Neanderthals and art, videos


This 9 October 2019 video says about itself:

There is a huge debate around whether and to what extent Neanderthals made art. Here to help me set the record straight is Dr. Wragg Sykes, Neanderthal expert, archaeologist and author.

Sites mentioned in the interview:

Bruniquel Cave, France

Cioarei-Borosteni, Romania

Fumane Cave, Italy

This video is about the Bruniquel cave.

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Neanderthal hominins, new research


This 2017 video says about itself:

Neanderthals 101 | National Geographic

Who were the Neanderthals? Do humans really share some of their DNA? Learn facts about Neanderthal man, the traits and tools of Homo neanderthalensis, and how the species fits into our evolution story.

From the University of Colorado at Boulder in the USA:

Neanderthals used resin ‘glue’ to craft their stone tools

June 26, 2019

Archaeologists working in two Italian caves have discovered some of the earliest known examples of ancient humans using an adhesive on their stone tools — an important technological advance called “hafting”.

The new study, which included CU Boulder’s Paola Villa, shows that Neanderthals living in Europe from about 55 to 40 thousand years ago traveled away from their caves to collect resin from pine trees. They then used that sticky substance to glue stone tools to handles made out of wood or bone.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests that these cousins of Homo sapiens were more clever than some have made them out to be.

“We continue to find evidence that the Neanderthals were not inferior primitives but were quite capable of doing things that have traditionally only been attributed to modern humans”, said Villa, corresponding author of the new study and an adjoint curator at the CU Museum of Natural History.

That insight, she added, came from a chance discovery from Grotta del Fossellone and Grotta di Sant’Agostino, a pair of caves near the beaches of what is now Italy’s west coast.

Those caves were home to Neanderthals who lived in Europe during the Middle Paleolithic period, thousands of years before Homo sapiens set foot on the continent. Archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,000 stone tools from the two sites, including pieces of flint that measured not much more than an inch or two from end to end.

In a recent study of the tools, Villa and her colleagues noticed a strange residue on just a handful of the flints — bits of what appeared to be organic material.

“Sometimes that material is just inorganic sediment, and sometimes it’s the traces of the adhesive used to keep the tool in its socket”, Villa said.

To find out, study lead author Ilaria Degano at the University of Pisa conducted a chemical analysis of 10 flints using a technique called gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The tests showed that the stone tools had been coated with resin from local pine trees. In one case, that resin had also been mixed with beeswax.

Villa explained that the Italian Neanderthals didn’t just resort to their bare hands to use stone tools. In at least some cases, they also attached those tools to handles to give them better purchase as they sharpened wooden spears or performed other tasks like butchering or scraping leather.

“You need stone tools to cut branches off of trees and make them into a point,” Villa said.

The find isn’t the oldest known example of hafting by Neanderthals in Europe — two flakes discovered in the Campitello Quarry in central Italy predate it. But it does suggest that this technique was more common than previously believed.

The existence of hafting also provides more evidence that Neanderthals, like their smaller human relatives, were able to build a fire whenever they wanted one, Villa said — something that scientists have long debated. She said that pine resin dries when exposed to air. As a result, Neanderthals needed to warm it over a small fire to make an effective glue.

“This is one of several proofs that strongly indicate that Neanderthals were capable of making fire whenever they needed it,” Villa said.

In other words, enjoying the glow of a warm campfire isn’t just for Homo sapiens.

Other coauthors on the study included researchers at Paris Nanterre University in France, University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, University of Wollongong in Australia, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana and the University of Pisa.

The research was funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Paola Villa and Sylvain Soriano.

A team of researchers have evidenced mechanically delivered projectile weapons in Europe dating to 45,000-40,000 years — more than 20,000 years than previously thought. This study indicated that the spear-thrower and bow-and-arrow technologies allowed modern humans to hunt more successfully than Neanderthals — giving them a competitive advantage. This discovery offered important insight to understand the reasons for the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans: here.

DNA reveals a European Neandertal lineage that lasted 80,000 years. Fossils from caves in Belgium and Germany provided DNA from these extinct hominids. By Bruce Bower, 2:00pm, June 26, 2019.

The archaeological site of ‘Ein Qashish in northern Israel was a place of repeated Neanderthal occupation and use during the Middle Paleolithic, according to a study released June 26, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ravid Ekshtain of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and colleagues: here.

