Modern Human Origins

Kingsize Wombat

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Rabbits do have a single origin point - the Iberian peninsula.
I've been to the Iberian Peninsula - it struck me as being slightly larger than a "single point". Besides, common ancestors to both rabbits and hares have been located elsewhere as well.

I think the fallacy is to think if evolution of a species as somehow happening in a straight line from species A to B.
 

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Interesting story developing.

Serious concerns have surfaced about three research papers claiming evidence for one of the earliest human occupations of Europe.

In an extraordinary letter posted to the bioRxiv.org preprint server on 31 October1, archaeologists allege that the papers, published in 2013, 2016 and 2017, included material of questionable provenance, and that results reported in the 2016 paper were based on at least one stolen bone. Editors at the journals concerned have now published expressions of concern about the papers.

There is no suggestion that the authors of those papers were involved in theft, but the researchers behind the letter say they are concerned that appropriate questions regarding the provenance of the material appear not to have been asked. They also reject the authors’ conclusion that a German site known for animal remains was also home to hominins, ancient relatives of humans, 1 million years ago. The authors have denied the allegations and say they stand by their . ...

https://www.nature.com/news/archaeo...1.22984?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews&sf168611262=1
 

ramonmercado

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But anomalies continue to crop up. There may not be just one linear narrative.

The origins of our species might need a rethink. An analysis of an ancient skull from China suggests it is eerily similar to the earliest known fossils of our species –found in Morocco, some 10,000 kilometres to the west. The skull hints that modern humans aren’t solely descended from African ancestors, as is generally thought.

Most anthropologists believe, based on fossil evidence, that our species arose in Africa around 200,000 years ago. What’s more, genetic studies of modern humans indicate that we are all descended from a single population that left Africa within the last 120,000 years and spread around the world. This African group is the source of all modern human genes, barring a few we picked up by interbreeding with other species like Neanderthals.

However, the Dali skull may not fit this story. Discovered in China’s Shaanxi Province in 1978, it is remarkably complete, preserving both the face and the brain case. A study published in April concluded the skull is about 260,000 years old. ...

https://www.newscientist.com/articl...hobox&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1510664327
 

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But anomalies continue to crop up. There may not be just one linear narrative.
It's what'll happen when odd points of evidence appear all over the shop. Fossils are rare, in comparison with the number of live creatures of the type that existed, as are non-fossilised remains. It's amazing we have anything really and the more they look, the more they'll find. Every time they find a new data point, they'll have to redraw the graph, figuratively speaking.
 
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Kingsize Wombat

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I knew keeping this stuff would come in handy one of these days...

The Gunk on Old Teeth Could Help Scientists Map Ancient Migrations

Having traveled so far back in time using ancient tartar, some of the same scientists have embarked on a more ambitious project: using the DNA from the bacteria in tartar to figure out how humans settled the 10 million square miles of Polynesia.

Polynesia has confounded the traditional ways of tracing human migration—archaeology, linguistic analyses, even human DNA—because large parts of it were settled so fast. Humans first reached the Society Islands, in the center of the Polynesian Triangle, perhaps around 1,000 AD. Then in the span of just a couple hundred years, they took canoes across vast tracts of open ocean to find specks of inhabitable rock as far-flung as Hawaii, New Zealand, and Easter Island. How Polynesians navigated these waters in the 11th century is a subject of considerable fascination. But even more basically, archaeologists are not sure exactly when the islands were settled and in what order. That’s where the tartar comes in.


https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/human-migrations-ancient-dental-plaque/546209/
 

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Detailed paper on the 7.2 million year old Graecopithecus, adding to speculation that hominins first evolved in Europe:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0177127

Given that the Zanclean flood, which created what we think of as the Mediterranean, didn't happen until some 2 million years later, would there have been a solid land mass from Athens (where the Graecopithecus fossil was found) to Africa when Graecopithecus lived?
 

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Looking at genetics, some scientists claim that they hsve found evidence for another, earlier migration out of Africa. Though they say that first wave had little genetic influence.
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37408014
In the wake of additional analyses, it appears there's now a major shift in the presumptive timeline ...

