A Yale-led study published recently in the Science Advances journal reported that early evidence from artifacts show that ancient humans altered the ecosystem.
Based on archaeological studies of thick clusters of stone artifacts unearthed in eastern Africa, along the northern shores of Lake Malawi, earliest humans as far back as 92,000 years, had altered the environment after gaining mastery of fire. Combining archaeological evidence and paleoenvironmental data, researchers were able to gather conclusive proof that ancient humans in eastern Africa burned the region’s forests in order to replace them with woodlands.
Fire was used as means of preventing forests from resurging, which led to the creation of the sprawling bushland that exists in Africa today. The manipulation of the ecosystem suggests that the ancient ecosystem engineers were largely farmers and herders, and not hunter-gatherers.
How the Evidences were Preserved
According to David Wright of the University of Oslo, who led in the study of archaeological sites, climate driven changes allowed the preservation of millions of artifacts. Wright explained that when it rained, dirt and trees were washed away and rolled downhill with nothing to stop them from being buried in the environment.
In the last arid period, the increased amount in charcoal found preserved in the archaeological sites, plus the absence of forest, led researchers to the conclusion that there was ecological manipulation using fire. A method that is quite similar to what modern farmers are doing today.
Author of the study, Jessica Thompson, who is a Yale paleoanthropologist and an assistant professor of anthropology, said their study provided the earliest evidence of how humans from as early as the Late Pleistocene, had altered the ecosystems through the use of fire. Although Thompson said it was not clear why they took to burning the landscape, as it is also possible that the burning of the forest went beyond their control.
A group of researchers came to a conclusion that a lot of reconstructions made on early humans on display in museums were based on minimal empirical evidence.
Their review of the reconstructed facial features was published on the Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution journal last February 26, 2021, and is centered on the remains of Lucy and of a Taung child. The two represent the oldest and most complete human ancestor ever discovered. Lucy is the 3.2 million-year-old remains unearthed by researchers in 1974, while the 2.8 million-year-old Taung child died at 3 years old in what is now part of South Africa.
Using Science to Reconstruct Facial Features of Oldest Human Remains
To prove their point, the researchers reconstructed the facial features of the two oldest remains using pigmented silicone, and based on data derived from scientific calculations of how modern features may have looked millions of years ago. The result is that the Taung child’s features are nearly identical to those of the modern natives in South Africa. Lucy’s features and skin tone on the other hand, have large similarities to a bonobo, a historically known species of pygmy chimpanzee.
Still, the researchers admit that in scientifically reconstructing the remains of the Taung child and that of Lucy, they also had to make assumptions even though the child’s skull were well preserved. The reconstruction of Lucy’s facial features was more challenging as only her lower jawbone remained intact and nearly complete. Since most of Lucy’s cranial bones were missing, they do not claim that their reconstruction of Lucy’s facial feature is a good contender to becoming a reconstructed model.
Researchers’ Criticisms about Reconstructed Images Displayed in Museums
While the researchers do not claim that their reconstructions of Lucy and the Taung child’s facial features are better, neither are the versions on display in museums throughout the world. The current facial feature reconstructions were depicted by artists, who only made assumptions without taking into account the known sciences about prehistoric people. Details in support of whether the early humans looked like modern humans or more like apes were ignored; such as the softness of their tissues, including the thickness of their skin and their muscles.
Rui Diogo, a senior review researcher and an assistant professor of anatomy at Howard University, wrote
“Majority of the earlier reconstructions were highly influenced by imaginary stories about “savages” and ‘primitives’ versus concepts of what is regarded as ‘civilized‘ and ‘modern,’
Back in 2018, a group of researchers from the Max-Planck Institute and from the University of Helsinki discovered the origins of the first Finnish people. The findings were based on their analysis of the ancient DNA collected from a water burial site in Finland that was over 1,500 years old, as well as from those gathered from a 3,500 year old burial site in the Kola Peninsula in Russia
Finland used to be a part of Sweden during the years 1150 to 1809, which is why most of the country’s historical records for those years were documented in Swedish. Nonetheless, the researchers were able to unravel the trail left behind by the ancient people from Siberia at the time when they set out on their nomadic travels toward Northwestern Russia and Finland.
