,000 years ago, with the most famous item probably being the Venus of Willendorf which was discovered in 1908.

Professor Conard has described many of the extraordinary finds at Hohle Fels.

He says the Venus is perhaps the earliest example of figurative art worldwide.

"There's one site in northern Italy - Fumane - that has some very schematic, monochrome red depictions that are certainly figurative art, although it's often difficult to work out what's being depicted," he said.

"They're of comparable age; we don't have enough resolution to say which is older. It is entirely plausible that the female figurine from Hohle Fels is the oldest figurative art anywhere."

Claims have been made for figurines that are much older - even hundreds of thousands of years old. The Berekhat Ram figure from Israel and the Tan-Tan figure from Morocco, for example, have been presented as the work of Homo erectus.

But many sceptical researchers believe these items, although they may have been used by more ancient species, are really accidents of nature; they are objects that have been moulded into human form through chance geological processes.

Listen to Science in Action this week on the BBC World Service to hear more from Nicholas Conard. This edition will be broadcast on Friday 15 May, and available on-line from 0930 GMT


Modern Humans, Not Neandertals, May Be Evolution's 'Odd Man Out'

Modern Humans, Not Neandertals, May Be Evolution's 'Odd Man Out'
ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2006) — Could it be that in the great evolutionary "family tree," it is we Modern Humans, not the brow-ridged, large-nosed Neandertals, who are the odd uncle out?

New research published in the August, 2006 journal Current Anthropology by Neandertal and early modern human expert, Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that rather than the standard straight line from chimps to early humans to us with Neandertals off on a side graph, it's equally valid, perhaps more valid based on the fossil record, that the line should extend from the common ancestor to the Neandertals, and Modern Humans should be the branch off that.

Trinkaus has spent years examining the fossil record and began to realize that maybe researchers have been looking at our ancient ancestors the wrong way.

Trinkaus identified fossil traits which seemed to be genetic markers - those not greatly influenced by environment, life ways and wear and tear. He was careful to examine traits that appear to be largely independent of each other to avoid redundancy.

"I wanted to see to what extent Neandertals are derived, that is distinct, from the ancestral form. I also wanted to see the extent to which modern humans are derived relative to the ancestral form," Trinkaus says. "What I came up with is that modern humans have about twice as many uniquely derived traits than do the Neandertals.

"In the broader sweep of human evolution," says Trinkaus, "the more unusual group is not Neandertals, whom we tend to look at as strange, weird and unusual, but it's us - Modern Humans."

The most unusual characteristics throughout human anatomy occur in Modern Humans, argues Trinkaus. "If we want to better understand human evolution, we should be asking why Modern Humans are so unusual, not why the Neandertals are divergent. Modern Humans, for example, are the only people who lack brow ridges. We are the only ones who have seriously shortened faces. We are the only ones with very reduced internal nasal cavities. We also have a number of detailed features of the limb skeleton that are unique."

Trinkaus admits that every paleontologist will define the traits a little differently. "If you really wanted to, you could make the case that Neandertals look stranger than we do. But if you are reasonably honest about it, I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to make Neandertals more derived than Modern Humans."

How Modern Were European Neanderthals?

How Modern Were European Neanderthals?
ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2006) — Neandertals were much more like modern humans than had been previously thought, according to a re-examination of finds from one of the most famous palaeolithic sites in Europe by Bristol University archaeologist, Professor Joao Zilhao, and his French colleagues.

Professor Zilhao has been able to show that sophisticated artefacts such as decorated bone points and personal ornaments found in the Châtelperronian culture of France and Spain were genuinely associated with Neandertals around 44,000 years ago, rather than acquired from modern humans who might have been living nearby. His findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) USA.

The site from which this Neandertal culture derives its name is the Grotte de Fées at Châtelperron in Central France, first excavated in the 1840s. It has been one of the most important and controversial places to understand how modern humans that had previously moved out of Africa replaced the Neandertals, often portrayed as more 'primitive'. In the conventional interpretation of the rock strata of the site, the cave was thought to have evidence of both modern human and Neandertal occupation in interleaved layers. The fact that Neandertals came back to the site after modern humans had lived in it for quite some time would prove the long-term contemporaneity of the two groups, and validate the notion that the cultural novelties seen among the latest Neandertals represented immitation or borrowing, not innovation.

Now archaeologists can show that the Grotte des Fées stratigraphic pattern is illusory because the supposedly Neandertal levels overlying those belonging to the modern human Aurignacian culture are in fact backdirt from nineteenth-century fossil hunting. According to Professor Zilhao and his team, this adds to the evidence from other sites in the region that the Neandertals already had the capacity for symbolic thinking before the arrival of the modern humans into western Europe, which has been radiocarbon dated to around 40,000 years ago.

Professor Zilhao said: "This discovery, along with research on the rock strata at other cave sites, has huge implications for how we view the European Neandertals and, more widely, human evolution. The differences between Neandertals and modern humans may be much less than had been previously thought, suggesting that human cognition and symbolic thinking may date back to before the two sub-species split around 400,000 years ago."