Modern humans left Africa much earlier
Researchers have identified the remains of the earliest known modern humans to have left Africa.

New dating of fossils from Israel indicates that our species (Homo sapiens) lived outside Africa around 185,000 years ago, some 80,000 years earlier than the previous evidence.

Details appear in the journal Science.
SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42817323
 

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Kingsize Wombat

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A study of Neanderthals suggests that “organized, knowledgeable and caring healthcare is not unique to our species”

Over 40,000 years ago a Neanderthal male — let’s call him Neanderthal Joe — between the ages of 25 and 40 suffered from a myriad of health issues in his last year of life, including a degenerative disease in the spine and shoulders and temporomandibular joint arthritis (TMJ). In prehistoric times, when hunting and foraging were key to survival, this would have put Neanderthal Joe in a vulnerable position, as the degenerative disease likely caused him to weaken in his arms and shoulders.
The common stereotype of Neanderthal would have you believe that this group of hominids were untamed, dumb, and perhaps even violent — an assumption that might lead you to assume that, in the situation above, his tribe might have seen an ailing Neanderthal Joe as a weight on their collective survival. However, articulated remains reveal that Neanderthal Joe was part of his community until his very last breath, according to a University of York study — published in the peer-reviewed journal Taylor & Francis. It appears he even received direct support from his community, such as hygiene maintenance and fever management, for of his many health problems.

In the fascinating study, researchers argue that medical care was an integral part of Neanderthals’ lives, and the motivation to take care of each other was likely driven by compassion and empathy.

“There is no reason to assume the healthcare practices in Neanderthals were driven by the necessity of a life that was unusually harsh rather than being a caring social and cultural response to illness, injury and vulnerability,” researchers say.


https://www.salon.com/2018/03/15/ne...-about-healthcare-that-america-has-forgotten/

 

Kingsize Wombat

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A new study suggests that early humans mated with the mysterious Denisovans in two separate waves.'

Around 41,000 years ago, a young woman died in a cold cave, high up in Siberia’s Altai Mountains. Scientists uncovered one of her pinky bones in 2008. From it, they extracted her DNA. And from that, they deduced that she belonged to a previously unknown group of ancient hominin, whom they called the Denisovans after the cave where the finger was found.

To this date, we have no idea what a Denisovan looked like. You can still hold every known Denisovan fossil—that pinky, a toe, and two teeth—in your hand. But we know so much else about them. We know almost every letter of their genome. We know that they diverged from their close relatives, the Neanderthals, around 400,000 years ago, and that both groups diverged from Homo sapiens around 600,000 years ago. We know that when our ancestors left Africa and spread into Asia, they encountered the Denisovans and had sex with them. We know that, as a result, Denisovan DNA lives on in people from Asia and Melanesia. One of these Denisovan genes provides modern Tibetans with a crucial adaptation that allows them to survive at high altitudes.

And now, thanks to work from Sharon Browning at the University of Washington, we know that Denisovan DNA entered the human gene pool on two occasions. Two separate groups of our horny, globe-trotting ancestors met with these mysterious hominins, and mated with them.

Browning developed a technique that compares the genomes of many modern people, and looks for stretches of DNA that are unusually varied, relative to their neighboring segments. These varied stretches are likely to have been inherited from ancient hominins like Neanderthals, Denisovans, or as-yet-undiscovered groups. Browning can then compare these segments to the genomes of those ancient hominins to work out exactly which group the DNA came from.


https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/humans-denisovans-interbreeding-twice/555686/
 

Kingsize Wombat

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Some West Africans Have DNA Not Linked To Any Known Human Ancestor

According to findings, there is DNA from an unknown species of ancient hominin in about eight percent of the genetic ancestry from the West African Yoruba population. Because this DNA hasn’t yet been linked to a known ancient population, it’s being called a “ghost” species.

The question now is who does this “ghost” DNA belong to?

A hypothesis is that this DNA comes from a species known as homo heidelbergensis. There is evidence that suggests this advanced hominin population was living in Africa over 200,000 years ago. However, the DNA can also belong to a population of hominins whose existence up until now hasn’t been recognized.

