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Allwood 2018

Abigail C. Allwood, Minik T. Rosing, David T. Flannery, Joel A. Hurowitz & Christopher M. Heirwegh, Reassessing evidence of life in 3,700-million-year-old rocks of Greenland. nature 563 (2018), 241–244.


The Palaeoarchean supracrustal belts in Greenland contain Earth’s oldest rocks and are a prime target in the search for the earliest evidence of life on Earth. However, metamorphism has largely obliterated original rock textures and compositions, posing a challenge to the preservation of biological signatures. A recent study of 3,700-million-year-old rocks of the Isua supracrustal belt in Greenland described a rare zone in which low deformation and a closed metamorphic system allowed preservation of primary sedimentary features, including putative conical and domical stromatolites1 (laminated accretionary structures formed by microbially mediated sedimentation). The morphology, layering, mineralogy, chemistry and geological context of the structures were attributed to the formation of microbial mats in a shallow marine environment by 3,700 million years ago, at the start of Earth’s rock record. Here we report new research that shows a non-biological, post-depositional origin for the structures. Three-dimensional analysis of the morphology and orientation of the structures within the context of host rock fabrics, combined with texture-specific analyses of major and trace element chemistry, show that the ‘stromatolites’ are more plausibly interpreted as part of an assemblage of deformation structures formed in carbonate-altered metasediments long after burial. The investigation of the structures of the Isua supracrustal belt serves as a cautionary tale in the search for signs of past life on Mars, highlighting the importance of three-dimensional, integrated analysis of morphology, rock fabrics and geochemistry at appropriate scales.

Zichello 2018

Julia M. Zichello, Karen L. Baab, Kieran P. McNulty, Christopher J. Raxworthy & Michael E. Steiper, Hominoid intraspecific cranial variation mirrors neutral genetic diversity. PNAS 115 (2018), 11501–11506.

pnas115-11501-Supplement1.pdf, pnas115-11501-Supplement2.pdf

Natural selection, developmental constraint, and plasticity have all been invoked as explanations for intraspecific cranial variation in humans and apes. However, global patterns of human cranial variation are congruent with patterns of genetic variation, demonstrating that population history has influenced cranial variation in humans. Here we show that this finding is not unique to Homo sapiens but is also broadly evident across extant ape species. Specifically, taxa that exhibit greater intraspecific cranial shape variation also exhibit greater genetic diversity at neutral autosomal loci. Thus, cranial shape variation within hominoid taxa reflects the population history of each species. Our results suggest that neutral evolutionary processes such as mutation, gene flow, and genetic drift have played an important role in generating cranial variation within species. These findings are consistent with previous work on human cranial morphology and improve our understanding of the evolutionary processes that generate intraspecific cranial shape diversity within hominoids. This work has implications for the analysis of selective and developmental pressures on the cranium and for interpreting shape variation in fossil hominin crania.

Keywords: hominoid evolution | cranial shape variation | population genetics | hominin fossil record | extant ape variation

Significance: In humans, patterns of cranial variation mirror genetic diversity globally, implicating population history as a key driver of cranial disparity. Here, we demonstrate that the magnitude of genetic diversity within 12 extant ape taxa explains a large proportion of cranial shape variation. Taxa that are more genetically diverse tend to be more cranially diverse also. Our Results suggest that neutral evolutionary processes such as mutation, genetic drift, and gene flow are reflected in both genetic and cranial diversity in apes. This work provides a perspective on intraspecific cranial variation in apes which has important implications for interpreting selective and developmental pressures on the cranium and for understanding shape variation in fossil hominin crania.


Radner 2019

Karen Radner, The “Lost Tribes of Israel” in the Context of the Resettlement Programme of the Assyrian Empire. In: Shuichi Hasegawa, Christoph Levin & Karen Radner (Hrsg.), The Last Days of the Kingdom of Israel. (Berlin 2019), 101–123.

