Posts Tagged ‘Neanderthal’

Promiscuity in the pleistocene

January 2, 2014

Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and his colleagues from various institutions are making stunning advances in the analysis of ancient DNA. The complete genome of a Neanderthal has now been reconstructed with a remarkable level of detail.

The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai MountainsKay Prüfer et al, Nature 505, 43–49 (02 January 2014),  doi:10.1038/nature12886

Editors Summary: Recent excavations in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia have yielded a wealth of hominin fossils from a site that has been occupied for perhaps 250,000 years or more. Now a high-quality genome sequence has been determined from a circa 50,000-year-old toe bone — a proximal toe phalanx — excavated from the east gallery of Denisova Cave in 2010. The sequence is that of a Neanderthal woman whose parents were closely related — perhaps half-siblings or uncle and niece. Such inbreeding was also common among her recent ancestors. Comparisons with other archaic and present-day human genomes reveal several gene-flow events among Neanderthals, the closely related Denisovans and early modern humans, possibly including gene flow into Denisovans from an unknown archaic group. The high-quality Neanderthal genome also helps to establish a definitive list of substitutions that became fixed in modern humans after their separation from the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

promiscuity in the pleistocene

But what is also becoming clear is that there were more “species” of homo erectus who existed in parallel than has generally been assumed and also that sexual encounters and interbreeding between these cousin-species has been a regular occurrence over some 250,000 years. And so there have been times when Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH), Neanderthals, Denisovans and the “unknown” hominim have co-existed.

The AMH-Neanderthals split is thought to have occurred about 400,000 years ago. The split with the unknown hominims then must have been around 500,000 years ago. The Denisovans split off from the Neanderthals perhaps about 300,000 years ago. The Out-of-Africa split among AMH was around 100,000 years ago.

A Neanderthal in our time. (copyright Nenderthal Museum / H Neumann)

A Neanderthal in our time. (copyright Nenderthal Museum / H Neumann)

These ancient splits were all probably in and around Africa even if the Out-of-Africa event for AMH is now more likely to have been  many such events and an expansion out of Africarabia. But it also means that a wave of “unknown hominims” split off from the mainline after a mainline group had left Africa and then spread out to unknown areas. Neanderthals probably split from their parent line of descent also outside of Africa but there must first have come a migration from Africa. The Neanderthal-Denisovan split must also have taken place outside of Africa. Clearly there have been many migrations Out of Africa over the last 400,000 years.

Carl Zimmer writes, “Evolution is a mixture of flow–the cascade of genes from parents to offspring, and the criss-cross movement between populations and species”.

But this generates a myriad of new questions. How large were the troops or tribes or clans of these ancient hunter-gatherers that they could sustain such large migrations? For how long and in what proximity did these different species of man co-exist. These troops – it is thought – probably did not number more than about 50. Some critical population would have been required for sufficient interactions to have taken place between the species. At any one time the total human population – of all species – may have approached 10 million (for if this was – say – just 1 million the opportunities to interbreed would not have been many). They all had fire, but did they all have some form of speech?

But most fascinating of all is how the interbreeding took place. Was it just a product of normal rape and pillage? Did violent clashes lead to the victors impregnating the vanquished, or were there other scenarios for individuals to mate? At some point there must have been children who were 50% Neanderthal and 50% AMH. And some who were 50% Neanderthal and 50% Denisovan. How did they survive? What kind of society existed in these ancient times that would permit such offspring not only to survive but also to mate and produce offspring in their turn? But however it happened, our ancestors in the pleistocene were a promiscuous lot.

Could it be that it was only among AMH  – after they had been vanquished and raped and pillaged by Neanderthal raids – that such mixed children were allowed not only to survive but also to thrive?


DNA sequenced from a 400,000 year old hominin from Spain

December 4, 2013

After developing techniques for extracting and analysing DNA from ancient (c. 40,000 years ago) Neanderthal and Denisovan specimens the Max Planck team have now taken a giant leap backwards in time in extracting and analysing an almost complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-hominin. The specimen is from  Sima de los Huesos, a unique cave site in Northern Spain. The results show that it is related to the mitochondrial genome of Denisovans, extinct relatives of Neandertals in Asia. DNA this old has until recently been retrieved only from the permafrost.


