Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Denisovan remains 200 k years old, and their stone tools

A new paper (Brown, S., Massilani, D., Kozlikin, M.B. et al. The earliest Denisovans and their cultural adaptation. Nat Ecol Evol (2021). reports finding the oldest Denisovan remains yet, over 200,000 years old. They were also accompanied by stone tools.

The team found five bones in the cave at Denisova (they literally sifted through thousands of tiny bone pieces to find them).

Thee five bone fragments were designated Denisova 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 respectively. They managed to analyze the mtDNA in the five bone samples and found that one (Denisova 17) could be grouped within the Neanderthals meaning it is a Neanderthal. Three fell within the Denisovan group (Denisova 19, 20, and 21), and one couldn't be classified due to lack of sufficient genetic material (Denisova 18), it was human though.

Their ages range from ~134 ka (the Neanderthal, Denisova 17), the three Denisovans are much older: ~229 ka and the authors state that "renders Denisova 19, 20 and 21 the oldest Denisovans currently docdocumented"

They also found stone tools in the same layers of sediment that contained these Denisovans. They are unusual: they are of "an early Middle Palaeolithic stone tool industry that has no direct counterparts in North and Central Asia. If we were to look further afield, the closest parallel is the Acheulo–Yabrudian cultural complex (AYCC) from the Near East. The AYCC has been identified at several cave (mostly) and open-air sites such as Tabun, Qesem, Hayonim and Misliya, dating to between 400/350 and 250 ka".

stone tools crafted by Denisovans from the article.

They also noted that "There are no bifacial tools in the Denisova assemblage; bifaces are a typical element of the Acheulean variant of the AYCC" so this sets Denisova Cave tools apart from the sites of the AYCC.

The authors say that "The lithic assemblage comprises discoidal, Levallois, and parallel cores to produce flakes using primary reduction techniques", and that is interesting, Levallois tools were used by Neanderthals and also archaic modern humans, and now, we know that Denisovans made them too.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Ancient Australasian signal found in South American natives

A paper published earlier this year(Deep genetic affinity between coastal Pacific and Amazonian natives evidenced by Australasian ancestry. Marcos Araújo Castro e Silva, et al. PNAS April 6, 2021 118 (14) e2025739118;, suggest that the very early or even the earliest people to reach South America carried a genetic component that is not found in North or Central America, and that is linked to a "Y Population" the genetic signal inherited from this group (called "Y" after "Ypikuéra" or "ancestral" in Tupi language") is only found among Australasian people.

The paper reports that the Y-population signal originally found among Amazonian Amerindians is also found in natives from other parts of Brazil, and also in the Pacific coastal population of South America.

The authors write: "The best-fitted model showed that the Pacific coast is a mixed group of South American ancestry and a small non-American contribution associated with a sister branch of Onge, as also observed for Karitiana and Suruí. They suggest that the presence of this signal on the Pacific coast suggests that the original population reached the area following a coastal route.

The Onge are people that live in the Andaman islands, in the Bay of Bengal, dark skinned isolated people... and they are linked to South American natives.

Did they land in North America and Mesoamerica and die out? Did they bypass the northern part of the Americas and settle in the South?. The lack of this signal in the northern part of the continent is not explained in the paper.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, November 12, 2021

The windows for human arrival in America

Marine isotope stages (MIS) are periods that alternate hotter and colder climate. They have been identified by measuring the content of oxygen isotope 18O in ice cores.

They are numbered, and the MIS with even numbers represent glacial periods (and therefore lower sea levels as the ice packs have taken water out of the oceans), and the odd numbered stages represent warm interglacial periods (like the current one), with higher sea levels.

So for humans to cross Beringia and reach America, they'd have to do so during a cold even numbered MIS.

This is the list of cold MIS during the past million years:

  • MIS 2 – 29 ky
  • MIS 4 – 71 ky
  • MIS 6 – 191 ky
  • MIS 8 – 300 ky
  • MIS 10 – 374 ky
  • MIS 12 – 478 ky
  • MIS 14 – 563 ky
  • MIS 16 – 676 ky
  • MIS 18 – 761 ky
  • MIS 20 – 814 ky

So why did our human ancestors cross during the last possible stage? Why didn't Neanderthals do so during MIS 10? or Homo erectus during MIS 2O?

The following map, adapted from Nature shows that there were humans in Asia that could have crossed into America from MIS 8 onwards, and this does not contemplate H. erectus.

