Researchers at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History have discovered that early humans were less primitive than we originally thought. According to a new study, early hominids were able to create tools and ...
What are secondary sources? Secondary sources are works of synthesis and interpretation based upon primary sources and the work of other authors. They may take a variety of forms. The authors of secondary sources develop their interpretations and narratives of events based on primary sources, that is, documents and other evidence created by participants or eyewitnesses.
Fast-accumulating data seem to indicate that our close cousins, the Neanderthals, were much more similar to us than imagined even a decade ago. But did they have anything like modern speech and language? And if so, what are the implications for understanding present-day linguistic diversity? The MPI for Psycholinguistics researchers Dan Dediu and Stephen C. Levinson argue in their paper in Frontiers in Language Sciences that modern language and speech can be traced back to the last common ancestor we shared with the Neandertals roughly half a million years ago.
The Neanderthals have fascinated both the academic world and the general public ever since their discovery almost 200 years ago. Initially thought to be subhuman brutes incapable of anything but the most primitive of grunts, they were a successful form of humanity inhabiting vast swathes of western Eurasia for several hundreds of thousands of years, during harsh ages and milder interglacial periods. We knew that they were our closest cousins, sharing a common ancestor with us around half a million years ago (probably Homo heidelbergensis), but it was unclear what their cognitive capacities were like, or why modern humans succeeded in replacing them after thousands of years of cohabitation. Recently, due to new palaeoanthropological and archaeological discoveries and the reassessment of older data, but especially to the availability of ancient DNA, we have started to realise that their fate was much more intertwined with ours and that, far from being slow brutes, their cognitive capacities and culture were comparable to ours.
Dediu and Levinson review all these strands of literature and argue that essentially modern language and speech are an ancient feature of our lineage dating back at least to the most recent ancestor we shared with the Neanderthals and the Denisovans (another form of humanity known mostly from their genome). Their interpretation of the intrinsically ambiguous and scant evidence goes against the scenario usually assumed by most language scientists, namely that of a sudden and recent emergence of modernity, presumably due to a single – or very few – genetic mutations. This pushes back the origins of modern language by a factor of 10 from the often-cited 50 or so thousand years, to around a million years ago – somewhere between the origins of our genus, Homo, some 1.8 million years ago, and the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis. This reassessment of the evidence goes against a saltationist scenario where a single catastrophic mutation in a single individual would suddenly give rise to language, and suggests that a gradual accumulation of biological and cultural innovations is much more plausible.
Interestingly, given that we know from the archaeological record and recent genetic data that the modern humans spreading out of Africa interacted both genetically and culturally with the Neanderthals and Denisovans, then just as our bodies carry around some of their genes, maybe our languages preserve traces of their languages too. This would mean that at least some of the observed linguistic diversity is due to these ancient encounters, an idea testable by comparing the structural properties of the African and non-African languages, and by detailed computer simulations of language spread.
DNA sequencing of 36 complete Y chromosomes has uncovered a previously unknown population explosion that occurred 40 to 50 thousand years ago, between the first expansion of modern humans out of Africa 60 to 70 thousand years ago and the Neolithic expansions of people in several parts of the world starting 10 thousand years ago. This is the first time researchers have used the information from large-scale DNA sequencing to create an accurate family tree of the Y chromosome, from which the inferences about human population history could be made.
"We have always considered the expansion of humans out of Africa as being the largest population expansion of modern humans, but our research questions this theory," says Ms Wei Wei, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the West China University of Medical Sciences. "The out-of-Africa expansion, which happened approximately 60,000 years ago, was extremely large in geographical terms with humans spreading around the globe. Now we've found a second wave of expansion that is much larger in terms of human population growth and occurred over a very short period, somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000 years ago."
Grades 4-12 | Society & Culture | Teaching with Primary Sources This interactive scrapbook invites students to reconstruct the journey of 1962 high schooler Jane Morton as she travels with her school band from the Midwest to ...
"I vividly remember being disappointed during my first year of teaching: my students weren’t nearly as excited about primary source documents as I was. Primary source documents, as you know, offer readers a unique, real-world perspective, and I thought my kids would love delving into them. I soon learned that my disappointing results weren’t due to the documents that I’d selected, but rather how I was having students use them. That first year, they weren’t doing anything but reading them. Today, Web-based tools enable students to discover more primary sources than ever before and engage them in dynamic ways. The following items are some of my favorites."
The story of the Neandertals may need a new ending, a controversial study suggests. Using improved radiocarbon methods, scientists redated two of the youngest known Neandertal cave sites and concluded that they are at least 10,000 years older than previous studies have found.
The findings cast doubt on the reliability of radiocarbon dates from other recent Neandertal sites, the researchers suggest online February 4, 2013, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This means the last Neandertals might have died out much earlier than previously thought, which could cause anthropologists to rethink how and why these hominids vanished. Researchers have long debated whether the harsh Ice Age climate, the appearance of modern humans migrating out of Africa, or some other factor drove Neandertals to extinction.
“The paper is simply excellent,” says archaeologist Olaf Jöris of the Romano-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz, Germany. The new research supports Jöris’ own review of Neandertal dates, in which he concluded that the most-recent Neandertals probably lived around 42,000 years ago. The standard view suggests that the last of these hominids occupied Europe as recently as about 28,000 years ago.
But other archaeologists are not convinced by the new work. “We shouldn’t get too carried away over results that amount to a few radiocarbon dates from two sites,” says Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist at Durham University in England.
ENLARGE This Neandertal jaw from a cave in southern Spain may be at least 10,000 years older than previously estimated, a new dating analysis suggests.
Over the last couple of decades, archaeologists have determined that the Iberian Peninsula was one of the last Neandertal refuges. Neandertals throughout much of Europe appear to have gone extinct around the same time that modern humans reached the continent, at least 42,000 years ago. But the favorable climate of southern Spain and Gibraltar may have helped Neandertals hang on in for another 10,000 years or so. Getting a precise chronology is crucial to understanding what factors played a role in the Neandertals’ demise and the degree to which Neandertals and humans interacted and possibly interbred, researchers say.
The Independent Out of Africa, the skull and the museum guide The Independent In 1921 at Broken Hill in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, miners unearthed a skull that would, at last, provide hard evidence that Darwin was right to suggest human beings...
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