Hunter-gatherers have a special way with smells / Study

=Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

When it comes to naming colors, most people do so with ease. But, for odors, it’s much harder to find the words. One notable exception to this rule is found among the Jahai people, a group of hunter-gatherers living in the Malay Peninsula who can name odors just as easily as colors. A new study by Asifa Majid (Radboud University and MPI for Psycholinguistics) and Nicole Kruspe (Lund University) suggests that the Jahai’s special way with smell is related to their hunting and gathering lifestyle.

“There has been a long-standing consensus that ‘smell is the mute sense, the one without words,’ and decades of research with English-speaking participants seemed to confirm this,” says Asifa Majid of Radboud University and MPI for Psycholinguistics. “But, the Jahai of the Malay Peninsula are much better at naming odors than their English-speaking peers. This, of course, raises the question of where this difference originates.”

Hunter-Gatherers and horticulturalists

To find out whether it was the Jahai who have an unusually keen ability with odors or whether English speakers are simply lacking, Majid and Nicole Kruspe (Lund University, Sweden) examined two related, but previously unstudied, groups of people in the tropical rainforest of the Malay Peninsula: the hunter-gatherer Semaq Beri and the non-hunter-gatherer Semelai. The Semelai are traditionally farmers, combining shifting rice cultivation with the collection of forest products for trade.

The Semaq Beri and Semelai not only live in a similar environment; they also speak closely related languages. The question was: how easily are they able to name odors? “If ease of olfactory naming is related to cultural practices, then we would expect the Semaq Beri to behave like the Jahai and name odors as easily as they do colors, whereas the Semelai should pattern differently,” the researchers wrote in their recently published study in Current Biology. And, that’s exactly what they found.

Testing color- and odor-abilities

Majid and Kruspe tested the color- and odor-naming abilities of 20 Semaq Beri and 21 Semelai people. Sixteen odors were used: orange, leather, cinnamon, peppermint, banana, lemon, licorice, turpentine, garlic, coffee, apple, clove, pineapple, rose, anise, and fish. For the color task, study participants saw 80 standardised color chips, sampling 20 equally spaced hues at four degrees of brightness. Kruspe tested participants in their native language by simply asking, “What smell is this?” or “What color is this?”

The results were clear. The hunter-gatherer Semaq Beri performed on those tests just like the hunter-gatherer Jahai, naming odors and colors with equal ease.The non-hunter-gatherer Semelai, on the other hand, performed like English speakers. For them, odors were difficult to name. The results suggest that the downgrading in importance of smells relative to other sensory inputs is a recent consequence of cultural adaption, the researchers say. “Hunter-gatherers’ olfaction is superior, while settled peoples’ olfactory cognition is diminished,” Majid says.

They say the findings challenge the notion that differences in neuroarchitecture alone underlie differences in olfaction, suggesting instead that cultural variation may play a more prominent role. They also raise a number of interesting questions: “Do hunter-gatherers in other parts of the world also show the same boost to olfactory naming?” Majid asks. “Are other aspects of olfactory cognition also superior in hunter-gatherers,” for example, the ability to differentiate one odor from another? “Finally, how do these cultural differences interact with the biological infrastructure for smell?” She says it will be important to learn whether these groups of people show underlying genetic differences related to the sense of smell.

This study was funded by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research as well as the Swedish Foundation.


Majid, A., & Kruspe, N. (2018). Hunter-gatherer olfaction is special. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.12.014



Down and Dirty Primitive Hunting Technology / Videos

HUNGER: The prime motivator of human behavior and technology. Primitive tools compensate for “puny human” lack of claws, reduced olfactory sense, and other assets possessed by the competition: other hungry animals, including many much smaller than humans, had superior strength, speed, meat-or tough vegetation-tearing teeth (cooking required), protective fur, athletic ability, specialized body parts and instinctive tactics. Early humans HAD TO develop tools!

