Monday June 18, 2018

French Scientists discover World’s oldest structure built by Neanderthals about 170,000 years ago

Bruniquel cave suggests that people outside Africans were developing their own symbolic system and had cognitive abilities.

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Drilling into the staglagmitic floor, Image credits : popularmechanics.com
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So deep inside the cave, it was only darkness that prevailed and sunlight was just a dream. The mysterious caves discovered recently, has ceiling dripped with mineral-laden water and has spiny stalagmites on the floor. While the structures remains a mystery, their creators are not.

  • Neanderthals were subspecies of humans who lived 400,000 to 40,000 years ago. One in Africa (Homo sapiens) and another in Eurasia (Homo Neanderthalensis). Both were same in terms of technological development, knowledge, and spirituality. The recent discovery confirms that they knew construction works and made structures that can be dated back to 175000- 50,000 years ago.
  • Neanderthals were the only group present at that time in western Europe. So this discovery provides the direct link regarding their building abilities. This also proved that they explored underground.
Scientists create an artificial look alike of Homo Neanderthal. Image source: humanorigins.si.edu
Scientists create an artificial look alike of Homo Neanderthal. Image source: humanorigins.si.edu
  • In the 1990s, a French scientist explored the Bruniquel cave but he died in between his research and was not able to complete it.Now 23 years later a crew of scientists and Geologist Dominique Genty with France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) have found this mysterious caves deep down into 1,000 feet. What is now western France is a twisting cave 30 miles underground. Researchers said that the discovery has helped them in understanding the traditional Neanderthal culture.
Internal cave structure, Image credits : popularmechanics.com
Internal cave structure, Image credits : popularmechanics.com
  • Bruniquel cave was discovered in 1992. It was found in the dark reaches 1,102 feet below from the cave’s entrance. The cave was full of paintings. One of the discovered ring structures is about 7 feet in diameter. However the other one is around 15 – 22 feet in diameter. These rings are cracked and blackened which proves that they were firstly heated by fire.
  • Scientists found more than 400 stalagmites of the same size stacked together to form walls of 2 mysterious circular structures. (Stalagmites are the mineral spears that rise up from the ground; stalactites are the hanging ones.)
  • This piece of work is totally a blunder. It is way more complex than what was thought of those underrated hominid species (Neanderthals). This also proves that they were socially more complex than classic.
Mounted Neanderthal skeleton at American Museum of Natural History. Image source: Wikipedia
Mounted Neanderthal skeleton at American Museum of Natural History. Image source: Wikipedia
  • Scientists who were able to explore the Bruniquel cave such as Jaubert told that “This certainly was a collective work, and required at least a minimum of social organization. Some had to carry torches, some had to move and transport materials, some had placed them in this specific configuration, and so on.
  • One can totally assume that the cave structures represent some symbolic or ritual behaviour or maybe they were served for domestic purposes. The burn patterns inside the cave resemble that the structure made such that it itself light on fire. Scientists also found burned pieces of animal bones which indicate that they could have been used as torches.
  • Though modern Africans dominated the world after they crossed into Eurasia (nearly 80,000 years ago), Bruniquel cave suggests that people outside Africans were developing their own symbolic system and had cognitive abilities.

-by Pritam

Pritam is an engineering student and an intern at NewsGram. Twitter handle @pritam_gogreen

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  • Pritam Go Green

    This is totally strange !!! The way they built those caves were just amazing ! Didn’t know our ancestors were this much talented ..

Next Story

Two New Ways To Prevent Cholera: Microbes Fighting Microbes

The research has so far only been done in animals

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A woman draws water from an unprotected well in Chigwirizano, a peri-urban area hit by a Cholera outbreak in Malawi.
A woman draws water from an unprotected well in Chigwirizano, a peri-urban area hit by a Cholera outbreak in Malawi. VOA

Two promising new ways to prevent cholera are on the horizon. One is an entirely new kind of vaccine. The other is as simple as a cup of yogurt.

Both may offer fast, cheap protection from explosive outbreaks of a disease that claims tens of thousands of lives each year.

The research has so far only been done in animals. Human studies are yet to come.

Cholera declawed

Cholera causes such serious diarrhea that it can kill within hours. Current vaccines take at least 10 days to work, don’t provide complete protection and don’t work well for young children.

One group of scientists working to create a better vaccine engineered cholera bacteria that are missing the genes that make the microbe toxic.

The researchers fed the modified bacteria to rabbits. The microbes colonized the animals’ guts but did not make them sick.

When the scientists then fed rabbits normal, disease-causing cholera 24 hours later, most of the animals survived.

Those that did get sick took longer to do so than rabbits given unmodified bacteria, or modified bacteria that had been killed. Those animals died within hours.

Doctors Giving vaccines
Doctors Giving vaccines, Pixabay

The engineered cholera bacteria provided protection much faster than a conventional vaccine. They acted as a probiotic: colonized the animals’ intestines in less than a day and prevented the disease-causing microbes from getting a foothold.

The researchers expect that the modified bacteria will also act like a typical vaccine, stimulating the body’s immune system to fight a future cholera infection.

“This is a new type of therapy,” Harvard University Medical School microbiologist Matthew Waldor said. “It’s both a probiotic and a vaccine. We don’t know the right name for it yet.”

The research is published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

Yogurt solution

In another study in the same journal, a group of researchers discovered that a microbe commonly found in yogurt, cheese and other fermented dairy products can prevent cholera infection.

Bioengineer Jim Collins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues had been working on genetically modifying the bacteria, known as Lactococcus lactis, to treat cholera.

It hadn’t been working.

But they accidentally discovered that unmodified L. lactis keeps cholera germs in check by producing acid that the disease-causing microbes can’t tolerate.

Feeding mice doses of L. lactis bacteria every 10 hours nearly doubled their survival rate from cholera infection.

“It was remarkably surprising and satisfying,” Colllins said. “We were really getting frustrated.”

They also designed a strain of L. lactis that turns a cholera-infected mouse’s stool red. It could be a useful diagnostic, for example, to identify those carrying the bacteria but not showing symptoms.

Collins said pills of L. lactis bacteria — or simply ample supplies of fermented milk products — could be “a very inexpensive, safe and easy-to-administer way to keep some of these outbreaks in check.”

Waldor said his group’s modified-cholera vaccine also could be grown and packaged in pills quickly and easily in case of an outbreak.

Both caution that these animal studies are a long way from new treatments for human patients. They need to be proven in clinical trials.

Microscopic Image Of a Virus
Microscopic Image Of a Virus, Pixabay

Beyond cholera

The two studies could not only have an impact on cholera, but could also influence how doctors treat other intestinal diseases and manage gut health, according to Robert Hall, who oversees research funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

While fermented foods promising better health are widely available, “the studies with probiotics in the field have really seldom shown great effectiveness when they’re done scientifically,” Hall said.

The work Collins’s group did not only shows effectiveness, but explains how it works: by “making the intestine inhospitable” to cholera, he added.

Hall wrote a commentary accompanying the two studies.

Other gut diseases work the same way as cholera, he noted, so it’s possible that other microbes could be developed that block harmful germs from gaining a foothold while acting as vaccines at the same time.

Also read: Lack of Toilets, Clean Drinking Water Pose Cholera Threat in Rohingya Refugee Camps

“It’s a very exciting principle,” Hall said. (VOA)