Archive for the 'Archaeology/Paleontology' Category

Hear a Neanderthal Talk (and Other Interesting Neanderthal Language Rumblings) and New Scientist have recently reported on a couple of developments in the Neanderthal language debate.
Firstly, a new paper is in the works that will cast doubt upon the conclusions of the now famous Neanderthal FOXP2 paper from last year. Krause et al found the same adaptive variation of the language-implicated FOXP2 gene as is found in humans in Neanderthal DNA sequences, and claimed that the this was evidence for FOXP2 as a homologous trait that was present in our common ancestor. Cue endless headlines about how this finding is proof that Neanderthals had language.

Continue reading ‘Hear a Neanderthal Talk (and Other Interesting Neanderthal Language Rumblings)’


Fossil find could be Europe’s first humans

 From The Guardian Science, by James Randerson

A fossilised jawbone and teeth found in a cave in northern Spain may have belonged to one of the first human ancestors to set foot in western Europe. The hominid has been identified as Homo antecessor, or pioneer man, a possible ancestor of both our own species and Neanderthals. The fossils date from between 1.1m and 1.2m years ago.

Continue reading ‘Fossil find could be Europe’s first humans’

New Finds Might Solve Peking Man Mystery

“Chinese archaeologists are hailing their biggest discovery in almost 80 years after unearthing a skull that could provide a clue to the origins of a fifth of the world’s population. The fossilised skull, named Xuchang Man after the city where it was found, is thought to date back 80,000 to 100,000 years, to a period that has long been a mystery to scientists.”

Guardian Science. Read the rest here.

BBC Radio Documentary about Sequencing Neanderthal DNA

There was a great documentary about the attempts to sequence Neanderthal DNA on BBC Radio 4 last night, with a fairly extensive discussion about finding FOXP2. Well worth a listen if you get a chance. You can download it here, click on the ‘Listen Again’ link in the blue box on the left hand side of the screen.

New Fossil Find May Cause Reevalutation of Gorilla/Human Split

From BBC Science online

Nine fossilised teeth found in Ethiopia are from a previously unknown species of great ape, Nature journal reports.

The 10 million-year-old fossils belong to an animal that has been named Chororapithecus abyssinicus by an Ethiopian-Japanese team.

This new species could be a direct ancestor of living African great apes, say the researchers.

Continue reading here

The Hobbit is “proven”…. again

· Scientists shed new light on disputed skeleton find
· Bone analysis supports distinct species theory

  • Taken from The Guardian. Written by James Randerson, science correspondent, Friday September 21 2007

It was the most astonishing anthropological find of a generation – a diminutive new species of human that apparently shared the planet with us until 13,000 years ago.

But the discovery of the fossilised “Hobbit”, as she quickly became known, has provoked a long-running and sometimes acrimonious debate among scientists: was she really one of a race of mini-humans or was she merely one of us, but with a brain-shrinking disease?

Now scientists have analysed fossilised wrist bones that were part of the original discovery in 2003 but had not been looked at in detail. They say they prove the Hobbit really was a distinct and previously unknown type of human, and not just an abnormally small member of our own species.

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Deacon Blogging Epic – Part 2


Deacon and Nativism
Clearly Deacon is arguing something far more subtle than innate grammar. He begins by following the standard UG criticism – that children don’t deduce rules of grammar from nothing, they are in fact embedded in a powerful learning structure.
But he goes further to argue that learning also isn’t sufficient to explain the pace and effectiveness with which children aquire language.

The nativist mistake is to attribute language learning competence to internal sources just because learning externally from adults doesn’t seem to be a sufficient explanation. The Skinnerian learning mistake is to assume that all external information must be passed from the minds of adults in the form of learning. Deacon believes there is an alternative explanation, that information is carried in language itself. Language is adapted to people, and is not just an abstract and unforgiving code. Therefore a child wouldn’t have to learn language by trial and error if they didn’t possess UG. If they were tuned towards language their exploration of the novel linguistic structure would be itself be structured and relevant.

Children’s minds need not innately embody language structures, if languages embody the predisposition of children’s minds” (p109)

Continue reading ‘Deacon Blogging Epic – Part 2’

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