Potential migrants from Asia range: 152-300 kyr.

They lived in temperate to cold locations, why not follow the megafauna into Siberia and North America?

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

24 kyr Stone Tools in Pedra Furada, Brazil

Earlier this year a paper by Eric Boëda ( Boëda E, Ramos M, Perez A, Hatté C, Lahaye C, Pino M, et al. (2021) 24.0 kyr cal BP stone artefact from Vale da Pedra Furada, Piauí, Brazil: Techno-functional analysis. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0247965. rRep analyzed stone tools dated 24,000 years old, from Brazil. The interesting part is (see my previous post) that the authors acknowledge the conflict between orthodox scholars and those that support an early peopling of America.

They wrote: "The peopling of the Americas continues to be subject of intense debate, basically between two positions that often do not consider fully South American research: a Last Glacial Maximum (LGM sensu stricto, dated between 19–23 kyr BP) occupation (current consensus) and a pre-LGM occupation. In support of the latter, a growing body of evidence demonstrates a Late Pleistocene human presence (i.e. Paleoamerican) in South America well beyond 20 cal kyr BP"

The article then goes on to describe stone tools and one in particular (24 kya). What I found interesting is the authors' comment that the older layers have cobble type quarz tools (they look Oldowan to my layman eyes. See Fig. 5), and as you reach younger levels, the tools morph into bifacial tools (Fig. 7). Both are shown below:

Fig. 5 they look like Pebble tools (Oldowan)

Fig. 7, bifacial (Acheulean axes?)

Anyway, these findings show two things. One, evidence is mounting and it supports an earlier peopling of America and, two, that North American scientists wouldn't even see an ancient stone industry tool because they don't think there are any in the Americas. They will ignore it or consider it a geofact.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Older dates vs. a later peopling of America Round 1

Ben Potter and James Chatters don't like the proof that is slowly building up supporting an early peopling of America. They wrote two separate papers decrying two papers that support the notion of an early peopling of America.

One (Ben A. Potter, James C. Chatters, et al. (2021) Current Understanding of the Earliest Human Occupations in the Americas: Evaluation of Becerra-Valdivia and Higham (2020), PaleoAmerica, DOI: 10.1080/20555563.2021.1978721) questions the findings of Lorena Becerra and Thomas Valdivia (Becerra-Valdivia, L., Higham, T. The timing and effect of the earliest human arrivals in North America. Nature 584, 93–97 (2020).

Becerra and Valdivia analyzed data regarding the date of human entry to America and concluded that "The data obtained show that humans were probably present before, during and immediately after the Last Glacial Maximum (about 26.5–19 thousand years ago)."

Becerra wrote a rebuttal countering Potter and Chatters stating that "it is clear that they (Potter & Chatters) do not understand fully the methodology...As radiocarbon dating experts, it is sadly not uncommon for us to encounter: (i) academics who dismiss dates they view as incongruent with their expectations..." and conclude that "we note with interest a recent publication that has found further robust evidence for human activity (well-dated footprints) in North America at the time of the LGM (Bennett et al. 2021). This fits well within the chronology-centered peopling model we proposed (Becerra-Valdivia and Higham 2020). In the future, we hypothesize that new discoveries such as this one will strengthen the > 16,000 cal yr BP cultural signal in the continent."

Potter and Chatters' second paper against an early peopling of America ( James C. Chatters, Ben A. Potter, et al. (2021) Evaluating Claims of Early Human Occupation at Chiquihuite Cave, Mexico, PaleoAmerica, DOI: 10.1080/20555563.2021.1940441) attacks the finding of ancient stone tools in a cave in Mexico, surmising that they are geofacts (not man made).

The authors of the original paper Ardelean, Ciprian F., Lorena Becerra-Valdivia, et al. 2020. “Evidence of Human Occupation in Mexico around the Last Glacial Maximum.” Nature 584: 87092. doi: promptly replied. And something that drew my attention was this article, that tells us that "It's important to point out that Chatters and his colleagues didn't inspect the items gathered in Chiquihuite Cave first-hand, and instead relied "on the evidence provided in the original article and supporting documentation"." sort of "armchair detective" science job!.