The Last Neandertals? Late Neandertals And Modern Human Contact In Southeastern Iberia

The Last Neandertals? Late Neandertals And Modern Human Contact In Southeastern Iberia
ScienceDaily (Dec. 11, 2008) — It is widely accepted that Upper Paleolithic early modern humans spread westward across Europe about 42,000 years ago, variably displacing and absorbing Neandertal populations in the process. However, Middle Paleolithic assemblages persisted for another 8,000 years in Iberia, presumably made by Neandertals. It has been unclear whether these late Middle Paleolithic Iberian assemblages were made by Neandertals, and what the nature of those humans might have been.

New research, published Dec. 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is now shedding some light on what were probably the last Neandertals.

The research is based on a study of human fossils found during the past decade at the Sima de la Palomas, Murcia, Spain by Michael Walker, professor at Universidad de Murcia, and colleagues, and published by Michael Walker, Erik Trinkaus, professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues.

The human fossils from the upper levels of the Sima de las Palomas are anatomically clearly Neandertals, and they are now securely dated to 40,000 years ago. They therefore establish the late persistence of Neandertals in this southwestern cul-de-sac of Europe. This reinforces the conclusion that the Neandertals were not merely swept away by advancing modern humans. The behavioral differences between these human groups must have been more subtle than the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic technological contrasts might imply.

In addition, the Palomas Neandertals variably exhibit a series of modern human features rare or absent in earlier Neandertals. Either they were evolving on their own towards the modern human pattern, or more likely, they had contact with early modern humans around the Pyrenees. If the latter, it implies that the persistence of the Middle Paleolithic in Iberia was a matter of choice, and not cultural retardation.

From the Sima de las Palomas, other late Neandertal sites, and recent discoveries of the earliest modern humans across Europe, a complex picture is emerging of shifting contact between behaviorally similar, if culturally and biologically different, human populations. Researchers are coming to see them all more as people, flexibly making a living through the changing human and natural landscapes of the Late Pleistocene.

More Human-Neandertal Mixing Evidence Uncovered

More Human-Neandertal Mixing Evidence Uncovered
ScienceDaily (Nov. 6, 2006) — A reexamination of ancient human bones from Romania reveals more evidence that humans and Neandertals interbred.

Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., Washington University Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor in Arts & Sciences, and colleagues radiocarbon-dated and analyzed the shapes of human bones from Romania's Petera Muierii (Cave of the Old Woman). The fossils, discovered in 1952, add to the small number of early modern human remains from Europe known to be more than 28,000 years old.

Results were published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The team found that the fossils were 30,000 years old and principally have the diagnostic skeletal features of modern humans. They also found that the remains had other features known, among potential ancestors, primarily among the preceding Neandertals, providing more evidence there was mixing of humans and Neandertals as modern humans dispersed across Europe about 35,000 years ago. Their analysis of one skeleton's shoulder blade also shows that these humans did not have the full set of anatomical adaptations for throwing projectiles, like spears, during hunting.

The team says that the mixture of human and Neandertal features indicates that there was a complicated reproductive scenario as humans and Neandertals mixed, and that the hypothesis that the Neandertals were simply replaced should be abandoned.

Neandertals Sophisticated And Fearless Hunters, New Analysis Shows

Neandertals Sophisticated And Fearless Hunters, New Analysis Shows

Model of the Neanderthal man. Exhibited in the Dinosaur Park
Münchehagen, Germany. (Credit: iStockphoto/Klaus Nilkens)

ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — Neandertals, the 'stupid' cousins of
modern humans were capable of capturing the most impressive animals.
This indicates that Neandertals were anything but dim. Dutch
researcher Gerrit Dusseldorp analysed their daily forays for food to
gain insights into the complex behaviour of the Neandertal. His
analysis revealed that the hunting was very knowledge intensive.

Although it is now clear that Neandertals were hunters and not
scavengers, their exact hunting methods are still something of a
mystery. Dusseldorp investigated just how sophisticated the
Neandertals' hunting methods really were. His analysis of two
archaeological sites revealed that Neandertals in warm forested areas
preferred to hunt solitary game but that in colder, less forested
areas they preferred to hunt the more difficult to capture herding

The Neandertals were not easily intimated by their game. Rhinoceroses,
bisons and even predators such as the brown bear were all on their
menu. Dusseldorp established that just as for modern humans, the
environment and the availability of food determined the choice of prey
and the hunting method adopted. If the circumstances allowed it,
Neandertals lived in large groups and even the most attractive and
difficult to catch prey were within their reach.

Coordination and communication

Although herding animals are difficult to surprise and isolate, many
such game lived on the open steppes. This large supply attracted large
groups of Neandertals. That the Neandertals were capable of hunting
down such elusive game demonstrates that they had good coordination
skills and could communicate well with each other.

Each prey has a specific cost-benefit scenario. For example, game that
are more difficult to catch yield more calories and have a more
usable, thick fleece. Dusseldorp used these data to examine the
Neandertal's preferences. He also analysed the prey of hyenas in the
same manner. Hyenas were important competitors of Neandertals as they
had a similar dietary pattern.

Dusseldorp demonstrated that Neandertals, thanks to their
intelligence, even surpassed hyenas at capturing the strongest game.
All things being considered, the Neandertals were skilled and highly
intelligent hunters. So the idea that Neandertals were brute musclemen
can be dismissed.