The relevance of the evidence collected in the Kola Peninsula dated approximately 4,000 years revealed genetic links to the Siberian travelers who had spread their genetic genealogy with those already inhabiting Finland.
The researchers also found out that the genetic similarity between the ancient Siberians is present in the genetics of the modern Saami people living in the southern parts of Finland.
According to Stephan Schiffels, the co-senior author of the research, the first exploration of the ancient DNA in relation to Finland’s ancestral links was already fascinating . Yet further studies are necessary to better understand whether the patterns are a true representative of Finland’s ancestry .
Additionally, the Saami people represent the largest part of ancient Siberian ancestry out of all modern-day European inhabitants. Thiseas Lamnidis, the study’s co-first author, said the discoveries made by the Max Planck and Helsinki university researchers showed that there was a tight link between ancient Siberian and ancient Finnish populations.
Despite the huge distance between the locations of the two populations, the study proves they share the same languages, cultural behaviours, and survival strategies.
The possible explanation is that ancient Finnish used to live a nomadic life, constantly traveling and ending up in different populations.
The Modern Saami People in Finland
The inhabitants in Levänluhta, Finland are deemed as having the greatest resemblance to the modern-day Saami people of Siberia. In fact, based on a modern linguistic study, the name Levänluhta originated from Saami languages.
The modern Saami population are individuals speaking the Sami language and currently inhabiting the Lapland regions and places near the northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway. Previous studies of the Saami people’s origin indicated that they are part of the Paleo-Siberian people; other experts though claim that they came from central Europe.
These people are descendants of ancient people that had a nomadic lifestyle. Around AD 100, Saami communities were scattered and pushed to the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, and Norway at the time when Finnish people emerged in the country.
A project undertaken by Max Planck researchers revealed that the Arabian Peninsula played a significant role in prehistoric evolution of human civilizations. The findings provide proof to theories that there was once a period in human prehistory that the Arabian region was once a green and fertile region before its lands became arid and barren.
More than a Decade of Research Unraveled Proof of a Green Arabian Peninsula
Prior to this new discovery, the hyper-arid desert of the Arabian Peninsula was widely believed to be inhospitable to human and animal existence; making the region a less likely place to investigate if for purposes of understanding human prehistory.
The perception changed when over the last decade, research studies conducted by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH), in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Culture. Saudi Geological Survey, King Saud University, together with UK and Australian institutions, revealed that it was not always the case.The fossils and footprints discovered in related expeditions made it apparent that during the past million years, the conditions in Arabia were not always arid but had in fact fluctuated significantly.
One of the lead authors of the study, Richard Clark-Wilson of the Royal Holloway, said that based on their study of archaeological and fossil records, it was during the periods of climate upswing that prehistoric humans and animals arrived to populate the Arabian region’s interior. Clark-Wilson explained that based on examinations of fossilized human and animal footprints,
”There were certain times in the past that the deserts dominating the peninsula’s interior had transformed into vast greenlands supported by permanent freshwater rivers and lakes.”
The findings supported the theory that human movements went beyond Africa and the Levant, and had extended into the northern Arabian region. Michael Petraglia of MPI-SHH, who has been involved with the research program for more than a decade, said they were able to identify the fossilized footprints as belonging to horses, camels and elephants. It was also noted that these large animals were in existence in the region, at the time when they went extinct in the Levant region 400 hundred years earlier.
The revelations indicated that humans who were then moving between Eurasia and Africa, had found the northern Arabian peninsula an attractive place to inhabit.
Human migration in the Caribbean has always been of much interest to geneticists, and a recent study at least three represent the region’s ancestral origins.
The Caribbean is said to be among the last of the regions in the New World to have had human settlers; long before the islands in that part of the Western hemisphere were discovered, colonized and called the Americas during the Age of Discovery.
A new study conducted by archaeologists from the University of Copenhagen and geneticists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, focused their research on ancient DNA. They found evidence that there were at least 3 populations of people that descended and migrated in the region.