The Sima de los Huesos hominins lived approximately 400,000 years ago during the Middle Pleistocene. © Kennis & Kennis, Madrid Scientific Films

The result itself is of great interest but it is the development of the techniques for extracting and analysing – without any contamination – and with sufficient confidence, the entire MtDNA sequence in such old specimens that is quite revolutionary. Archaeological evidence – and particularly of of such age – is subject to a great deal of subjective interpretation. But dating techniques and now DNA extraction techniques are removing much of this subjectivity and they are now providing the anchor points around which the evolutionary narrative must be built. And this narrative is now of a much more complex story of hominin expansions and admixture than has generally been thought. Ancient and presumed extinct hominin species are now showing themselves within us.

“Our results show that we can now study DNA from human ancestors that are hundreds of thousands of years old. This opens prospects to study the genes of the ancestors of Neandertals and Denisovans. It is tremendously exciting” says Svante Pääbo, director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Matthias Meyer, Qiaomei Fu, Ayinuer Aximu-Petri, Isabelle Glocke, Birgit Nickel, Juan-Luis Arsuaga, Ignacio Martínez, Ana Gracia, José María Bermúdez de Castro, Eudald Carbonell, Svante PääboA mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los HuesosNature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12788

Read the whole post in 6,000 Generations


The first string? Man-made, twisted, fibre, cords at least 90,000 years ago

November 22, 2013

The man in question may well have been Neanderthal. Fibre artefacts rot easily and the oldest remains found of a man-made, twisted, fibre “cord” or “string” dates from only about 30,000 years ago. A new paper describes perforations in upto 90,000 year old, stone and tooth artefacts as well as shells from Abri du Maras and other Neanderthal sites in France, indicating they had once been threaded on “strings” and worn as pendants.

This post has beeen shifted to 6,000 Generations

Men, muscles and noses (and why the Dong has a luminous nose)

November 20, 2013

A new study suggests that men have larger noses than women because they have greater muscle mass to supply with oxygen. That is also possibly why archaic humans with greater muscle mass than modern humans also had larger noses.

Nathan E. Holton, Todd R. Yokley, Andrew W. Froehle, Thomas E. Southard, Ontogenetic scaling of the human nose in a longitudinal sample: Implications for genusHomofacial evolutionAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22402 

The University of Iowa’s news release:

Human noses come in all shapes and sizes. But one feature seems to hold true: Men’s noses are bigger than women’s.

A new study from the University of Iowa concludes that men’s noses are about 10 percent larger than female noses, on average, in populations of European descent. The size difference, the researchers believe, comes from the sexes’ different builds and energy demands: Males in general have more lean muscle mass, which requires more oxygen for muscle tissue growth and maintenance. Larger noses mean more oxygen can be breathed in and transported in the blood to supply the muscle.

The researchers also note that males and females begin to show differences in nose size at around age 11, generally, when puberty starts. Physiologically speaking, males begin to grow more lean muscle mass from that time, while females grow more fat mass. Prior research has shown that, during puberty, approximately 95 percent of body weight gain in males comes from fat-free mass, compared to 85 percent in females. …. 

…. It also explains why our noses are smaller than those of our ancestors, such as the Neanderthals. The reason, the researchers believe, is because our distant lineages had more muscle mass, and so needed larger noses to maintain that muscle. Modern humans have less lean muscle mass, meaning we can get away with smaller noses.

“So, in humans, the nose can become small, because our bodies have smaller oxygen requirements than we see in archaic humans,” Holton says, noting also that the rib cages and lungs are smaller in modern humans, reinforcing the idea that we don’t need as much oxygen to feed our frames as our ancestors. “This all tells us physiologically how modern humans have changed from their ancestors.” ….

And by whatever strange associations that go on in my brain, Edward Lear’s explanation for how his heartbroken and stalwart Dong made himself a prosthetic, luminous nose (which I must have first read some 50 years ago) keeps going around in my head (extract from Edward Lear’s nonsense poem).