It will take a lot of effort to overcome the old-school orthodoxy, but new discoveries will silence this kind of opposition.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Nesher Ramla Homo (Israel)

A paper published last June (I. Hershkovitz et al. A Middle Pleistocene Homo from Nesher Ramla, Israel. Science. Vol. 372, June 25, 2021, p. 1424. doi: 10.1126/science.abh3169.) describes bones found in a site in Israel, dating back to 140-120,000 years ago. These remains display a mixture of archaic and modern features that prompted the authors to suggest a name for this "last surviving populations of Middle Pleistocene Homo in Europe" as the "Nesher Ramla Homo"".

There is a second paper (Y. Zaidner et al. Middle Pleistocene Homo behavior and culture at 140,000 to 120,000 years ago and interactions with Homo sapiens. Science. Vol. 372, June 25, 2021, p. 1429. doi: 10.1126/science.abh3020.) that explores their stone knapping technology, comparable to that of Neanderthal and H. sapiens, using Levalloisean techniques. Until now it was believed that Middle Pleistocene (MP) hominins could only produce more primitive Acheulean tools.

The acquisition of Levalloisean "know-how" apparently came through admixture of this MP Homo and Homo sapiens: "We contend that cultural diffusion and interaction across Homo populations is the most likely reason for such a close cultural similarity between MP Homo and H. sapiens... Our findings provide archaeological support for close cultural interactions between different human lineages during the Middle Paleolithic period and suggest that contacts between MP Homo and H. sapiens had already occurred prior to 120 ka."

The MP Homo or Nesher Ramla Homo is a mossaic of archaic and modern features, compatible with H. erectus, Neanderthal and H. sapiens:
"The cumulative evidence from the three analyzed anatomical elements (parietal bone, mandible, and M2) reveal a unique combination of archaic and Neanderthal features, supporting the existence of a local, Levantine population at the final MP. The results of the quadratic discriminant analyses ... show that an affiliation of the NR fossils with early and recent H. sapiens is highly unlikely, but that it is impossible to establish whether NR fossils are more likely to be classified as MP Homo, Neanderthal, or H. erectus (the latter for the parietal only).
Consequently, the discriminant function plot (fig. S1) shows that the NR-1 parietal falls between the H. erectus/African MP Homo group and the European MP Homo/Neanderthals, with a similar likelihood of belonging to either cluster (H. erectus = 0.41, MP Homo = 0.34, Neanderthal = 0.25, based on the first three PCs).

So they conclude that "The NR fossils could represent late-surviving examples (140 to 120 ka) of a distinctive Southwest Asian MP Homo group, predating Levantine Neanderthals from Amud, Kebara, and Ein Qashish (70 to 50 ka)."

Below is an image from the commentary published (Marta Lahr) with the studies; it shows the increasing complexity of the evolution of human beings.

From M. Mirazón Lahr. The complex landscape of recent human evolution. Science. Vol. 372, June 25, 2021, p. 1395. doi: 10.1126/science.abj3077.

I will close with Lahr's comment: " The poor preservation of ancient DNA in Africa precludes similar insights into our African demographic history. However, the recent discovery of modern human fossils in Greece and Israel dating to about 210 to 177 ka ago and ancient European genomes show that there were multiple out-of-Africa dispersals in the last 400,000 years, during which early humans and Neanderthals interbred."

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Hepatitis B Virus and the early peopling of America

In December 2018 I wrote a post suggesting "An ancient American origin of Hepatitis B virus" (HBV), yesterday I came across fresh research into the origin of this virus, published on Oct. 7 in Science magazine (Arthur Kocher et al. Ten millennia of hepatitis B virus evolution. Science, 2021 DOI: 10.1126/science.abi5658. 🔒 ). It adds data to the subject.

Main conclusions

  • Wasn't an Out of Africa Event ("There is no evidence indicating that HBV was present in the earliest humans as they spread out of Africa" and "Our findings challenge the view that current HBV diversity reflects early human dispersals out of Africa."
  • Old lineage in America ("Furthermore, the virus was present in the Americas by about 9000 years ago, representing a lineage sister to the viral strains found in Eurasia that diverged about 20,000 years ago")
  • American HBV is a distinct Sister Clade ("HBV genotypes typically found in Native Americans (genotypes F and H) represent a sister clade to the rest of worldwide HBV diversity (which we refer to as the Eurasian branch)")

An American origin?

As the American lineage is the oldest, and on a separate branch, with all other Eurasians on a separate branch, and NO early African root (Africans are on the Eurasian side of the tree), this is disquieting for those supporting an Out of Africa and into America migration of humans. How can they explain that the American HBV is the oldest? and not at all related to East Asian - Siberian variants? You would expect the Amerindian variant to be a branch of the Siberian or East Asian ones if HBV entered America from there.

