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The Perfume Maker, Rudolf Ernst (1854-1932).  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
It has long been known that we vary not only in our sensitivity to different smells but also in our preferences for them—the degree to which they seem pleasant or unpleasant. This variability often contains a large genetic component (Gross-Isseroff et al., 1992; Karstensen and Tommerup, 2012; Keller et al., 2007; Keller et al., 2012;... Read More
Un homme et une femme, 1891, Stephan Sinding (1846-1922). Almost as fun as sex.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
All humans love to kiss, so kissing must go back to early hominids and even chimps and bonobos. This is how ethologists and evolutionary psychologists think when they write about the subject. Just one thing. Even in historic times not all humans loved to kiss. Far from arising millions of years in the past, kissing... Read More
Kostenki Man, reconstructed by Mikhail Gerasimov (1907-1970). An early European who was not yet phenotypically European.
Who were the first Europeans? We now have a better idea, thanks to a new paper about DNA from a man who lived some 38,700 to 36,200 years ago. His remains were found at Kostenki, a well-known Upper Paleolithic site in central European Russia (Seguin-Orlando et al., 2014). Kostenki Man tells us several things about... Read More
Adam and Eve, Jan Brueghel de Oude en Peter Paul Rubens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Did the Christian doctrine of original sin create the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe? Or did the arrow of causality run the other way?
By definition, gene-culture co-evolution is reciprocal. Genes and culture are both in the driver's seat. This point is crucial because there is a tendency to overreact to cultural determinism and to forget that culture does matter, even to the point of influencing the makeup of our gene pool. Through culture, humans have directed their own... Read More
Natufian sites (15,000 – 12,000 BP). These semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers are widely seen as precursors to the early civilizations of the Middle East. Yet biological continuity between the two seems doubtful. Physically, they looked more like present-day sub-Saharan Africans. (source: Phirosiberia) Humans look “European” not only in Europe but also to varying degrees in North Africa,... Read More
St. Adalbert freeing Slavic slaves (source). With the Christianization of Eastern Europe, the trade in fair-skinned women and boys came to an end. The white slave trade played a key role in ending the Dark Ages—this seemingly unending downward spiral that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. By the 8th century, the elites of... Read More
The Slave Market, painting (c. 1884) by Jean-Léon Gérôme (source) Can Europeans, and European women in particular, become objects of trade? The idea seems laughable, since the term ‘slave trade’ almost always brings Africans to mind. Yet there was a time not so long ago when Europe exported slaves on a large scale. Between 1500... Read More
A new arrival (painting by Giuilo Rosati - source). The privilege of white skin … Earlier this year, fashion model Cameron Russell condemned the unbearable whiteness of her industry: […] I won a genetic lottery, and I am a recipient of a legacy. For the past few centuries, we have defined beauty not just as... Read More
Codex Suprasliensis (source). Texts were less reader-friendly in the past. An ability to read and write meant not only a good livelihood but also reproductive success. The Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) is a brain region that specializes in recognizing written words and letters. Though not essential to reading and writing, it makes these tasks... Read More
Spread of farming in Europe. Cultural diffusion or population replacement? Source Between 9,000 and 3,000 years ago farming spread through Europe and replaced hunting, fishing, and gathering. Was this process just a change in lifestyle? Or was it also a population change? Did Middle Eastern farmers replace native Europeans? For Greg Cochran, the answer is... Read More
Modern humans changed little when they initially spread out of Africa and into the Middle East. Real change occurred farther north, when they entered seasonally varying environments that differed much more even in summer. Three years ago, a research team led by John Hawks found that the rate of genetic change accelerated once ancestral humans... Read More
In anthropology, the term ‘expansion’ is used to describe the spread of a population into new lands, often much larger in size. The Bantu Expansion was thus the spread of Bantu agricultural peoples from eastern Nigeria into central, eastern, and southern Africa between 1,000 and 3,000 years ago. Roughly the same period saw Austronesians expand... Read More
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