……. And those who watch at that midnight hour
From Hall or Terrace, or lofty Tower,
Cry, as the wild light passes along, —
            “The Dong! — the Dong!
      “The wandering Dong through the forest goes!
            “The Dong! the Dong!
      “The Dong with a luminous Nose!”
Playing a pipe with silvery squeaks,
      Since then his Jumbly Girl he seeks,
      And because by night he could not see,
      He gathered the bark of the Twangum Tree
            On the flowery plain that grows.
            And he wove him a wondrous Nose, —
      A Nose as strange as a Nose could be!
Of vast proportions and painted red,
And tied with cords to the back of his head.
      — In a hollow rounded space it ended
      With a luminous Lamp within suspended,
            All fenced about
            With a bandage stout
            To prevent the wind from blowing it out; —
      And with holes all round to send the light,
      In gleaming rays on the dismal night.
And all who watch at the midnight hour,
From Hall or Terrace, or lofty Tower,
Cry, as they trace the Meteor bright,
Moving along through the dreary night, —
      “This is the hour when forth he goes,
      “The Dong with a luminous Nose!
      “Yonder — over the plain he goes;
            “He goes!
            “He goes;
      “The Dong with a luminous Nose!”

The Dong was first published in 1846 and maybe Rudolph, who first appeared in a 1939 booklet written by Robert L. May, got his glowing red nose, in a similar way to the Dong.

New Denisovan genome indicates inter-breeding with another, unknown, archaic human

November 19, 2013

The period some 30,000 – 50,000 years ago is getting positively crowded with different branches of humans. The direct ancestors of modern humans lived and interbred not only with Neanderthals and Denisovans but also apparently with still another, as yet unknown, branch of humans.

NatureNew genome sequences from two extinct human relatives suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.

The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a different archaic human group, the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting at the Royal Society in London. They suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet unknown human ancestor from Asia. ..

… All humans whose ancestry originates outside of Africa owe about 2% of their genome to Neanderthals; and certain populations living in Oceania, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, got about 4% of their DNA from interbreeding between their ancestors and Denisovans, who are named after the cave in Siberia’s Altai Mountains where they were discovered. The cave contains remains deposited there between 30,000 and 50,000 years ago. 

Those conclusions however were based on low-quality genome sequences, riddled with errors and full of gaps, David Reich, an evolutionary geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts said at the meeting. His team, in collaboration with Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now produced much more complete versions of the Denisovan and Neanderthal genomes — matching the quality of contemporary human genomes. The high-quality Denisovan genome data and new Neanderthal genome both come from bones recovered from Denisova Cave.

The new Denisovan genome indicates that this enigmatic population got around: Reich said at the meeting that they interbred with Neanderthals and with the ancestors of human populations that now live in China and other parts of East Asia, in addition to Oceanic populations, as his team previously reported. Most surprisingly, Reich said, the new genomes indicate that Denisovans interbred with another extinct population of archaic humans that lived in Asia more than 30,000 years ago, which is neither human nor Neanderthal.

It would seem that when the world was still in the grip of an ice age 30,000 – 50,000 years ago, the reality of human history was not so far away from Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Ancient history but it was only 1,500 – 2,500 generations ago. Middle Earth was where men could breed with elves and hobbits were an off-shoot of men. The Druedain were also off-shoots of men and some – if not all – orcs were deliberately bred from elves while all trolls and dragons were artificially bred.

From the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment

from The biology of Middle eart - Tolkien Encyclopedia

from The biology of Middle Earth – JRR Tolkien Encyclopedia

Neanderthal’s weren’t vegetarian – they just ate the stomachs of vegetarians

October 21, 2013

English: First reconstruction of Neanderthal m...

The view that calcified plaque found on Neanderthal teeth came from medicinal plants and vegetables, conjuring up visions of a smart, cultured, sensitive race of homo erectus is being challenged. Laura Buck and Chris Stringer believe these remains have a much more violent source. They came from eating the stomachs of prey which in turn were vegetarian. Neanderthals were only vegetarian by proxy.

Hah! We can now go back to the older vision of Neanderthals being brutal, brutish, insensitive, blood-thirsty carnivores!

