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Earliest Evidence Of Modern Humans Detected

— Evidence of early humans living on the coast in South Africa, harvesting food from the sea, employing complex bladelet tools and using red pigments in symbolic behavior 164,000 years ago, far earlier than previously documented, is being reported in the journal Nature.

The international team of researchers reporting the findings include Curtis Marean, a paleoanthropologist with the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University and three graduate students in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

"Our findings show that at 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa humans expanded their diet to include shellfish and other marine resources, perhaps as a response to harsh environmental conditions," notes Marean, a professor in ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change. "This is the earliest dated observation of this behavior."

Further, the researchers report that co-occurring with this diet expansion is a very early use of pigment, likely for symbolic behavior, as well as the use of bladelet stone tool technology, previously dating to 70,000 years ago.

These new findings not only move back the timeline for the evolution of modern humans, they show that lifestyles focused on coastal habitats and resources may have been crucial to the evolution and survival of these early humans.

Searching for beginnings

After decades of debate, paleoanthropologists now agree the genetic and fossil evidence suggests that the modern human species — Homo sapiens — evolved in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.

Yet, archaeological sites during that time period are rare in Africa. And, given the enormous expanse of the continent, where in Africa did this crucial step to modern humans occur?

"Archaeologists have had a hard time finding material residues of these earliest modern humans," Marean says. "The world was in a glacial stage 125,000 to 195,000 years ago, and much of Africa was dry to mostly desert; in many areas food would have been difficult to acquire. The paleoenvironmental data indicate there are only five or six places in all of Africa where humans could have survived these harsh conditions."

In seeking the "perfect site" to explore, Marean analyzed ocean currents, climate data, geological formations and other data to pin down a location where he felt sure to find one of these progenitor populations: the Cape of South Africa at Pinnacle Point.

"It was important that we knew exactly where to look and what we were looking for," says Marean. This type of research is expensive and funding is competitive. Marean and the team of scientists who set out to Pinnacle Point to search for this elusive population, did so with the help of a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Human Origins: Moving in New Directions (HOMINID) program.

Their findings are reported in the Nature paper "Early human use of marine resources and pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene."

The Middle Stone Age, dated between 35,000 and 300,000 years ago, is the technological stage when anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa, along with modern cognitive behavior, says Marean. When, however, within that stage modern human behavior arose is currently debated, he adds.

"This time is beyond the range of radiocarbon dating, yet the dates on the finds published here are more secure than is typical due to the use of two advanced and independent techniques," Marean says.

Uranium series dates were attained by Bar-Matthews on speleothem (the material of stalagmites), and optically stimulated luminescence dates were developed by Jacobs. According to Marean, the latter technique dates the last time that individual grains of sand were exposed to light, and thousands of grains were measured.

Migrating along the coast

"Generally speaking, coastal areas were of no use to early humans — unless they knew how to use the sea as a food source" says Marean. "For millions of years, our earliest hunter-gatherer relatives only ate terrestrial plants and animals. Shellfish was one of the last additions to the human diet before domesticated plants and animals were introduced."

Before, the earliest evidence for human use of marine resources and coastal habitats was dated about 125,000 years ago. "Our research shows that humans started doing this at least 40,000 years earlier. This could have very well been a response to the extreme environmental conditions they were experiencing," he says.

"We also found what archaeologists call bladelets — little blades less than 10 millimeters in width, about the size of your little finger," Marean says. "These could be attached to the end of a stick to form a point for a spear, or lined up like barbs on a dart — which shows they were already using complex compound tools. And, we found evidence that they were using pigments, especially red ochre, in ways that we believe were symbolic," he describes.

Archaeologists view symbolic behavior as one of the clues that modern language may have been present. The earliest bladelet technology was previously dated to 70,000 years ago, near the end of the Middle Stone Age, and the modified pigments are the earliest securely dated and published evidence for pigment use.

"Coastlines generally make great migration routes," Marean says. "Knowing how to exploit the sea for food meant these early humans could now use coastlines as productive home ranges and move long distances."

Results reporting early use of coastlines are especially significant to scientists interested in the migration of humans out of Africa. Physical evidence that this coastal population was practicing modern human behavior is particularly important to geneticists and physical anthropologists seeking to identify the progenitor population for modern humans.

