Archive for March, 2010

Shaman with drum after Knud Leem (Wikipedia)

March 31, 2010
Ein samisk sjaman med runebomme (meavrresgárri). Illustrasjonane er stukne i koppar av O.H. von Lode i Firenze, etter eigenhendige «levende Tegninger» av Knud Leem sjølv, for hans Beskrivelse over Finnmarkens Lapper, deres Tungemaal, Levemaade og forrige Afgudsdyrkelse, (1767).
A Sami Shaman with a runebomme (frame drum). The illustrations are copper etchings by O. H. von Lode in Florence, from “live drawings” by Knud Leem himself, for his work The Lapplanders of Finnmark, their tongue, their way of life and their former false idol worship (1767).

Arctic Survival Manual

March 30, 2010

Scans of an interesting and beautiful Arctic Survival manual for air personell can be found at Things Magazine.

ARCTIC
SURVIVAL

THIS PAMPHLET IS TO BE
INCLUDED IN THE EMERGENCY
PACKS OF AIRCRAFT OPERATING
OVER THE ARCTIC

P A M    ( A I R )    2 2 6

ISSUED BY
T.C.S. (R. A. F.)
January 1953
Reprinted March 1963
Reprinted October 1964

“Fig. 4.    Natural Hole under a Tree coverted into a Shelter

Fig. 5.    Wing-Snowblock Shelter”

“66.    Bow Drill Another standby is the bow drill. This consists of a bow made from a willow strung with some cord made from your parachute shroud lines.”

“Fig. 40.   Making Faces to Prevent Frostbite”

Read the whole manual with bigger pictures here: http://thingsmagazine.net/projects/079/index2.htm

Knud Leem, 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture – Part IV – extremely adapt skiers

March 30, 2010

Leem portrays the Sami as extremely adept skiers.

The Norwegian Knud Leem was the leading 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture. On the initiative of Thomas von Westen (1683-1727), Leem arrived as a missionary in Finnmark, in 1725. Leem collected large quanitities of ethnological documentation on the Sami in his work as a vicar at Talvik and Alta, up until 1734. His observations and understanding of Sami behavior, living conditions and disposition are recorded in a publication called Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, deres Tungemaal, Levemaade og forrige afgudsdyrkelse. This was published in 1767, in Copenhagen. The Danish text is accompanied by a parallel Latin text. An extract was also released in German, in 1771 (Leipzig), and in English, in 1808 (London). The English volume was titled An Account of the Laplanders of Finmark, their Language, Manners, and Religion, and this was the first volume in the serial called A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World, which was published from 1808-1814, by John Pinkerton.

More on Knud Leem here.

Neither Neanderthal nor sapiens: new human relative IDed

March 30, 2010
By John Timmer | Last updated 3 days ago

At a press conference yesterday, researchers announced the completely unexpected: a Siberian cave has yielded evidence of an entirely unknown human relative that appears to have shared Asia with both modern humans and Neanderthals less than 50,000 years ago. The find comes courtesy of a single bone from individual’s hand. Lest you think that paleontologists are overinterpreting a tiny fragment, it wasn’t the shape of the bone that indicates the presence of a new species—it was the DNA that it contained.

The paper that describes the finding comes courtesy of the Max Planck Institute’s Svante Pääbo, who has been actively pursuing the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome. It seems likely that this particular bone fragment was targeted due to suspicions that it might also provide an additional Neanderthal sequence. The site, called Denisova, is in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, an area that has had hominins present as early as 125,000 years ago. The sample itself came from a layer of material that dates from between 30,000 and 50,000 years ago. Neanderthal DNA was found in a sample from the same time period less than 100km away, while artifacts indicate that modern humans were also present in the region by 40,000 years ago.

So, there was no apparent reason to suspect that the bone would yield anything more than a familiar sequence. And in fact, most of the first half of the paper simply describes the methods used to construct a complete sequence of the mitochondrial DNA, including over 150-fold coverage of the genome, and an alignment program designed to account for the errors typical of ancient DNA sequences. About the only surprise here is that Pääbo’s group has switched from using 454 sequencing machines to those made by Illumina.