(Just as an aside, my grandmother was not only a confirmed vegetarian but a devout Hindu for whom the very thought of eating beef was anathema. She couldn’t quite come to terms with the fact that her grandchildren were carnivorous and that they ate gentle things like chickens and goats. I once tried to convince her that I was more of a vegetarian – by proxy – by eating beef rather than chicken since cows were more vegetarian in their diet than chickens. Chickens after all were known to eat worms and other horrible stuff. She gave up any hopes that I would escape everlasting damnation at that point!).

Past Horizons carries this revisionist view of Neanderthals:

(This article titled “The stomach-turning truth about what the Neanderthals ate?” was written by Robin McKie, for The Observer on Saturday 19th October 2013)

It was the tell-tale tartar on the teeth that told the truth. Or at least, that is what it appeared to do. Researchers – after studying calcified plaque on Neanderthal fossil teeth found in El Sidrón cave in Spain – last year concluded that members of this extinct human species cooked vegetables and consumed bitter-tasting medicinal plants such as chamomile and yarrow.

These were not brainless carnivores, in other words. These were smart and sensitive people capable of providing themselves with balanced diets and of treating themselves with health-restoring herbs, concluded the researchers, led by Karen Hardy at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona. Our vision of these long-extinct people needs adjusting, they argued.

But now this tale of ancient tartar has taken a new twist with two researchers at London’s Natural History Museum challenging the Barcelona group’s conclusions. Dental research does not prove that Neanderthals were self-medicating, vegetable-eating sophisticates, one told the Observer. There are other, equally valid but decidedly more grizzly explanations to account for those microscopic fragments of herbs and plants found in Neanderthal teeth.

In a paper by Laura Buck and Chris Stringer and published in the latest edition of Quaternary Science Reviews, Stringer argues that the tiny pieces of plant found in Neanderthal teeth could have come from a very different source. They may well have become embedded in the stomach contents of deer, bison and other herbivores that had then been hunted and eaten by Neanderthals.

“Many hunter-gatherers, including the Inuit, Cree and Blackfeet, eat the stomach contents of animals such as deer because they are good source of vitamin C and trace elements,” said Stringer. “For example, among the Inuit, the stomach contents of an animal are considered a special delicacy with a consistency and a flavour that is not unlike cream cheese. At least that is what I am told.” ……

…… Stringer and Buck stress that they are not arguing that Neanderthals definitely did not eat vegetables or could not have used certain herbs as medicines. “What we are saying is that the evidence of plant fragments in Neanderthal teeth is simply not strong enough to prove that they did so. There are other explanations, including the proposal that they ate these organs of the animals they killed. They had the stomach for it, if you want to put it that way.”

180 million Neanderthals are among us

April 16, 2013

From John Hawks Weblog

Just got back proofs of a book chapter I have coming out soon with Zach Throckmorton. My favorite paragraph:

Nearly seven billion people inhabit our planet. At least six billion carry the genes of Neandertal ancestors. Inheritance from Neandertals makes up approximately 3% of the genomes of randomly chosen people outside sub-Saharan Africa today (Green et al., 2010; Reich et al., 2010). A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows if we took all of the Neandertal genes from today’s human population, we would have enough raw material to make up 180 million Neandertals.

I love that because it makes the Neandertals into the evolutionary success story they really were. They succeeded by becoming part of us.

The idea that all the various hominids who developed bipedalism have all disappeared except Anatomically Modern Humans does not appeal. I prefer to think that many of them – and not just the Neanderthals and Denisovans – live on; in us.

File:Homo-Stammbaum, Version Stringer.jpg

Possible archaic human admixture with modern Homo sapiens (Wikipedia)

Neanderthals died out because they could see better than humans

March 13, 2013

Hot on the heels of the theory that Neanderthals died out because they couldn’t adapt from hunting big game to hunting rabbits comes this new theory that they died out because they developed bigger eyes than humans’ in the cold dark Northern latitudes!  The theory goes like this:

Their large eyes led to too much of their brain capacity being used for processing visual information and since more of their brain capacity was also needed to handle the motion of their larger, heavier bodies, this  resulted in less brain capacity being available for cognitive reasoning. They therefore had less brain to deal with other functions like social networking” and had “fewer friends to help them out in times of need”Obviously they then remained culturally trapped in the Stone Age and could not develop written language or Facebook or Agriculture as competing humans eventually did. Apart from a few intrepid and promiscuous Neanderthals who managed to participate in contributing their genes to the human gene pool, all the rest died out.

