Neanderthal mtDNA from before 220,000 y.o. Early Modern Human

Fact or Baloney…read on…

Neandertals and modern humans started mating early

For almost a century, Neandertals were considered the ancestors of modern humans. But in a new plot twist in the unfolding mystery of how Neandertals were related to modern humans, it now seems that members of our lineage were among the ancestors of Neandertals. Researchers sequenced ancient DNA from the mitochondria—tiny energy factories inside cells—from a Neandertal who lived about 100,000 years ago in southwest Germany. They found that this DNA, which is inherited only from the mother, resembled that of early modern humans.

After comparing the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) with that of other archaic and modern humans, the researchers reached a startling conclusion: A female member of the lineage that gave rise to Homo sapiens in Africa mated with a Neandertal male more than 220,000 years ago—much earlier than other known encounters between the two groups. Her children spread her genetic legacy through the Neandertal lineage, and in time her African mtDNA completely replaced the ancestral Neandertal mtDNA.

Other researchers are enthusiastic about the hypothesis, described in Nature Communications this week, but caution that it will take more than one genome to prove. “It’s a nice story that solves a cool mystery—how did Neandertals end up with mtDNA more like that of modern humans,” says population geneticist Ilan Gronau of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel. But “they have not nailed it yet.”

 The study adds to a catalog of ancient genomes, including mtDNA as well as the much larger nuclear genomes, from more than a dozen Neandertals. Most of these lived at the end of the species’ time on Earth, about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. Researchers also have analyzed the complete nuclear and mtDNA genomes of another archaic group from Siberia, called the Denisovans. The nuclear DNA suggested that Neandertals and Denisovans were each other’s closest kin and that their lineage split from ours more than 600,000 years ago. But the Neandertal mtDNA from these samples posed a mystery: It was not like Denisovans’ and was closely related to that of modern humans—a pattern at odds with the ancient, 600,000 year divergence date. Last year Svante Pääbo’s team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, offered a startling solution: Perhaps the “Neandertal” mtDNA actually came from modern humans.

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Strange! Everything I’ve read previously has said the Neanderthal mtDna was not at all similar to any H. sapiens mtDna haplogroups. 

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In the new study, paleogeneticists Johannes Krause and Cosimo Posth of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, test this wild idea with ancient mtDNA from a Neandertal thighbone found in 1937 in the Hohlenstein-Stadel cave (HST) in Germany. Isotopes in animal bones found with the Neandertal suggest that it lived in a woodland known to have vanished at least 100,000 years ago.

Researchers compared the coding region of the HST Neandertal’s mtDNA with that of 17 other Neandertals, three Denisovans, and 54 modern humans. The HST Neandertal’s mtDNA was significantly different even from that of proto-Neandertals that date to 430,000 years ago at Sima de los Huesos in Spain, suggesting that their mtDNA had been completely replaced. But the HST sample was also surprisingly distinct from that of other Neandertals, allowing researchers to build a phylogenetic tree and study how Neandertal mtDNA evolved over time.

Using modern humans’ mtDNA mutation rate to calculate the timing, the researchers conclude that the HST mtDNA split from that of all other Neandertals at least 220,000 years ago. The ancient H. sapiens’ mtDNA must have entered the Neandertal lineage before this time, but after 470,000 years ago, the earliest date for when modern human and Neandertal mtDNA diverged. That’s early enough for the new form of mtDNA to have spread among Neandertals and replaced all their mtDNA.

“The mtDNA of Neandertals is not actually from Neandertals, but from an early modern human from Africa,” Krause says. The researchers speculate that this key mating may have happened in the Middle East, where early H. sapiens may have ventured. Other researchers find the scenario remarkable but plausible. “It seems magical but this type of thing happens all the time … especially if the populations are very small,” Gronau says. For example, the mtDNA in some grizzly bears has been completely replaced by that of polar bears, Krause says.

But some experts say DNA from other Neandertals is needed to prove that their mtDNA was inherited entirely from an early H. sapiens rather than from an ancient ancestor the two groups shared. “Is there other evidence of another [early] mtDNA introgression event?” asks Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

Not yet, Posth says. Pääbo is seeking evidence of early gene swapping by trying to get nuclear DNA from the HST Neandertal and others. “We will learn a lot about the population history of Neandertals over the next few years,” he says.