Our type of brain most likely developed as a “tool” that compensated for (and competed with) the “equipment” of other animals in particular environments. The brain as technology – think about it! LOL

Ancient Homo in the Philippines? / Two Articles Aye, yai, yai!

Ancient humans settled the Philippines 700,000 years ago (as opposed to modern day humans)

“The only thing missing is the hominin fossil to go along with it,” says archaeologist Adam Brumm, of Griffith University in Nathan, Australia. He’s wasn’t involved with the work. (This standard “journalistic format” added comment by a “random” expert drives me nuts… is it supposed to compensate for lack of evidence? Is it merely to make it look like the journalist did some “background work”? Or is it the NT passion for “he said, she said” cable TV news “black and white” ideological warfare transferred to “science” articles? Please stop! 

Researchers found 75% of a fossilized rhino skeleton—ribs and leg bones still scarred from the tools that removed their meat and marrow—lying in ancient mud that had long since buried an even older river channel. To determine the site’s age, researchers dated the enamel in one of the rhino’s teeth, as well as quartz grains embedded in the sediment layers above and below the bones, using electron spin resonance (ESR), which measures the buildup of electrons as a material is exposed to radiation over time. The team dated the bottom sediment layer to about 727,000 years old, the rhino tooth to about 709,000 years old, and the top sediment layer to about 701,000 years old. Several independent experts say (aye, yai, yai!) they were impressed by the team’s careful use of the technique. “They’ve nailed it,” says Alistair Pike, an archaeological dating expert at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. (Please stop inserting these technically-scientifically irrelevant comments! These statements are NOT PROOF that the dating is accurate, EXCEPT IN THE “lazy-crazy” NT social brain. The appeal to “authorities” is a social substitute for facts; NTs believe in “authority hearsay” and don’t recognize the existence of factual information) 

So who were these ancient people? They couldn’t have been our own species, Homo sapiens, which evolved in Africa hundreds of thousands of years later. The most likely bet is H. erectus, an archaic human species that first evolved nearly 2 million years ago and may have been the first member of our genus to expand out of Africa, the team writes today in Nature. H. erectus bones have been found in China and Java, so researchers know they lived in Asia (Asia is a VERY BIG PLACE, but if one is geographically illiterate, this vague reference may sound impressive and “meaningful”) around the time the rhino was butchered on Luzon. But Thomas Ingicco, a paleoarchaeologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris who led the research, doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions without human bones—especially not in a region that already has yielded one big surprise for scientists studying archaic humans. (Drum roll…)

Three thousand kilometers to the south, (almost 2,000 miles) on the island of Flores in Indonesia, archaeologists discovered H. floresiensis, a diminutive archaic human species known as the hobbit. It lived from about 60,000 to 100,000 years ago and seems to have evolved its short stature, large feet, and other distinctive traits because of its long isolation on Flores. There’s no evidence that the rhino butcherers on Luzon are the ancestors of the hobbit, or connected to those unusual humans in any way. But the discovery of H. floresiensis opened up the possibility that there could be many hitherto unknown human species living and evolving in Southeast Asia. (Wow! What “peculiar” logic. 1. Why are “the Hobbits” even mentioned in this context? (700,000 y.o. hominid in Luzon “magically” connects to” 60-100,000 y.o. hominid in Flores, 3,000 km away. 2. The possibility of hitherto unknown human species living and evolving in Southeast Asia” already exists WITHOUT “the Hobbits”. 3. The salient fact about Flores Homo is that it’s small stature is a consequence of being isolated on an island – they were not “wandering around” a vast region.  “In theory you could have something special on every single island,” Ingicco says.

And how did the rhinoceros get to Luzon?

The area in question.