"This evidence shows that Africa, and particularly southern Africa, was precocious in the development of modern human biology and behavior. We believe that on the far southern shore of Africa there was a small population of modern humans who struggled through this glacial period using shellfish and advanced technologies, and symbolism was important to their social relations. It is possible that this population could be the progenitor population for all modern humans," Marean says.


Discovery Of The Oldest Adornments In The World

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2007) — The discovery of small perforated sea shells, in the Cave of Pigeons in Taforalt, eastern Morocco, has shown that the use of bead adornments in North Africa is older than thought. Dating from 82 000 years ago, the beads are thought to be the oldest in the world. As adornments, together with art, burial and the use of pigments, are considered to be among the most conclusive signs of the acquisition of symbolic thought and of modern cognitive abilities, this study is leading researchers to question their ideas about the origins of modern humans. The study was carried out by a multidisciplinary team made up of researchers at CNRS, working with scientists from Morocco, the UK, Australia and Germany.

It was long thought that the oldest adornments, which were then dated as being 40 000 years old, came from Europe and the Middle East. However, since the discovery of 75 000 year-old carved beads and ochers in South Africa, this idea has been challenged, and all the more so with the recent discovery in Morocco of beads that are over 80 000 years old. The discoveries all indicate the presence of a much older symbolic material culture in Africa than in Europe or the Middle East.

Dated at 82 000 years old, the beads, which were unearthed by archaeologists in the Cave of Pigeons in Taforalt, north-east Morocco, consist of 13 shells belonging to the species Nassarius gibbosulus. The shells have been deliberately perforated, and some of them are still covered with red ocher. They were discovered in the remains of hearths, associated with abundant traces of human activity such as stone tools and animal remains . The mollusks were found in a stratigraphic sequence formed of ashy sediments. They were dated independently by two laboratories using four different techniques, which confirmed an age of 82 000 years.

Led by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, researcher at the National Institute of Archaeological and Heritage Sciences (INSAP, Morocco)and Nick Barton of the University of Oxford (UK), a multidisciplinary team has been carrying out an in-depth study of the site for the past five years. Two CNRS researchers have been especially involved in the study of the shells: Marian Vanhaeren and Francesco d'Errico, belonging respectively to the 'From prehistory to the present: culture, environment and anthropology' unit (PACEA, CNRS / Université Bordeaux 1 / INRAP / Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication) and the 'Archaeologies and sciences of Antiquity' unit (ArScAn, CNRS / Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication / Universités Paris 1 and 10).

They were thus able to reveal that the shells had been gathered when dead, on the beaches of Morocco, which at that time were located over 40 km from the Cave of Pigeons. By taking into account the distance of the coast at that time and the comparison with natural alteration of shells of the same species on today's beaches, the two scientists inferred that prehistoric humans had selected, transported and very probably perforated the shells and colored them red for a symbolic use. Moreover, some shells showed traces of wear, which suggests that they were used as adornments for a long time: they were very likely worn as necklaces or bracelets, or sewn onto clothes.

Noticing that the beads belong to the same species of shell and bear the same type of perforation as those uncovered in previous excavations at the paleolothic sites at Skhul in Israel and at Oued Djebbana in Algeria , Marian Vanhaeren and Francesco d'Errico were thus able to confirm the validity of these two discoveries. Everything therefore seems to indicate that 80 000 years ago the populations of the eastern and southern Mediterranean shared the same symbolic traditions. To back up this hypothesis they point to other sites in Morocco where Nassarius gibbosulus beads from the same period are also found.

In addition, the two researchers point out that there is a remarkable difference between the oldest beads from Africa and the Near East on the one hand, and from Eurasia on the other. Unlike Africa and the Near East, where only one or two types of shell are found, in Eurasia from the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic onwards tens or even hundreds of different types of beads have been described.

Reference: 82,000-year-old shell beads from North Africa and implications for the origins of modern human behavior, Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, Nick Barton, Marian Vanhaeren, Francesco d'Errico, Simon Collcutt, Tom Higham, Edward Hodge, Simon Parfitt, Edward Rhodes, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Chris Stringer, Elaine Turner, Steven Ward, Abdelkrim Moutmir, and Abdelhamid Stambouli. PNAS, 4 Juin 2007, 10.1073.