Posted in: Evolution

doi:10.1126/science.aan70

 

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Prose / Old Ladies, Ranches, Dust and Dirt


When I first moved to small town Wyoming, in 1995, I didn’t have much to do, so I volunteered to deliver meals to seniors and disabled people; to private homes and a small apartment building (our version of low-income public housing). It sits at the base of a large outcrop of sandstone. A stand of big Aspen, planted when the place was built, lures deer; the residents can watch them browse on the lawn and to settle in for the night. It’s a decent solution for people living on social security or disability. Quiet, safe, pets allowed.

My challenge was handling the fiendish molded plastic containers that stacked up like legos – slipped apart easily or fell over, even though cinched together by thick nylon shipping straps. How many times did they twist open disgorging tiny potions of chili-mac or chicken tetrazzini, canned pears and cranberry sauce in the icy parking lot or on hallway carpets? I didn’t like going to private homes: my undiagnosed Aspergerness balked at that intrusion: private being the operative negative fact. But, I didn’t have that hesitation within the apartment building.

Two women soon became “chat friends” They were unlike each other; one had been raised on a ranch well outside town. She was in her late 80s; tall, sturdy, healthy and consistent in her lament: she had outlived everyone in her large family; siblings, husband, children. She wanted to die. Life had been wonderful. She was overflowing with memories of a stellar childhood – the ranch, so far from town. Freedom, family; challenges, hard work and material deprivation. They knew nothing else. I could feel the warmth that still glowed inside her, like a campfire burned down to ashy coals.

Her greeting was always the same. “Still here,” she’d say, and I’d steer her thoughts to the “old days” because I liked her stories about the difficult and rare trips to town on  horseback, mule, or in a wagon, eventually an old truck; candy at the store, some provisions, maybe new shoes or jeans, but always the family together fighting dust, ruts, snow, broken wheels, axles, deep in mud, pushing, pulling, dragging and shoving vehicles, depending on Dad and Mom for everything. And the big land that cradled them all.

The other woman? A marvel of endurance. Tiny, crooked, crippled, twisted by  arthritis; confined to a big recliner that swallowed her whole. Each slight move jabbed her body with searing pain. She was fastidious regardless, about herself and her apartment; always “dressed up” in local terms and apologetic about the state of her rooms. A spec of dust, a missed cobweb, drove her mad. It was soon apparent that this obsession with “cleaning” kept her alive – as well as habit and routine and rage against disobedient “stuff” that fortunately for her, is abundant in Wyoming: windblown sand, clay and muck that penetrates all human habitations. One more day to vanquish disorder; that’s how she greeted the morning. It’s how she had evidently greeted every dawn of her long life.

So different, these two. Each with their attitudes toward death. Memories smoothed and sculpted and selected by their personalities, increased by time, and the “whole” of their lives neglected for chosen mythologies. What else had happened to them in 80+ years? It didn’t seem to matter. Their lives, their choices.

 

Prose / Viet Nam Vet in a Chicago Bar

Our fall “season” barely exists: it “slushed” yesterday; icy rain that fell and accumulated in patches that melted away. The end of summer is arbitrary: for me it’s the morning after – the morning after my carefully-coaxed potted flowers have turned to mush in the freezing night and / or have been chopped into salad by hail and wind.  This morning is damp; heavy clouds comfort the southern horizon, above the hills that form one boundary of the bowl in which town rests, just before the river turns south into canyon country. Pale blue sky is gaining on them, as the “late” sun begins to clear the overcast away. The span of daylight is noticeably shorter; incremental, but suddenly profound: my sleep habits must adjust. I am so dominated by climate; by body feels like a substance that is pushed and pulled along with the land and atmosphere by solar change – a strange metamorphosis that has occurred since childhood, and ever since, directed by unseen forces, in the way that the ocean responds to earth-moon geometry.

