DNA gives clues to Neanderthal extinction
A study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution has claimed that most Neanderthals in western Europe had died out as early as 50,000 years ago. A team of researchers studying the variation, or diversity, in mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones of 13 Neanderthals, found that west European fossils with ages older than 48,000 years, along with Neanderthal specimens from Asia, showed considerable genetic variation. Specimens from western Europe younger than 48,000 years, however, showed much less genetic diversity. The research also claims that a small group of Neanderthals went on to recolonise parts of Europe, surviving for 10,000 years before vanishing. The finds could indicate that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought.
European-style stone tools dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. The discoveries have lead some experts to believe that America was actually first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the arrival of the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians. Three of the sites are located on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, one is in Pennsylvania, while a fifth was discovered in Virginia. A sixth site was found on the seabed, 60 miles off the Virginian coast, land that would have once have been dry.
Ecuadoran historian Tamara Estupinan believes she has located the final resting place of the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa. Estupinan first found the ruins, located in Sigchos, about 45 miles south of Quito, in June 2010, and discovered a complex of walls, aqueducts and stonework. Several rectangular rooms built with cut polished stone and set around a trapezoidal plaza were found inside the late imperial design Inca monument. Inside the tomb, a walled walkway starts at the Machay River and the shape of an "ushno", (stairs that form a pyramid believed to be the emperor's throne) can be seen. A tiny cut channel of water would have once spouted out a small waterfall, nicknamed "the Inca's bath". Atahualpa was the last of his dynasty and was taken captive during the Spanish conquest in what is now Cajamarca, Peru. Ecuador's state Cultural Patrimony Institute will now begin work on the site.
The last remaining Scottish little ship, once used in the Dunkirk landings, has recently been listed on internet auction site eBay for £1. The boat, named Skylark IX, played an important role in Operation Dynamo between 26 May and 4 June 1940 during which 900 civilian and naval craft were sent across the Channel under RAF protection. Skylark IX rescued around 600 soldiers from Dunkirk but has been lying in a sunken state at Balloch since 2010. Its owner, Leven Cruising Club, hopes to sell the boat to someone who will restore her.
Environment minister for the Northern Ireland Executive Alex Attwood has announced that his department is to provide £1.5 million for preservation work on the Thompson Graving dock, where Titanic was fitted out in 1911. Work will involve the construction of a new structure outside the existing 46-metre wide steel dock gate in order to safeguard the dock from flooding. The public will be given access to the dock floor for the first time ever in April 2012.
Veterinary charity PDSA has been remembering Winkie the carrier pigeon, who, 70 years ago last month, was awarded the Dickin medal for heroism – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross – by the charity during the Second World War. Winkie, who was the first of many animals honoured by the PDSA, flew 120 miles home to her loft in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, to alert her owners that the Beaufort Bomber she’d been travelling in had been hit by enemy fire and had crashed into the sea more than 100 miles from home. The RAF were then able to calculate the position of the downed aircraft using the time difference between the plane's ditching and the arrival of the bird; the men were found within 15 minutes. A dinner was held in Winkie’s honour and she became one of over 60 animals to receive the award. Other winners have included 18 dogs, three horses and one cat.