Abnormal bony growths in the ear canal were surprisingly common in Neanderthals, according to a study published August 14, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Erik Trinkaus of Washington University and colleagues: here.

Scientists uncover Neanderthal toddlers’ footprints in the sand made 80,000 years ago in France: here.

Neanderthal deer hunting, new research


This 2011 video is called Neanderthals Hunt Down A Horse – Planet Of The Apemen; Battle For Earth – Episode Two – BBC One.

The video depicts Neanderthals as brown-skinned. However, living in not so sunny Ice Age Europe, they had long along lost the black complexion of their African ancestors. After modern humans came to Europe from Africa later, they were dark-skinned even still shortly after the Ice Age, and, like Neanderthals earlier, gradually became light complexioned.

From the Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz in Germany:

Neanderthals practiced close-range hunting 120,000 years ago

July 2, 2018

An international team of scientists reports the oldest unambiguous hunting lesions documented in the history of humankind. The lesions were found on skeletons of two large-sized extinct fallow deer killed by Neandertals about 120,000 years ago around the shores of a small lake (Neumark-Nord 1) near present-day Halle in the eastern part of Germany. The study was led by Professor Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser of the Department of Ancient Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and was now published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The study constitutes a significant step forward in our knowledge of the Neandertal niche. It demonstrates how Neandertals obtained their prey, first and foremost in terms of their much debated hunting equipment while also shedding light on their hunting skills.

With an innovative experimental ballistic setup including state-of-the-art motion-sensor technology, the researchers were able to reproduce the specific form of one of the lesions. The results prove the use of a wooden thrusting spear that was impacted with low velocity. This suggests that Neandertals approached animals very closely and thrusted rather than threw their spears at the animals, most likely from an underhand thrusting angle. Such a confrontational way of hunting required careful planning and concealment as well as close cooperation between individual hunters.

The lake where the hunts took place was surrounded by a close canopy forest, a type of environment deemed particularly challenging for hunter-gatherers, even modern human ones. Interestingly, the excavations in the Neumark-Nord area have yielded tens of thousands of bones of large mammals, including red and fallow deer, horses, and bovids, as well as thousands of lithic artefacts from this uniquely rich Last Interglacial lake landscape, attesting to the success of Neandertal survival in forested environments.

“Although hominins most likely started hunting with weapons more than 500,000 years ago, actual evidence on how wooden spear-like objects like those found at Clacton-on-Sea in England as well as in Schöningen and Lehringen in German were used was absent prior to the identification of the Neumark-Nord hunting lesions”, stated Gaudzinski-Windheuser. “As far as spear use is concerned, we now finally have the crime scene fitting to the proverbial smoking gun.”

Cold climates contributed to the extinction of the Neanderthals: here.

Fossil teeth from Italy, among the oldest human remains on the Italian Peninsula, show that Neanderthal dental features had evolved by around 450,000 years ago, according to a study published October 3, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Clément Zanolli of the Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier in France and colleagues. These teeth also add to a growing picture of a period of complex human evolution that we are only beginning to understand: here.

An international team of scientists has completed the first 3D virtual reconstruction of the ribcage of the most complete Neanderthal skeleton unearthed to date, potentially shedding new light on how this ancient human moved and breathed. The team, which included researchers from universities in Spain, Israel, and the United States, including the University of Washington, focused on the thorax — the area of the body containing the rib cage and upper spine, which forms a cavity to house the heart and lungs. Using CT scans of fossils from an approximately 60,000-year-old male skeleton known as Kebara 2, researchers were able to create a 3D model of the chest — one that is different from the longstanding image of the barrel-chested, hunched-over “caveman.” The conclusions point to what may have been an upright individual with greater lung capacity and a straighter spine than today’s modern human: here.

Neanderthals have been imagined as the inferior cousins of modern humans, but a new study by archaeologists at UCL reveals for the first time that they produced weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance. The study, published in Scientific Reports, examined the performance of replicas of the 300,000 year old Schöningen spears — the oldest weapons reported in archaeological records — to identify whether javelin throwers could use them to hit a target at distance: here.

This scientist watches meat rot to decipher the Neandertal diet. Nitrogen-15 levels in putrefying meat could explain high levels of the isotope in hominid fossils. By Laurel Hamers, 6:00am, January 2, 2019.