A novel theory but a little far-fetched!

Eiluned Pearce

This is the theory of  Eiluned Pearce a DPhil student at Oxford and is published in  a paper published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (but where it is beyond a pay wall). A press release has been issued by the University of Oxford.

The only data are measurements of eye sockets in 13 Neanderthal skulls compared to those in 32 human skulls from the same time. All the rest is just conjecture – and then further conjecture based on the original speculation.  It would seem to be a little light on data and a little heavy on conjecture. It is still an interesting conjecture nevertheless.

… Looking at data from 27,000–75,000-year-old fossils, mostly from Europe and the Near East, they compared the skulls of 32 anatomically modern humans and 13 Neanderthals to examine brain size and organisation. In a subset of these fossils, they found that Neanderthals had significantly larger eye sockets, and therefore eyes, than modern humans. 

The researchers calculated the standard size of fossil brains for body mass and visual processing requirements. Once the differences in body and visual system size are taken into account, the researchers were able to compare how much of the brain was left over for other cognitive functions.

Previous research by the Oxford scientists shows that modern humans living at higher latitudes evolved bigger vision areas in the brain to cope with the low light levels. This latest study builds on that research, suggesting that Neanderthals probably had larger eyes than contemporary humans because they evolved in Europe, whereas contemporary humans had only recently emerged from lower latitude Africa.

‘Since Neanderthals evolved at higher latitudes and also have bigger bodies than modern humans, more of the Neanderthal brain would have been dedicated to vision and body control, leaving less brain to deal with other functions like social networking,’ explains lead author Eiluned Pearce from the  Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

‘Smaller social groups might have made Neanderthals less able to cope with the difficulties of their harsh Eurasian environments because they would have had fewer friends to help them out in times of need. Overall, differences in brain organisation and social cognition may go a long way towards explaining why Neanderthals went extinct whereas modern humans survived.’

‘The large brains of Neanderthals have been a source of debate from the time of the first fossil discoveries of this group, but getting any real idea of the “quality” of their brains has been very problematic,’ says Professor Chris Stringer, Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum and co-author on the paper. ‘Hence discussion has centred on their material culture and supposed way of life as indirect signs of the level of complexity of their brains in comparison with ours.

‘Our study provides a more direct approach by estimating how much of their brain was allocated to cognitive functions, including the regulation of social group size; a smaller size for the latter would have had implications for their level of social complexity and their ability to create, conserve and build on innovations.’

Professor Robin Dunbar observes: ‘Having less brain available to manage the social world has profound implications for the Neanderthals’ ability to maintain extended trading networks, and are likely also to have resulted in less well developed material culture – which, between them, may have left them more exposed than modern humans when facing the ecological challenges of the Ice Ages.’

The relationship between absolute brain size and higher cognitive abilities has long been controversial, and this new study could explain why Neanderthal culture appears less developed than that of early modern humans, for example in relation to symbolism, ornamentation and art.

The Smithsonian blog writes:

One of the easiest differences to quantify, they found, was the size of the visual cortex—the part of the brain responsible for interpreting visual information. In primates, the volume of this area is roughly proportional to the size of the animal’s eyes, so by measuring the Neanderthals’ eye sockets, they could get a decent approximation of their the visual cortex as well. The Neanderthals, it turns out, had much larger eyes than ancient humans. The researchers speculate that this could be because they evolved exclusively in Europe, which is of higher latitude (and thus has poorer light conditions) than Africa, where H. sapiens evolved.

Along with eyes, Neanderthals had significantly larger bodies than humans, with wider shoulders, thicker bones and a more robust build overall. To account for this difference, the researchers drew upon previous research into the estimated body masses of the skeletons found with these skulls and of other Neanderthals. In primates, the amount of brain capacity devoted to body control is also proportionate to body size, so the scientists were able to calculate roughly how much of the Neanderthals’ brains were assigned to this task.

