University of Manchester researchers copied wooden toes found with Egyptian mummies, buried about 3,000 years ago
A volunteer with missing toes, wearing the kind of sandals worn in ancient Egypt, tested the replicas on a pressure measurement system.
They proved to have been practical walking devices, rather than cosmetic.
Dr Jacky Finch said: "The pressure data tells us that it would have been very difficult for an ancient Egyptian missing a big toe to walk normally wearing traditional sandals.
"They could of course have remained bare foot or perhaps have worn some sort of sock or boot over the false toe, but our research suggests that wearing these false toes made walking in a sandal more comfortable."
Another artificial toe, made from plaster, linen and glue, was from a burial from about 2,500 years ago.
But the wood and leather toe, which the study found to be the more comfortable, had been buried with a woman believed to have lived some time between 950BC and 710BC.
Researchers suggest that this could make it the oldest known prosthetic device - older than a false leg taken from a Roman burial from 300BC, which was destroyed in a World War II bombing raid.
The tests were carried out at the Gait Laboratory at Salford University's Centre for Rehabilitation and Human Performance Research.
A fossilised jawbone found poking out of the ground in Ethiopia has set the story of human origins back nearly half a million years to a time when early man shared the vast grassland plains of eastern Africa with a rich variety of prehistoric animals.
This suggests there must have been an even older common ancestor of both H. habilis specimens, said Fred Spoor of University College London and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, who believes the answer now lies with the new jawbone discovery in Ethiopia.
Scientists have confirmed that the jawbone belongs to the Homo genus and, at 1.8 million years old, is more than 400,000 years older than the oldest previous fossil of the same group of early humans who eventually gave rise to our own species, Homo sapiens.
The discovery begins to fill in a huge gap in human origins between the primitive “ape man” of Australopithecus afarensis – best known from the Lucy fossil discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 – and the earliest known members of the “human” family, the species Homo habilis or “handy man”.
“The jaw helps to narrow the evolutionary gap between Australopithecus and early Homo. It’s an excellent case of a transitional fossil in a critical time period in human evolution,” said Bill Kimbel, director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University in Tempe.
The incomplete mandible with teeth was found by graduate student Chalachew Seyoum of the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage in Addis Ababa, who made the discovery while surveying a hill in the Ledi-Geraru area of the Afar region of Ethiopia, where many early human fossils have been unearthed.
Although scientists are not yet sure which species the jawbone’s owner belongs to, they are confident it can be included in the “human” lineage of Homo, which is characterised by an upright, bipedal posture, sophisticated tool-making abilities and a relatively large braincase.
Skull found in northern Israeli cave in western Galilee, thought to be female and 55,000 years old, connects interbreeding and move from Africa to Europe.
An ancient skull found in a cave in northern Israel has cast light on the migration of modern humans out of Africa and the dawn of humanity’s colonisation of the world.
For most palaeontologists that might be enough for a single fossil, but the braincase has offered much more: a likely location where the first prehistoric trysts resulted in modern humans having sex with their heavy-browed Neanderthal cousins.
Discovered in a cave in western Galilee, the partial skull belonged to an individual, probably a woman, who lived and died in the region about 55,000 years ago, placing modern humans there and then for the first time ever.
Homo sapiens walked out of Africa at least 60,000 years ago, but the harsh climate in parts of Europe at the time hampered their spread across much of the continent until about 45,000 years ago.
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The Sahara Desert is one of the least hospitable climates on Earth. Its barren plateaus, rocky peaks and shifting sands envelop the northern third of Africa, which sees very little rain, vegetation and life.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean thrives the world’s largest rainforest. The lush, vibrant Amazon basin, located in northeast South America, supports a vast network of unparalleled ecological diversity.
So, what do these seemingly different climates have in common? They are intimately connected by a 10,000-mile-long intermittent atmospheric river of dust.
Every year, intense Saharan winds send enormous clouds of dust on a trans-Atlantic journey to the Amazon basin. This dust, much of it originating in an ancient lakebed in Chad, is rich in phosphorus. When it reaches the rainforest, the remains of long-dead organisms of the Sahara provide crucial nutrients to the rainforest’s living flora. Phosphorus, which is essential to plant growth, is in short supply in the Amazon. Desert dust dumped into the forest every year helps to diminish this deficit.