There is less of the mysterious archaic ancestry found in the Yoruba population in selectively constrained regions of the genome. This finding suggests that the newly discovered admixture went through the same kind of filtering out process that previous Neanderthal and Denisovan admixtures went through, which resulted in the removal out of non-beneficial traits.

On the flip side, several results found that the archaic DNA sequence amongst this population was elevated in certain areas. This could be indicative not only of an impact that this archaic DNA has on modern Yoruba populations, but can also provide insight into how modern humans as a whole evolved as a species.
http://allthatsinteresting.com/west-africans-unknown-dna

Of course - it could be Ancient Aliens mixing it up with the locals... :embryo:
 

Kingsize Wombat

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I think there are many extinct branches of the human family tree still to be discovered.
A fair few of the fossils being in land which is now under the sea.
No doubt.

The other thing that bothers me is that this whole classification system seems to be a bit questionable. I mean that whole system of dividing into different species seems rather arbitrary at times.
 

Kingsize Wombat

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plus ça change...

2.4-Million-Year-Old Stone Tools Turn Up in an Unexpected Place

To the untrained eye, the rock would have looked like any other. But when Mohamed Sahnouni pulled it out of the ground in the summer of 2006, he immediately recognized it as a chopper: a palm-size tool deliberately flaked to create a sharp cutting edge. It looked exactly like something from the so-called Oldowan culture, a style of stone tools that existed between 1.9 and 2.6 million years ago, predate Homo sapiens, and had mainly come from East Africa.

But Sahnouni wasn’t in East Africa. For years, he and his colleagues had been exploring the archaeological site of Ain Boucherit in Algeria’s High Plateaus, just an hour’s drive from the Mediterranean at the continent’s northern edge. This part of the continent has been relatively neglected by archaeologists, and until now, the oldest artifacts from the region were 1.8 million-year-old stone tools that Sahnouni had found at nearby Ain Hanech. But what his team discovered at Ain Boucherit was much older.
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/we-found-rocks-in-a-hopeless-place/576967/

We may have to re-write human history. For the third time this week.
 

Mungoman

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plus ça change...



https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/we-found-rocks-in-a-hopeless-place/576967/

We may have to re-write human history. For the third time this week.


I wouldn't have recognised it as a chopper, rather, I saw it as a stone bank, or core, for when a bladed instrument is needed.

It's perfect, in that the stone is capable of a concoidal fracture, and there are two corresponding points of impact still visible after all this time.

Beautiful.
 

Anonymous-50446

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I wouldn't have recognised it as a chopper, rather, I saw it as a stone bank, or core, for when a bladed instrument is needed.

It's perfect, in that the stone is capable of a concoidal fracture, and there are two corresponding points of impact still visible after all this time.

Beautiful.
It looked more like a core to me as well. But still very cool.
 

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It looked more like a core to me as well. But still very cool.
Most definitely Coal - Ultra cool, evidence of knowledge of the consequences of impact, and how hard the impact needs to be and an awareness of where to strike...they have also reversed the core and were cleaning it up, preparing a new face for the next - this is not the haphazard attempt at knapping - this is an awareness of specific stone, a known technology for attaining the best implements, and the one strike to attain it.

They couldn't have written a better resume for a 2.4 million year old Stone Smith...I lifts my hat.
 

Lord Lucan

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She was a remarkable creature. This is the field that drew me to university as a mature-age student, back in the early 90s before the old tree had branched out. Still a fascinating area of discovery and wonder. Can we envisage a time when genetically reincarnated archaic specimens will live again contemporaneously with moderns?
She's lovely. We met in the in the Museum of Natural History, New York. We were in the hall of early Hominids, a circular room, so people naturally gravitate towards the displays on the walls. A number of people were ahead of my wife and I as we entered, so I walked into the center of the room and there in a small display case she was. I believe the original bones are housed now in Ethiopia.
Lucy.jpg
 

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More on finds in the Denisova Cave.

