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Copyright ©2001 The McGraw-Hill Companies.
Philip L. Stein & Bruce M. Rowe
Number 4 Fall 1996
Copyright ©1997 by McGraw-Hill, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. The entire contents or parts of this Update may be reproduced for use with Physical Anthropology, Sixth Edition, or Physical Anthropology: The Core, by Philip L. Stein and Bruce M. Rowe, provided each reproduction bears the copyright notice. The publisher's written permission must be obtained for other use.
See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 14, page 357;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 8, page 209.
I n 1912, Charles Dawson found skull fragments in association with the fossilized remains of large mammals such as mastodons in a site on Piltdown Common, England. The remains became known as Piltdown Man.
In 1953, the Piltdown skull was declared a hoax. When the bones were subjected to fluorine analysis, they found that the cranium material contained less fluorine than did the bones of other extinct animals found with it, and that the mandible was that of a modern orangutan. The culprit who had masterminded the hoax had filed down the canine teeth, and had stained the bones to make them appear to be of the same age as known prehistoric animals. These diverse fragments were then secretly placed in the sites.
Who perpetrated this dastardly deed? Over the years several persons have been named including Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who lived near Piltdown Common and was a known antievolutionist.
This past May, Professor Brian Gardiner of King's College, London, announced to the Linnean Society that the perpetrator has been finally unmasked. It was Martin A. C. Hinton, a curator of zoology at the Natural History Museum in London, who specialized in the study of fossil rodents.
A canvas travelling trunk belonging to Mr. Hinton was discovered in the southwest tower of the museum. Inside were several bones and teeth, all carved and stained in the same manner as the bones placed in the Piltdown site. Professor Gardiner believes that Mr. Hinton, a well-known practical joker, created the hoax to embarrass Arthur Smith Woodward, Keeper of Geology at the museum, as revenge over a pay issue.
However, as is all too common in anthropological circles, not everyone totally agrees. The announcement by Gardiner has brought forward new commentary (see Sources). The definitive solution of the mystery may be yet to come.
Sources: H. Gee, "Box of Bones 'Clinches' Identity of Piltdown Palaeontology Hoaxer, Nature, 381 (23 May 1996), 261-262. Comments on the announcement have appeared by E. T. Hall, Nature, 381 (27 June 1996), 728; and W. J. Dempster, Nature, 382 (18 July 1996), 202.
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR
A nyone who has been teaching evolutionary biology for awhile probably has had to field answer students' questions about creationism, especially when shows such as The Mysterious Origins of Man are seen on television (NBC, Fall 1996). It is difficult for even an experienced instructor to argue against misinformation presented in the mass media where it is given an aura of scientific respectability. Assistance can be obtained from The National Center for Science Education by visiting their web site at http://www.natcenscied.org.
YET ANOTHER SPECIES OF AUSTRALOPITHECUS?
See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 16, pages 406, 418;Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 10, pages 238, 248.
I n the last edition of the Update, we reported on a new australopithecine fossil found at the site known as KT 12. Located in the region of Bahr el Ghazal near Koro Toro in the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Province of northern Chad, this specimen extends the range of the australopithecines 2500 kilometers (1550 miles) to the east of the previously-known range. The find is associated with other animal fossils that have been dated between 3.5 and 3.0 million years old. The fossil, KT 12/H1, is a fragment of an adult mandible, and it includes the crowns of several teeth.1
At the time of the announcement, paleoanthropologists had not as yet decided whether these differences represent a geographical variant of Australopithecus afarensis, or represent a new australopithecine species. Last May, Michel Brunet, who discovered the new fossil, announced that further analyses has led him and his colleagues to place the specimen into a new australopithecine species Australopithecus bahrelghazalia.2
1 M. Brunet, et al., "The First Australopithecine 2,500 Kilometers West of the Rift Valley (Chad)," Nature, 378 (16 November, 1995), 273-275.
2 "Ancient Ancestor-New Name," Science, 272 (31 May 1996), 1271.
See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 18, pages 478, 482-484;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 11, pages 275, 289-291.