The dog feels it too; or is she responding to me? My little planet; I am her world. It’s bizarre what we have done to dogs. She follows my intentions, even when dozing in another room; the fridge door opens, a spoon touches china; a cellophane package crinkles and she’s instantly in the doorway with her eyes fixed on mine.

“For me?” they ask. And if I say “no” with my eyes and movements, she says, “Why not for me?” and disappears. So I wait awhile, and give her a bite of something, when she’s not begging, just to let her know that I love her, and all is well between us.

This “fall weather” is a time of visions: not the “spooky” type, but pictures begin to fall upward, the reverse of leaves now descending from trees, from memories ignored, out of reach while summer demands attention. Bits and scraps float by; neither here nor there, important nor unimportant. They taste sweet but bitter at the edges, and an emotion I feel as gratitude wells up with them, like gas bubbles that are released from a lake bottom, rising slowly to join the air: I watch them carefully as they dissolve.

One is familiar, and visits me frequently, arising due to the airing of the Viet Nam “documentary” on PBS. A disappointing work; I won’t go into that now.

In my memory, it’s nighttime in Chicago; a typical Chicago bar. My husband and friends from work are in the crowd, laughing, dancing, replaying the week as usual. I’m standing at the bar; dark wood, crowded bottles, busy bartenders filling beer glasses at breakneck speed, the sweet sticky liquid slopping over onto the wood. I’m wedged between two bar stools; all are occupied. A man turns his head toward me; he looks like a young Teddy Roosevelt; blondish and drunk, holding a shot glass and staring through his eyeglasses; he’s seething at me through squinty eyes.

He turns his whole body toward me, and orders another beer. He grinds out a question that takes me by surprise. It seems that my friends and I are insulting him by having a good time. He’s just returned from Viet Nam: we’re all stupid idiots. Don’t we know how bad it is over there?

My reaction was immediate; not angry, but close. I knew that I would never forget his face and that body; solid, tense, coiled to explode and seething with pain. I knew that if I were a man, one wrong response and he might have punched me. Is that why he chose me, a woman, to confront? Maybe he wanted comfort; maybe he wanted to cry.

“We didn’t send you to Viet Nam,” I said. “No one here sent you: you either volunteered or were drafted. We’re living our lives as we believe life ought to be lived.”

He smirked. “You’re idiots,” he said. And continued along that line of thought. I knew he was in trouble; in an impossible personal battle; changed irrevocably into “seeing” the people, places and homeland he had once participated in, as “unclean” in thought, action and careless adventure. He was angry because it would never be the same place for him again. He couldn’t differentiate between individuals; we were all guilty of destroying his illusions. To be happy and enjoying ourselves was to deny his crisis. But it wasn’t; not really. More joy, less suffering, seemed to me to be the obvious equation. The impulse to make others suffer one’s own conflicts, misfortune and despair reminded me too much of my mother’s perpetual need to “shit on” whatever happiness other people found.

“You can’t bring Viet Nam back here,” I said. “It will never make sense. You made it back alive, without being wounded or injured, from what I can see. You’ve escaped great danger. That’s enough to build on.” In my mind was a picture of Odysseus, Man of Sorrow, Man of War.

I’ve never forgotten that man. My sense was that he was a solid person; capable of finding accommodation within his suffering, for eventually grasping the notion that life begins today as a creative project, whatever has happened in a thousand days, a hundred thousand days, or in all of human history. We’d intersected in a bar, in Chicago, on a Friday night, in a place where people brought all kinds of misery and joy and history to release into the night. But he’s never left my mind.

 

I used to write prose / Inside out, and Outside in

img_0199fbSpent the day on my hands and knees stripping the kitchen floor of wax; don’t think I’ll ever do that again. Now it’s evening, and I pace that floor to the rhythm of worries financial. Tense, restless, wondering what is next, if anything, but more of the same. Caretaking; years pass, taking care of myself and a small house.

The dog comes in, wanting a walk; that’s how she takes care of me.

August is the time of weeds, town taken over, deserted; sci-fi post end-of-the-world deserted. We walk, the dog and I, through town; quiet beyond normal, normally quiet; our town is a rest stop in the wilderness. There are two wildernesses, one of man and one of nature, one inside and one outside: civilization lies somewhere east and west.

