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Upper Paleolithic

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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
World distribution of the recent Microcephalin allele. The prevalence is indicated in black and the letter 'D' refers to the 'derived' or recent allele(Evans et al., 2005) Almost a decade ago, there was much interest in a finding that a gene involved in brain growth, Microcephalin, continued to evolve after modern humans had begun to... Read More
Inuit meat cache, Kazan River (source: Library and Archives Canada / PA-101294). Because of their high meat diet, hunters produce more body heat than farmers do. Natural selection has thus favored certain mtDNA sequences over others in humans with this profile of heat production. A change in selection pressure may therefore explain, at least in... Read More
Eyed sewing needles from Ice Age Europe (17,000 to 10,000 BP). (source: Didier Descouens) As early modern humans spread farther north, they entered more challenging environments. This was particularly so when they left the boreal forests and entered the open steppe-tundra that covered much of northern Eurasia. Food was plentiful but largely took the form... Read More
The lithic technology of southwestern France (c. 22,000-17,000 BP) strangely resembles that of the first paleo-Amerindians (c. 12,000). Some people speculate that early Europeans reached North America by crossing the Atlantic. The truth is even more incredible. Early Europeans spread eastward and became the ancestors not only of the Amerindians but also of East Asians.... Read More
Why are Europeans so pale-skinned? The most popular explanation is the vitamin-D hypothesis. Originally developed by Murray (1934) and Loomis (1967), it has been most recently presented by Chaplin and Jablonski (2009). It can be summarized as follows: 1. To absorb calcium and phosphorus from food passing through the gut, humans need vitamin D. This... Read More
What did the first modern humans in Europe look like? The question comes up in a BBC2 series The Incredible Human Journey, which shows the reconstructed head of a man who lived in the Carpathian Mountains some 35,000 years ago. With its brown skin and broad nose, this ‘First European’ looks, well, very un-European. The... Read More
Among early modern humans, men faced less mate competition with increasing distance from the equator. They were proportionately fewer in number and fewer of them could afford a second wife. This was partly because hunting distances were correspondingly longer, so that more men died of hunting fatalities, and partly because longer winters made polygyny costlier.... Read More
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