The authors add that "HBV ... found in Native Americans ... represent a sister clade to the rest of worldwide HBV diversity... In particular, the monophyly of the American HBV branch, comprising all ancient genomes from the Americas dating back to as early as ~9 ka ... was highly supported" meaning the HBV in America is old, and monophyletic (they all descend from the same ancestor, which in this case is distinct from the Eurasian and rest-of-the-world linages). This is remarkable.

But the authors cautiously add a disclaimer: "However, deep nodes within the Eurasian branch were not well resolved, pointing to plausible alternative topologies in which some of the earliest Eurasian lineages would have diverged before the American branch" meaning that there may be some other Eurasians from which both American and Rest of the World clades diverged.

Fig 2 A from the paper.

The image shows all the global variants, except American ones, on the upper branch. Notice that simian (Chimpanzee, Gorilla, Gibbon, and Orangutan) variants and the African E variant are on this part of the tree. On the bottom of the image are the American variants. A separate branch. I added the red star to mark the point where American and Rest Of The World clades split.

What is interesting is that if you climb the tree from the root, the branches fork as follows:

  • Root
    • American branch
    • Eurasian-African branch
      • Gibbon - Orangutan branch
      • All non-American Humans

So the great apes of Asia (Orangutan and Gibbon) and Asian-European-African humans got HBV from a common ancestor that also infected Americans?

Who was this hominin living in the Southeast Asian jungles? Maybe Homo erectus? The dates along the tree can be taken cautiously because a scientist studying virus will take the accepted date for the arrival of modern humans in America and apply it to his or her research. If conventional science agrees that 15 Ky is the date, then the split between Rest of the World and Americans will be set at that date. In fact the tree shows that all American branches coalesce at 15.3 to 18.9 Ky.

So how can this be reconciled with the Out of Africa origin of mankind?

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Lake Utah 40Ky stone tools and the Hansen skull cap article

Following my previous post, I found the Utah Statewide Archaeological Society Newsletter, Volume 21, Number 1, April 1975 which contains not only Hansen's paper about the Lake Utah Neanderthaloid skull cap but also another one by Leland Clark about stone tools dating back 40,000 years, discovered on the highest shoreline of former Lake Bonneville, on the NW tip of Lake Utah.

Former Lake Bonneville now reduced to the Great Salt Lake and Lake Utah that existed during the past 45,000 years, gradually drying up.

The images depict the lake, and the headline of the paper on the 40ky old stone tools (check fig. 5, showing a handaxe).

The whole newsletter is worth reading as it deals with the same subject: early human presence on the shores of Lake Bonneville in Utah, USA.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Lake Utah Skullcap (Neanderthal?)

This is the article mentioned in my previous post, the Lake Utah skullcap: Utah Lake Skull Cap George H. Hansen American Anthropologist New Series, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1934), pp. 431-433.

I will try to find out more about it.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Neanderthaloids in America

I came across this article: American Neanderthaloids T. D. Stewart The Quarterly Review of Biology Vol. 32, No. 4 (Dec., 1957), pp. 364-369. Quite unusual, it mendions "neanderthaloid" crania discovered in the US, and how Hrldicka imposed his point of view that still prevails (sort of) regarding a late peopling of America and than Neanderthal's never reached America (why couldn't they?).

Unfortunately I am not subscribed so I can't go beyond this first page!.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Human hair 40,000 years old in Argentina (Cacao 1.A cave)

This is a finding originally published in 2018, which I read this year (Spanish language newspaper article), it states that remains dating back to 40,000 years ago have been discovered in a cave in the Argentine Andean province of Catamarca.

The research and dig was cut short by the covid-19 pandemic. The leading scientist, Carlos Aschero, reported that the cave known as Cacao 1.A., located at a height of 3,780 meters (12,400 ft) in a dry, arid and desertic area of the Puna highlands, produced some stone tools, human and animal hairs and two Sclidotherium (large sloths) rib bones that were worked by humans. This area was more humid and had lagoons and more vegetation 40,000 years ago.

Aschero visited the site many times, in 2013 he had found fossil megatherium dung 12,500 years old, now he dug up more dung and beneath it, two ribs and five stone tools laid in a horizontal position. He had them dated in the US and the dung was 37,000 years old, and the ribs over 39,000. "We were stopped by the panemic, but we plan to go back." said Aschero.