Various checks indicate that the sequence the authors obtained contains damage that’s typical of ancient DNA, and that it all comes from a single individual. So far, quite typical.

Things got quite unusual when they attempted to align the sequence to the mitochondrial DNA from the hominin species that were likely to be present at that time and place: human and Neanderthal. Instead of clustering with one or the other, the Denisova mitochondrial genome was a clear outlier, having about 385 differences with the typical human mitochondrial genome. In contrast, Neanderthals only differ from modern humans by an average of 202. The obvious interpretation is that the Denisova lineage split off before modern humans and Neanderthals did. If we accept that Neanderthals are a distinct species of hominin (and we do), then this sample clearly represents yet another one.

Building a tree with the chimpanzee genomes and assuming a divergence time of 6 million years, the data indicates that the Denisova lineage diverged about a million years ago. At that point, Homo Erectus was already a global species, but our human ancestors were still in Africa. That suggests that the Denisova variant probably originated in, or at least near, Africa as well, although there’s no way to tell whether it was a distinct species before it started migrating, or whether it became an isolated population because of a migration.

The paper is in the format of a Nature letter, which allows only a paragraph for discussion. The authors use that space primarily to note that, 40,000 years ago, southern Siberia was a very busy place as far as hominins are concerned, with at least three different species present within a very narrow time frame. If we accept that the Indonesian hobbits are yet another distinct species—and the relevant community seems to be leaning that way—then it appears that there were at least four distinct hominin species cohabiting the globe in the very recent past.

As surprising as that is, it’s only a small fraction of the implications of this work. For starters, there’s the whole idea that we can identify a new species without having any idea what it actually looked like—in fact, without having any idea of whether it would be physically distinct enough from any of the other hominin species around that we’d even have known it were a separate species based on the bones.

The authors also briefly touched on a separate issue: this ability will be unevenly distributed in space and time. DNA simply lasts longer in cool climates, as evidenced by the recent announcement that DNA had been obtained from a polar bear sample that was over 100,000 years old. So, any species that was stuck near the equator—like the hobbits—are unlikely to be in on the DNA revolution. This is especially unfortunate given the fact that, as noted above, a lot of the most interesting action in hominin origins seem to have been taking place in Africa.

Then there’s the whole question of what else we might be missing. Avoiding contamination issues with modern DNA is easiest if the entire excavation is designed around a sterile technique from the start, meaning bones that have been previously excavated aren’t ideal. At the moment, at least, sequencing from a single sample is also pretty labor intensive (this paper had seven authors), meaning we aren’t likely to be able to just start sequencing any bone fragments we stumble across. Figuring out how to prioritize what might be informative will be a real challenge.

If that seems like a lot of questions for a short and fairly technical paper (and it is), it’s a product of the fact that this paper seems truly exceptional. Because of the rich history of most fields of science, there aren’t a whole lot of truly unexpected results, since you typically know that there are people working in a given area. But this finding is truly a stunning one, and really seems to be a complete surprise.

Nature, 2010.

Original article here.

Knud Leem, 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture – Part III – Children suckling reindeer

March 30, 2010

“To avoid reindeer roaming far afield, a piece of wood is tied around its neck. Children may suckle the reindeer, but a reindeer does not offer much milk…”

The Norwegian Knud Leem was the leading 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture. On the initiative of Thomas von Westen (1683-1727), Leem arrived as a missionary in Finnmark, in 1725. Leem collected large quanitities of ethnological documentation on the Sami in his work as a vicar at Talvik and Alta, up until 1734. His observations and understanding of Sami behavior, living conditions and disposition are recorded in a publication called Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, deres Tungemaal, Levemaade og forrige afgudsdyrkelse. This was published in 1767, in Copenhagen. The Danish text is accompanied by a parallel Latin text. An extract was also released in German, in 1771 (Leipzig), and in English, in 1808 (London). The English volume was titled An Account of the Laplanders of Finmark, their Language, Manners, and Religion, and this was the first volume in the serial called A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World, which was published from 1808-1814, by John Pinkerton.

More on Knud Leem here.