Equally mysterious (please ban the use of mysterious, strange, bizarre, etc. in science journalism, and let the Ancient Aliens crew have this nonsense as their very own ”catchy” theme! The use of mysterious, etc can only refer in this context to the confused state of the NT mind.) is how the ancestors of the rhino butchers arrived on Luzon, which was surrounded by deep water then, as it is today. “I’ve been studying H. erectus for a long time, and I think they are pretty clever,” says Susan Antón, a paleoanthropologist at New York University in New York City who wasn’t involved in the work. Recent research (by whom?) even suggests that stone age peoples were using boats more than 130,000 years ago in the Mediterranean Sea. (Now there is a piece of “NT logic” – Non-correlation of geography, dates, location – and zero evidence – are no obstacle to social typical magical thinking) But like most researchers Antón isn’t convinced that ancient humans were deliberately crossing Southeast Asian seas so long ago. More likely, they were carried to distant islands by tsunami waves, or arrived there via floating islands of land and debris detached during typhoons. (Really? Does this actually occur, or is this a garbled interpretation of massive landslides that end up AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA? Maybe it was Ancient Astronauts…) “The presumption has been that Homo erectus didn’t, at least purposefully, disperse over water,” Antón says. “But the more places you find that happening, then … the more likely it becomes that they had some kind of control over it. But that kind of a conclusion is way off in the distance.” (How articulate…)


Let’s see what NATGEO has to say: 

700,000-Year-Old Stone Tools Point to Mysterious Human Relative

Someone butchered a rhinoceros in the Philippines hundreds of thousands of years before modern humans arrived—but who?

Stone tools found in the Philippines predate the arrival of modern humans to the islands by roughly 600,000 years—but researchers aren’t sure who made them.

The eye-popping artifacts, unveiled on Wednesday in Nature, were abandoned on a river floodplain on the island of Luzon beside the butchered carcass of a rhinoceros. The ancient toolmakers were clearly angling for a meal. Two of the rhino’s limb bones are smashed in, as if someone was trying to harvest and eat the marrow inside. Cut marks left behind by stone blades crisscross the rhino’s ribs and ankle, a clear sign that someone used tools to strip the carcass of meat.

But the age of the remains makes them especially remarkable: The carved bones are most likely between 631,000 and 777,000 years old, with researchers’ best estimate coming in around 709,000 years old. The research—partially funded by the National Geographic Society—pushes back occupation of the Philippines to before the known origin of our species, Homo sapiens. (Of course, as the pinnacle of evolution, every “discovery” must be oriented to “our” arrival!) The next-earliest evidence of Philippine hominins comes from Luzon’s Callao Cave, in the form of a 67,000-year-old foot bone.

“It was surprising to find such an old peopling of the Philippines,” says lead study author Thomas Ingicco, an archaeologist with France’s National Museum of Natural History. While the researchers don’t know which archaic cousin of ours butchered the rhino, the find will likely cause a stir among people studying the human story in the South Pacific—especially those wondering how early hominins got to the Philippines in the first place.

“I think it’s pretty spectacular,” says Michael Petraglia, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History who was not involved in the work. “While there had been claims for early hominins in places like the Philippines, there wasn’t any good evidence until now.”

Dating With Confidence

Several of the habitable islands across the South Pacific have long been hemmed off by swaths of open ocean, (Is that not what an island is?) so it was thought that humans’ ancient cousins couldn’t have made it to them without knowing how to sail.

But as the saying goes, life finds a way. In 2004, researchers unveiled Homo floresiensis, which lived on the isolated island of Flores for hundreds of thousands of years. In 2016, researchers also found stone tools on Sulawesi, an island north of Flores. As National Geographic reported at the time, the Sulawesi tools date to at least 118,000 years ago, or some 60,000 years before the first anatomically modern humans arrived. (Repetitive NT narcissism)

“It’s really, really exciting—it’s now becoming increasingly clear that ancient forms of hominins were able to make significant deep-sea crossings,” says Adam Brumm, a paleoanthropologist at Griffith University who studies H. floresiensis. (but wait…)

In search of similar sites, Ingicco and Dutch biologist John de Vos went to Kalinga, a site in northern Luzon with a reputation for yielding ancient bones. Researchers had found animal bones and stone tools there since the 1950s, but those scattered remains couldn’t be dated. To prove that ancient hominins had lived at Kalinga, de Vos and Ingicco needed to find artifacts that were still buried.