Source : http://climate.nasa.gov/
Researchers found evidence of human fire use in South Africa's Wonderwerk Cave (shown here), a massive cavern located near the edge of the Kalahari Desert.
Ash and charred bone, the earliest known evidence of controlled use of fire, reveal that human ancestors may have used fire a million years ago, a discovery that researchers say will shed light on this major turning point in human evolution.
Scientists analyzed material from Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, a massive cavern located near the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Previous excavations there had uncovered an extensive record of human occupation.
Microscopic analysis revealed clear evidence of burning, such as plant ash and charred bone fragments. These materials were apparently burned in the cave, as opposed to being carried in there by wind or water, and were found alongside stone tools in a layer dating back about 1 million years. Surface fracturing of ironstone, the kind expected from fires, was also seen.
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The discovery of a jawbone, along with a reconstruction of another fossil, shed light on the mysterious million-year period when the genus Homo first evolved.
In a rare congruence of new evidence, two fossil jaws cast a fused beam of light on one of the darkest mysteries in human evolution: the origin of our genus Homo. The two lower jaws—one a reconstruction of a pivotal specimen found half a century ago, the other freshly plucked from the badlands of Ethiopia—point to East Africa as the birthplace of our evolutionary lineage.
The new Ethiopian fossil, announced online by the journal Science, pushes the arrival of Homo on the East African landscape back almost half a million years, to 2.8 million years ago. The date is tantalizingly close to the last known appearance, around three million years ago, of Australopithecus afarensis, an upright-walking, small-brained species best known from the skeleton called Lucy, believed by many scientists to be the direct ancestor of our genus. The new jaw, known as LD 350-1, was found in January 2013 just a dozen miles from where Lucy was found in 1974.
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Geologists say they have found a fragment of Africa embedded in the southeastern U.S., a remnant of the rift that occurred between the African and North America continents some 250 million years ago.
Scientists have known for some time of the presence of a strange band of magnetic rock that stretches from Alabama through Georgia and offshore to the North Carolina coast, but its origin has been debated. The ribbon of rock is buried about 9 to 12 miles below the surface. According to a new study published in the journal Geological Society of America, the fissure, known as the Brunswick Magnetic Anomaly, was created hundreds of millions of years ago when the crusts of Africa and North America were yanked apart like stitches in a piece of cloth.
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A dagger entombed with King Tutankhamun was made with iron from a meteorite, a new analysis on the metal composition shows.
In 1925, archaeologist Howard Carter found two daggers, one iron and one with a blade of gold, within the wrapping of the teenage king, who was mummified more than 3,300 years ago. The iron blade, which had a gold handle, rock crystal pommel and lily and jackal-decorated sheath, has puzzled researchers in the decades since Carter’s discovery: ironwork was rare in ancient Egypt, and the dagger’s metal had not rusted.
Italian and Egyptian researchers analysed the metal with an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine its chemical composition, and found its high nickel content, along with its levels of cobalt, “strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin”. They compared the composition to known meteorites within 2,000km around the Red Sea coast of Egypt, and found similar levels in one meteorite.
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Zoologists have documented an incredible relationship between wild birds in Mozambique and the local Yao people, who team up together to hunt for honey.
Using a series of special hails and chirps the humans and birds are able to communicate - honeyguide birds lead the way to hidden beehives, where the Yao people share the spoils with their avian friends.
It's a beautiful mutualistic relationship that's been known for more than 500 years - but now, for the first time, a team of researchers from the UK and South Africa have shown that the honeyguide birds and humans are actually communicating both ways in order to get the most benefit out of their collaboration.
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The world's 6,000 or so modern languages may have all descended from a single ancestral tongue spoken by early African humans between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, a new study suggests.
The finding, published Thursday in the journal Science, could help explain how the first spoken language emerged, spread and contributed to the evolutionary success of the human species.
Quentin Atkinson, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and author of the study, found that the first migrating populations leaving Africa laid the groundwork for all the world's cultures by taking their single language with them—the mother of all mother tongues.
"It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of," Dr. Atkinson said.
About 50,000 years ago—the exact timeline is debated—there was a sudden and marked shift in how modern humans behaved. They began to create cave art and bone artifacts and developed far more sophisticated hunting tools. Many experts argue that this unusual spurt in creative activity was likely caused by a key innovation: complex language, which enabled abstract thought. The work done by Dr. Atkinson supports this notion.
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