He adds that "there are some parallel marks, perpendicular to the rib edge, that surprise me and make me remember some marks that appear on bones from the Mousterian... like if they were calendar elements". Note that Mousterian is the technology of Neanderthals in Europe. So he is assuming these are not H. sapiens marks.

Lock of Human hair dated to ca.40.500 to 38.000 years ago

Regarding the human hair he says "in the matrix where the (stone) artifacts were laid, we came across a lock of hair, cut transversally, with three dates that go from 40.500 to 38.000 years BP. We are sure the hair is human. A forensic expert of the Federal Police analyzed it and concluded 'or it is human or it is of a primate'... sieving the material we found loose hairs with bulb, which is very important because it would allow DNA studies".

He supposes they were Neanderthal and says that these remains are not usually found because "they are buried under earth covered by many meters of sediment. Maybe there were not more thn a few tens of thousands of persons, small and dispersed populations ... there is another problem. Did the Neanderthal type populations navigate or not? That is another problembecause they could have come down the coast sailing so that the speed they populated (America) could have been much faster, specially along the Pacific coast."

He concludes that they could be either Neanderthal or Denisovan in the final paragraph of the article.

Let's wait for further work at this site and discoveries that confirm or disprove these theories.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Erectus lived in India recently (177 kya)

Erectus survived in India until fairly recently (177 Ky ago) according to this article.

Published in Cosmos, it states that "The new study, led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany, re-examined ancient stone tools unearthed at a site called Singi Talav, in Rajasthan, and found that they were used by some of the last creators of Acheulean stone tools in the world, dating to around 177,000 years ago – just before the earliest expansions of Homo sapiens across Asia."

I will try to read the original paper. Anyway, if they managed to survive until such a recent time, they may have also had time to cross Beringia in one of the periods when it was high and dry, and trekked into America.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

A Philippine group of people have the highest level of Denisovan ancestry

Another recent publication that caught my eye refers to Denisovans (Philippine Ayta possess the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world, by Maximilian Larena et al, August 12, 2021. Cuurent Biology. DOI:

The paper tells us:

"Highlights:... Ayta Magbukon display ∼30%–40% greater Denisovan ancestry than Australopapuans. The model is explained by a distinct admixture event into Negritos from Denisovans. Prior to modern humans, Islander Denisovans may have been present in the Philippines
... We show that Ayta Magbukon possess the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world—∼30%–40% greater than that of Australians and Papuans—consistent with an independent admixture event into Negritos from Denisovans. Together with the recently described Homo luzonensis, we suggest that there were multiple archaic species that inhabited the Philippines prior to the arrival of modern humans and that these archaic groups may have been genetically related. Altogether, our findings unveil a complex intertwined history of modern and archaic humans in the Asia-Pacific region, where distinct Islander Denisovan populations differentially admixed with incoming Australasians across multiple locations and at various points in time.

The paper argues that "The significantly higher level of Denisovan ancestry in Ayta Magbukon relative to Papuans highlights the possibility of an independent Denisovan introgression event in the Philippines among Negritos that is different from the Denisovan introgression event into the ancestors of Australopapuans. This observation is consistent with recent studies suggesting multiple pulses of Denisovan introgression into humans, that Denisovans were probably widespread throughout ISEA, and that Ayta Negritos were likely to have experienced a second Denisovan introgression event."

Furthermore, the Denisovans had split into different groups in the region and admixed separately with Papuans and Aytas: "our simulations provide support for the presence of two separate Denisovan lineages that independently introgressed into the ancestors of Ayta Negritos and Papuans, likely occurring around the same time after the Negrito-Papuan divergence 53 kya (95% CI: 41–64 kya). Upon entry of the first modern human migrants into Sunda and Sahul (ancestors of Negritos and Australopapuans), these ancestral Australasian groups likely experienced admixture with deeply divergent Denisovan-related populations scattered all throughout the ISEA and the Oceania region."

