Press Releases 2019

The Meaning of Emotion: Cultural and Biological Evolution Impact How Humans Feel Feelings

Scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History compared 2474 spoken languages, finding that emotion semantics have been shaped by both cultural and biological evolution. more

Justinianic Plague Not a Landmark Pandemic?

Researchers now have a clearer picture of the impact of the first plague pandemic, the Justinianic Plague, which lasted from about 541-750 CE. more

Ostrich Eggshell Beads Reveal 10,000 Years of Cultural Interaction Across Africa

New archeological analysis challenges long-standing hypotheses about ostrich eggshell beads and the spread of pastoralism in Africa.
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Repatriation of Wanniyalaeto (‘Veddah’) Remains Following Ceremony in Edinburgh

"The dead are very important in Wanniyalaeto society," said Chief Wanniya Uruwarige. "This reuniting of spirits and physical remains... is a very special moment for my people." more

Mongolia’s Melting Ice Reveals Clues to History of Reindeer Herding, Threatens Way of Life

Results of horseback surveys of ice patches in northern Mongolia provide the first archaeological insights from the region, revealing fragile organic artifacts previously buried in ice more

Humans’ Ability to Read Dogs’ Facial Expressions Is Learned, Not Innate

The first comprehensive study of the human ability to recognize the facial expressions of dogs suggests this ability is mainly acquired through age and experience and is not an evolutionarily selected trait, and in adults is better in those growing up in dog-positive cultural contexts more

New Palaeoecological Record From the Tropical Environments of Coastal Eastern Africa Provides Insights Into Early Human Adaptations

New study published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology further encourages a focus on diverse African environments, rather than simply marine or savannah settings, when studying the evolution and dispersal of Homo sapiens. more

Social Inequality in Bronze Age Households

Archaeogenetic analyses provide new insights into social inequality 4000 years ago: nuclear families lived together with foreign women and individuals from lower social classes in the same household. more

Oldest Miniaturized Stone Toolkits in Eurasia

New study reveals the earliest microliths (small stone tools <40 millimeters) in South Asia and in any rainforest environment worldwide, alongside tree-dwelling monkeys, other small mammals, and tropical plants in a Sri Lankan Cave. more

<p>Microscopic Evidence Sheds Light on the Disappearance of the World’s Largest Mammals</p>

New, state-of-the-art methods provide detailed insights into the timing and causes of ‘megafauna’ extinctions in the past. more

<p>Ancient Genomes Provide Insight Into the Genetic History of the Second Plague Pandemic</p>

Analysis of 34 ancient plague genomes from the Black Death and succeeding plague epidemics in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries, reveals how the bacterium diversified after a single introduction. more

<p>One Species, Many Origins</p>

One Species, Many Origins

September 23, 2019

Modern humans evolved in Africa, and we now know that human groups from all over the continent contributed to that process. An international group of scientists says that means it is time to stop arguing about where in Africa humans “really” came from. more

<p>New Study Shows Common Carp Aquaculture in Neolithic China Dating Back 8,000 years</p>

By using age-mortality and species-selection profiles from prehistoric East Asia, researchers identified carp aquaculture in Henan Province, China, thousands of years earlier than previously reported.   more

Teeth Offer Vital Clues About Diet During the Great Irish Famine

Scientific analysis of dental calculus of the Famine’s victims found evidence of corn (maize), oats, potato, wheat and milk foodstuffs. more

<p>Patrick Roberts, Stephan Schiffels, and Robert Spengler Awarded ERC Starting Grants</p>

The highly competitive grants will allow the recipients to fund research groups on their projects "PANTROPOCENE: Finding a Pre-industrial, Pan-tropical 'Anthropocene'", "MICROSCOPE: Zooming into the Population History of Iron Age Europe with Rare Genetic Variants", and "FEDD: Fruits of Eurasia: Domestication and Dispersal". more

Archaeological Assessment Reveals Earth’s Early Transformation Through Land Use

Humans caused significant environmental change around the globe by about 3,000-4,000 years ago, much earlier than prior estimates, as revealed by a new international study. more

Biomolecular Analyses of Roopkund Skeletons Show Mediterranean Migrants in Indian Himalayas

The lake was thought to be the site of an ancient catastrophic event that left several hundred people dead, but the first ancient whole genome data from India shows that diverse groups of people died at the lake in multiple events approximately 1000 years apart. more

Human Genetic Diversity of South America Reveals Complex History of Amazonia

New study explores genetic roots of 26 populations from diverse regions and cultures of western South America and Mexico, revealing long-distance connections between speakers of related languages, and new traces of genetic diversity within Amazonia. more

New book "Fruit from the Sands: <strong>The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat" by Dr. Robert N. Spengler III</strong>

All of the plants on our kitchen tables have a long and mysterious history. Many of them can trace part of their ancestry back to the ancient Silk Road trade routes. New archaeobotanical data is illustrating how the domestication and dispersal process for the plants unfolded, as presented in Dr. Spengler’s new book. more

Grazing Animals Drove Domestication of Grain Crops

The ancestral relatives of millets and other small-seeded crops originally evolved to be dispersed by megafaunal grazers of the Pleistocene and earlier epochs, and in some cases later came to rely on pastoral herds to disperse their seeds. more

<p>Ancient DNA Sheds Light on the Origins of the Biblical Philistines</p>
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Ancient genomes suggest that the Philistines descended from people who migrated across the Mediterranean and reached the shores of the southern Levant at the beginning of the Iron Age. more

