The current issue of Science contains three articles that suggest the days of bashing North America’s “Moundbuilder Myth” are over . . . maybe.
America’s Lost City
New excavations reveal surprising dimensions to North America’s oldest city and its great earthen monuments.
Recent genetic studies have tended to throw cold water on the size and decimation of American Indian populations on European contact after 1492. A new study shows the falsehood of this thinking, and perhaps we are back to using the word “conquest” instead of the euphemistic term “contact.” The conqueror of the Americas was not Europeans, though, but the diseases they unleashed on Indians.
Geneticists seized the opportunity provided by an international Basque cultural event held in Idaho in 2010 to sample volunteers and study Basque DNA. The result was two studies, including “The Y-STR Genetic Diversity of an Idaho Basque population, published in Human Biology.
Gene surfing is a process in population expansion whereby certain variations become prominent and dominant in a short time, appearing to skip the slow, steady, uniform accumulation of variegation and diversification. According to a study of the population structure and genealogies of Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean in Quebec, this type of drastic change accompanied the immigrant wave front that spread over the area in the 17th century. “Deep Human Genealogies Reveal a Selective Advantage to Be on an Expanding Wave Front” in Science magazine describes the resulting demographics.
A Missing Link from Kent’s Cavern in Devonshire
A prehistoric maxilla (upper jawbone) fragment was discovered in the cavern during a 1927 excavation by the Torquay Natural History Society, and named Kents Cavern 4. The specimen is on display at the Torquay Museum.
At a time when it seemed that American science had bitten off more than it could chew with the Human Genome Project, Craig Venter and his innovative company published “A New Strategy for Genome Sequencing.” Appearing in the journal Nature in 1996, the Venter multi-center approach bypassed laborious gene mapping and allowed the HGP to meet its goal of full sequence information on the human genome in 2000.
A Greek goddess statue in the style of the Elgin Marbles was repatriated by a Los Angeles museum, marking the return of a valuable, but stolen piece of antiquity from the United States to Italy. Known as the Morgantina Aphrodite or Venus, the 7-foot tall marble is now displayed in a 17th century former Capuchin monastery in the tiny town of Aidone in central Sicily.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Neanderthal fossil record in America. And apparently a Neanderthal hybrid fossil record.
The Gypsies, or Roma, or Romani (so called because of their concentration in Romania) are a far-flung distinctive population with a lot of diversity. In our database, we have samples of four Gypsy populations, plus samples for Romania, Macedonia and Hungary which you can match if you have even a small degree of Gypsy/Romani.
Both the caves of Lascaux (Dordogne, France) and Altamira (Cantabria, Spain) are World Heritage Sites, but scientists are pushing that they remain closed to the public for a number of reasons. Read “Paleolithic Art in Peril” in this week’s Science magazine.