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  • News

    Finger fossil puts people in Arabia at least 86,000 years ago

    A single human finger bone from at least 86,000 years ago points to Arabia as a key destination for Stone Age excursions out of Africa that allowed people to rapidly spread across Asia.

    Excavations at Al Wusta, a site in Saudi Arabia’s Nefud desert, produced this diminutive discovery. It’s the oldest known Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the narrow strip of the Middle East that...

    04/09/2018 - 11:00 Anthropology, Archaeology, Evolution
  • News

    Ardi walked the walk 4.4 million years ago

    A famous 4.4-million-year-old member of the human evolutionary family was hip enough to evolve an upright gait without losing any tree-climbing prowess.

    The pelvis from a partial Ardipithecus ramidus skeleton nicknamed Ardi (SN: 1/16/10, p. 22) bears evidence of an efficient, humanlike walk combined with plenty of hip power for apelike climbing, says a team led by biological...

    04/02/2018 - 16:17 Anthropology, Evolution
  • News

    Modern chimp brains share similarities with ancient hominids

    Groove patterns on the surface of modern chimpanzee brains throw a monkey wrench into proposals that some ancient southern African hominids evolved humanlike brain characteristics, a new study suggests.

    MRIs of eight living chimps reveal substantial variability in the shape and location of certain features on the brain surface. Some of these brains showed surface creases similar to ones...

    03/26/2018 - 15:00 Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • Science Ticker

    Atacama mummy’s deformities were unduly sensationalized

    By analyzing the genome of a tiny fetal mummy known as Ata, researchers have learned more about what led to its strange-looking deformities — and that Ata was not an it, but a she.

    The 6-inch human mummy, found in 2003 in Chile’s Atacama Desert, contains genetic mutations associated with skeletal abnormalities and joint problems, researchers report online March 22 in Genome Research....

    03/22/2018 - 14:54 Genetics, Anthropology
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers ponder children’s pretend play, planetary dust storms and more

    Flight of fantasy

    Similar to their hunter-gatherer counterparts, many children in Western societies prefer play that mimics the things that adults do, Bruce Bower reported in “When it’s playtime, many kids prefer reality over fantasy" (SN: 2/17/18, p. 22). But fantasy play may still be valuable.

    Reader Pat Rapp wondered about the implications of an experiment that showed that...

    03/22/2018 - 10:18 Anthropology, Technology, Planetary Science
  • News

    Ancient climate shifts may have sparked human ingenuity and networking

    Dramatic shifts in the East African climate may have driven toolmaking advances and the development of trading networks among Homo sapiens or their close relatives by the Middle Stone Age, roughly 320,000 years ago. That’s the implication of discoveries reported in three papers published online March 15 in Science.

    Newly excavated Middle Stone Age tools and red pigment chunks from...

    03/15/2018 - 14:48 Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • News in Brief

    Museum mummies sport world’s oldest tattoo drawings

    Two human mummies housed at the British Museum in London for more than a century boast the world’s oldest known — and longest hidden — tattoos of figures and designs, a new investigation finds. These people lived in Egypt at or shortly before the rise of the first pharaoh around 5,100 years ago.

    Radiocarbon analyses of hairs from the mummies date the bodies to between 3351 B.C. and 3017...

    03/09/2018 - 12:23 Anthropology
  • News

    Humans don’t get enough sleep. Just ask other primates.

    People have evolved to sleep much less than chimps, baboons or any other primate studied so far.

    A large comparison of primate sleep patterns finds that most species get somewhere between nine and 15 hours of shut-eye daily, while humans average just seven. An analysis of several lifestyle and biological factors, however, predicts people should get 9.55 hours, researchers report online...

    03/07/2018 - 07:00 Anthropology, Animals, Human Evolution
  • News in Brief

    In Borneo, hunting emerges as a key threat to endangered orangutans

    Orangutan numbers on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo plummeted from 1999 to 2015, more as a result of human hunting than habitat loss, an international research team finds.

    Over those 16 years, Borneo’s orangutan population declined by about 148,500 individuals. A majority of those losses occurred in the intact or selectively logged forests where most orangutans live, primatologist...

    02/15/2018 - 12:00 Anthropology, Animals, Conservation
  • News

    Elongated heads were a mark of elite status in an ancient Peruvian society

    Bigwigs in a more than 600-year-old South American population were easy to spot. Their artificially elongated, teardrop-shaped heads screamed prestige, a new study finds.

    During the 300 years before the Incas’ arrival in 1450, intentional head shaping among prominent members of the Collagua ethnic community in Peru increasingly centered on a stretched-out look, says bioarchaeologist...

    02/13/2018 - 09:00 Anthropology