It is a matter of debate how many people of a particular local population were made to move. In the case of the kingdom of Israel, this question has received much attention as it underpins any assessment of the relationship between ancient Israelite and later Samaritan traditions. It is moot, in my view, to try and quantify proportions. However, it is beyond any doubt that the Assyrian sources overwhelmingly associate resettlement with persons possessing specialised skills, with educated elites in the broadest sense: highly trained fighters, scribes and scholars, artisans and craftsmen of all kinds. Therefore, even if the resettlement programme affected only a relatively small percentage of the overall population, the absence of such specialists – which in the case of Samaria, as we have discussed, included chariot crews, potters and carpenters – would have massively eroded and changed local culture and local identity.


Cook 1995

Edward M. Cook, 4Q246. Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995), 43–66.

The Aramaic text 4Q246 (the “son of God” text) is recognized as a document of first-rate importance, but scholars have not been able to agree on its interpretation. The present study offers new readings, translation, and commentary, and suggests that a proper understanding of the fragment’s internal poetic structure and of its affinity to the Akkadian prophecies leads to the conclusion that the text represents the “son of God” as a negative figure. The probable historical background of 4Q246 is the Seleucid period, especially the struggle against Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Keywords: Son of God | 4Q246 | Mark 14:64 | Luke 1:35 | Akkadian prophecies | Antiochus Epiphanes

Ferda 2014

Tucker S. Ferda, Naming the Messiah, A Contribution to the 4Q246 ‘Son of God’ Debate. Dead Sea Discoveries 21 (2014), 150–175.

The attempt to identify the obscure “son of God” figure in 4Q246 often begins with discussion of the structure of the fragment and the background of the titles employed. This article suggests there are problems with both approaches and offers an alternative: an examination of biblical naming traditions and a rhetorical analysis of the way in which the figure “is called” the son of God in i 9 and ii 1. It concludes that the “son” is probably identified positively given the fragment’s similarity with positive naming traditions in the biblical text, as well as its dissimilarity with other examples of Jewish and Christian polemic. Further, it is probable that the divine naming of the figure participates in a widespread messianic topos.

Keywords: 4Q246 | Messiah | Daniel 7 | eschatology | intertextuality | Qumran Aramaic | son of God

Fitzmyer 1993

Joseph A. Fitzmyer, 4Q246: The “Son of God” Document from Qumran. Biblica 74 (1993), 153–174.


Majid 2018

Asifa Majid et al., Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages. PNAS 115 (2018), 11369–11376.


Asifa Majid, Seán G. Roberts, Ludy Cilissen, Karen Emmorey, Brenda Nicodemus, Lucinda O’Grady, Bencie Woll, Barbara LeLan, Hilário de Sousa, Brian L. Cansler, Shakila Shayan, Connie de Vos, Gunter Senft, N. J. Enfield, Rogayah A. Razak, Sebastian Fedden, Sylvia Tufvesson, Mark Dingemanse, Ozge Ozturk, Penelope Brown, Clair Hill, Olivier Le Guen, Vincent Hirtzel, Rik van Gijn, Mark A. Sicoli & Stephen C. Levinson

Is there a universal hierarchy of the senses, such that some senses (e.g., vision) are more accessible to consciousness and linguistic description than others (e.g., smell)? The long-standing presumption in Western thought has been that vision and audition are more objective than the other senses, serving as the basis of knowledge and understanding, whereas touch, taste, and smell are crude and of little value. This predicts that humans ought to be better at communicating about sight and hearing than the other senses, and decades of work based on English and related languages certainly suggests this is true. However, how well does this reflect the diversity of languages and communities worldwide? To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of the senses, stimuli from the five basic senses were used to elicit descriptions in 20 diverse languages, including 3 unrelated sign languages. We found that languages differ fundamentally in which sensory domains they linguistically code systematically, and how they do so. The tendency for better coding in some domains can be explained in part by cultural preoccupations. Although languages seem free to elaborate specific sensory domains, some general tendencies emerge: for example, with some exceptions, smell is poorly coded. The surprise is that, despite the gradual phylogenetic accumulation of the senses, and the imbalances in the neural tissue dedicated to them, no single hierarchy of the senses imposes itself upon language.

Keywords: perception | cross-linguistic | cross-cultural | language | ineffability

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