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This is a good article from the New Yorker discussing the recent analysis of the Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) anatomically modern human finds.
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So much that is so interesting in this research!
- Variability in Neanderthal diet: In Belgium they were eating wooly rhinoceros, wild sheep and mushrooms; in Spain, pine nuts, moss, mushrooms and tree bark
- Evidence of chewing poplar bark to access salicylic acid (the active ingredient of aspirin) to treat pain and swelling by an individual who suffered from a bad dental abscess and an intestinal parasite that causes acute diarrhea
- Plus, 40,000 years before the development of penicillin, this same very ill individual was consuming a food source containing the natural antibiotic mould Penicillium
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Around 16,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age in what is now Spain, humans used the pelts of the now-extinct Cave Lion to furnish their cave as a home, using the pelts either as a carpet or a roof.
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In spite of a lack of fossil evidence, ancient cave paintings seem to show 2 species of bison in Europe during the Paleolithic period, and DNA evidence now confirms this observation.
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OH 65 is the museum catalogue number of a 1.8 million-year-old maxilla (upper jaw bone) discovered at Olduvai Gorge, belonging to an individual from the species Homo habilis. New analysis of directionality of scratch marks on the teeth is argued in this article to show that the individual habitually held meat in its teeth and left hand while it cut it with a stone tool held in its right hand. This is interesting evidence of right-handedness, and, by extension, brain lateralization.
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Very cool: A mural excavated at the Neolithic Çatalhöyük site (Central Anatolia, Turkey) has been interpreted as the oldest known map. Dating to ~6600 BCE, it is in the time period and region when human communities were first making the transition from hunting/gathering to agriculture. Amazingly, it also depicts an explosive volcanic eruption of the Hasan Dağı twin-peaks volcano (which has been dated to the same time period) located ~130 km northeast of Çatalhöyük, plus a birds-eye view of a town plan in the foreground.
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It's not very often that hard (though indirect) evidence relevant to Neanderthal language capability comes along, but here it is. The discovery in this article is that the inner ear structures of Neanderthals and our species are different, but it looks like the differences derive from the shape of the surrounding bones in the base of the skull, not from different auditory needs. These results, the researchers suggest, are "indicative for consistent aspects of vocal communication in anatomically modern humans and neanderthals that were already present in their common ancestor."
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