In 2014, the team dug a test pit at Kalinga about seven feet to a side. Almost immediately, the researchers started finding bones that belonged to a long-extinct rhinoceros. Soon, they had uncovered an entire skeleton, as well as stone tools left behind by its butchers.

To get an age range for the site, the team measured the sediments and the rhino’s teeth to see how much radiation they had naturally absorbed over time. (You never know – 700,000 y.a. there may have been time traveling H. sapiens going around artificially irradiating rhinoceros bones and teeth. Or maybe it was Ancient Aliens) In addition, they measured the natural uranium content of one of the rhino’s teeth, since that element decays like clockwork into thorium. In the mud around the rhino’s bones, they also found a speck of melted glass from an asteroid impact dated to about 781,000 year ago. (More magical and irrelevant NT type “evidence” What impact, where? How did it “end up” in the sediment? erosion, transport, etc.)

“Nowadays, it’s necessary that you try various methods to nail the dates, because in the past, there have been so many dates that have proved unreliable,” says study coauthor Gerrit van den Bergh, a University of Wollongong sedimentologist.

The Unusual Suspects

The list of possible toolmakers includes the Denisovans, a ghost lineage of hominins known from DNA and a handful of Siberian fossils. The leading candidate, though, is the early hominin Homo erectus, since it definitely made its way into southeast Asia. The Indonesian island of Java has H. erectus fossils that are more than 700,000 years old.

Ingicco’s team suggests that the butchers may have been Luzon’s version of H. floresiensis, (what on earth does that mean?) which may have descended from a population of H. erectus that ended up on Flores. Over millennia, the H. erectus there may have evolved to live efficiently on a predator-free island, shrinking in a process called island dwarfism.


But wait! 

The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed.

The study by The Australian National University (ANU) found Homo floresiensis, dubbed “the hobbits” due to their small stature, were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis—one of the earliest known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago.

Read more at:

SEE also:


back to: In 2010, a team led by University of Philippines Diliman archaeologist Armand Mijares found the Callao Cave foot bone, which has measurements that overlap with both modern humans and H. floresiensis. (Utterly meaningless: this panders to archaic notions of “linear evolution” that demands “missing links” – so outdated!) Was this Luzon hominin a homegrown hobbit, descended from H. erectus castaways that arrived hundreds of thousands of years before? It’s too soon to say. (OMG!)

“We don’t have any information about 600,000 years of prehistory, [so] it’s a reach,” says Petraglia. 

Riding Out the Storm?

Whoever they were, the toolmakers’ ancestors may have taken one of two migration routes into the Philippines, according to Ingicco’s team: an west-to-east route from Borneo or Palawan, or a north-to-south route from China and Taiwan. (Does this contrived “choice” have any real meaning? Were Homo erectus standing around looking at a map, arguing over which “migration route” to take?) But it’s an open question how these hominins crossed open ocean.

It’s tempting to think that our extinct cousins used rudimentary boats: When news of the Callao Cave remains broke in 2010, some experts chalked up their presence to ancient seafarers. But the idea is still considered farfetched. Rhinos and elephant-like creatures also made it to Luzon, and they clearly didn’t build boats.

OMG! What is this, a Disney movie?

Perhaps large animals and the butchers’ ancestors accidentally rode to Luzon on floating masses of mud and aquatic plants, torn off coastlines by large storms. Regional tsunamis may have also washed some terrified H. erectus out to sea. As they clung to floating debris, they may have inadvertently island-hopped.

“Water dispersal by H. erectus is accidental—there’s no Manifest Destiny, there’s no plot,” says Russell Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Iowa at Iowa City. (What an outstanding contribution to this article!)

There’s also outstanding questions about what happened when and if descendants of these early hominins made contact with the first modern humans to reach Luzon: (Endless NT narcissism, of course.) “Did our species come face to face with these creatures? What is the nature of that contact?” wonders Brumm.

