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Neanderthals used feathers as 'personal ornaments'

Our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals were harvesting feathers from birds in order to use them as personal ornaments, a study suggests.
The authors say the result provides yet more evidence that Neanderthal thinking ability was similar to our own.
The analysis even suggests they had a preference for dark feathers, which they selected from birds of prey and corvids - such as ravens and rooks.

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Neanderthal breeding idea doubted

Similarities between the DNA of modern people and Neanderthals are more likely to have arisen from shared ancestry than interbreeding, a study reports.
Previously, it had been suggested that shared parts of the genomes of these two populations were the result of interbreeding.
However, the newly published research proposes a different explanation.

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Title: Early seafaring activity in the southern Ionian Islands, Mediterranean Sea
Authors: George Ferentinos, Maria Gkioni, Maria Geraga, George Papatheodorou

This paper summarises the current development in the southern Ionian Islands (Kefallinia and Zakynthos) prehistory and places it within the context of seafaring. Archaeological data from the southern Ionian Islands show human habitation since Middle Palaeolithic going back to 110 ka BP yet bathymetry, sea-level changes and the Late Quaternary geology, show that Kefallinia and Zakynthos were insular at that time. Hence, human presence in these islands indicates inter island-mainland seafaring. Seafaring most likely started some time between 110 and 35 ka BP and the seafarers were the Neanderthals. Seafaring was encouraged by the coastal configuration, which offered the right conditions for developing seafaring skills according to the "voyaging nurseries" and "autocatalysis" concepts.

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DNA reveals Neanderthal extinction clues

Neanderthals were already on the verge of extinction in Europe by the time modern humans arrived on the scene, a study suggests.
DNA analysis suggests most Neanderthals in western Europe died out as early as 50,000 years ago - thousands of years before our own species appeared.

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European Neanderthals
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European Neanderthals on the verge of extinction even before the arrival of modern humans

New findings from an international team of researchers show that most neandertals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable neanderthal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised.
This new perspective on the neanderthals comes from a study of ancient DNA published today in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The results indicate that most neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture. The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

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Title: The effects of distal limb segment shortening on locomotor efficiency in sloped terrain: Implications for Neanderthal locomotor behavior
Authors:  Ryan W. Higgins, Christopher B. Ruff

Past studies of human locomotor efficiency focused on movement over flat surfaces and concluded that Neanderthals were less efficient than modern humans due to a truncated limb morphology, which may have developed to aid thermoregulation in cold climates. However, it is not clear whether this potential locomotor disadvantage would also exist in nonflat terrain. This issue takes on added importance since Neanderthals likely spent a significant proportion of their locomotor schedule on sloped, mountainous terrains in the Eurasian landscape. Here a model is developed that determines the relationship between lower limb segment lengths, terrain slope, excursion angle at the hip, and step length. The model is applied to Neandertal and modern human lower limb reconstructions. In addition, for a further independent test that also allows more climate-terrain cross comparisons, the same model is applied to bovids living in different terrains and climates. Results indicate that: (1) Neanderthals, despite exhibiting shorter lower limbs, would have been able to use similar stride frequencies per speed as longer-limbed modern humans on sloped terrain, due to their lower crural indices; and (2) shortened distal limb segments are characteristic of bovids that inhabit more rugged terrains, regardless of climate. These results suggest that the shortened distal lower limb segments of Neanderthals were not a locomotor disadvantage within more rugged environments.

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Neanderthal survival story revealed in Jersey caves

New investigations at an iconic cave site on the Channel Island of Jersey have led archaeologists to believe the Neanderthals have been widely under-estimated. Neanderthals survived in Europe through a number of ice ages and died out only about 30,000 years ago. The site at La Cotte de St Brelade reveals a near-continuous use of the cave site spanning over a quarter of a million years, suggesting a considerable success story in adapting to a changing climate and landscape, prior to the arrival of Homo Sapiens.
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Last Neanderthals near the Arctic Circle ?

Remains found near the Arctic Circle characteristic of Mousterian culture have recently been dated at over 28,500 years old, which is more than 8,000 years after Neanderthals are thought to have disappeared. This unexpected discovery by an international multi-disciplinary team, including researchers from CNRS, challenges previous theories. Could Neanderthals have lived longer than thought? Or had Homo sapiens already migrated to Europe at that stage? The results are published in Science of 13 May 2011.
The distinguishing feature of Mousterian culture, which developed during the Middle Palaeolithic (-300,000 to -33,000 years), is the use of a very wide range of flint tools, mainly by Neanderthal Man in Eurasia, but also by Homo sapiens in the Near East.
A multi-disciplinary team of French CNRS researchers, working with Norwegian and Russian scientists, studied the Byzovaya site in the Polar Urals in northern Russia. Using carbon 14 dating and an optical simulation technique, the team was able to put an accurate date on sediments and on mammoth and reindeer bones abandoned on the site. The bones bore traces of butchering by Mousterian hunters.
The results intrigue scientists in more ways than one. They show that Mousterian culture may have lasted longer than scientists had originally thought. What's more, no Mousterian presence had ever been identified so close to the Arctic Circle. All other traces are at least 1000 km further south. Lastly, the Byzovaya site, in Eurasia, seems only to have been occupied once, approximately 28,500 years ago, which is over 8,000 years after Neanderthals were thought to have disappeared.

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New evidence for when Neanderthals died out

Direct dating of a fossil of a Neanderthal infant suggests that Neanderthals probably died out earlier than previously thought.
Researchers have dated a Neanderthal fossil discovered in a significant cave site in Russia in the northern Caucasus, and found it to be 10,000 years older than previous research had suggested. This new evidence throws into doubt the theory that Neanderthals and modern humans interacted for thousands of years. Instead, the researchers believe any co-existence between Neanderthals and modern humans is likely to have been much more restricted, perhaps a few hundred years. It could even mean that in some areas Neanderthals had become extinct before anatomically modern humans moved out of Africa.

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Russian find suggests Neanderthals died out earlier than was thought.

The first humans to reach Europe may have found it a ghost world. Carbon-dated Neanderthal remains from the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains suggest that the archaic species had died out before modern humans arrived.
The remains are almost 10,000 years older than expected. They come from just one cave in western Russia, called Mezmaiskaya, but bones at other Neanderthal sites farther west could also turn out to be more ancient than previously thought, thanks to a precise carbon-dating technique, says Thomas Higham, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of Oxford, UK, and a co-author of a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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