Teeth of Homo antecessor shed light on trends in Pleistocene hominin dental evolution. Early Pleistocene hominins already exhibit features that would later be characteristic of Neanderthals: here.

Using evidence found in teeth from two Neanderthals from southeastern France, researchers report the earliest evidence of lead exposure in an extinct human-like species from 250,000 years ago: here.

Skull damage suggests Neandertals led no more violent lives than humans: here.

Researchers describe two late Neanderthals with exceptionally high nitrogen isotope ratios, which would traditionally be interpreted as the signature of freshwater fish consumption. By studying the isotope ratios of single amino acids, they however demonstrated that instead of fish, the adult Neanderthal had a diet relying on large herbivore mammals and that the other Neanderthal was a breastfeeding baby whose mother was also a carnivore: here.

A new study of Bajondillo Cave (Málaga, Spain) reveals that modern humans replaced Neanderthals at this site approximately 44,000 years ago. The research shows that the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in southern Iberia began early, rather than late, in comparison to the rest of Western Europe: here.

Oxford University scientists have played a key role in new research identifying the earliest evidence of some of the first known humans — Denisovans and Neanderthals, in Southern Siberia: here.

What Stone Age humans ate


This video says about itself:

26 June 2014

According to the oldest fossil evidence of human feces ever discovered, the extinct species known as Neanderthals probably ate vegetables. Researchers from the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands in Spain, working along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, analyzed fossil samples that include 50 thousand year-old feces from a Neanderthal campfire site close to Alicante, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Data from the study shows that the Neanderthal diet was mostly meat, but the fossil evidence indicates also the presence of plants in their excrement.

Ainara Sistiaga, a PhD student at the University of La Laguna is quoted as saying: “If you find it in the faeces, you are sure that it was ingested. This molecular fossil is perfect to try to know the proportion of both food sources in a Neanderthal meal.”

Neanderthals are modern humans’ closest extinct relative living between 250 thousand to 40 thousand years ago, and some experts believe that Neanderthals interbred with Homo sapiens before they became extinct.

Experts say that the prehistoric human diet probably varied quite a bit by region and availability, so it is plausible that some populations of Neanderthals ate plants and vegetables.

From the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Germany:

On the early human’s menu: Mammoth and plenty of raw vegetables

Early modern humans consumed more plants than Neanderthals but ate very little fish

August 4, 2017

Senckenberg scientists have studied the diet of anatomically modern humans. With their recent study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, they were able to refute the theory that the diet of early representatives of Homo sapiens was more flexible than that of Neanderthals. Just like the Neanderthals, our ancestors had mainly mammoth and plants on their plates — the researchers were unable to document fish as part of their diet. Therefore, the international team assumes that the displacement of the Neanderthals was the result of direct competition.

The first representatives of Homo sapiens colonized Europe around 43,000 years ago, replacing the Neanderthals there approximately 3,000 years later. “Many studies examine the question of what led to this displacement — one hypothesis postulates that the diet of the anatomically modern humans was more diverse and flexible and often included fish,” explains Prof. Dr. Hervé Bocherens of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP) at the University of Tübingen.

Together with his colleague, Dr. Dorothée Drucker, the biogeologist from Tübingen now set out to get to the bottom of this hypothesis. In conjunction with an international team, he studied the dietary habits of early modern man on the basis of the oldest know fossils from the Buran Kaya caves on the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine. “In the course of this study, we examined the finds of early humans in the context of the local fauna,” explains Drucker, and she continues, “Until now, all analyses of the diet of early modern humans were based on isolated discoveries; therefore, they are very difficult to interpret.”

In order to reconstruct our ancestor’s menu — despite the lack of a fossil dietary record — the team around the scientists from Tübingen measured the percentage of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the bones of the early humans and the locally present potential prey animals such as saiga, horses, and deer. In addition, they also analyzed the nitrogen-15 content of individual amino acids, making it possible to not only determine the origin, but also the proportion of the nitrogen. “Our results reveal a very high proportion of the nitrogen isotope 15N in early modern humans,” adds Bocherens, and he continues, “However, contrary to our previous assumptions, these do not originate from the consumption of fish products, but primarily from mammoths.”

And yet another result came as a surprise for the scientists: The proportion of plants in the diet of the anatomically modern humans was significantly higher than in comparable Neanderthal finds — mammoths, on the other hand, appear to have been one of the primary sources of meat in both species.