This study was part of NWO project "Thoughtful Hunters? The
Archaeology of Neandertal Communication and Cognition." Dusseldorp is
continuing his research with a postdoc position in Johannesburg. There
he shall focus on the modern humans that evolved in Africa.
Adapted from materials provided by Netherlands Organization for
Scientific Research, via AlphaGalileo.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (2009, May 14).
Neandertals Sophisticated And Fearless Hunters, New Analysis Shows.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Evidence of Modern Smarts in Stone Age Superglue Options


Researchers who reverse-engineered an ancient superglue have found
that Stone Age people were smarter than we thought.

Making the glue, originally used on 70,000-year-old composite tools,
clearly required high-level cognitive powers. Anthropologists usually
use symbolic art as the benchmark for modern cognition, but making the
glue was an equally profound accomplishment.

“These artisans were exceedingly skilled; they understood the
properties of their adhesive ingredients, and they were able to
manipulate them knowingly,” wrote University of Witwatersrand
archaeologists in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.

The archaeologists took design cues from stone tools found during a
decade of excavation at South Africa’s Sibudu Cave site. The stones
were still covered with traces of an iron-rich red pigment and acacia
gum, a natural adhesive found in the bark of acacia trees.

Acacia gum was almost certainly used to attach the stones to wooden
shafts, but researchers have debated the pigment’s role. Some
suggested that it was decoration. The Witersrand team suspected a more
functional use.

Indeed, when they used Stone Age toolmaking techniques to attach
stones to wooden shafts with nothing but acacia gum, the tools soon
fell apart. When they added the pigment, the tools stuck together. But
making the glue required much more than simple mixing. It demanded
careful and sustained attention.

Keeping the fire at the right temperature required certain types of
wood, with a certain degree of moisture content. If glues were mixed
too close to the fire, they contained air bubbles. If too dry, they
weren’t cohesive; if too wet, they were weak. The Sibudu Cave’s Stone
Age inhabitants, wrote the researchers, were “competent chemists,
alchemists and pyrotechnologists.”

The Sibudu tools were about as old as the first possible evidence of
symbolic art, also found in South Africa. But some archaeologists say
that art, consisting of cross-hatched engravings on stone, may
represent absent-minded doodles rather than a cognitive leap. The
glues are a more convincing indication of modern intelligence.

“The glue maker needs to pay careful attention to the condition of
ingredients before and during the procedure and must be able to switch
attention between aspects of the methodology,” wrote the Witwatersrand
team. “To hold many courses of action in the mind involves
multitasking. This is one trait of modern human minds, notwithstanding
that even today, some people find multilevel operations difficult.”


Journal of Human Evolution
Volume 53, Issue 4, October 2007, Pages 406-419

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Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.

The gripping nature of ochre: The association of ochre with Howiesons
Poort adhesives and Later Stone Age mastics from South Africa
Purchase the full-text article

References and further reading may be available for this article. To
view references and further reading you must purchase this article.

Marlize Lombarda, b, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail
The Corresponding Author

aDepartment of Human Sciences, Natal Museum, Private Bag 9070,
Pietermaritzburg 3200, South Africa

bSchool of Anthropology, Gender and Historical Studies, University of
KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209, South Africa

Received 2 June 2006;
accepted 30 May 2007.
Available online 23 July 2007.


This contribution provides direct evidence for the use of ochre in
adhesive recipes during the Howiesons Poort of South Africa. Stone
segments from two KwaZulu-Natal sites were microscopically analyzed to
document ochre and resin microresidue occurrences. These microresidues
show a clear distribution pattern on the tool portions that are
associated with hafting. Results from a separate quartz and crystal-
quartz sample may indicate that different adhesive recipes were
applied to different raw materials. A possible functional application
for ochre in association with Later Stone Age mastics is also
explored. The evidence and suggestions presented here expand our
understanding of the versatility, use, and value of pigmentatious
materials in prehistory; it is not viewed as an alternative or
replacement hypothesis for its possible symbolic role during the late


A brief introduction to the Howiesons Poort of South Africa
Samples and sites


Sample A from Sibudu Cave
Sample B from Sibudu Cave
Sample C from Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter
Sample D from Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter
Raw materials and adhesive recipes


Ochre as a component in adhesives
Investigating symbolic explanations
Ochre associated with Later Stone Age mastic


Obsession with Naked Women Dates Back 35,000 Years

Obsession with Naked Women Dates Back 35,000 Years

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 13 May 2009 01:04 pm ET

Side and front views of the Venus of Hohle Fels. Credit: H. Jensen;
Copyright University of Tubingen
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1 of 1

If human culture seems obsessed with sex lately, it's nothing new.
Archaeologists have discovered the oldest known artistic
representation of a woman — a carved ivory statue of a naked female,
dating from 35,000 years ago.

The figurine, unearthed in September 2008 in Hohle Fels Cave in
southwestern Germany, may be the oldest known example of figurative
art, meaning art that is supposed to represent and resemble a real
person, animal or object. The discovery could help scientists
understand the origins of art and the advent of symbolic thinking,
including complicated language.