I n Jean Auel's novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, we find both Neandertals and anatomically modern humans living side by side, aware of each other's existence, and even occasionally interacting with one another. However, there is no agreement among paleoanthropologists as to the real relationship between the two populations. If they were indeed contemporary, some scholars see a very rapid replacement of the Neandertals by modern humans, while others see a more gradual replacement over a period of time. If the latter view is correct, we can then speculate about the nature of Neandertal-modern relationships.
The answer to these problems may lie in layer Xb of the French site of Arcy-sur-Cure which has been dated by radiocarbon dating to 33,820 ± 0.720 B.P. This layer contains a bone and ivory industry which includes a number of personal ornaments that belong to the early Upper Paleolithic industry called the Châtelperronian. The Châtelperronian, found in northern Spain and central and southwestern France, includes an Upper Paleolithic blade technology associated with a developed Middle Paleolithic bone industry.
Layer Xb at Arcy-sur-Cure has also yielded a hominid temporal bone fragment from a one-year-old infant. High-resolution computed tomography has been used to visualize the bony labyrinth of the inner ear within this temporal bone, as well as to visualize the bony labyrinth of specimens of H. erectus and anatomically modern H. sapiens. Although the specimen is that of an infant, the structure of this part of the anatomy is established in the fetus, and it can be reliably compared with other adult specimens.
The Neandertal bony labyrinth consists of anterior and posterior semicircular canals that are smaller than those of both earlier H. erectus and later H. sapiens. The posterior canal also lies in a distinctive relative position. Based on this analysis, the temporal bone fragment found at Arcy-sur-Cure, which is dated at around 34,000 B.P., belongs to a Neandertal; it is one of the youngest known Neandertal specimens.
This evidence implies that the Neandertals and anatomically modern H. sapiens coexisted over a significant period of time. The presence of Upper Paleolithic artifacts in association with Neandertals suggest several possibilities about their relationships, such as diffusion of Upper Paleolithic technology to Neandertal populations, or what is more likely, some type of trade. However, evidence also confirms the idea that the two populations remained reproductively isolated during this period.
Source: J. Hublin, F. Spoor, M. Braun, F. Zonneveld, and S. Condemi, "A Late Neanderthal Associated with Upper Palaeolithic Artefacts," Nature, 381 (16 May 1996), 224-226.
NEANDERTAL ARMS AND HIPS
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 18, pages 469-486;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 11, pages 274-279,
T he humerus of the arm that holds the racquet of the professional tennis player is about 60 percent thicker than the other arm. In people who do not vigorously exercise with one arm, the asymmetry is only about 5 percent. Bone thickness, as well as the internal structure of bone, is affected by use. Calculations of the amount and distribution of bone in a cross-section of bone leads to an estimation of the weight that bone can bare.
Recent research has been concluded on the arms and legs of the Neandertals. The investigators concluded that when corrected for body size and proportions, Neandertal legs were no more robust than those of modern humans--yet their upper arms were significantly more robust. Their greater arm strength may not have been advantageous according to Neandertal specialist Erik Trinkaus. Indeed, the increased strength may be symptomatic of inefficient behavior.
Trinkaus believes that Neandertals and modern humans who lived in the same habitats and had similar tools had different behavioral patterns. These different patterns led to different functions of their upper bodies. He argues that Neandertals worked harder to process food because they chose food that was harder to process; they also may not have used their tools efficiently. Other evidence seems to support this conclusion. Neandertals exhibit more wear on their front teeth than modern peoples. This suggests that they used their teeth as vices to hold objects rather than using tools.
Trinkaus goes on to say that differences in the development of the Neandertal and modern human pelvis indicate differences in social patterns. The femoral neck, which articulates with the pelvis, shows significant differences which might reflect patterns of use. The femoral neck is vertical to the shaft of the femur at birth. The more active a child, the more the femoral neck bends inward and downward with increasing age. The shape of the Neandertal femur suggests that Neandertal children were more active than early modern children. Nean dertal children may have had to follow adults around as the adults foraged for food.
