CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—Scientists have determined that a variation of a gene that increases the risk of a person developing type 2 diabetes by 25 percent was likely introduced into human populations by Neanderthals more than 60,000 years ago. Half of people with a recent Native American lineage, including Latin Americans, have the gene, SLC16A11, as do 20 percent of East Asians. The newly seqeuenced, high quality Neanderthal genome, taken from a female toe found in Siberia's Denisova Cave, also included the variant, and researchers say that analysis suggests that Neanderthals introduced it into the human genome when they intermixed with modern humans, after the latter left Africa 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. According to the findings from the completed Neanderthal genome, roughly two percent of the genomes of today's non-African humans are comprised of Neanderthal DNA.
ARABA/ÁLAVA, SPAIN—Archaeologists have found evidence of viticulture in two of more than 300 known deserted settlements Araba/Álava province of Spain, part of the nation's northern Basque Country. One of the sites, Zaballa (or Iruña de Oca), was a feudal territory set up in the A.D. tenth century around a manor monastery. It was abandoned roughly 500 years later. The other, Zornotegi (or Salvatierra), lasted for roughly the same time but had less of a social hierarchy in place. Both, however, had terraced fields dating back to the tenth century that archaeologists believe were used for growing grapes, and not for growing cereal grains, as previously thought. “Archaeo-botanical studies of seed remains found in the excavations and pollen studies have provided material evidence of the existence of vine cultivation in a relatively early period like the 10th century,” says Antonio Quirós-Castillo of PV/EHU-University of the Basque Country. "Owing to the nature of the crop spaces built and the agrarian practices developed, they are not compatible with cereal crops but they are with vines.”
ROME, ITALY—After a delay of two years, efforts to rid the Colosseum of a coating formed of traffic exhaust and organic materials, known as "black rust," are moving ahead. Thanks to a private $33 million donation, restorers will spend the next three years working in scaffolding erected over 150 feet by 150 feet sections and will clean the iconic site's walls by washing them with non-chemical solutions. Once the walls are clean, conservators will turn to restoring recent damage sustained at the site.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—In the Mexican state of Jalisco, archaeologists are unearthing the remains of 23 ceremonial structures at the site of Teocaltitan. Erected during the Classic period, between 450 and 900 A.D., the buildings are similar in style to ones still standing at the famous ancient city of Teotihuacan. Archaeologist Marisol Montejano Esquivias is heading the National Institute of Anthropology and History team excavating the site. “The interesting thing about Teocaltitan, apart from having Teotihuacan influence, is that it has elements that are very characteristic of the region such as the square architecture, sunken gardens in U-shape, pyramids with closed gardens, [and] ball game courts,” said Montejano. In one ball court, her team also found copper and shell earrings next to the cranium of a decapitated person. The artifacts date to between 900 and 1200 A.D., indicating the center was used in the Post Classic Period.