Skip to comments.Oldest Human DNA from Africa Reveals Clues About a Mysterious Ancient Culture
Posted on 03/27/2018 6:37:29 AM PDT by Red Badger
Burials from a cave in Morocco have yielded the oldest human DNA evidence yet from Africa, offering new insight into Stone Age migrations.
The DNA samples come from one of the most ancient cemeteries in the world, the Grotte des Pigeons, near the village of Taforalt in northeast Morocco.
Beginning around 15,000 years ago, a culture of hunter-gatherers buried their dead with animal horns and other adornments inside this cave. Though burials were found as recently as 2006, archaeologists have been excavating the cave since the 1940s.
The name 20th-century researchers gave to this culture the Iberomaurusiansreflects the theory that the people who lived in this corner of North Africa were closely connected to Europe, and perhaps migrated across the Mediterranean by boat or a land bridge from the Iberian Peninsula or Sicily. Iberomaurusian sites have been found across the Maghreb, the area between the Atlas Mountains that span Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and the Mediterranean Sea. Some archaeologists had argued that small blades from sites like the Grotte des Pigeonsresembled the stone tools of the Gravettian culture, which was widespread across southern Europe during the Upper Paleolithic (which lasted from about 50,000 to 10,000 years ago). Today, North Africans have a large amount of European DNA.
But the new DNA evidence tells a different story about the origins of the Iberomaurusians. During recent excavations led by the University of Oxford at the Grotte des Pigeons, archaeologists saved the inner-ear petrous bones, a good source for ancient DNA. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, in Jena, Germany, extracted ancient mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on only from mothers to their children, from seven individuals, as well as nuclear DNA, which is inherited from both parents, from five of the skeletons.
(Excerpt) Read more at livescience.com ...
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"New technological approaches are allowing anthropologists to peer even deeper into the bones of our ancestors," said Quam. "In the case of La Ferrassie 1, these approaches have made it possible to identify new fossil remains and pathological conditions of the original skeleton as well as confirm that this individual was deliberately buried.
The adult male La Ferrassie 1 Neandertal skeleton was found in 1909 in a French cave site, along with the remains of an adult woman and several Neandertal children. All of the skeletons were interpreted as representing intentional burials, and the finds sparked much public interest at the time regarding just how human-like the Neandertals were. The La Ferrassie 1 skeleton, in particular, has been highly influential in Neandertal studies since its discovery.
La Ferrassie 1 was an old man (likely over 50 years old) who suffered various broken bones during his lifetime and had ongoing respiratory issues when he died. Soon after, he was buried by other members of his group in the La Ferrassie rockshelter, which was repeatedly occupied by Neandertals during millennia. The skeleton was found in a burial pit and has been dated to between 40,000 and 54,000 years.
[New technology reveals secrets of famous Neandertal skeleton La Ferrassie 1 | Binghamton University | Public Release: 27-Mar-2018]
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