It also has an interesting suggestion regarding the different archaic hominins in the region (but it does not mention H. erectus): "Additionally, the physical evidence for a previously undescribed hominin in Luzon 67 kya, where present-day Negritos reside, combined with the genetic evidence presented here, raises the possibility that the suggested Homo luzonensis and Denisovans were likely genetically related, either as distinct forms or possibly belonging to the same group residing on the islands. Furthermore, it is not entirely impossible that the recently identified new species of archaic hominins in the Indonesian island of Flores, the Homo floresiensis,38 may also be related to Denisovans. Hence, the presence of multiple archaic human remains in the region, together with the genomic evidence presented here and elsewhere, raises the possibility that the Denisovans comprised deeply structured populations with considerable genetic and phenotypic diversity,"

Let's hope that we can soon identify the links between Denisovans and these other hominins.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Human footsteps 21-23,000 years old in New Mexico

It has been some time since my last post, work and health issues have kept me busy with other less interesting matters, but hopefully I will find more time to keep on posting.

The paper published in Science magazine yesterday is really surprising (not for me, but for the orthodox viewpoint that is against an early date for the peopling of America).

The paper (Evidence of humans in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum by Matthew Bennet et al., 24 Sep 2021, Science Vol 373, Issue 6562 pp. 1528-1531 DOI: 10.1126/science.abg7586) reports dating ancient footprints from a New Mexico lake in White Sands National Park (WHSA).

The introduction and abstract tell us the following:

"Early footsteps in the Americas
Despite a plethora of archaeological research over the past century, the timing of human migration into the Americas is still far from resolved. In a study of exposed outcrops of Lake Otero in White Sands National Park in New Mexico, Bennett et al. reveal numerous human footprints dating to about 23,000 to 21,000 years ago. These finds indicate the presence of humans in North America for approximately two millennia during the Last Glacial Maximum south of the migratory barrier created by the ice sheets to the north. This timing coincided with a Northern Hemispheric abrupt warming event, Dansgaard-Oeschger event 2, which drew down lake levels and allowed humans and megafauna to walk on newly exposed surfaces, creating tracks that became preserved in the geologic record. —AMS
Archaeologists and researchers in allied fields have long sought to understand human colonization of North America. Questions remain about when and how people migrated, where they originated, and how their arrival affected the established fauna and landscape. Here, we present evidence from excavated surfaces in White Sands National Park (New Mexico, United States), where multiple in situ human footprints are stratigraphically constrained and bracketed by seed layers that yield calibrated radiocarbon ages between ~23 and 21 thousand years ago. These findings confirm the presence of humans in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum, adding evidence to the antiquity of human colonization of the Americas and providing a temporal range extension for the coexistence of early inhabitants and Pleistocene megafauna.

The prints were dated using seeds of an aquatic plant found in the lake's sediment. This can't be argued away easily. These are human prints (and the paper adds that "The WHSA tracks, similar to the fossil tracks from Namibia, are flatter-footed than the modern samples, similar to what is commonly reported for habitually unshod individuals ... The WHSA footprints also have longer toe pads that we suggest are associated with slippage of the foot during locomotion."

It also explains why megafauna was becoming extinct even before humans arrived (humans arrived earlier than thought, and provoked these extinctions): "The overlap of humans and megafauna for at least two millennia during this time suggests that if people were hunting megafauna the practices were sustainable, at least initially. This also raises the possibility of a human role in poorly understood megafauna extinctions previously thought to predate their arrival and makes “early” sites in the Americas appear more plausible".

Photo of the prints, from the paper:

Tracks in the sand 21-23,000 years old.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2021 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Was a Denisovan skull found in Harbin?

Another species? or maybe a Denisovan? A paper (The Innovation, DOI: 10.1016/j.xinn.2021.100130 and DOI: 10.1016/j.xinn.2021.100132, Massive cranium from Harbin in northeastern China establishes a new Middle Pleistocene human lineage) published today, describes a crania discovered in 1933 in Harbin, northern China, but only re-discovered a few years ago, and studied now.

The paper cautiously suggests in a covert manner that this Harbin skull may be a Denisovan one:

"The sister relationship between Harbin and Xiahe, as identified by Bayesian inference (but not parsimony analysis, see the supplemental information), is particularly interesting. The Xiahe mandible shows some proteomic features of the Denisovans, who were informally called “Homo sapiens altaiensis” or “Homo altaiensis,” and sediments from Baishiya Cave have yielded Denisovan mtDNA. The Harbin M2 also matches the known permanent Denisovan molars in size and root morphology, and, ever since the discovery of Denisovans, Asian Middle Pleistocene hominins, such as Dali, Jinniushan, and Xujiayao, have been suspected to represent an East Asian population of the Denisovans"

The remains have been dated to "a minimum age ... of ∼146 ka"

Regarding divergence from the Homo sapiens line, it has some interesting findings: (bold font is mine)