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My house is barely a house – it supplies a hot shower, cooking stove, lights, doors and windows. The walls form a blow-through tunnel. Inside out, and outside in; sand, clay, leaves and footprints.

It’s a camp – an old lady camp, with a dry potted garden and laundry on the line; clothes burnt dry, smelling of ozone; the dog lies under the waves of fabric. Breathing dogs and blowing wind are the rhythm of my house. A barefoot house, winter and summer, my feet love my house.

War is a MALE Social Activity / Nukes

Who will be “King” of a dead planet?

My childhood story wrote itself, directed by an impulse to challenge The Official Story, which never did make sense to me. First, there was the story my parents told about their marriage. I would listen to their private histories, both sad and tragic, and wonder why these obvious strangers insisted that finding each other and committing to an unworkable lifelong union was the best of all possible outcomes. Each parent had chosen to add to each other’s suffering by making a brief courtship legal, when apart, each could have pursued happiness. Why would any person do this?

It’s a simple question, but thousands of years of myth, religion, rules and laws, social convention, government institutions, and even reform and innovation in these areas, promote suffering, which has been elevated to the unshakeable position of human destiny. It wasn’t that I imagined a perfect world; I could not imagine why, when suffering exists as an inescapable consequence of being physical creatures, one would choose to voluntarily increase that suffering, and yet, it seemed to me that human beings put great effort into that outcome.

The consequences of choice preoccupied my mind. It took a long time for the reality to sink in: many people don’t recognize that they can make independent choices; their “choices” have been  predestined by a belief system that is so powerful that everything they do is shadowed by the question, What am I supposed to do?” It was shocking to me that people suffered unnecessarily by sticking to roles that had been proven over and over again to result in physical and mental harm to both individuals and groups, and which brought humankind to a state of nearly universal and chronic suffering.

Technology and science appeared as bright spots in the dead gray fog of human behavior that plagued mankind. Radio, television, household appliances, bicycles, automobiles, photography, hot running water, antibiotics, aspirin, eyeglasses – all were advances in comfort, health and pleasure. But! On the new and mysterious TV in our living room, movies were shown that dramatized war and the “wonderful machines of war’ that man had created. Soldiers were happy to be able to help out, as if they were at a communal barn-raising. They looked forward to killing strangers, whether men, women, children or animals, known as The Bad Guys, using guns, knives, grenades and flamethrowers to mangle, maim, and roast people alive. They did this, and then smoked cigarettes. War was fun: a joyful guy thing. The actual horror was ignored, except for an occasional hospital scene where doctors and nurses fixed wounded men so that they could go back and kill more people, or inevitably for some, to be killed. The reward for death and suffering was a cigarette if you lived and a flag and a speech about patriotism if you died.

I couldn’t imagine participating in a war, inflicting pain and death in horrific ways, and also risk my own life – for what? My life was given to me and was sacred. It didn’t belong to anyone else, especially to Big Men who were so careless as to throw lives away so easily.

The usual answer given to children was that there are The Bad Guys, and you have to kill The Bad Guys.

This wasn’t an answer simplified for a child; this was The Answer. It still is.

Soldiers usually do know, once there are at war, that they are being used by the Big Men (human predators) to do their killing.

Many soldiers realize, once they are at war, that they are being used by the Big Men (human predators) to do their killing.

The Korean War began in 1950: we rushed in to "save" Korea from the communists: the country is still divided and 28,000 U.S. troops are still deployed there, 64 years later.

The Korean War began in 1950: we rushed in to “save” Korea from the communists: the country ended up being divided, and 28,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in S. Korea 64 years later.

Few American young people have any idea that the U.S. we invaded Viet Nam, lost, and had to hand the country over to the communist Viet Cong.

Few American young people have any idea that the U.S. invaded Viet Nam, lost the war, with 58,000 dead American soldiers and lost the country to the communist Viet Cong.

Better not ask the question, “How can God be on our side and theirs, too? Everyone says God is always on our side, therefore we are The Good Guys, but The Bad Guys say the same thing. It’s this loopy thinking that keeps people stuck. Why can’t people exit the loop?”