Additional Information

1) Among the stone tools associated with the shells there are sharp biface points that are typical of Aterian technology in North Africa. They were probably used as spearheads. The animal bones were left-over food remains and are mainly identified as wild horses and hares.

2) A stratigraphic sequence is a sequence of strata.

3) These beads were attributed by the same authors to archeological strata at the site dating back 100 000 years, based on geochemical analysis of material stuck to the shells. However, the date of the first digs at the site (which were carried out in the 1930's) made it impossible to formally prove the stratigraphic provenance of the objects. This study resulted in an article in Science in June 2006.

4) The bead found at this site came from an archeological stratum more than 40 000 years old, and was dates thanks to stone tools found in the same location: the tools are typical of the period dating from 60 000 to 90 000 years before the modern era.


This lecture was delivered by Dr. Ian Tattersall at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the occasion of the symposium "Genesis: Exploration of Origins" on March 7, 2003. This symposium was held in conjunction with the special exhibition, "Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture," and was made possible through the support of The Ford Foundation.

"The most remarkable early evidence of symbolic activity in Africa comes in the form of the recent find of engraved ochre plaques, such as this one, from Blombos Cave on the southern coast of Africa (Fig. 10). This is an unequivocally symbolic object, even if we cannot directly discern the significance of the geometric design that the plaque bears; and it is dated to around 70,000 years ago, over 30,000 years before anything equivalent is found in Europe.

To evidence such as this can be added suggestions of a symbolic organization of space at the site of Klasies River Mouth (Fig. 11), also near the southern tip of Africa, at over 100,000 years ago. Pierced shells, with the strong implication of stringing for body ornamentation, are known from Porc-Epic Cave in Ethiopia at around 70,000 years ago. Bone tools of the kind introduced much later to Europe by the Cro-Magnons, are found at the Congolese site of Katanda, dated to perhaps 80,000 years ago. Blade tool industries, again formerly associated principally with the Cro-Magnons, are found at least sporadically at sites in Africa that date to as much as a quarter of a million years ago. Also in the economic/technological realm, such activities as flint-mining, pigment-processing and long-distance trade in useful materials are documented in Africa up to about 100,000 years ago. These and other early African innovations are reviewed by McBrearty and Brooks (2000)."

82,000-year-old shell beads from North Africa
and implications for the origins of modern
human behavior

Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, Nick Barton, Marian Vanhaeren, Francesco d’Errico, Simon Collcutt, Tom Higham,
Edward Hodge, Simon Parfitt, Edward Rhodes, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Chris Stringer, Elaine Turner,
Steven Wardo, Abdelkrim Moutmir, and Abdelhamid Stambouli

The first appearance of explicitly symbolic objects in the archaeological
record marks a fundamental stage in the emergence of
modern social behavior in Homo. Ornaments such as shell beads
represent some of the earliest objects of this kind. We report on
examples of perforated Nassarius gibbosulus shell beads from
Grotte des Pigeons (Taforalt, Morocco), North Africa. These marine
shells come from archaeological levels dated by luminescence and
uranium-series techniques to 82,000 years ago. They confirm
evidence of similar ornaments from other less well dated sites in
North Africa and adjacent areas of southwest Asia. The shells are
of the same genus as shell beads from slightly younger levels at
Blombos Cave in South Africa. Wear patterns on the shells imply
that some of them were suspended, and, as at Blombos, they were
covered in red ochre. These findings imply an early distribution of
bead-making in Africa and southwest Asia at least 40 millennia
before the appearance of similar cultural manifestations in Europe.


World's Oldest Ritual Discovered — Worshipped The Python 70,000 Years Ago

A startling archaeological discovery this summer changes our understanding of human history. While, up until now, scholars have largely held that man's first rituals were carried out over 40, 000 years ago in Europe, it now appears that they were wrong about both the time and place.

Associate Professor Sheila Coulson, from the University of Oslo, can now show that modern humans, Homo sapiens, have performed advanced rituals in Africa for 70,000 years. She has, in other words, discovered mankind's oldest known ritual.

The archaeologist made the surprising discovery while she was studying the origin of the Sanpeople. A group of the San live in the sparsely inhabited area of north-western Botswana known as Ngamiland.

Coulson made the discovery while searching for artifacts from the Middle Stone Age in the only hills present for hundreds of kilometers in any direction. This group of small peaks within the Kalahari Desert is known as the Tsodilo Hills and is famous for having the largest concentration of rock paintings in the world.