These and other questions remain to be answered, but researchers say that study of the human story in Luzon—and the South Pacific writ large—is only just beginning.

Recent Anxiety / Visual Thinking Re-post


These observations continue to be valid…

Recently the clinic where I go for prescriptions and some therapy noticed that my 5-year review was last scheduled 10-years ago. So I went in for a two-hour “dredging up” of my entire life. It was a good thing too: the person who interviewed me last time was a fundamentalist Christian who got almost everything wrong. Not a good listener, plus she tended to reinterpret whatever one said as a plea to be “born again.”

The interview went well – a therapist to whom I can say anything and not feel “weird.” He knows that I have no memory for dates, but can rattle off vivid descriptions from visual memory. He likes this because the other Aspergers clients he has don’t talk  much at all. (Probably males?)

Not surprising to me is that often after a therapy session in which I talk about difficult events, anxiety sets in; not right away, but hours to days afterward. After many such occurrences I traced this phenomenon to visual memory. Words are different: I’m quite emotionally detached when talking. Words are tools, not “reality” – that is, they have no meaning per se. Images – that’s a whole different experience.

I think PTSD symptoms may be related. It seems to be sensory reminders that trigger the horrible experiences of those who suffer with it. Extreme trauma – sights, sounds smells are relived in the immediate present.

As far as Asperger anxiety, for me it’s the images that drag me back, out of the present and into the visual record of sights (and smells and noises sometimes). I’ve posted about this before: how visual memory is so real; detailed, dense and difficult to change. Timeless. This is a great benefit if one is an artist or a writer.

The tactic I have learned to use is to bring my focus into the present. Even doing mundane things like chores, sorting photos or doing yard work is effective. Or doing something visual and physical such as taking a walk in the countryside. Anything that reminds me that I’m “here” not “there.” Managing one’s experience of time is possible, but It took me a very long time to grasp the notion that it’s possible.

I used to imagine that someday anxiety would not be part of my life, but like many unpleasant aspects of life, I had to accept that it’s part of who I am.









The evolution and development of cranial form in Homo sapiens / Paper

Daniel E. Lieberman, Brandeis M. McBratney and Gail Krovitz


Despite much data, there is no unanimity over how to define Homo sapiens in the fossil record. Here, we examine cranial variation among Pleistocene and recent human fossils by using a model of cranial growth to identify unique derived features (autapomorphies) that reliably distinguish fossils attributed to “anatomically modern” H. sapiens (AMHS) from those attributed to various taxa of “archaic” Homo spp. (AH) and to test hypotheses about the changes in cranial development that underlie the origin of modern human cranial form. In terms of pattern, AMHS crania are uniquely characterized by two general structural autapomorphies: facial retraction and neurocranial globularity. Morphometric analysis of the ontogeny of these autapomorphies indicates that the developmental changes that led to modern human cranial form derive from a combination of shifts in cranial base angle, cranial fossae length and width, and facial length. These morphological changes, some of which may have occurred because of relative size increases in the temporal and possibly the frontal lobes, occur early in ontogeny, and their effects on facial retraction and neurocranial globularity discriminate AMHS from AH crania. The existence of these autapomorphies supports the hypothesis that AMHS is a distinct species from taxa of “archaic” Homo (e.g., Homo neanderthalensis).

Paradoxically, our own species, Homo sapiens, is one of the most poorly defined species of hominids. The recent human fossil record has a confusing pattern of variation, with numerous vaguely defined taxa (e.g., “archaic” H. sapiens, “modern” H. sapiens, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo helmei, Homo rhodesiensis), most of which are not widely accepted. A major source of this confusion is the lack of established unique derived features (autapomorphies) of “anatomically modern” H. sapiens (AMHS). The most frequently used diagnosis for AMHS is Day and Stringer’s (1), which is based solely on cranial features (listed in Table 1), and which has since been expanded and scrutinized (26). However, there are at least two major problems with the diagnostic features in Table 1. First, most of the features are difficult to use as phylogenetic characters because they describe cranial vault globularity, and are thus not structurally or developmentally independent. A second, more fundamental problem is their failure to discriminate reliably between “archaic” Homo spp. (AH) and AMHS. Many recent human crania fall outside the supposed range of AMHS variation for some features, and a few skulls generally attributed to AH fall within the range of AMHS variation (7, 8). Many researchers (e.g., ref. 9) thus consider H. sapiens to be a morphologically diverse species with archaic and anatomically modern grades.

