The media reported last week that genes from Neanderthals protect many of us against severe Covid-19. Those genes actually come from Denisovans too: another early human species. Unfortunately, a different set of Neanderthal genes increases our chances of serious Covid. This post goes behind the news and looks at our connection to these two prehistoric creatures, as well as their genes’ impact on Covid risk. It also looks at those genes’ frequency among modern ethnic groups.
A virus circles the world, killing 1% of the population or more, particularly the elderly … and people just go about their business. Even in countries that understand contagion, no one healthy stops working, and neither do most of the sick. In fact, if you suggest staying home, most people think you’re crazy. Why manufacture an economic disaster? That’s how our ancestors would react to coronavirus, from the ancient world through early modern times. Their lives already involved a steady risk of death from acute, fast-acting disease, so this comparatively mild new illness would hardly set them back.
Scientists used to think Stone Age people domesticated the dog by adopting wolf pups and breeding the friendliest of them, or the most obedient. But more recent thinking says dogs domesticated themselves.
My new novel just went on sale! Secrets of Hominea is a magical middle grade fantasy novel: a tale of giants, gnomes, queens, and adventurers — and of science and history. It’s for readers age 9 to 14.
My first novel, The Jericho River, won multiple awards, including wins at the Next Generation Indie awards and the London Book Festival, as well as a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite awards. Continue reading “My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!”
This is fun …
Anthropologists recently made a fascinating discovery: Homo sapiens fossils found in Morocco date back 300,000 years. Until about a week ago, we thought our species reaches back only 200,000 years. The extra hundred grand opens up all kinds of possibilities for how and where we evolved — possibilities anthropologists have hardly begun to digest. Continue reading “A New Timeline — and an Old Brain — for Homo Sapiens”
Many Americans doubt man-made global warming because they don’t think humans could so fundamentally change the world. Some believe only God could alter the climate. But small groups of Homo sapiens have been re-engineering the environment on a massive scale for thousands of years, using only primitive tools. Many scientist think that includes ancient man-made global warming.
Most of us know that humans have been cutting down forests and wiping out animal species for millennia. But we rarely recognize the scale of past people’s impact Continue reading “Ancient Man-Made Global Warming and Environmental Engineering”
During the past year, genetic studies have revealed some surprises about European prehistory. One study in particular analyzed DNA from 230 skeletons, dating from 6600 B.C. to around 300 B.C. It tells us that Europeans evolved many familiar traits far more recently than we’d thought. Continue reading “Black Europeans, Short Spaniards, Tall Swedes, Milk, and Recent Human Evolution”
I recently read a fascinating explanation for human conduct. We’re cruel because we made an unusually fast jump from mid-level predator to top predator, quite recently in evolutionary terms, and we’re still not secure in our position. Continue reading “Why We’re Cruel”
The Walking Dead offers some good prehistory. In the show’s post-apocalyptic world, humanity returns to the key life stages of our prehistoric past: [SPOILER ALERT for Seasons 1-5!] Continue reading “The Walking Dead: A Tour of Prehistory”