In this scenario, early modern human children remained at a home base, and they were cared for by adults who were not involved in foraging for food. This behavior may have lowered infant and child mortality. Trinkaus suggests that the inefficient use of tools and the physical demands on children may have been reasons for that the Neandertals lost out to modern humans. Of course, not all paleoanthropologists agree with Trinkaus' hypotheses.
Reference: Gibbons, A., "Did Neandertals Lose an Evolutionary 'Arms' Race?" Science, 272 (14 June 1996), 1586-1587.
NEANDERTALS SEE THE LIGHT
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 18, pages 483-484;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 11, pages 290.
H umans are not by nature cave-dwelling animals, as caves are dark, often damp, and quite uncomfortable. Prehistoric peoples did inhabit the mouths of caves, but rarely did they venture into their deep interiors. In fact, what are often called "caves" are not caves at all, but rock shelters or rock overhangs.
An important exception was recently reported. A cave at Bruniquel, located in southern France, has yielded the first evidence of Neandertals using the deep interior of a cave. The site is dated to at least 47,600 years ago; this was a time when the only hominids living in Europe were Neandertals. A complex quadrilateral structure has been found hundreds of meters from the cave entrance, but archaeologists are not sure what this structure is. Burnt bones of a cave bear indicate that humans were present in the cave.
Until this find came to light, it was generally thought that the earliest use of deep interiors of caves was the result of the activities of totally modern people which started about 30,000 years ago with the painting of pictures on cave walls. Also, if Neandertals were constructing complex geometric structures and making portable light sources, they may have had abilities for precise and complex communication. This bolsters the idea that Neandertals had linguistic and social organizational abilities similar to those of modern peoples.
Source: M. Balter, "Cave Structure Boosts Neandertal Image," Science, 271 (26 January 1996), 449.
NEW EVIDENCE ON THE ORIGINS OF THE ANTHROPOIDS
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 15, page 385;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 9, page 222.
P aleoanthropologists working in southern Jiangsu Province, China, defined the new extinct primate family Eosimiidae in 1994. Members of this family date from the middle Eocene. The only species of eosimiid described at that time was Eosimias sinensis. The hypothesis that E. sinensis was an early anthropoid was strongly criticized by many paleontologists; some even doubted that the fossil was a primate.
In May 1995, a new eosimiid species was found. This new species is Eosimias centennicus from the Eocene of southern Shanxi Province, China. The new fossils are important because they include evidence of the entire dentition. Like the earlier discovery, E. centennicus was very small; it probably weighed between 91 and 179 grams (3.2 and 6.3 ounces) or about the size of a modern pygmy marmoset. Analysis of the teeth suggests that the diet consisted of fruits with some insects.
Detailed analysis of the dentition confirm that the eosimiids are indeed very early anthropoids. The authors suggest that the eosimiids are a group of primates distinct from the Adapids, Omomyids, and Tarsiiforms. The evidence also supports the idea that since the anthropoids were well established by the middle Eocene, their origins must lie further back in time.
Source: K. C. Beard, et al., "Earliest Complete Dentition of an Anthropoid Primate from the Late Middle Eocene of Shanxi Province, China," Science, 272 (5 April 1996), 82-85.
PLEISTOCENE MONKEY SKELETON FROM BRAZIL
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 15, pages 386-387;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 9, pages 225-226.
A complete skeleton of a Pleistocene monkey was excavated in 1992 in Toca de Boa Vista, a large cave in the state of Bahia, Brazil. The skeleton was placed into the species Protopithecus brasiliensis. This species was named in 1836 when a partial femur and partial humerus were recovered from a site in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The animal is estimated to have weighed 25 kilograms (55 pounds), which is heavier than any New World monkey living today.
The skeleton resembles the living members of the family Atelidae that includes the modern howler, spider, and woolly monkeys. The skull exhibits the large hyo-laryngeal apparatus and related features that are unique to the howler monkeys. On the other hand, the postcranial skeleton resembles that of the spider monkeys which are specialized for New World semibrachiation.
Source: W. C. Hartwig and C. Cartelle, "A Complete Skeleton of the Giant South American Primate Protopithecus," Nature, 381 (23 May 1996), 307-311.
NEW HOMINOID SKULL DISCOVERED IN TURKEY
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 15, pages 393-396;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 9, pages 229-234.