Although H. sapiens may include anatomically modern and archaic variants, an increasingly popular view is that AMHS is a distinct species. The best support for this hypothesis comes from genetic evidence for an African origin of extant human populations between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, and for divergence between humans and Neanderthals about 500,000–600,000 years ago (1012). Testing this hypothesis by using cranial features, however, is a challenge because of the substantial integration that occurs among the various semi-independent units of the cranium (13, 14). Recent evolutionary developmental studies show that major changes in form associated with speciation typically result from ontogenetically early alterations in the regulation of growth, leading to multiple correlated phenotypic novelties (15, 16). Thus, interactions at multiple hierarchical levels of development—from individual genes to structural modules (integrated suites of characters that grow as a unit)—confound efforts to define basic independent characters. Yet such autapomorphies are predicted to exist if AMHS evolved as a separate lineage from AH.

We test here the hypothesis that AMHS is a distinct species in a phylogenetic sense, recognizable on the basis of one or more autapomorphies, against the null hypothesis that AMHS has no autapomorphies, indicating inclusion in a separate lineage. To this end, we report three analyses that examine cranial variation in recent Homo by using a developmental model of cranial evolution. First, we use factor analysis to identify structurally important combinations of variables that covary among AMHS crania. Second, we use ANOVA and comparisons of sample ranges to test whether these structural differences discriminate reliably between AMHS and AH. Finally, we combine two morphometric analyses to investigate hypotheses about the developmental shifts that influence the major structural differences between AH and AMHS cranial form. First, by comparing the pattern of three-dimensional cranial shape in adult AH and AMHS by using landmarks that include major loci of cranial growth, we identify cranial regions that appear to contribute to shape differences between the taxa. Second, we test whether variables that quantify the same shape differences between AH and AMHS contribute during ontogeny to the major cranial differences between humans and our closest extant relatives, chimpanzees.

Andamanese and Flores Genetics / 3 papers, 1 article

Genomic analysis of Andamanese provides insights into ancient human migration into Asia and adaptation



To shed light on the peopling of South Asia and the origins of the morphological adaptations found there, we analyzed whole-genome sequences from 10 Andamanese individuals and compared them with sequences for 60 individuals from mainland Indian populations with different ethnic histories and with publicly available data from other populations. We show that all Asian and Pacific populations share a single origin and expansion out of Africa, contradicting an earlier proposal of two independent waves of migration1,2,3,4. We also show that populations from South and Southeast Asia harbor a small proportion of ancestry from an unknown extinct hominin, and this ancestry is absent from Europeans and East Asians. The footprints of adaptive selection in the genomes of the Andamanese show that the characteristic distinctive phenotypes of this population (including very short stature) do not reflect an ancient African origin but instead result from strong natural selection on genes related to human body size. (Island Rule effect like the “hobbit” / Homo floresiensis?)


Unique origin of Andaman Islanders: insight from autosomal loci



Our mtDNA and Y chromosome studies lead to the conclusion that the Andamanese “Negrito” mtDNA lineages have survived in the Andaman Islands in complete genetic isolation from other South and Southeast Asian populations since the initial settlement of the region by the out-of-Africa migration. In order to obtain a robust reconstruction of the evolutionary history of the Andamanese, we carried out a study on the three aboriginal populations, namely, the Great Andamanese, Onge and Nicobarese, using autosomal microsatellite markers. The range of alleles (7-31.2) observed in the studied population and heterozygosity values (0.392-0.857) indicate that the selected STR markers are highly polymorphic in all the three populations, and genetic variability within the populations is significantly high, with a mean gene diversity of 77%. The Andaman “Negrito” populations do not show particular affinities either with the African populations or with the Indian populations, confirming their unique origin. In contrast, Nicobarese show close affinities with the Southeast Asian populations, suggesting their recent entry in the Islands.


Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Jun 28;284(1857). pii: 20171065. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1065.

Island Rule, quantitative genetics and brain-body size evolution in Homo floresiensis.


Colonization of islands often activate a complex chain of adaptive events that, over a relatively short evolutionary time, may drive strong shifts in body size, a pattern known as the Island Rule. It is arguably difficult to perform a direct analysis of the natural selection forces behind such a change in body size. Here, we used quantitative evolutionary genetic models, coupled with simulations and pattern-oriented modelling, to analyse the evolution of brain and body size in Homo floresiensis, a diminutive hominin species that appeared around 700 kya and survived up to relatively recent times (60-90 kya) on Flores Island, Indonesia. The hypothesis of neutral evolution was rejected in 97% of the simulations, and estimated selection gradients are within the range found in living natural populations. We showed that insularity may have triggered slightly different evolutionary trajectories for body and brain size, which means explaining the exceedingly small cranial volume of H. floresiensis requires additional selective forces acting on brain size alone. Our analyses also support previous conclusions that H. floresiensis may be most likely derived from an early Indonesian H. erectus, which is coherent with currently accepted biogeographical scenario for Homo expansion out of Africa.


Filed: 12/11/2002
Source: The New York Times

Inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, a remote archipelago east of India, are direct descendants of the first modern humans to have inhabited Asia, geneticists conclude in a new study. But the islanders lack a distinctive genetic feature found among Australian aborigines, another early group to leave Africa, suggesting they were part of a separate exodus.

The Andaman Islanders are “arguably the most enigmatic people on our planet,” a team of geneticists led by Dr. Erika Hagelberg of the University of Oslo write in the journal Current Biology.

Their physical features short stature, dark skin, peppercorn hair and large buttocks  are characteristic of African Pygmies. “They look like they belong in Africa, but here they are sitting in this island chain in the middle of the Indian Ocean,” said Dr. Peter Underhill of Stanford University, a co-author of the new report. (“Look like” – an unreliable basis for evolutionary-genetic conclusions!)

Adding to the puzzle is that their language, according to Joseph Greenberg, who, before his death in 2001, classified the world’s languages, belongs to a family that includes those of Tasmania, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia.

Dr. Hagelberg has undertaken the first genetic analysis of the Andamanese with the help of two Indian colleagues who took blood samples and by analyzing hair gathered almost a century ago by a British anthropologist, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. The islands were isolated from the outside world until the British set up a penal colony there after the Indian mutiny of 1857.

Only four of the dozen tribes that once inhabited the island survive, with a total population of about 500 people. These include the Jarawa, who still live in the forest, and the Onge, who have been settled by the Indian government.

Genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA, a genetic element passed down only through women, shows that the Onge and Jarawa people belong to a lineage, known as M, that is common throughout Asia, the geneticists say. This establishes them as Asians, not Africans, among whom a different mitochondrial lineage, called L, is dominant.

The geneticists then looked at the Y chromosome, which is passed down only through men and often gives a more detailed picture of genetic history than the mitochondrial DNA. The Onge and Jarawa men turned out to carry a special change or mutation in the DNA of their Y chromosome that is thought to be indicative of the Paleolithic population of Asia, the hunters and gatherers who preceded the first human settlements.

The mutation, known as Marker 174, occurs among ethnic groups at the periphery of Asia who avoided being swamped by the populations that spread after the agricultural revolution that occurred about 8,000 years ago. It is found in many Japanese, in the Tibetans of the Himalayas and among isolated people of Southeast Asia, like the Hmong. The discovery of Marker 174 among the Andamanese suggests that they too are part of this relict Paleolithic population, descended from the first modern humans to leave Africa.