40,000-year-old bracelet made by extinct human species found

In what is quite an amazing discovery, scientists have confirmed that a bracelet found in Siberia is 40,000 years old. This makes it the oldest piece of jewelry ever discovered, and archeologists have been taken aback by the level of its sophistication.

The bracelet was discovered in a site called the Denisova Cave in Siberia, close to Russia's border with China and Mongolia. It was found next to the bones of extinct animals, such as the wooly mammoth, and other artifacts dating back 125,000 years.

The cave is named after the Denisovan people — a mysterious species of hominins from the Homo genus, who are genetically different from both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

We know that the Denisovans migrated out of Africa sometime after the first wave of Homo erectus, and well before us, Homo sapiens.

The Denisovans were unique in many ways, having branched away from other humanoid ancestors some 1 million years ago. Indeed, the recent discovery of a female Denisovan finger bone and various teeth shows that they had no morphological similarities to either Neanderthals or modern humans.

However, tens of thousands of years later, and prior to becoming extinct, they did coexist with us and the Neanderthals for a period, and skeletal remains of hybrids, and genetic studies confirm that they also mated with our forebears and the Neanderthals.

Strangely, however, DNA evidence also suggests that, at some point, the Denisovans must have interbred with an as yet unknown and undiscovered species of humans beings.

Skeletal remains show that the Denisovans were probably far more robust and powerful than modern humans, and were, until now, assumed to be a more primitive, archaic type of humans than us.

But, the discovery of the bracelet suggests this was far from true. Amazingly, the skill involved in making this adornment shows a level of technique at least 30,000 years ahead of its time. ...

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/scien...ecies-discovered/article/432798#ixzz4h99Ow99y
The cave may have been first occupied almost 300,000 years ago.

With its light-filled main gallery and sweeping views of the Altai Mountains of southern Russia, Denisova Cave was a Stone Age version of a Manhattan penthouse. Overlooking the Anui River, where herds of animals came to drink, it offered an unparalleled vantage for spotting game and other humans, as well as refuge from Siberian storms. Generations of Neanderthals, their Denisovan cousins, and modern humans enjoyed the view.

But when did each group reside there? The timing could yield clues to how these diverse humans interacted and shed new light on the most enigmatic of the three, the Denisovans, who are known only from DNA and scrappy fossils from this cave. Denisova's human fossils and artifacts have been notoriously difficult to date because of the complex layering of sediments in its three chambers. Now, two teams have combined state-of-the-art dating methods to create a timeline of the cave's occupants.

For the Denisovans, the results—reported in Nature this week—paint a portrait of endurance. They first moved in 287,000 years ago, more than 100,000 years earlier than had been thought, and then occupied the cave off and on through shifting climates until 55,000 years ago, a period when Neanderthals also came and went. "The general picture is now clear," says archaeologist Robin Dennell of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, who was not a member of the teams

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/201...ly_2019-01-30&et_rid=394299689&et_cid=2628432
 

EnolaGaia

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I'm getting some cognitive dissonance here ...

The earlier (2017; quoted) article claims the bracelet was dated to 40,000 years BP, and vaguely indicates it was a Denisovan artifact.

The new article states the Denisovans used the Denisova cave only up to 55,000 years BP.
 

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More findings related to Sri Lanka’s Fa Hien Cave in Kalutara.

If you picture early humans dining, you likely imagine them sitting down to a barbecue of mammoth, aurochs, and giant elk meat.

But in the rainforests of Sri Lanka, where our ancestors ventured about 45,000 years ago, people hunted more modest fare, primarily monkeys and tree squirrels. Then they turned the bones of these animals into projectiles to hunt more of them. The practice continued for tens of thousands of years, making this the longest known record of humans hunting other primates, archaeologists report today.

Many scientists believed such forests lacked the resources for early humans to successfully settle. Instead, our ancestors apparently quickly adapted to this and other challenging environments (such as high elevations and deserts), in part by figuring out how to reliably hunt difficult-to-catch prey.