After correcting for these differences, the research team found that the amount of brain volume left over for other tasks—in other words, the mental capacity not devoted to seeing the world or moving the body—was significantly smaller for Neanderthals than for ancient H. sapiens. Although the average raw brain volumes of the two groups studied were practically identical (1473.84 cubic centimeters for humans versus 1473.46 for Neanderthals), the average “corrected” Neanderthal brain volume was just 1133.98 cubic centimeters, compared to 1332.41 for the humans.

This divergence in mental capacity for higher cognition and social networking, the researcher argue, could have led to the wildly different fates of H. sapiens and Neanderthals. “Having less brain available to manage the social world has profound implications for the Neanderthals’ ability to maintain extended trading networks,” Robin Dunbar, one of the co-authors, said in a press statement. “[They] are likely also to have resulted in less well developed material culture—which, between them, may have left them more exposed than modern humans when facing the ecological challenges of the Ice Ages.”

New insights into differences in brain organization between Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans by Eiluned Pearce, Chris Stringer and R. I. M. Dunbar

Published online March 13, 2013 doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.0168 Proc. R. Soc. B 7 May 2013 vol. 280 no. 1758 20130168 

Related articles

Rabbits (or a lack thereof) killed off the Neanderthals!

March 4, 2013

A new paper in the Journal of Human Evolution claims that the diet of the Neanderthals contained far fewer rabbits than that of Modern Humans. The paper then suggests that this was because Neanderthals could not shift from hunting large prey to hunting small animals. The data may well be valid but the interpretations of the data and the conclusions drawn are so lacking in common sense that the entire paper may well qualify as “idiot science”.

Rabbits and hominin survival in Iberia

by John E. Fa, John R. Stewart, Lluís Lloveras and J. Mario Vargas


High dependence on the hunting and consumption of large mammals by some hominins may have limited their survival once their preferred quarry became scarce or disappeared. Adaptation to smaller residual prey would have been essential after the many large-bodied species decreased in numbers. We focus on the use of a superabundant species, the rabbit, to demonstrate the importance of this taxon in Iberia as fundamental to predators. We show that the use of the rabbit over time has increased, and that there could have been differential consumption by Neanderthals and Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH). Analysis of bone remains from excavations throughout Iberia show that this lagomorph was a crucial part of the diet of AMH but was relatively unutilised during the Mousterian, when Neanderthals were present. We first present changes in mammalian biomass and mean body mass of mammals over 50,000 years, to illustrate the dramatic loss of large mammalian fauna and to show how the rabbit may have contributed a consistently high proportion of the available game biomass throughout that period. Unlike the Italian Peninsula and other parts of Europe, in Iberia the rabbit has provided a food resource of great importance for predators including hominins. We suggest that hunters that could shift focus to rabbits and other smaller residual fauna, once larger-bodied species decreased in numbers, would have been able to persist. From the evidence presented here, we postulate that Neanderthals may have been less capable of prey-shifting and hence use the high-biomass prey resource provided by the rabbit, to the extent AMH did.

painting of prehistoric hunters

Prehistoric hunters prepare to unleash their throwing sticks at a group of jack rabbits on the run. Painting by Nola Davis, courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

That Anatomically Modern Humans ate more rabbits than Neanderthals may well be true but to then leap to the amazing conclusion that Neanderthals were incapable of hunting small prey and then to the even more dubious suggestion that this may have something to do with the demise of Neanderthals as a species takes legitimate speculation into the fantasy worlds of the Land of Painted Caves. We could just as well assume that eating rabbits led to a virulent disease which AMH were immune to but which led to the eradication of the Neanderthal species (except of course for the offspring of those who had mated with AMH) !!

Stone-tipped spears were being used for hunting 500,000 years ago

November 16, 2012

It is thought that wooden spears could have come into use as early as 5 million years ago since chimpanzees and orangutans have been observed using wooden spears and because the human – chimpanzee split is dated to around 8 million years ago.  Stone tipped spears however were thought to have come into use only around 300,000 years ago during the time of the Neanderthals. But a new paper in Science finds archaeological evidence from South Africa that stone spear tips were being used around 500,000 years ago.


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