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Monday, May 13, 2013

First love child of human, Neanderthal believed found

Neanderthal Predation Shaped HSS Evolution?

A book review:

Late Archaics In China

Nice references for some late surviving archaics in china

Dr. Dan Matrazzo Steals Show at 2012 Christmas Jam in Asheville

I don't usually write about music here, but this you gotta see. After having been out of the public eye for nearly 10 years, Dr. Dan Matrazzo is introduced by Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule for the grand finale solo of the evening. The song is Imagine by John Lennon, deicated to the victims of Sandy Hook, and the band is comprised of a who's who of musical heavy weights... including members of Lynard Skynard, Karl Denson, and Count M'Butu.
Totally unrehearsed and impromptu, the band quiets and Dr. Dan starts out softly on piano. The crowd becomes introspective and rocks back and forth; couples embrace and rifes close, smiling.
Then Dr. Dan strikes a blues riff, and the band follows as he launches into a jazzy, boogie-woogie take on the masterpiece. The people shout out and raise their hands as the say faster and wider...and then, as the solo ends, and the more traditional rhythm ensues....and Warren takes the band into "I'll Take You There" with words custom taylored to the moment. Beautiful female vocals by Alicia Chakour as it  they bring it back down into "Imagine":


                                                      Or watch the full 6 hr concert below:


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

European and Asian languages traced back to single mother tongue

The words for bark in at least four of the languages studied were found to have a common root. Photograph: Alamy
Languages spoken by billions of people across Europe and Asia are descended from an ancient tongue uttered in southern Europe at the end of the last ice age, according to research.
The claim, by scientists in Britain, points to a common origin for vocabularies as varied as English and Urdu, Japanese and Itelmen, alanguage spoken along the north-eastern edge of Russia.
The ancestral language, spoken at least 15,000 years ago, gave rise to seven more that formed an ancient Eurasiatic "superfamily", the researchers say. These in turn split into languages now spoken all over Eurasia, from Portugal to Siberia.
"Everybody in Eurasia can trace their linguistic ancestry back to a group, or groups, of people living around 15,000 years ago, probably in southern Europe, as the ice sheets were retreating," said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at Reading University.
Linguists have long debated the idea of an ancient Eurasiatic superfamily of languages. The idea is controversial because many words evolve too rapidly to preserve their ancestry. Most words have a 50% chance of being replaced by an unrelated term every 2,000-4,000 years.
But some words last much longer. In a previous study, Pagel's team showed that certain words – among them frequently used pronouns, numbers and adverbs – survived for tens of thousands of years before other words replaced them.
For their latest study, Pagel used a computer model to predict words that changed so rarely that they should sound the same in the different Eurasiatic languages. They then checked their list against a database of early words reconstructed by linguists. "Sure enough," said Pagel, "the words we predicted would be similar, were similar."
Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors list 23 words found in at least four of the proposed Eurasiatic languages. Most of the words are frequently used ones, such as the pronouns for "I" and "we", and the nouns, "man" and "mother". But the survival of other terms was more baffling. The verb "to spit", and the nouns "bark" and "worm" all had lengthy histories.
"Bark was really important to early people," said Pagel. "They used it asinsulation, to start fires, and they made fibres from it. But I couldn't say I expected "to spit" to be there. I have no idea why. I have to throw my hands up."
Only a handful of verbs appear on the list, but Pagel points out "to give", which appeared in similar form in five of the Eurasiatic languages. "This is what marks out human society, this hyper-co-operation that we do," he said.
From their findings, the scientists drew up a family tree of the seven languages. All emerged from a common tongue around 15,000 years ago, and split off into separate languages over the next 5,000 years.
"The very fact that we can identify these words that retain traces of their deep ancestry tells us something fundamental about our language faculties. It tells us we have this ability to transmit highly complicated and precise information from mouth to ear over tens of thousands of years," said Pagel.


Stanford Researcher: Origins of Chinese Agriculture Older by 12,000 years

Stanford Researcher: Origins of Chinese Agriculture Older by 12,000 years

The global emergence of similar practices around 23,000 years ago hints that agriculture evolved independently around the world, perhaps as a response to climate change.
The first evidence of agriculture appears in the archaeological record some 10,000 years ago. But the skills needed to cultivate and harvest crops weren't learned overnight. Scientists have traced these roots back to 23,000-year-old tools used to grind seeds, found mostly in the Middle East.
Now, research lead by Li Liu, a professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford, reveals that the same types of tools were used to process seeds and tubers in northern China, setting China's agricultural clock back about 12,000 years and putting it on par with activity in the Middle East. Liu believes that the practices evolved independently, possibly as a global response to a changing climate.
The earliest grinding stones have been found in Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites around the world. These consisted of a pair of stones, typically a handheld stone that would be rubbed against a larger, flat stone set on the ground, to process wild seeds and tubers into flour-like powder.
Once the stones are unearthed, use-wear traces and residue of starch grains on the used surfaces can be analyzed to reveal the types of plants processed by the long-dead owners.
Liu focused on stones discovered at a roughly 23,000-year-old site in the middle of the Yellow River region in northern China. Most of the agricultural research in this area has focused on the Holocene period, roughly 10,000 years ago, when people were domesticating animals and farming.
"The roots of agriculture must be much deeper than 10,000 years ago," Liu said. "People have to first be familiar with the wild plants before cultivating them. The use of these grinding stones to process food indicates that people exploited these plants intensively and became familiar with their characteristics, a process that eventually led to agriculture."
Indeed, the starch analysis has shown traces of grasses, beans, wild millet seeds, a type of yam and snakegourd root – the same types of food that people in the region would domesticate thousands of years later. Domesticated millet, in particular, became the main staple crop that supported the agricultural basis of ancient Chinese civilization. 
Similar patterns of activity existed around the world at the same time, but this is the first evidence that people in northern China were practicing comparable methods. In particular, the extensive use of seeds by people in China and elsewhere could help paint a picture of humans adapting to a worldwide changing climate during an ice age.
"Wild millet seeds are very, very small, and people would need to spend a lot of time to gather enough seeds to be useful," Liu said. "This suggests either that they were under some pressure and better foods were not readily available, or that seeds had suddenly become more abundant and easier to collect.
"We know that during the Ice Age, populations were under pressure. I think that our finding suggests that there was some general evolutionary trend, and that people around the world reacted to climate change in a similar way, although independently."
Incidentally, the presence of tubers could point to the dawn of another discipline.
"Yam and snakegourd root that we found can be used both as food and as traditional herb medicine in China," Liu said. "Whether or not they were used as medicine, we don't know yet, but this discovery could suggest that people understood, or were developing an understanding of, the medicinal properties of some of those roots."