"The results of the Bayesian tip-dating analyses suggest that the Harbin and Xiahe fossils shared a common ancestor ∼188 ka (397–155 ka), and the clade, including the Harbin cranium and H. sapiens shared a common ancestor at ∼949 ka (1,041.41–875.25 ka). The Neanderthal-H. sapiens divergence time in our analysis was ∼1,007 ka (1,114–919 ka). This estimation falls in the range based on mtDNAs for the split between the basal Neanderthal (Sima de los Huesos) and the H. sapiens lineage, but is much older than the estimation based on nuclear DNAs for the splits between the Neanderthal and H. sapiens lineages. However, it is possible that this younger estimated divergence date is an artifact of statistical averaging between “super-archaic” and “recent gene flow” events. The common ancestor of the H. sapiens OTUs (NOTE: OTU is an "Operational Taxonomic Unit", and the term means that the beings under study share a given set of observed characters). included in our analysis is as old as ∼770 ka (922–622 ka), suggesting that the H. sapiens clade has a much deeper origin time than previously estimated. The Eurasian H. sapiens OTUs share a common ancestor ∼416 ka (534–305 ka) old. Outside of Africa, however, the earliest known H. sapiens fossil is only ∼210 ka.
There is a large time gap between the hypothetical common ancestor of Eurasian H. sapiens and the actual fossil record, from the Bayesian tip-dating analysis. One plausible hypothesis is that the ancestral population of Eurasian H. sapiens may have diversified in Africa for many millennia before they dispersed into Eurasia. Genetic studies on ancient DNA suggest that the initial genetic exchanges between Neanderthals and H. sapiens occurred between 468 and 219 ka, or between ∼370 and 100 ka, and the introgression may have originated through gene flow from an African source. Interestingly, not only does the estimated time of the introgression event between Neanderthals and H. sapiens roughly overlap our prediction for the age of the common ancestor of Eurasian H. sapiens, but the African origin of the introgression is also consistent with our African ancestral population hypothesis.
Africa is the major source of Homo dispersals. In total, ∼40% of all the dispersals are from Africa, while Africa also receives ∼22% dispersals from Asia and Europe. Instead of a unidirectional “out of Africa” model, a multi-directional “shuttle dispersal model” is more likely to explain the complex phylogenetic connections among African and Eurasian Homo species/populations.

Let's hope that DNA can be extracted from the skull, it could confirm that this man was in fact a Denisovan.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

New homo discovered in Israel a bridge between Neanderthals and Modern Humans?

A paper published in Science (A Middle Pleistocene Homo from Nesher Ramla, Israel) concludes that fossils found in Neshr Ramla (NR), Israel, are a "previously unrecognized group of hominins representing the last surviving populations of Middle Pleistocene Homo in Europe, southwest Asia, and Africa.".

The paper states:

"The NR fossils could represent late-surviving examples (140 to 120 ka) of a distinctive Southwest Asian MP Homo group, predating Levantine Neanderthals from Amud, Kebara, and Ein Qashish (70 to 50 ka). On the basis of their mosaic morphology showing a different degree of Neanderthal features, other MP Levantine fossils, whose taxonomic affinities have long been debated, from the sites of Qesem Cave (19), Zuttiyeh Cave (30), and probably Tabun Cave (31), might also be attributed to this group (supplementary text F). Adopting the cautious approach advocated by Mayr (32), we suggest addressing this Levantine MP paleodeme as the “Nesher Ramla Homo.” Its presence from ~420 to 120 ka ago in a geographically restricted area may have allowed for repeated interbreeding with modern human populations such as the people from Misliya Cave (20), a notion also supported by their shared technological tradition [(6); supplementary text F]. This scenario is compatible with evidence of an early (200 to 400 ka ago) gene flow between modern humans and Neanderthals (3, 4) and helps explain the variable expression of the dental and skeletal features of later Levantine fossils from the Skhul and Qafzeh populations, a phenomenon noted by anthropologists since the 1930s (31, 33). Moreover, a recent study of the Atapuerca SH and Arago dental remains (1) suggested the existence of more than one Homo lineage in MP Europe [see also (34)] and hypothesized the contribution of Levantine Homo groups carrying Neanderthal-like traits to European Homo lineages. The NR Homo, carrying Neanderthal-like traits, could thus represent the “source” population postulated in the demographic “sources and sinks” model (5), according to which Western Europe was repopulated through a series of successive migrations."

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