Homo naledi and other Nerdly News

new&nerdlyThere’s been a staggering amount of coverage on the discovery of a hell of a lot of hominin bones in a South African cave.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Just google Homo naledi and you’ll find a lot more.  There’s even a documentary being aired about it and Australopithecus sediba, on PBS tonight on NOVA.

Or, you can watch it online: Dawn of Humanity NOVA | PBS.

The age of the bones is unknown at this time.  Even if the claim that these bones belong to a new species in our genus, Homo naledi, turns out to be wrong, the sheer volume of fossils, all of which are hominin bones, this find is extraordinary. Because it certainly looks as if something or someone brought those bones into Rising Star cave and it seems unlikely that any kind of predator would have targeted hominins with this amount of exclusivity.

In other news, the genomes of ancient Iberians links the early farmers of that area to modern day Basques.

To quote one article:

Our results show that the Basques trace their ancestry to early farming groups from Iberia, which contradicts previous views of them being a remnant population that trace their ancestry to Mesolithic hunter-gatherer groups…

Uh, how is it contradictory? Can’t it be both?  Hunter-gatherer female decides she’d like a more settled lifestyle and hooks up with a farmer, or a group of hunters raids a farming settlement and steals a few brides and slaves in the process.  Voila.  Admixture.  And you get both.

There’s also been an interesting study conducted by the University of Miami about the prevalence of iconicity in spoken language, especially in words we first learn as babies and how the iconicity aids in that acquisition of language.


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