"If there's one conclusion you want to draw from this, it's that an
obsession with sex goes back at least 35,000 years," University of
Cambridge anthropologist Paul Mellars told LiveScience. He was not
involved in the new finding. "But if humans hadn’t been largely
obsessed with sex they wouldn’t have survived for the first 2 million
years. None of this is at all surprising."

The fixation wasn't just for naked women, though. Early carvings of
phalluses appeared in Europe at about the same time.

Little 'Venus'

The tiny statue is carved out of the tusk of a woolly mammoth and is
less than 2.5 inches (60 millimeters) long. Instead of a head, it has
a ring that scientists think meant it was worn as a pendant looped
through string. Paleoanthropologist Nicholas Conard of Germany's
Tubingen University reported the discovery in the May 14 issue of the
journal Nature.

The oldest human art dates back much further, to between 75,000 and
95,000 years ago in Africa. But that art was abstract, and consisted
of geometrical designs engraved on pieces of red iron oxide. This is
the first known art to represent a woman, and possibly the first art
to represent anything real at all. Another find, a simple drawing that
may represent a half-man, half-animal, could be a few thousand years
older, but the date on that is uncertain.

The jump from abstract art to representative art seems significant,
and might reflect a leap in the cognitive capacity of the human brain
around this time. Some experts think that the development might have
gone along with a leap in the complexity of human language.

"Language is a symbolic system — words are symbols for things. And so
is art," Mellars said. "Art is a glaring illustration of a capacity
for symbolic thinking. Since symbolic thinking lies at the core of
language, people have often tried to link the two."

Mellars pointed out that there isn't enough evidence to really
understand how complex human language was at this point, though.

Sex on the brain

The statue is notable not just for its symbolism, but for its style —
particularly its sexuality.

"The figure is explicitly — and blatantly — that of a woman, with an
exaggeration of sexual characteristics (large, projecting breasts, a
greatly enlarged and explicit vulva, and bloated belly and thighs)
that by twenty-first-century standards could be seen as bordering on
the pornographic," Mellars wrote in a commentary essay in Nature.

Scientists guess that it may have represented female fertility, or
been related to shamanistic rituals and beliefs.




Nature 459, 248-252 (14 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07995; Received
24 January 2009; Accepted 17 March 2009

A female figurine from the basal Aurignacian of Hohle Fels Cave in
southwestern Germany

Nicholas J. Conard1

1. Abteilung für Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie, Institut
für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters,
Universität Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany

Correspondence to: Nicholas J. Conard1 Correspondence and requests for
materials should be addressed to N.J.C. (Email: nicholas.conard@uni-


Despite well over 100 years of research and debate, the origins of art
remain contentious1, 2, 3. In recent years, abstract depictions have
been documented at southern African sites dating to approx75 kyr
before present (bp)4, 5, and the earliest figurative art, which is
often seen as an important proxy for advanced symbolic communication,
has been documented in Europe as dating to between 30 and 40 kyr bp2.
Here I report the discovery of a female mammoth-ivory figurine in the
basal Aurignacian deposit at Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of
southwestern Germany during excavations in 2008. This figurine was
produced at least 35,000 calendar years ago, making it one of the
oldest known examples of figurative art. This discovery predates the
well-known Venuses from the Gravettian culture by at least 5,000 years
and radically changes our views of the context and meaning of the
earliest Palaeolithic art.

1. Abteilung für Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie, Institut
für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters,
Universität Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany

Correspondence to: Nicholas J. Conard1 Correspondence and requests for
materials should be addressed to N.J.C. (Email: nicholas.conard@uni-

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Indonesian 'hobbit' confirmed to be a new species

Indonesian 'hobbit' confirmed to be a new species
Half-size humans whose remains were found on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003 have been confirmed to be a new species, and not modern pygmies whose brains had shrivelled with disease.

Last Updated: 10:32AM BST 07 May 2009

Since the discovery of Homo floresiensis - dubbed "the hobbit" due to its size - anthropologists have argued over the identity and origins of the cave-dwellers.

Measuring just three feet high and weighing 65 pounds, the tiny, tool-making hunters may have roamed the island as recently as 8,000 years ago.

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Scientists reveal face of the first EuropeanMany scientists have said H. floresiensis were prehistoric humans descended from homo erectus, stunted by natural selection over millennia through a process called insular dwarfing.

Others countered that even this evolutionary shrinking, well known in island-bound animals, could not account for the hobbit's chimp-sized brain of barely more than 400 cubic centimetres, a third the size of a modern human brain.

And how could such a being have been smart enough to craft its own stone tools?

The only plausible explanation, they insisted, was that the handful of specimens found suffered from a genetic disorder resulting in an abnormally small skull or - a more recent finding - that they suffered from "dwarf cretinism" caused by deficient thyroids.

But two new studies in the British journal Nature go a long way toward ending this debate.

A team led by William Jungers of the Stony Brook University in New York tackled the problem by analysing the hobbit's foot.

In some ways it is very human. The big toe is aligned with the others and the joints make it possible to extend the toes as the body's full weight falls on the foot, attributes not found in great apes.

But, in other respects, it is startlingly primitive: far longer than its modern human equivalent, and equipped with a very small big toe, long, curved lateral toes, and a weight-bearing structure closer to a chimpanzee's.