“According to our results, Neanderthals and the early modern humans were in direct competition in regard to their diet, as well — and it appears that the Neanderthals drew the short straw in this contest,” adds Drucker in conclusion.

This video says about itself:

1 December 2009

Natural History Museum scientists, working as part of the Gibraltar Caves Project, excavated and studied remains of shellfish and other marine animals such as dolphins from two caves in Gibraltar where Neanderthals once lived and have discovered that Neanderthal diets were more like those of early modern humans than previously thought.

Neandertal DNA discovery on cave floor


This 2016 video from the USA is called CARTA: DNA–Neandertal and Denisovan Genomes; Neandertal Genes in Humans; Neandertal Interbreeding.

From Science magazine:

DNA from cave soil reveals ancient human occupants

Lizzie Wade

28 Apr 2017

Summary

Fifty thousand years ago, a Neandertal relieved himself in a cave in present-day Belgium, depositing, among other things, a sample of his DNA. The urine clung to minerals in the soil and the feces eventually decomposed. But traces of the DNA remained, embedded in the cave floor.

Now, researchers have shown they can find and identify such genetic traces of both Neandertals and Denisovans, another type of archaic human, enabling them to test for the presence of ancient humans even in sites where no bones have been found.

Scientists say ancient DNA from sediments will help them complete the map of ancient human occupations and allow them to see where species may have overlapped and interacted. Many believe it will become a standard tool in paleoarchaeology, much like radiocarbon dating is today.

Water tubing accidents, table run-ins cause Neandertal-like injuries. Analysis shows that comparing ancient and modern bone breaks yields little insight into hominids’ everyday dangers. By Bruce Bower, 1:57pm, May 1, 2017: here.

Archaeologists at The Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Sydney have provided a window into one of the most exciting periods in human history — the transition between Neanderthals and modern humans: here.

A discovery of multiple toothpick grooves on teeth and signs of other manipulations by a Neanderthal of 130,000 years ago are evidence of a kind of prehistoric dentistry, according to a new study: here.

The world’s oldest known glue was made by Neanderthals. But how did they make it 200,000 years ago? Leiden archaeologists have discovered three possible ways. Publication in Scientific Reports, 31 August: here.

Neandertal kids were a lot like kids today — at least in how they grew. Skeleton from almost 8-year-old shows that growth of the child’s brain, spine lagged a bit. By Bruce Bower, 9:00am, September 25, 2017.

Modern people of European and Asian ancestry carry slightly more Neandertal DNA than previously realized: here.

Modern humans co-existed and interbred not only with Neanderthals, but also with another species of archaic humans, the mysterious Denisovans. Research now describes how, while developing a new genome-analysis method for comparing whole genomes between modern human and Denisovan populations, researchers unexpectedly discovered two distinct episodes of Denisovan genetic intermixing, or admixing, between the two. This suggests a more diverse genetic history than previously thought between the Denisovans and modern humans: here.

Up until 40,000 years ago, at least two groups of hominins inhabited Eurasia — Neanderthals in the west and Denisovans in the east. Now, researchers have sequenced the genome of an ancient hominin individual from Siberia, and discovered that she had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father: here.

Neanderthals and raven bones


CUTS ABOVE Notches carved into a raven’s wing bone by Neandertals include two that were added to create a consistent, possibly symbolic pattern, scientists say. Added notches are second from bottom and second from top in the side view of the bone. Photo: Francesco d’Errico

From Science News:

Neandertals had an eye for patterns

Notches on a raven bone suggests human relatives intentionally created even spacing

by Bruce Bower

2:00pm, March 29, 2017

Neandertals knew how to kick it up a couple of notches. Between 38,000 and 43,000 years ago, these close evolutionary relatives of humans added two notches to five previous incisions on a raven bone to produce an evenly spaced sequence, researchers say.

This visually consistent pattern suggests Neandertals either had an eye for pleasing-looking displays or saw some deeper symbolic meaning in the notch sequence, archaeologist Ana Majkić of the University of Bordeaux, France, and her colleagues report March 29 in PLOS ONE.

Notches added to the bone, unearthed in 2005 at a Crimean rock shelter that previously yielded Neandertal bones, were shallower and more quickly dashed off than the original five notches. But additions were carefully placed, resulting in relatively equal spacing of all notches.