A hominoid partial skull, dating from about 10 million B.P., has been recovered from the Upper Miocene Sinap Formation of central Turkey. The fossil skull presents evidence of facial, mandibular, and dental features that include a relatively narrow interorbital region, moderately developed brow ridges, square orbits, and robust mandible. Postcranial bones have also been found but have not yet been described.
The skull has be placed into the species Ankarapithecus meteai. This species was previously represented by a mandible and a lower face. The new skull (AS95-500) is believed to be an adult female while the earlier material is through to be male.
The age of the skull is thought to be around 9.8 million B.P. based upon the geomagnetic reversal time scale. The material is contemporary with other Miocene hominoids including Ouranopithecus macedoniensis, Dryo- pithecus laietanus, and Sivapithecus. The species shows a mosaic of features; some resemble the orangutan while others resemble the African great apes. The authors conclude: "The combination of characters in AS95-500 link together the European Middle and Late Miocene fossil apes in the genera Dryopithecus, Ouranopithecus and Ankarapithecus as stem members of the great ape and human clade and do not provide evidence for relationships with either the African apes or pongines."1
Source: B. Alpagut, et al., "A New Specimen of Ankarapithecus meteai from the Sinap Formation of Central Anatolia," Nature, 382 (25 July 1996), 349-351.
1 Ibid., p. 351.
EVIDENCE OF EARLY OCCUPATION OF SOUTH AMERICAN RAIN FOREST FOUND
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 505-506;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 12, pages 306-307.
A n area of major controversy in American archaeology is over the date and nature of the first human occupation of the New World. The earliest reliably dated Paleoindian sites are those of the Clovis culture which dates about 11,200 to 10,900 B.P. These early peoples of the North American plains are seen as big-game hunters who used specialized fluted stone spear points. From this center, people moved down the Andes Mountains of South America.
Generally, the great tropical forests of South America are seen as uninhabitable until the advent of horticulture. The presence of triangular points in the Amazon basin suggest that the tropical forest was occupied at an early date, but the lack of a stratified site and good radiometric dating has made it difficult to reach any firm conclusions.
Recently, archaeologists located stratified Paleoindian deposits in association with a painted sandstone cave at Caverna da Pedra Pintada in the state of Monte Alegre, Brazil. From the Paleoindian strata, they recovered 24 tools and over 30,000 flakes which represent tool-making activity. The tools included triangular, stemmed bifacial points. The presence of red pigment that was chemically identical to the pigment used in the rock paintings strongly suggests that the paintings date from the Paleoindian period.
Thousands of carbonized fruits and wood fragments were also found. These provide evidence as to the food resources of the occupants of the site. One familiar food resource is the Brazil nut. Remains of bone and shell testify to a diverse diet obtained from animal sources.
Both conventional and the accelerator mass spectrometry method of radiocarbon dating was used to date many plant samples. The authors estimate that the site was first occupied from about 11,200 to 10,500 B.P.
The archaeologists conclude that Paleoindians occupied the South
American rain forest contemporary with the Paleoindian occupation
of the North American plains. This suggests that the migrations
of the early migrants to the New World were more complex than
has been assumed. It also suggests the possibility of several
waves of migrations. Finally, the evidence also demonstrates
the ability of prehorticultural peoples to survive in tropical
rain forest habitats.
Source: A. C. Roosevelt, et al., "Paleoindian Cave Dwellers in the Amazon: The Peopling of the Americas," Science, 272 (19 April 1996), 373-384.
THE BERING LAND BRIDGE
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 496-497;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 12, page 301.
A rchaeologists agree that the aboriginal inhabitants of the New World migrated from Asia to North America across the Bering Land Bridge. During the times when large Pleistocene glaciers developed on land, the level of the ocean dropped sufficiently to expose a large expanse of land connecting the two continents; this land is covered today by the waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Paleobotanical data, combined with the remains of insects, have been recovered from 20 cores taken from the floor of these seas.
Analysis of the data suggests that what is now ocean floor was dry land as recently as 11,000 years ago, and that the summer temperatures were warmer than they are today. It appears that the land at that time was a tundra which is similar to that found in Arctic Alaska today. Although animal resources were available for food, it was a harsh and difficult landscape.
