Archive for September 13th, 2008

The Continuing Rehabiltation of Neanderthal
Did He Get a Publicist?

Church of Darwin,, Science, Sophistication of Ancestors, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Sep 13 2008

When someone uses Neanderthal as an adjective, as in he is a real Neanderthal, (or is that a noun?) it is not considered to be a compliment. However, in the last few years, with the advent of DNA sequencing and even forensic science, Neanderthal and Cro Magnon (cavemen) have been the recipients of some excellent press.

We already knew that they were stronger than “we” are, but maybe scientists now theorize, they actually looked like us; one scientist found that their DNA is 99.9% equivalent to ours (which is how your DNA compares to any neighbors); maybe, they did intermarry another supposes; their tools were the equal of ours this current article recognizes, so how come we are supposed to have supplanted them? If evolutionary theories are true, shouldn’t stronger, as intelligent beings have supplanted “us”?

Neanderthals Conquered Mammoths, Why Not Us?
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

: The Human Animal Sept. 9, 2008 — They may have been stronger, but Neanderthals looked, ate and may have even thought much like modern humans do, suggest several new studies that could help explain new evidence that the early residents of prehistoric Europe and Asia engaged in head-to-head combat with woolly mammoths.

Together, the findings call into question how such a sophisticated group apparently disappeared off the face of the Earth around 30,000 years ago.

The new evidence displays the strengths and weaknesses of Neanderthals, suggesting they were skilled hunters but not as brainy and efficient as modern humans, who eventually took over Neanderthal territories.

Neanderthal Vs. Woolly Mammoth

Most notably among the new studies is what researchers say is the first ever direct evidence that a woolly mammoth was brought down by Neanderthal weapons.

Margherita Mussi and Paola Villa made the connection after studying a 60,000 to 40,000-year-old mammoth skeleton unearthed near Neanderthal stone tool artifacts at a site called Asolo in northeastern Italy. The discoveries are described in this month’s Journal of Archaeological Science.

Villa, a curator of paleontology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, told Discovery News that other evidence suggests Neanderthals hunted the giant mammals, but not as directly. At the English Channel Islands, for example, 18 woolly mammoths and five woolly rhinoceroses dating to 150,000 years ago “were driven off a cliff and died by falling into a ravine about 30 meters (over 98 feet) deep. They were then butchered.”

Villa, however, pointed out that “there were no stone points or other possible weapons” found at the British site.

“At Asolo, instead there was a stone point that was very probably mounted on a wooden spear and used to kill the animal,” she added.

Several arrowheads were excavated at the Italian site, but the one of greatest interest is fractured at the tip, indicating that it “impacted bone or the thick skin of the mammoth.”

Other studies on stone points suggest that if such a weapon were rammed into a large beast, it would be likely to fracture the same way.

What’s For Dinner?

There is no question that Neanderthals craved meat and ate a lot of it.

A study in this month’s issue of the journal Antiquity by German anthropologists Michael Richard and Ralf Schmitz found that Neanderthals went for red meat, not of the woolly mammoth variety, but from red deer, roe deer, and reindeer.

The scientists came to that conclusion after grinding up bone samples taken from the remains of Neanderthals found in Germany and then analyzing the isotopes within. These forms of chemical elements — in this case, carbon and nitrogen — reveal if the individual being tested lived on meat, fish or plants, since each food group has its own carbon and nitrogen signature.

Richard and Schmitz conclude that the Neanderthals subsisted primarily on meat from deer, which they probably stalked in organized groups.

The researchers say their findings “reinforce the idea that Neanderthals were sophisticated hunters with an advanced ability to organize and communicate.”

Villa agrees.

“Neanderthals are no longer considered inferior hunters,” she said. “Neanderthals were capable of hunting a wide range of prey, from dangerous animals such as brown bears, mammoths and rhinos, to large, medium and small-size ungulates such as bison, aurochs, horse, red deer, reindeer, roe deer and wild goats.”

Enter Homo Sapiens

Fossils suggest that Neanderthals and modern humans coexisted in Western Europe for at least 10,000 years. While there is a smattering of evidence that the two species interbred, most anthropologists believe the commingling was infrequent or not enough to substantially affect the Homo sapiens gene pool.

New evidence supports that notion, while also revealing that the world’s first anatomically modern humans retained a few Neanderthal-like characteristics.

Several papers in the current Journal of Human Evolution describe the world’s first known people, which shared bone, hand and ankle features with Neanderthals and possibly also Homo erectus.

John Fleagle, professor of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University, who worked on the early human research, told Discovery News that the shared characteristics “are just primitive features retained from a common ancestor.”

Neanderthal Brain Power

It’s known that Neanderthals had more robust skeletons than modern humans, with particularly strong arms and hands, but were the two groups evenly matched in brainpower?

A new study in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides some intriguing clues.

Marcia Ponce de Leon of the University of Zurich’s Anthropological Institute and Museum and her colleagues virtually reconstructed brain size and growth of three Neanderthal infant skeletons found in Syria and Russia.

“Neanderthal brain size at birth was similar to that in recent Homo sapiens and most likely subject to similar obstetric constraints,” Ponce de Leon and her team concluded, although they added that “Neanderthal brain growth rates during early infancy were higher” than those experienced by modern humans.

It appears, therefore, that while Neanderthal brains grew at about the same rate as ours, they had a small size advantage.

Trade-Offs in Evolution

But bigger is not always better in terms of brain function. Modern humans evolved smaller, but more efficient, brains.