If one pressed the question of war, supplementary answers appeared: the technology developed in war time benefits civilians later. Improved emergency medical techniques, antibiotics, more accurate clocks, fast computers, and many other gadgets were developed to better prosecute war. I found it absurd and shocking that we must have wars in which millions suffer and die so that Mom can cook in a microwave oven and I can take penicillin for a strep throat. Isn’t the suffering brought by disease or accident sufficient motivation to develop medical treatments? The Bull Shit  kept getting deeper.

I lived with a distinct biting anxiety over my obvious lack of sympathy for traditional ideas, which were presented as demands by those who had secured a rung of authority on The Pyramid. Lies were everywhere: in school, at church, at home, on television and in newspapers. I devoured  history books, and biographies of artists, scientists and adventurers – many of whom were people who defied The Official Story, not as bad guys or crusader or reformers, but because alternative explanations made more sense. They often had to hide their work and lived precarious lives, only to have their ideas rediscovered much later, when people discovered profit in their ideas. A happy few gained protection from a powerful patron, and saw their ideas exploited to perpetuate The Official Story that war is necessary, and isn’t it great to have bigger and better weapons, so that our side can kill more and more of The Bad Guys, and whole swathes of innocent bystanders who somehow get in the way.

I listened to educated people make abundant excuses as to why any improvement  is impossible, or must be carried out in the way it has always been done, despite acknowledged failures, as if they were driving forward, but with the parking brake set. “Let’s just throw some platitudes and money at the problem. Maybe it will stick,” is proof that humans are not very smart. Social humans claim to possess all sorts of intelligence and problem-solving skills, and then fall flat on their faces in the same old ruts.

After a lifetime of wondering why humans make life intolerable, I was informed that I am Asperger, which means that I’m not a Social human, but I still have to wait for the nukes to fall, just like everyone else…

 

Visual Thinking / Speyer Cathedral – Space Shuttle

A visual thinker files away information in the form of images that may be “triggered” by encounters, many years later, that recall a stored image. Often, these mean nothing – are simple coincidence; mere curiosities – and will be returned to visual memory, but “updated” by the comparison.

In this case, a chance “appearance” of a photo of Speyer Cathedral, found while searching for something else on the Internet, immediately produced in my mind, an image of the Space Shuttle. The striking similarity of forms passed from a coincidence to a curiosity – and then to an idea expressed by Oswald Spengler in Decline of the West:  – that Western Culture is driven by the desire to overcome the visible; to expand into time and space; to replace organic nature with machines.

A thousand years in time separate these two iconic products of Western Civilization: Is the space shuttle not the fulfillment of the cathedral? Note that the (abstract) concept of Western desire for domination and “spatial conquest” is represented in my visual brain by SPECIFIC concrete objects, which only then, can be “connected” to word concepts.

untitled-speyer

Speyer is dominated by its Romanesque cathedral (dedicated 1061). Speyer is one of Germany’s oldest cities and the resting place of eight medieval emperors and kings of the Salian, Staufer and Habsburg dynasties. History: Speyer was the seat of the Imperial Chamber Court between 1527 and 1689, and also held 50 sessions of the Imperial Diet. The First Diet of Speyer (1526) decreed toleration of Lutheran teaching, soon revoked by the Second Diet of Speyer (1529). The latter diet led to the Protestation at Speyer the same year, during which 6 princes and 14 Imperial Free Cities protested against the anti-Reformation resolutions. It is from this event that the term ‘Protestantism’ was coined.

The History of the Space Shuttle, by Alan Taylor, Jul 1, 2011 (Fabulous photos): From its first launch 30 years ago (1981) to its final mission scheduled for next Friday, NASA’s Space Shuttle program has seen moments of dizzying inspiration and of crushing disappointment. When next week’s launch is complete, the program will have sent up 135 missions, ferrying more than 350 humans and thousands of tons of material and equipment into low Earth orbit. The missions have been risky, the engineering complex, the hazards extreme. Indeed, over the years 14 shuttle astronauts lost their lives.