Source: S. A. Elias, et al., "Life and Times of the Bering Land Bridge," Nature, 382 (4 July 1996), 60-63
WHERE DID WE COME FROM AND WHEN?
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 492-497;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 12 pages 297-301.
T here have been many studies in the past decade where molecular data has been used to show that anatomically modern humans originated and migrated out of Africa. The best-known is perhaps the "Mitochondrial Eve" hypothesis. A new study of a section of chromosome 12 appears to agree with previous genetic studies; it suggests that modern humans evolved between 200,000 and 120,000 years ago and then migrated out of Africa.
A segment of chromosome 12 known as the Alu deletion, has numerous variations in Africa; the number of variations decreases from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa. The assumption is that the greater the number of variations there are for a genetic character, the older that character must be. The relative lack of variation in Europe indicates that a small population from Africa moved into Europe relatively recently, about 100,000 years ago.
As with other studies of human ancestry based on comparative genetics, the time estimates are based on assumed mutation rates. And as with other studies, there are researchers who are not convinced by the interpretations of the data. Although the information seems to best conform to the replacement model of modern human origins, some paleoanthropologists state that the information is not inconsistent with the regional continuity model. Small local populations could lose variation through genetic drift over time, or they may never have been characterized by variation in some traits.
Source: Tishkoff, S. A., et al., "Global Patterns of Linkage Disequilibrium at the CD4 Locus and Modern Human Origins," Science, 271 (March 8 1996), 1380-1384.
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 9, pages 207-208 and
217-219, and Chapter 13, pages 336-339; Physical Anthropology:
The Core, Chapter 5, pages 112-113 and Chapter 6, pages 164-167.
B iologists are interested in the evolutionary relationships among the various organisms that inhabit the earth. Traditionally, taxonomists classify organisms on the basis of anatomical and physiological similarities. Many of these similarities are established through subjective observation, and the significance of certain features may vary from one scholar to the next. Today comparative studies on the molecular level are producing new insights into the evolutionary history of major categories of life.
In early 1996, two studies were published that dealt with the relationships among living organisms. We know that life in the form of simple cells was established by at least 3.5 billion years ago. However, the fossil record of early unicellular forms of life is very poor. When did the major forms of life first appear?
Russell F. Doolittle and his colleagues attempted to shed light on this issue by using a "molecular clock."1 This "clock" is based upon the rate at which proteins change over time. The investigators utilized the amino acid sequences from 57 different enzymes which are proteins; within these proteins they used 531 different amino acid sequences. Although many assumptions were made, they suggest that modern eukaryotes and bacteria share a common ancestor at around 2 billion years ago, and that the divergence of plants and animals took place about 1 billion years ago.
1 R. F. Doolittle, et al., "Determining Divergence Times of the Major Kingdoms of Living Organisms with a Protein Clock," Science, 271 (26 January 1996), 470-477.
EARLY MAMMALIAN DIVERSIFICATION
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 14, pages 364-370;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 8, page 214.
P aleontologists have generally concluded that placental mammals began to diversify only after the extinction of the last dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. This mammalian adaptive radiation was made possible in part by the vacancies in ecological niches that followed the demise of the dinosaurs. Now there is evidence that one group of mammal, the ungulates, began to diversify 85 million or more years ago.
The superorder Ungulata includes several living and extinct orders of mammals including animals as diverse as the elephants, whales, and deer. Fossils discovered in Uzbekistan, part of the former Soviet Union, and dated at 85 million B.P., may represent early ungulate ancestors. Although a major mammalian adaptive radiation occurred after the extinction of the dinosaurs, a smaller radiation had taken place much earlier.
Source: Archibald, D. J., "Fossil Evidence for a Late Cretaceous Origin of 'Hoofed' Mammals, Science, 272 (24 May 1996), 1150-1153.
PRIMATES AND RABBITS
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 9, pages 217-219, 217-219,
and 336-339; Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter
5, page 117.