Knud Leem, 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture – Part II – Housing

March 30, 2010

“When a coastal Sami lies in his hut, or a mountain Sami lies asleep in his tent, his bottom quilt is a widespread reindeer hide… On top he will have a fur bedcover and a thick wool blanket… A husband and his wife, their children and servants will all lie quite naked, and close to the ground, even during the most severe chill of the winter.”

“When a Lapp travels by water and, for one reason or another, has to head toward land… he will take his oars and raise them on the shore, leaning them against each other, and spread his sail over them. Inside he will stay put until ready to leave once again.

The Norwegian Knud Leem was the leading 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture. On the initiative of Thomas von Westen (1683-1727), Leem arrived as a missionary in Finnmark, in 1725. Leem collected large quanitities of ethnological documentation on the Sami in his work as a vicar at Talvik and Alta, up until 1734. His observations and understanding of Sami behavior, living conditions and disposition are recorded in a publication called Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, deres Tungemaal, Levemaade og forrige afgudsdyrkelse. This was published in 1767, in Copenhagen. The Danish text is accompanied by a parallel Latin text. An extract was also released in German, in 1771 (Leipzig), and in English, in 1808 (London). The English volume was titled An Account of the Laplanders of Finmark, their Language, Manners, and Religion, and this was the first volume in the serial called A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World, which was published from 1808-1814, by John Pinkerton.

More Knud Leem here.

Knud Leem, 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture – Part I – token of civilty

March 29, 2010

“…when the Sami lack tobacco they will share the same pipe. The pipe will be sent from one to the other which, in this manner, is to be taken as a token of civilty.”


The Norwegian Knud Leem was the leading 18th-century specialist on Sami language and culture. On the initiative of Thomas von Westen (1683-1727), Leem arrived as a missionary in Finnmark, in 1725. Leem collected large quanitities of ethnological documentation on the Sami in his work as a vicar at Talvik and Alta, up until 1734. His observations and understanding of Sami behavior, living conditions and disposition are recorded in a publication called Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, deres Tungemaal, Levemaade og forrige afgudsdyrkelse. This was published in 1767, in Copenhagen. The Danish text is accompanied by a parallel Latin text. An extract was also released in German, in 1771 (Leipzig), and in English, in 1808 (London). The English volume was titled An Account of the Laplanders of Finmark, their Language, Manners, and Religion, and this was the first volume in the serial called A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World, which was published from 1808-1814, by John Pinkerton.

More on Knud Leem here.

100 reindeer taken by avalanche (Norwegian only)

March 29, 2010

100 rein tatt av snøskred NRK 28.03.2010

Et snøskred i Lom har tatt med seg 100 tamrein. Skredet gikk sist torsdag da en reinsflokk på over 2300 dyr gikk og beitet på Lomseggen. Reingjeter Jan Stokstad sier de har avlivet flere skadede dyr, og at det ligger mange døde dyr under snøen. Reingjetere fra Lom tamreinlag var søndag formiddag igjen på vei til området der reinsflokken ble tatt av skredet.

Stor rasfare

– Vi kan ikke si helt sikkert hvor mange dyr som er gått med, men regner med rundt 100, sier reingjeter Jan Stokstad som har vært på vakt i helga.

Søndag formiddag var han og overgjeter Asbjørn Hansen i tamreinlaget på vei inn i rasområdet for å se etter flere dyr.

Rasfaren i området er svært stor. Fjellsiden ned mot Lom der raset gikk, er bratt og terrenget ulendt.

Tatt av ørn og jerv

Det er ikke første gang i vinter reinsflokken har vært i hardt vær.

– Tidligere i vinter ble flokken jagd utfor et stup i Jotunheimen. Da mistet vi 17 dyr, sier formannen i Lom tamreinlag, Magnar Hansen.

Til sammen har laget mistet rundt 120 dyr, og Hansen sier tapet kan bli stort. Han regner med at svært mange av dyra de har mistet, var simler skal skulle ha kalvet om en måneds tid.

Magnar Hansen, sier flokken nå er samlet. Etter påske skal den føres fra vinter- til sommerbeite.

Siste telling av flokken viste at flokken er på 2347 reinsdyr.

