The large eyes of Neanderthals may have been a major factor in their extinction, according to the results of new research. The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Journal and led by Eiluned Pearce from the University of Oxford, compared the skulls of 32 Homo sapiens with those of 13 Neanderthals. The results suggest that the larger eye sockets needed to see in dark, murky conditions in Europe would have caused Neanderthals to use a significantly larger proportion of their brains to process visual information, at the expense of 'higher' functions such as social networking.


Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum, who was also involved in the research, said: "We infer that Neanderthals had a smaller cognitive part of the brain and that this would have limited them, including their ability to form larger groups. If you live in a larger group, you need a larger brain in order to process all those extra relationships."

'Medieval knight' unearthed in car park dig

The remains of what is thought to be a medieval knight or nobleman have been uncovered during work to build a new university building on the former site of an Edinburgh car park. Experts from Headland Archaeology, who have been exploring the skeleton and elaborate sandstone grave marker, were also able to discover the exact location of a monastery which was previously known to have stood in the area.

British Museum remains most-visited UK attraction

The British Museum was the UK's most popular visitor attraction for the sixth year in a row in 2012, according to figures released this week. The venue attracted a total of 5.6 million people, with Tate Modern and the National Gallery being respectively the second and third most frequently visited.

Neolithic settlement uncovered in Berkshire

Archaeologists working on a site near Windsor have uncovered what is believed to be one of the oldest permanent settlements yet found in England. The remains of the four Neolithic houses, which are thought to be 5,700 years old, also featured pottery, flint tools, arrowheads and charred food remains.

Vienna orchestra's Nazi past revealed

Nearly half of all of the musicians in the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra in the Second World War were members of the Nazi party, according to a study commissioned by the ensemble. The historians' research, carried out after sustained political pressure to gain access to the orchestra's previously restricted archives, also revealed that 13 of the orchestra's members were forced to leave for being either Jewish or married to people of the Jewish faith.

Hitler assassination plotter dies aged 90

A former German army lieutenant involved in several attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler has died at the age of 90. Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist volunteered to wear a suicide vest at a subsequently cancelled meeting with the Nazi leader, before playing a key role in the 1944 '20 July plot' to place a briefcase filled with explosives in a conference room used by high-ranking officials. The plan proved unsuccessful when the case was moved from its intended location, causing Hitler to escape the force of the blast, and von Kleist was arrested and sent to a concentration camp before being allowed to return to duty.

Dean refers Richard III hate mail to police

The Dean of York, Vivienne Faull, has contacted the police over a string of apparently abusive letters about the burial location of the skeleton of Richard III. Faull had previously issued a statement supporting the plan to inter the remains in Leicester Cathedral, a decision which has prompted ongoing debate due to the monarch's links to other regions of the country.

Siblings reunited for first time since 1938

A brother and sister separated before the Second World War have been reunited after 75 years thanks to the efforts of an amateur genealogist. John Stubbs was sent to live with his grandparents in Chichester in 1938 while his sister, Rose Burleigh, was adopted by her aunt and stayed on the Isle of Wight. The adoptive parents were apparently unwilling to return the children, and neither knew if their sibling was still alive until the genealogist's intervention.


Image credits: Natural History Museum (skulls); CEMEX UK (Neolithic settlement); University of Leicester (Richard III)