Recent archeological evidence from Kenya shows that the modern foot evolved more than 1.5 million years ago, most likely in Homo erectus.

So unless the Flores hobbits became more primitive over time - an unlikely scenario - they must have branched off the human line at an even earlier date.

For Prof Jungers and his colleagues, this suggests "that the ancestor of H. floresiensis was not Homo erectus but instead some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented," the researchers conclude.

Companion studies, published online in the Journal of Human Evolution, bolster this theory by looking at other parts of the anatomy, and conjecture that these more ancient forebear may be the still poorly understood Homo habilis.

Either way, their status as a separate species would be confirmed.

Even this compelling new evidence, however, does not explain the hobbit's inordinately small brain.

To investigate this, Eleanor Weston and Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum in London compared fossils of several species of ancient hippos found on the island of Madagascar with the mainland ancestors from which they had evolved.

They were surprised to find that insular dwarfing - driven by the need to adapt to an island environment - shank their brains far more than had previously been thought possible.

"Whatever the explanation for the tiny brain of H. floresiensis relative to its body size, our evidence suggests that insular dwarfing could have played a role in its evolution," they conclude.

While the new studies answer some questions, they also raise new ones sure to spark fresh debate, notes Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman in a comment, also published in Nature.

Only more fossil evidence will tell us whether the hobbits of Flores evolved from Homo erectus, whose traces have been found throughout Eurasia, or from an even more ancient lineage whose footsteps have not yet been traced outside Africa, he said.


Scientists reveal face of the first European

Scientists reveal face of the first European
The face of the first European has been recreated from bone fragments by scientists.

By Urmee Khan, Digital and Media Correspondent
Last Updated: 8:36PM BST 04 May 2009

The first modern European Forensic artist Richard Neave reconstructed the face based on skull fragments from 35000 years ago. Photo: BBC The head was rebuilt in clay based on an incomplete skull and jawbone discovered in a cave in the south west of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania by potholers.

Using radiocarbon analysis scientists say the man or woman, it is still not possible to determine the sex, lived between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago.

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Giant lions once roamed BritainEurope was then occupied by both Neanderthal man, who had been in the region for thousands of years, and anatomically-modern humans – Homo sapiens.

Modern humans first arrived in Europe from Africa.

The skull appears very like humans today, but it also displays more archaic traits, such as very large molar teeth, which led some scientists to speculate the skull may belong to a hybrid between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals – an idea discounted by other experts.

Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University in Missouri, said the jaw was the oldest, directly-dated modern human fossil. "Taken together, the material is the first that securely documents what modern humans looked like when they spread into Europe," he said.

The model was created by Richard Neave, a forensic artist, for a BBC programme about the origins of the human race and evolution.

The Incredible Human Journey will be shown on BBC Two at 9.30pm on May 10.


Early humans 'did not kill deformed offspring'

Early humans 'did not kill deformed offspring'
The discovery of the oldest known infant born with a skull deformity hints that, contrary to popular belief, early humans might not have immediately abandoned or killed their abnormal offspring.

By Fiona Govan in Madrid
Last Updated: 8:59PM BST 31 Mar 2009

Studies on a human skull recently unearthed in Spain offer the earliest evidence that ancestors of Homo sapiens did not reject newborns with severe deformities but cared for them alongside their other children.

Scientists found the remains of several members of the early human species Homo heidelbergensis – thought to be a direct ancestor of the Neanderthals – in caves near Atapuerca, Spain, in 2001.

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200,000 year old human hair found in dung
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Morning sickness 'increases the chance that child will have high IQ'They pieced together a 530,000-year-old fossil cranium and discovered it belonged to a child who lived to between five and 12 years old despite being born with a rare birth defect known as craniosynostosis, in which the skull segments close too early, producing facial deformities and interfering with brain development.

The condition affects fewer than 6 out of every 200,000 children born today.

The discovery marks the earliest example of a human skeleton with signs of a physical deformity that that might have made the individual dependent on others for survival.

Most mammals, including primates, sacrifice or abandon young born with crippling deformities, the study's authors said, leading scientists to assume until now that early man had behaved the same.

That the child survived so long in the harsh hunter-gatherer society suggests early hominids were more caring than previously thought.

"The individual survived more than five years, which suggests her condition was no impediment to receiving the same attention as any other child of the Pleistocene epoch," noted Ana Gracia Tellez, a palaeoanthropologist at Complutense University in Madrid, who led the research published this week in the US science magazine, Proceedings.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

World’s Oldest Manufactured Beads Are Older Than Previously Thought

World’s Oldest Manufactured Beads Are Older Than Previously Thought

ScienceDaily (May 5, 2009) — A team of archaeologists has uncovered
some of the world’s earliest shell ornaments in a limestone cave in
Eastern Morocco. The researchers have found 47 examples of Nassarius
marine shells, most of them perforated and including examples covered
in red ochre, at the Grotte des Pigeons at Taforalt.

The fingernail-size shells, already known from 82,000-year-old Aterian
deposits in the cave, have now been found in even earlier layers.
While the team is still awaiting exact dates for these layers, they
believe this discovery makes them arguably the earliest shell
ornaments in prehistory.