The Tsodilo Hills are still a sacred place for the San, who call them the "Mountains of the Gods" and the "Rock that Whispers".

The python is one of the San's most important animals. According to their creation myth, mankind descended from the python and the ancient, arid streambeds around the hills are said to have been created by the python as it circled the hills in its ceaseless search for water.

Sheila Coulson's find shows that people from the area had a specific ritual location associated with the python. The ritual was held in a little cave on the northern side of the Tsodilo Hills. The cave itself is so secluded and access to it is so difficult that it was not even discovered by archaeologists until the 1990s.

When Coulson entered the cave this summer with her three master's students, it struck them that the mysterious rock resembled the head of a huge python. On the six meter long by two meter tall rock, they found three-to-four hundred indentations that could only have been man-made.

"You could see the mouth and eyes of the snake. It looked like a real python. The play of sunlight over the indentations gave them the appearance of snake skin. At night, the firelight gave one the feeling that the snake was actually moving".

They found no evidence that work had recently been done on the rock. In fact, much of the rock's surface was extensively eroded.

When they saw the many indentations in the rock, the archaeologists wondered about more than when the work had been done. They also began thinking about what the cave had been used for and how long people had been going there. With these questions in mind, they decided to dig a test pit directly in front of the python stone.

At the bottom of the pit, they found many stones that had been used to make the indentations. Together with these tools, some of which were more than 70,000 years old, they found a piece of the wall that had fallen off during the work.

In the course of their excavation, they found more than 13,000 artifacts. All of the objects were spearheads and articles that could be connected with ritual use, as well as tools used in carving the stone. They found nothing else.

As if that were not enough, the stones that the spearheads were made from are not from the Tsodilo region but must have been brought from hundreds of kilometers away.

The spearheads are better crafted and more colourful than other spearheads from the same time and area. Surprisingly enough, it was only the red spearheads that had been burned.

"Stone age people took these colourful spearheads, brought them to the cave, and finished carving them there. Only the red spearheads were burned. It was a ritual destruction of artifacts. There was no sign of normal habitation. No ordinary tools were found at the site. Our find means that humans were more organised and had the capacity for abstract thinking at a much earlier point in history than we have previously assumed. All of the indications suggest that Tsodilo has been known to mankind for almost 100,000 years as a very special place in the pre-historic landscape." says Sheila Coulson.

Sheila Coulson also noticed a secret chamber behind the python stone. Some areas of the entrance to this small chamber were worn smooth, indicating that many people had passed through it over the years.

"The shaman, who is still a very important person in San culture, could have kept himself hidden in that secret chamber. He would have had a good view of the inside of the cave while remaining hidden himself. When he spoke from his hiding place, it could have seemed as if the voice came from the snake itself. The shaman would have been able to control everything. It was perfect." The shaman could also have "disappeared" from the chamber by crawling out onto the hillside through a small shaft.

While large cave and wall paintings are numerous throughout the Tsodilo Hills, there are only two small paintings in this cave: an elephant and a giraffe. These images were rendered, surprisingly, exactly where water runs down the wall.

Sheila Coulson thinks that an explanation for this might come from San mythology.

In one San story, the python falls into a body of water and cannot get out by itself. The python is pulled from the water by a giraffe. The elephant, with its long trunk, is often used as a metaphor for the python.

"In the cave, we find only the San people's three most important animals: the python, the elephant, and the giraffe. That is unusual. This would appear to be a very special place. They did not burn the spearheads by chance. They brought them from hundreds of kilometers away and intentionally burned them. So many pieces of the puzzle fit together here. It has to represent a ritual." concludes Sheila Coulson.

It was a major archaeological find five years ago that made it possible for Sheila Coulson to date the finds in this little cave in Botswana. Up until the turn of the century, archaeologists believed that human civilisation developed in Europe after our ancestors migrated from Africa. This theory was crushed by Archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood when he published his find of traces from a Middle Stone Age dwelling in the Blombos Cave in Southern Cape, South Africa.


'Modern' Behavior Began 40,000 Years Ago In Africa, Evidence Suggests

— Excavations from the Enkapune Ya Muto (EYM) rock shelter in the central Rift Valley of Kenya offer the best evidence yet that modern human behavior originated in Africa more than 40,000 years ago. They also suggest that by that time our earlier selves sealed social alliances and prevailed over others by giving token gifts, in this case, beads. So says archaeologist Stanley Ambrose, a professor at the University of Illinois.