To conduct the research, archaeologist Patrick Roberts of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (SHH) in Jena, Germany, and colleagues analyzed animal bones recovered from Sri Lanka’s Fa Hien Cave in Kalutara during excavations from 2009 and 2012. Materials and artifacts including charcoal, faunal remains, shell beads, and bone and stone tools indicate people occupied the site from about 45,000 to 4000 years ago. ...

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/201...ly_2019-02-19&et_rid=394299689&et_cid=2675745
 

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How dwarfism and cleft palate were viewed in the past.

Pieri recently identified two 4900-year-old cases of dwarfism in prehistoric Hierakonpolis in Egypt.

The burials suggest the Egyptian fascination with dwarfs extended further back than previously known, to before the first pharaohs. The man and woman were buried at the center of two separate royal tombs. In his 30s or even 40s, the man was one of the cemetery’s oldest burials, suggesting a life of ease—further evidence of high status. Recent x-ray analysis of the bones led Pieri to suggest the Hierakonpolis dwarfs both had pseudoachondroplasia, a condition that occurs once in every 30,000 births today. Because the condition is sometimes hereditary, Pieri says the pair might have been related.

Even cleft palate, considered a deformity today, may have been viewed differently in the past. Erika Molnar, a paleopathologist at the University of Szeged in Hungary, described a man born with a severe cleft palate and complete spina bifida around 900 C.E. in central Hungary. Breastfeeding as an infant and eating and drinking later in life would have been extremely difficult for him, but he lived well past his 18th birthday. He was buried with rich grave goods—and a horse that also had a visibly twisted muzzle known as “wry mouth.”

“Was his survival a result of high social rank at birth, or was high rank the result of his deformity?” Molnar asks. “His unique position could have been a consequence of his uncommon physical characteristics.”

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/201...ly_2019-03-12&et_rid=394299689&et_cid=2711897
 

EnolaGaia

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A new skull from 3,9 million years ago has been found.
What I find interesting is that judging from the photo, it has a sagittal crest.
I'm guessing you're referring to this newly-breaking story:
New Fossil Reveals Face of Oldest Known 'Lucy' Relative

A nearly complete cranium from Ethiopia reveals the face of Australopithecus anamensis, the oldest known species of Australopithecus. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/nearly-complete-lucy-ancestor-skull-unearthed.html

... Right?
 

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Here's a more extensive article from Science Daily ...
A face for Lucy's ancestor

Researchers have discovered a remarkably complete 3.8-million-year-old cranium of Australopithecus anamensis at Woranso-Mille in Ethiopia. The 3.8 million-year-old fossil cranium represents a time interval between 4.1 and 3.6 million years ago.
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Australopithecus anamensis is the earliest-known species of Australopithecus and widely accepted as the progenitor of 'Lucy's' species, Australopithecus afarensis. Until now, A. anamensis was known mainly from jaws and teeth. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and their colleagues have discovered the first cranium of A. anamensis at the paleontological site of Woranso-Mille, in the Afar Region of Ethiopia.

The 3.8 million-year-old fossil cranium represents a time interval between 4.1 and 3.6 million years ago, when A. anamensis gave rise to A. afarensis. Researchers used morphological features of the cranium to identify which species the fossil represents. "Features of the upper jaw and canine tooth were fundamental in determining that MRD was attributable to A. anamensis," said Melillo. "It is good to finally be able to put a face to the name." The MRD cranium, together with other fossils previously known from the Afar, show that A. anamensis and A. afarensis co-existed for approximately 100,000 years. This temporal overlap challenges the widely-accepted idea of a linear transition between these two early human ancestors. Haile-Selassie said: "This is a game changer in our understanding of human evolution during the Pliocene."

Working for the past 15 years at the site, the team discovered the cranium (MRD-VP-1/1, here referred to as "MRD") in February 2016. ...


Geology and age determination

In a companion paper published in the same issue of Nature, Beverly Saylor of Case Western Reserve University and her colleagues determined the age of the fossil as 3.8 million years by dating minerals in layers of volcanic rocks nearby. They mapped the dated levels to the fossil site using field observations and the chemistry and magnetic properties of rock layers. Saylor and her colleagues combined the field observations with analysis of microscopic biological remains to reconstruct the landscape, vegetation and hydrology where MRD died.

