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      Hominin Dispersal into the Nefud Desert and Middle Palaeolithic Settlement along the Jubbah Palaeolake, Northern Arabia

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          Abstract

          The Arabian Peninsula is a key region for understanding hominin dispersals and the effect of climate change on prehistoric demography, although little information on these topics is presently available owing to the poor preservation of archaeological sites in this desert environment. Here, we describe the discovery of three stratified and buried archaeological sites in the Nefud Desert, which includes the oldest dated occupation for the region. The stone tool assemblages are identified as a Middle Palaeolithic industry that includes Levallois manufacturing methods and the production of tools on flakes. Hominin occupations correspond with humid periods, particularly Marine Isotope Stages 7 and 5 of the Late Pleistocene. The Middle Palaeolithic occupations were situated along the Jubbah palaeolake-shores, in a grassland setting with some trees. Populations procured different raw materials across the lake region to manufacture stone tools, using the implements to process plants and animals. To reach the Jubbah palaeolake, Middle Palaeolithic populations travelled into the ameliorated Nefud Desert interior, possibly gaining access from multiple directions, either using routes from the north and west (the Levant and the Sinai), the north (the Mesopotamian plains and the Euphrates basin), or the east (the Persian Gulf). The Jubbah stone tool assemblages have their own suite of technological characters, but have types reminiscent of both African Middle Stone Age and Levantine Middle Palaeolithic industries. Comparative inter-regional analysis of core technology indicates morphological similarities with the Levantine Tabun C assemblage, associated with human fossils controversially identified as either Neanderthals or Homo sapiens.

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          A draft sequence of the Neandertal genome.

          Neandertals, the closest evolutionary relatives of present-day humans, lived in large parts of Europe and western Asia before disappearing 30,000 years ago. We present a draft sequence of the Neandertal genome composed of more than 4 billion nucleotides from three individuals. Comparisons of the Neandertal genome to the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world identify a number of genomic regions that may have been affected by positive selection in ancestral modern humans, including genes involved in metabolism and in cognitive and skeletal development. We show that Neandertals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neandertals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other.
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            Late Pleistocene demography and the appearance of modern human behavior.

            The origins of modern human behavior are marked by increased symbolic and technological complexity in the archaeological record. In western Eurasia this transition, the Upper Paleolithic, occurred about 45,000 years ago, but many of its features appear transiently in southern Africa about 45,000 years earlier. We show that demography is a major determinant in the maintenance of cultural complexity and that variation in regional subpopulation density and/or migratory activity results in spatial structuring of cultural skill accumulation. Genetic estimates of regional population size over time show that densities in early Upper Paleolithic Europe were similar to those in sub-Saharan Africa when modern behavior first appeared. Demographic factors can thus explain geographic variation in the timing of the first appearance of modern behavior without invoking increased cognitive capacity.
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              Mitochondrial genome variation and the origin of modern humans.

              The analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been a potent tool in our understanding of human evolution, owing to characteristics such as high copy number, apparent lack of recombination, high substitution rate and maternal mode of inheritance. However, almost all studies of human evolution based on mtDNA sequencing have been confined to the control region, which constitutes less than 7% of the mitochondrial genome. These studies are complicated by the extreme variation in substitution rate between sites, and the consequence of parallel mutations causing difficulties in the estimation of genetic distance and making phylogenetic inferences questionable. Most comprehensive studies of the human mitochondrial molecule have been carried out through restriction-fragment length polymorphism analysis, providing data that are ill suited to estimations of mutation rate and therefore the timing of evolutionary events. Here, to improve the information obtained from the mitochondrial molecule for studies of human evolution, we describe the global mtDNA diversity in humans based on analyses of the complete mtDNA sequence of 53 humans of diverse origins. Our mtDNA data, in comparison with those of a parallel study of the Xq13.3 region in the same individuals, provide a concurrent view on human evolution with respect to the age of modern humans.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1932-6203
                2012
                19 November 2012
                : 7
                : 11
                Affiliations
                [1 ]School of Archaeology, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
                [2 ]Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., United States of America
                [3 ]Department of Archaeology, College of Tourism & Archaeology, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
                [4 ]Ministry of Higher Education, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
                [5 ]Department of Geography, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
                [6 ]School of Social Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
                [7 ]CNRS, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon, France
                [8 ]Department of Archaeology, Connolly Building, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
                [9 ]Department of Anthropology and Geography, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom
                [10 ]Centre for Archaeological Science, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
                [11 ]Department of Anthropology, Paleo-DNA Laboratory, Lakehead University, Ontario, Canada
                [12 ]The Saudi General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Taif Antiquities Office, Taif, Saudi Arabia
                Illinois State University, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: MP AA. Performed the experiments: RC HG RJ AP AP RR CS AO. Analyzed the data: PB CC RC ND HG RJ RR AP AP CM CS MV. Wrote the paper: RC ND HG CM MP RR CS.

                Article
                PONE-D-12-25590
                10.1371/journal.pone.0049840
                3501467
                23185454
                06f9d9c0-2ec5-47aa-9437-16005c399a7b

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 21
                Funding
                This research was funded by the National Geographic Society, the Leakey Foundation, the European Research Council (no. 295719) and the Australian Research Council. The authors acknowledge the Australian Research Council for laboratory analysis and the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a doctoral studentship to HG. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Biology
                Evolutionary Biology
                Organismal Evolution
                Human Evolution
                Earth Sciences
                Geography
                Physical Geography
                Social and Behavioral Sciences
                Anthropology
                Paleoanthropology
                Archaeology
                Experimental Archaeology
                Historical Archaeology
                Sociology
                Demography

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                Uncategorized

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