Ambrose, an expert on stone tools, paleoecology and stable isotope biogeochemistry, has found that his EYM site "contains perhaps the earliest example of what we think of as an Upper Paleolithic stone-tool technology, and then later in time, ostrich eggshell-bead technology — the earliest evidence for ornamentation, which may imply a new kind of adaptive social system."

In one of the oldest layers, Ambrose found the stone tools — "possibly the oldest example of Later Stone Age or European equivalent Upper Paleolithic stone-tool technology. The blade-based tools are at least 46,000 years old, but may be as much as 50,000 years old — older than the oldest previously known industry of its kind, from Israel."

Above the earliest Later Stone Age stone tools, he found the beads. Dated by radiocarbon to about 40,000 years ago, the beads "are the oldest directly dated ornaments in the world," Ambrose said. Ornaments are widely considered an important class of evidence for modern human behavior. Moreover, among modern hunter-gatherers, the beads are not only used as ornaments, but are the most common kind of gift in a formal system of delayed reciprocity, which has further implications for the evolution of a social safety-net system."

It has been argued, Ambrose said, that human adaptability to risky environments involves "being able to have relationships with people that you can rely on when resources in your area fail."

"The ancient beads may thus symbolize a mechanism for increased social solidarity and adaptations to risky environments. They may be a symbolic currency for exchange and obligations that can be saved for times of need — like money in the bank. People who have this social security system would compete better with others — the Neanderthals, for example — who didn't. So, this improved system of regional networks of social solidarity may have allowed modern humans, when they left Africa, to outcompete and replace the Neanderthals."

The evidence of exchange networks is the long-distance movement of materials over distances greater than a band of hunter-gatherers might move over the course of a year, Ambrose said, "So, you find shells in Upper Paleolithic Europe moving as much as 600 kilometers."

"This site seems to provide dating evidence that the transition to modern human behavior and technology occurred earliest in East or Equatorial Africa and spread from there."

Ambrose's findings appeared in the April issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.


Early Out of Africa populations were tropically adapted - TW Holliday (2000).

East Africans have been Equatorial for 10's of thousands of years - CL Brace.

The oldest Out of Africa expansion occurred 65,000 +- 23000 years ago and is witnessed by mitochondrial descendants preserved in Papua New Guinea; the Papuan node is derived from a Eurasian founder, we tentatively propose the following scenario to account for the obvious phenotypic differences between Papuans and [Northern] Eurasians despite their sharing a common mtDNA ancestry:

They derive from a single African migration, but split at an early stage before reaching Europe. Meanwhile, proto-Eurasians spent 20 or more millennia genetically drifting to their present distinct phenotypes.
- Peter Forster, Antonio Torroni, Colin Renfrew and Arne Röhl


The early Eurasian skeletal remains show a highly tropically adapted African people of diverse sizes, up to and over 1.7 meters.

Among the modern Southern Asian, Andaman, South Seas, Australian and New Guinean populations who carry the most pristine lineages from the original OOA populations, heights range from under 1.6 to 1.9 meters.

This degree of variation in height exists today in New Guinea alone, as it does in modern Africa.

That is why these people and Africans in general most closely resemble the original OOA Population that spread throughout southern Asia, to Australia and beyond, as noted


Early Europeans still resembled modern tropical peoples -> some resemble modern Australian and Africans, more than modern Europeans [C. Stringer, R. McKie 1996]

Europeans do not become fully cold adapted until about the end of the mesolithic (Jacobs 1993)

"Nor does the picture get any clearer when we move on to the Cro-Magnons, the presumed ancestors of modern Europeans. Some were more like present-day Australians or Africans, judged by objective anatomical observations…" - African Exodus
Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie


J Hum Evol. 2005

Neves WA, Hubbe M, Okumura MM, Gonzalez-Jose R, Figuti L, Eggers S, De Blasis PA.

