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Summary- The origin of Neandertals
This article provides a comprehensive overview of the theories and hypotheses that attempt to explain the divergence of common specie into Neandertals and Homo sapiens. The differentiation can be ascribed to climatic changes as well as genetic modifications. Critical debates revolve around the time of separation of the taxa with different hypothesis favoring early, middle or late differentiation. The early differentiation claim is backed by interpretation and dating of human remains from the Sima de los Huesos (Spain). The late differentiation is backed by anatomical evidence and archeological arguments but both these theories can be contradicted on various grounds including archeological and temporal instances. An intermediate divergence hypothesis is also proposed and is backed by fossil evidence from UK and France and resultant estimates of time period are close of independent estimates and archeological evidence with the exception of Levallois technique development. This article also discusses the hypotheses that attempt to explain the relationship between Middle Pleistocene and later Neandertals. One hypothesis proclaims the ‘two-phase model’ which favors a dramatic change at a particular point in time while the other ‘accretion model’ proposes more gradual change. In a nutshell this article highlights the wide range of possible explanation of prehistoric phenomena and the need to construct narratives that are as evolutionarily consistent as possible.
Question 1: How does the inconclusiveness regarding the origin of Neandertals affect modern man?
Question 2: What sort of new evidence could help us be more certain of the origin of Neandertals?
Summary- The Atapuerca Sites and Their Contribution to the Knowledge of Human Evolution in Europe
This article attempts to trace various developments in the progression of human species. Throughout the article it is evident that the study of human taxa and development is strongly linked with geography and study of particular sites yields particular information about certain sub-categories of humans. Study of sites like Sierra de Atapeurca, Sima de los Huesos, Gran Dolina and the fossils obtained from here have contributed significantly to our knowledge of the history of the modification of homo erectus and homo ergaster into neandertals and homo sapiens. Studies of different sites and fossils also lead to generation of new theories and sub-categorizations postulating migrations and evolution of specie. But these discoveries and the resulting theories are still insufficient to allow us to formulate a comprehensive genealogy of human evolution and one can envision the discovery of more variants of the initial homo ergaster and Homo erectus.
Question 1: How are inter-disciplinary approaches important in the study of human evolution?
Question 2: Can the idea that Homo antecessor is the predecessor if Neandertals be supported by evidence and theories?
Summary- Elusive Denisovans Sighted in Oldest Human DNA
Denisovians are an extinct but distinct branch that evolved from Homo erectus. The proof of their existence lies in very limited DNA and fossils found in Siberia. Svante Pääbo as part of a team at the Max Planck institute in Germany was in search of more of this extinct group and quite contrary to their expectations Denisonian DNA was sequenced from a bone excavated in Spain instead of Asia. The evidences of Denisovians were expected to turn up Asia because traces of their genes exist in living South Asians but the anomalous discovery causes more confusion and has resulted in two theories that attempt to explain human evolution and progression. One theory suggests that Denisovians interacted with our South Asian ancestors and had their genes transferred and passed on. The other theory hints at a common ancestor to Neandertals, Denisovians and Homo sapiens and hence explains the shared genes and the turning up of these genes at unlikely places. This account of the discovery of the oldest DNA specimen yet has further convoluted the progression of human race and to unravel the mysteries of human history a lot has to be discovered and explained.
Question 1: Was the assumption of Svante Pääbo justifiable?
Question 2: What do the possible branches of early humans (neandertals, Denisovians, Homo sapiens) tell us about the origin of human species?
Summary- Neanderthal Beginnings
This article starts with the first humanistic organisms, homo and their proposed beginnings in Africa. From then on the splitting of this specie into subcategories, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster and various other possible groups like the Homo heidelbergensis is traced. These groups are recognized because fossils excavated from different sites and belonging to different time periods exhibit different morphological characteristics. The Neanderthals arrived on the scene more than 200,000 years ago. It is impossible to conclude a specific date for the beginning or existence of a particular group as diverging evidence keeps emerging and researches are left to contest one theory or another. An important consideration in the study of historical organisms is the means by which specie are identified and recognized. Another important aspect is the mechanics of evolution and speciation in which ecological and behavioral shifts are integral. More research and better explanations can help us come up with better theories but we are still far from unearthing a comprehensive and factually consistent human progression through the ages.
Question 1: What relationship can be drawn between the cranial infrastructure and behavior of a particular specie?
Question 2: How conclusive is the story of the origin of Neanderthals and their place in the human progression?
Bermúdez de Castro, J. M., et al. "The Atapuerca sites and their contribution to the knowledge of
human evolution in Europe." Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and
Reviews 13.1 (2004): 25-41.
Gibbons, Ann. "Elusive Denisovans Sighted in Oldest Human DNA." Science342.6163 (2013):
Hublin, Jean-Jacques. "The origin of Neandertals." Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences 106.38 (2009): 16022-16027.
Stringer, Christopher, and Clive Gamble. In search of the Neanderthals: Solving the puzzle of
human origins. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993.
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