 

How Science is Supposed to Work / Earth Science Revolution

NEWYORKTIMES

Quakes, Tectonic and Theoretical

First Job in Wyoming / Telemarketeer Re-Post

Telemarketeer -Twenty years ago…

1997: In my now-and-then capacity as a telemarketer for the local newspaper, I have been addressed as Sir, Son, Ma’m, Dear, and Dude. The confusion produced by my telephone voice began when I was about ten years old, the result of an innocent quirk of nature that caused my mother so much embarrassment that she directed me to speak in a higher, more feminine voice, insisting that if I did so, the change would become permanent. Her idiotic suggestion did not win my compliance, and to this day the people I ring up on behalf of the local newspaper call me Sir, Son, Ma’am, or even Dude and I let them think whatever they wish.

As TV journalists like to say, “the vast majority” of copies of the weekly flyer named The Guide are delivered to residents of two towns in our county. Of the 30,000 copies printed each week, 350 must be mailed to outlying households, a service for which the United States Postal Service charges the publishers $125.00 per week. The postal authorities have decided that we (that’s me) must obtain the names of 8,000 people who will admit that they wish to receive The Guide, otherwise the Postal Service will no longer permit copies to be mailed bulk rate.

snFFvtV

About Our County: Not the entire state, just our county. Imagine an area the size of Massachusetts. Remove the vegetation, the history, the thriving cities and towns, the ethnic culture, the restaurants, the shopping, the seafood, the numerous institutions of research and higher learning, the cultural arts, professional sports teams, and all but 45,000 of its people. Add bitter alkaline soil, a uniformly high and lifeless plateau (average altitude 6,500′) and precipitation on a par with the Mongolian Steppe. True, a river does flow through the area like the Nile crosses Egypt, but without delivering a single bucket of fertile sediment. Too barren for cattle – Pronghorn, coyote, varmints and rabbits form a tentative fauna. Hordes of sheep are trucked in during February because the vast public lands mean they can be rotated to a different grazing patch every two to three days.

Over the brief time that I’ve lived in Wyoming, contact with my neighbors has for the most part been via the phone calls I make on behalf of the newspaper’s ongoing survey. When someone answers the phone, I say, “This is The Guide calling to verify that you still wish to receive The Guide.”

The usual response is “uh” or “uh-huh”, both of which mean yes, so I quickly confirm the address as it appears in the phone book. Good enough, but in an extraordinary number of instances, the phone number does not belong to the person listed in the phone book. This invalidates the response, and I must ask the person to reveal his or her correct address and identity. Shockingly, he or she invariably complies. The percentage of disconnected numbers is also high: area jobs depend on oil and gas production and coal and trona (baking soda) mining, industries that guarantee a boom and bust transient population.

About half the respondents don’t recognize the free paper as The Guide, so I prompt them with, “The free Tuesday paper, the shopper’s guide, you know, the one that has the TV listings inside?”

Everyone gets it then, although a few say, “Oh! That thing I find in my bushes every Tuesday.” Which is true.

An alarming number of residents fear that we intend to take it away from them or that we will start charging for it. One woman said, “Well, if it’s a bother, I guess you can stop bringing it.”

Another meekly replied, “No, I don’t want it anymore – is that OK?”

A few say positive things such as, “We love that little paper.” “I sure do need that TV Guide,” and “Don’t leave me without the grocery store coupons.”

A teenager responded wryly, “My mother and her husband aren’t here. Call back.” Stereotypical husbands must ask the wife. “I’m not in a decision-making position in this house,” admitted one.

“My wife just got laid off and I’m kinda gettin’ that way too.” What this had to do with receiving a free paper, I’m not sure. I worry about folks who contrive to make me decide whether to say “yes” or “no” for them, and about a man who shouted, “Come over for a soft drink, a cup of coffee, and Ritz crackers.”

A high percentage of those who wish to stop delivery cite failing eyesight or blindness.

“I always have the TV on, why do I need a TV guide?” an elderly gentleman asked.

Sometimes despair overcomes me when my phone call intrudes on what sounds like a tiny human black hole at the center of a room-sized galaxy, surviving on energy sucked from an excruciatingly loud television set, with the furnace set on Hell, in the company of a sole surviving houseplant that was packed into potting soil in 1952, its one withered leaf gasping for the CO2 that the old human can no longer supply in sufficient quantity. Enough poetry.