O n page 219 of Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, there is a diagram (Figure 9-14) illustrating the evolutionary relationships among the mammals. The diagram shows a close relationship between the order Lagomorpha (rabbits and hares) and the Rodentia (squirrels, beavers, mice and porcupines). This is the traditional view of biologists.
Based upon anatomical and fossil evidence, the Lagomorpha and Rodentia are usually classified together into the superorder Glires. The superorder Glires is thought to have emerged during the very rapid mammalian adaptive radiation that occurred in the early Paleocene. Close by on the evolutionary tree is the closely related suborder Archontia that includes the primates along with tree shrews, flying lemurs, and bats.
The classification of the lagomorphs has an interesting history. The Old Testament places them with the ruminants, the cud-chewing hoofed mammals. While Linnaeus placed them as a family with the order Rodentia, he stressed the very close relationship that he saw between the two groups. Now a recent study, based upon the analysis of protein sequences, says that all of this is untrue.1 In fact, not only are the rodents and lagomorphs not closely related enough to belong in a single suborder, the lagomorphs are actually closer to the primates than they are to the rodents.
Of course, the new study is not conclusive, and the correct picture will not emerge for some time. The most important consequence of the new data will be to stimulate new studies on the evolutionary relationships among mammalian groups both on the molecular and anatomical level.
1 D. Graur, L. Duret, and M. Gouy, "Phylogenetic Position of the Order Lagomorpha (Rabbits, Hares and Allies)," Nature, 379 (25 January 1996), 333-335.
IS LINNAEUS HISTORY?
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 14, pages 363-370;
Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 8, pages 212-215.
F or well over 200 years the Linnaean system of classification has been the recognized way to classify living organisms. Linnaeus based his classification on the physical resemblances among organisms, and not on evolutionary relationships.
Recently, the concept of cladistics is being used to emphasize different levels of evolutionary relationships among organisms. However, cladistics is not a classification system per se, nor does it offer a systematic way of naming organisms.
Now, several biologists are proposing a different way of classifying organisms based strictly on proposed common ancestors. For example, in the Linnaean classification, reptiles and birds are placed into separate classes, but phylogenetic studies indicate that birds should be included within the reptiles. The proponents of the new system say that the Linnaean system often leads people to assume evolutionary relationships that do not exist, and that they miss evolutionary relationships that do exist.
Source: E. Pennisi, "Evolutionary and Systematic Biologists Converge," Science, 273 (12 July 1996), 181-182.
THE EARLIEST WINE
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 509-510, and
336-339; Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter
12, pages 310-311.
T he history of wine making is now 2000 years older than was previously reported. A pottery jar has been recovered from the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe, a Neolithic village in the northern Zagros Mountains of Iran. The jar was manufactured between 5400 and 5000 B.C.
The archaeologists found a yellowish residue inside the vessel. Chemical analysis determined that the residue consisted of the calcium salt of tartaric acid and the yellowish resin of the terebinth tree which was used in antiquity. A similar residue has been found in Egyptian jars that are associated with written records identifying them as containing wine.
Tartaric acid occurs in large amounts in grapes. Terebinth resin is soluble in alcohol, and it was added to inhibit the growth of bacteria that concert wine into vinegar; it also masks any foul taste or odor.
The site exists in an area that, in ancient times, supported both wild grape and later early domesticated grape. Terebinth trees also grow through the region.
The site of Hajji Firuz Tepe was a very early Neolithic settlement. There was evidence of domesticated plants and animals, and the development of many crafts including the manufacturing of pottery. The jar was found in the kitchen area of a building made of mud bricks.
Source: P. E. McGovern,
et al., "Neolithic Resinated Wine," Nature, 381
(6 June 1996), 480-481.
Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 4, pages 80-90 and Chapter
7, page 154; Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter
2, pages 43-48.
I n the 1996 movie Jack, Robin Williams portrays a child who aged rapidly. By the time Jack was 10 he looked like a man of 40. Although it differs from the situation in the movie in many ways, an abnormality that causes premature aging does actually exist.
Wermer's syndrome is characterized by premature aging. Unlike Jack, the rapid aging does not become apparent until the person is in his or her twenties. At this time, several features normally found in older people appear. These features include heart disease and cancers, grey hair, wrinkled skin, cataracts, and other characteristics associated with older age.