Bone fragments estimated to belong to ancient Caribbean ancestors were unearthed by archaeologists across 16 excavation sites. The researchers analyzed the DNA and were able to establish that they came from some 93 ancient humans who settled in the Caribbean islands around 400 to 3,200 years ago.
The first two of the populations were found in the western part of the Caribbean and appeared to have had links to early populations that dispersed in North America. The third, which was also the last wave of migration, were established to have originated in South America.
Assistant Professor of Bio-Anthropology at the University of Winnipeg, Yadira Chinique de Armas, remarked that the new data uphold their previous observations that there was biological and cultural diversity among the early Carribean settlers.
Ancient Caribbean Populations Had Traveled via Land and Sea
Based on earlier studies, it was theorized that migrating populations had travelled only by way of a land bridge, and that the hunter-gatherers were not great sea voyagers. Yet this group of researchers found growing evidence that the Caribbean Sea did not pose as a barrier. It had instead served as some sort of aquatic highway that connected the islands to each other and to the mainland.
Kathrin Nägele, one of the first authors of the study and a student taking up PhD at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said they have found evidence that suggests there were repeated interactions between inhabitants of the islands and the mainland,
Numerous studies have led geneticists to conclude that all humans originated in Africa from as far back as 200,000 years ago.
However, human origins expert Chris Stringer,who works at the Natural History Museum in London, expressed skepticism regarding the use of modern genetic distributions alone, in determining where ancient people originated and lived in Africa hundreds of thousands years ago.
First off, Mr. Stringer, a British physical anthropologist well known for his studies on human evolution told Live Science, caution should be applied when using modern genetics as basis for inferences, especially in a large continent like Africa.
After all, there have been similar studies that traced earliest humans in different areas of the continent: Souther, Easter and Western Africa. The British anthropologist remarked that
“.. “So many studies have concentrated on one small bit of the genome, some others on one region; some focused on stone tool industry or on a single ‘critical’ fossil. Similarly in studies of genetics distribution, focusing on one area of cannot capture the full complexity surrounding our mosaic origins”
Arguments against Genetics Distribution as Determinant of Where Humans Originated
Stringer explained that the present study presented by geneticists follow only one series of maternally inherited genetic code. Yet such findings do not fully capture the full picture of how the earliest humankind traveled throughout Africa.
The best available findings is one that suggests there have been numerous and genetically-different founder populations that may have existed in different regions across the African continent. Evidence collected from such studies will then show proof that modern humans could have originated from several homelands rather than from just one.
In satisfying our curiosity on where the earliest Indians came from, our online exploration about ancestral journeys took us to India, the second most populous country in the world. It is a well-known fact that this country’s huge population comprises a mishmash of non-tribal and tribal people, speaking as many as 700 different dialects.
Our exploration of the worldwide web led us to a 2017 study and analysis performed by researchers from the University of Huddersfield (UH) in West Yorkshire, England. The study was initiated by Marine Silva, an archaeo-geneticist and a UH doctoral student. Ms. Silva, found proof that the diversity of India’s population was the result of several migration movements that originated from Africa and later from Europe.
Although the origins of the Indian people is a much debated topic, Ms. Silva was able to put the issue to rest by using DNA samples coming from different people living in modern India. The DNA study showed that India had been host to some very ancient lineages that came from several waves of migration
Details of how the UH study analyzed and arrived at the genetic chronology of the Indian subcontinent, are described in detail in the paper published by the UH researchers in the BMC Evolutionary Biology journal ,.
Who Were the Earliest Indian Settlers and Where They Came From?
African hunter-gatherers are said to be the firsts to arrive in the Indian subcontinent around 50,000 years ago. It is widely believed that the early African homo erectus were the firsts to have dispersed and migrated, by crossing land bridges before such landforms went under water. The most recent study of early African dispersals that occurred around 70,000 to 50,000 years ago, showed a pattern of migrants who came mostly from East Africa, to later spread along Asia’s southern coast.
