Monday, April 22, 2019

Deep history news

Paleontological star John Hawks muses here on recent discoveries of what is might be a previously unknown human or hominin species. Found on the Philippine Islands and dating to some 67,000 years ago, it is a human line that links to the Denisovan ancestry previously identified in Siberia. Such finds all show how archeology and DNA analysis are rapidly splitting the long-held Sapiens/Neanderthal dichotomy in early human evolution into a rainbow of human predecessors, and not only in Africa. Hawks is also intrigued by the frequency of recent fossil discoveries on islands, which suggests some seagoing ability at a much earlier period of hominid prehistory than anyone expected. Complicated!

Meanwhile a humbler application of new DNA tools. A woman who immigrated to Newfoundland in the early stages of English colonization there seems to have had a minor genetic anomaly that is now widespread in the Newfoundland population and almost nowhere else. It was tracked by DNA analysis, but researchers there think genealogists might actually be able to identify the specific person involved, except that early records tend to be much better at naming men than women.
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