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Why we get autism but our Neanderthal cousins didn’t

Posted on 17 Apr 2014 in Human Origins, Journalism

It’s not what you’ve got but how you use it. The first maps of gene expression in two of our extinct cousins flag up important differences between the activity of their genes and our own. The results suggest that brain disorders like schizophrenia and autism may be unique to us. Image: NCSSMphotos

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Neanderthal virus DNA spotted hiding in modern humans

Posted on 20 Nov 2013 in Human Origins, Journalism

The DNA of ancient viruses first spotted in the Neanderthal genome have now been identified in modern humans – although whether they cause disease is not yet clear. Last year, researchers found 14 retroviral gene sequences in Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA that they could not find in modern humans. A new search of modern DNA has now found the ancient sequences. Image: jbokor

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World’s oldest string found at French Neanderthal site

Posted on 13 Nov 2013 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Call it prehistoric string theory. The earliest evidence of string has been found – apparently created by our Neanderthal cousins. Perishable materials usually rot away, so the oldest string on record only dates back 30,000 years. The new string, preserved as 0.7-millimetre-long twisted plant fibres, are three times as old. Image: oui-ennui

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Bone tools suggest Neanderthals taught us skills

Posted on 12 Aug 2013 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

A team of archaeologists has found evidence to suggest that Neanderthals were the first to produce a type of specialised bone tool, still used in some modern cultures today. The find is the best evidence yet that we may have – on rare occasions – learned a trick or two from our extinct cousins. Image: Abri Peyrony and Pech-de-l’Azé I Projects

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Neanderthal dental tartar reveals evidence of medicine

Posted on 18 Jul 2012 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism, Life

The tartar on Neanderthal teeth has a tale to tell. The chemicals and food fragments it contains reveal that our close relations huddled around fires to cook and consume plants – including some with medicinal properties. The find is the earliest direct evidence of self-medication in prehistory. Image: CSIC Comunicación

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