The shells are currently at the centre of a debate concerning the
origins of modern behaviour in early humans. Many archaeologists
regard the shell bead ornaments as proof that anatomically modern
humans had developed a sophisticated symbolic material culture. Up
until now, Blombos cave in South Africa has been leading the ‘bead
race’ with 41 Nassarius shell beads that can confidently be dated to
72,000 years ago.

Aside from this latest discovery unearthing an even greater number of
beads, the research team says the most striking aspect of the Taforalt
discoveries is that identical shell types should appear in two such
geographically distant regions. As well as Blombos, there are now at
least four other Aterian sites in Morocco with Nassarius shell beads.
The newest evidence, in a paper by the authors to be published in the
next few weeks in the Journal of Quaternary Science Reviews, shows
that the Aterian in Morocco dates back to at least 110,000 years ago.

Research team leader, Professor Nick Barton, from the Institute of
Archaeology at the University of Oxford, said: ‘These new finds are
exciting because they show that bead manufacturing probably arose
independently in different cultures and confirms a long suspected
pattern that humans with modern symbolic behaviour were present from a
very early stage at both ends of the continent, probably as early as
110,000 years ago.’

Also leading the research team Dr Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, from the
Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine in
Morocco, said: ‘The archaeological and chronological contexts of the
Taforalt discoveries suggest a much longer tradition of bead-making
than previously suspected, making them perhaps the earliest such
ornaments in the world.’

Archaeologists widely believe that humans in Europe first started
fashioning purely symbolic objects about 40,000 years ago, but in
Africa this latest evidence shows that humans were engaged in this
activity at least 40,000 years before this.

Excavations in April 2009 also continued in the upper levels of
Taforalt to investigate a large well-preserved cemetery dating to
around 12,500 years ago. The project, co-ordinated by Dr Louise
Humphrey, from the Natural History Museum in London, has found adult
as well as infant burials at the site. The infant burials throw an
interesting light on early burial traditions as many of the infants
seem to be buried singly beneath distinctive blue stones with the
undersides smeared with red ochre. By contrast, studies by Dr Elaine
Turner of the Römisch Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz, show that the
adults’ grave pits were generally marked by the horn cores of wild
barbary sheep. Taforalt remains the largest necropolis of the Late
Stone Age period in North Africa presently under excavation.

Professor Barton said: ‘Taking our new discovery of the shell beads at
Taforalt, together with the discoveries of the decorated burials
excavated by Dr Louise Humphrey, it shows that the cave must have
retained its special interest for different groups of people over many
thousands of years. One of its unique attractions and a focal point of
interest seems to have been a freshwater spring that rises next to the

Pics at Site

Long Feet Offer Clues to Mystery of Small Hominid

May 7, 2009
Long Feet Offer Clues to Mystery of Small Hominid

The extinct hominids commonly known as hobbits may have been small of
body and brain, but their feet were exceptionally long, and they were

Scientists, completing the first detailed analysis of the hominid’s
foot bones, say the findings bolster their controversial
interpretation that these individuals belonged to a primitive
population distinct from modern humans that lived as recently as
17,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores.

The new anatomical evidence, being reported Thursday in the journal
Nature, is unlikely to solve the mystery of just where the species —
formally designated Homo floresiensis — fits in human evolution. That
fact even the researchers acknowledge, and some of their critics still
contend that the skull and bones are nothing more than remains of
modern pygmy humans deformed by genetic or pathological disorders.

The controversy erupted almost immediately after the H. floresiensis
discovery was announced in 2004. The single skull was unusually small,
indicating its brain was no bigger than a chimpanzee’s. It topped a
body little more than three feet tall.

Now the examination of lower limbs and especially an almost complete
left foot and parts of the right, the researchers reported, shows that
the species walked upright, like other known hominids. There were five
toes, as in other primates, but the big toe was stubby, more like a

Stranger still was the size of the feet — more than seven and a half
inches long, out of proportion to its short lower limbs. The imbalance
evoked the physiology of some African apes, but it has never before
been seen in hominids.

And then there were those flat feet. Humans sometimes have fallen
arches and flat feet, but scientists noted that this was no human
foot. The navicular bone, which helps form the arch in the modern
foot, was especially primitive, more akin to one in great apes.
Without a strong arch — that is, flat-footed — the hominid would have
lacked the spring-like action needed for efficient running. It could
walk, but not run like humans.

Weighing the new evidence, the research team led by William L.
Jungers, a paleoanthropologist at the Stony Brook Medical Center on
Long Island, concluded that “the foot of H. floresiensis exhibits a
broad array of primitive features that are not seen in modern humans
of any body size.”

The team contended that it is improbable that all of these traits from
head to toe — including small brain and primitive shoulders and
wrists, as previously reported — “were simply a consequence of ‘island
dwarfing.’ ”

Dr. Jungers and his colleagues raised the possibility that the
ancestor of the species was not Homo erectus, as had been the original
assumption. H. erectus is known as the earliest hominid to leave
Africa and make its way across Asia. At a symposium two weeks ago,
several scientists edged toward the view that the so-called hobbits
emerged from another, more primitive hominid ancestor.

In a commentary accompanying the journal report, Daniel E. Lieberman,
a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University who was not a member of
the team, noted that the initial skepticism over the hominid as a
distinct species was understandable.