What and Who Transformed the Early Indo-African Population
The Indo-European languages spoken by the people in central and northern India presented proofs of the subcontinent’s link to the Indo-Aryan invasions that transpired roughly about 3500 years ago. The so-called invasion is described as an influx of men coming from Central Asia who swept into India. The Indo-Aryan invaders subsequently transformed the Indo-Afro population; which included the establishment of the caste system.
Reference to Central Asia denotes the region that stretches from the Caspain Sea, if coming from the east, and from Iran and Afghanistan if coming from the north. The Central Asian region comprises countries with names ending in the Persian suffix ”stan,” which colloquially means “Land of,” namely Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Earlier studies about the Indo-Aryan invaders originating from Central Asia, described them as ancient livestock herders, who rode in wheeled chariots when they traversed through Europe. Subsequent studies suggest that only the men in this particular group had left their genetic signature. This was supported by Ms. Silva’s DNA studies, which showed that African and Middle Eastern origins were predominant in the Indian Y-chromosome or male genetic lineage.
Moreover, the group of roaming male-dominated, livestock herders communicated by way of early Sanskrit, a language that is largely associated to Greek and Latin. Based on the DNA studies and analysis performed by the UH researchers and the results of the early studies about the Bronze-Age invasions, the diversity of India’s population was the result of different Indo-Aryan invasions and immigrations.
In a world that is now forward thinking, what makes the concept of genetic ancestry tracing, popular, especially among Americans? Even 2020 presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren had her ancestral genealogy traced, to support her claim that some roots in her family tree came from Native American ancestors.
How the information gave her political advantage or disadvantage is another story; with Trump calling her Pocahontas and a prominent leader of the Cherokee Nation saying that the results of genetic testing do not reflect genuine affiliation with a tribe.
In an interview by Live Science, Beverly I. Strassmann, a professor of Anthropology and Faculty Associate at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan, said that genealogy has become the second-most popular hobby in America. She explained that the deep-rooted interest in ancestry-tracing is in part influenced by evolutionary forces, which stem from how humans care for family members because of shared genes.
Individuals who feel closer to their family because of genetic ties are more likely to participate in helping out and in increasing the survival odds of one’s own genes. It is a phenomenon that Professor Strassman refers to as “kin selection.” She further explained that in helping relatives, and not necessarily limiting the scope to offsprings, people can forward their lineage through genetic fitness.
A Cursory Look at the Concept of Genetic Testing
An article from the National Institute of Health (NIH) defines and explains the concept of genetic ancestry testing, which is also referred to as genetic genealogy. It is a method that examines DNA variations, to which the analyses involve looking for clues pertaining to where a subject’s ancestors came from and about the connections between families.
What is DNA
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the self-replicating material mainly constituting the threadlike chromosomes forming the nucleus of every living cell; posing as carriers of genetic information.
In genetic ancestry testing, patterns of DNA variations are compared, to which the greater the patterns of DNA variations shared by families or even by populations, the closer the genealogical relationship between individuals and families under study.
According to the NIH article, there are three types of genetic ancestry testing used for genealogy:
The Y Chromosome Testing
This method analyzes the variations of the Y chromosome exclusively passed on by a father to a son. It is used in exploring ancestry in the direct male line. Take note that only males have Y chromosomes; but women can harness this type of genetic testing by having a male family member DNA tested.
The Mitochondrial DNA Testing
In this type of genetic testing, cell structures known as mitochondria that contain a small amount of DNA, are used in identifying genetic variations. This type of testing can be used by either sex, since both male and female offsprings receive mitochondrial DNA.from their mothers.
The Single Nucleotide Polymorphism Testing
These types of tests analyze large numbers of DNA variations referred to as “single nucleotide polymorphisms” found across a person’s specific genome or the total set of DNA variations for a specific species. The results of these genetic testing methods are then compared with the results of others who have taken the tests, to establish an estimated percentage of a person’s ethnicity.
Chemical researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMO) München, led by Dr. Oliver Trapp of the Department Chemie at the university, conducted chemical tests that show how a simple chain of chemical evolution could have served as pathway that gave rise to the existence of DNA on Earth, earlier than what was previously believed.