Rising Sea Levels Have Destroyed Evidence of Shell Middens at Many Prehistoric Coastal Sites

In examining prehistoric coastal sites on the Arabian Peninsula, researchers found that even large sites have been affected by coastal erosion due to sea-level rise.  Past studies of the diet of coastal populations may now need to be reevaluated given the potential underestimation of shellfish use. more

The Origins of Cannabis Smoking: Marijuana Use in the First Millennium BC

A chemical residue study of incense burners from ancient burials at high elevations in the Pamir Mountains of western China has revealed psychoactive cannabinoids. This study provides some of the earliest clear evidence for the use of cannabis for its psychoactive compounds, and the awareness of higher THC-producing varieties of the plant.   more

Dramatic Change in Ancient Pastoralist Diets Associated with Expansion of Political Networks Across the Eurasian Steppe

Strengthening of political networks coincided with the intensification of agricultural production, resulting in the widespread adoption of millet by populations across Eurasia. more

Ancient DNA Sheds Light on the Migration and Impact of Arctic Hunter-Hatherers to North America About 5000 Years Ago

An ancient population of Arctic hunter-gatherers, known as Paleo-Eskimos, made a significant genetic contribution to populations living in Arctic North America today. more

Details of First Historically Recorded Plague Pandemic Revealed by Ancient Genomes

Analysis of 8 new plague genomes from the first plague pandemic reveals previously unknown levels of plague diversity, and provides the first genetic evidence of the Justinianic Plague in the British Isles. more

<p>Humans Used Northern Migration Routes to Reach Eastern Asia</p>

New article suggests wetter climates may have allowed Homo sapiens to expand across the deserts of Central Asia by 50-30,000 years ago. more

<p>Exploring the Origins of the Apple</p>

Apples originally evolved in the wild to entice ancient megafauna to disperse their seeds. More recently, humans began spreading the trees along the Silk Road with other familiar crops. Dispersing the apple trees led to their domestication. more

Origin of Sino-Tibetan Language Family Revealed by New Research

Phylogenetic analysis of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which includes Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese, suggests that it originated about 7,200 years ago in North China and was linked to the Neolithic cultures of the late Cishan and early Yangshao. more

<p>Details of the History of Inner Eurasia Revealed by New Study</p>

Researchers combining genetics, archaeology, history and linguistics have gained new insights into the history of inner Eurasia, once a cultural and genetic crossroads connecting Europe and Asia. more

<p>Human History Through Tree Rings: Trees in Amazonia Reveal Pre-Colonial Human Disturbance</p>

New study shows that tropical trees act as a living record of past human activity in the Amazon. more

<p>First Anatolian Farmers Were Local Hunter-Gatherers That Adopted Agriculture</p>

The first farmers from Anatolia, who brought farming to Europe and represent the single largest ancestral component in modern-day Europeans, are directly descended from local hunter-gatherers who adopted a farming way of life. more

Unique Diversity of the Genetic History of the Iberian Peninsula Revealed by Dual Studies

Two studies, one looking at Iberian hunter-gatherers between 13,000 and 6000 years ago and another looking at Iberian populations over the last 8000 years, add new resolution to our understanding of the history and prehistory of the region. more

<p>Diet-Induced Changes Favor Innovation in Speech Sounds</p>

Diet-induced changes in the human bite resulted in new sounds, such as “f”, in languages all over the world, a study by an international team led by researchers at the University of Zurich has shown. The findings contradict the theory that the range of human sounds has remained fixed throughout human history. more

<p>Sea Otters’ Tool Use Leaves Behind Distinctive Archaeological Evidence</p>

Researchers used an interdisciplinary approach combining ecology and archaeological methods to study sea otters' past behavior. more

<p>Vast Record of Past Climate Fluctuations Now Available Thanks to Laser Imaging of Shells</p>

Refined techniques for laser imaging of shell growth rings are tapping into previously hidden data of marine climate change. By examining human and ecological responses to those changes, we learn more about what to expect from climate change in the future. more

The Monkey Hunters: Humans Colonize South Asian Rainforest by Hunting Primates

New study provides direct evidence for the hunting of tree-dwelling monkeys and other small mammals by Homo sapiens 45,000 years ago in the rainforest of Sri Lanka. more

<p>The Caucasus: Complex Interplay of Genes and Cultures</p>

Genetic studies of ancient populations in the Caucasus region testify to the complex interaction of populations from the Eurasian steppe and the Caucasus Mountains in the Bronze Age more

<p>New Studies Reveal Deep History of Denisovans and Neanderthals in Southern Siberia</p>

More than 150 new dates provide the first robust chronology for Denisova Cave, the only site in the world known to have been occupied by both Neanderthals, Denisovans, and later by modern humans. more

Humans Colonized Diverse Environments in Southeast Asia and Oceania During the Pleistocene

New review compares the regional adaptations of humans and those of other hominin species to add support to the argument that our species is ecologically unique. more

<p>New Book ‘Tropical Forests in Prehistory, History, and Modernity’ Reveals Long-Term Human Use and Habitation of Critically Endangered Habitats</p>

This new text is the first to bring together evidence for the nature of human interactions with tropical forests on a global scale, from the emergence of hominins in the tropical forests of Africa to modern conservation issues. more

<p>Illuminating Women’s Role in the Creation of Medieval Manuscripts</p>

Analysis of the fossilized dental plaque of a medieval woman reveals lapis lazuli, suggesting she was an accomplished painter of illuminated manuscripts. more

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