“All in all, many scientists (myself included) have sat on the fence,
waiting for more evidence about the nature and form of H.
floresiensis,” Dr. Lieberman wrote. “And now we have some.”

Dr. Lieberman, who specializes in hominid locomotion studies, said the
primitive foot provided a “tantalizing model” for a nonmodern hominid
that “evolved for effective walking before selection for endurance
running occurred in human evolution.”

That might have occurred even before H. erectus, judging by footprints
in Africa of an erectus with an apparently humanlike foot. Some
scientists speculate that the ancestor of H. floresiensis evolved from
an earlier and smaller erectus, or the enigmatic Homo habilis, or even
a pre-Homo genus.

In a related report in the journal, Eleanor Weston and other
researchers at the Natural History Museum in London suggested that the
H. floresiensis skull might be that of an erectus that had become
dwarfed from living isolated on an island. They made the proposal
based on a study of extinct dwarf hippos on Madagascar, whose brains
were 30 percent smaller than would be expected by scaling down their
mainland African ancestor.

Robert E. Eckhardt, an evolutionary biologist at Penn State University
who remains skeptical, said in an e-mail message that supporters of
that interpretation “have ignored, overlooked, discounted or
misrepresented the extent of normal and abnormal variation in
morphological structure and biomechanical function that exists in
members of our own species, Homo sapiens.”

William Harcourt-Smith, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum
of Natural History and co-author of the Nature paper, said in an
interview, “We have been very careful to consider variables within a
species and possible pathologies, but this hobbit foot is another
strong piece of evidence that they were nothing like us.”

"Hobbit" Foot Like No Other In Human Fossil Record

An international team of paleoanthropologists, anatomists and
archeologists, led by William L. Jungers, Ph.D., of Stony Brook
University,have published the first scientific analysis of the foot of
Homo floresiensis, the fossil found in Indonesia in 2003 and popularly
referred to as the “Hobbit.” Their findings are reported in the May 7
issue of Nature.

Image Gallery
Djuna Ivereigh/ARKENAS
Assembly of the "Hobbit" foot.
Click image to view fullsize
previous image Image 1 of 2 next image

Newswise — An international team of paleoanthropologists, anatomists
and archeologists have published the first scientific analysis of the
foot of Homo floresiensis, the fossil found in Indonesia in 2003 and
popularly referred to as the “Hobbit.” Lead author William L. Jungers,
Ph.D., of Stony Brook University, and colleagues documented the
Hobbit’s unusual combination of ape-like and human-like foot features,
which clearly enabled bipedal walking, a hallmark of all humans and
their extinct relatives (hominins), despite its surprisingly primitive
design. Their findings, reported in the May 7 issue of Nature, provide
further evidence that the ancestor of this species was perhaps not
Homo erectus but instead another more primitive and remote hominin.

The authors point out that the Hobbit foot has a relative foot length
that far exceeds the upper limits for modern humans either of average
or short stature. The foot is similar in relative length to pygmy
chimpanzees, with long and curved toes, but also sports a short big
toe in line with the other toes. While the foot has an overall
structure that signals bipedal walking, it appears to have been “flat-
footed” and poorly designed for running, one of the critical pedal
features believed to characterize human ancesters since the time of
Homo erectus.

“A foot like this one has never been seen before in the human fossil
record,” says Dr. Jungers, Distinguished Teaching Professor and Chair
of the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook. “Our analysis
offers the most complete glimpse to date of how a primitive bipedal
foot was designed and differed from that of later hominins and modern

“Arches are the hallmark of a modern human foot,” explains co-author
Dr. William E. H. Harcourt-Smith of the American Museum of Natural
History. “This is another strong piece of the evidence that the
‘hobbit’ was not like us.”

In “The foot of Homo floresiensis,” the authors also suggest that
despite these feet being dated to the Late Pleistocene age (17,000
years ago), their features together with many other parts of the Homo
floresiensis skeleton, might represent the primitive condition for our
own genus Homo. This could imply a dispersal event out of Africa
earlier than what paleoanthropologists have long thought.

“These particular ‘hobbit’ feet may have never walked into Mordor, but
they certainly remind us how little we know about which other hominin
species walked out of Africa and the many possible places their feet
helped take them,” adds co-author Dr. Matthew Tocheri, of the
Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. Jungers points out that “if the feet and skeleton of the ‘hobbits’
are instead the result of ‘island dwarfing’ from the Southeast Asian
Homo erectus as some scientists suspect, then an amazing number of
evolutionary reversals to primitive conditions had to occur as an
unexplained and unprecedented by-product.”

Continued excavations on Flores and other parts of Indonesia, to be
led by co-author Dr. Mike Morwood, of the University of Wollongong in
Australia, in collaboration with Indonesian scientists from the
National Research and Development Centre for Archeology in Jakarta,
may unearth an answer to the competing theories on the origins and
nature of Homo floresiensis.

The research for this international study was supported by grants from
the Australian Research Council, the National Geographic Society, the
Wenner-Gren Foundation for Antrhopological Research, the Wellcome
Trust and the Leakey Foundation.