Laboratorio de Estudos Evolutivos Humanos, Departamento de Biologia, Instituto de Biociencias, Universidade de Sao Paulo, CP 11461, 05422-970, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil.||sevenaw

Increasing skeletal evidence from the U.S.A., Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil strongly suggests that the first settlers in the Americas had a cranial morphology distinct from that displayed by most late and modern Native Americans. The Paleoamerican morphological pattern is more generalized and can be seen today among Africans, Australians, and Melanesians. Here, we present the results of a comparative morphological assessment of a late Paleoindian from Capelinha Burial II, southern Brazil.

In both analyses performed (classical morphometrics and geometric morphometrics), the results show a clear association between Capelinha Burial II and the Paleoindians, as well as Australians, Melanesians, and Africans, confirming its Paleoamerican status.


As noted by Dr. Shomarka Keita and other bioanthropologists, Europe was one of the last places on earth settled by modern humans, the first Europeans were still tropically adapted, and they continued to show signs of tropical adaptation as late as the mesolithic.

Soon after they lost their tropical adaptations and became morphologically white, Europeans began to re-mix with Black Africans and West Asians during the Neolithic.

The result is that Europeans: appear as a mixture of 2/3rds Asian 1/3rd African- Cavelli Sforza.

This is why Europeans are closer genetically to the Blacks of Africa, whereas the Blacks of Australia, South Seas, are more 'distant'.

Genes, peoples, and languages L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza

The above is concordant with the presence of haplotypes such as Benin HBS, L1, L2 and E3b1 in, especially Southern Europe.

The perceptive will also note that this is why skin-color cannot be correlated to "race."

And it is too an example of why modern bio-anthropology is moving beyond "race".

_______ =15eaed72efbf3bc648dcd990b9a36c91

Body proportions in Late Pleistocene Europe and modern human origins*1

Trenton W. Holliday

Department of Anthropology, The College of William and Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, Virginia 23187-8795, U.S.A.


Body proportions covary with climate, apparently as the result of climatic selection. Ontogenetic research and migrant studies have demonstrated that body proportions are largely genetically controlled and are under low selective rates; thus studies of body form can provide evidence for evolutionarily short-term dispersals and/or gene flow. Following these observations, competing models of modern human origins yield different predictions concerning body proportion shifts in Late Pleistocene Europe. Replacement predicts that the earliest modern Europeans will possess “tropical” body proportions (assuming Africa is the center of origin), while Regional Continuity permits only minor shifts in body shape, due to climatic change and/or improved cultural buffering. This study tests these predictions via analyses of osteometric data reflective of trunk height and breadth, limb proportions and relative body mass for samples of Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP), Late Upper Paleolithic (LUP) and Mesolithic (MES) humans and 13 recent African and European populations. Results reveal a clear tendency for the EUP sample to cluster with recent Africans, while LUP and MES samples cluster with recent Europeans. These results refute the hypothesis of local continuity in Europe, and are consistent with an interpretation of elevated gene flow (and population dispersal?) from Africa, followed by subsequent climatic adaptation to colder conditions. These data do not, however, preclude the possibility of some (albeit small) contribution of genes from Neandertals to succeeding populations, as is postulated in Bräuer’s “Afro-European Sapiens” model.

____ 5=50aa637db46aec3ea2344079c59aece6

Brachial and crural indices of European Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic humans

Trenton W. Holliday

Department of Anthropology, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70118, U.S.A.f1


Among recent humans brachial and crural indices are positively correlated with mean annual temperature, such that high indices are found in tropical groups. However, despite inhabiting glacial Europe, the Upper Paleolithic Europeans possessed high indices, prompting Trinkaus (1981) to argue for gene flow from warmer regions associated with modern human emergence in Europe. In contrast, Frayeret al. (1993) point out that Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Europeans shouldnotexhibit tropically-adapted limb proportions, since, even assuming replacement, their ancestors had experienced cold stress in glacial Europe for at least 12 millennia.

This study investigates three questions tied to the brachial and crural indices among Late Pleistocene and recent humans. First, which limb segments (either proximal or distal) are primarily responsible for variation in brachial and crural indices? Second, are these indices reflective ofoveralllimb elongation? And finally, do the Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Europeans retain relatively and/or absolutely long limbs? Results indicate that in the lower limb, the distal limb segment contributes most of the variability to intralimb proportions, while in the upper limb the proximal and distal limb segments appear to be equally variable. Additionally, brachial and crural indices do not appear to be a good measure of overall limb length, and thus, while the Late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic humans have significantly higher (i.e., tropically-adapted) brachial and crural indices than do recent Europeans, they also have shorter (i.e., cold-adapted) limbs. The somewhat paradoxical retention of “tropical” indices in the context of more “cold-adapted” limb length is best explained as evidence for Replacement in the European Late Pleistocene, followed by gradual cold adaptation in glacial Europe.