Although bone notches may have had a practical use, such as fixing thread on an eyeless needle, the even spacing suggests Neandertals had a deeper meaning in mind — or at least knew what looked good.

Previous discoveries suggest Neandertals made eagle-claw necklaces and other personal ornaments, possibly for use in rituals (SN: 4/18/15, p. 7).

New research suggests that advances in the production of Early Stone Age tools had less to do with the evolution of language and more to do with the brain networks involved in modern piano playing. The findings are a major step forward in understanding the evolution of human intelligence: here.

Neanderthals ate plants as well


This video says about itself:

26 June 2014

According to the oldest fossil evidence of human feces ever discovered, the extinct species known as Neanderthals probably ate vegetables. Researchers from the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands in Spain, working along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, analyzed fossil samples that include 50 thousand year-old feces from a Neanderthal campfire site close to Alicante, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the oldest fossil evidence of human feces ever discovered, the extinct species known as Neanderthals probably ate vegetables.

Researchers from the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands in Spain, working along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, analyzed fossil samples that include 50 thousand year-old feces from a Neanderthal campfire site close to Alicante, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Data from the study shows that the Neanderthal diet was mostly meat, but the fossil evidence indicates also the presence of plants in their excrement.

Ainara Sistiaga, a PhD student at the University of La Laguna is quoted as saying: “If you find it in the faeces, you are sure that it was ingested. This molecular fossil is perfect to try to know the proportion of both food sources in a Neanderthal meal.”

Neanderthals are modern humans’ closest extinct relative living between 250 thousand to 40 thousand years ago, and some experts believe that Neanderthals interbred with Homo sapiens before they became extinct.

Experts say that the prehistoric human diet probably varied quite a bit by region and availability, so it is plausible that some populations of Neanderthals ate plants and vegetables.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Neanderthals on cold steppes also ate plants

25 October 2016

Neanderthals in cold regions probably ate a lot more vegetable food than was previously thought. This is what archaeologist Robert Power has discovered based on new research on ancient Neanderthal dental plaque. PhD defence 1 November.

Mammoth steppe

Plants were an important part of the menu of Neanderthals who lived in the warmer Mediterranean regions of Eurasia between 180,000 and 30,000 years ago. But paleoanthropologists had for a long time assumed that the same did not apply in colder regions such as the Mammoth steppes. The Mammoth steppe, a region of steppe tundra almost completely devoid of trees, was the dominant landscape from Central Europe to East Asia during the cold periods of the Pleistocene era. Neanderthals in these areas were thought to have been carnivores, eating virtually only the flesh of large wild animals. This very limited diet made this hominid species vulnerable and may well have contributed to their becoming extinct, anthropologists reasoned.

Plant consumption

Leiden archaeologist Robert Power discovered that Neanderthals must have consumed regularly plants as food even in this cold and dry environment. ‘The Mammoth steppe is an environment that we don’t really understand because it no longer exists due to climate change and megafauna extinction. It may well be that these ancient grasslands were far more useful to Neanderthals than we thought.’

New research methods

The lack of comprehensive methods for tracing food consumptions is the reason why researchers have difficulty in establishing ancient diets. Thanks to emerging microscopy methods, plaque has become a good source of traces of food that can now be analysed. Power studied microbotanical particles in the plaque of Neanderthals from six different archaeological sites, including Croatia, Italy and Russia. His results from 48 teeth found that in all regions Neanderthals regularly ate plant food.

Research on chimpanzees

Power also examined the reliability of dental plaque as a source in reconstructing diet. He did this by examining the plaque of a group of chimpanzees that had recently died from natural causes and whose diet was monitored over a period of 20 years. His findings confirm that plaque can be a reflection of diet over an extended period of life.

Diverse climatic zones and periods

Power compared data from different periods, and his research showed that, irrespective of climatic region and also irrespective of time period, plants were a significant part of the diet.

Neanderthals have unique pattern

Power: ‘One of the big lessons of my work on Neanderthals was that the only reason we find the result surprising is that we expect Neanderthals to resemble modern human hunter gatherers in the way they foraged for food, but they didn’t. In the past we saw them as primitive cavemen with very basic behaviour, but now we have updated our view and see them as very modern. But that doesn’t mean we can afford to pigeonhole Neanderthals into our own particular version of humanity. They had their own unique pattern.’