The phone book is crammed with names that are new to me: Likwartz, Labuda, Bodyfelt, Copyak, Bozovich, Blazovich, Chewning, Bilyeu, Crnich, Cukale, Delanneoy, Depoyster, Fagnant, Holopeter, Jauregui, Jelouchan, Lovercheck, Manhard, Warpness, and more. Between 1850 and 1950, this corner of Wyoming attracted an international ensemble of men looking for the worst work on earth, but alas, ethnic names are the only lasting evidence of a diverse cultural heritage, which is not surprising in an environment that defeats human effort, and in which the vast and bleak land paralyzes the psyche.

A friend who grew up in a coal camp north of town contends that by the 1950’s, everyone had become the same. “Everybody just looked and sounded the same,” he said. “Bleak, beaten up, defeated.”

I continue to jot down amazing names: LaDonna LaCroix, Season Lower, Ty Harder,  Larry Hell, Numa Grubb, Jack Leathers, Bert Mexican, Edwardo Wardo, Osmo Ranta, Clint Chick, Caddy Cackler, Fyrn Coon, Rhett Coy, Theron Dye, Deena & Alle Jo Butters, Kamber Bink Backman, Wanda Hodo, Hushlen Cochrun, Tex Jasperson, Cyma Cudney, Bubb Buh. And the surnames – Uncapher, Sweat, Warpness, Chitica, Laundra, Tonette.

Another melancholy evening as a telemarketer: one phone exchange took off on a sad energy of its own. I don’t recall what set the woman off, but she said that as a young bride she had agreed to follow her husband into the Colorado mountains for a three-month try at a mining job. The pair stayed to raise four kids before moving to Wyoming.

“Eighteen years in Colorado, eighteen here,” she said. A symmetrical life at least. Her husband still works as a miner and drives “a twelve-mile-long dirt road with nothing but ditches” to work and back, which worries her. “I can’t believe that my life is all gone,” she sighed.  “After eighteen years we still don’t know anyone in this town.”

Me neither: my rubber dingy ran aground here a short two years ago and I’ve been busy falling in love with the landscape.

“We’re sorry, you have reached a marriage that has been disconnected or is no longer in service.” No longer connected are Duke + Sandra; Don + Darla; Eldon + LaRie; Cactus + Tammy; Amber + Travis; Hava + Holly; Jay + Dee Dee.

It could be 1957 outside the newspaper office, except that town was an exciting enclave back then. Copies of the newspaper from that time are characterized by enthusiasm and pride; by advertisements for roadhouses, dance halls, and social clubs that catered to every interest, age and hobby. There were restaurants and stores. A full plate of gossip and local news kept people connected. Flipping through the old papers makes me wish I had wandered here a half century ago.

Today’s main street is a dreary alignment of gas stations, concrete block motels, and auto body shops punctuated by weedy lots and businesses that stick to the Interstate interchange at either end of town like cultural antibodies guaranteed to fight off growth and prosperity.

Best Neanderthal Reconstruction? Blake Ketchum, PhD

http://blakeketchum.com/index.php/art/category/reconstruction

Forbes Quarry specimen, Gibraltar: Discovered 1848. I added some rough hair. I know this is supposed to be a female Neanderthal, but it’s a reach to imagine what she would look like. I think with hair, this person looks remarkably like “us”.

Extinction by Dr. Blake Ketchum. Cast Stone. 30cm tall. Actually, “Extinction” seems an inappropriate title – this Neanderthal looks very “familiar” – a fellow human being.

This portrait is a faithful forensic reconstruction of a Neanderthal individual. A model of the Forbes Quarry cranium was used as the foundation for the sculpture. You can see a progressive development of the sculpture here. I used the Manchester Method of forensic reconstruction, which relies more upon anatomical geometry than tissue depth, which is not available for Neanderthals, of course. This sculpture has been shown widely at competition in international online exhibits and in galleries in NYC and throughout the North Eastern US. A cast is a part of the permanent collection of the Earth and Mineral Science Museum of Penn State University.