Their findings contradict a generally accepted model in which the RNA was the first to have been synthesized from precursor organic compounds that existed during the prebiotic stage. Based on their findings, the LMU researchers now contend that DNA molecules may have existed parallel to RNA and therefore came to be by 400 million years earlier than first established.
Understanding the Significance of DNA and RNA in the Chemical Evolution of Organic Compounds During the Prebiotic Stage
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a self-replicating material possessed by nearly all living organisms. DNA strands constitute chromosomes that carry genetic information. However, in some viruses, RNA instead of DNA carries genetic information.
RNA on the other hand, stands for ribonucleic acid. It is a nucleic acid found in all living cells, whose primary role is to carry out instructions coming from DNA strands for purposes of controlling the synthesis of proteins.
Mankind through different scientific studies has since tried to determine how life first came to be on Earth. While others simply accepted God, being the supreme being over all creations as solely responsible for the universe and everything found in it, scientists take interest in establishing the mechanisms and processes of how God began life naturally; not as an instant occurrence but through long periods of evolution.
Actually the researchers’ explanation of their discovery is a complex narration of chemical reactions of organic compounds believed to have been present in a prebiotic environment. Understand that by prebiotic, the condition referred to is life before it came to be on Earth. Professor Trapp conducted experiments of prebiotic organic compounds using only water with mild acidity, and temperatures ranging between 40 to 70 degrees Centigrade.
As a result, and through various tests, researchers at LMU have identified a second set of possible precursors or substance from which DNA was formed by chemical reaction in prebiotic conditions The information gathered suggests that the earliest molecules of DNA may have appeared some 4 billion years ago, parallel with the RNA.
Constantinople was the ancient city named after Constantine the Great (a.k.a. Constantine 1), who made the site the capital of the Byzantine Empire from 330 to 1453 CE (Common Era). Today, the ancient city of Constantinople is known as Istanbul, the most populous metropolis in modern-day Turkey, and the cradle of the country’s cultural and historical heritage.
The earliest known settlement in the location came in 7th century BC, and was called Byzantium. The settlement went on to develop as a burgeoning port because of its strategic geographic location. It straddled the border between Asia and Europe, allowing control over ships passing through a narrow, natural strait called Bosphorus. Moreover, a natural harbor on the inlet of Golden Horn permitted lucrative trading between east and west.
When the seat of the Roman Empire shifted to Byzantium, Emperor Constantine called the port haven as the “New Rome.” Some time later, the city was renamed as Constantinople, and much later, into Istanbul.
Although the citizens were known as Byzantines, they preferred to call themselves Romans, in light of the city’s “New Rome” title. Yet the common language spoken was Greek, and in cultural and historical terms, the influence was also mostly Greek.
The Rise of the Byzantine Empire
The transformation of Byzantium as the new seat of the Roman Empire was a turning point in the history of Rome, as it marked the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire.
The Byzantine Empire or the Eastern Roman Empire covered territories located in Asia Minor, in the Balkans, in Greece, Italy, Levant and in North Africa. The Byzantine rule was the longest enduring sovereign, spanning more than 1,100 years of power wielded across regions, whilst instilling Byzantine influence in the fields of architecture, art, economy, literature and laws.
The empire was distinctively built, not as an extension of the ancient Roman rule, but as medieval sovereign that developed its own religious beliefs, traditional practices, political systems and cultural heritage. When Constantine the Great became the first Roman emperor to convert into Christianity, the Byzantine Empire had evolved into becoming a Christian sovereign with distinctively Christian culture combined with medieval Western and Byzantine influences.
The Byzantine Empire flourished through a thousand and one hundred years, turning the capital city of Constantinople into a cosmopolitan center regarded as the wealthiest and most important Christian city throughout the globe.
The glory and grandeur though came with a price, as Constantinople became the object of many horrific sieges. In 413 BC, massive Theodosian Walls were built around the capital city, giving the empire protection against marauders attacking from both land and sea.
However, the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453, when the City of Constantinople was overrun by Mehmed II a.k.a. Mehmed the Conqueror, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
The first well-known literate civilization
The first well-known literate civilization
The first well-known literate civilization