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‘Viking’ was a job description, not a matter of heredity, massive ancient DNA study shows

sciencemag.org
  • By looking closely at viking-related archeological sites, researchers uncovered that non-Scandinavian people joined the vikings as they raided Europe.
  • 442 Viking Age genomes were sequenced, showing that Vikings were more likely to have black hair, and that being a Viking was a job, not a genetic inheritance.
  • Additionally, the routes of Swedish, Danish and Norwegian Vikings were traced using DNA data, uncovering new details about where they traveled.
  • Swedes moved to the Baltics, Poland, then Russia and Ukraine; Danes headed towards England; Norwegians sailed to Ireland, Iceland and Greenland.

Study settles the score on whether the modern world is less violent

york.ac.uk
  • Mathematicians analysed data regarding global deaths in battle since the Napoleonic wars.
  • Their algorithm was tuned to detect points where sizes of the wars changed, and found three crucial points.
  • Between 1910 - 1950 there was unprecedented bloodshed, and in the early 1990s the world suddenly shifted to a greater level of peace.
  • The study only looks at the data, but authors theorise that this could be thanks to organisations like the UN, and increased collaboration between nations.
  • It’s not a perfect analysis, it’s focused on Europe, but this study provides a good methodology for future studies.

World's oldest string of yarn shows Neanderthals were smarter than we thought

edition.cnn.com
  • Scientists are not so sure anymore about just how intelligent Neanderthals were, after the discovery of the world’s first evidence of textile and cord making.
  • The evidence is a 6mm (0.24 inches) cord fragment, made of three bundles of fibers, and twisted and wrapped around a stone tool.
  • It dates 41,000 to 52,000 years ago, and is likely made from fibers taken from the inner bark of a tree.
  • What’s exciting about it, is that it takes significant intelligence to locate the right fiber, take the right amount, make yarn, or even see the need for cords in the first place.
  • Due to this and other discoveries, experts say, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Neanderthals were cognitive equals of modern humans.

Three human-like species lived side-by-side in ancient Africa

bbc.com
  • Scientists studying the Drimolen Cave Complex, a place full of informative fossils, provide new evidence that human evolution was not a linear process.
  • This, and other studies that have been posted in recent weeks, shows that there were several types of ancient hominins living together in Africa.
  • One of the findings shows that homo erectus, previously assumed to come from Eastern Africa, actually lived in South Africa, too.
  • Homo erectus may have been the first species to migrate out of Africa into the rest of the world, and studies like this help us understand how it happened.

Ancestor of all animals identified in Australian fossils

phys.org
  • First ancestor of most animals, including humans, has been discovered—Ikaria wariootia had a mouth, anus, gut, and a bilaterian body plan.
  • Bilateral symmetry was a critical step in evolution, enabling organisms to move purposefully, but so far the first organism to develop it wasn’t known.
  • Ikaria wariootia was discovered through careful analysis of 555 million-year-old samples.
  • It was a wormlike creature, up to 7mm (0.27in) long, with a distinct head and tail, as well as faintly grooved musculature.
  • This discovery confirms what evolutionary biologists previously predicted.

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