Ponce de Leon and her colleagues suggest, “It could be argued that growing smaller — but similarly efficient — brains required less energy investment and might ultimately have led to higher net reproduction rates.”

On the down side for people, however, brainpower efficiency doesn’t come without a cost.

“Our new research suggests that schizophrenia is a byproduct of the increased metabolic demands brought about during human brain evolution,” explained Philipp Khaitovich of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Cards Evenly Stacked

Weighing the pros and cons of each species, Neanderthals and modern humans may have been evenly matched when they shared European land, with more and more scientists puzzling over how such an advanced, human-like being became extinct.

University of Exeter archaeologist Metin Eren hopes the latest findings will not only change the image of Neanderthals, but also the direction that future research on these prehistoric hominids will take.

“It is time for archaeologists to start searching for other reasons why Neanderthals became extinct while our ancestors survived,” Eren said.

“When we think of Neanderthals, we need to stop thinking in terms of stupid or less advanced and more in terms of different,” he added.

See Also: Neanderthal Brains Grew Like “Ours”. Duh!

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Noah’s Ark Nestled on Mount Ararat?

Religious,, Science, Sophistication of Ancestors, The Flood of Noah, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Sep 13 2008

Source ::: The Peninsula / BY SATISH KANADY

Dogubayazit (Turkey’s Iran-Armenian Border) • For the first time in the seven decade-long history of the search for the legendary Noah’s Ark, a Turkish-Hong Kong exploration team on Tuesday came out with “material evidence”, to prove that the Ark was nestled on Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest mountain peak bordering Iran and Armenia.

A panel of experts, comprising Turkish authorities, veteran mountaineers, archaeologists, geologists and members of Hong Kong-based Noah’s Ark Ministries International, also displayed an almost one-metre-long peice of petrified wood before the media and specially invited international experts.

The experts claimed it to be a part of a long structure they had unearthed during their February-August 2007 exploration. “It is for the first time in the history of the Ark search that an exploration team is getting a material evidence and graphic documentation. This makes it not only a the significant breakthrough in the Ark-search, but one that is supported with the most substantial evidence in recent history,” the panel said.

The revelation is expected to open up a fresh chapter in the ongoing debates in the scientific community on the search for Noah’s Ark.

Narrating the genesis of their exploration on Mount Ararat, the mount which has a direct reference in Holy Quran (Mount Judi) and Bible, the panel said the search team had made several foiled attempts before unearthing the evidence at an altitude of 4,500-metres of the estimated 5,165 metre volcanic mountain.

“The structure was discovered in the interiors of an unusual cave. The 11.5m wide and 2.6m high white wooden texture was revealed after removing thick layers of volcanic ash on the cave wall,” panel members said at a press conference.

One of the underlying issues in the search for the Ark is the proper identification of its wood fragments. A petrographic examination carried out by the Applied Geoscience Centre of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, identified the object as a petrified wooden structure, the panel said.

“Some of the big holes found on the structure indicate the locations where branches used to grow on tree. In places, original holes are partly or completely replaced by individual minerals and crystalline materials that can be found in rock materials,” said Dr Ahmet Ozbek, a panel member, who is also a faculty of Geology Engineering Kahramanmara Suctcu Imam University.

Dismissing the possibilities of the structure being wood that could appear naturally around the discovery site, Professor Oktay Belli, director, Eurasian Archaeology Institute, University of Istanbul, said researches have proved that there was no vegetation on Mount Ararat ever since 2000BC, because of the asperities of Ararat’s climate.

Talking to The Peninsula, Cemalettin Demircioglu, Dogubayazit City Governor, under whose jurisdiction the mount is located, said the civic body will invite more international experts to conduct further scientific studies on Mount Ararat.

“History has more than one times corroborated the legendary evidence that the ark was nestled on Mount Ararat. We will introduce the latest findings to the world and continue the scientific study. All interested scientists and NGOs can join our missions” he said. However, he said, those who are involved in the project must ensure the findings are not used politically, religiously, or for any vested interest.

Located in the Far Eastern Turkey, Ararat is great prize for mountain collectors. Ark sighting has often been reported from this mountain. The observation of Vessel-shaped features in aerial photograph of Ararat had caused a stir in the late 1950’s. However, this is the first time an exploration team is coming out with “material evidence”.

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How Does the Speed of Thought Compare for Brains and Digital Computers?

Science, Uncategorized, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Sep 13 2008

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…Psalm 139

“In a prior article about the human brain; “A Single Brain More Poweful Than All Computers Ever Made”, a comparison was made between memory capacity of modern computers and that of the human brain. This article compares the “speed of thought” between the two and –the human brain wins.

These authors mention design a number of times, apparently quite unselfconsciously. We would have to agree that design rather than random, undirected mutation explains why the brain is so fearfully and wonderfully made”…

By Naveen Nagarajan and Charles F. Stevens
University of California at San Francisco and The Salk Institute, PO Box 85800,
Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, San Diego California 92138-9216, USA

“In the early part of the 20th century, the Harvard University Observatory employed a small army of women — they were known at the time as girl computers — to identify images of stars on photographic plates and then to record the intensity and location of each identified star.

The job done by these girl computers has long since been taken over by the digital sort. We all know that digital computers are much better than we are at doing arithmetic, but over the past few decades computers have been taking over jobs, like playing chess or recognizing speech or carrying out symbolic mathematical manipulations, that we used to think of as the province of the human brain.

How close are computers, like HAL in the movie 2001, to matching those things that now only our brains can do? Our goal here is to compare the capabilities and speeds of the brain with those of modern-day computers.”

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