In April 1996, researchers announced the discovery of the gene that causes Wermer's syndrome. It is a mutation that interferes with the proper repair and replication of DNA along with other regulatory effects on the proper action of DNA. Although geneticists estimate that about 70 percent of human genes can affect aging in some way, they hope that knowledge gained from research on the gene responsible for Wermer's syndrome might ultimately lead to the development of methods to slow down aging, cure cancer, and cure Werner's syndrome.
Sources: Ellis, N., "Mutation
Causing Mutations," Nature, 381 (May 9, 1996), 110-111;
Jazwinski, M. S., "Longevity, Genes, and Aging," Science,
273 (5 July 1996), 54-59; Pennisi, E., "Premature Aging Gene
Discovered," Science, 272 (12 April 1996), 193-194;
and Yu, C-E, et al., "Positional Cloning of the Werner's
Syndrome Gene," Science, 272 (12 April 1996), 258-262.
A new species of marmoset
has been recently discovered in the Brazilian rain forest. It
is the sixth new marmoset species discovered since 1990. The
new primate has been named Callithrix saterei for a local
Los Angeles Times,
June 20, 1996, B2.
T here has been a delay
in the study of the Grotte Chauvet while the French Ministry of
Culture pondered the question of who was to conduct the initial
research on this important Upper Paleolithic site. Discovered
in December 1994, the site contains the oldest known cave paintings.
Archaeologist Jean Clottes has been named to head the project
which will begin in a few months. Meanwhile, the story of the
discovery of Grotte Chauvet along with colored photographs and
descriptions has been published: J-M Chauvet, E. B. Deschamps,
and Ch. Hillaire, Dawn of Art: The Chauvet Cave (London:
Thames and Hudson, 1996).
L ife may have evolved
over 4 billion years ago, but animals evolved much more recently.
Although comparative molecular studies suggest an origin of animals
about 1 billion years ago, the earliest generally accepted fossil
evidence of animals goes back only 590 million years. Now two
investigators suggest that the origin of animals may have been
triggered by a major increase in atmospheric oxygen sometime between
1 billion and 543 million years ago.
D. E. Canfield and A. Teske,
"Late Proterozoic Rise in Atmospheric
Oxygen Concentration," Nature, 382,
A new study of Mousterian stone tools, dated around 40,000 B.P., suggests that compound tools were being made in the Middle Paleolithic; this is earlier than was previously believed. Traces of bitumen, a substance used to glue rock to a handle or shaft, were found on stone artifacts found in Syria. If these tools were indeed hafted, then one distinction between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic has been blurred.
Prehistorians have visualized the Upper Paleolithic
as being more complex and varied than the Middle Paleolithic.
One of the complexities of the Upper Paleolithic, which begins
at around 35,000 years ago, is hafting. Now it appears that hafting
also occured in the earlier period.
Boëda, E., "Bitumen as a Hafting
Material on Middle Paleolithic Artifacts,"
Nature, 380 (28 March 1996), 336-338.
I n 1991, a partially freezed-dried
body of a man was found at an elevation of 3200 meters (10,500
feet) in the Italian Alps. The 5300-year-old body was thought
to be that of a 25-to 40-year-old man at death. New analyses
now suggests that he was much older, perhaps 60 years old.
A cid rain has had a major negative effect on forests, streams, and lakes. Even though sulfur emissions from factories and other sources will have been reduced by about 50 percent by the year 2000 compared to 1980, ecosystems are not recovering as fast as predicted.
The problem appears to be that the acid rain has
been destroying large quantities of basic ions, such as calcium
ions, that neutralize the acid in the soil. These basic ions
are essential for plant growth. The ions are not being replaced
from the weathering of rocks and minerals fast enough to quickly
return soils to their preindustrial health. In fact, even if
we continue to cut emissions that cause acid rain, it could be
decades or even centuries until that preindustrial state is reestablished.
J. Kaiser, "Acid Rain's Dirty Business:
Stealing Minerals from the Soil,"
Science, 272 (12 April
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