Gough's Cave 1 (Somerset, England): an assessment of body size and shape


Stature, body mass, and body proportions are evaluated for the Cheddar Man (Gough's Cave 1) skeleton. Like many of his Mesolithic contemporaries, Gough's Cave 1 evinces relatively short estimated stature (ca. 166.2 cm [5′ 5′]) and low body mass (ca. 66 kg [146 lbs]). In body shape, he is similar to recent Europeans for most proportional indices. He differs, however, from most recent Europeans in his high crural index and tibial length/trunk height indices. Thus, while Gough's Cave 1 is characterized by a total morphological pattern considered ‘cold-adapted’, these latter two traits may be interpreted as evidence of a large African role in the origins of anatomically modern Europeans.


Europeans skin turned paled only recently, genes suggest

Researchers have disagreed for decades about an issue that is only skin-deep: How quickly did the first modern humans who swept into Europe acquire pale skin? Now a new report on the evolution of a gene for skin color suggests that Europeans lightened up quite recently, perhaps only 6000 to 12,000 years ago. This contradicts a long-standing hypothesis that modern humans in Europe grew paler about 40,000 years ago, as soon as they migrated into northern latitudes. Under darker skies, pale skin absorbs more sunlight than dark skin, allowing ultraviolet rays to produce more vitamin D for bone growth and calcium absorption. "The [evolution of] light skin occurred long after the arrival of modern humans in Europe," molecular anthropologist Heather Norton of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in her talk.

The genetic origin of the spectrum of human skin colors has been one of the big puzzles of biology. Researchers made a major breakthrough in 2005 by discovering a gene, SLC24A5, that apparently causes pale skin in many Europeans, but not in Asians. A team led by geneticist Keith Cheng of Pennsylvania State University (PSU) College of Medicine in Hershey found two variants of the gene that differed by just one amino acid. Nearly all Africans and East Asians had one allele, whereas 98% of the 120 Europeans they studied had the other (Science, 28 October 2005, p. 601).

This is a wonderful confirmation of Cavalli-Sforza's prediction about recent selection for skin color:

Either way, the implication is that our European ancestors were brown-skinned for tens of thousands of years—a suggestion made 30 years ago by Stanford University geneticist L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza. He argued that the early immigrants to Europe, who were hunter-gatherers, herders, and fishers, survived on ready-made sources of vitamin D in their diet. But when farming spread in the past 6000 years, he argued, Europeans had fewer sources of vitamin D in their food and needed to absorb more sunlight to produce the vitamin in their skin. Cultural factors such as heavier clothing might also have favored increased absorption of sunlight on the few exposed areas of skin, such as hands and faces, says paleoanthropologist Nina Jablonski of PSU in State College.


Still Evolving, Human Genes Tell New Story

Dr. Wells, of the National Geographic Society, said Dr. Pritchard's results were fascinating and would help anthropologists explain the immense diversity of human populations even though their genes are generally similar. The relative handful of selected genes that Dr. Pritchard's study has pinpointed may hold the answer, he said, adding, "Each gene has a story of some pressure we adapted to."

Dr. Wells is gathering DNA from across the globe to map in finer detail the genetic variation brought to light by the HapMap project.

Dr. Pritchard's list of selected genes also includes five that affect skin color. The selected versions of the genes occur solely in Europeans and are presumably responsible for pale skin. Anthropologists have generally assumed that the first modern humans to arrive in Europe some 45,000 years ago had the dark skin of their African origins, but soon acquired the paler skin needed to admit sunlight for vitamin D synthesis.

The finding of five skin genes selected 6,600 years ago could imply that Europeans acquired their pale skin much more recently. Or, the selected genes may have been a reinforcement of a process established earlier, Dr. Pritchard said. The five genes show no sign of selective pressure in East Asians.

Because Chinese and Japanese are also pale, Dr. Pritchard said, evolution must have accomplished the same goal in those populations by working through different genes or by changing the same genes — but many thousands of years before, so that the signal of selection is no longer visible to the new test.

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