Dr. Underhill, an expert on the genetic history of the Y chromosome, said the Paleolithic population of Asia might well have looked as African as the Onge and Jarawa do now, and that people with the appearance of present-day Asians might have emerged only later. It is also possible, he said, that their resemblance to African Pygmies is a human adaptation to living in forests that the two populations developed independently.

A finding of particular interest is that the Andamanese do not carry another Y chromosome signature, known as Marker RPS4Y, that is common among Australian aborigines. This suggests that there were at least two separate emigrations of modern humans from Africa, Dr. Underhill said. Both probably left  Northeast Africa by boat 40,000 or 50,000 years ago and pushed slowly along the coastlines of the Arabian Peninsula and India. No archaeological record of these epic journeys has been found, perhaps because the world’s oceans were 120 meters lower during the last ice age and the evidence of early human passage is under water.

One group of emigrants that acquired the Marker 174 mutation reached Southeast Asia, including the Andaman islands, and then moved inland and north to Japan, in Dr. Underhill’s reconstruction. A second group, carrying the Marker RPS4Y, took a different fork in Southeast Asia, continuing south toward Australia.


Variations in Hunter Gatherer Sleep Patterns / Sentinel Behavior

Implications for Asperger types? See posts about Asperger visual thinking, brain organization and ‘socially odd’ behavior as a legacy of pre-domesticated hunter-gatherer humans. 
Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Jul 12;284(1858). pii: 20170967. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0967.

Chronotype variation drives night-time sentinel-like behaviour in hunter-gatherers.


Sleep is essential for survival, yet it also represents a time of extreme vulnerability to predation, hostile conspecifics and environmental dangers. To reduce the risks of sleeping, the sentinel hypothesis proposes that group-living animals share the task of vigilance during sleep, with some individuals sleeping while others are awake. To investigate sentinel-like behaviour in sleeping humans, we investigated activity patterns at night among Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania. Using actigraphy, we discovered that all subjects were simultaneously scored as asleep for only 18 min in total over 20 days of observation, with a median of eight individuals awake throughout the night-time period; thus, one or more individuals was awake (or in light stages of sleep) during 99.8% of sampled epochs between when the first person went to sleep and the last person awoke. We show that this asynchrony in activity levels is produced by chronotype variation, and that chronotype covaries with age. Thus, asynchronous periods of wakefulness provide an opportunity for vigilance when sleeping in groups. We propose that throughout human evolution, sleeping groups composed of mixed age classes provided a form of vigilance.

Chronotype variation and human sleep architecture (including nocturnal awakenings) in modern populations may therefore represent a legacy of natural selection acting in the past to reduce the dangers of sleep.

PMC5524507 [Available on 2018-07-12]


Looks like some “night shift” sentinels in  HG cultures  were also doing astronomy…

The discovery of a 10,000-year-old lunar calendar in (Warren Field) Scotland has archaeologists scrambling to rethink the beginnings of history. The calendar itself is primitive. However, it’s also the oldest calendar ever discovered predating the bronze calendar in Mesopotamia that had held that title until now by several millennia. The array is made up of 12 pits, one for each month of the year, arranged in a 160-foot-long arc and topped with a series of stones thought to represent the phases of the moon. The full moon stone is prominently displayed in the middle, and on the far side is a notch to show where the sun would rise on the midwinter solstice 10,000 years ago.

Clouds are important to a plain landscape / Re-Post



Clouds are important to a plain landscape; those familiar shapes that skate above

the horizon, trailing shadows that examine the featureless plateau;

extracting details that cannot be seen on a clear day

and thereby adjusting our foolish estimates of near and far.

Any stranger who trifles with our two-part scheme of land and sky risks losing

the outer world: the fate of isolation is best embraced as a gift

that one could not have known was waiting in Wyoming.


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