Original article here

Man’s early ancestors are pictured together for the first time

March 28, 2010

By Daily Mail Reporter
26th March 2010
A mysterious species of ancient human has been discovered in a cave in southern Siberia. Nicknamed X-Woman, scientists say the human lived alongside our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago. The discovery, which could rewrite mankind’s family tree, was made after analysis of DNA from a fossilised finger bone.

human ancestors

Back in the beginning: Living 6.8million years ago this is Sahelanthropus tchadensis. Parts of its jaw bone and teeth were found nine years ago in the Djurab desert, Chad, and from this scientists created this model head

human ancestors

This young woman lived between 100,000 and 90,000 years ago. Her skull and mandible were found in a cave in Israel in 1969 along with the remains of 20 others. The size of their skulls was higher than that of the average person today

Experts believe the finger belonged to a child who died 48,000 to 30,000 years ago.

It was thought only two species of early humans lived at that time – the ancestors of modern man and the Neanderthals, who died out soon afterwards.

But the DNA evidence published in the journal Nature reveals a third species.

The latest study was based on an analysis of ‘mitochondrial’ DNA – a genetic code passed from mothers to children.

Researcher Dr Svante Pääbo said the code was different from that of Neanderthals and modern humans and was ‘a new creature that’s not been on our radar screens so far’.

The scientists are unable to say what X-Woman looked like and are even unsure if the finger belonged to a male of female, but Dr Pääbo said they named her X-Woman ‘because its mitochondrial and we want to take a feminist tack on this’.

The discovery of the ‘X-Woman’ comes as scientists revealed images of what man looked like millions of years ago.

Gathering bone fragments from across the globe, paleoanthropologists used sophisticated research methods to form the 27 model heads, which are on show at the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

The exhibition goes back seven million years to sahelanthropus tchadensis and traces the numerous stages of man culminating with modern-day homo sapiens.

Each of the heads is used to tell its story: where they lived; what they ate; and what killed them.

It shows how researchers today use satellite image analysis and computer tomography.

There is little doubt that Africa is the cradle of humanity and this is where the most ancient of the remains were unearthed. But clues to other pre-human species have been found in the Middle East and Far East.

Only a few thousand fossils of pre-human species have ever been discovered and entire sub-species are sometimes known only from a single jaw or fragmentary skull.

human ancestors

This skull was fashioned from a skull and jaw found in the remains of 17 pre-humans (nine adults, three youths and five children) which were discovered in the Afar Region of Ethiopia in 1975. They are believed to have lived 3.2million years ago

human ancestors

Meet ‘Mrs Ples’ who was unearthed in Sterkfontein, South Africa in 1947. Her whole skull was found and it is believed she lived 2.5million years ago. Sediment traces found on the inside of her skull indicate to scientists that she died by falling into a chalk pit

human ancestors

The skull of this male adult was found on the western shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya in 1985. He is believed to have lived in 2.5million years ago. The shape of the mouth indicates that he had a strong bite and that he could chew sinewy plants

human ancestors

This species of sub-human – Homo rudolfensis – was found in Koobi Fora, Kenya, in 1972. The adult male is believed to have lived about 1.8million years ago. He used stone axes ate meat and plants and lived on the wooded edge of Lake Turkana in Eastern Africa

human ancestors

Researchers shaped this skull on the basis of this discovery of ‘Zinj’ in 1959. The adult male lived 1.8million years ago in the Olduvai Gorge of Tanzania. He would have fed himself on seeds, plants and roots which he dug out with bones

human ancestors

The near-complete skeleton of ‘Turkana Boy’, a male adolescent aged about 13, was found in Nariokotome, Kenya, in 1984. He lived 1.6million years ago. His teeth and skull bear a close resemblance to discoveries in Asia of homo erectus

Experts are often forced to resort to educated guesswork to fill in the gaps in research to come up with images of human ancestors.

Each new discovery means paleoanthropologists have to rethink the origins of man’s ancestors.

The previously held concept of primitive man – characterised by a large brain and the ability to manufacture tools – has had to be changed by researchers.