In addition to Dr. Jungers, co-authors of the study include: W. E. H.
Harcout-Smith, Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural
History; R.E. Wunderlich, Department of Biological Sciences, James
Madison University; M.W. Tocheri, Department of Anthropology,
Smithsonian Institution; Susan G. Larson, Department of Anatomical
Sciences, Stony Brook University Medical Center; T. Sutikna and Rhokus
Awe Due, of the National Research and Development Centre for
Archeology, Jakarta, Indonesia, and M.J. Morwood, School of Earth and
Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, New South Wales,

The Department of Anatomical Sciences is one of 25 departments within
Stony Brook University School of Medicine. The department includes
graduate and doctoral programs in Anatomical Sciences. Fields of study
include research on human evolutionary anatomy, morphology and
vertebrate paleontology. Many faculty members in the department are
also participants in an interdepartmental graduate program in
anthropological sciences that is recognized worldwide for its faculty
and research strengths in functional morphology and human evolution.

© 2009 Newswise. All Rights Reserved.


Nature 459, 85-88 (7 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07922; Received 15
January 2008; Accepted 19 February 2009

Insular dwarfism in hippos and a model for brain size reduction in
Homo floresiensis

Eleanor M. Weston1 & Adrian M. Lister1

1. Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London SW7

Correspondence to: Eleanor M. Weston1 Correspondence and requests for
materials should be addressed to E.W. (Email:


Body size reduction in mammals is usually associated with only
moderate brain size reduction, because the brain and sensory organs
complete their growth before the rest of the body during ontogeny1, 2.
On this basis, 'phyletic dwarfs' are predicted to have a greater
relative brain size than 'phyletic giants'1, 3. However, this trend
has been questioned in the special case of dwarfism of mammals on
islands4. Here we show that the endocranial capacities of extinct
dwarf species of hippopotamus from Madagascar are up to 30% smaller
than those of a mainland African ancestor scaled to equivalent body
mass. These results show that brain size reduction is much greater
than predicted from an intraspecific 'late ontogenetic' model of
dwarfism in which brain size scales to body size with an exponent of
0.35. The nature of the proportional change or grade shift2, 5
observed here indicates that selective pressures on brain size are
potentially independent of those on body size. This study demonstrates
empirically that it is mechanistically possible for dwarf mammals on
islands to evolve significantly smaller brains than would be predicted
from a model of dwarfing based on the intraspecific scaling of the
mainland ancestor. Our findings challenge current understanding of
brain–body allometric relationships in mammals and suggest that the
process of dwarfism could in principle explain small brain size, a
factor relevant to the interpretation of the small-brained hominin
found on the Island of Flores, Indonesia6.

1. Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London SW7

Correspondence to: Eleanor M. Weston1 Correspondence and requests for
materials should be addressed to E.W. (Email:


Nature 459, 81-84 (7 May 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07989; Received 14
January 2009; Accepted 17 March 2009

The foot of Homo floresiensis

W. L. Jungers1, W. E. H. Harcourt-Smith2, R. E. Wunderlich3, M. W.
Tocheri4, S. G. Larson1, T. Sutikna5, Rhokus Awe Due5 & M. J. Morwood6

1. Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University
Medical Center, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8081, USA
2. Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History,
New York, New York 10024, USA
3. Department of Biological Sciences, James Madison University,
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
4. Humans Origins Program, Department of Anthropology, National
Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
20013-7012, USA
5. National Research and Development Centre for Archaeology,
Jakarta 12001, Indonesia
6. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of
Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia

Correspondence to: W. L. Jungers1 Correspondence and requests for
materials should be addressed to W.L.J. (Email:

Top of page

Homo floresiensis is an endemic hominin species that occupied Liang
Bua, a limestone cave on Flores in eastern Indonesia, during the Late
Pleistocene epoch1, 2. The skeleton of the type specimen (LB1) of H.
floresiensis includes a relatively complete left foot and parts of the
right foot3. These feet provide insights into the evolution of
bipedalism and, together with the rest of the skeleton, have
implications for hominin dispersal events into Asia. Here we show that
LB1's foot is exceptionally long relative to the femur and tibia,
proportions never before documented in hominins but seen in some
African apes. Although the metatarsal robusticity sequence is human-
like and the hallux is fully adducted, other intrinsic proportions and
pedal features are more ape-like. The postcranial anatomy of H.
floresiensis is that of a biped1, 2, 3, but the unique lower-limb
proportions and surprising combination of derived and primitive pedal
morphologies suggest kinematic and biomechanical differences from
modern human gait. Therefore, LB1 offers the most complete glimpse of
a bipedal hominin foot that lacks the full suite of derived features
characteristic of modern humans and whose mosaic design may be
primitive for the genus Homo. These new findings raise the possibility
that the ancestor of H. floresiensis was not Homo erectus but instead
some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast
Asia is still undocumented.

1. Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University
Medical Center, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8081, USA
2. Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History,
New York, New York 10024, USA
3. Department of Biological Sciences, James Madison University,
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
4. Humans Origins Program, Department of Anthropology, National
Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
20013-7012, USA
5. National Research and Development Centre for Archaeology,
Jakarta 12001, Indonesia
6. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of
Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia

Correspondence to: W. L. Jungers1 Correspondence and requests for
materials should be addressed to W.L.J. (Email: