Solving an ancient dairy mystery could help cure modern food ills

Studying the culture of Mongolian herders may help crack the mystery of why humans started consuming animal milk before populations evolved to be able to digest it. Image credit - Matthäus Rest

by Alex Whiting Genghis Khan’s conquering armies fed on dried curd as they crossed the vast steppes of Eurasia, ancient Romans imported pungent cheeses from France, and Bedouin tribes crossing the Arabian Desert have for centuries survived on camel’s milk. Dairy has been central to people’s existence since at least 6,500 years BC. But a mystery … Read more

How did the plague reshape Bronze Age Europe?

In the early Bronze Age, there was an infusion of a different genetic makeup in Europe whose origin ancient DNA experts are trying to explain. Image credit - geograph/David Dixon, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Europe changed dramatically during the Bronze Age, with huge population shifts generally ascribed to the rise of new metal technologies, trading and climate change. But scientists believe that there may have been another reason for this social upheaval – the plague, possibly transported by, or on the back of, newly domesticated horses. Plague is forever … Read more

Plants and sensors are being used to help Bologna locals rediscover their city

Reusing historical buildings for new purposes - an urban planning approach known as adaptive reuse - is breathing new life into cities like Bologna. Image credit - Flickr/ Yuri Virovets, licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Richard Kemeny Lining rundown historic areas of cities with plant life and smart sensors and reusing old buildings for new purposes are helping to breathe new life into Europe’s decaying urban spaces. Historic buildings and places, known as a city’s cultural heritage, can attract tourists and provide a shared sense of history for residents. … Read more

Genetic error led humans to evolve bigger, but more vulnerable, brains

The skull of a Australopithecus sediba, a species of Australopithecines, who were our ancestors and whose brains started to grow two to three million years ago. Image credit - Australopithecus sediba by Brett Eloff, courtesy Profberger and Wits University is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Newly-discovered genes that helped supersize human brains along with DNA retrieved from extinct humans, which can still be found in people living today, are expanding scientists’ understanding of how our species evolved. One of the major features that distinguish humans from other primates is the size of our brains, which underwent rapid evolution from about … Read more