European natives of primitive man, homo heidelbergensis, are believed to have been able to make perfect javelins from wood 400,000 years ago and are also thought to have had the ability to plan for the future.

Neanderthals are also now thought to have had far more culture and craft skills than earlier research indicated.

human ancestors

Discovered in Java, Indonesea, this skull belonging to ‘Sangiran 17’ is believed to have belonged to an adult male who probably lived around 800,000 years ago. He was found by an Indonesian farmer hacking away in a field. Sangiran is believed to have used fire

human ancestors

The discovery of this adult male in Sima de los Huesos, Spain, in 1993 points to an early stage in the evolution of neanderthal man due to the shape of his face. ‘Miquelon’ was around 1.75m tall and lived about 500,000 to 350,000 years ago. His remains were found with that of 31 others which led researchers to believe this was a burial site

human ancestors

The skull and jaw of this female ‘hobbit’ was found in Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia, in 2003. She was about 1m tall and lived about 18,000 years ago. The discovery brought into question the belief that Homo sapiens was the only form of mankind for the past 30,000 years. Homo sapiens are the primate species to which modern humans belong

human ancestors

The ‘Old man of La Chapelle’ was recreated from the skull and jaw of a male found near La Chapelle-aux-Saints, in France in 1908. He lived 56,000 years ago. His skeleton indicated he suffered a number of illness including arthritis and had numerous broken bones. This was not noticed when he was first discovered and gave rise to the mistaken belief that neanderthal man was a hunched individual. His relatively old age of between 40 to 50 indicates he was looked after by a clan

Body clock of arctic reindeer ticks differently

March 28, 2010

How many other body processes affected by development are uncertain
By Andrea Thompson

Arctic reindeer live in the near perpetual night and then endless daytime that seasonally occur at the top of the world. These extreme conditions seem to have led the reindeer to abandon the internal clocks that drive the daily biological rhythms of mammals at lower latitudes, a new study finds.

In mammals, including humans, some hormone levels rise and ebb on a rhythmic daily cycle. This circadian rhythm influences various processes in the body, from the sleep/wake cycle to reproduction. The light-dark signals of day and night help drive these cycles, as does an internal body clock that works on a 24-hour cycle even in the absence of a light-dark switch.

But in reindeer, “it is this clock element that seems to be missing,” said study author Andrew Loudon of the University of Manchester in England, referring to the internal ticker.

The missing clock doesn’t have any effect on the sleep patterns of the reindeer, as they sleep after they eat, and tend to eat some 8 to 10 times a day, as is the case for all ruminant animals.

Loudon and his colleagues looked at levels of melatonin (a hormone that responds to the circadian cycle) in Arctic reindeer and found that they showed no natural internal rhythm of melatonin secretion. Instead, their hormone levels rise and fall in direct response to light and dark.

And studies of reindeer skin cells showed that two well-known clock genes don’t oscillate the way they do in other organisms as a way of keeping time.

“We suspect that they have the full range of normal clock genes, but these are regulated in a different way in reindeer,” Loudon said.

The findings of the study, detailed online on March 11 in the journal Current Biology, initially came as a surprise, but the researchers now suspect that similar patterns could be seen in other Arctic animals.

“Our findings imply that evolution has come up with a means of switching off the cellular clockwork,” Loudon said. “Such daily clocks may be positively a hindrance in environments where there is no reliable light-dark cycle for much of the year.”

Because the Earth is tilted on its axis, the Arctic is pointed toward the sun during the summer months, which keeps the sun perpetually above the horizon during this time. During the winter, the opposite is true, and the Arctic is plunged into months of darkness. The same is true of the Antarctic.

Instead, light and dark signals that come during the year’s two equinoxes (fall and spring) could be enough to jumpstart certain processes in the reindeer, such as the annual reproductive cycle, the researchers say.

Just how many body processes are affected by this unusual development isn’t certain.

“We do not know how extensive the loss of clockwork is in reindeer,” Loudon told LiveScience. “There may still be a clock in there ticking away, but we have not been able to find it. It looks like the molecular clock is switched off at least in skin cells (and frankly I suspect elsewhere as well).”
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