Neanderthals’ history is as complicated as ours

Neanderthals’ history is as complicated as ours

Enlarge / The upper and lower jawbones of a juvenile Neanderthal girl who lived in Belgium around 127,000 years ago. (credit: Peyrégne et al. 2019)

DNA preserved in ancient bones and teeth has recently helped scientists reconstruct how groups of ancient humans migrated and mingled, and a new study now does the same thing for Neanderthals. Neanderthals lived in Eurasia for around 400,000 years, and it would be a huge stretch to assume they spent all that time as one big homogeneous population or that different groups of Neanderthals never migrated and mixed.

Thanks to ancient DNA, we can now begin to see how Neanderthal groups moved around Eurasia long before Homo sapiens entered the mix.

Neanderthals on the move

Evolutionary geneticist Stéphane Peyrégne and his colleagues recently sequenced DNA from two Neanderthals, both just over 120,000 years old. One set of DNA comes from the upper jaw of a

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Archaeologists find DNA in a 10,000-year-old piece of chewing gum

Archaeologists find DNA in a 10,000-year-old piece of chewing gum

Enlarge (credit: Kashuba et al. 2019)

The people who lived at Huseby-Kiev in western Sweden 10,000 years ago made their living by hunting and fishing. That doesn’t sound surprising until you consider that this was a landscape that had, until recently, been covered by ice sheets 4km (2.5 miles) thick. How they occupied the re-emerging landscape is a bit of a mystery. We don’t know much about who they actually were, where they came from, or how they made their way into Sweden as the ice receded.

In the 1990s, archaeologists recovered a few chewed-up lumps of birch bark pitch, some of which still held fingerprints and tooth marks left behind from millennia ago. Using this ancient chewing gum, archaeologist Natalija Kashuba of Uppsala University recently recovered DNA from two women and one man who had lived, worked, and apparently chewed gum on the shores of ancient Sweden. That

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Mass grave in Poland embodies the violent beginning of the Bronze Age

Mass grave in Poland embodies the violent beginning of the Bronze Age

Enlarge / This is the Late Neolithic mass grave at Koszyce, Poland. (credit: Image courtesy of Piotr Wodarczak)

Sometime between 2880 and 2776 BCE, 15 family members were hastily buried together in a single pit, their shattered skulls telling a story of violent death. Yet someone interred the dead with the pottery, tools, and ornaments typical of a proper burial in their culture, a culture we know today by the name of its most common ceramic artifact: the Globular Amphora. And someone seems to have made the effort to put the closest family members alongside one another in the pit.

Today, the grave near the village of Koszyce in southern Poland is the only record of one particular act of brutal violence during a turbulent time in European prehistory.

Out of the blue

It seems that no one in the seasonal camp of pastoralists was prepared for the raiders. Nearly

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