MRD was found in the sandy deposits of a delta where a river entered a lake. The river likely originated in the highlands of the Ethiopian plateau while the lake developed at lower elevations where rift activity caused the Earth surface to stretch and thin, creating the lowlands of the Afar region. Fossil pollen grains and chemical remains of fossil plant and algae that are preserved in the lake and delta sediments provide clues about the ancient environmental conditions. Specifically they indicate that the watershed of the lake was mostly dry but that there were also forested areas on the shores of the delta or along the side the river that fed the delta and lake system. ...

A new face in the crowd

Australopithecus anamensis is the oldest known member of the genus Australopithecus. Due to the cranium's rare near-complete state, the researchers identified never-before-seen facial features in the species. "MRD has a mix of primitive and derived facial and cranial features that I didn't expect to see on a single individual," Haile-Selassie said. Some characteristics were shared with later species, while others had more in common with those of even older and more primitive early human ancestor groups such as Ardipithecus and Sahelanthropus. ...

Branching out

Among the most important findings was the team's conclusion that A. anamensis and its descendant species, the well-known A. afarensis, coexisted for a period of at least 100,000 years. This finding contradicts the long-held notion of an anagenetic relationship between these two taxa, instead supporting a branching pattern of evolution. Melillo explains: "We used to think that A. anamensis gradually turned into A. afarensis over time. We still think that these two species had an ancestor-descendent relationship, but this new discovery suggests that the two species were actually living together in the Afar for quite some time. It changes our understanding of the evolutionary process and brings up new questions -- were these animals competing for food or space?"

This conclusion is based on the assignment of the 3.8-million-year-old MRD to A. anamensis and the 3.9-million-year-old hominin cranial fragment commonly known as the Belohdelie frontal, to A. afarensis. The Belohdelie frontal was discovered in the Middle Awash of Ethiopia by a team of paleontologists in 1981, but its taxonomic status has been questioned in the intervening years.

The new MRD cranium enabled the researchers to characterize frontal morphology in A. anamensis for the first time and to recognize that these features differed from the morphology common to the Belohdelie frontal and to other cranial specimens already known for Lucy's species. As a result, the new study confirms that the Belohdelie frontal belonged to an individual of Lucy's species. This identification extends the earliest record of A. afarensis back to 3.9 million years ago, while the discovery of MRD nudges the last appearance date of A. anamensis forward to 3.8 million years -- indicating the overlap period of at least 100,000 years.
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190828140118.htm

LINKS To Published Papers' Abstracts:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1513-8
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1514-7
 

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Lets visit our ancestral home.

Scientists say they've pinpointed the homeland of all humans alive today to a region south of the Zambesi River.

The area is now dominated by salt pans, but was once home to an enormous lake, which may have been our ancestral heartland 200,000 years ago.

Our ancestors settled for 70,000 years, until the local climate changed, researchers propose.

They began to move on as fertile green corridors opened up, paving the way for future migrations out of Africa.

"It has been clear for some time that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago," said Prof Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50210701
 

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The real Garden Of Eden has been traced to the African nation of Botswana, according to a major study of DNA.

Scientists believe our ancestral homeland is south of the Zambezi River in the country's north.



The conclusion comes after the study of maternal genetic lineage of anatomically modern humans, finding it was closest to those living in the area, which includes northern Botswana, Namibia to the west and Zimbabwe to the east.

For 70,000 years, our ancestors thrived in the area before changes in climate turned what was Africa's largest lake into what is now the Kalahari Desert. This forced the population to migrate elsewhere between 130,000 and 110,000 years ago.



Professor Vanessa Hayes, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney, and extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria, led the study.
She said blood samples from volunteers in South Africa and Namibia allowed researchers to compare the DNA code - mitogenome - which she described as "like a time capsule of our ancestral mothers, accumulating changes slowly over generations".

https://news.sky.com/story/garden-o...-first-home-traced-to-botswana-study-11847991

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