Nerdly Things: Neandertals, Denisovans, Music and Fishing

new&nerdlyRemember that fossil from Sima de los Huesos who looked something like a Neandertal, but whose mtDNA caused such a stir because it was so Denisovan? Well, while Mama’s family seems to have ummm, played with others, Dad’s side of the family was definitely more closely related to Neandertals than any other species. This is according to an analysis of its nuclear DNA. This has huge implications for the timing of the genetic split between the three species and pushes back the origins of Neandertals as a distinct species as well.

Speaking of Denisovans, it looks like they used the cave which gave them their name longer than previously thought. The initial discovery of a finger bone from a little girl has been dated via DNA to about 50,000 years age. Teeth found in the cave, and also belonging to Denisovans, were those of individuals who died 110,000 and perhaps 170,000 years ago. Moreover, these people don’t appear to have been all that closely related to each other.

Apparently, the folk memory preserved in Aboriginal songs goes back a really long time. As in at least 7,000 years. Certain geographical references in the songs point to the fact that they, in their current forms, were being composed just as the Australian coastline was just beginning to take on its modern shape.

People have been fishing for salmon in the Pacific Northwest for at least 11,500 years.


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